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Rail News: Labor

Rail labor unions are proposing a unified bargaining front, BMWE's Simpson says


Several rail labor union officials are discussing the possibility of a unified approach to collective bargaining and lobbying. Since January, the officials have met several times to determine a coalition's structure, said Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes (BMWE) Acting President Fred Simpson in the union's March/April newsletter.

"I know that talk of grand bargaining coalitions run through rail labor before every round of bargaining — however, this time things will be different," he said. "What we have been discussing is the creation of a structure that identifies common issues, drafts common notices to the carriers and requires that the participants stay together until the agreements are ratified by the respective memberships."

Railroads have acted as a coalition for many years through the National Carriers’ Conference Committee.

"It’s about time we did the same thing," said Simpson, adding that the officials will meet again this month to continue discussions. "I'm very optimistic that in the 2005 round, rail labor will be unified to an extent not seen since the late 1970s."

In the meantime, BMWE continues to pursue a merger with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters under which BMWE would become part of the Teamsters' rail conference, joining the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen. A BMWE committee is drafting a merger agreement to present to members — a vote might be scheduled later this year.

"[The merger] will provide greater bargaining, organizing and political punch for the membership without increasing the financial cost of these benefits," said Simpson. "Additionally, a merger will help unite rail labor by bringing the maintenance-of way-workers and locomotive engineers together in a single union with the resources provided by a 1.4 million member union."

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 4/15/2004