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BMWED/SMART-MD Request Proffer of Arbitration-Release from Mediation

Published: Feb 25 2022 1:24PM

Seeing that the National Carriers Conference Committee’s refuses to bargain in good faith, and that the carriers fundamentally fail to accept the very idea that they need to share the bounty of their surging profits with their employees who do the work that generates those profits, the BMWED/SMART-Mechanical bargaining coalition has petitioned the National Mediation board for a proffer of arbitration, requesting to be released from continued mediation sessions.

It is our view that negotiations with the Class I freight railroads are at impasse and that further mediation is not likely to result in agreement. In June of last year, the unions made a comprehensive settlement proposal, to which the NCCC never responded with a comprehensive proposal of its own. In fact, the NCCC has not even made a wage proposal to BMWED and SMART-MD, despite surging inflation and the lack of a pay increase for railroad employees for over two years.

The carriers have made proposals to change the National Health and Welfare plan, however. Naturally for them, those changes would constitute employee concessions, even though the Unions have made concessions on health and welfare benefits, or had them forced on us in the prior three rounds of bargaining. These proposed concessions are non-starters for the Unions. They would be much more significant than those of prior rounds and would substantially diminish any increase in compensation.

“Between 2004 and 2020, which is the period covering the last three bargaining cycles, profits for the Class I railroads have increased by 536 percent,” BMWED President Freddie N. Simpson said. “Rail productivity is up 28 percent since 2004. Profit per employee has increased by 736 percent. The stock prices during the 16-year time period for the three publicly traded Class I railroads have increased 1046 percent!”

“In that same time period, after adjustment for inflation, wages for railroad employees have increased only 14 percent,” President Simpson added. “This cannot go on any longer. Cost of living is up. Railroad profitability continues to rise. In order to ensure that their corporate boards gorge on increased profitability, bonuses, stock incentives and the like, year after year after year, the railroads continue to seek cuts to labor, to diminish the pay and benefits of their work force to keep their investors fat.”

Therefore, the BMWED and SMART-MD bargaining coalition requested that the National Mediation Board determine that its “efforts to bring about an amicable settlement” of the current dispute between the two Unions and the NCCC have been “unsuccessful” within the meaning of Section 5 First of the Railway Labor Act and that the NMB proffer arbitration of the parties’ dispute under Section 5 First, thereby releasing the parties from mediation.   Once the NMB proffers arbitration and either or both parties decline arbitration, it starts a 30 day "cooling-off period” where the parties must refrain from engaging in the exercise of self-help.  The President can appoint a PEB before the end of that 30 day cooling off period.

Summary of NCCC Positions