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Railroads, shippers and rail labor unions need to jointly resolve rail regulation dispute, UTU says


United Transportation Union (UTU) leaders are urging railroads and shippers to meet jointly with the union and other rail labor stakeholders to resolve a “long-simmering and too-often acrimonious quarrel” over how railroads are regulated by Congress and the Surface Transportation Board (STB).

At the heart of the dispute is the railroad-opposed and shipper-endorsed Railroad Antitrust Enforcement Act of 2009 (S. 146/H.R. 233), which recently was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee. The bill proposes to repeal railroads’ antitrust law exemption; permit the U.S. Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission to review mergers under antitrust law; ensure STB rulings and regulations conform to antitrust laws; and enable state attorneys general and private parties to sue for treble damages and pursue court orders to halt “anti-competitive rail conduct.”

"This dispute threatens the long-term viability of the railroad industry, its ability to increase capacity and improve customer service, its image as the environmentally superior transportation mode, and its immediate ability to attract and invest federal stimulus funds for further productivity enhancements that will benefit rail customers, the carriers and rail labor," said UTU International President Mike Futhey in a news item posted on the union’s Web site. "This quarrel is fracturing congressional support for railroads, and its continuation will only further erode the industry’s ability to shift freight from the highways, expand commuter rail access and strengthen our national intercity rail passenger network to include high-speed rail options.”

If the dispute isn’t resolved quickly, Congress will be distracted from focusing on legislation that would benefit railroads, shippers and rail labor, UTU officials believe.

"Our joint and long-term interests will be better served if we establish a mutually cooperative approach that balances rail industry growth with an equitable process to settle captive shipper concerns over rail market power and pricing," said Futhey.

UTU officials plan to reach out to other rail labor union heads and railroad CEOs to promote the formation of a “workable and effective partnership” among freight and passenger railroads — including Amtrak — shippers and unions.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 3/23/2009