|NMB Mission and Key Functions|
The National Mediation Board (NMB), established by the 1934 amendments to the Railway Labor Act of 1926, is an independent agency that performs a central role in facilitating harmonious labor-management relations within two of the nation's key transportation modes--the railroads and airlines. Pursuant to the Railway Labor Act, NMB programs provide an integrated dispute resolution process to effectively meet the statutory objective of minimizing work stoppages in the airline and railroad industries. The NMB's integrated processes specifically are designed to promote three statutory goals:
The purpose of mediation under the Railway Labor Act is to foster the prompt and orderly resolution of collective bargaining disputes in the railroad and airline industries. These disputes, referred to as "major" disputes, involve the establishment or revision of rates of pay, rules, or working conditions. The parties should attempt to resolve collective bargaining disputes through direct negotiations. Failing that, either party may request the Board's services or the Board may involve itself on its own initiative. In its mediatory role, the Board may employ a variety of methods, including traditional mediation, interest-based problem solving, or facilitation. The Board views the objective of mediation as assistance to the parties in achieving agreement and sees the role of the mediator as an active participant in the process as a key to that assistance.
NMB expertise in mediation and its discretion to determine when mediation has been exhausted, however, ensures that bargaining disputes rarely escalate into disruptions of passenger service and the transportation of commerce. Historically, some 97 percent of all NMB mediation cases have been successfully resolved without interruptions to public service. Since 1980, only slightly more than 1 percent of cases have involved a disruption of service.
In rare situations, when a disruption of essential transportation services, which meets the standards specified by the RLA, the NMB may notify that the President, and he may at his discretion, create a Presidential Emergency Board. A Presidential Emergency Board temporarily delays a work stoppage or a lock out for up to sixty days and provides recommendations for resolving the dispute.
Under the Railway Labor Act, the NMB is responsible for effectuating employee rights of self-organization where a representation dispute exists. The NMB representation process ensures that potentially disruptive disputes over who represents employees for collective bargaining purposes are resolved peacefully. Peaceful resolution of representation disputes is crucial to the airline and railroad industries because of the central role they play in the U.S. transportation system. The NMB's effective determination of collective bargaining representation enhances the stability of collective bargaining in the railroad and airline industries
The primary representation dispute responsibilities of the NMB are as follows:
Under the Railway Labor Act, employee grievances arising under the terms of collective bargaining agreements (minor disputes) are subject to compulsory arbitration. Effective arbitration processes are therefore necessary to resolve such disputes.
The NMB's voluntary alternative dispute resolution and dispute prevention activities consist of training and education including facilitated problem solving (interest-based bargaining) and pre-dispute mediation, and grievance mediation services. The overall goal is to help the parties bring about a positive change in the collective bargaining culture in the railroad and airline industries and achieve a more timely resolution of disputes. To help achieve a positive change in bargaining culture at a time of increasingly complex negotiations, the NMB initiated a training and facilitation process to assist the parties in undertaking innovative negotiation and dispute resolution approaches. In addition to training offered by the Board to the parties, the Board has undertaken a continuing education program for its professional staff to ensure that all staff receive practitioner-oriented classroom and on-the-job training in communications and conflict management, consensual decision making, group problem solving, interest-based and traditional bargaining, and grievance mediation.
Further information concerning the National Mediation Board and the Railway Labor Act is available on the NMB web page (www.nmb.gov) or by calling (202) 692-5000 and asking for Mediation or ADR.