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If members of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and the United Transportation Union agree, by majority votes in separate balloting, we will create an entirely new union one that would strengthen our hand in dealing with the carriers and lead a more vibrant rail labor movement into the next millennium.
That is the promise of the agreement on principles approved by BLE and UTU leaders Nov. 23. "But we have a lot of hard work to do before we have a document ready to submit to members in the fall of 1999," said BLE President Clarence V. Monin. "Even so, this broad framework to create a new organization is unprecedented, historic and has enormous potential."
In terms of collective bargaining, locomotive engineers and other rail employees will benefit immediately, even before a single word of a new Constitution is drafted, Monin noted.
BLE General Chairmen gathered in Cleveland on December 14 for a meeting about the proposed Statement of Principles. From left: Union Pacific-Central Region General Chairman Mike Young; BNSF-North Lines General Chairman Merle Geiger; and Union Pacific-SP Western Lines General Chairman Robert Poe.
"Beginning now, and into the foreseeable future, BLE and UTU will be working together to coordinate bargaining with the carriers," he said. "Under this agreement, no union can cut a deal with our employers away from the bargaining table that would have an adverse affect on the other."
The BLE Wage & Rules Committee is comprised of President Monin, First Vice-President Ed Dubroski, Vice-President Don Hahs, First Alternate Vice-President Dale McPherson, and representatives from each General Chairman's Association. The BLE's Dennis Simmerman will act as Coordinator and legal assistance will be provided by BLE Counsel Harold Ross and George Cohen. President Monin noted that final appointments have yet to be made to this committee.
Coordinated bargaining is one of 28 principles for the new organization that are detailed, along with supporting documentation, in this Special Edition of the Locomotive Engineer Newsletter (see page 3). Monin pledged that the nearly year-long process to reach a final agreement will be conducted in full view of BLE members, with the final decision resting with the membership soon after the work is completed on Oct. 1, 1999.
"During our discussions this year with the UTU, we were bound by a pledge of confidentiality we made to AFL-CIO President John Sweeney," Monin said. "But now we can show members where we are with this agreement, and we will be listening to their concerns and aspirations as we go forward."
A Joint Drafting Committee has been appointed to begin the process of drafting a Unification Agreement and Constitution, as has a Joint Finance Committee that will sort out the unions' finances and recommend a dues structure. An impartial three-person panel headed by former AFL-CIO President Tom Donahue, who mediated the BLE-UTU talks, will take up the dues question if the Finance Committee cannot resolve the issue by May 1, 1999.
"The finance issue is probably the most difficult one we face," Monin said. "But we believe, based on the information we've seen, that we will not need a dues increase for our members to maintain the level of services we now provide and ensure that the new organization can operate on a fiscally responsible basis."
The agreement in principle to create a new organization also ends the UTU campaign to challenge BLE representation of locomotive engineers, which began in January with an application to the National Mediation Board to eliminate the crafts of locomotive engineer and trainman, and create a single class of operating rail employee.
Under the agreement, all crafts on the rails will be honored and preserved in the new organization. Locomotive engineers would comprise one of the largest represented crafts, which also would include assistant engineer, student engineer, fireman, trainee and hostler. Other crafts represented are conductor, brakeman, yardman, bus driver, yardmaster, carman, maintenance of way employees, truck drivers, dining stewards, signalmen, station-masters, electricians, machinists, dispatchers, clerks and even police.
The BLE's democratic traditions also would be preserved in the new organization, which would provide for recall, initiative and instructing delegates to conventions. Before any substantive issue could be approved at the next two conventions, it would have to be approved by the majority of each former union's convention delegates.
"We've built in lots of checks and balances to make sure that locomotive engineers are not swallowed up in a larger organization," Monin said. "For example, there would be 14 representatives from each of the two former unions on the chief policymaking body between conventions -- a new Executive Council -- even though current active UTU membership is nearly twice as large as current active BLE membership."
In addition, the majorities of the delegates of both unions at the next two conventions, extending over a period of about 10 years, must approve all policy matters in order for them to go into effect, Monin noted. "And the vital roles our key officers will play in the new organization will be part of the checks and balances," he said.
The agreement also specifically leaves open the possibility of other rail unions affiliating with the new organization, subject to approval by a majority vote by members of the new organization. "We're on track to building a powerful, formidable rail labor union that will force the carriers to pay attention and deal with their employees in good faith," Monin said.
Other rail unions were supportive of the BLE during the campaign to fend off UTU's application to the NMB. The rail division of the AFL-CIO's Transportation Trades Department unanimously condemned the UTU move, and the BLE succeeded in getting the AFL-CIO to quickly rule that the UTU was in violation of the federation's constitution.
"We are indebted to John Sweeney and Secretary-Treasurer Rich Trumka of the AFL-CIO for all their help in getting us to this point," Monin said. "And Tom Donahue, as our mediator, was relentless in keeping these talks going, even when it looked like we could not come to an agreement."
The negotiations, with Monin and First Vice President Edward Dubroski representing the BLE and President Charles Little and Assistant President Byron Boyd representing the UTU, began in late March. The first significant progress occurred in May, when the two unions agreed to appoint five joint committees to explore issues of agreement in five broad categories. The reports of those committees on Sept. 30 comprise the Exhibits that accompany the 28 Principles on Pages 3-6 of this Special Edition.
But the key to the eventual agreement, Monin said, was the quick work of the union's mobilization network, which geared up when the talks broke Oct. 5 and UTU asked the NMB to reinstate its application.
"I cannot emphasize enough how important our mobilization efforts were in convincing the UTU to negotiate this agreement," Monin said. "The hard work and solidarity that our members showed in getting out the message that 'losing is not an option' was the clincher for this deal."
The historic agreement between the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and the United Transportation Union on the foundation principles for a new organization sets up a nearly year-long process of democratic deliberation and decision-making.
Here's how the process will work:
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