B   M   W   E
The Death of "Cram Down"
On March 21 the BMWE and most of the other rail unions reached an agreement with the Class I carriers (except for Canadian National) that ends the process of the forced "cram down" of collective bargaining agreements.

The agreement covers maintenance of way employees on Burlington Northern Santa Fe, CSX, Kansas City Southern, Norfolk Southern and Union Pacific railroad companies.

The parties agreed to replace the existing process with one that allows the involved employees to pick the agreement that will apply in a consolidation or coordination. The agreement also permits an arbitration to fashion terms and conditions, in excess of statutory employee protective conditions, to cushion harm to employees flowing from the transaction.

"This agreement fixes a major problem we had with the implementation of mergers approved by the Surface Transportation Board," said BMWE President Mac A. Fleming. "The onerous process of cram down should now be dead and buried. And now that the carriers have stepped up to the plate and agreed to fix the cram down problem, we can support a ‘clean’ reauthorization of the STB through legislation that will enact the parties’ agreement into law."

This agreement, which will be proposed as legislation amending the Interstate Commerce Act, ends the practice of carriers using New York Dock procedures to break collective bargaining agreements.

From now on, the union will choose the collective bargaining agreement applicable to a "major transaction" subject to STB-imposed protective conditions.

The carriers will also give deference to seniority integration plans developed by the union. In fact, a carrier’s grounds for objecting to a seniority integration plan are limited and require the carrier to prove that its objection has merit.

The carriers also agreed that under no circumstances will a New York Dock transaction be used to create a single system-wide collective bargaining agreement or impose system gangs not otherwise permitted under existing agreements.

"This agreement ends cram down," said President Fleming. "Finally, after receiving the incessant pressure of the BMWE, the AFL-CIO, especially Secretary-Treasurer Rich Trumka, the AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department and its affiliated rail labor unions and our friends in Congress, the carriers stepped forward and fixed this problem. My only regret is that we could not obtain this agreement earlier so that earlier mergers would have been far less disruptive to the lives of our brothers and sisters."

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