A Call to Arms For All of Rail Labor

Published: Jan 12 2017 1:43PM

A Call to Arms For All of Rail Labor

For two years, the railroads have made no reasonable effort to reach an agreement on health benefits.  From the onset of bargaining, the railroads took the position that every union-represented railroad employee was overpaid and had too much health and welfare benefits. The railroads contend that the only way for them to continually produce profits for their shareholders was through slashing your healthcare benefits and giving you paltry wage increases, coupled with the ability to contract out scope covered maintenance of way work. Meanwhile, railroad net income almost doubled from $6.9 billion in 2006-10 to $12.2 billion in 2011-15.   

Early on, the BMWED-SMART Mechanical coalition presented the railroads with a cost-saving measure for health insurance that should have taken the subject off the bargaining table.  The measure doesn’t cost a single railroad employee a cent more for their current health care benefits and it doesn’t cost the railroads a cent more either. The Unions’ proposal provides the same savings that the drastic benefit cuts of the last contract provided to the carriers.  This time, the insurance vendors of the Plan are the ones who will contribute the savings, not the railroad employees.

After several months of slow-walking the negotiation, the railroads confirmed our findings. They agreed the proposal would save them money without costing employees a cent more. 

Then, they said they weren’t interested. They said slashing your benefits is the only way forward to reach a “voluntary agreement.”  The other rail bargaining coalitions have had the same experience at the bargaining table; slashing and gouging is the only path forward for an agreement. 

We offered solutions, but the railroads refused any path but their own. 

After the Presidential election, the railroads terminated negotiations with each of the Coordinated Bargaining Group  and BMWED-SMART Mechanical coalitions, and requested mediation. 

In his December 26, 2016 press release, BLET President Dennis Pierce made it clear that right now is the time to fight, and made a call to arms to BLET members to join him in this fight for a fair and reasonable National Agreement.  We agree that the time to fight for our livelihood is now.  We recognize that the best way to advance the causes of rail labor is through a strong united front.  The BMWED stands in solidarity with President Pierce and our BLET union brothers and sisters.  We’re prepared to fight alongside you, including, on the picket line, to maintain our work rules and health and welfare benefits, and to get the pay increases that railroaders deserve.

To this end, I urge all of rail labor to stand united. We deserve to be heard. Let’s make it clear and certain to the railroads that their attack on any single railroader’s standard of living and dignity is an attack on every single railroader, and will be met with united resistance.

The Coordinated Bargaining Group consists of the American Train Dispatchers Association; the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen; the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen; the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers; the National Conference of Firemen and Oilers; and SMART Transportation