Arlington, VA – April 4, 2022 – A federal court has issued an order requiring the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees Division of the international Brotherhood of Teamsters (BMWED) to fully engage in multi-employer collective bargaining with the nation’s freight rail carriers, the National Railway Labor Conference (NRLC) announced today.
Rejecting the union’s arguments, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia held on March 30 that the Railway Labor Act does not permit BMWED to insist upon local negotiations with certain freight rail carriers over wages, health care and other key issues that historically have been bargained through a multi-employer process known in the rail industry as “national handling.”
“There is a long history of negotiating collective bargaining agreements in the rail industry on a national basis,” said Brendan Branon, chairman of the NRLC and the National Carriers’ Conference Committee (NCCC), the bargaining representative for the major U.S. freight railroads. “We are pleased that the court’s ruling affirms the railroads’ right to select the NCCC as their bargaining representative and use the tried-and-true national handling process to reach agreements.”
In these negotiations, which commenced in 2020 but were delayed by the pandemic, the railroads propose to reach agreements that include a fair compensation and benefit package for rail workers, including mainstream health care changes. The railroads also propose to update certain outdated work rules that, in some cases, have not been revised in decades.
To learn more about the railroads’ proposals and the bargaining round, please visit www.raillaborfacts.org.
Rail industry negotiations are governed by the Railway Labor Act (RLA), which is designed to minimize service disruptions because of labor disputes. Under the law, collective bargaining agreements remain in force indefinitely. Without a contract expiration date, negotiators do not work against a fixed deadline and proceed through various steps that are designed to facilitate negotiated settlements. These steps include, among other things, compulsory mediation under the supervision of the NMB, in which the parties are currently participating and which is commonly used in national freight rail bargaining. There is no timeline for the completion of these steps and strikes and other forms of work stoppages are prohibited while they are underway.
BMWED and a second union, SMART-MD, requested mediation in June 2021. The railroads, through the NCCC, are just now entering mediation with the larger Coordinated Bargaining Coalition, which consists of unions representing the remaining approximately 80 percent of the employees in the bargaining round. In all cases, the railroads’ goal is to reach fair agreements in a timely manner.