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House letter supports rail labor unions' opposition to National Mediation Board's arbitration fee proposal


Rail labor unions recently received backing from 126 U.S. Representatives in opposing the National Mediation Board's (NMB) proposal to impose fees on rail employees seeking arbitration services and, in certain cases, restrict payment to board-appointed neutral arbitrators, according to the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) division of the Teamsters Rail Conference. The House members signed a letter opposing the board's proposal.

The NMB has no authority to establish or collect fees for arbitration
Cases, or restrict payment to neutral arbitrators, and the Railway Labor Act states the federal government is responsible for funding arbitration services, labor officials believe.

Under the NMB's proposal, fees for a claim — from initial docketing through arbitration — would range from a minimum $75 to $350. However, many employees file claims alleging a financial loss less than the proposed fees, such as loss of a day's pay or overtime, or travel pay or expenses. So, many workers would be discouraged from filing for arbitration, BLET officials said in a prepared statement.

"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," said Edward Wytkind, president of the AFL-CIO's transportation trades department.

In the recent Omnibus appropriations bill, Congress directed the NMB to hold hearings to determine any potential negative impacts from imposing the fees.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 12/14/2004