On Friday (7-15-22), President Joe Biden signed an executive order to establish a Presidential Emergency Board (PEB) to handle an ongoing dispute between the country’s seven major Class 1 freight railroads and their unions over a new labor agreement contract. The formation of the PEB helped to avert a potential strike by railroad union members that was scheduled to start on Monday (7-18-22).
On Sunday (7-17-22), President Biden named the members of the PEB:
- Ira F. Jaffe (Chair), who has been involved in labor and employment arbitration cases for more than four decades and chaired or served on five other emergency boards, is a US panelist on the Rapid Response Labor Panel under the United States-Mexico-Canada trade agreement.
- Boston College Professor David Twomey, who has served on prior boards that helped resolve major rail and airline disputes.
- Barbara C. Deinhardt, an independent arbitrator who has served as chair of the New York State Employment Relations Board and New York State Workers’ Compensation Board.
The PEB will report its findings on the issues surrounding the negotiations to Biden within the next 30 days. The report’s recommendations could serve as a foundation for a voluntary agreement.
The railroads and their unions have been embroiled in a contract dispute since July of 2019, with wages and health care benefits being major sticking points. The National Mediation Board (NMB), an independent federal agency that mediates labor agreements for the railway and airline industries, stepped in earlier this year to mediate, but negotiations are still at an impasse. As a result, NMB released the railroads and unions from mediation and a 30-day cooling-off period began in June.
All these steps in the negotiation process, including conditions under which a union may elect to strike, are outlined under the Railway Labor Act.
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