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Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

Feuding BLE, UTU back on merger track


After a month of legal wrangling, sniping and purported back-stabbing, Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and United Transportation Union plan to give their merger proposal another try.
The unions Oct. 19 reached an agreement — to be submitted Oct. 26 to Federal Judge Ann Aldrich for approval — under which ballots previously cast by BLE members would be destroyed; a new referendum would be conducted by secret ballot; votes of U.S. and Canadian BLE members would be counted together; and the three BLE officers who filed a lawsuit to halt the balloting process would be allowed to submit a written merger-opposition statement to be included in ballots mailed to all BLE members.
If the agreement is approved, ballots would be mailed Nov. 7. Members would be required to fill out and return ballots by Dec. 10 to American Arbitration Association, which BLE hired to handle all phases of the referendum, including ballot printing, mailing and counting. Judge Aldrich Sept. 17 established American Arbitration as a neutral party, responsible for impounding the previous ballots.
"Ultimately, the process of determining whether there should be a merger with UTU will not be complete until the membership has spoken," said BLE International President Don Hahs in a prepared statement.
BLE plans to establish a toll-free phone hotline, enabling members to report missing ballots or request another copy of the unification agreement and constitution.
The prior UTU-BLE merger vote Sept. 17 was halted by Judge Aldrich after three BLE officers alleged the balloting violated BLE's constitution.
UTU then Sept. 18 asked the National Mediation Board to order a representation election on Kansas City Southern — and later other Class Is — enabling train and engine service employees to decided whether to be represented by UTU or BLE.
For now, it appears any disagreements between the unions have been placed on hold: "I am extremely pleased that an agreement has been reached that will permit BLE members to express themselves on this most crucial decision of whether to merge the operating crafts, which will preserve historical craft autonomy," said UTU International President Byron Boyd Jr.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 10/22/2001