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[Editor's note: This story was updated at 11:02 a.m. CDT to include comments from KCS officials.]
Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) National President Dennis Pierce and BLET Texas Mexican Railway (Tex-Mex) General Chairman Chris Heise yesterday rejected a plan by Kansas City Southern Railway to replace U.S. crews with Mexican crews in Laredo, Texas, setting the stage for a BLET strike on the Tex-Mex starting July 9.KCS, which owns the Tex-Mex and the former Transportacion Ferroviaria Mexicana (TFM) that Tex-Mex connects with at the International Bridge in Laredo, advised Heise last month that it intended to begin using Mexican crews to operate Tex-Mex trains between the bridge and Laredo Yard, which is located 10 miles away, BLET officials said in a news release.In a June 27 letter to KCS, Pierce and Heise indicated the railroad's intent was not in keeping with collective bargaining agreements. The union leaders also raised safety concerns about the proposed job change.The letter states that the KCS "position does nothing more than force U.S. law, including federal railroad safety statutes and regulations as well as the Railway Labor Act, to retreat 10 miles northward of the International Bridge, and abrogate our collective bargaining agreements for that same distance. It is contrary to the law and history."If KCS moves ahead with its plan, the BLET will withdraw its affected members from service at 12:01 a.m. July 9, the union leaders wrote.The BLET letter can be read here.
Kansas City Southern Railway (KCSR) and Tex-Mex "are implementing new interchange procedures at the U.S.-Mexican border in order to improve efficiency, security, and capacity in cross-border rail operations," said a statement issued today by KCS officials.
"The changes at issue will reduce the frequency of blocked road crossings in and around Laredo, which have been a source of concern for many years," said KCS officials in an email. "The railroads have a clear right under their existing agreements with the unions to implement the new interchange procedures, and any dispute over this matter is subject to binding arbitration. Accordingly, KCSR has filed an action in federal court to enjoin the threatened strikes by the union, which would harm not just KCSR, but also other rail carriers, shippers, and the general public."