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Arbitration decision will require unions to negotiate on train crew size

By | July 29, 2021

Arbitration decision upends union contention that crew size is subject to local bargaining

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A federal arbitration decision has ruled that train crew size is subject to collective bargaining, a major win for railroads and loss for unions in the railroads’ effort to reduce crews to a single person.

The National Railway Labor Conference — representing Class I railroads — had sought to include crew size in its current national labor negotiations, and indicated their intent to seek to make conductor a “ground-based” position [see “Nationwide railroad labor talks start in February …,” Trains News Wire, Jan. 15, 2020]. Unions have contended crew size should be negotiated at the local, rather than national, level.

But the 2-1 decision issued on Wednesday says the matter is, in fact, a subject for national bargaining.

The Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, and Transportation Union’s Transportation Division (SMART-TD) says in a statement on its web page that while the decision requires bargaining “it does not mandate any particular outcome in the process. … SMART-TD remains committed to protecting the jobs of today, as well as securing the jobs of the future.”


In addition to the bargaining process, crew size remains a subject of regulation at the state and national level. Several states have passed laws requiring two-person crews; a national two-person crew provision has also been the subject of Democratic legislation in Congress.

— This is a developing story. Follow Trains News Wire for more information as it becomes available.

4 thoughts on “Arbitration decision will require unions to negotiate on train crew size

  1. What are these unions going to do when trucks, airliners, and the railroads go crewless? It WILL happen.

    Either negotiate for your members responsibly and with integrity, retain local switching, yard work, etc, or die as an organization. But to demand more than an engineer on a road train is labor suicide, especially with new technology THAT THE UNIONS LOBBIED FOR. Unions have a history of doing this. Back in the day of 5-man crews, we heard they were needed for safety. 2-man crews today are safer.

  2. Mr. Baird: You really think the public, especially the flying public, will stand for no one in the cockpit when they fly? The political battle that will spark will indeed be like Guadalcanal in 1942-43 on steroids. And that’s an understatement! As for autonomous semis, you are probably correct. But I will bet when the railroads try to deploy autonomous road trains after the Tu-Simples of the country disgracefully get their way on highways and arterials they neither design, build, operate or maintain, there will be a Guadalcanal over that with political posturing like we’ve never seen on a transportation issue.

  3. Richard Branson’s space trip had no pilot. The rocket returned to it’s launch pad and the capsule with its passengers as planned. Vancouver’s driverless skybus carries many passengers daily Don’t rule out driverless trains.

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