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BLE, UTU: Return of the Hatfields and McCoys?


The proposed merger between Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and United Transportation Union is beginning to unravel based on recent barbs each union lobbed at the other.

After a U.S. District Judge's decision Sept. 17 to grant three BLE members a preliminary injunction — thus halting a merger vote count — UTU Sept. 18 asked the National Mediation Board (NMB) to order a representation election on Kansas City Southern Railway, enabling KCS train and engine service employees to decided whether to be represented by UTU or BLE.

"At the very time that the memberships of UTU and BLE should be coming together through merger, our diligent efforts have been thwarted once again," said BLE International President Byron Boyd Jr. in a prepared statement. "The merger vote was agreed to by the elected leaderships of both unions … [and] UTU met every demand of the BLE for a merger vote. UTU has no real choice other than to pursue a parallel action at the NMB to ensure that the nation's operating employees on the railroads have the opportunity to choose unified representation."

UTU plans to follow the KCS election with requested winner-take-all representation elections on all the other Class Is; after a UTU-BLE merger attempt broke down in 1999, UTU won similar elections on The Texas Mexican Railway Co., Manufacturers Railway Co., Paducah & Louisville Railway Co. and Terminal Railroad Association of St. Louis.

BLE International President Edward Dubroski believes UTU's action directly retaliates against the three BLE members who filed the lawsuit to block the merger vote, and that the three union members have the right to pursue any legal remedy available to them.

"The latest actions by UTU leadership are nothing short of bizarre because, while paying lip service to the memberships' right to decide the question of unification, UTU has acted to short-circuit that entire process that's been in place for over six weeks," he said in a Sept. 19 prepared statement.

In a letter faxed to NMB, Dubroski claims it would be inappropriate for the board to act on UTU's request since the legal matter is unresolved and voting results haven't been determined.

BLE activated national mobilization and KCS mobilization teams, and began a field campaign designed to help build support for its union among Class I workers.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 9/25/2001