Forum Post: Railroad Strike
Posted 11 years ago on Oct. 6, 2011, 7:22 p.m. EST by Radical
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Associated Press Obama order averts freight railroad strike By SAM HANANEL , 10.06.11, 06:37 PM EDT
WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama has created a special board to help resolve a dispute between major U.S. freight railroads and their unions, averting a costly strike for at least 60 days.
Eleven unions representing about 92,000 railway workers have been unable to reach agreement on a new contract with the railroads, including Union Pacific Corp. ( UNP - news - people ), CSX Corp. ( CSX - news - people ) and Burlington Northern Santa Fe ( BNI - news - people ).
EMAIL REPRINT NEWSLETTER SHARE Several of the unions had voted to begin striking at midnight Thursday.
Obama says it is in the national interest to avoid any disruption to the nation's freight rail system that could damage the economy.
The five members that Obama has appointed to the Presidential Emergency Board have 30 days to recommend a settlement. The unions and railroads will then have another 30 days to approve it.
Obama names PEB to investigate rail labor dispute October 6, 2011 WASHINGTON — A five-member Presidential Emergency Board was been appointed by President Obama Oct. 6 to investigate and make non-binding recommendations in a dispute between 11 rail labor unions and the National Carriers’ Conference Committee, which represents BNSF, CSX, Kansas City Southern, Norfolk Southern, Soo Line, Union Pacific and numerous smaller railroads. Neither the carriers nor any of the 11 unions may engage in self-help at least until Dec. 7 as a result of the PEB’s creation. The UTU is not affected by creation of the PEB as it reached – and ratified – a new five-year agreement with the NCCC covering conductors, yardmen, brakemen, engineers (where UTU represents engineers), firemen/hostlers and yardmasters this past summer. The other unions, unable to reach a voluntary settlement with the NCCC since talks began in January 2010, were released from mediation Sept. 6 by the National Mediation Board, which resulted – under provisions of the Railway Labor Act – in a 30-day cooling off period while President Obama considered appointing a PEB. Creation of PEB No. 243 now begins a second 30-day cooling off period while the PEB commences its fact-finding investigation and makes non-binding recommendations no later than Nov. 6. At that point, a third and final 30-day cooling off period will commence — and end Dec. 6 — while the two sides consider the PEB recommendations and seek a voluntary settlement based on those recommendations. If no settlement occurs, the Railway Labor Act has run its course and the parties are free to engage in self-help – a work stoppage by labor, a lockout by one or more of the carriers, or unilateral promulgation of carrier Section 6 notices. At that point, Congress typically enters the fray and issues a back-to-work order, effectively imposing a third-party settlement on the involved carriers and their unions. The 11 unions affected by the Obama-created PEB have been negotiating in two separate coalitions: One coalition includes the Transportation Communications Union, the American Train Dispatchers Association, the International Association of Machinists, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, and the Transport Workers Union. A second coalition still negotiating with the NCCC includes the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes, the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen, the Brotherhood of Boilermakers and Blacksmiths, the National Conference of Firemen and Oilers, and the Sheet Metal Workers International Association.
97 percent of BLET members authorize strike CLEVELAND, October 3 — An overwhelming 97 percent majority of BLET members have voted to authorize a strike when a mandatory 30-day cooling off period under the Railway Labor Act comes to an end later this week.
Locomotive engineers would walk off the job at 12:01 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time on October 7, 2011, unless President Obama intervenes and appoints a Presidential Emergency Board (PEB). A PEB would halt any strike or lockout by the parties, and would investigate and issue a report and recommendations concerning the dispute.
As background, the National Mediation Board released the BLET and 10 other Rail Labor unions from mediation with the rail carriers on September 6, creating a 30-day cooling off period, which expires at 12:01 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time on October 7, 2011. At that point self-help is available to the parties, which means the BLET and/or any of the other unions could go on strike.
BLET National President Dennis Pierce said the near unanimous vote in favor of a strike is a clear mandate from BLET members that they are unwilling to accept a concessionary contract and cuts in health care coverage.
“It is unfortunate that, in this time of record industry profits, the carriers insist upon attempting to take advantage of a weakened general economy to further line its corporate pockets at the expense of the railroad workers whose labor generates those profits,” Pierce said. “And it is shameful that the carriers have chosen to specifically target those railroad workers who are most vulnerable — older workers and the sick and injured — to shoulder a disproportionate share of the demanded givebacks.”
President Pierce said the level of voter turnout was higher than any referendum in decades. He thanked the BLET Mobilization Network for helping generate the high level of membership participation. He also thanked the members for their participation and patience throughout the process, especially when high call volume caused phone lines to crash in the early days of the strike authorization vote.
NCCC Statement on Appointment of Presidential Emergency Board October 6, 2011 WASHINGTON (October 6, 2011) – President Obama today appointed a Presidential Emergency Board (PEB) to investigate the dispute between the nation’s largest freight railroads and two coalitions representing 11 unions. The president’s action followed the National Mediation Board’s decision on September 6 to release the parties from federal mediation. The following statement can be attributed to A. Kenneth Gradia, Chairman of the National Carriers’ Conference Committee (NCCC), the railroads’ bargaining representative.
“The carriers successfully reached an agreement with the industry’s largest union, the United Transportation Union (UTU) and its Yardmasters Department. This agreement, which covers 40,000 employees, is demonstrably fair and balanced by any objective measure. We look forward to presenting a compelling case to the PEB detailing why this agreement should serve as a pattern for settlement with the remaining 11 unions.
“At a time when more than 25 million Americans are unemployed or underemployed, these unions rejected our offer to give rail employees above-market wage increases of 17% over six years. These robust increases are exceptional, especially in an economy that has seen real hourly earnings decrease 1.5% over the last year. They’re particularly generous given that railroad employees are already among the highest compensated workers in the United States.
“Throughout this round, the railroads have been committed to the collective bargaining process and to reaching fair agreements with all the rail unions. Unfortunately, we cannot say the same for the remaining unions, which have refused to engage in meaningful discussions.
“After attempts at mediation with them failed, we readily accepted the National Mediation Board’s proffer of binding arbitration. We were disappointed the unions declined the offer, which resulted in the appointment of the PEB. We strongly believe that it is in the best interests of both sides – and the country – to reach agreements and eliminate the risk of any disruption to rail service, which would undoubtedly damage the nation’s fragile economy.”
The NCCC represents more than 30 railroads, including BNSF, CSX Transportation, Kansas City Southern, Norfolk Southern and Union Pacific in national bargaining with the 13 major rail unions.
WASHINGTON – Today, President Barack Obama signed an Executive Order creating a Presidential Emergency Board to help resolve an ongoing dispute between major freight rail carriers and their unions.
President Obamasaid, “Freight rail is vital to our economy and our future. It’s in our national interest to make sure our freight rail system runs smoothly, since a disruption could affect businesses across the country and cause unnecessary damage to our already-fragile economy. These dedicated individuals have a wealth of experience and talent addressing and resolving labor-management disputes. I’m grateful they have agreed to serve in this capacity, and I trust them to work toward a swift and smooth resolution of these outstanding contracts.”
The Presidential Emergency Board will provide a structure for the two sides to resolve their disagreements. The Presidential Emergency Board will hear evidence and, within 30 days, will deliver a report to the President recommending how the dispute should be resolved.
President Obama also announced that he intends to appoint the following members to Presidential Emergency Board No. 243:
Ira F. Jaffe – Chair, Presidential Emergency Board No. 243 Roberta Golick– Member, Presidential Emergency Board No. 243 Joshua M. Javits– Member, Presidential Emergency Board No. 243 Gil Vernon– Member, Presidential Emergency Board No. 243 Arnold M. Zack– Member, Presidential Emergency Board No. 243