The National Mediation Board is an organization that oversees labor-management relations in the United States railroad and airline industries. The board attempts to prevent work strikes in these industries through dispute resolution. Composed of a chair and two additional members, the NMB is located in Washington. D.C.
The NMB formed in 1934 out of the Railway Labor Act of 1926. This federal statute allows railroads and airlines to participate in collective bargaining, during which employees try to negotiate with their employers over employment matters. The act was formed at a time when there were many railroad strikes that impeded travel. Railroad labor unions and the companies that employed them were also having a tough time resolving disputes on their own. Commercial airlines were added under the Act in 1936.
The National Mediation Board aims to quickly resolve disputes between workers and employers over current, new or amended collective bargaining agreements. Minor conflicts involve employee complaints about the terms of such agreements. Major conflicts may arise over pay rates or the work environment at the railroads or airlines.
The NMB serves the railroads and airlines in four areas: mediation, arbitration, representation, and other forms of alternative dispute resolution. Mediation occurs when employees and employers cannot reach an agreement through collective bargaining. The NMB can become involved on its own or by request of either party. If both sides fail to successfully resolve the dispute under the board's monitoring, the issue goes to arbitration.
If arbitration also fails, the dispute goes into a 30-day probationary period after which employees can strike. When a strike appears imminent, the National Mediation Board is authorized to create a Presidential Emergency Board. The emergency body can prevent a strike for up to 60 days and also give dispute resolution suggestions.
In representation, the National Mediation Board helps employees organize as crafts or classes. This normally occurs when employees cannot agree on who should represent them. The NMB investigates applications for new representation or holds elections by secret ballot if necessary. The board also makes sure that no intimidation takes place during the process.
With alternative dispute resolution, the National Mediation Board attempts to stop conflicts in their tracks. The agency provides training to help employees and employers work on skills such as problem solving. It also supplies continuing education for its staff that centers on group dynamics and dispute management.
The NMB refers disputes related to pay or working conditions in the railroads to the National Railroad Adjustment Board. This board includes representatives from each railroad company and employee organization. If cases do not reach a conclusion, the National Mediation Board can appoint someone to help all parties make a decision. The National Mediation Board can also appoint people for the airline industry, which has boards for each company and employee group instead of a national adjustment body.