As reported by the Stand.
After more than two years of fruitless negotiations with the various Class 1 railroads and three weeks of in-person contract talks in Washington, D.C., the National Mediation Board (NMB) on Tuesday declared that a voluntary agreement is not within reach and offered binding arbitration to rail unions.
The unions representing railroad workers — who have gone without a pay raise for three years — will reject the arbitration offer, which under the Railway Labor Act sets the stage for President Biden to appoint a Presidential Emergency Board (PEB) to hear the dispute. Ultimately, if that process fails to achieve an agreement and Congress doesn’t intervene, a nationwide railway work stoppage is possible.
Greg Regan, President of the Transportation Trades Department of the AFL-CIO, released the following statement on behalf of TTD’s 37 affiliated unions, including all of rail labor, in response to the NMB’s proffer of arbitration:
“After more than three years of bad faith negotiations by the railroads, it is unfortunate but not surprising that contract agreements were not achieved through voluntary mediation. The railroads’ offer of a net pay cut and demand for health care concessions are wholly unacceptable.
“After exhaustive mediation, the NMB has now proffered binding arbitration. Our goal from the beginning of this process has been to deliver a contract that rail workers deserve, and that they can ratify, particularly as the railroads are raking in their highest-ever profits on the backs of workers. Because binding arbitration inherently means that rank and file union members will not have the option to vote on their contract — which is their constitutionally mandated right — rail labor will reject the offer of binding arbitration. We will continue to adhere to the letter of the law in the contract negotiation process, while rail workers — who have not received a pay raise in three years — continue their work as frontline pandemic heroes who are moving cargo and goods through the supply chain.”
Railroad workers are frustrated not only about not getting any raises since 2019, but also because of mass layoffs and the imposition of strict attendance policies by BNSF and Union Pacific. Over the last six years, the leading freight carriers laid off 45,000 employees, or nearly 30 percent of their combined workforce, according to the Surface Transportation Board. The railroads have also proposed to cut he minimum size of rail crews from two people to just one.
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