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Rail News: Labor

Two more tentative agreements, one 'cooling-off' period extension thwart national rail strike, NCCC says


Yesterday, the National Carriers’ Conference Committee (NCCC) announced it reached tentative labor agreements with the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) and the American Train Dispatchers Association (ATDA), and reached a separate agreement with the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes Division (BMWED) to extend the “cooling off” period from Dec. 6 until Feb. 8, 2012. The actions eliminate the “immediate threat of a national rail strike,” NCCC officials said in a prepared statement.

The tentative pacts with the BLET and ATDA cover about 26,500 employees involved in national collective bargaining. The NCCC now has reached agreements with 12 of the 13 rail labor unions engaged in the bargaining round. In addition, officials at the committee — which bargains for more than 30 U.S. railroads, including the Class Is — and BMWED have more time to negotiate a contract.
“In a tough economy, these agreements offer a terrific deal for rail employees. They lock in well-above market wage increases of more than 20 percent over six years, far exceeding recent union settlements in other industries,” said NCCC Chairman A. Kenneth Gradia.

Association of American Railroads President and Chief Executive Officer Ed Hamberger hailed the BLET and ATDA agreements.

“The goal of the nation’s freight railroads, from the start of bargaining almost two years ago, has been to reach voluntary settlements with all of its rail unions. These agreements bring the industry closer to achieving that goal,” he said in a prepared statement. “Freight rail touches nearly every sector of our economy, and we are committed to finalizing the remaining agreement so that we can continue to deliver for the tens of thousands of American businesses that rely on rail, and the hundreds of thousands of Americans who use passenger rail to commute to work every day.”

Wheels already were in motion on Capitol Hill to prevent a national rail strike if the NCCC and three unions failed to reach agreements by the time the cooling-off period expired next Tuesday, after which the railroads could issue lock outs and the unions could launch strikes. A House resolution was introduced yesterday by House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.) that would have imposed a Presidential Emergency Board’s resolution recommendations on agreements between the NCCC and three unions. In addition, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) was set to introduce similar legislation.

Meanwhile, Mica also planned to introduce legislation yesterday that he believes would restore fairness and equality to the union election and decertification processes at U.S. railroads and airlines.

This legislation would offer a balanced alternative to recent National Mediation Board (NMB) actions, which curtailed workers’ rights “to abandon a union shop by making it easier to get in, but difficult to get out,” said Mica in a prepared statement. The measure currently has more than 100 co-sponsors, he said.

“This bill simply ensures that changes recently made by the National Mediation Board making it easier for airline and railway workers to unionize also apply to disbanding a union,” said Mica. “When the NMB changed 75 years of precedent to lower the threshold for unionization, it left in place the much more difficult process to leave a union. By ensuring equal standards for both processes, this legislation restores fairness to how unions are formed and decertified at our airlines and railways.”

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 12/2/2011