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UTU's Boyd urges BLE's Hahs to strongly support merger in light of continued opposition


Although United Transportation Union (UTU) officials believe that negotiating an equitable agreement for remote-control implementation is essential — fully protective of train and engine-service workers — the union plans to hold off negotiations with carriers until Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers (BLE) members vote on the proposed UTU-BLE merger.

That's the message UTU International President Byron Boyd Jr. sent to BLE International President Don Hahs in a Nov. 12 open letter.

Boyd addressed concerns raised by three BLE members who previously obtained a federal court order to halt the initial BLE merger vote; per a new BLE-UTU agreement, BLE members received new ballots Nov. 7 and must submit their votes by Dec. 10 to American Arbitration Association, which is handling the new vote for BLE.

"Organized labor has suffered, as reflected in sharply reduced employment rolls, with improved rail productivity whose fruits haven't been equally shared with rail labor," wrote Boyd. "UTU's decision to sign the carriers' letter of intent regarding implementation and utilization of remote-control technology goes to the heart of why our two great unions must merge."

Boyd believes the merged unions would obtain the bargaining leverage necessary to deal with today's industrial giants.

He also responded to other concerns voiced by the three BLE members. Boyd believes the merger agreement doesn't dilute general committees' autonomy, but does provide fair procedures for recalling officers, gives both unions a fair say at the merged organization's convention and states that the board of appeals will not run the merged union.

"The bottom line continues to be that our rank-and-file deserves the most-efficient and most-effective bargaining strength we can muster against anti-union transportation conglomerates that frequently look upon employees with no more respect than disposable pencils or coffee cups," wrote Boyd. "The elected leadership of BLE and UTU must support and advance this merger now — the consequences of not merging are unthinkable."