Another US president is turning to Carroll School of Management Professor David Twomey for help in solving an ongoing labor dispute.
President Barack Obama recently appointed Twomey to a three-member Presidential Emergency Board to settle an issue between the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority and some of its employees.
Presidential Emergency Boards provide mediation in railroad and airline union contract disputes. In the 60 days following its establishment, a board will obtain final offers for settlement of the dispute from each side, and then make a recommendation to the president as to which offer it finds to be the most reasonable. The board’s report is not binding, but the party whose offer is not selected would be prohibited by law from receiving certain benefits if a work stoppage subsequently occurs.
Such appointments are nothing new for Twomey, who served on eight prior Presidential Emergency Boards under Presidents Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Clinton and George W. Bush. Few, if any, labor arbitrators in the country have been appointed to nine boards under five consecutive presidents.
“It’s a very nice thing to get an appointment from your fifth president over your career,” says Twomey, a 46-year faculty member and author of 34 editions of widely used textbooks on labor, employment and business law topics.
Twomey’s first call to serve came in 1986. “The dispute involved 110,000 employees, six major unions and all of the nation’s railroads and we were able to get a contract that all of the parties agreed to. Not only that, both sides followed our language, so I had a good start. After that, the disputes I’ve worked on seem to have worked out. It’s fortuitous in many respects.”
Elected to the National Academy of Arbitrators in 1979, Twomey has been selected by employers and unions as arbitrator in more than 2,000 domestic labor-management disputes. Getting a call from the White House carries a certain cachet, of course, not to mention a heightened vetting process.
“The FBI investigates you, the IRS investigates you, and the White House personnel office is constantly calling for more information,” says Twomey. “They investigate your reputation with the parties, because they don’t want to appoint people that one side or the other thinks is unfair.“
Twomey is pleased to know another president believes in his ability to solve disputes. “It’s sort of nice to know you’re still in the game after all of these years.”