NMB Holds Hearing on Fee Proposal
On January 11, 2005, the National Mediation Board (NMB) held a public hearing on its proposed rule change to impose a schedule of fees for grievance handling before the National Railroad Adjustment Board (NRAB) and public law boards. (Read More)
TCU representatives, together with other rail labor representatives, were in attendance at the hearing. General Counsel Mitch Kraus and Senior Executive Director Bill Miller testified in opposition to the fees before the NMB on behalf of TCU and rail labor. Representatives from the BLET, TTD and the UTU also testified against the NMB’s proposed rule change. In addition the Chairman of the National Association of Railroad Referees, M. David Vaughn testified against the imposition of fees.
Each speaker explained the inherent unfairness in the NMB’s proposal to charge fees for grievance handling. It was explained to the NMB how this idea would work in favor of the carriers and place an undue burden on the employees seeking to have their grievances arbitrated.
Senior Executive Director Bill Miller, who serves as the Vice Chairman of the NRAB, stated, “User fees as proposed by the NMB should not be used as a tool to limit the number of grievances that are to be arbitrated.” He continued, “Grievance settlements shape working rules and contribute to the common law of the workplace and the institution of filing fees might cause valid grievances to be abandoned. . . .Failure to handle a single case because of the imposition of an inappropriate user fee would be a disservice to the parties to the agreement.” Brother Miller concluded his remarks by saying, “I would respectfully request that the proposed regulations should not be adopted, and the NMB should continue working with the (parties) to assist in adopting appropriate procedures to improve the efficiency of grievance handling.”
In testifying on the legality of the NMB’s proposal, General Counsel Mitch Kraus stated, “nothing in Section 3, Fourth (of the Railway Labor Act) either explicitly or implicitly authorizes the NMB to charge parties fees for using the service of the NRAB or Public Law Boards. The plain meaning of the provision authorizing the NMB to expend funds, cannot be stretched to authorize it to charge the parties fees. The authority to expend does not encompass the authority to charge. They are two different functions.”
Arbitrator Vaughn during his testimony stated, “the use of restrictive fees is not a formula for either improving rail labor-management relations or advancing the statutory purpose of avoiding interruptions to interstate rail commerce.”
The hearing was closed with the NMB taking the matter under advisement. Between the testimony at the public hearing and the Congressional concern over the NMB’s proposed rule change, it is hoped that the NMB will abandon this ill-conceived idea to charge user fees for grievance handling. We await the NMB decision.