Supreme Court Declines to Hear W&LE Appeal

The Wheeling & Lake Erie has been rebuffed by the U.S. Supreme Court in its bid to have overturned  a federal appeals court decision that the use of managers in place of union conductors during a strike is a major dispute under the Railway Labor Act.

W&LE logo 2The conflict dates to September 2013 when the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen authorized a strike after the W&LE reportedly ignored a collective bargaining agreement that the union argues prohibited single-person operations.

The union argued that the Wheeling disregarded a longstanding crew consist agreement calling for the assignment of an engineer and a union conductor.

For its part, the Wheeling contended that the strike was illegal. It obtained an injunction from a federal district court ordering the BLET members to go back to work. That court described the disagreement as a minor one that should be submitted to arbitration.

However, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit reversed the lower court decision and remanded the case back to the district court with instructions to dismiss the W&LE’s complaint.

In a news release, BLET said the appeals court ruling meant that the railroad’s “claim that the trainmen agreement allowed it to man trains without union conductors is frivolous or obviously insubstantial, and the dispute is major.”

The full appeals court declined the Wheeling’s request to overturn the decision of the three-judge panel.

The Supreme Court said on Jan. 9 that it would not review the appellate court ruling.

In commenting on the legal wrangling, the BLET said the outcome means that if the W&LE wants to change work rules it must do so through collective bargaining.

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