District Lodge 19

where it all begin

NEWS

 

The National Mediation Board (NMB) convened a public interest meeting in Washington, D.C. on Friday, March 4, 2016 with New Jersey Transit and the New Jersey Rail Labor Coalition in order to assist the parties in reaching a Collective Bargaining Agreement.
 
While the discussions were positive and constructive, no agreement was reached. The parties assured the National Mediation Board (NMB) that discussions will continue in the upcoming week.
 
We will continue to update you as new developments occur.

 

The Carrier has indicated that they intend to serve notice to abolish several Rapid Responder positions on or about March 1, 2016.  Additionally, notice to abolish some shop positions is expected to be released on or about March 15, 2016.  BNSF has communicated that it is their desire for affected employees to look for work opportunities at other locations where the Carrier is in need of people.  For more details, please see this letter from BNSF.

Our General Chairmen will be working closely with the Carrier as well as the Local Lodges of the affected members to ensure that our members stay informed as well as to educate them on any protections or benefits they may be entitled to.  District Lodge 19 remains committed to minimizing the impact these furloughs will have on our members.

We intend to keep you updated as we receive more information.  If you have any questions, please contact your General Chairman.

 

This week, District Lodge 19 and our coalition partners met with the National Carrier’s Conference Committee (NCCC). We presented our proposals under Attachment “C”, which covers improvements to vacation, holidays, personal leave, bereavement as well as the inclusion of sick days. We are now waiting the NCCC’s response to these proposals.

Prior to this week, we had been discussing health and welfare. With no agreement between our coalition and the NCCC on this topic, the decision was made to move on while the mediators await economic reports from both sides of the table. Additional meetings are scheduled for March, April, May and June.

“Negotiating under the Railway Labor Act (RLA), is a process that has been good for railroaders over the years. Nevertheless, it can be an extremely lengthy process when compared to negotiating under the National Labor Relations Act. I appreciate your patience as we work toward an agreement that rewards our members for their hard work and dedication in keeping America moving,” said P/DGC Jeff Doerr.

We will continue to update you as we move through this lengthy process.

 

Where Talks Stand:

Negotiations were held February 3. No progress was made.

 

The Rail Labor Coalition continued to propose what Presidential Emergency Board 249 recommended:

  • 18.4% in compounded wage increases over six and a half years.

  • Health insurance contributions increasing to 2.5% of an employee’s weekly straight time earnings.

 

New Jersey Transit refused to change its unacceptable proposal in any way, even though it had been rejected by two Presidential Emergency Boards:

  • 10.9% in compounded wage increases over seven years.

  • Radically higher employee health insurance contributions, that would rise to an average cost of $460 per month, with families paying as much as $642 a month.

 

Why a Strike is Likely:

Negotiations will continue. But we cannot accept anything close to the draconian increases in health insurance payments that NJT is demanding, which would effectively wipe out the paltry wage increases the company is offering. And NJT shows no signs of improving its offer.

 

What You Can Do:

Prepare yourself economically. At 12:01 am on Sunday, March 13, every union on New Jersey Transit will strike if no agreement is reached. The company is likely to simultaneously announce a lock-out. Once a strike begins, no one knows how long it will last. If you do not want to be paying the extreme insurance contributions that NJT is demanding, you must be prepared to strike for as long as it takes for NJT to come to its senses.

Don’t listen to rumors. Already there have been erroneous reports of President Obama ending a strike after one day. That will not happen. Only Congress has the power to end the strike through legislation, and it is highly unlikely to do so. Get your information from your union representatives. Attend all meetings.

When the time comes, sign up for picket duty. Picket captains are being designated now. Every location will be picketed.

 

Railroad Retirement Unemployment Benefits:

Because the unions’ final offer was selected as the “most reasonable” by PEB 249, strikers will be eligible for Railroad Retirement unemployment benefits. However, there is a fourteen day waiting period. If the strike should continue past two weeks, benefits will be $671.04 every subsequent two week period. You can apply on-line at www.rrb.gov. But you must first have an RRB online account. Apply for one now at the same RRB web site.

 

As Long As We Stay United, We Will Prevail:

New Jersey Transit is solely responsible for this mess. Every previous round we have reached fair contracts without strikes – contracts that each union’s membership has ratified. But this time is different. Five years ago NJT laid down the gauntlet when it demanded five-fold increases in employee health contributions. They have not changed their position yet, despite rulings in our favor by two neutral Presidential Emergency Boards. If there is a strike, it will be entirely NJT’s fault.

You deserve a fair contract – a contract similar to those achieved by our brothers and sisters on our neighbor commuter lines, Metro North and Long Island Rail Road. That’s all we are asking. That is why, for the first time ever, every union on NJT has come together in a bargaining coalition.

We will remain united until we achieve a contract that you deserve.

 

SOLIDARITY - UNITY - ECONOMIC JUSTICE

 

 

Talks between the eleven unions in the NJT Rail Labor Coalition and negotiators from New Jersey Transit continued today, but no agreement was reached. Both sides pledged to continue negotiating.

 

Today’s talks were the first since Presidential Emergency Board 249 selected the unions’ final offer as the “most reasonable”.

 

Under Section 9a of the Railway Labor Act, which is the law covering NJT commuter rail workers, the cooling off period expires 12:01 am on March 13. If no deal is reached by then, the unions can strike and/or NJT can lock its workers out. A strike or lockout can only be ended by the parties agreeing to a settlement, or Congress passing a law to end the dispute, which both sides believe would be highly unlikely.

 

The unions adopted the impartial recommendations of President Emergency Board 248 as our final offer. The recommendations call for a contract averaging 2.5% a year coupled with significant increases in employee health care contributions. NJT’s offer is for 0.6% net wage increases per year. The two Presidential Boards consisted of six experienced and expert arbitrators appointed by President Obama.

                                                                                                  

Coalition spokesmen said, “The last thing we want is a strike. We have gone five years without a contract. Our settlement proposal is modest and fair. All we are asking is what has been recommended by two expert neutral panels. Congress changed the Railway Labor Act to try to prevent commuter work stoppages by having a second PEB recommend the most reasonable offer, with penalties imposed on the side that doesn’t accept the recommendationThat has almost always led to a settlement. Yet now NJT refuses. We call upon NJT to end this dispute without disruption to the riding public.”

 

The Coalition includes every rail union on NJT, representing more than 4,000 commuter workers.

 

On Friday, January 22, 2016, members of Local Lodge 498, out of Chicago, IL, voted to ratify a new six year agreement with METRA Commuter Rail.

This six-year agreement provides for substantial wage increases (over 20% when compounded) with retroactive pay, a signing bonus, an increase in employer contributions to the Supplemental Retirement Plan (which will now apply retroactively), as well as increases to pay differentials and the way they are applied. Additionally, the new agreement addresses members’ concerns over sick leave, personal days, vacation accrual, and an alternative work week schedule.

 

“The results of today's ratification vote shows confidence in the leadership of District Lodge 19 and Local Lodge 498. I am proud of our members for taking a stand and bringing these negotiations to mediation,” said General Chairman Andrew Sandberg. “Along with the other unions that entered mediation, we achieved a better agreement with terms we could work with. I intend to keep working with all other unions in an effort to produce constant improvements going forward on the METRA properties.”

 

The bargaining committee included General Chairman Andrew Sandberg, LL 498 President Shaun O’Conner and Local Chairman Dave May. Retired Machinist and former DL 19 Executive Board Member Jose Garza also served on the committee prior to his retirement. “I am proud of our membership, which almost overwhelmingly, voted in this agreement. Our members are also thankful to District Lodge 19 and its new leadership for including us in the negotiating process for the first time ever. We are ready to start working on the next round of bargaining which opens in 2018,” said committee member and LL 498 President Shaun O’Conner.

 

“I am proud of our members on METRA for staying the course and ratifying the contract they wanted,” said P/DGC Jeff Doerr. “I want to thank the negotiating committee and LL 498 for their commitment to the process as well as their hard work on behalf of the membership.”

 

Presidential Emergency Board 249 has selected the Coalition Unions’ final offer in its entirety as the “most reasonable” in its January 11, 2016 recommendation to settle negotiations on New Jersey Transit.


The three member neutral panel was appointed by President Obama because of their experience and expertise. In their 34 page Report, the PEB reviewed in depth the findings of PEB 248, which the Union Coalition submitted as its final offer, and found the rationale of the first Board to be compelling. In contrast, NJT’s final offer differed little from the concessionary proposal it made to PEB 248. In rejecting NJT’s position, the Board wrote that, “We find that the Carrier's push to link the wages, benefits and working conditions of its employees to those of State employees is not moving the parties toward a voluntary agreement.”


The Board accepted the Coalition’s argument that the most relevant comparators were the recent settlements reached by rail workers at other commuter railroads in the region. The Coalition pointed out that New Jersey Transit had never before pointed to state worker contracts as being relevant for commuter rail workers – and that had they done so, NJT commuter workers would have enjoyed far higher wages over the past thirty years. The Board found that “PEBs have not accorded significant weight to state employee agreements because …the skills, qualifications and working conditions are simply not comparable.”


The recommendations call for wage increases totaling 17% over a six year term; health insurance contributions that will rise to 2.5% of straight time pay by January 1, 2017; modest increases in employee copays for in-network doctor visits and emergency room visits; mandatory mail order for prescription drugs; 20 minute Conductor certification pay; and a five year phase-in of Carrier 401(a) contributions for new hires. NJT’s proposal to eliminate employee passes was rejected.


Coalition leaders have reached out to NJT to return to the bargaining table to reach an agreement based on the two Presidential Emergency Boards’ recommendations. If no agreement is reached, a strike or lockout can begin at 12:01 am on March 13.


Coalition leaders called on NJT to end the impasse that has dragged on for almost five years, saying the PEB’s recommendations, “represent a fair and affordable compromise that recognize the skills and dedication of NJT’s highly trained workforce.”

 

Earlier this year, CSX had approached the IAM, as well as other crafts, regarding the recent declines in coal freight across the system.  The Carrier was seeking a system-wide agreement patterned after the one that saved Huntington, WV.  When meeting with the Carrier, they agreed that they would not furlough any Machinists as long as the IAM was making meaningful progress in negotiations.

After nearly 6 months of negotiations, the Carrier had indicated that they could not wait any longer to begin closing shops and subsequently, closed shops in Erwin, TN and Corbin, KY.  Shortly thereafter, District Lodge 19 reached a tentative agreement with CSX.  This agreement did not include everything that we wanted, however, it was the best offer that the Carrier would put forth.  District Lodge 19 also worked with CSX to put every Local Chairman at the bargaining table with the Carrier so the tentative agreement could be improved further based on the needs of the membership.  The Local Chairmen were successful in getting additional improvements on the agreement.  It was critical for the Carrier to hear concerns directly from the membership.

District Lodge 19 felt that it was important to give our CSX members a choice regarding their future and submitted the tentative agreement to our members for a ratification vote.

The results are in and the membership voted to reject the company’s offer.  With that being said, through negotiating with the company for most of 2015, we were able to keep our members employed throughout the process.  While we are uncertain what the Carrier’s next move will be, we will continue working to protect our members on CSX and keep an open dialogue with the Carrier in the interests of keeping our members working.

 

On Wednesday, December 9th, District Lodge 19 reached a tentative agreement with METRA Commuter Rail in Chicago, IL. "I am proud to report that the Local 498 bargaining committee and I were able to make a tentative agreement on METRA this week. We brought the Carrier to mediation for the first time since its inception and we made the changes that I believe our members will accept during the upcoming ratification process,” said General Chairman Andrew Sandberg.

This six-year tentative agreement provides for substantial wage increases with retroactive pay, a signing bonus, an increase in employer contributions to the Supplemental Retirement Plan (which will now apply retroactively), as well as increases to pay differentials and the way they are applied. Additionally, this agreement addresses members’ concerns over sick leave, personal days, vacation accrual, and an alternative work week schedule.

The tentative agreement marks the conclusion of nearly three years of negotiations. The bargaining committee includes General Chairman Andrew Sandberg, LL 498 President Shaun O’Conner and Local Chairman Dave May. Retired Machinist and former DL 19 Executive Board Member Jose Garza also served on the committee prior to his retirement. “After three tough years of negotiating, I am proud of the effort of our bargaining committee in reaching a tentative agreement with METRA,” said O’Conner.

When asked about his involvement in the collective bargaining process, Local Chairman Dave May said, “After three years of negotiating, I take pride in being part of this team. It was an excellent learning experience. I believe it will make us that much stronger and a more united brotherhood for our next negotiations. I would also like to thank retired Brother Jose Garza for all of his involvement in these negotiations.”

The group worked diligently to provide the best agreement possible for the Machinists of METRA and therefore, recommend its ratification.

Page 5 of 8