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NMB proffers arbitration in national contract dispute

CLEVELAND, September 8 — On Friday September 2, 2011, the National Mediation Board (NMB) urged the unions comprising the Rail Labor Bargaining Coalition (RLBC) and the carriers represented by the National Carriers’ Conference Committee to submit their unresolved national contract dispute to binding arbitration pursuant to Section 5, First and Section 7 of the Railway Labor Act, as amended (RLA).

The RLBC — consisting of Teamsters Rail Conference affiliates the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen and the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes Division, along with the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen, the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, the National Conference of Firemen and Oilers of the Service Employees International Union, and the Sheet Metal Workers International Association — has been bargaining for new national agreements since November of 2009.

The proffer of arbitration is a mandatory step in the RLA bargaining process. If either party to the negotiations declines to accept the proffer, the NMB will then notify the parties that its mediatory efforts have failed and will release them from mediation. By letter dated September 2, 2011, all unions comprising the RLBC notified the NMB that the RLBC was rejecting the proffer of arbitration. This rejection will release the parties from mediation and will also trigger a final 30-day cooling off period, after which the parties will legally be entitled to exercise self help.

It is anticipated that the NMB will notify President Obama that the dispute threatens substantially to interrupt interstate commerce to a degree such as to deprive one or more sections of the country of essential transportation service, and that President Obama will create a Presidential Emergency Board (PEB) to investigate the dispute and issue a report and recommendations for settlement pursuant to Section 10 of the RLA.

Although it is expected that President Obama will create a PEB within the 30 day cooling off period, BLET is working now to mobilize strike committees in preparation for the possibility that a PEB will not be appointed.

BLET National President Dennis R. Pierce thanked the NMB for acknowledging that an impasse in bargaining had been reached. “It is unfortunate that, in this time of record industry profits, the carriers insist upon attempting to take advantage of a weakened general economy to further line its corporate pockets at the expense of the railroad workers whose labor generates those profits,” Pierce said.

“And it is shameful that the carriers have chosen to specifically target those railroad workers who are most vulnerable — older workers and the sick and injured — to shoulder a disproportionate share of the demanded giveback,” Pierce added. “We appreciate that the NMB has finally acknowledged that the carriers’ immovable position prevents any possibility of a negotiated settlement.”

Additional information will be provided as developments warrant.

* * *

RLBC Press Release — NMB Releases RLBC

Thursday, September 8, 2011

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