WASHINGTON (October 6, 2011) – President Obama today appointed a Presidential Emergency Board (PEB) to investigate the dispute between the nation’s largest freight railroads and two coalitions representing 11 unions. The president’s action followed the National Mediation Board’s decision on September 6 to release the parties from federal mediation. The following statement can be attributed to A. Kenneth Gradia, Chairman of the National Carriers’ Conference Committee (NCCC), the railroads’ bargaining representative.
“The carriers successfully reached an agreement with the industry’s largest union, the United Transportation Union (UTU) and its Yardmasters Department. This agreement, which covers 40,000 employees, is demonstrably fair and balanced by any objective measure. We look forward to presenting a compelling case to the PEB detailing why this agreement should serve as a pattern for settlement with the remaining 11 unions.
“At a time when more than 25 million Americans are unemployed or underemployed, these unions rejected our offer to give rail employees above-market wage increases of 17% over six years. These robust increases are exceptional, especially in an economy that has seen real hourly earnings decrease 1.5% over the last year. They’re particularly generous given that railroad employees are already among the highest compensated workers in the United States.
“Throughout this round, the railroads have been committed to the collective bargaining process and to reaching fair agreements with all the rail unions. Unfortunately, we cannot say the same for the remaining unions, which have refused to engage in meaningful discussions.
“After attempts at mediation with them failed, we readily accepted the National Mediation Board’s proffer of binding arbitration. We were disappointed the unions declined the offer, which resulted in the appointment of the PEB. We strongly believe that it is in the best interests of both sides – and the country – to reach agreements and eliminate the risk of any disruption to rail service, which would undoubtedly damage the nation’s fragile economy.”
The NCCC represents more than 30 railroads, including BNSF, CSX Transportation, Kansas City Southern, Norfolk Southern and Union Pacific in national bargaining with the 13 major rail unions.