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Federal judge sides with KCS on inward-facing cameras

CLEVELAND, July 29 — In an Opinion released on July 25, the United States District Court in Shreveport, La. ruled that the decision by Kansas City Southern Railway (KCSR) to install two inward-facing cameras in the cabs of its locomotives presents a “minor” dispute under the Railway Labor Act, paving the way for the railroad to install the cameras immediately.

The “minor” dispute ruling is significant because the Railway Labor Act prevents Unions from exercising self-help over minor disputes.

The finding by Judge Elizabeth Erny Foote against the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen and the United Transportation Union (now SMART Transportation Division) was that the Carrier had an arguable contractual justification for its actions. According to the ruling, the contractual justification is based on the Carrier’s existing use of stationary surveillance cameras in various train yards and other locations, inward-facing cameras in crew vans that transport KCSR crews to and from train assignments, and procedures for monitoring and recording phone calls between train crew employees and crew management regarding reporting to work. The Judge also held that it was not “frivolous to argue that the safety challenges posed by employees using personal electronic devices on the job necessitate the camera and review system proposed by KCSR.”

Once it was determined the case was a “minor” dispute, the Unions then argued for a “status quo” injunction pending resolution of the dispute before an arbitrator. Judge Foote denied the Unions’ argument.

BLET National President Dennis R. Pierce expressed disappointment at both aspects of the ruling, but vowed that the Union would continue the fight. “The Judge’s ruling is a big disappointment, but in this day and age, it comes as no real surprise,” Pierce said. “It is extremely difficult to convince any federal court that an RLA dispute is ‘major.’ We will continue to assist the KCS General Chairmen in their struggle. As the Judge explained, ‘At the end of the day, the Unions may prevail regarding interpretation of the [Collective Bargaining Agreement].’ We will now do our utmost to prove to an arbitrator that this outrageous intrusion in the lives of locomotive engineers and trainmen is well beyond what the contract allows KCSR to do.”

Monday, July 29, 2013
bentley@ble-t.org

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