BLE says no to NMB request

In a decision that could significantly impact the future of the BLE and all operating crafts in the railroad industry, the National Mediation Board on December 30 announced it would not rule on the UTU's allegation that a representation dispute exists on the Union Pacific Railroad.

Instead, the Board announced that the dispute would be settled by a three-member panel of "labor relations professionals," and that a decision would be announced no later than March 1. Profiles of Arnold M. Zack, Richard I. Bloch and Richard R. Kasher appear on page 7 of this issue.

In addition, the NMB suggested that the BLE and UTU resume "voluntary discussions to resolve this dispute through mutual agreement."

BLE International President Ed Dubroski, however, declined the request in a January 10 letter to the NMB.

"After careful thought and consideration, the BLE cannot agree to engage in voluntary discussions with the UTU under the auspices of a neutral facilitator."

President Dubroski explained why the BLE declined the NMB suggestion in a January 10 letter to all BLE members.

"For as long as I can remember, the philosophies, policies and goals of the BLE and the UTU have been very different.... and usually contradictory," Dubroski wrote. "That is more true today than at any time in years.

"Top UTU leaders have engaged in a systematic two-year assault on the BLE... I doubt whether even a brief, civil conversation is possible at this point, much less the serious, substantial discourse suggested by the Board.

"It is clear to me that, ultimately, there isn't even a remote chance of reaching a mutual agreement as contemplated by the Board that would be acceptable to the majority of BLE members. I say this in all candor.

"No matter which way the NMB-appointed panel rules, the BLE will be tested in a way it has not seen since its earliest days. I will measure up to the challenge, and I know you will, too. With your support and sacrifice, and by working hard together, we will prevail."

On Jan. 12, 1998, the UTU filed an application with the Board asking that the crafts of locomotive engineer, conductor, trainman, brakeman, switchman, hostler, fireman, and hostler-helper be eliminated and combined into a single craft. UTU also asked that the Board sanction a representation election to see which union would represent the proposed new craft.

"The line between the craft or class of engineers on the one hand, and conductors and trainmen on the other, has been blurred to the point of practical extinction," the UTU's application states. "Consequently, the Board should now find that a single operating craft or class of 'Train and Engine Service Employees' now exists, industry-wide."

On July 1, 1999, the AFL-CIO imposed sanctions against the UTU because of its application to the NMB, making all UTU members subject to organizing efforts from other unions.

An impartial AFL-CIO umpire has ruled that UTU's NMB application is nothing more than a raid on the BLE, and on July 2, AFL-CIO President John Sweeney took the unprecendented step of formally asking the Board to dismiss the UTU's petition.

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2000 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers