Posts Tagged ‘Railroad unions’

Unions Seek Protection for Trains in Washington

January 13, 2021

Two railroad labor unions have asked the Federal Railroad Administration and Department of Homeland Security to protect passengers and railroad workers of Amtrak, MARC and Virginia Railway Express services in and around Washington.

The Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers, Transportation Division and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen said they are seeking additional security measures in the wake of rioting that occurred in the nation’s capital on Jan. 6.

The unions have asked federal authorities for a minimal standard that any regulation granted to prohibit the interference of a train crew’s duty be in line with that of aviation statutes and regulations.

The letter to the FRA and Homeland Security sent by the unions cited  “the very real risk and potential for additional violence and riots.” It noted that Washington remains on high alert.

Union Wants More COVID-19 Safeguards

July 15, 2020

A railroad union is pressing Class 1 carriers to begin testing and tracing of all railroad workers for COVID-19.

The Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees Division wants rail companies to take daily temperature checks and implement other stringent safeguards.

The union said in a news release that four BMWED members have died from COVID-19 and hundreds of other employees have been affected by it.

The union made the requests in letters sent to Class 1 CEOs.

Union Urges Caution Among its Members

June 25, 2020

A union representing track maintenance workers is urging its members to take precautions while working to avoid contracting COVID-19.

The Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees Division of the Teamsters also took aim at Amtrak and Chicago commuter railroad Metra for being negligent in testing and tracing employees for COVID-19.

The union said there has been a rash of positive coronavirus cases among its members at several railroads, estimating 109 members have been affected by a coronavirus exposure.

Of those 15 individuals tested positive and remaining 94 are in a self-contained quarantine.

In a statement, union officials said doctors expect many of those in in quarantine will test positive in the coming days.

Those workers were employed by Amtrak, BNSF, CSX, Canadian National and Norfolk Southern.

Three union members have died from COVID-19.

The union said some of the spread of COVID-19 has come from post-work socializing. It urged its members to be more cautious by isolating and separating as much as possible.

“Go outside to hang out. Keep some distance,” the union told its members.

In the meantime, some union members have established informational picketing in front of the home of Amtrak board chairman Anthony Coscia.

An Amtrak spokeswoman said the passenger performs contact tracing in accordance with federal Center for Diseases Control guidelines and performs no-expense testing for those with symptoms or possible exposure.

However, the union said social distancing is often impossible in its work and it wants monthly testing as well as temperature screenings before work.

After accusing Metra of putting employees and passengers at greater risk, the rail commuter railroad said in a statement that the union’s views were “distorted.”

Rail Unions Seek End to Sequestration of Benefits

June 16, 2020

Railroad labors are seeking to overturn what they describe as unfair sequestration of Railroad Unemployment Insurance Act benefits, which they say reduces the unemployment and sickness benefits of railroad workers.

They are asking Congress to adopt language consistent with the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act that would eliminate sequestration.

The HEROES Act, which has been approved by the House but not the Senate, would increase pay for front-line workers, extend unemployment measures and provide another round of $1,200 in stimulus checks for Americans.

The railroad unions want Congress to rescind the sequestration of RUIA benefits by amending the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act of 1985 to include RUIA among other various programs that are not subject to sequestration.

“Unlike the average U.S. worker, railroad employees do not receive unemployment benefits through state-administered unemployment insurance programs,” said a statement released by the unions.

The statement said unemployed railroaders receive benefits through the RUIA program, which is administered by the U.S. Railroad Retirement Board.

The Budget Control Act of 2011 made RUIA subject to sequestration but the unions said no state unemployment insurance benefits are subject to that.

Unemployment and sickness benefits payable under the RUIA have been sequestered or reduced since 2013, as part of a package of automatic spending reductions required by the BCA.

Currently, RUIA unemployment benefits are being sequestered at the rate of 5.9 percent, as are RUIA sickness benefits.

In the past, these rates have been adjusted annually when the federal sequestration is recalculated. Railroads have seen their benefits sequestered as high as 9.2 percent in the past, union officials said.

Union Reaches Pact with WNY&P

May 20, 2020

The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen have reached a tentative contract agreement with the Western New York & Pennsylvania.

The pact covers pay rates, benefits and work rules for about a dozen WNY&P employees.

Ratification ballots have been mailed to active members employed by the WNYP and are due by June 15.

WYNP membership is part of Division 16 and represented by the BLET’s short line department.

The short line railroad extends from Hornell, New York, to Meadville, Pennsylvania, with a 90-mile branch from Machias, New York, to North Driftwood, Pennsylvania.

Unions Want FRA to Act on Coronavirus

March 13, 2020

Two railroad unions have asked the Federal Railroad Administration to take action to protect rail workers from the coronavirus.

The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen and the SMART Transportation Division have asked the FRA to issue guidelines directed at railroads, their employees and passengers.

“We and other rail labor organizations take this issue very seriously, and we have been monitoring it closely,” BLET President Dennis Pierce and SMART-TD President Jeremy Ferguson wrote in a letter to FRA Administrator Ronald Batory.

In a related development, executives at three Class 1 railroads canceled their planned presentations at the J.P. Morgan Industrials Conference in New York City due to concerns about the spread of the coronavirus.

The executives from Norfolk Southern, Canadian National and Union Pacific said they would not be speaking at the conference.

Also related to the coronavirus pandemic, the Commuter Rail Coalition has warned that the virus outbreak could disrupt efforts to complete installation of positive train control equipment.

The coalition said that was because of factory closings in China, where the virus originated. “Vendors have so far only alerted agencies to the threat, and agencies are exploring whether they have options for alternative sources for any components that might be cut off,” said KellyAnne Gallagher, executive director of the coalition.

BLET Sets Up Website for Negotiation Updates

January 22, 2020

The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen has established a website to provide its members with information about contract talks with the nation’s Class 1 railroads.

BLET is one of 10 unions that is negotiating with the National Carrier’s Conference, which represents the railroads over a new contract.

Other unions involve are American Train Dispatchers Association; BLET/Teamsters Rail Conference; Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen; International Association of Machinists; International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers–Transportation Division; International Brotherhood of Boilermakers; National Conference of Firemen and Oilers; International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers; Transport Workers Union of America; and Transportation Communications Union/IAM (TCU), including TCU’s Carmen Division.

The unions represent 105,000 railroad workers and comprise over 80 percent of the workforce that will be affected by this round of negotiations.

Under the federal Railway Labor Act the current collective bargaining agreements remain in force indefinitely.

Class 1 Collective Bargaining to Start Jan. 26, CSX to Talk Separately With Unions on Wages and Work Rules

January 16, 2020

Collective bargaining between U.S. Class 1 railroads and their unions will get underway on Feb. 26 in Washington.

However, CSX has said that it plans to negotiate with the unions separately on wages and work rules.

The six Class 1 railroads make up the National Carriers’ Conference Committee that represents their interests in labor negotiations.

But CSX said this week it will only participate in that bargaining on matters of health and welfare. It is not clear when CSX will begin meeting with its unions other than it will be later this month.

Negotiating sessions this year involving the Carriers’ Conference are also slated to be held in Cleveland, Chicago and Omaha, Nebraska.

Labor unions, which represent 125,000 railroad workers that involved in the contract talks include: American Train Dispatchers Association, Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen, International Association of Machinists, International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, National Conference of Firemen & Oilers, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Transport Workers Union of America, Transportation Communications Union, and SMART-Transportation Division.

Contract negotiations take place every five years and are governed by the Railway Labor Act, which seeks to avoid major railroad strikes because of their potential to harm the U.S. economy.

Railroad labor agreements do not have expiration dates and negotiations can take years to complete.

Observes expect negotiations this year to be contentious as railroads push for single-person crews with conductors to be made into ground-based positions.

Union Wants FRA to Order Brake Valves Replaced

December 27, 2019

A railroad union wants the Federal Railroad Administration to issue an emergency order to require the immediate replacement of what it termed outdated air brake valves on freight cars.

The SMART Transportation Division said tens of thousands of model DB-10 air brake valves have remained in use beyond their fixed lifespan and during cold weather these valves can leak air, causing freight-train operators to lose braking capabilities.

In a news release, SMART TD noted the the Association of American Railroads issued a maintenance advisory in 2013 that railroads replace and repair the malfunctioning valves.
SMART TD said that although the AAR made recommendations the fixes have thus far been unsatisfactory.

Railroads have been reluctant to replace old parts in a thorough way because of the potential delays it could cause to customers, the union said and has instead used a “catch-as-can” approach.

In an unrelated development, House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Oregon) and U.S. Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-New Jersey) have called upon the Pipeline and Hazardous Safety Administration to to thoroughly analyze the potential impacts of transporting liquefied natural gas by rail tank car.

The congressmen sent a letter to PHMSA Administrator Howard Elliott asking his agency to conduct the analysis of public and environmental risks, and apply stringent safety protections and operational controls when LNG is transported by rail car through communities.

The letter came in response to a notice of proposed rulemaking published by PHMSA in late October whereby the agency in coordination with the FRA proposed the rule to permit the transport of large quantities of LNG throughout the country by rail tank car.

PHMSA has granted a special permit to Energy Transport Solutions to move LNG from Pennsylvania to New Jersey, “without appropriate research and analysis of the safety risks to communities and no opportunity for the public to address operating conditions,” the congressmen said.

CN, Union Reach Tentative Pact to End Strike

November 27, 2019

A tentative contract has been reached to end a week-long strike against Canadian National by the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference.

CN said the pact will enable the 3,200 striking CN conductors and rail yard crews in Canada to return to work on Tuesday and Wednesday.

A ratification vote on the contract is expected to be completed within the next eight weeks.

During that period the union and the company have agreed to refrain from any further job actions.

The proposed contract will be voted on by secret ballot with details of the settlement not released until after the union has provided them to its members.