California residents recently experienced what can happen when unions and employers are unable to come to an agreement on a new contract. On the East Coast, another dispute has been going on since 2011. This may be one of those contract disputes that requires presidential intervention in order to be resolved.
The contracts between the state's transit authority and its employees expired in 2011. Negotiations began in earnest through the National Mediation Board (NMB), but it quickly became clear that the two sides were farther apart than they realized at first. As the process and the years went by, more of the unions joined the negotiations.
Now, all 17 of the unions that represent thousands of New Jersey Transit employees are part of a coalition, which recently hired one man to represent their interests in the next round of negotiations. In their first unified move, the coalition of unions has asked to be released from talks by the NMB. It agreed, which indicates that there seems to be no current resolution to the benefits, salary and working condition issues that are on the table.
The Governor of New Jersey or the NMB can request that the White House convene a Presidential Emergency Board, consisting of three members who will have 120 days attempt to resolve the dispute. If that does not work, a second board can make the same attempt. As a last resort, Congress can impose a new contract on the parties.
California companies who regularly deal with unions may not understand the procedures involved in settling employment contract disputes -- mainly because most disputes do not reach this point. However, understanding what is at stake and what could happen if an agreement is not reached could help determine a course of action that leads to a resolution. All of the legal and business issues need to be examined in order to understand where compromises can be made and where they cannot before sitting down at the negotiation table.
Source: northjersey.com, "Contract talks break down between NJ Transit, labor unions", Christopher Maag, June 16, 2015