About the Section 6 Process

The negotiation process is outlined in Section 6 of the Railway Labor Act (RLA), the U.S. federal law that governs collective bargaining in the airline and railroad industries.

Current collective bargaining agreements become amendable at different times depending on the specific agreement - see each group’s web page for details. Terms of the existing agreements remain in effect throughout negotiations, even if these negotiations extend past the amendable date. All of our current agreements contain “early openers” - a specific period, depending on the agreement, before the amendable date to begin Section 6 negotiations.

Under the RLA, negotiations with each union will follow the same basic structure. This structure is explained below and outlined on a chart from the National Mediation Board.

Exchange of Openers and Direct Negotiation

The formal negotiation process begins with individual meetings between United and each of the unions. At these initial meetings, both parties will exchange what are known as “Section 6 notices” or “openers,” which are letters that lay out each side’s opening suggestions for changes to the existing agreements.

After both parties have had a chance to review these initial openers, direct negotiations will begin between designated representatives from United and each of the unions. During this period, United and each of its employee unions will talk directly. The company and union can reach agreement on a new collective bargaining agreement at any point. The new agreement would then be sent out to union members for a ratification vote.

Mediation

Arbitration

Presidential Emergency Board