BMWE wins UP strike

The Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes scored a major victory over the Union Pacific Railroad this month after successfully striking to prevent the railroad from closing a plant that employed dozens of BMWE workers.

A federal district court in Denver on March 2 enjoined the UP from closing its track panel plant in Laramie, Wyo., and from installing track panels made by outside contractors.

Finding UP's threat to close the panel plant and use contractor-fabricated track panels to be a "major dispute" under the Railway Labor Act - a violation of the plain language of the BMWE/UP collective bargaining agreement - the Court granted the BMWE's motion to enjoin UP from closing the plant and ordered that fabricating track panels must be done by BMWE-represented employees since it is clearly maintenance of way work, reserved exclusively for BMWE under the contract.

BMWE went struck UP over the plant closing on February 24 after UP refused BMWE's repeated demands to honor the contract and keep the plant open. A court temporarily restrained the strike just four hours after it began, but also restrained UP from closing the plant until a full hearing was held on March 2.

The strike effectively shut down train operations on the Union Pacific. The track panel assembly plant in Laramie, Wyo., manufactures track panels that are used in the construction and maintenance of railroad track.

"The Court's decision to force UP to honor the clear language of Rule 9 of the contract is a major victory for our members - our union," said David Tanner, a BMWE General Chairman. "It tells UP that it cannot simply change the collective bargaining agreement - do whatever it wants - while our members sit and wait forever for the results of some arbitration. Although strikes and lawsuits are regrettable, UP left us no choice but to strike and sue.

"I salute and thank our members for their courage and discipline in striking successfully and hope that UP learns its lesson. I also thank the other rail unions for honoring our picket lines."

BMWE Vice President Rick Wehrli said, "BMWE will not stand by idly while UP or any railroad tramples on our membership. UP acted illegally against our members, and BMWE, after repeated efforts to convince UP to act in accordance with the law, legally struck and will do so again under similar circumstances."

BMWE President Mac A. Fleming hailed the right to strike as a powerful tool for rail unions.

"I am delighted with the Court's decision and I salute our membership and leadership on the UP for taking action to halt UP's illegal attempt to shut down the Laramie, Wyoming plant," the BMWE president said.

"Contracting out our work is a major problem facing us, and when any railroad decides to blatantly act against the clear language of our contracts after repeated requests to cease their illegal acts, BMWE will act in the best interests of our members.

"I also thank the members and leaders of the other railroad unions for honoring our picket lines."

2000 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers