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Rail News: Labor

BLET, UTU unite to campaign against one-man train crews


Two rail labor unions that for years have fought over representation elections and several proposed mergers are putting away the boxing gloves to jointly confront one issue: one-man train crews. Yesterday, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) and United Transportation Union (UTU) announced they are organizing a joint campaign to vocally oppose single-person crews during the current round of collective bargaining with the railroads.

“During negotiations, the major rail carriers have attempted to use past differences between the BLET and the UTU as a wedge to reduce crew size,” BLET National President Don Hahs and UTU International President Paul Thompson said in a joint statement. “Reducing crew size puts the lives of all rail workers and the general public in danger, [and] seriously threatens the financial security of the railroad retirement system.”

The railroads claim positive train control will permit them to reduce crew sizes, the BLET and UTU said. But the technology still is in the experimental stage, Thompson said during a Jan. 30 press conference.

“The railroads have told us they don’t know exactly how many jobs would be affected,” he said. “One says it would be five to 10 years before the technology is perfected and the next says they could use the technology now on trains in certain divisions.”

BLET and UTU officials are concerned one-man operated trains will jeopardize safety and security — especially for hazardous materials moves — because of fatigue.

“Railroads would have to change their operations in many areas to go to single-person crews,” said Hahs at the conference. “There’s no way one man could work 12 hours a day in unscheduled operations. If two people aren’t an efficient crew, I don’t know what is.”

The unions plan to issue a series of messages to the public to campaign against one-man crews. As a show of good faith, the UTU agreed to withdraw its application for a single-craft representation election at Union Pacific Railroad and the BLET agreed to refrain from attempting to organize UTU-represented railroads.

“Our two organizations have had their differences, but when it comes to protecting our members’ jobs and safety, we must stand together,” Hahs and Thompson said.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 1/31/2006