Posts Tagged ‘Railroad labor unions’

Mediation Seen as Next Step in Contract Talks

January 22, 2022

Mediation is being seen as the next step in contract talks between railroad labor unions and the carriers that employ them, Railway Age columnist Frank N. Wilner wrote on the trade magazine’s website.

The Coordinated Bargaining Coalition, which represents most railroad labor unions, has declared that negotiations have reached an impasse.

Wilner wrote that the National Mediation Board is likely to appoint a senior mediator who will seek to guide the parties to a voluntary settlement.

The federal Railway Labor Act mandates that railroad labor contracts never expire. Typically, they are renegotiated every five years with the current round of talks having begun in 2020.

The RLA also sets out a series of steps that labor and management must meet before either may initiate a strike or lockout.

These steps involve cooling off periods lasting up to 90 days before either side can take self-help action.

Labor’s declaration of an impasse does not mean much because only the NMB has the authority to declare an impasse, which could then lead to the creation by President Joseph Biden of a presidential emergency board to make non-binding recommendations for a settlement.

Wilner wrote that the NMB usually is reluctant to declare an impasse during an election year. Members of Congress dislike having to address controversial issues that might force them to vote on a back-to-work order and/or third-party implementation of revised contract terms.

The Coordinated Bargaining Coalition represents 105,000 workers or nearly 90 percent of unionized railroad workers.

The other unionized workers are members of the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees and the Mechanical Division of SMART. Since July 2021 those unions have been engaged in mediation with carriers under the guidance of the NMB.

Representing carriers is the National Carriers’ Conference Committee, an arm of the National Railway Labor Conference.

NCCC represents most Class 1 carriers and several smaller railroads. However, some bargaining over some components of labor contracts is conducted directly between labor and individual carriers.

CSX, for example, participates in the national talks for wages, benefits and work rules for all non-operating crafts but limits its participation in talks for benefits for operating crafts.

Smaller railroads limit their participation in national contract negotiations to benefits issues.

Canadian Pacific is not an NCCC member and bargains separately with its unionized workers. Canadian National also bargains separately on wages for workers in U.S. train and engine service.

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Rail Labor Unions to Seek Arbitration

January 21, 2022

Railroad labor unions on Thursday declared that talks with the railroad industry are at an impasse and they are seeking arbitration.

The Coordinated Bargaining Coalition, which represents the unions, said in a letter to its members that it will file for arbitration next week.

Talks between the coalition and the National Carriers’ Conference Committee began in February 2020 in an effort to hammer out a new general agreement.

In the past, those agreements have taken several years to reach. Talks can continue so long as the parties believe some progress is being made.

Crew size is the major sticking point in the latest round of negotiations. The railroads want to eliminate on-board conductor positions in favor of roving ground-based conductors who would be responsible for multiple trains.

Railroads have cited the implementation of positive train control systems, which are designed to stop collisions before they happen, as justification for changing long-standing work practices.

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.

Signalmen Union Chooses New President

December 4, 2021

Michael Baldwin has been elected as president of the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen.

He replaces Jerry Bolews, who has retired after serving as president since January 2019.

Most recently Baldwin has served as the union’s secretary-treasurer, and was appointed a Grand Lodge representative in 2010 and director of research in 2011.

He served as vice president West from 2015 until his election as secretary-treasurer in 2019, BRS officials said in a news release.

Other officers elected include James Finnegan as secretary-treasurer; Timothy Tarrant as vice president commuter/passenger; R. Quinn Norman as vice president of headquarters; and Michael Sullivan as a member of the Grand Board of Trustees.

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.

NS, Unions Tussle in Court Over Vaccine Requirement

October 26, 2021

In the wake of imposing a requirement that all of its employees get vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus, Norfolk Southern is suing its labor unions, seeking to overturn their lawsuit contesting the rule.

The Class 1 carrier filed a lawsuit in a federal court in Chicago seeking to block the lawsuit filed by the unions seeking to force NS to engage in collective bargaining over the issue.

NS in its lawsuit contends that the objections of the unions to the vaccine rule should be the subject of arbitration and not litigation.

In imposing the vaccine rule, NS cited an executive order issued by President Joseph Biden requiring federal contractors to require their workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

In its lawsuit, NS asserts a right under its contracts with the unions to require vaccination in order to comply with the executive order.

The legal action being taken by the unions and NS is similar to lawsuits that followed an announcement by Union Pacific that it would require its workers to be vaccinated.

Amtrak has also announced a vaccination requirement for its employees and other Class I railroads are expected to follow suit.

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.

Unions Report Little Progress in Contract Talks

September 24, 2021

Although no agreement is imminent railroad labor unions continue to talk with the nation’s railroads about a new contract although progress has been slow to achieve.

The Coordinated Bargaining Coalition, which represents the unions, said in-person bargaining sessions resumed in August. The two sides have been meeting since early 2020.

The protracted nature of the talks is not unexpected as it typically has taken years for unions and railroads to hammer out an agreement.

The CBC said this week that it has not received any carrier proposals since January 2021 that  it considers “worthy of consideration.

In a statement, the CBC said its position is that the unions are not going to accept a concessionary agreement on a voluntary basis.

A CBC statement said union workers believe they have been treated like expendable workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Our members are infuriated that they have worked through these conditions without a wage increase in over two years and it is unacceptable that the nation’s rail carriers continue to stonewall CBC unions in our effort to settle our contract negotiations on a voluntary basis,” the statement said.