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The National Railway Labor Conference (NRLC) announced that Brendan Branon has been appointed its next chairman. He will succeed Kenneth Gradia, who will retire Jan. 1, 2019, after 34 years with the NRLC.Branon has been the principal negotiator, attorney and company spokesman with Delta Air Lines' domestic labor unions. Most recently, he was Delta's managing director of labor and employee relations.He joined Delta in 2007. Prior to that, he was an associate at the law firm Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker LLP in Washington, D.C.Branon will be the NRLC's seventh chairman since the freight railroads formed the conference in 1963. NRLC's membership consists of all Class Is and many smaller lines. Through its National Carriers' Conference Committee, the NRLC represents many of its members in national collective bargaining with the 13 major rail unions.Gradia joined the NRLC in 1984 as labor counsel. Since then, he has participated in seven rounds of national rail negotiations in various capacities, including as NRLC chairman. He led the industry's negotiations during the past two bargaining rounds and reached agreements with all 13 unions — which represent more than 140,000 freight-rail employees — without rail strikes or other service interruptions. Gradia has chaired the NRLC for the past 10 years.