Arlington, VA – June 17, 2021 – The Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees Division of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (BMWED) and the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers – Mechanical Division (SMART-MD), which together represent approximately 20% of the 125,000 employees participating in the ongoing round of national collective bargaining with the freight railroads, recently filed an application for mediation with the National Mediation Board (NMB). The railroads, which are represented in national bargaining by the National Carriers’ Conference Committee (NCCC), believe the mediation filing was unnecessary at this stage of the bargaining process but nevertheless welcome the NMB’s assistance.
“Engaging in meaningful direct negotiations regarding the items that both parties have put on the table would have been the best way to position the industry and its stakeholders – including employees – for a successful future,” said Brendan Branon, Chairman of the NCCC. “That said, we look forward to working with these unions and the NMB to conclude this round of bargaining.”
In these negotiations, the railroads have made proposals to confront the challenges and opportunities facing the industry by modernizing labor agreements and leveraging transformational technologies – including developments in automation and safety – to manage an uncertain economy and long-term structural changes in rail traffic. The railroads’ proposals would provide a fair compensation and benefit package and replace certain outdated work rules. To learn more about the railroads’ proposals, click here.
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, 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.
The railroads, through the NCCC, remain in direct negotiations with the larger Coordinated Bargaining Coalition, which consists of unions representing the remaining approximately 80% of the employees in the bargaining round. As with the BMWED/SMART-MD coalition, the railroads’ goal is to reach fair agreements with the CBC unions in a timely manner.