National Mediation Board

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The National Mediation Board (NMB) is an independent agency of the United States government that coordinates labor-management relations within the U.S. railroads and airlines industries.

History[edit]

The board was established by the 1934 amendments to the Railway Labor Act of 1926 and is headed by a three-person panel of Presidential appointees.

NMB programs provide an integrated dispute resolution process to meet the statutory objective of minimizing strikes and other work stoppages in the airline and railroad industries. The NMB's integrated processes specifically are designed to promote three statutory goals:

  • The prompt and orderly resolution of disputes arising out of the negotiation of new or revised collective bargaining agreements;
  • The effectuation of employee rights of self-organization where a representation dispute exists; and
  • The prompt and orderly resolution of disputes over the interpretation or application of existing agreements.

Under the Railway Labor Act, an airline or railroad union contract does not expire; it remains in force and amendable until a new contract is ratified by the union members, or until either side exercises "self-help," which could be a strike by employees or a lockout by management. Before this can happen, the NMB-appointed mediator must declare an impasse in negotiations, which starts a 30-day cooling off period, during which negotiations continue. Once the 30-day period has passed, either side is free to exercise self-help, unless the President authorizes a Presidential Emergency Board. Congress also has the power to impose a contract, although this has rarely happened in recent years.

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