On January 26, 2011, the National Mediation Board (NMB) released TCU and all other Coalition unions from further mediated bargaining with the Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad (MBCR).

The release starts a 30 day clock running; at the end of which self-help by either side would be available commencing February 26, 2011. However, it is extremely likely that the White House will appoint a Presidential Emergency Board (PEB) before the thirty days expire.

As these negotiations are covered by Section 9a of the Railway Labor Act, which govern commuter railroads, the Governor of Massachusetts can demand the creation of a PEB even if the White House doesn’t act.

Assuming a PEB is appointed before February 26, it would have thirty additional days to hold hearings and render its non-binding recommendations. However, under the protracted requirements of 9a, the parties could not resort to self-help until after a second PEB is convened and issues its recommendations. The entire process from beginning to end could take as long as 240 days.

“Our goal and that of the other coalition unions remains to reach a negotiated agreement,” says TCU President Bob Scardelletti. “No one wants to wait several more months for resolution, and we certainly want to settle this without a strike.”

“However, so far the company persists with unacceptable demands for major cost shifting in our health plans and insufficient wage increases,” adds Scardelletti. “Hopefully the NMB’s action in moving the process to the next step will influence MBCR to reconsider its position, because our members will settle for nothing less than a fair agreement.”

Three TCU crafts are bargaining on MBCR: Carmen, Clerks, and Supervisors. All were released. TCU has been bargaining with nine other unions in a Coalition. All were released. The PEB, when appointed, will involve all Coalition unions. The only MBCR unions not in the Coalition are UTU, which recently withdrew, and the BLE.

The releases followed TCU and the other Coalition unions’ rejection of the NMB’s offer of binding arbitration to settle the dispute. MBCR accepted the arbitration proffer, but under the law, both sides would have had to accept. “TCU and the Coalition collectively decided it was not in our best interest to have a contract determined by an arbitrator,” says President Scardelletti, “which would have deprived our members of having the chance to ratify it.”

Click here to read the NMB release letter for Clerks.

Click here to read the NMB release letter for Carmen.

Click here to read the NMB release letter for Supervisors.