Posts Tagged ‘Railroad labor unions’

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.

CP, Unions Snipe at CN-KCS Merger Plans

May 28, 2021

Canadian Pacific has continued to snipe at its rival Canadian National’s plans for merging with Kansas City Southern.

It’s latest salvo has been to call CN’s proposal to sell the KCS route between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, as “inadequate” and failing to eliminate anti-competitive issues.

“CN’s commitment to divest this 70-mile line is clear recognition by CN that it and KCS have always been head-to-head competitors, contrary to CN’s repeated claims that the combination was ‘end-to-end,’ ” CP said in a statement. “However, CN’s commitment does not come close to solving the anti-competitive problems inherent in the proposed CN/KCS transaction.”

CP had sought to acquire KCS for itself but CN made a counteroffer that the KCS board of directors decided to accept instead.

Also taking aim this week at the CN-KCS merger were four railroad labor unions, which filed comments with the U.S. Surface Transportation Board.

The unions expressed concern over the “nonproductive, and potentially destructive, competition” between CN and CP, and the way the two are pursuing a KCS merger.

“As CN and CP compete for KCS they may negate any potential transportation benefits of a consolidation with KCS, and there is a likelihood that innocent bystanders — employees of CP, CN and KCS, and shippers which use those carriers — will pay a price for this exercise in one-upmanship,” the unions said. “A bidding war has consequences.”

The four unions are the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes Division-IBT; Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen; International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers-Mechanical Division; and National Conference of Firemen and Oilers.

NS Official Calls ‘One-Person Crews’ a Misnomer

May 20, 2021

A Norfolk Southern executive this week sought to reframe what the railroad industry is seeking in talks with its unions about crew size.

Mark George, the railroad’s chief financial officer argued that railroads are not seeking one-person crews but rather want to conduct crew redeployment.

It is not that railroads want to eliminate conductors, he said in a speech to an investor’s conference, but rather railroads want to change the nature of their jobs, including taking some of them out of locomotive cabs.

 Saying the phrase “one-person crew” is a misnomer and has served as a lightning rod of controversy, George said, “The reality is this is about crew redeployment.

“Technology has rendered the role of a conductor in the cab itself unnecessary,” he said. “So what we would like to see is ground-based conductor positions.

 “We think that that’s better for all stakeholders, including the crew people themselves to be on the ground as opposed to stuck in the cab. So that is definitely an area that we’d like to continue to push.”

Class 1 railroads such as NS are seeking to have conductors be responsible for several trains in their territories.

The proposal is the subject of national negotiations with labor unions, which have largely opposed the concept.

Railroads contend that the use of positive train control has made operations safer by reducing human error.

In his remarks, George said railroad want to redeploy conductors in territories where PTC or its technological equivalent has been installed.

He said this would enable railroads to “take full advantage of new investments in modern technology . . . and better align operational costs with other industries.”

The advantage to railroad crew members, railroad officials have said, is that more of them would be able to spend their nights at home after their shift is over rather than at a hotel.

George said negotiations over crew issues are expected to conclude for another couple of year.

BLET Marks Anniversary of Founding

May 8, 2021

The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen will mark its 158th anniversary today.

The union was founded as the Brotherhood of the Footboard on May 8, 1863, in Marshall, Michigan.

It became the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers in 1864 and merged with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters on Jan. 1, 2004, when it became BLET. 

It is the oldest labor union in the Western Hemisphere.

In a news release, BLET officials said the union emerged after locomotive engineers on the Michigan Central became discouraged with pay cuts and the arbitrary dismissal of their firemen. BLET was the first labor organization to obtain contracts with railroads, including the NYC in 1875.

Today, the BLET has hundreds of contracts with railroads and represents locomotive engineers on 98 percent of rail trackage in the United States.

Union Sues CSX Over Payroll Errors

March 17, 2021

CSX has been sued by the union representing its maintenance-of-way workers over what the lawsuit alleges is the failure of the company to correct payroll errors that resulted from a new payment system.

The lawsuit was filed in a federal district court in Kentucky by the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees Division Allied Federation.

The union contends that CSX unilateral implemented its TimeTrax program in violation of a requirement to reach agreement with the union before making changes in rates, terms, and working conditions.

Other allegations in the lawsuit are that payroll errors are widespread and that some workers have seen their paychecks shorted by thousands of dollars.

CSX and the union had sought to reach an out-of-court agreement, but the union said settlement discussions have failed.

“We have asked that all the problems be resolved, but management still does not appear to recognize that TimeTrax is a serious problem, let alone one that should have been fixed already,” said BMWED Allied Federal General Chairman Dennis Albers said in a statement.

FRA Gives Unions Added Time to File Appeals

February 17, 2021

Two railroad labor unions have received additional time from the Federal Railroad Administration to file petitions for review by the Operating Crew Review Board.

FRA rules governing certification of locomotive engineers and conductors require that petitions to review a railroad’s decision to deny certification or recertification must be filed with the OCRB no more than 120 days after the date of the railroad’s final decision.

The FRA’s latest action extends the 120-day limit to 180 days.

The agency said it agreed to extend the time to file appeals due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The extension is a waiver that will expire on Feb. 11, 2022, unless extended by the agency.

The unions that sought the extension were the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen and the SMART Transportation Division.

Unions Press Biden on Mediation Board Appointments

January 28, 2021

Labor unions in the railroad and aviation industries are seeking to prod President Joseph Biden on appointments to the National Mediation Board.

The 19 unions are seeking to have Deirdre Hamilton appointed to the Board and for sitting member Linda Puchala’s term to be extended.

The Board was created by the Railway Labor Act and the letter from the unions noted it “plays an essential role” in labor-management relations. 

“These workers are best served when the NMB is reliably staffed with public servants who understand the importance of collective bargaining and who, when disputes arise, will seek fair and timely solutions,” the letter said.

Hamilton for the past six years has been the staff attorney to the airline division of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

She has represented workers before federal courts and with the NMB on a wide range of legal issues for the past 20 years.

Puchala has served as an NMB board member since 2009. Before that she was a mediator, senior mediator and the associate director of alternative dispute resolution services over a 10-year career at the NMB.

Unions Deride Contract Proposals

January 24, 2021

Railroad labor unions said last week that none of the new contract proposals made by the Class 1 railroads have been worthy of consideration.

The statement put out by the Coordinated Bargaining Coalition said it will continue to meet with representatives of the carriers.

The CBC represents more than 105,000 railroad workers or more than 80 percent of the workforce that is affected by the negotiations.

Meetings with the National Carriers Conference Committee began in late 2019. The NCCC represents most Class 1 railroads and some smaller carriers.

The union announcement noted that the COVID-19 pandemic has made meetings a challenge and most presentations have been made virtually. Additional meeting have been set early this year.

“The parties will continue to meet in good faith as we move into 2021, fully cognizant that it is our members who must ratify any voluntary agreement,” the union statement said.

Although the previous contract has expired, that contract remains in force and there is no expiration date.

The last contract talks began in January 2015 and didn’t conclude until late 2018 with some terms of the new agreement being applied retroactively.

The last railroad work stoppage occurred in 1992.

The unions involved in the CBC include the American Train Dispatchers Association; the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen/Teamsters Rail Conference; the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen; the International Association of Machinists; the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers; the National Conference of Firemen & Oilers/SEIU; the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers; the Transport Workers Union of America  the Transportation Communications Union/IAM, including TCU’s Brotherhood of Railway Carmen Division; and the Transportation Division of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, and Transportation Workers.

BLET Workers OK Contract With Susie Q

December 4, 2020

Union workers at the New York, Susqhehanna & Western have ratified a new five-year contract.

The pact governs wages, benefits and work rules for 45 members of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen.

It also includes retroactive pay and general wage increases each year through Jan. 1, 2024, BLET said in a news release.

The contract provides for increased certification pay for locomotive engineers and additional paid time off for all members.

BLET members who have been employed for 25 years or more will receive a sixth week of vacation.

Based in Cooperstown, New York, the NYS&W operates over 400 miles of track in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Retired BLET Lawyer Dies

December 2, 2020

A retired executive of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen has died.

Harold Ross, 89, was the union’s general counsel between 1967 and 2011.

A news release issued by the union, said Ross argued and won two cases before the U.S. Supreme Court: Landers v. Amtrak and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers in 1988, and Interstate Commerce Commission v. Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers in 1987.

Ross was named an honorary member of BLET in 2004, which union officials said it a rare honor bestowed on fewer than 20 people in the organization’s 157-year history.

After joing BLET as a grand chief engineer in 1958, Ross provided legal counsel to 15 BLET presidents.

He is survived by three children. His son, Greg Ross, is the BLET National Division’s director of communications, director of legal affairs and assistant to the office administrator.