General Chairman John Koonce: Clarifying UTU misinformation

(BLET General Chairman John Koonce mailed the following letter to BLET National President Don Hahs on December 13.)

Brother Hahs:

I would like to address the UTU's December 3rd website posting that was full of misinformation and is nothing more than a web of lies. I was the BLET General Chairman who negotiated the Illinois Central, MidSouth and South Rail Seniority Maintenance Fees and would like the truth of the matter to be made clear.

In the UTU's posting the unknown author states "Some years ago, the BLET imposed so-called 'seniority maintenance' fees on all Illinois Central and Kansas City Southern (including KCS subsidiary South Rail) employees holding engineer seniority dates. Unless those employees, who belonged to the UTU, paid the seniority maintenance fees to the BLET, they could not accumulate additional engineer seniority while working as engineers."

Although I negotiated the Seniority Maintenance Fee on the Illinois Central Railroad in 1997, it was never "imposed" as the UTU would like many of its members to believe. The Seniority Maintenance Fee was negotiated on the Illinois Central as a "fight fire with fire" type agreement and the UTU General Chairman chose not to implement his Seniority Retention Fee. I would guess one of the reasons the UTU chose not to implement the fee is because there are not many trainmen on the Illinois Central that belong to the BLET and the UTU-E on the Illinois Central is also almost nonexistent.

As far as the KCS subsidiary South Rail - yes, in September 2000 I was instructed by the BLET Division (BLE at that time) to implement the seniority maintenance fee. I also implemented the same on the MidSouth Rail Corporation under the BLET's membership instructions there. It should be noted that the UTU already had seniority retention fees on both KCS properties since 1995. The BLET Local Chairmen repeatedly requested that the UTU Local Chairmen suspend their retention fees and take the freeze off our Engineer's seniority, but this went on deaf ears - that is the only reason that there was a BLET seniority maintenance fee implemented on the properties I represent.

On the South Rail, there were two UTU engineers who refused to pay the fee so I requested that the Carrier freeze their seniority as of September 2000. It should come as no surprise that the Carrier sided with the UTU (tells you something doesn't it?) and would not freeze the two engineers' seniority, so I took the Carrier to Arbitration at the NRAB First Division. As you can see by the UTU website, I won the dispute.

What I thought was ironic about the First Division Award was that the Neutral referred to both the Carrier and the UTU's position as illogical. Actually, their position was logical - logical in the sense that both of them are in bed together and, therefore, they think the same. I guess this is where the term "Company Union" came from.

The UTU posting also states "that case arose from two South Rail engineers who refused to pay the maintenance fee to the BLET. As a result, the BLET froze their engineer seniority." This is another lie. As of the date of this letter neither engineers' seniority is frozen. The Award is effective within thirty days from November 24, 2004. Within this 30 days each of the engineers will have to make up their mind if they want to:

(1) Stay in the UTU and pay a fee (actually a double fee from September 2000 until January 1, 2005), or

(2) Join the BLET and become a member (along with the regular dues remittance pay the back fee from September 2000 until January 1, 2005), or

(3) Not pay the fee or join the BLET, which on January 1, 2005 the engineer's seniority will be frozen as of the date of September 1, 2000.

The Neutral made a very valid point in awarding back payment of the fee - why should both of these engineers get by with not paying the fee from September 2000 when the rest of the engineers have complied with the Rule.

Anyway, I just wanted to set the record straight and bring to light the continuing broadcast of lies and deceit that the UTU wants its members to believe.

Fraternally yours,



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