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Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen strike Wheeling & Lake Erie

CLEVELAND, September 20 — Over 100 members of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) struck the Wheeling & Lake Erie Railway (WLE) at 5:00 local time this morning to protest that railroad’s repudiation of the Collective Bargaining Agreements that cover the two operating crafts.

Picket lines were posted at seven primary WLE terminals in Ohio and Pennsylvania, shutting down the entire railroad’s operation.

“We were forced to take this action in defense of our contracts,” said General Chairman Bob Linsey. “Specifically, the Carrier has used management officials to perform the work of bargaining unit employees, namely locomotive engineers and conductors. In defiance of the union’s warnings, the Carrier has also recently ignored longstanding crew consist agreements and operated single-person operations in an effort to eliminate Trainmen. To make matters worse, it’s done this after serving bargaining proposals to eliminate the restrictions, an outright admission that it presently has no right to operate this way.”

BLET National President Dennis R. Pierce blasted WLE for its actions. “The WLE bankrolled Ed Burkhardt’s failed one-person operation on the Montreal, Maine and Atlantic to the tune of a $25 million loan, so this doesn’t come as much of a surprise,” Pierce said. “When General Chairman Linsey asked for strike authorization on behalf of our members, the stakes involved made this a fairly easy decision for me to make. It is clear that WLE’s actions are in outright defiance of its obligations, a major dispute in and of itself. BLET will not idly stand by and allow this totally unsafe abrogation of its collectively bargained agreements.

“A bipartisan group of members of the U.S. House of Representatives has sponsored federal legislation — H.R. 3040, the Safe Freight Act — requiring at least two crew members on all freight trains in the nation,” Pierce added, “and I again call on the House leadership to move forward with this legislation.”

Additional updates will be provided as the situation warrants.

Friday, September 20, 2013
bentley@ble-t.org

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