Injunction against Springfield Terminal upheld by First Circuit

The First Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court's determination that Springfield Terminal Railway Company (ST) violated the Railway Labor Act by transferring switching work to Aroostook and Bangor Resources, Inc. (ABR), with whom ST shared common ownership.

In a ruling issued on April 5, Circuit Judge Carmit Lipez, writing for the 2-to-1 majority, affirmed that the dispute was a "major dispute" under the Railway Labor Act, and that the plaintiffs in the case - the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and the United Transportation Union -- were entitled to injunctive relief in order to preserve the status quo.

"It's a substantial victory for us, but we know the battle isn't over," said Springfield Terminal General Chairman Mike Twombly, who delivered key testimony during the hearings. "It's a real kick in the pants for Springfield Terminal. Had the ruling gone in their favor, it would have given them the green light to circumvent our collective bargaining agreements."

The dispute began in 1996, when ST demanded that BLE and UTU members who worked on switching crews accept a 26 percent pay cut and give back work rules. In 1998, after this demand was rejected by the unions' memberships, ST signed a joint use agreement with ABR - a non-union manufacturer of clothes pins and other wood products - that permitted ABR to perform its own intra-plant switching. ST personnel trained two non-union ABR employees in the use of a track mobile to handle the switching.

Shortly thereafter, a ST vice president who was involved in the failed labor negotiations suggested to ABR that it transport the track mobile from place to place on the line and perform switching work for other ST consignees, including Lincoln Pulp & Paper and Passadumkeag Stud Mill. Prior to ABR taking over this switching work in May of 1988, BLE and UTU members working for ST had performed this service.

During this period, ST's President was David Andrew Fink, and ABR's President was his son, David Armstrong Fink. The Finks sat on the Boards of Directors of both companies, as did Richard Kelso and Timothy Mellon. In addition, the Finks and Mellon had ownership interests in both companies.

The Appeals Court found that ST had improperly used ABR as its "alter ego" in order to avoid the status quo requirement of the Railway Labor Act. Under the status quo requirement, parties to a major dispute are prohibited from engaging in any kind of self-help until all of the Act's procedures have been exhausted.

Under the terms of the ruling, ST is enjoined from transferring any non-ABR switching work to ABR, and ABR is enjoined from performing any non-ABR switching work that has been performed by ST. A dissent was filed by Circuit Judge Norman Stahl.

BLE General Counsel Harold A. Ross, who quarterbacked the successful legal effort, put the win in perspective. "For more than a decade, it has been difficult, if not impossible, for rail unions to convince a judge that a dispute is 'major' and to obtain injunctions against carriers' unilateral action against us. This decision represents a terrific victory for all operating craft employees."

The 54-page court ruling is available for download on the BLE website at the following address:

http://www.ble.org/BLE_Springfield.pdf

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