Arlington, VA – March 11, 2022 – The National Carrier’s Conference Committee (NCCC), which represents the nation’s freight railroads in national collective bargaining, said today that it has not reached an impasse with any union that warrants a release from mediation at this point in the bargaining process.
The NCCC’s statement is in response to a request for a release from mediation requested by the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes Division of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (BMWED) and the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers – Mechanical Division (SMART-MD). BMWED and SMART-MD collectively represent about 20 percent of the 115,000 employees participating in the current national bargaining round.
The railroads maintain the unions’ request is premature. The parties currently are in mediation under the auspices of the National Mediation Board (NMB). Under the Railway Labor Act (RLA), which governs labor relations and collective bargaining in the rail industry, the parties in a dispute over proposed changes to agreements are required to exert “every reasonable effort” to settle the dispute.
For a variety of reasons, including BMWED and SMART-MD’s failure to engage in bargaining over the railroads’ proposals in any meaningful way, this standard has not been met. The carriers will explain why a release would be premature to the assigned mediator and the NMB, which oversees this process and controls how long mediation will go on.
“Collective bargaining in the rail industry is a collaborative process, and it requires the parties to be serious in their efforts to bring about an agreement,” said NCCC Chairman Brendan Branon. “The railroads are serious and stand ready – as they have been throughout the bargaining round – to engage in a two-way dialogue with BMWED and SMART-MD with a goal of reaching fair, voluntary agreements.”
In these negotiations, which commenced in November 2019, the railroads seek to modernize labor agreements to manage long-term structural changes in rail traffic. The railroads propose to reach agreements on a fair compensation and benefit package for rail workers that modernizes the national railroad health plan and also updates certain outdated work rules that, in some cases, have not been revised in decades. To learn more about the railroads’ proposals, click here.
Rail industry negotiations are governed by the RLA, which is designed to minimize service disruptions because of labor disputes. Following direct negotiations, the bargaining process includes compulsory mediation under the supervision of the NMB. There is no timeline for the completion of mediation. Instead, mediation continues until the parties reach a voluntary agreement or the NMB concludes that all reasonable efforts to reach an agreement through mediation have failed. Strikes and other forms of work stoppages are prohibited while mediation is underway and for a period of time thereafter. Following mediation, the President of the United States may elect to form an Emergency Board to investigate the dispute – which would further delay any possibility of self-help. Congress also may intervene in the dispute to prevent any interruption to interstate commerce. There has not been a service disruption as a result of national bargaining since the early 1990s.
The railroads, through the NCCC, are just now entering federal mediation with a larger coalition consisting of unions representing the remaining employees. With all unions, the railroads’ goal is to reach fair agreements in a timely manner.