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BLET leads fight to halt SEPTA attack on FELA

CLEVELAND, January 16 — In response to a claim by the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) that the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA) does not apply to its commuter rail workers, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen and other unions on the property today filed suit seeking to halt SEPTA’s attempts to force affected workers on the job to submit to medical treatment from the agency’s Workers’ Compensation department.

SEPTA took this position in a January 15 letter to the General Chairmen for the various crafts in its Railroad Division, stating that FELA "does not apply to SEPTA," and that injured commuter rail workers would be handled "under Pennsylvania’s Workers’ Compensation Act."

The suit was filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, alleging that SEPTA’s action violates (1) the FELA, (2) the section of last year’s Rail Safety Improvement Act prohibiting interference in a treatment plan developed by a worker and his/her treating physician, and (3) the Railway Labor Act.

Commenting on the situation, National President Ed Rodzwicz said, "SEPTA has taken an outrageous and untenable position. The case they’re relying on is contradicted by every other case that has decided this issue and is incapable of being applied in an across-the-board manner, as SEPTA suggests.

"We will not allow SEPTA to interfere in the medical treatment of our members who are injured on the job, or to deprive our Brothers and Sisters of their rights under the FELA," Rodzwicz added. "SEPTA’s action would fully justify our withdrawal from service, but we decided that doing so would have cast an unfortunate and unnecessary pall over the pre-Inaugural activities in Philadelphia this weekend."

Additional developments will be reported as they occur.

Friday, January 16, 2009
bentley@ble-t.org

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