BLE strikes Union Pacific

Unilateral change in leave qualifications leads to walk out

Over 8,000 members of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers went on strike on January 27, bringing the largest railroad in North America to a hault.

BLE's strike against the Union Pacific Railroad began at midnight on January 27 and paralyzed the railroad's 38,654 miles of track in 23 states. The strike was triggered by UP's imposition of new qualification standards for personal leave days for engineers.

BLE International President Edward Dubroski said the job action was "something we were forced to do. Union Pacific chose to unilaterally impose new working conditions on locomotive engineers, in defiance of federal law."

Under the terms of the Railway Labor Act, which governs labor relations in the railroad and airline industries, changes in rates of pay, rules and working conditions cannot be made without, at the very least, prior notice and negotiations. The Act also provides for mediation and voluntary arbitration, if negotiations fail.

"The proper way to make the sort of change UP has forced upon us is to bargain for such a change," Dubroski said. "In fact, we have been in negotiations since November 1, 1999, and the subject was never raised."

The strike ended about four hours later, following issuance of a Temporary Restraining Order by a federal judge in Omaha, Neb.

In issuing the Restraining Order, U.S. District Court Judge Lyle Strom preliminarily ruled that issue was a "minor" dispute, which is subject to binding arbitration under the provisions of the Railway Labor Act.

Commenting on the court ruling, BLE President Dubroski said, "While we disagree with the court, and are confident that our legal position ultimately will prevail, we will respect the court's order. Right now, my strongest feeling is one of great pride and respect for the men and women we represent on the Union Pacific, and they way they defended their contractual rights."

2001 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers