News Analysis: We may have won the battle, but Little's war isn't over

On February 29, the day of the BLE's victory before the National Mediation Board, UTU President Charles Little sent a letter to all UTU General Chairmen on the Union Pacific.

The letter was only four sentences long but the UTU mindset was evident: "(T)he BLE should not take comfort in this ruling, the struggle has just begun," Little wrote.

We agree with you, Mr. Little, because we know it's just a matter of time before UTU leaders launch another assault as part of their ongoing plot to destroy our Brotherhood. In other words, the BLE may have won a key battle, but Charlie Little's war against us is not over.

The UTU is a desperate union. Its membership has fallen from 280,000 in 1968 to less than 80,000 active members today. In 1985, UTU shot itself in the foot when it signed the infamous "Halloween Agreement." In effect, UTU leaders sealed the fate of their organization when they signed that deal. It created the pay differential between pre and post-85 workers, but, more detrimental to the UTU, forced some trainmen to take promotion to locomotive engineer.

At the time the agreement was signed, UTU leaders thought these trainmen would retain membership in the UTU and not join the BLE. They were wrong. Fifteen years later, ranks of the BLE continue to swell with newly promoted engineers who formerly belonged to UTU, while on the other hand, UTU is slowly but surely losing members month after month and year after year. In other words, the UTU is a dying union desperate to do whatever it takes to survive.

The history of UTU attacks on the BLE is a long one, but for the record, here are some of the most recent:

When the NMB denied the UTU's application on February 29, it put into perspective the major fundamental differences between the BLE and UTU.

The NMB decision effectively ended this two-year phase of a reckless campaign by UTU leaders to raid the BLE and exposed their plan for the fraud that it was. More than two years of effort and millions of dollars in dues-payer money went down the tubes, and all UTU members wound up with was an application that wasn't worth the paper it was written on. In less than seven days after the UTU's failure before the NMB, the BLE showed why it is the leading rail labor organization for operating employees.

It secured 10 years of labor protection for its members if the BNSF-CN merger is approved (see article on page 3), and scored a major victory for post-85 engineers on Norfolk Southern, eliminating an inferior deadheading rule (see article on page 9).

In the days after the NMB decision, UTU leaders showed their true colors by making statements, on the one hand, that conflicted with their actions, on the other.

Prior to the NMB's decision to deny the UTU application, UTU leaders praised Arnold M. Zack, Richard I. Bloch and Richard R. Kasher for their experience and professionalism.

Zack, Bloch and Kasher are the three members of the NMB's specially-appointed panel who ruled on the case. The UTU referred to them as "prominent labor-relations professionals" and stated that, "The panel members chosen by the NMB to resolve the UTU/BLE dispute are noted for their knowledge and wealth of experience in labor relations." (February 2000 UTU News)

After this panel of "prominent labor-relations professionals" issued a decision contrary to what the UTU had hoped, however, UTU leaders changed their tune. They accused these same "prominent labor-relations professionals" of making a decision that was "terribly flawed" and filled with "material errors of law and fact."

"Quite clearly the Panel applied its own standards in making its determination, not Board standards," a March 3 UTU press release stated. "The Board adopted a Panel determination which contained material errors of fact and did not follow the Board's own directives as to craft or class rulings."

The UTU then proceeded to file a motion for reconsideration with the National Mediation Board in hopes of having the panel's decision reversed.

So what are we supposed to believe? The UTU statements from February, in which they praised panel members for their "knowledge and wealth of experience," or their actions of March, in which they filed a motion for reconsideration on the panel's decision?

This is just one more case of UTU words conflicting with UTU actions. In the March 2000 issue of the UTU News, UTU Assistant President Byron Boyd said, "It is time to quit all of the 'trash talking' that has gone on over the last two years specifically ... about either the UTU or the BLE."

In a March 13 UTU website article, UTU leaders must have forgotten Boyd's vision of a "kindler, gentler" relationship between the BLE and UTU. These UTU leaders continued their typical mudslinging campaign and accused the BLE of "stealing the credit" for passage of a two-man crew law in the state of Wyoming (see story above).

"(The BLE) didn't lobby the legislators like we did and they didn't spend any money like we did. The BLE jumped in after the bill passed in the Senate. As usual, they were late to the process and the first to try to claim the credit," a UTU leader said. "We know the BLE wants to get rid of conductors, so we made sure that the language in our bill includes that one of the two persons on the crew must be a qualified conductor," said another.

So which is it? Do we believe the words of Byron Boyd and his vision of peace? Or do we believe the actions of other UTU leaders when they publish press releases accusing the BLE of attempting to "get rid of conductors." The point of this article is not to sling mud or "spin doctor" the news to fit our political agenda. We are simply pointing out that what the UTU says does not always correspond with what they do. We are not attempting to distort the facts, which is why we have taken the effort to provide you with dates and places of publications.

Those who are skeptical can research the facts for themselves. But don't start with the Aug. 27, 1999, UTU web site news release outlining its $3.00 per member per month "war chest" to fund "a fight to the finish" against the BLE; those words are being matched by deeds as you read this.

2000 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers