Posts Tagged ‘Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers & Trainmen’

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.

Court Consolidates Vaccine Rule Lawsuits

November 24, 2021

A federal court in Illinois has consolidated lawsuits involving Class 1 railroads and their unions over COVID-19 vaccine requirements.

The action was taken by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois and involves Norfolk Southern, Union Pacific, BNSF, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen and two other unions.

The Class 1 railroads have cited a federal executive order in requiring their workers to receive the COVID-19 vaccination.

The unions argue that the vaccine edict by the carriers violates the collective bargaining process.

In a related development, unions representing Amtrak workers have filed suit over the passenger’s carrier’s vaccination requirement.

BLET and the Transportation Division of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, and Transportation Workers (SMART-TD) said they generally support vaccination but want Amtrak to engage in collective bargaining over the issue.

The unions claim Amtrak is negotiating directly with employees rather than talking with their unions.

The lawsuit against Amtrak raised many of the same issues as those in the litigation involving NS and UP.

Amtrak is requiring its workers to submit proof of vaccination before Dec. 8. Those workers who have received just dose of the vaccine have until Jan. 4, 2022, to show proof of being full vaccinated.

The carrier has threatened to fire workers who failed to comply with the rules.

2 Unions Sue NS Over Vaccination Rule

November 2, 2021

Two railroad labor unions have sued Norfolk Southern in an effort to halt the Class 1 carrier from imposing a rule requiring workers to receive a COVID-19 vaccination.

The SMART Transportation Division along with the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers filed the suit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Chicago Division.

The unions acted after NS filed its own lawsuit seeking to stop unions from suing it over the vaccine rule.

NS has said in public statements that it imposed the vaccination rule due to an executive order issued by President Joseph Biden requiring federal contractors to mandate vaccinations for their employees by Dec. 8.

In their lawsuit, the unions contend that a mandatory vaccine requirement must be negotiated under the Railway Labor Act.

Unions Seek Injunction Against NS Over Job Assignments

October 29, 2021

Two railroad labors unions are seeking an injunction to force Norfolk Southern to honor trade craft boundaries between locomotive engineers and train conductors.

The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen and the SMART Transportation Division filed motions in a federal court in Ohio seeking a preliminary injunction to restrain NS from ordering workers in one craft to perform the duties of another craft.

The motions were filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, Eastern Division.

In a news release, the two unions indicated their objective is to prevent NS from forcing engineers to work as conductors. The unions also want to stop NS from disciplining engineers to refuse to perform conductor duties.

The unions want a court to order NS to reinstate BLET members who have been disciplined as a result of the dispute and to expunge all related discipline records.

SMART-TD said in the release that it wants the court to order NS to maintain the status quo in which SMART-TD-represented train service employees are assigned to jobs in those crafts and classes.

Unions Say NS Forcing Engineers to Work as Conductors in Violation of Labor Contract

October 2, 2021

Two railroad labor unions are taking Norfolk Southern to court over what they claim is the Class 1 carrier’s forcing locomotive engineers to work conductor positions.

The unions say the practice is prohibited by their collective bargaining agreement.

The Transportation Division of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Art, Rail, and Transportation Workers (SMART-TD) and Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen said in a statement that NS “cannot lawfully lay off roughly 4,000 conductors and brakemen, and then give their work to another craft.

“Nor can NS lawfully deprive locomotive engineers of the jobs, wages, and working conditions to which they are contractually entitled by forcing them to perform the work of other crafts.”

The statement contends that NS has eliminated more than 35 percent of its operating crew positions since December 2018.

The unions argue that NS wants to eliminate the conductor and brakeman positions and has threatened engineers who refused to work as conductors with being fired for insubordination.