NMB to Hold New Round of Rail Contract Talks

The National Mediation Board has ordered railroad management and labor to come to Washington on Sept. 7 in an effort to reach a tentative new contract.

Those talks will be guided by the agency and will discuss wages, benefits and work rules.

Lending a sense of urgency to the negotiations is a Sept. 16 deadline after which a strike and/or lockout could occur.

Last week five unions and the railroads reached tentative contract agreements that followed, generally, the recommendations of a presidential emergency board that issued recommendations for resolving the contract dispute on Aug. 16.

Under federal law both sides must observe a 30-day cooling off period before striking or locking out workers. Earlier this year talks under NMB supervision failed to reach an agreement.

Three of the largest railroads unions, which collectively represent 86,000 workers, have yet to reach a tentative agreement with railroad management.

The five unions that reached tentative agreements represent 27,000 of the 125,000 workers at major railroads in the United States.

An analysis posted on the website of trade publication Railway Age said the NMB might suggest that the deadline for taking self-help measures be pushed back.

The analysis, written by Frank Wilner, noted that it was unlikely that a strike or lockout will occur on Sept. 16 because time is needed for the five unions that have reached tentative agreements to submit them to their members for ratification.

Wilner, who has written a book about railroad labor law, said that one stumbling block to ratification of tentative contracts could be what he termed “fringe elements of the labor movement” that are spoiling for a strike and distributing misinformation about the PEB recommendations among other things.

That has forced union leadership at the two largest railroad labor unions to distribute a “myth vs. facts” report to members seeking to correct that misinformation.

The Railway Age report said that unions that are still negotiating have expressed some optimism that they can reach tentative agreements.

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