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The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) and the Transportation Division of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART-TD) are challenging Amtrak over its actions in implementing a COVID-19 vaccine policy.
In a lawsuit filed yesterday, the unions claim Amtrak implemented the mandate without bargaining as required under the Railway Labor Act (RLA). Filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, the suit is similar to claims filed by the BLET and SMART-TD against Union Pacific Railroad, Norfolk Southern Railway and BNSF Railway Co. regarding their vaccine policies.
"Amtrak has ordered all employees to submit proof prior to Dec. 8, 2021, that they have received at least one vaccine shot, and submit proof by Jan. 4, 2022, that they have received their final vaccine shot, or they will be subject to termination of employment. Amtrak is directly dealing with its employees instead of negotiating with us over its unilateral mandate," said BLET National President Dennis Pierce and SMART-TD President Jeremy Ferguson in a joint press release.
The unions' position is that Amtrak has no authority to unilaterally implement and enforce a COVID-19 vaccination mandate among its employees, and that its actions in failing to negotiate terms of implementation violate the status quo requirement of the RLA, thus engendering a major dispute.
"Amtrak will review the filing and respond accordingly," Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said in an email when asked for a comment.