The National Mediation Board released New Jersey Transit and 17 labor unions from mediation this week after the unions and the transit agency were unable to reach agreement on a new labor contract. Workers have been without a contract for four years.
The 17 labor unions, working together as part of the New Jersey Transit Rail Labor Coalition, immediately announced their intention to invoke a Presidential Emergency Board that would make non-binding recommendations to settle the contract dispute. The move avoids a strike.
The Coalition includes every rail union on NJ Transit and represents more than 4,000 commuter workers.
“By announcing our intention to invoke a Presidential Emergency Board, we want to remove any fears the riding public may have that a strike could occur in July,” a Coalition spokesmen said. ”Our goal is to reach a voluntary agreement. We are optimistic that a neutral Presidential Emergency Board will find reasonable our proposals to follow the pattern settlements reached on New York commuter railroads. There is simply no justification for the workers we represent to fall further behind their counterparts on Long Island and Metro-North railroads.
Negotiations for new contracts opened on July 1 of 2011. Efforts at mediation failed to produce agreements. Under the governing Railway Labor Act, a strike would be possible at 12:01 a.m. on July 16, unless one of the governor, the commuter agency or unions request that the President of the United States appoint an emergency board.
President Obama must create the three-member Presidential Emergency Board to keep the sides negotiating and prevent a strike or labor lockout. Nearly 955,000 people ride NJ Transit buses, trains and light rail every weekday.
Once appointed, the Presidential Emergency Board has 30 days to hold hearings and issue non-binding recommendations to settle the dispute. The creation of the Presidential Emergency Board would start a 120 day cooling off period during which neither side can resort to self-help.