Rail Labor opposes plan for National Mediation Board fees

The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, along with other rail labor unions belonging to the AFL-CIO's Transportation Trades Department, has been actively opposing a National Mediation Board proposal to impose fees on rail employees seeking arbitration services from the NMB and, in certain cases, restrict payment to the neutral arbitrators appointed by the board.

This opposition has been joined by 126 members of the U.S. House of Representatives, who signed on to a letter opposing to the agency's plan. The changes would apply only to workers, not to management. The NMB oversees labor-management relations in the rail and airline industries.

The NMB has no authority to establish or collect fees for arbitration cases. Nor does it have the authority to restrict payment to the neutral arbitrators in those cases. The Railway Labor Act states that the Federal Government, not the disputing parties, is responsible for the payment of arbitration services.

Imposition of filing fees will discourage rail employees from pursuing grievances. Under the NMB's proposal, the fees for a claim, from initial docketing through arbitration, would be a minimum of $75 and as high as $350. Many claims are for contract violations where the employee involved suffers a financial loss that is less than the proposed filing fees; examples include loss of a day's pay, loss of overtime, or denial of skill differential or other special pay, travel pay or travel expenses. The proposed fees would discourage the filing for arbitration over such claims.

"Rail workers owe a debt of gratitude to Representatives Jim Oberstar and Corrine Brown and 124 other lawmakers for opposing a plan that demonstrates how out of touch the NMB is on this issue," said Edward Wytkind, President of the Transportation Trades Dept., AFL-CIO. "With all the safety and security challenges facing the railroads, it is both illogical and dangerous to make it harder for front-line workers to speak up and hold management accountable."

Senators Arlen Specter, Tom Harkin, and Edward Kennedy, all senior members of congressional panels overseeing the NMB, have also sent letters in opposition to this proposal.

In the recent Omnibus appropriations bill, Congress directed the NMB to hold hearings to, "examine any potential negative impact of the proposed fees."



© 2004 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen