Contract Interpretation: How do you know what your contract means when the language is ambiguous?

By Richard Thal, WPPA General Counsel

In order to enforce your contract, you must know what provisions it contains. Once you know what is in your contract, you will know when to file a grievance over employer violations of clear contractual language. Amending or eliminating contractual provisions that are clear and unambiguous can only be done in bargaining. Clear language cannot be changed through your grievance procedure because even if an arbitrator believes that application of clear language is unfair, the arbitrator cannot amend the contract.

But often contractual provisions are not clear. When language is ambiguous, it is not obvious whether the employer has violated a provision.

When a union needs an interpretation of ambiguous language, negotiations with … Continue reading