The Power of Many
Eight rail unions unite to get results in UP harassment case
A coalition of eight railroad labor unions have joined forces in Pocatello, Idaho, to battle relentless harassment from management of the Union Pacific Railroad.
Through a united front of labor solidarity, the eight unions forced a meeting with Jeff Crandall, Superintendent of UP's Salt Lake Service Unit, and stated their case regarding an end to harassment and intimidation on the property.
Initially the carrier resisted meeting with the unions, but when confronted with the complete solidarity of eight unions, and a message delivered by BLE Local Chairman Jim Lance, Superintendent Crandall changed his mind.
"We have a problem collectively, and if we do, you do," said Lance, Local Chairman of Division 228 in Pocatello.
The same day Lance delivered the message, Crandall made the drive from his office in Salt Lake City, Utah, to Pocatello. Later that evening, Crandall met with representatives of the BLE, Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes, Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen, International Association of Machinists, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, National Conference of Firemen & Oilers SEIU, the Transportation Communications International Union-Carmen's Division, and UTU.
Representatives of the eight unions gave specific examples of how their members were harassed by UP managers and took the firm position that the harassment must end.
IBEW Representative Tommy Brown reports that UP managers aren't training and coaching workers - they're harassing and intimidating them. In addition, some of the workers Brown represents are forced to perform jobs they aren't properly trained to perform.
"Safety isn't going to change in Pocatello until the morale changes," Brown said.
Dean Simpson, representative of the TCU-Carmen's division, said that after a recent accident the workers he represents were intimidated and "asked" to sign "letters of compliance," pledging they would personally take responsibility for avoiding injury. He said his members fear retribution if they sign such a letter and later get injured.
He also said that recent cutbacks in the car department have resulted in a shortage of carmen in Pocatello. UP has cut too many workers and those who remain are forced to work overtime in spite of high levels of fatigue.
"They can't keep their minds on what they are trained to do," Simpson said. "What's more, the carrier seems to want us to be responsible but they don't want to be responsible for providing a safe work place for us."
The last straw came when a locomotive engineer, who was recently cut back from engine service, was injured while working as a helper on a yard job. He was given no refresher tour or subsequent training after working in engine service for several years. He lost all toes on his left foot in an accident. Under the UP Upgrade discipline policy, he was assessed with Level 5 discipline, or permanent dismissal. He received his notice of dismissal while recovering in the hospital.
Also given Level 5 discipline was another locomotive engineer and a switch foreman on the crew. The switch foreman and engineer have exemplary work records and have amassed a total of 50 combined years of service.
BLE Local Chairman Jim Lance credits BLE District Mobilizer Scott Jordan for spearheading the idea of a rail labor union coalition.
"By working together, this group forced a meeting with the top superintendent of our service unit," Lance said. "Solidarity is a powerful tool for unions. We can accomplish so much more for our members by working collectively and standing united."
Crandall said he would answer all concerns and questions raised during
the meeting. The unions said they expected results soon or would intensify
the struggle to ensure safe working conditions for all union members. ·
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