NJ Transit Engineers Authorizes Strike — When Will it Happen?
Members of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen have authorized a strike but would not legally be able to walk off the job for some time.
After working without a contract since 2019, the 494 members of BLET were asked to vote on strike authorization. 397 members out of 399 who cast a ballot voted unanimously for a strike. Two ballots were determined to be void.
BLET National President Eddie Hall in a statement said the union will continue to negotiate with NJ Transit in National Mediation Board-sponsored talks but has started the process to end the talks.
“As soon as it is lawful for us to act, we will,’ Hall said.
"The NMB has the authority to decide when and if to end mediation. Under the Railroad Labor Act (RLA) the NMB ceases mediation efforts when it concludes that all reasonable efforts to reach a voluntary agreement through mediation have failed.
According to the NMB website, there are several steps after mediation ends which would delay the legal start of a strike for nine months.
What happens after mediation
When mediation ends a Presidential Emergency Board would be requested by NJ Transit, the union or Gov. Phil Murphy. If a board is authorized by President Joe Biden a board is appointed and have 30 days to come up with a proposed agreement. There is another 120-day period for the PEB plan to be presented and considered by both sides.
If one side rejects the PEB's proposed settlement there a second PEB could be presented and considered with another 120-day period to develop and present a new plan.
Congress could potentially intervene and legislatively mandate a settlement.
NJ Transit says the injunction it successfully obtained from the federal court in June 2022 following the union’s illegal job action over the Juneteenth holiday remains in effect.
"The injunction specifically prohibits the union from engaging in any strike or job action. The new court order also required that the union e-mail their members to remind them that the injunction remains in place to ensure service is uninterrupted over the Labor Day holiday weekend," NJ Transit spokesman Jim Smith said in a statement. "Further, we are still actively engaged in mediation with the union and a strike is not permissible while mediation is ongoing – that would be a violation of the Railway Labor Act.
The union said it will begin a public information campaign to inform commuters about the talks and their contention that NJ Transit spent money it could have paid engineers with on "lavish" office space for its new headquarters in Newark.
Hall said the union plans to inform "labor households across the state with information about the NJT’s mismanagement, stonewalling and short-sighted decisions as well as inaction by state elected leaders."