The amendments of 1934 added a new section to the Railway Labor Act which created what is in effect an industrial court for the adjudication of disputes involving the interpretation or application of wage and rule agreements of rail carriers. It is known as the National Railroad Adjustment Board with offices in Chicago, Illinois and Washington, D.C. It consists of 36 members, 18 selected by the carrier and 18 selected by the organizations of railway employees which are national in scope.
The National Railroad Adjustment Board is divided into four divisions, each of which functions and makes decisions separately, similar to the divisions of a court. Each division has jurisdiction over cases involving different classes of employees.
First Division - train and engine service
Second Division - shop craft employees
Third Division - clerical forces, tower and signal forces, maintenance of way employees, sleeping and dining car employees.
Fourth Division - yardmasters and all other employees not included in the other three (3) divisions.
The Divisions of the NRAB primarily utilized by the UTU are the First Division (Operating Employees) and Fourth Division (Yardmasters). The First Division consists of two (2) labor members from UTU, two (2) labor members from BLE and two (2) management representatives from the carriers. The Fourth Division consists of one (1) labor member from UTU and one (1) management member from the carrier. On many carriers UTU represents shop craft employees, clerks, carmen and maintenance of way employees. The Second and Third Division of the NRAB will be utilized in the handling of cases involving these employees.
The NRAB operates under Uniform Rules of Procedure that are adopted by each Division. These rules are rigid and strict and must be complied with. A party desiring to submit a dispute must file a notice of intent to file a submission within seventy-five (75) days with the appropriate Division. The notice either must contain a full statement of claim and a copy must be furnished the Respondent by Petitioner. There will be no time limit extensions granted, however, one fifteen (15) day grace period will be issued. Upon docketing of the dispute by the NRAB, the division will advise the parties to exchange submissions. There are no rebuttals.
When cases are deadlocked by the NRAB, notice will be given to all parties, with the advice that if either party desires a Referee Hearing before the NRAB (with referee present), they must request same in their submission.
The partisan members of the NRAB usually select arbitrators. If they are unable to agree on a referee, either party may petition the National Mediation Board to appoint a neutral member (referee) to resolve the disputes.
The First Division of the National Railroad Adjustment Board inherited approximately 1,200 unresolved cases when it was established in 1934. Because train and engine service employees have always experienced the largest number of disputes, the backlog of unresolved disputes increased instead of decreased with the establishment of the First Division. In December 1939, the backlog had increased to 3,689 cases awaiting decision. In 1943, the backlog on the First Division had increased to more than 6,000 cases. On March 1, 1965, the backlog of undecided cases at the First Division totaled 4,089. It was not unusual for claimants to wait ten (10) or more years for their case to be decided.
As the backlog grew on the First Division, the operating crafts and some carriers sought to establish an alternate forum to resolve their pending claims and grievances.