July 15, 1986
The President announced today that he has established, effective July 15, 1986, Presidential Emergency Board No. 211 to investigate and make recommendations for settlement of current disputes between six railroad labor unions and most of the Nation's major railroads represented by the National Carriers' Conference Committee of the National Railway Labor Conference. The President took this action on the recommendation of the National Mediation Board, which has notified the President that the situation appears to be critical.
A nationwide railroad strike would have an immediate effect on the public. The Nation's railroads move more than one-third of all intercity freight traffic, more than 100 million tons each month. A strike against the railroads could result in the layoff of 600,000 employees in key rail-served industries after 2 weeks and 1.1 million workers after 4 weeks, in addition to approximately 300,000 railroad employees who would be idled. Cessation of operations on the freight railroads would halt the flow of $700 million worth of goods each day. Production and employment would be particularly affected in the motor vehicles, paper, coal mining, lumber, steel, glass, and plastics and chemical industries. Although inventories of coal at the Nation's coal-burning electric utility plants average more than 11 weeks of supply, 20 to 25 rail-served power plants have less than 4 weeks of coal on hand and could run short of fuel if rail service were halted. In addition, railroads are one of the primary transporters of Department of Defense freight traffic, and a strike against the Nation's railroads would severely restrict the movements of this traffic. The Nation's freight railroads also operate trains carrying 150,000 commuters each day, more than three-quarters of them in and around Chicago, IL.
Consequently, the President invoked the Emergency Board procedures of the Railway Labor Act, which in part provide that the Board will report its findings and recommendations for settlement to the President within 30 days from the date of its creation. The parties must then consider the recommendations of the Emergency Board and endeavor to resolve their differences without engaging in self-help during a subsequent 30-day period.
Note: A list of the railroads and labor organizations involved in the dispute was printed in the ``Federal Register'' of July 17.