BLE members 'not interested' in UTU

Letter from President Hahs sets the record straight, reaffirms BLE talks with Teamsters

(BLE Editor's Note: The following is the text of a letter from BLE International President Don Hahs to railroad journalist Larry Kaufman, whose column supporting renewed BLE-UTU merger talks was posted on the UTU website on February 7.)


February 11, 2003

Dear Mr. Kaufman:

In your editorial regarding the January 10 remote control arbitration ruling issued by Gil Vernon, written for Rail Business and reproduced on the UTU website on February 7, you wrote: "Don't be surprised if the decision leads to renewed merger talks between the (BLE and UTU)."

Mr. Kaufman, I would be extremely surprised if such talks were to resume.

On December 10, 2001, an overwhelming majority of Locomotive Engineers voted not to merge with the United Transportation Union. The actual vote was 7,425 for and 17,251 against merging. Leaders of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers accepted that decision and moved on to pursue other options. However, leaders of the United Transportation Union and members of the industry press have recently published editorials indicating that BLE should once again revisit a merger with the UTU. Please be advised that the BLE membership has not indicated any interest in revisiting discussions with UTU.

For nearly a year now, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers has been involved in merger discussions with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. Because of these discussions, and the completely one-sided vote against merging with the UTU in December of 2001, it is highly unlikely that we would ever resume merger discussions with a non-AFL-CIO affiliate such as the UTU.

I am surprised that you claim to know enough about our confidential discussions with the Teamsters to characterize them as "bowing and scraping." On the contrary, these merger discussions were and continue to be characterized by a great deal of professionalism and mutual respect on behalf of both parties.

Your assertion that BLE members are "holding their noses" at these talks is entirely off base. The feedback we have received from our members has been extremely positive and couldn't be more contradictory to your comments. The membership will have the final say in a merger with the Teamsters.

I agree with the unnamed source in your editorial, the former railroad vice president of labor relations, who stated that railroads prefer to deal with one large union rather than several small ones. Mr. Kaufman, it's hard to get bigger than the 1.4 million member Teamsters.

Throughout your editorial, you attempt to insinuate the current political atmosphere is "not a good time" for organized labor to seek support or assistance from government, particularly the "Republican Bush administration."

You attempted to give the impression that the UTU would be assured of a victory before the National Mediation Board now that Republicans are in control. While you mentioned the NMB's ruling on the Union Pacific case, which came during the Clinton Administration, you neglected to mention the NMB ruling on the Kansas City Southern. I am sure this was a simple oversight on your part and not a deliberate attempt to distort the facts. The NMB's KCS ruling was issued on August 14, 2002, well into the early stages of the Bush Administration. We have a great deal of respect for the NMB and firmly believe it made the ruling based on facts and not on politics.

I am also disturbed (as I am sure leaders of the Federal Railroad Administration must be as well) by your condemnation of our efforts to pursue remote control safety issues through the FRA. You state: "How can (BLE) expect any relief from an FRA in a Republican Bush administration? This is not a good time for unions to be seeking favors from an administration that most of them tried to keep from coming to office."

We do not consider a safety issue to be a favor. You seem to infer that railroad safety is a matter of political preference. I believe the FRA will eventually come around to do what's right for the safety of railroad employees and the general public, regardless of what political party happens to control the White House. It should be remembered by everyone that in Canada, where major remote control operations first began, remote controls are not operated on the main line outside of yard limits.

People are entitled to their own opinions, Mr. Kaufman. I thank you for the opportunity of allowing me to express mine.


Don M. Hahs
International President
Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers


© 2003 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers