NMB refuses to budge on TRRA

In yet another split decision, the National Mediation Board denied the relief sought by the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers in its motion for reconsideration of the Terminal Railroad Association of St. Louis (TRRA) case.

Historically, the NMB has refused to create a new craft or class unless the data show significant cross-utilization of employees. The current NMB majority, however, continued its use of flawed logic by once again ruling that cross-utilization is not a significant factor in craft consolidation.

"If locomotive engineers do not work as trainmen, and if trainmen do not work as locomotive engineers, then how can one logically conclude that they should be combined into a single craft of workers?" asked BLE International President Edward Dubroski. "The answer is simple. The NMB has changed its interpretation of the set of criteria for ruling on such cases. As incredible as it seems, the NMB apparently no longer considers cross-utilization as a major factor in determining craft consolidation."

In denying the BLE relief, the NMB majority ignored BLE statistical evidence that locomotive engineers worked overwhelmingly within their craft on the TRRA, and that trainmen almost never worked as locomotive engineers. In other words, cross-utilization of workers practically did not exist on the TRRA property, yet the NMB majority ruled to combine operating crafts regardless of the facts.

In the representation election that followed, a majority of workers selected the UTU to become the collective bargaining representative for the newly combined class of workers. UTU members outnumbered BLE members on the property prior to the consolidation and, for the most part, the vote went along union membership lines.

Section 5.1 of the NMB Representation Manual outlines a set of guidelines for determining craft or class issues.

In the TRRA ruling, the NMB majority chose to emphasize the ambiguous portions of the criteria, such as "community of interest," "general nature of (employees') work," and open-ended statements such as "the intent of the Railway Labor Act," while ignoring guidelines for hard evidence, such as can be provided by cross-utilization statistics. The NMB majority also conveniently overlooked the fact that locomotive engineers are required by the Federal Railroad Administration to be certified in order to perform their jobs, while conductors and trainmen are not.

"In the Union Pacific case, we used concrete evidence to prove that locomotive engineers and conductors represent two distinct crafts of operating employees," Dubroski said. "Cross-utilization of employees is the legitimate measuring stick by which one can clearly determine if one rail worker performs the same job as another rail workers. Impartial Panel Members Bloch, Kasher and Zack, who ruled unanimously in favor of the BLE in the Union Pacific case in February of 2000, found this criteria to be governing, but for some reason, NMB Members Duggan and Jacobsen do not. With the TRRA ruling, these two NMB members have changed the rules to make it easier for operating crafts to be combined. This a dark day for railroad workers."

Ernest W. DuBester was the lone NMB member to support the BLE's position in the case.

Prior to his recent retirement, UTU President Charles Little threatened to use the "single craft" weapon to attack the BLE once DuBester is replaced, on short line railroads and possibly on major Class 1 lines. It remains to be seen whether or not new UTU President Byron Boyd will continue the scorched earth policies of the Little administration.

"Charlie Little will long be remembered for his efforts to destroy historical rail operating crafts," President Dubroski said. "The challenge to President Boyd is whether or not he wants to erase this stigma and return peace to the house of labor."

A copy of the NMB's denial of BLE relief sought by its motion for reconsideration is available for viewing and printing as a PDF file: http://www.ble.org/pr/pdf/nmb_r6799.pdf.

 

2001 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers