NMB officials join national labor talks

March 30, 2011

In an effort to facilitate a new national rail agreement between the UTU and most of the nation’s railroads, two members of the National Mediation Board attended the ninth negotiating session between the UTU and the National Carriers’ Conference Committee (NCCC) in late March.

NMB members Linda Puchala, a Democrat, and Elizabeth Dougherty, a Republican, met with both sides as facilitators.

The UTU is the only rail union not in mediation with the carriers, and the board members’ appearance was not in a mediating role. Once the sides enter mediation, the NMB takes charge of negotiations.

“We continue to make progress through interest-based bargaining toward developing a common framework recognizing the needs of both sides, and we remain prepared to reach a voluntary agreement with the carriers,” said UTU International President Mike Futhey.

“At the March session, the negotiations were focused on specific issues with participation by the NMB officials,” Futhey said. “Non-referable proposals were exchanged and positions discussed.” Non-referable proposals mean that proposals now on the table cannot be put before a third-party presidential emergency board were that to occur.

“A tenth negotiating session is scheduled for late April, and we have been promised continued assistance by the NMB,” Futhey said.

The NCCC represents BNSF, CSX, Kansas City Southern, Norfolk Southern, Union Pacific and many smaller railroads. Some 40,000 UTU members employed by those railroads are covered by the national agreement.

The national agreement came open for amendment Jan. 1, 2010, and remains in force until amendments are concluded under provisions of the Railway Labor Act.

The two sides have been pursuing interest-based bargaining in their talks. Interest-based bargaining involves joint problem solving whereby both sides seek to understand the needs of the other. It differs from demand-based bargaining, where each side’s list is endless.

“Our negotiating team has been armed with a solid understanding of carrier economics and fact-based arguments justifying our Section 6 notice that was prepared by our general chairpersons,” Futhey said.

In addition to UTU lead negotiator President Futhey, UTU officers on the negotiating team include Assistant President Arty Martin; National Legislative Director James Stem; UTU International Vice Presidents Robert Kerley and Delbert Strunk; and General Chairpersons John Lesniewski (CSX, GO 049), Pate King (NS, GO 680) and Doyle Turner (CSX, GO 347).

Negotiations also continue between the NCCC and two other rail-labor coalitions — both of which are in the mediation phase.

One coalition includes the Transportation Communications Union, the American Train Dispatchers Association, the International Association of Machinists, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, and the Transport Workers Union.

A second coalition also negotiating with the NCCC includes the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes, the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen, the Brotherhood of Boilermakers and Blacksmiths, the National Conference of Firemen and Oilers, and the Sheet Metal Workers International Association.