Trains.com
You have 2 views remaining. Click here to learn about the Unlimited Membership!

Home / News & Reviews / News Wire / Biden names Presidental Emergency Board, preventing rail strike

Biden names Presidental Emergency Board, preventing rail strike

By David Lassen | July 15, 2022

Railroads, labor welcome intervention of three-member board, which will have 30 days to examine contract dispute

Email Newsletter

Get the newest photos, videos, stories and more.

Man climbing on front steps of orange locomotive
Man climbing on front steps of orange locomotive
A BNSF crew member reboards his locomotive after providing protection at a pedestrian crossing during a maintenance-of-way project in Hinsdale, Ill., on Nov. 6, 2021. President Joe Biden has established a Presidential Emergency Board to address the current contract dispute between railroads and unions. (Trains: David Lassen)

WASHINGTON — Preventing a national rail strike that could have begun Monday, July 18, President Joe Biden has established a Presidential Emergency Board to investigate the ongoing dispute between railroads and workers.

Biden will name the members of the three-person board, whose members can not have any financial or other interest in either a rail labor organization or a railroad. The board will have 30 days from its establishment, effective Monday, to deliver a report recommending a resolution to the dispute. After that, the Railway Labor Act specifies there can be no work stoppage for another 30 days, except by agreement of both sides.

“The President’s goal is to make sure America’s freight rail system continues to run without disruption, delivering the items that our families, communities, farms and businesses rely on,” according to a statement from the White House. The executive order creating the board is available here.

The group representing railroads in the negotiations, the National Carriers Conference Committee, said it welcomed establishment of the presidential board and that it anticipates the board will hold hearings before issuing its recommendations. “Although PEB recommendations are not binding, they historically have assisted the parties in reaching voluntary agreements” during the 30-day period after recommendations are issued.

“We look forward to demonstrating to the PEB how a recommendation based on our proposals would appropriately reward rail employees’ hard work and skills while best positioning the industry to grow and compete for traffic in the nation’s highly competitive freight marketplace,” the group said in a statement.

Men holding picket signs
Railroad employees picket outside the North American Rail Shippers conference in Kansas City on May 10, 2022. The naming of a Presidential Emergency Board prevents a strike that could have begun Monday. (Trains: David Lassen)

For its part, the Coordinated Bargaining Coalition, which represents a dozen unions involved in the negotiation, issued a statement saying it is “now working together in reparation of a unified case representing the best interests of all rail employees” to present to the Presidential Emergency Board. That case, the coalition said, “will clearly show that the unions’ proposals are supported by current economic data and are more than warranted when compared to our memberships’ contribution to the record profits of the rail carriers.”

Robert Guy of the Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers-Transportation Division (SMART-TD), elaborated on the union position in a comment to Trains News Wire.

“We certainly want the PEB and don’t want to shut the country down or affect the American consumer — we just want a fair agreement,” said Guy, the union’s Illinois Legislative Board Transportation Division Director and vice president of the Illinois AFL-CIO.

“I’ve got 28 years in,” Guy said, “and this is the first time I can ever remember that you have career railroaders not recommending these jobs to friends and family. That’s an about-face; railroads like to hire family members because it’s more likely the people coming in know what to expect: you’re going to get paid but spend time away from home. All that’s been eliminated now because you’re forced to be available. The work-life balance is horrible with these worker reductions, attendance policies and [Precision Scheduled Railroading].”

Association of American Railroads CEO Ian Jefferies said in a statement that railroads “remain committed to reach an agreement that provides their employees well-deserved compensation increases that keep them among the best paid in the nation.” Jefferies said railroaders have average annual earnings of $135,000 in total pay and benefits.

Meanwhile, Greg Regan, head of the Transportation Trades Department of the AFL-CIO, which includes rail unions and other transportation labor organizations, pointed to railroad earnings in his comments commending Biden for naming the board.

“The seven Class I railroads have raked in $146 billion in profits since 2015 while cutting 45,000 jobs in the same period,” Regan’s statement said. “Quite simply, the facts are on our side and we look forward to the forthcoming recommendations of the presidentially-appointed arbitrators.”

— Correspondent Bob Johnston contributed to this report.

6 thoughts on “Biden names Presidental Emergency Board, preventing rail strike

  1. “Jefferies said railroaders have average annual earnings of $135,000 in total pay and benefits.” All hunky dory with that except they have no time to enjoy it with family.

  2. When you take the benefits out what’s there real pay? You can’t spend benefits so I don’t think they should be included in the gross pay figures.

    1. The benefits account for about $35 grand of that total…so that leaves a $100k, if that isn’t enough then those people are in the wrong job. Also, you can spend benefits…depending on what they offer in the benefits plan.

      1. Railroaders don’t get to bring home all of that $100k… there’s federal, state, and local taxes (30%-ish), union dues, etc… all number of obligations and deductions. The employees bring home only about 50-55% of their gross pay.
        Add in all the increases in the cost of living, and it’s not all that much money anymore, especially for the half of the employees who make below the average.

  3. I’m a retired railroader, but I have a friend still working for the BNSF.
    He says they have established a new attendance policy where you are basically on call all the time. He has over 15 years in and he still can’t hold a regular job.
    The new policy is making the BNSF employees think about working on a short line. I don’t blame them if they want to strike.

  4. What is this person smoking: ““I’ve got 28 years in,” Guy said, “and this is the first time I can ever remember that you have career railroaders not recommending these jobs to friends and family. That’s an about-face; railroads like to hire family members because it’s more likely the people coming in know what to expect: you’re going to get paid but spend time away from home. All that’s been eliminated now because you’re forced to be available. The work-life balance is horrible with these worker reductions, attendance policies and [Precision Scheduled Railroading].”” Nothing has changed, you’re still going to be away from home, there was no work/life balance before, it’s no different…perhaps the 28 years has taken a toll on his memory too.

You must login to submit a comment