In 1959 the railroads proposed significant changes in the work rules of the operating workers, alleging that most of them supported featherbedding practices. The problem was considered by a Presidential Railroad Commission whose report, issued in May 1963, failed to settle the dispute.
After a series of ad hoc, or immediate, procedures failed to produce a settlement, Congress, in August 1963, approved a joint resolution that called for the arbitration of the so-called fireman-and-crew-consist issues. Six other issues were to be subject to further negotiation. The arbitration board subsequently ruled against the unions on the two issues, and the six other issues were settled by presidential intervention in April 1964. The fireman-and-crew-consist matter, however, has remained a troublesome issue.
The procedures under the Railway Labor Act have failed to provide an adequate basis for the settlement of disputes reflecting, in part, the concern of the unions over declining employment and of the railroads over competition from other forms of transportation. In addition, the deregulation of the railroad industry in the 1980s has contributed to the problems of the industry. With declining employment, the railroad unions particularly the operating unions have sought by negotiations with the railroads to raid each other's membership. This has resulted in severe interunion rivalry, which contributes further to instability in railroad labor negotiations.