Background Information Regarding Strike Aversion and PEB
The BLET, along with 10 other rail labor unions representing 75% of all rail workers at major U.S. railroads, have been in an ongoing dispute with the National Carriers’ Conference Committee over wages and health care benefits since early 2009 when negotiations began for a new collective bargaining agreement. The main sticking point has been the issue of health care benefits for rail workers and their families. The carriers want to shift health care costs to those members and their families who get sick – in other words, those who can least afford it. The United Transportation Union reached a tentative agreement with the carriers in June; however the other rail unions have rejected the deal’s wage and health care terms. The UTU agreement includes a 17 percent wage increase; however it also includes huge concessions in health care benefits for its members. Under the UTU agreement, their members will pay a larger share of each health care service and includes new programs that will lower the quality of health care by transferring selection of prescription drugs from one’s doctor to an insurance company. The carriers have called the UTU deal a “pattern agreement” that the other crafts must accept; however, the BLET and the other rail unions find this unacceptable given the record profits that the railroads have enjoyed in recent years.
The National Mediation Board had overseen the rail
negotiations for over a year and, on
During the 30-day cooling off period, the BLET activated its mobilization network and conducted a strike authorization vote on those railroads where the dispute exists and the BLET has representation rights for their craft. After the votes were counted on October 3, BLET National President Pierce announced that an overwhelming 97 percent majority of BLET members voted to authorize the strike. Locomotive engineers were prepared to walk off the job at on October 7 if President Obama did not appoint a PEB.
On the afternoon of