|ONLINE VERSION||AUGUST 1999|
|WITH 6 PHOTOS (Do Not Crop)
BMWE members joined hundreds of others in a solidarity demonstration on July 6 when rail labor members from throughout the country marched through the streets of the nation's capitol in support of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers.
The march and the rally following coincided with the first day of hearings by the National Mediation Board on an application by the United Transportation Union to create a single craft of operating rail crew member and to hold a winner-take-all representation election on the Union Pacific Railroad. The UTU had reinstituted its petition to the NMB immediately after the BLE announced on May 10 that it had terminated year-long talks with the UTU to unify the two unions.
On July 1, the AFL-CIO imposed sanctions on the UTU for violating the no-raiding provision of the labor federation's constitution as a result of its petition to the NMB and on July 2, in an unprecedented action, appealed to the NMB to dismiss the UTU's application because "it is in violation of the union's contractual obligations."
Carrying signs that said "My job. My union. My choice." and "Save the BLE Voice," the supporters from dozens of unions, including all of rail labor except the UTU, marched on a route that included a stop and brief demonstration at NMB headquarters. After returning to Lafayette Park (located on the north side of the White House), the participants gathered in the record-breaking 103 degree heat to hear a number of speakers, including BMWE President Mac A. Fleming, who received several rounds of applause.
"The BMWE believes in Rail Labor Unity," said Fleming. "The BMWE also believes that railroad workers should be in one union. We believe that is the best way to maximize our bargaining leverage with the railroads in order to get the best wages, benefits and working conditions for all Rail Labor members. But just as strongly -- we believe in the democratic process. And that means that mergers of unions must come voluntarily-- not as a result of one union raiding another union."
Fleming also noted that 40 years ago there were 23 unions representing railroad workers while today there are only 13. "Although we are painfully far from one union for all of us, we are and have been on the way there -- through the voluntary process."
He concluded by saying that the "BMWE respects the membership of the UTU and their proud history. We hope their leadership comes to their senses and withdraws their petition to the NMB and once again works closely with the rest of Rail Labor."