|ONLINE VERSION||SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER 2001|
|Judge Impounds BLE / UTU Merger Ballots|
|UTU Again Launches Raiding Attack
On July 23, 2001, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and the United Transporation Union announced that an agreement had been reached to merge the two unions, subject to ratification by each unionís rank and file. In announcing the proposed merger, BLE President Edward Dubroski and UTU President Byron Boyd, Jr. issued the following joint statement:
"After 3-1/2 years of on-again, off-again discussions, itís time for the members of both unions to decide on the question of merger. We are asking our members to approve the creation of the largest combined rail, bus and air union in North America. It joins the best of the proud, historic and democratic principles embodied in both the UTU and the BLE, and has as its goal the protection and advancement of each of the autonomous crafts in which our members work. The merged union would produce substantial financial savings by ending hostilities that have distracted both of us from doing what we are paid to do ó represent our membersí interests with railroads and other transportation companies ó and by providing for streamlined operations. Most importantly, the new union would vastly enhance our power and influence at the bargaining table, in state legislatures and provincial parliaments and in the halls of national legislatures in Washington and Ottawa."
It was agreed that the merged union would be named the United Transportation Union ó Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers (UTU-BLE) and the logos of both unions would be retained. If approved, the merger would be effective on January 1, 2002 and have approximately 185,000 members. The UTU-BLE would be the bargaining representative for all unionized rail operating employees in the U.S. and Canada, yardmasters, Canadian rail traffic controllers and thousands of other railroad, bus, air and mass transit workers in both countries.
On August 6 both unions mailed the proposed Unification Agreement and new Constitution along with ratification ballots to their memberships. The ballot count was originally scheduled for September 14 but was postponed to September 17 in the wake of the terrorist attacks on the U.S.
On September 10 three BLE officers filed a lawsuit to stop the balloting and on September 17 votes were not counted because U.S. District Judge Ann Aldrich granted a preliminary injunction "which for the foreseeable future, effectively halts the proposed merger," reported the BLE.
In her ruling, Judge Aldrich ordered the American Arbitration Association to "impound all ballots cast by BLE members, to refrain from making the results of any ongoing or final tally of the votes known to any of the parties or to any third party and to preserve the cast ballots under seal pending the resolution of this lawsuit."
"Just 24 hours after a federal judge enjoined the counting of ballots in the proposed merger," said a September 19 BLE press release, "the UTU reversed its direction and launched an attack on BLE members working for the Kansas City Southern Railway and other KCS-owned properties" by filing an application with the National Mediation Board alleging that a representation dispute exists on KCS.
The UTU has previously tried to raid the BLE by alleging representation disputes and in May this year the UTU had sought representation on the KCS as the first of the major railroads it again planned to raid. This latest raiding attempt had spurred the current merger efforts.
In January 1998 UTU filed a representation petition with the NMB to combine its 13,000-member unit at Union Pacific with the BLE unit. That case was held in abeyance while both organizations engaged in lengthy discussions concerning merger. Those talks ended without agreement and in May 1999 UTU renewed its NMB application.
Even though an AFL-CIO Impartial Umpire determined that UTU had committed "a major ó perhaps unprecedented ó violation of BLEís established rights under Article XX" UTU refused to withdraw its NMB application and BLE filed a complaint of non-compliance with the AFL-CIO. On July 1, 1999, the AFL-CIO imposed the customary sanctions on UTU pursuant to Article XX, Section 15.
On February 29, 2000 the NMB dismissed UTUís application under the Railway Labor Act and on March 15, then UTU President Charles L. Little sent a letter to AFL-CIO President John J. Sweeney, declaring that the UTU was immediately disaffiliating from the AFL-CIO.