Most grievances don't go to arbitration. But some problems just can't be settled without it. One such problem for Labconco, a small Kansas City manufacturer of laboratory equipment, involved a worker's attendance record. The company's discipline procedure for workers with attendance problems involves four progressive steps-a verbal warning, a written warning, a three-day suspension. and finally firing. Before a worker is given a warning, though, the companv offers counseling. After the disciplinary process has begun, it can be canceled if the worker's attendance improves. When Jack Pritchard, an assembler, left work early one day to appear as a defendant in court, he was fired. Pritchard filed a grievance the next day. Supporting the grievance, the union claimed he had been fired unjustly because his absence was unavoidable. It asked that he be reinstated. Three months later, having passed unresolved through earlier stages of the grievance procedure, the case was presented before a professional arbitrator, a college dean paid by the company and the union and chosen by them from a list supplied by the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service. At issue in this case was the discharge clause in the labor contract that says " no employee shall be discharged, suspended, or disciplined without just cause." The arbitration hearing began with opening statements by the company and the union. The company called its witnesses-the director of administrative services, production manager, and Pritchard's supervisor. Through testimony and exhibits, the company's lawyer presented the following case. Labconco's attendance rules had been formulated with the union's cooperation and implemented with the union's approval. In accordance with the rules, Pritchard had been counseled often, had received many verbal and written warnings, and had even twice been suspended for three days before he'd finally been fired. The union's witnesses- Pritchard and the union steward for his department-didn't refute the company's testimony. They focused on his personal problems-a large family, and seemingly unending health and financial problems. All these, they argued, made it hard for him to meet the demands of his job. "With all the problems that this person has had,'' asked the union representative, "why did the company have to take the day to terminate the man when they knew full well he had to be in court?" The company's position was that the absence was part of a pattern Pritchard apparently was unable to change. So many allowances had been made for him already, explained the production manager, that "we were on the cliff-edge of discriminating against other employees." Further, Pritchard hadn't tried to change the court date or inform the company of it until the day before it was scheduled to take place.