Industry groups call for emergency presidential council to settle rail labor dispute

A pair of prominent Washington-based trade groups – the National Retail Federation (NRF) and the US Chamber of Commerce – respectively sent letters this week to President Biden, calling on the White House to work with Class I rail carriers and 12 based in the United States. the railway unions on the conclusion of a labor agreement. The impetus for these letters stems from a June 17 announcement by the National Mediation Board (NMB), an independent U.S. federal government agency that facilitates labor-management relations within the nation’s railroad and airline industries, confirming that ” Pursuant to the Railway Labor Act, the National Carriers Conference Committee (NCCC) and the twelve unions… were released by the NMB from statutory mediation on June 17, 2022, and a 30-day cooling-off period begins June 18 , 2022.”

NMB added that as part of an initiative to help the parties reach agreements, it is planning a public interest meeting, which is expected to start on July 12. The 12 railroad unions based in the United States include: the American Train Dispatchers Association (ATDA), Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET), Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees Division of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (BMWED), Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen (BRS), International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW), International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, Iron Ship Builders, Forgers and Helpers (IBB), International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), National Conference of Firemen & Oilers, District of Local 32BJ, SEIU (NCFO), International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers – Railway, Mechanical and Engineering Department (SMART-MD), International Association of Sheet Metal Workers, Air, Rail and Transportation – Transportation Division n (SMART-TD), the Transportation Communications Union/IAM (TCU/IAM) and the Transport Work ers Union of America (TWU).

In his letter to President Biden, NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay wrote that the current situation for the rail workforce, following the recent NMB decision, could cause disruption. supply chain, adding that the NRF and its members are concerned about the current situation. the state of negotiations and the potential for system-wide disruption in September, when peak season is in full swing and tied to back-to-school and holiday shopping.

“NRF and its members are concerned about the potential for disruptions to rail freight transportation in the United States resulting from the National Mediation Board’s premature release of parties from labor negotiations,” Shay wrote. “We urge the administration to encourage the parties to return to the table where they can reach their own fair and mutually beneficial agreement. Intermodal rail shipments have been the primary source of rail traffic in recent years, and an overwhelming portion of that movement is consumer goods. During the first part of 2021, railways moved the most intermodal freight ever, and while those movements are down this year, they remain at a high level.

Shay explained that if the railroads and unions do not return to the negotiating table, the White House must appoint respected, experienced and impartial arbitrators to an Emergency Presidential Board (PEB), which he described as critical to averting a strike and ensuring system-wide fluidity. .

“Congress can also play a role in supporting this fundamental need for a credible short-term and longer-term PEB – if necessary – by enacting policies such as imposing a longer cooling-off period to extend negotiations,” he wrote. “Not only would the appointment of a credible PEB be consistent with past policy precedent, but it would also send a signal to the negotiating parties, as well as to the large number of rail customers like retailers, that policymakers want a deal above all else and will not tolerate disruptions to rail service. Ultimately, we continue to implore the parties to resolve this round of bargaining on their own. If not, however, we ask that you be prepared to act to protect the supply chain and guarantee that there will be no interruption of rail service. Especially now, we need political leaders to do everything possible to ensure that the negotiation process of the parties ends in a fair agreement and without interruption of rail service.

The call for the White House to appoint a PEB was echoed by US House Speaker and CEO Suzanne Clark in a letter to Biden. Clark explained that the PEB should be made up of people who are unbiased, who belong to the National Academy of Arbitrators and who have direct experience in resolving railroad disputes.

“It is imperative that the administration act to prevent any disruption to U.S. railroad service,” Clark wrote. “The American business community today faces enormous challenges due to record inflation, labor shortages and continued supply chain disruptions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. And we now face uncertainty about the possibility of further disruptions as we prepare for the holiday shopping season.Any outages would be disastrous for US consumers and the economy, and potentially bring us back to the historic challenges of the supply chain at the height of the pandemic. We remain optimistic that both parties will be able to resolve their differences and voluntarily reach a new agreement. However, the administration’s next steps will be crucial in this regard. regard.

From the railways’ perspective, the National Carriers Conference Committee (NCCC), an organization representing the nation’s freight railways in national collective bargaining, expressed disappointment in a statement in mid-June , on how the parties were unable to reach voluntary agreements in mediation. .

“It remains in the interest of all parties – and the public – to resolve this dispute, provide prompt wage increases for all railroad employees and prevent disruptions to rail service,” he said. -he declares. The railways worked to resolve issues raised by both sides during negotiations and offered wage increases in line with labor market benchmarks and rewarded railway employees for their essential work. The railroads’ proposals would continue to place railroad employee pay and benefits among the best in the country. NCCC remains willing and available to negotiate mutually acceptable terms at any time. The NCCC will also look forward to demonstrating to the scheduled Emergency Presidential Council how the railways’ proposals appropriately reward the hard work and skill of railway employees while best positioning the industry to grow and compete for traffic in the country’s highly competitive freight market.

In a statement provided to MLthe Association of American Railroads (AAR) said railroads and their valued employees are best served when parties enter into agreements voluntarily.

“The industry remains committed to doing so, including rewarding employees with highly competitive compensation and benefits,” AAR said. “We hope all parties will work together to avoid any potential disruption, including policy makers to the extent they are involved.”

About the Author

Jeff Berman, Group News Editor Jeff Berman is Group News Editor for Logistics management, Modern material handlingand Supply Chain Management Review. Jeff works and lives in Cape Elizabeth, Maine where he covers all aspects of the supply chain, logistics, freight forwarding and material handling industries on a daily basis. Contact Jeff Berman

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