Announcement of the Establishment of Emergency Board No. 208 To Investigate a Railroad Labor Dispute

August 30, 1985

The President announced today that he has established, effective August 30, 1985, Presidential Emergency Board No. 208 to investigate and make recommendations for settlement of a current dispute between the United Transportation Union and most of the Nation's major railroads represented by the National Railway Labor Conference. The President, by Executive order, established the Emergency Board on the recommendation of the National Mediation Board. The situation appears to the President to be extremely critical.

The impact of 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, or more than 100 million tons each month. A strike against the railroads could result in the layoff of hundreds of thousands of employees, who would be idled. Cessation of operations on the freight railroads would halt the flow of $750 million worth of goods each day.

A nationwide railroad strike would have a materially adverse effect on basic industries served by the railroads. The coal industry, for example, relies heavily on rail transport. In 1984 the railroad industry hauled close to 60 percent of total U.S. coal production. Cessation of rail service would force shutdowns of some mines almost immediately. The automobile industry relies on rail service for transportation of some essential materials for parts production and for distribution of a large share of the finished products. The disruption of supply channels during a rail strike would result in the layoff of thousands of employees. Railroads are one of the primary transporters of Department of Defense freight traffic. A strike would severely limit the Department of Defense's ability to move this freight. Finally, although the National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak) is not a party to this dispute, its passenger service may be curtailed because it contracts with other railroads for train and engine crews. The railroads also operate trains carrying 150,000 commuters each day, more than three-quarters of them in and around Chicago, IL.

Consequently, the President has 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.