Posts Tagged ‘SMART Transportation Division’

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.

Panel Rules Unions Must Bargain Over Crew Size

July 31, 2021

Railroad labor unions suffered a setback this week when an arbitration panel ruled that crew size is an issue that is subject to collective bargaining.

Unions have long resisted bargaining over crew size on the national level, saying it should be a local issue.

But a federal arbitration panel decided this week that crew size is a national issue.

The decision found that standard moratorium language in decades-old labor agreements do not prohibit negotiations over crew size on freight trains.

Railroad management wants to change train crew staffing practices so that there would be one locomotive engineer per train but the job of the conductor would become more of a ground-based position with conductors having responsibility for multiple trains.

The 2-1 arbitration decision is binding and grew out of a lawsuit launched by the National Railway Labor Conference, which represents Class 1 railroads, to force unions to bargain over crew size in the current negotiations for a new contract.

The arbitration panel was made up of one member approved by labor, one approved by management and a neutral member who in this case is a California law professor and veteran arbitrator.

Contract talks have been ongoing for more than a year and in the meantime federal law requires the previous contract remain in effect until a new pact is reached and ratified by union members.

The Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, and Transportation Union’s Transportation Division (SMART-TD) saw a silver lining in the ruling that the arbitration panel did not mandate any particular outcome in negotiations.

The arbitration ruling also did not mandate that bargaining over crew size be done globally, meaning crew size talks with be done on a railroad-by-railroad basis.

The railroad industry and its unions began contract talks in November 2019 on wages, benefits and work rules.

Unions can be expected to continue seeking to get state legislatures to approve laws mandating two-per crews. Some Democrat members of Congress have introduced similar legislation that would apply nationwide.

The arbitration panel’s ruling requires SMART-TD to bargain with Class 1 railroads and some smaller carriers over crew size matters.

Railway Age reported the arbitration ruling affects more than 60 percent of the conductors at Class 1 railroads, including all conductors employed by BNSF and Norfolk Southern and half the conductors at Union Pacific.

Conductors employed by Canadian National, Canadian Pacific and CSX are not unaffected by the arbitration ruling because their unions were not parties to legal action resulting in the arbitration.

Kansas City Southern recently voluntarily withdrew its arbitration demand and was dismissed from the award by the arbitration panel majority. 

The Railway Age report indicated that railroads was pushing for more efficient operations because of an increasing reliance by carriers on intermodal traffic that is subject to diversion to trucking company, many of which have non-union operators who work for lower wages and benefits than those paid to unionized railroaders.

Intermodal traffic provides lower profit margins that some carload traffic – coal being a notable example – that railroad once relied upon for their financial well being.

Industry observers have noted that the development of positive train control has given railroads an opening to seek to reduce crew sizes by arguing that it will provide for safer operations and thus a second set of eyes in the cab are not needed.

Frank Wilner, who writes for Railway Age, has long argued that “no labor union ever has done better than slow the introduction of new technology.”

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 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.

FRA OKs Union Bid to Extend Appeals Deadlines

June 9, 2020

The Federal Railroad Administration has approved a 60-day extension to two railroad labor unions to file petitions for review with the Locomotive Engineer Review Board and the Operating Crew Review Board.

FRA rules governing certification of locomotive engineers require a petition seeking review of a railroad’s decision to deny certification or recertification must be filed with the LERB no more than 180 days after the date of the railroad’s denial decision.

A petition seeking review of the railroad’s decision to revoke certification must be filed no more than 120 days after the date of the railroad’s denial decision.

Similar rules are in place for seeking review of a railroad decision to deny certification or recertification, or to revoke certification of a conductor.

In its latest action the granted temporary relief from the 180- and 120-day filing deadlines saying the “previously granted relief would be in the public interest, necessary to address the COVID-19 public health emergency and is not inconsistent with railroad safety.”

The extension has been sought by the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, and the SMART Transportation Division.

FRA Spurns Union Request for Emergency Order

April 17, 2020

The Federal Railroad Administration has rejected a call by two railroad unions asking the agency to issue an emergency order calling for safety protections for railroad employees during the COVID-19 pandemic

“Although FRA believes that many safety precautions included in [the unions’] petitions could constitute best practices that should be applied in the railroad industry, FRA does not believe that an emergency order is justified,” FRA Administrator Ronald Batory wrote in a letter to the unions.

In a news release, the unions accused the FRA of failing “to mandate safety protocols to protect the health of railroad workers during the national COVID-19 outbreak.”

The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen along with the SMART Transportation Division has asked the FRA to issue an emergency order specific to employee protections after the agency announced it would temporarily waive some railroad safety rules during the pandemic.

FRA Grants Unions Extension of Filing Deadline

April 17, 2020

Two railroad labor unions have received Federal Railroad Administration approval to extend time limits for which petitions for review must be filed with the Locomotive Engineer Review Board and the Operating Crew Review Board.

In a news release the unions said FRA rules governing certification of locomotive engineers require that a petition seeking review of a railroad’s decision to deny certification or recertification must be filed with the LERB no more than 180 days after the date of the denial decision.

A petition seeing review of a railroad’s decision to revoke certification must be filed with the LERB no more than 120 days after the date of the railroad’s decision.

Similarly, under FRA rules governing certification of conductors, a petition seeking review of a railroad’s decision to deny certification or recertification, or to revoke certification, must be filed with the OCRB no more than 120 days after the date of the railroad’s denial decision.

The FRA has agreed to grant temporary emergency relief from the 180- and 120-day filing deadlines.

The deadline for any petition for review that’s due to be filed during the waiver period has been extended by 60 days.

The FRA on March 25 had granted an identical extension for railroads to respond to petitions for review field with the LERB and the OCRB.

The unions involved are the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, and the SMART Transportation Division.