The railroads are now in federal mediation with three union coalitions, which collectively represent all of the 145,000 rail employees covered in this bargaining round. Two of these groups entered mediation earlier this month.
The railroads welcome the National Mediation Board’s increased involvement in these negotiations, as the bargaining is fast approaching its third year without resolution. The NMB is an independent federal agency that assists labor negotiations in the nation’s railroad and airline industries.
Mediation is expanding at a critical time for the rail industry. Its economic outlook has significantly changed from when the negotiations began. Shipments of coal, the railroads’ largest revenue source, and other commodities have sharply declined – a development that must be taken into consideration by the negotiators.
Now is not the time for excessive demands. Railroad employees are among the most highly compensated in the nation. Their wage increases have far outpaced inflation over the past decade. Their health care benefits are exceptional and the railroads shoulder most of the costs, nearly $2.3 billion in 2017.
Under the railroads’ proposals, employees will continue to have a compensation package few industries can match. The railroads have proposed:
• Market-based wage increases that beat inflation
• Modest changes to the health care plan to bring it closer to the mainstream features of other large employer plans, and
• Incremental changes to work rules that will enhance productivity and customer service.
The railroads are committed to working with the NMB and the rail unions to reach a fair and reasonable resolution in these negotiations as soon as possible.