January 28, 1987
I have today signed H.J. Res. 93, which temporarily prohibits strikes or lockouts with respect to an ongoing dispute between the Long Island Rail Road and certain labor organizations representing its employees. The urgency with which this legislation was passed reflects the enormous hardship visited upon the citizens of the communities served by the Long Island Rail Road that has been caused by the current strike, now in its second week.
In the rush to pass this emergency measure, however, I am advised that the drafters of the joint resolution borrowed heavily from legislation passed during 1986 in the context of a dispute arising under section 10 of the Railway Labor Act. While section 10 deals with rail strikes that threaten essential transportation services of significance to the entire Nation, the dispute this legislation addresses arises under section 9A of the act, which covers rail commuter services that are generally local in nature. The distinction is important because the words "essential transportation services'' in section 10 are a term of art, used to describe the circumstances in which certain discretionary Presidential actions authorized in the act are warranted.
The current dispute under section 9A, as disruptive as it is to those who commute on the Long Island Rail Road, does not threaten the essential transportation services of the Nation as a whole nor does it threaten the national health or defense. Characterizing the shutdown of the Long Island Rail Road as a threat to essential transportation services could have the undesirable effect of requiring Federal involvement in the future in a multitude of local disputes which should be settled by collective bargaining. I have been informed that the proponents of H.J. Res. 93 attribute the overly broad language in the bill to the exigencies of hurriedly redrafting the earlier legislation used as a model. I am satisfied from the remarks on the floor of the Senate immediately prior to passage of the joint resolution that the references to "essential transportation services of the Nation'' and to the "national health and defense'' are intended to have no effect whatsoever in determining the appropriate circumstances for the exercise of Presidential discretion under section 10 of the Railway Labor Act.
There is one additional respect in which I hope that this legislation will not serve as a precedent. The passage of this legislation marks the first time that the Congress has intervened in a labor dispute under section 9A of the Railway Labor Act. Even in those cases where the national well-being and safety are directly affected, the Congress and this administration agree that the Federal Government should be reluctant to interfere in the collective bargaining process. This is especially true in the case of rail commuter services that serve discrete localities. The integrity of the administrative procedures under the Railway Labor Act depends upon the willingness and ability of the parties to settle disputes themselves within the time-frames mandated by the act, and subject to the discipline of the marketplace. While the temptation to intervene in local disputes such as these will always be great, the consequences for the collective bargaining process counsel strongly that we do so in only the rarest of circumstances.
Note: H.J. Res. 93, approved January 28, was assigned Public Law No. 100 - 2.