SMART and 18 other unions sent a letter to President Joe Biden and Democratic U.S. Senate leaders Chuck Schumer and Patty Murray reminding the president that appointing new members to the National Mediation Board (NMB) should be prioritized and endorsed the appointment of Deirdre Hamilton and reappointment of Linda Puchala to the board.
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue N.W.
Washington, DC 20500
Via US Mail and Electronic Transmission
Dear President Biden:
We, the undersigned unions representing hundreds of thousands of Americans working in the airline and rail industries, take pleasure in expressing our strong support of Deirdre Hamilton to serve as a Member on the National Mediation Board (NMB), and for sitting NMB member Linda Puchala’s reappointment to the board. We also urge you to make these appointments immediately. Unlike other federal agencies, the Trump-appointed NMB will remain in control until new board members are nominated and confirmed by the Senate. With each passing day, the Trump NMB is allowed more opportunity to suppress the voices of aviation and rail workers, stifle collective bargaining rights, and undermine the Biden-Harris pro-worker agenda.
Created by Congress through the Railway Labor Act (RLA), the NMB plays an essential role in the facilitation of labor-management relations in the aviation and rail industries. Collectively, our unions represent mechanics, pilots, flight attendants, engineers, conductors, and maintenance of way employees, among other critical roles. These workers are best served when the NMB is reliably staffed with public servants who understand the importance of collective bargaining and who, when disputes arise, will seek fair and timely resolutions. Both Ms. Hamilton and Ms. Puchala have impeccable qualifications for positions on the board, and have proven throughout their careers to be steadfast allies of workers.
With over 20 years of experience, Ms. Hamilton has represented workers before federal courts and with the NMB on a wide range of legal issues, including union elections, mediation, contract enforcement, and major and minor dispute claims, and has amassed an in-depth knowledge of the RLA and how it functions. For the past 6 years, Ms. Hamilton has served as the Staff Attorney to the Airline Division at the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. She has held similar positions as a Senior Staff Attorney at the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, AFL-CIO, and Legal Fellow at the International Association of Machinists. With her experience and command of the RLA, Ms. Hamilton would be in an excellent position to foster strong labor-management relations, protect the right of workers to form and join unions, and ensure that the mediation and arbitration duties of the Board are deployed to serve all stakeholders.
Ms. Puchala has served as a member of the NMB since her confirmation by the U.S. Senate in 2009. Prior to her service as a Board Member, Ms. Puchala worked as a Mediator, Sr. Mediator (ADR) and the Associate Director of Alternative Dispute Resolution Services over a 10-year career at the NMB. During her tenure, Ms. Puchala has demonstrated leadership and professionalism that has earned her the respect of both parties across the mediation table. Ms. Puchala has also pursued innovative strategies to resolve pending arbitration cases, sought to modernize the NMB’s management practices and has fought for policies that will protect the rights of workers to have a union voice. Ms. Puchala also obtained important labor relations experience as a former International President of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, and a Staff Director, Michigan State Employees Association, AFSCME.
The rail and aviation industries support good middle-class jobs that are critical to the economy and are even more important as the country seeks to recover from COVID-19 in the coming months and years. NMB members have an important role to play in protecting these jobs and expanding workforce opportunities in sectors covered by the RLA.
Air Line Pilots Association, International
Allied Pilots Association
American Train Dispatchers Association
Association of Flight Attendants, CWA
Association of Professional Flight Attendants
Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen
Communications Workers of America
International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers
International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers
On January 8, 2021, Arbitrator Wendell Bell issued his arbitration award regarding the process and procedure in arbitrating the Carriers’ (UP, BNSF, NS & KCS) attack on the Crew Consist Moratoria.
The arbitration, known as a “Procedural Public Law Board,” had the purpose of determining the terms of how any primary arbitration should proceed. Procedural PLBs 7959, 7960, 7961 & 7962 were a result of SMART-TD’s efforts disputing the improper action of the Railroads to prematurely re-open crew consist negotiations before the appropriate moratorium expired.
SMART-TD argued the Carriers improperly served their Notice to Arbitrate and failed to properly conference their suddenly new-found interpretations of the moratoria. SMART-TD not only prevailed in these arguments, it also secured a ruling ensuring the terms of the next round of arbitration will be conducted properly.
In a fairly dense 35-page award, which cited U.S. Supreme Court and numerous lower-court decisions along with several arbitration awards, the Procedural Arbitrator set May 1, 2021, for the next round of arbitration, dependent upon funding approvals by the National Mediation Board. As currently constructed, the National Mediation Board consists of two Republican members appointed by President Donald Trump and one Democrat member. It is expected the make-up of the Board will change shortly once the nominations by President-elect Biden are confirmed by the U.S. Senate. Whether those changes will be able to take place prior to the selection of the next arbitrator or May 1st is unknown.
The railroads’ efforts to swiftly force a change to crew consist while still under the railroad-friendly Trump Administration is now unlikely due to the unwavering effort of SMART-TD. Since October 2019, when the railroads first ignited this fight, SMART-TD has defended our agreements against this attempted subversion by the carriers. We have and continue to tirelessly fight for our members’ livelihoods.
SMART-TD members can rest assured that their union will continue to fight to protect your crew consist agreements and livelihood, while seeking to secure the opportunities of the future in the rapidly changing and technology-laden railroad industry.
The AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department (TTD), in conjunction with SMART Transportation Division and 13 other unions associated with the railroad and aviation industries, filed suit in federal court in the District of Columbia against the National Mediation Board (NMB) regarding their recent rule that changes the decertification process.
SMART TD, TTD, and the other plaintiffs assert that the final rule, which was approved by the NMB over the summer in a 2-1 vote, violates the Railway Labor Act by adopting a new decertification procedure, including an “unjustified” two-year moratorium on employees seeking union representation after a decertification vote. The change is “an arbitrary and capricious departure from long-standing Board practice,” the complaint states.
The complaint also says that the NMB overstepped limitations set by Congress that have for eight decades governed the board’s jurisdiction to resolve representation disputes in the aviation and rail industries.
“This action is in excess of the Board’s limited jurisdiction and is a ‘gross violation’ of the Railway Labor Act and should be enjoined,” the complaint states.
“The NMB’s rule is an attempt by government officials to hand even more power to corporations at the expense of working people,” TTD President Larry Willis said after the NMB vote July 26. “Not only is this rule unnecessary, but it is ill-timed and tone deaf to the needs of aviation and rail workers, who face unprecedented pressure from industry giants.
“A union contract is the most effective tool workers have to make life better for themselves and their families. Yet, the two Republican board members supporting this decision just made it easier to decertify unions in the rail and aviation sectors and bar employees from being able to vote for union representation for two years after decertification.”
The NMB is comprised of Chair Linda A. Puchala, who was appointed by President Barack Obama in 2009, and members Gerald W. Fauth III and Kyle Fortson, who were both appointees of President Donald Trump and confirmed by the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate in November 2017. Puchala was the dissenting vote.
The National Mediation Board (NMB) announced Monday that Linda A. Puchala has been named chair of the board, effective July 1. Gerald Fauth III and Kyle Fortson remain as board members.
Puchala was confirmed as an NMB member by the United States Senate on May 21, 2009. She has been chair of the NMB for the following prior periods: May 2009 through June 30, 2009; July 1, 2011 through June 30, 2012; July 1, 2013 through June 30, 2014; and July 1, 2016 through June 30, 2017. Her most recent Senate confirmation came on November 2, 2017.
Prior to becoming a member, Puchala served 10 years as an NMB mediator, senior mediator (ADR) and as associate director of alternative dispute resolution services.
Her prior labor-relations experience includes work as international president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, AFL-CIO and staff director, Michigan State Employees Association, AFSCME, AFL-CIO.
She resides in Glen Burnie, Md., and holds a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Cleary University in Howell, Mich.
The funding levels that was in effect for the 2018 fiscal year for both the National Mediation Board (NMB) and for the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) remain steady for the 2019 fiscal year in the “minibus” budget bill that was signed by President Donald Trump.
The RRB will receive $123.5 million — $113.5 million will go to administrative costs with the $10 million balance funding RRB’s initiative to improve its information technology structure.
“Based on the last cost estimate provided by the RRB, with this funding level, the agency will have received nearly half of the total cost of its IT overhaul,” National Legislative Director John Risch said.
Funding also held steady for the NMB, which provides dispute-resolution processes between rail unions and carriers through mediation, representation and arbitration between labor and management.
The board last fiscal year received a boost in its funding to $13.8 million in part to help it work through a number of pending Section 3 cases. That funding level stays, although not all those Section 3 cases were heard — the board made a move over the summer to close many cases that were unfunded, more than three years old and had not advanced in the process.
Those cases could be reopened if a party involved in the aged-out cases writes a letter to the NMB’s director of arbitration services.
NMB had about 6,400 cases to deal with overall at the end of October.
As part of our ongoing effort to conclude national contract negotiations, the Coordinated Bargaining Group (CBG) met with the nation’s freight rail Carriers (NCCC) for three days during the week of June 26th. These efforts were part of our ongoing mediation process, mandated by the Railway Labor Act when the parties have been unable to reach a voluntary agreement, and managed by the National Mediation Board.
Despite the CBG’s best efforts to reach a fair agreement with the NCCC, the mediation process took a step backwards on Thursday, June 29th, when the Carriers presented new, onerous bargaining positions. Their new contract demands would have the employees not only paying more per month towards their monthly insurance premiums, but would also make drastic changes in the amount the average employee pays when medical services are needed. Combined with the Carriers’ outlandish demands for this dramatic cost-shifting, they suggested we agree to below-standard General Wage Increases with no retroactivity, and, for certain crafts, harmful work rules changes that would have employees doing more work for less pay in many circumstances.
It is clear from the Carrier’s latest contract demands that they are emboldened by the potential of management-friendly recommendations that could come from a Presidential Emergency Board appointed by President Trump, and ultimately be imposed on the employees by a Congress that already has enacted or is pushing for changes in longstanding labor laws that protect employee rights.
We of course are frustrated by the Carriers’ hard-line attitude. But we will not let this stand in our way. In spite of this latest turn of events, the CBG will not give up its efforts to achieve a voluntary settlement that is fair and protects our members’ best interests. We therefore requested and have been granted additional mediation sessions later this month. This is not by any means the end of the road. The Railway Labor Act makes it the duty of both labor and management “to exert every reasonable effort to make agreements.” We take that obligation seriously. Be assured that we have been working very hard on your behalf and we will continue to pursue every available avenue to achieve a fair contract settlement worthy of your consideration.
The Carrier’s latest offer is neither a fair settlement, nor a settlement that we expect our members would ratify. So that you all are fully aware of what has been proposed, and in an effort to bring all affected members up to speed, the Carrier’s latest proposal, with a brief synopsis, can be found at
More information will be forthcoming after the mediation sessions scheduled later this month. We appreciate your continuing support.
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The Coordinated Bargaining Group is comprised of six unions: the American Train Dispatchers Association; the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (a Division of the Rail Conference of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters); the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen; the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, Iron Ship Builders, Blacksmiths, Forgers, and Helpers; the National Conference of Firemen and Oilers / SEIU; and the Transportation Division of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers.
Collectively, the CBG unions represent more than 85,000 railroad workers covered by the various organizations’ national agreements, and comprise over 58% of the workforce that will be impacted by the outcome of the current bargaining round.
The National Mediation Board (NMB) announced that Harry Hoglander, NMB board member since 2002, has been designated as the new Chairman of the NMB, effective immediately.
Read the NMB press release, here:
July 5, 2017
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
NATIONAL MEDIATION BOARD
Contact: NMB Public Information Line — (202) 692-5050
Re: Hoglander Assumes NMB Chairmanship
Washington, D.C. — The National Mediation Board (NMB) is pleased to announce that Harry R. Hoglander has been named Chairman of the National Mediation Board, effective July 1, 2017. Linda Puchala remains as a Member of the Board.
Mr. Hoglander, a Member of the National Mediation Board since August 6, 2002, has previously served as Chairman in: 2004-2005, 2007-2008, 2010-2011, 2012-2013 and 2014-2015. He was first confirmed by the United States Senate on August 1, 2002, reconfirmed for a second term on December 8, 2006, a third term on July 24, 2009, and a fourth term on August 5, 2013.
Prior to joining the Board, Mr. Hoglander served as a Legislative Specialist in the office of Congressman John Tierney of Massachusetts with responsibilities in Transportation issues including aviation, rail and maritime, Labor, Defense and Veterans Affairs.
Mr. Hoglander has an extensive background in the aviation industry and labor relations, having flown as a Captain for Trans World Airline (TWA) and being elected Master Chairman of TWA’s Master Executive Council. He was also elected Executive Vice-President of the Air Line Pilots Association. After leaving TWA, Mr. Hoglander was named Aviation Labor Representative to the United States Bi-Lateral Negotiating Team by then Secretary of State James Baker.
Mr. Hoglander was also a pilot in the United States Air Force, retiring with the rank of Lt. Colonel. He graduated from Suffolk University Law School and is a member of the Florida Bar.
Mr. Hoglander and his wife Judith reside in Gloucester Massachusetts. They have six children.
The National Mediation Board is an independent Federal agency established by the Railway Labor Act, which governs labor-management relations within two key transportation sectors of the United States and U.S. territories: the railroads and airlines. The National Mediation Board is an independent Federal agency established by the Railway Labor Act, which governs labor-management relations within two key transportation sectors of the United States and U.S. territories: railroads and airlines.
On December 5, 2016, SMART Transportation Division issued a press release to announce that the unions participating in the Coordinated Bargaining Group (CBG) had requested that the National Mediation Board (NMB) mediate the group’s negotiations with the National Carriers Conference Committee (NCCC).
The decision to move the process forward with a request for mediation was made after our last negotiating session with the NCCC, when it became apparent that the prospect of reaching a voluntary agreement had grown significantly less likely, due in large part to the outcome of November’s elections. During negotiations, the organizations submitted a proposal that would provide the framework of an improved wage, work rule and benefit package that we believe our members have earned.
The carriers responded with an offer that was significantly less in every regard. Your negotiating team found the carriers’ demands for certain work rule changes unacceptable. In our opinion, these changes would compromise safety by creating a negative impact on rest and predictability. In addition, the carrier proposed unsatisfactory wage increases and dramatic cuts to our health care benefits, both of which were also unacceptable.
We have negotiated in good faith because we believe a voluntary agreement is in the best interests of our members and will continue to do so while in mediation. However, we stand firm in our conviction that our members deserve a better outcome than the carrier’s proposal and we will exhaust every avenue available to achieve a contract settlement with equitable compensation and benefit improvements that reflect the employees’ contributions to the carriers’ success. Additionally, we will not accept or propose a contract that adds to the already intolerable levels of unpredictability and rest deprivation that our members currently endure.
What’s next? The parties will engage in mediation as part of the dispute resolution process required by the Railway Labor Act. If a voluntary agreement is not reached in mediation, the process provides for a proffer of arbitration by the NMB, which, if refused by either participant, will then release the parties to engage in self-help (strike/lockout).
Moving through the Railway Labor Act to a strike is a long and arduous process, and requires that the parties exhaust every opportunity for settlement before a work stoppage disrupts the nation’s transportation system. However, the right to strike is a part of the process and the only person who can take away your right to strike is the President of the United States, who may intervene and appoint a Presidential Emergency Board.
In the event that we reach that point, I will be calling on all of our members to reach out to the White House and request that our newly elected President not interfere with our right to exercise self-help in our quest for a fair and equitable contract settlement.
On December 5, 2016, Rail Labor’s Coordinated Bargaining Group (CBG) released the following statement, requesting that a federal mediator assist in negotiations:
“Despite our best efforts, collective bargaining with the major U.S. Class 1 railroads completely stalled late last week. Therefore, pursuant to the terms and conditions of the Railway Labor Act, we have today applied to the National Mediation Board (NMB) for the assignment of a federal mediator to assist in our negotiations.” Read the complete press release here.
Washington, D.C. – The National Mediation Board (NMB) is pleased to announce that Nicholas Geale became chairman of the National Mediation Board, effective July 1, 2015. Harry Hoglander and Linda Puchala remain as members of the Board. Geale was nominated by President Barack Obama on July 30, 2013 and confirmed by the United States Senate on August 1, 2013.
Prior to his appointment Geale was the Director of Oversight and Investigations for Ranking Member Lamar Alexander on the U. S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. His primary responsibilities included investigating waste, fraud and abuse in government programs, and he worked with agency Inspectors General and the Government Accountability Office in that capacity. He also evaluated and advised the committee on Presidential nominees and assisted the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions policy teams in evaluating government programs.
Before becoming Director of Oversight, Geale served as Oversight and Investigations Counsel on the Committee for ranking member Michael B. Enzi. Prior to joining the HELP Committee, he was first an attorney/advisor to the solicitor and then the counselor to the deputy secretary at the U.S. Department of Labor under the leadership of Secretary Elaine L. Chao. In both those roles, Geale assisted the department in implementing policies regarding over 180 laws under its jurisdiction and managing the Department’s 15,000 employees.
Prior to federal service, Geale had six years of experience in labor and employment matters, general commercial litigation and alternative dispute resolution in private and public practice, including serving as assistant general counsel for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. He graduated from Georgetown Law in 1999 and Claremont McKenna College in 1996.
The National Mediation Board is an independent federal agency established by the Railway Labor Act, which governs labor-management relations within two key transportation sectors of the United States and U.S. territories: railroads and airlines.
Washington, D.C. – The National Mediation Board (NMB) is pleased to announce that in June 2015 three new mediators have joined the NMB:
Jane Allen joins the NMB with 22 years of experience in the airline industry. She also practiced law for five years. Ms. Allen worked for five years in a senior executive capacity at a large legacy carrier. She had overall responsibility for cabin crew operations as the Senior Vice President Onboard Service. Subsequently, Ms. Allen directed the company’s human resource and labor activities as the Senior Vice President of Human Resources. As a member of the company’s executive committee, she provided advice and counsel on strategic human resource and labor matters to the senior executive team and the Board of Directors.
Ms. Allen also held a variety of positions over 17 years at another large legacy air carrier. As the Vice President of Employee Relations and Chief Labor Negotiator, she directed all collective bargaining, and was responsible for contract interpretation, labor relations, and mediation. In this position she gained broad experience under numerous Railway Labor Act provisions, and in Alternative Dispute Resolution. Ms. Allen also served as the carrier’s Vice President of Flight Service and the Managing Director of Compensation and Benefits for all employees.
Ms. Allen holds a JD from Vanderbilt University’s School of Law and a BA in Communications from The Ohio State University.
Eva Durham joins the NMB with 40 years of airline labor relations experience at regional, legacy and ULLC carriers. She began her career as a flight attendant with Ozark Airlines, where she was elected to the AFA MEC. At TWA, Ms. Durham served as a labor advocate on cross divisional labor teams and later worked with multiple labor groups as manager in the TWA human resource – labor relations organization. Her labor experience in the regional airline industry includes serving as Vice President Inflight at Atlantic Southeast Airlines, and leading the Inflight department at Compass Airline. Ms. Durham gained ULLC experience at Frontier and Spirit Airlines, where she served as Senior Director Inflight. Her tenure in the airline industry includes labor relations, contract negotiations, and leading change during airline bankruptcy, strike, mergers, spin offs, and transitions.
Ms. Durham holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Industrial and Organizational Psychology from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. Her MBA was earned at Clayton State University in Morrow, Georgia. She has completed mediation training at Harvard Law School and worked as a Georgia civil and domestic relations mediator.
Catherine McCann joins the NMB with considerable experience in labor relations. Prior to joining the NMB, Ms. McCann worked in the commercial aviation industry for 18 years in various Human Resources and Labor Relations capacities. She served as the Vice President of Employee Relations and the Vice President of People for American Eagle Airlines. She had responsibility for all Human Resources and Labor Relations functions and negotiated multiple labor agreements with each of American Eagle’s unions, including six restructuring agreements during bankruptcy.
During her tenure at American Eagle, Ms. McCann gained extensive experience in the utilization of interest based bargaining and alternative dispute resolution techniques. She managed labor relations, contract administration, grievance resolution and arbitration issues.
Ms. McCann also has labor relations experience with unions in Canada and the Bahamas.
Ms. McCann holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of North Texas.
SMART Transportation Division’s General Committee of Adjustment GO 610 representing conductors and trainmen, General Committee of Adjustment GO 340 representing yardmasters and SMART Sheet Metal Mechanical and Engineering Local 396 representing mechanical workers have joined the New Jersey Transit Rail Labor Coalition in asking the National Mediation Board (NMB) to proffer arbitration to its members after reaching an impasse in contract negotiations with New Jersey Transit (NJT).
The 10 unions in the NJTRLC have requested that NMB release them from further mediation.
In the requests to the NMB, the coalition wrote, “… the Coalition’s proposal is consistent with all other commuter railroad settlements this round. The company’s proposal … calls for employee health insurance contributions well above the level at every other commuter railroad, while offering wage adjustments far below those achieved at every other commuter railroad during this round … It is clear an impasse exists.”
On March 23, the NMB forwarded the coalition’s release request to NJT and sought a response by April 6.
If the NMB agrees to release the coalition unions, it will proffer binding arbitration to the unions and NJT. When either side notifies the NMB that it rejects binding arbitration, that will begin a process that could take as long as 270 days if no voluntary agreement is reached, including two Presidential Emergency Boards. The first PEB would be appointed within 30 days of either side’s rejection of the proffer of arbitration. At the end of the 270 days, both sides may resort to self-help.
The coalition elected to seek release after it became clear that NJT would not make a reasonable offer. The coalition has proposed a settlement patterned after the contracts achieved this round on Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North Railroad. NJT insists on concessionary contracts, with employees with families paying more than four times what they currently pay for health benefits.
The coalitions’ goal is to achieve a fair, voluntary agreement. It believes it has a strong case to present to a PEB. In most commuter railroad labor disputes in the past, the PEB’s recommendations led to a voluntary agreement. However, unlike arbitration, a PEB’s recommendations are not binding.
The coalition formed over the last several months after three years of each union bargaining unsuccessfully with NJT. The member unions believe working together maximizes their potential power. The coalition unions represent 88 percent of NJT unionized workers.