Potential BMWED Strike In Response To BNSF's Retaliation

Published: Oct 20 2015 10:37AM

After BNSF management changed the bid territories for track inspectors in the Needles Calif. Subdivision, a senior track supervisor filed claims asserting overtime had been assigned in violation of seniority rules. He asked junior co-workers to tell him when they worked overtime so he could file claims. A junior track supervisor complained to BNSF and the senior track supervisor was charged with “creating an unpleasant work environment”. At the investigation, the junior track supervisor said he felt “harassed” and BNSF disciplined the senior track supervisor. At a subsequent meeting, the junior track supervisor used aggressive and extreme derogatory and obscene language to describe the Union, the CBA and the seniority rules, but the senior track supervisor was again noticed for discipline for “inappropriate language” when he told the junior track supervisor to handle any of his own complaints under the CBA, using language that BNSF deemed inappropriate, but which was far less hostile and derogatory than the language used by the junior track supervisor who was not noticed for discipline.   

BMWED responded by suing BNSF under the Railway Labor Act. When BNSF sent notice of the second investigation, the  Union issued a 10 day strike notice. BMWED argued that BNSF was undermining and negating the grievance and arbitration processes by disciplining the senior track supervisor for filing time claims. BNSF sought to enjoin a strike, arguing that this was just a discipline case and therefore a “minor dispute” that has to be handled through the grievance procedure and arbitration, and that the discipline could be challenged in arbitration.   

THE U.S. DISTRICT COURT IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA HAS GRANTED A PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION AGAINST A STRIKE. The court accepted BNSF’s minor dispute contention and rejected BMWED’s argument that BNSF  had violated the Act by retaliating against the senior track supervisor for filing claims. The court also rejected BMWED’s reliance on facts showing that BNSF’s stated concerns for maintaining a “pleasant” work place and prohibiting “inappropriate language” were belied by the carrier’s own actions.  A copy of the Court’s decision and order are attached to electronic copies of this message and are posted on posted on this website. THE PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION REQUIRES THAT THE UNION, ITS OFFICERS AND ITS MEMBERS MAY NOT STRIKE , ENGAGE IN WORK STOPPAGES OR USE OTHER SELF-HELP IN THIS DISPUTE WHILE THE CASE IS PENDING.  

BMWED strongly disagrees with the Court’s decision and is considering an appeal (the decision was just issued late on September 23rd). The Union will continue to take steps to protect the rights of all of its members to file and progress grievances. BUT THE UNION, ITS OFFICERS AND ITS MEMBERS MUST AND WILL COMPLY WITH THE ANTI-STRIKE INJUNCTION.