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PEB 250: Correcting Misinformation in Labor Ranks

Written by Frank N. Wilner, Capitol Hill Contributing Editor
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SMART-TD/BLET illustration

Railroads represented by the National Carriers Conference Committee (NCCC) resumed negotiations Aug. 22 with a coalition representing all 12 rail labor unions following release Aug. 18 of Presidential Emergency Board (PEB) No. 250 recommendations for amending national agreements establishing wages, benefits and work rules affecting some 125,000 unionized rail workers.

Under provisions of the Railway Labor Act (RLA), the sides have until Sept. 16 to reach a tentative settlement—subject to member ratification—after which labor may strike or carriers may lockout, which likely would prompt Congress to end any nationwide rail shutdown by imposing a third-party settlement.

If a tentative agreement is reached prior to Sept. 16—or if the two sides agree to extend negotiations beyond Sept. 16 in expectation of a settlement—that tentative contract will be provided to members of each of the 12 unions for ratification. Failure to ratify by one or more of the union memberships similarly could result in a strike.

In an effort to correct misinformation that has been spreading among members, the two largest rail unions, representing primarily train and engine service employees, have published a document, PEB 250 Myths vs. Facts, dispelling many of the myths being spread (links, below). The two unions are the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) and the Transportation Division of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART-TD). 

Two other facts that dispel misinformation spread among members are that rail employees are quitting their jobs in large numbers and that there are few applicants for available railroad jobs. As the NRLC (National Railway Labor Conference) observes:

  • During the first six months of 2022, each railroad’s voluntary “quit rate” was between 2% and 3.7%, just a fraction of the 13.1% quit rate reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics for the transportation, warehousing and utility sector. 
  • Railroads have been outperforming the broader labor market in attracting new hires. For 2021, railroads reported more than 42 applicants for each open position, which is well above the 25 applicants per open position benchmark cited by workforce planning experts.
  • Railroads have been reporting an even greater number of applicants per available job during the first six months of 2022. A caveat, volunteered by railroads, is that in some locations—especially those in remote areas—there are fewer applicants, but railroads have responded by offering relocation bonuses and other inducements.

Following are links to the seven myth vs. facts slides BLET and SMART-TD have distributed to dispel misinformation being spread:


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