WASHINGTON — The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) says its 500 Amtrak members can strike on Dec. 1 unless President Bush intervenes and appoints a Presidential Emergency Board (PEB).
A 30-day countdown began when the National Mediation Board formally released the IAM and Amtrak from mediated negotiations on Oct. 31.
“We expect and are prepared for a Presidential Emergency Board,” said IAM General Vice President Robert Roach, Jr. “Our attorneys and economists are primed to defend the fair and reasonable positions our negotiators have taken at the bargaining table.”
Once empanelled, a PEB has 30 days to investigate the dispute and issue its non-binding recommendations for settlement. After the PEB reports to the President, the parties to the dispute have a second 30-day cooling-off period to consider its recommendations.
If no agreement is reached, the parties will be free to engage in self-help at the end of the second cooling-off period, the IAM said. The company can then lockout workers or impose employment terms and the union is free to strike.
“Our members have worked for eight years without a general wage increase because of Amtrak’s refusal to bargain,” said IAM District 19 President Joe Duncan. “A fair agreement is long overdue.”
The IAM opened bargaining with Amtrak in December 1999 and is negotiating as part of a 15,000 member labor coalition that includes the Transportation Communications Union, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the Transport Workers Union.
All coalition partners have been released from mediation after numerous requests and will make a unified presentation to the PEB. Retroactive wage increases, work rule changes and employee contributions to healthcare premiums are among the contentious issues.
Founded by railroad workers in 1888, the IAM is among the largest industrial trade unions in North America, representing nearly 700,000 active and retired members in the railroad, airline, aerospace, woodworking, shipbuilding and manufacturing sectors.