BLE scores victory for organized labor in GM dispute

The oldest labor union in North America scored a major victory over one of the biggest corporations in the world in early January.

Bowing to pressure from the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and civic leaders, General Motors Corp. announced on January 2 it had abandoned plans to build a $45 million nonunion rail yard in Milan Township, Mich.

The joint-venture with Ann Arbor Acquisition Corp. could have spelled doom for the Grand Trunk Western Railroad and could have taken away business from other railroads operating in the Midwest. GM intended to use the yard - and a nonunion workforce - to sort and ship new automobiles.

Several Milan Township Trustees ran on an "anti-development" platform in the November elections, promising citizens they would fight the $45 million project. They placed a great deal of pressure on GM to halt the project.

However, their efforts alone were not enough to stop such a huge corporation. It took the assistance of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers to stop the spread of nonunion labor.

The BLE initiated a letter writing campaign, arguing that union-made cars should not be transported by nonunion workers and encouraging members of Congress to oppose the project.

In addition, the BLE wrote letters to the United Auto Workers asking them to put pressure on GM to end the project.

BLE General Chairman John Karakian spearheaded the letter writing campaign for the BLE. "This is a major victory for rail labor," he said.

Ann Arbor Acquisition purchased the Ann Arbor Railroad out of bankruptcy in the late 1980s.

GM and Ann Arbor Acquisition sought to rezone 1,000 acres of farmland in Milan Township for the proposed rail yard, but voters rejected their proposal.

© 2001 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers