Locomotive Engineers return to work at Union Pacific
CLEVELAND, January 27 -- A strike by locomotive engineers that halted freight traffic on the nation's largest rail carrier, Union Pacific Railroad (UP) has ended, following issuance of a Temporary Restraining Order by a federal judge in Omaha, Nebraska, which also serves as UP's headquarters.
The walkout, involving over 8,000 members of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers (BLE) began at 12:01 a.m., Eastern Standard Time, interrupting traffic over the railroad's 38,654 miles of track in 23 states.
The job action was triggered by UP's imposition of new qualification standards for personal leave days for engineers shortly after the first of the year and was, according to BLE International President Edward Dubroski, "something we were forced to do."
"Union Pacific chose to unilaterally impose new working conditions on locomotive engineers, in defiance of federal law," Dubroski said. "The proper way to make the sort of change UP has forced upon us is to bargain for such a change. In fact, we have been in negotiations since November 1, 1999, and the subject has never even been raised."
In issuing the Restraining Order, U.S. District Court Judge Lyle Strom preliminarily ruled that at issue was a "minor" dispute, which is subject to binding arbitration under the provisions of the Railway Labor Act, the federal statute governing labor relations in the railroad and airline industries. BLE officials at the union's Cleveland headquarters received Judge Strom's ruling shortly after 4:00 a.m. local time, and immediately took steps to remove picket lines.
Commenting on the court ruling, BLE President Dubroski said, "While we disagree with the court, and are confident that our legal position ultimately will prevail, we will respect the court's order. Right now, my strongest feeling is one of great pride and respect for the men and women we represent on the Union Pacific, and they way they defended their contractual rights."
The Temporary Restraining Order is scheduled to expire at midnight, Central Time on Saturday. However, a hearing on Union Pacific's motion for a preliminary injunction is scheduled for 1:00 p.m. in Omaha and, if that motion is undecided, it is expected that the Restraining Order will be extended.
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