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National Collective Bargaining Negotiations and Railway Labor Act Information

Updates on Contract Negotiations

National Contact Negotiation (Link)

Railway Labor Act

The following describes what the Railway Labor Act is and how it works.

This information was copied from the BLE-L Locomotive Engineers & Trainman News, November 2016 Volume30, Issue 11, Page 4.

National collective bargaining between rail labor and management is governed by a specific federal law, the Railway Labor Act of 1926. The RLA and its amendments spell out the process of bargaining that eventually leads to each new contract. Negotiations can take months or years because of the many steps (some of which have time limits while others do not) available to both parties. This flowchart illustrates how rail labor and management reach agreement on rates of pay and work rules.

  • STEP 1: Notice is served under Section 6 of the Railway Labor Act by either party (usually called “Section 6 Notices”).
  • STEP 2: reply required within 10 days, setting time, date of initial conference, which must be held within 30 days.
  • STEP 3: Negotiations begin. No time limit.
  • STEP 4: Agreement reached through negotiations. If not, go to Step 5.
  • STEP 5: Within 10 days after conferences end, either party may request National Mediation Board (NMB) mediation or NMB may proffer mediation.
  • STEP 6: If mediation is not requested or proffered within 10 days, then parties may exercise self-help (strike by labor or lockout by management).
  • STEP 7: Agreement reached through mediation. If not, go to Step 8.
  • STEP 8: NMB proffer of binding arbitration is made by NMB.
  • STEP 9: Agreement reached through accepting binding arbitration. If not, go to Step 10.
  • STEP 10: Self-help (strike or lockout) can begin following a 30-day “cooling off period” after NMB notifies both parties that proffer of arbitration was refused.
  • STEP 11: NMB may notify the President that it believes a dispute will interrupt interstate commerce.
  • STEP 12: The President may appoint an emergency board if he/she agrees with NMB.
  • STEP 13: Presidential Emergency Board (PEB) conducts hearings and issues recommendations to the President within 30 days.
  • STEP 14: Agreement reached based on PEB report. If not, go to Step 15.
  • STEP 15: Indefinite strike or lockout permitted after the second cooling off period concludes 30 days after PEB issues recommendations. Agreement may be reached.
  • STEP 16: If there is no agreement, then a settlement can be legislated by Congress

Page Last Updated: Jan 26, 2023 (10:05:00)
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