Carroll School Professor David Twomey (Justin Knight)

On September 15, the Biden administration secured a tentative deal to avert a railway strike that would have wreaked havoc on the United States economy. The agreement between major U.S. railroads and unions representing 115,000 workers was reached after 20 hours of talks brokered by Labor Secretary—and Boston College alumnus—Marty Walsh, and the members of a presidential emergency board tasked with resolving the dispute.

One of the three members named to the PEB by President Biden was Carroll School of Management Professor of Business Law and Society David P. Twomey, marking his 10th presidential appointment that began with President Ronald Reagan. A labor arbitrator since 1974, Twomey has been selected by employers and unions to arbitrate over 2,000 labor-management disputes in both the private and public sectors throughout the U.S.

According to Twomey, under the Railway Labor Act of 1926, the president has the power to issue an executive order to create the PEB to investigate and file a report with recommendations for a fair and equitable resolution of disputes encountered in reaching new collective bargaining agreements.

“Our board held hearings in Washington, D.C., over the course of a week, during which union and management leaders and their expert witnesses presented their positions on multiple issues, including wages, health and welfare, work rules, and work-life balance,” said Twomey, a member of the National Academy of Arbitrators, the American Arbitration Association, and the Academy of Legal Studies in Business. “In reaching tentative agreements, the 12 rail unions and the nation’s railroads largely followed the PEB’s recommendations, with the parties themselves working out several matters in the final hours of bargaining before the strike deadline.”

The talks between major freight railroads and the unions representing their workers had dragged on for more than two years; a rail shutdown could have frozen approximately 30 percent of U.S. cargo shipments, stoked inflation, cost the American economy as much as $2 billion per day, and unleashed a cascade of transport woes affecting energy, agriculture, manufacturing, health care, and retail sectors. The tentative resolution was characterized by the president as a “big win for America” that averts “significant damage.”

Workers, angered by tough working conditions, agreed not to strike while votes are tallied over the next several weeks. If the unions accept the proposed deal, which includes an immediate 14.1-percent wage rise, workers with frozen pay would win double-digit increases, and could seek certain types of medical care without fear of penalty.

Twomey, who received a juris doctorate from BC Law School, joined the BC faculty in 1968 and has served as a professor since 1978.  He is the author of some 35 editions of widely used textbooks on labor, employment, and business law topics.

Phil Gloudemans | University Communications | October 2022