NMB rejects UTU appeal for UP representation election

In a major blow to the United Transportation Union and its embattled International President, the National Mediation Board on December 21 denied that union's appeal to reconsider the 1998 petition to hold a representation election on the Union Pacific Railroad.

In short, this means the NMB has finally shut down any attempt by the UTU to combine operating crafts and force a one-sided, winner-take-all election between the BLE and UTU on the UP.

"Obviously, we are very pleased with this outcome," BLE International President Ed Dubroski said. "The NMB has finally put an end to the UTU's three-year-old plan to represent all operating employees on the Union Pacific. While the UTU may win some small representation battles on small railroads at the NMB, this action reaffirms our position representing our members on Class 1 and other railroads. The BLE is now the rail labor union of the 21st century."

The NMB's decision also means that UTU International President Charlie Little has squandered approximately $5 million of union funds in his disastrous two-year raid on the BLE, and he was forced to withdraw from the AFL-CIO in disgrace. The UTU is now in a financial crisis, according to highly-placed UTU sources.

Ironically, this much-anticipated Union Pacific decision was published prior to - but was released a few hours after - another NMB ruling giving the UTU an almost unprecedented 2-to-1 split decision authorizing a representation election among a new class of train and engine service employees on the Terminal Railroad Association of St. Louis (TRRA). Essentially, the NMB ruled in the TRRA case that the crafts of locomotive engineer and switchman no longer exist, and have been replaced by "train and engine service employees" (see related story this issue).

Some rail labor observers believed that the TRRA split decision could have been the precursor of a split decision in the UTU's favor in the Union Pacific case. But that did not happen. The Board, after 10 months, ruled in favor of the BLE.

"The Board has carefully reviewed the submissions by the participants (UTU, BLE), and the record in this proceeding. This record is insufficient to support the UTU's claims. Therefore, the Board affirms its decision accepting the panel's recommendation and denies the motion for reconsideration," NMB Chief of Staff Stephen D. Crable said in the ruling.

Crable also wrote, "Under consideration of Motion for Reconsideration, the NMB will decline to grant relief sought absent a demonstration of material error of law or fact or under circumstances in which the NMB's exercise of discretion to modify the decision is important to the public interest. The mere reassertion of factual and legal arguments previously presented to the NMB generally will be insufficient to obtain relief."

In January 1998, the UTU launched its desperate campaign to represent all operating employees on the Union Pacific Railroad and put the BLE out of business. Now, two years later, the UTU finds itself on the losing end after spending nearly $5 million in its ruinous UP initiative. One year ago, a special labor panel appointed by the NMB to rule on this alleged UP representation dispute unanimously decided to support the BLE's position. On March 2, the UTU filed a motion for reconsideration with the NMB and hoped it could win on appeal. Clearly, that strategy has crashed and burned as well.

The full text of the NMB's Union Pacific decision is available on the BLE website at http://www.ble.org/pr/news/nmb_r6735.pdf.

2001 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers