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A landmark U.S. District Court ruling has allowed the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers to charge a service fee to non-BLE members who benefit from services and contract agreements provided by the BLE.
The ruling is of particular importance on the Illinois Central Railroad, which employs several locomotive engineers who belong to the United Transportation Union. Even though these individuals pay monthly dues to the UTU, their craft is governed by a contract negotiated by the BLE.
Because these individuals are locomotive engineers, the BLE is responsible for representing them at disciplinary hearings, handling any grievances or claims they may have, and protecting their seniority as locomotive engineers.
The BLE Illinois Central General Committee of Adjustment felt it was unfair that these non-BLE engineers benefited from BLE services, especially at no cost. The new service fee, upheld by U.S. District Judge George M. Marovich, will provide just compensation to the BLE.
The non-BLE members will be charged a reasonable amount for the services they use and no more in any month than paid by BLE members.
"I am extremely proud of this decision," Illinois Central General Chairman J.R. Koonce said. "Special recognition should be given to my predecessor, Vice-President Jim McCoy, for his hard-work in this enterprise.
"Everyone on the BLE team worked hard, were victorious, and all BLE members have reason to celebrate."
The BLE service fee agreement is not a union shop provision, nor does it require the non-BLE engineers to join or belong to the BLE it is simply a provision that requires non-BLE members to pay for the services provided by the BLE. And in no event will non-BLE members be charged more per month than current BLE members.
In 1992, the UTU negotiated a seniority maintenance fee agreement with several smaller carriers who were not part of the national contract agreement. The seniority maintenance fee required trainmen upon promotion to locomotive engineer to continue paying dues to the UTU in order to continue accumulating seniority. If the UTU dues were not paid, then the engineer no longer accumulated seniority as a trainmen. In some cases, like on the Springfield Terminal, the engineer suffered an outright loss of seniority if dues were not paid to the UTU.
Members of the BLE felt the goal of the UTU seniority maintenance fee was to hurt the BLE and prevent trainmen from joining the BLE upon their promotion to engineer.
The newly introduced BLE service fee agreement is viewed as a way for the BLE to receive just payment from non-member engineers who take advantage of BLE services.
"This favorable judgment is a landmark victory for the BLE and a defeat for the UTU throughout the U.S.," Brother Koonce said. "This ruling basically nullifies the UTU seniority maintenance agreement that is in effect on several railroads across the country."
Editor's Note: What follows is the full-text of the joint Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employe-Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen brief filed before the National Mediation Board on March 2, opposing the United Transportation Union's attempt to group engineers, conductors and brakemen into a single craft of rail operating employees.
BEFORE THE NATIONAL
(RE: The Application of the NMB File No. CR 6624 United
Transportation Union )
Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes' and
Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen's Initial Brief
The Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes ("BMWE") represents the overwhelming majority of employees in the craft or class of maintenance of way employees on this nations' railroads. Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen ("BRS") represents the overwhelming majority of signalmen on this nation's railroads. As such, they have an interest in the development of the legal and administrative application of the Railway Labor Act, including representation matters.
The United Transportation Union ("UTU") has filed what has been styled as an application to resolve a putative representation dispute, national in scope, not as a result of some conflict regarding the majority representative of a recognized craft or class, but rather with respect to an unprecedented composite craft. UTU seeks to remake industry-wide representation patterns among the operating crafts and to proceed to elections across the country, with the first on a merged Union Pacific transportation system. UTU's application asks this Board to radically deviate from long established and settled principles, and rewrite the rules to be applied to representation disputes in the rail industry. Rail labor organizations have an interest in the outcome of this proceeding, for the application implicates aspects of Board procedure and practice that would affect the entire representation structure of the industry, as demonstrated by the procedural issues recently framed by the Board (and which BMWE and BRS will address below).
BMWE and BRS makes this expression in order to inform the Board as to the consequences of the decisions it will make in this case, so that it may more fully consider the appropriate course with due weight accorded to the interests of those employees and their representatives who are not directly involved in the instant application.
First, BMWE and BRS must make clear that the veneer UTU has placed on its application is transparent: BMWE and BRS will not pretend that it is a good-faith attempt to remedy an anomaly that has evolved with respect to the craft structure of railroad operating employees. Despite UTU's rhetoric, that it is taking the high road of employee free-choice against bureaucratic self-interest, its application must be recognized for what it is: Gambit that seeks to have this agency rig up a radically different craft structure for the sole purpose of destroying a standard labor organization. The history of this century teaches that referenda are sometimes used to place a democratic sheen on the power-grabs of the most authoritarian leaders, and UTU's phony populism is in that tradition. Mergers between labor organizations should occur on a voluntary basis (indeed, that is the origin of the present-day UTU). The use of administrative means to accomplish those goals is inevitably doomed to failure.
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