BLE files to protect historic rail operating crafts on KCS

The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers has filed two position statements with the National Mediation Board (NMB) as it prepares to defend historic rail operating crafts on the Kansas City Southern (KCS) property.

The position statements were filed in response to the United Transportation Union's attempt to force a single-craft representation election on the KCS. In its statements, the BLE vehemently defends historic operating craft lines and urges the NMB to hold a full evidentiary hearing on the matter.

"Craft or class determinations - and particularly requests such as the UTU's to combine historically distinct crafts - by their nature are fact-intensive inquiries, dependent upon the specific circumstances and practices on a specific carrier," the BLE statement contends. "Nearly every one of the 'facts' advanced by the UTU in its statement is contested. Given the complexity of those facts we believe that it is imperative that an evidentiary hearing similar to the hearing in Union Pacific should be held"

The BLE contends that governing case law is provided by the Union Pacific case, in which the Board ruled in favor of the BLE position. In the Union Pacific case, decided in 2000, the NMB stated that, "engineers ha(d) separate and distinct core duties compared to those in the conductor craft," and decided that the historic operating crafts were not combined.

The UTU contends that governing case law is provided by the Terminal Railroad Association of St. Louis case, in which the NMB deviated from the Union Pacific ruling. In TRRA, decided in 2001, the NMB ruled in favor of the UTU and authorized a combined craft or class of "train and engine service employees."

However, the TRRA ruling was so controversial that the NMB issued a split-decision, with then-NMB Chairman Ernest DuBester dissenting.

Like Union Pacific, the Kansas City Southern is a Class I railroad. While the NMB has agreed with UTU that combined operating crafts exist on short line railroads, such as the TRRA, it has never done so on a Class I.

Regardless, the BLE remains confident it will prevail in preserving historic operating crafts.

"But even were the Board to reject Union Pacific and apply the Terminal Railroad analysis to Class I railroads, the facts in this case - contrary to UTU's assertions - would not support a finding that engineers and trainmen share a 'community of interest' sufficient to justify combining the crafts," according to the BLE position statement. "Indeed, the BLE believes that the evidence regarding KCS will not only confirm that engineers and train service employees perform separate core duties, but will show that the Carrier has itself acknowledged these critical distinctions: on several of its lines, the Carrier's crew consist agreements mandate an engineer on every train - even those in the yard operated with remote controllers - but contain no such requirement for train service employees."

In the Union Pacific case, the Panel said that cross-utilization of employees was a key factor in determining whether or not a craft or class of employees was combined. For example, if statistical evidence can prove that engineers work only as engineers and conductors work only as conductors, then there is no blurring of craft lines and no need for a single-craft ruling.

In the TRRA case, however, the NMB adopted a new set of standards to determine whether or not the crafts were combined. It used criteria such as "community of interest" and "general nature of (employees') work," while ignoring hard evidence, such as can be provided by cross-utilization statistics.

The UTU cites a "mandatory line of progression from trainman to conductor to engineer, and with respect to the incidental work rules covering work performed by trainmen, conductors and engineers," as well as the "ebb and flow" of employees from engineer to conductor, as evidence that a combined craft exists on the KCS property.

National Railway Labor Conference Chairman Robert F. Allen says the nation's Class I rail carriers support the UTU's attempt to combine the historic operating crafts.

"We think it clear on its face that in today's circumstances, representation of a single craft of operating employees, rather than divided crafts, would create a more stable and constructive labor relations environment, thereby improving railroad operations," Allen said in a December 21 letter to the NMB.

BLE said the letter was "irrelevant as a matter of law," because the carrier is not a party to the dispute.

Many in the railroad industry perceive the UTU's single-craft issue as a means to forcefully take over the BLE. As a result, the BLE has received support from the AFL-CIO and other rail labor unions (see article on Page 2).

"As I am sure you agree, a union that withdrew from affiliation [with] the AFL-CIO (for the second time) for the sole purpose to raid another AFL-CIO affiliate must be challenged by the full collective force of the AFL-CIO," wrote Sonny Hall, President of the Transport Workers Union of America, in a letter to AFL-CIO President John Sweeney. "It simply cannot be acceptable that a former affiliate of the AFL-CIO can gain by leaving the united family of the AFL-CIO. We must deny the UTU the ability to win their raiding efforts against the BLE.

"At this point, I look to the leadership of the AFL-CIO to establish an active committee (task force) to assist the BLE, who are under attack by the independent UTU," Brother Hall concluded.

After receiving an adverse ruling in the Union Pacific case in early 2000, the UTU withdrew from the AFL-CIO. It is believed the UTU withdrew to avoid possible financial sanctions as a result of repeated violations of the no-raiding clause (Article XX) of the AFL-CIO Constitution. The UTU also withdrew from the AFL-CIO in 1986.

 

2002 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers