Posts Tagged ‘Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers & Trainmen’

BLET Reaches Agreement with SBR

January 14, 2023

The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen has reached a tentative contract agreement with the South Buffalo Railway

Union members have until Feb. 10 to fill out and return a ratification ballot on the new pact. Terms of the contract were not disclosed.

SBR workers are members of BLET Division 16. Owned by Genesee & Wyoming, SBR owns 52 miles of track in New York State and its operations are merged with the Buffalo & Pittsburgh Railroad.

Pierce to Retire as BLET President

December 17, 2022

Dennie R. Pierce, president of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, said Friday in a statement posted to the union’s website that he would retire from his position.

The statement was posted shortly after news broke that Pierce had been edged out in voting for another four-year term by Edward A. Hall.

In his statement, Pierce said the BLET’s Elections Protest Committee had determined that rule violations that occurred during the election required that the voting be rerun.

But rather than go through another round of balloting, Pierce said he would retire effective Dec. 31. Hall will become BLET president on Jan. 1. With Pierce stepping aside it means Hall has been elected by acclimation.

“I have also advised national president-rlect Hall that I will assist him in his transition to our union’s highest office to the fullest extent that he desires,” Pierce said in his statement.

Pierce has been BLET president since 2010. He began his railroad career working for the Burlington Northern.

Earlier reports indicated during the recent voting, that 26 percent of the ballots sent to the union’s members were returned. Hall received 4,331 votes while Pierce received 3,822 votes.

The statement can be read at https://ble-t.org/news/election-statement-by-dennis-r-pierce/

Pierce Reportedly Out as BLET President

December 15, 2022

Dennis R. Pierce, the president of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, appears to have been ousted after 12 years in the position according to reports by Railway Age magazine, the Associated Press and other sources.

Railway Age reported on its website that in recent voting, BLET members gave Edward A. Hall 57 percent of the vote. However, a union website, More Perfect Union, reported that Hall received 53 percent of the vote.

The Railway Age report said only about half of eligible BLET members voted and Hall’s winning margin was reportedly less than 500 votes.

During his campaign, Hall made an issue out of the tentative amended labor agreement that BLET members narrowly approved during a ratification vote. Pierce was one of labor’s lead chief negotiators during the final weeks of contract talks.

The union plans to officially announce the results of the vote on Dec. 19.

Pierce was chosen BLET president in December 2010 and re-elected by acclimation in 2014 and 2018 when he faced no opposition.

Hall will take office on Jan. 1. He has never held a national union leadership post. He began his railroad career with Southern Pacific in 1995 in El Paso, Texas.

Before that he was a corrections officer in Houston. Hall has held union divisional offices during his time on the railroad, including serving as first vice local chairperson for Division 28 in Tucson, Arizona. 

2 Largest Rail Unions Give Contract a Split Decision

November 22, 2022

The last votes on ratifying a new contract are now in and the tally shows a split decision that could result in December in a national railroad work stoppage.

Members of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen voted to ratify the contract while members of the Transportation Division of International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers narrowly voted to reject it.

What happens next is unclear. Most news reports have indicated that a work stoppage – if one were to occur through either a strike, lockout or both – would not occur before Dec. 9.

BLET and SMART-TD were the last of 12 railroad labor unions to release results of ratification voting.

Members of four of those unions voted to reject the contract while members of the other eight unions voted to accept it.

Technically, union members were not voting on a new contract as such but on amendments to the existing contract. Under federal railway labor laws labor contracts in the railroad industry never expire but are instead amended on a schedule of roughly every five years.

However, it can take years to go through that process with the latest talks having begun before the COVID-19 pandemic took hold in early 2020.

The amendments that unionized railroad workers voted on involve wage benefits and work rules at most Class I railroads and some smaller railroads.

BLET members, who constitute 20 percent of the unionized railroad labor force, voted to accept the contract by a margin of 53.5 percent in favor to 46.5 percent opposed.

A narrow margin of 50.87 percent of SMART-TD members voted against the contract.

SMART-TD members constitute 30 percent of the unionized railroad labor force affected by the contract amendments.

Notably, railroad yardmasters who are represented by SMART-TD voted to ratify the contract agreement.

What happens next remains to be seen. Statements issued by the unions that rejected the contract indicated they planned to return to the bargaining table.

Statements issued by the entities representing the carriers have said they will not agree to any more contract changes that are not covered by the recommendations of a presidential emergency board that issued its non-binding findings in late summer.

The PEB recommended higher wage increases than the carriers had offered during negotiations but was largely silent on the issue of time off for workers who are ill or need time off to attend medical appointments.

Potentially, Congress could step in and impose a settlement of the labor dispute as it did during the last railroad work stoppage in 1992.

Contract Voting to Last Through Mid-November

September 24, 2022

The ratification process of the tentative railroad labor contract is expected to drag on into mid-November.

Trains magazine reported Friday on its website that the two largest railroad labor unions, the SMART Transportation Division, and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, have provided their members a timeline for how the ratification process will play out.

The timeline includes a question-and-answer period in which members are being invited to pose questions about the contract agreement.

As part of that Q&A process, the unions said they might need to return to the negotiating table with the National Carriers Conference Committee, which represents railroad management, to clarify the meaning of certain contract provisions and how they will be implemented in practice.

BLET and SMART-TD represent about half of the 125,000 union railroad workers affected by the recent contract talks. Those workers are represented by 12 unions.

Under the timelines released by BLET and SMART-TD, voting would begin in mid-October with results announced in mid-November.

That would effectively put off a potential work stoppage until after the mid-term elections.

The Trains report also indicated that negotiations continue between the NCCC and the International Association of Machinists District Lodge 19, whose members voted down a tentative contract earlier this month.

A memo sent to members from the union, which represents mechanics, said the talks are making progress.

Members of two railroad labor unions have voted to ratify tentative agreements while the ratification process is ongoing with other unions.

One reason for the Q&A sessions is because some rail workers say they want more concrete details about the changes in sick leave and assigned days off that were agreed to in the tentative pact announced early on the morning of Sept. 15, less than 24 hours before a potential national rail work stoppage.

The Hill, a website devoted to covering the federal government and politics, said some rail workers are wondering how strong the contract language is.

Earlier this week leaders of BLET and SMART-TD told their members that some of the language was still being written and reviewed by attorneys representing both sides of the talks.

Ron Kaminkow, an organizer at Railroad Workers United, told The Hill there’s “a lot of anger, confusion and hostility” toward the new agreement because workers believe what they have been told thus far has been intentionally vague.

In an interview with The Hill, Robert Bruno, a professor of labor and employment relations at the University of Illinois, predicted workers eventually will ratify the agreements but there will be a “sizeable number of ‘no’ votes.”

Bruno said it may be that union negotiating committees “misread what the rank and file would support.”

He said many of the “no” votes will be motivated by rail workers who feel they’ve been abused.

“Usually, there’s a way to kind of figure out money,” Bruno said. “It’s very often issues that go to respect and go to treatment, working autonomy, worker ability to have some control over their life. I think it reflects just how much power employers can have, even under a collective bargaining agreement.”

The Hill report also indicated that many rail workers dread the prospect of Congress imposing new contract terms on rail workers.

That might occur because elected officials fear a railroad work stoppage would disrupt the economy by keeping shipments of food, fuel and other key commodities from moving.

Quoting an unnamed Norfolk Southern locomotive engineer, The Hill report said workers believe that that gives them leverage in getting what they want from railroad management, particularly in terms of work rules.

BLET Members Authorize Strike

July 14, 2022

The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen said its members have voted to authorize a national railroad strike.

Union officials said 99.5 percent of the participating membership voted in favor of the strike authorization.

Any labor action, though, is still several weeks away because the process required by federal labor law in railroad contract negotiations has yet to run its course.

The next step in that process could be for President Joseph Biden to appoint a presidential emergency board to make recommendations to resolve the contract talks stalemate.

Biden has until July 18 to do that and he has been pressured by various rail shipping trade associations to do so.

It was the first national strike over national contract negotiations since 2011. The current negotiations have been ongoing for more than two years.

BLET represents more than 57,000 locomotive engineers, conductors, brakemen, firemen, switchmen, hostlers and other train-service employees.

BLET to Poll Members on Strike Vote

June 24, 2022

The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen said this week it will poll its members about authorizing a strike if it is unable to reach a new contract that it agrees with.

President Dennis Pierce said conducting the strike vote doesn’t mean a strike will occur.

He said in a statement that a strike, though, could become a tactic to seek to reach the union’s goals during collective bargaining.

The National Mediation Board earlier this month released BLET and other railroad labor unions from mediation with the major railroads, which created a 30-day cooling off period under federal law.

That period ends at 12:01 a.m. on July 18 at which time union members would be free to strike and management would be free to lock workers out of the workplace.

However, another cooling off period could be triggered if the Biden administration appoints a presidential emergency board to investigate the dispute and issue recommendations for solving it.

Pierce said union leaders expect Biden to appoint an emergency board, but the union wants to be “prepared for all eventualities.”

Union Leaders Skeptical of Foote’s Comments

May 19, 2022

Although labor unions representing CSX appreciate some of the moves the carrier has made in recent months to improve management-employer relations, they are taking with a grain of salt recent comments made by CEO James Foote about his desire to improve the working relationship.

Trains magazine said the labor leaders it interviewed described the relationship with management as the worst it has been in decades. They were speaking about railroads generally and not CSX in particular.

Foote has spoken about the need to improve relations with workers in recent weeks and last week during a speech to the North American Rail Shippers conference he said creating better rapport with workers would be the biggest transformative change the industry could make.

Dennis Pierce, president of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, said he was “flabbergasted” by Foote’s comments because CSX has not met with the union since January and no contract negotiations are currently scheduled.

“He’s got the tools to fix it and he’s never used them. So we’re not sure what he’s talking about,” Pierce said.

In the eyes of union leaders Foote has been sending mixed messages. During a late April hearing by the U.S. Surface Transportation Board into freight service issues, Foote said the railroad’s crew shortage problems would disappear overnight if it could use one-person crews.

According to the Trains report, labor leaders see massive layoffs and operational changes prompted by the move to the precision scheduled railroading model as a major source of tension.

Other sources of conflict include what labor sees as punitive attendance policies, stalled contract negotiations, and no pay increases since 2019.

Unions see the desire of railroads to have one-person crews as a major reason why contract talks have stalemated.

Railroad industry management has not hidden its desire to reassign most conducts to ground-based roving positions in set territories. Conductors would be responsible for multiple trains within their territories and follow them in trucks or SUVs.

Union leaders acknowledge that CSX has taken some steps toward improving its relations with labor.

It has begun offering attendance bonuses to workers to stay marked up, has softened some discipline policies and boosted pay for new conductors.

Trains quoted industry observer Todd Tranausky as saying labor relations in the railroad industry are strained.

“But there is always tension between labor and management in any industry when large changes driven by automation are on the horizon, so it should not come as a surprise,” said Tranausky, vice president of rail and intermodal at freight forecasting firm FTR Transportation Intelligence.

The article can be read at https://www.trains.com/trn/news-reviews/news-wire/labor-leaders-skeptical-of-ceo-talk-of-improving-railroads-relationship-with-rank-and-file/

Ex-CSX Workers Sues for Reinstatment

May 6, 2022

A former CSX employees from Fostoria has filed a lawsuit against CSX, his union and an arbitration panel that upheld his firing.

Kirk E. Knopp filed the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, Western Division.

CSX fired him in 2019 for violation of its social media policies. The lawsuit contends that Knopp did not violate the policy because he did not in the social media post in question mention CSX.

The post was made in May 2019 and pertained to a 21-year-old man who was killed after being struck by a train in Fostoria.

The lawsuit said the post contained a derogatory comment posted under Knopp’s name.

The National Railway Adjustment Board Special Board of Adjustment heard the case involving Knopp’s termination.

The lawsuit alleges that Knopp was told he would not have to attend the arbitration hearing and therefore he was denied an opportunity to participate and provide testimony.

Knopp also argues in his suit that the arbitration panel did not consider the harshness of his being terminated due to one violation of the CSX policy. Furthermore, Knopp argues his social media activity is protected by the First Amendment.

He is seeking reinstatement with back pay and benefits. Also named as a defendant in the lawsuit is the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen.

Rail Labor Unions Join Trades Coalition

January 8, 2022

Two railroad labor unions have agreed to rejoin the Rail Labor Division of the Transportation Trades Department, thus creating an alliance representing all railroad labor unions in the United States.

Agreeing to join the trade department were the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, and the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees.

Both of the latter two unions are divisions of the Rail Conference of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

In a news release, the unions said the trades department will now represent more than 80,000 unionized railroad employees.