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Obama appoints PEB 243 to investigate BLET contract dispute

CLEVELAND, October 6 — President Barack Obama today established Emergency Board (PEB) No. 243, to investigate and make recommendations for settlement of the current disputes between the Rail Labor Bargaining Coalition (RLBC) and five other unions, and the National Carriers Conference Committee (NCCC). The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) is one of the 6 unions that comprise the RLBC.

The PEB is empanelled effective October 7, 2011.

In total, the 11 rail labor unions involved in the dispute represent 75 percent of all rail workers in the United States who work for major Class 1 railroads.

The five-member PEB now has 30 days to investigate the dispute and make recommendations to President Obama regarding a settlement of the contract disputes. There is another mandatory 30-day cooling off period that follows.

It is expected that PEB 243 will begin hearings in Washington, D.C., within the next 10 days.

If the PEB recommendations fail to lead to a voluntary settlement, then the parties would be free to engage in self-help once again at the expiration of the second 30-day cooling off period, which would be December 7, 2011.

It is possible for Congress to intervene and legislatively mandate a settlement. If this is done, Congress typically would take the recommendations of the PEB and write them into law.

President Obama appointed the following individuals to the PEB: Ira F. Jaffe, Chair; Roberta Golick, Member; Joshua M. Javits, Member; Gil Vernon, Member; and Arnold M. Zack, Member.

The ongoing dispute over wages and health care benefits dates to early 2009 when negotiations began between the BLET and NCCC for a new collective bargaining agreement.

The Railway Labor Act (RLA) governs contract negotiations between the parties. The appointment of the PEB comes at the close of the mandatory 30-day cooling off period, a step in the RLA process that began on September 6, 2011. That’s when the National Mediation Board (NMB) released the BLET and the 10 other RLBC unions from mediation with the rail carriers.

At the expiration of the cooling off period, either party could have engaged in self-help: a strike by labor or a lock-out by management, at 12:01 a.m. EDT on Friday, October 7. To that end, the BLET conducted a strike authorization vote that concluded on October 3. An overwhelming 97 percent of BLET members voted in favor of the strike.

In his message sending the Executive Order to all General Chairmen, President Pierce said, “I know that you were all prepared to assist the National Division in leading our members in a job action had it been necessary and legal. Please remember that the attached Executive Order effectively bars us from any form of self help until December 7, 2011. During the next 60 days, it is imperative that we continue our effort to strengthen our networks and remain vigilant to the fact that we may face circumstances similar to today’s on December 7th.

"I speak for all of us here at the National Division in passing on our thanks for everyone’s continued support in our efforts to bring this bargaining round to a successful conclusion.”

The RLBC is comprised of: Teamsters Rail Conference members BLET and the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes Division; the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen; International Brotherhood of Boilermakers; National Conference of Firemen and Oilers of the Service Employees International Union; and the Sheet Metal Workers International Association.

The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen represents 55,000 professional locomotive engineers and trainmen throughout the United States. The BLET is the founding member of the Rail Conference, International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

President Obama’s Executive Order is available here:
http://www.ble-t.org/pr/pdf/PEB_Executive_Order.pdf

Thursday, October 6, 2011
bentley@ble-t.org

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