In June 1998, NALC released a powerful database search program to accompany the arbitration decisions. The Arbitration Search software is a stand-alone Windows 3.1/95/98 program which is integrated closely with the 10 CD's of arbitration awards. The search program was first released to branches on CD No. 9. Now any local NALC representative using the system can conduct extensive arbitration searches that previously could be performed only on the NALC headquarters computer.
After installing and opening the program, a NALC representative can perform searches of the entire C-number database using any or all of 15 different search fields, or categories. These categories include the type of case (contract or discipline) the subject or issue addressed, the date and level of the decision, specific provisions of the contract, handbooks or manuals, the NALC region and state in which the decision was rendered, the arbitrator's name, and several other categories. A search can also be limited to "key cases," which are arbitration awards that the CAU has flagged as especially useful and important. All national-level and some regional-level awards are included in the "key case" designation.
It's important to note that these key cases include not only cases that the union won, but also significant cases that the union lost. Users of the system should always remember that it is critical to look at denials and modified cases as well as those cases that were sustained. Careful analysis of denied and modified cases can reveal weaknesses that NALC representatives should strive to overcome in their own presentations. Also, management will most likely cite those cases in its presentation, and NALC representatives should know and anticipate those arguments.
When a user performs a search using the Arbitration Search program, results appear as a list of all cases meeting the search criteria. Users can go down the list and click to see the detailed search field information for each decision. Another click, then follow the prompt by inserting the proper CD, and the user can view and print the decision itself.
The full decisions are graphic images, digitally scanned from the originals. This means that each page of each decision is, in effect, a digital photocopy. So a decision printed from the CD's may be used exactly as if it were a photocopy of the original arbitration award. Although the text in the decisions cannot be searched directly, the database search program is powerful and flexible enough to meet the needs of NALC researchers.