Industry News Briefs

'Right to work' bill introduced in House

On March 20, a group of conservative members of the House of Representatives, led by Bob Goodlatte of Virginia, introduced a "National Right-to-Work" bill.

The bill, H.R. 1109, seeks to amend both the National Labor Relations Act and the Railway Labor Act.

In "right to work" states, workers may choose not to pay fees to the union but the union still is required to represent them. "Right to work" laws, long-promoted by anti-worker, anti-union organizations, threaten to drain unions' financial resources and prevent unions from representing and protecting members.

According to the AFL-CIO, so-called "right to work" laws don't guarantee any new rights or create any new jobs or economic benefits. In the 21 states with such laws, wages are lower, poverty levels higher, more people have no health insurance and education spending per pupil is lower.

Bills similar to H.R. 1109 have been introduced on a statewide basis, but a national bill has not been previously introduced.

Bush signs death warrant on new ergonomics rule

Big Business' multi-million dollar investment in the 2000 elections paid dividends March 6 and 7 when the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives passed legislation that killed ergonomics protections for workers.

The 56-44 Senate vote March 6 included six Democrats who sided with business, the Bush administration and all 50 Senate Republicans. The next day, 16 Democrats sided with all but 13 Republicans in a 223-206 vote that kills the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's workplace safety rule that could prevent 1.6 million repetitive stress injuries a year. President Bush signed the ergonomics standard's death warrant in late March.

Senators and representatives "hostile to the interests of working families rushed a naked political pay-off to big business contributors who have opposed every effort to enact a standard protecting workers," said AFL-CIO President John Sweeney.

Herzog appeals 13(c) ruling

On March 23, Herzog Transit Services filed a Notice of Appeal to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in its action against the Department of Labor.

In January, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia upheld the pro-labor decision of the former U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexis Herman to enforce section 13 (c) of the 1964 Mass Transportation Act.

Herzog Transit Services had sought to bid on the operation of Bay Transit Authority's commuter rail services in the San Francisco area without being regulated by 13 (c).

The provisions of 13 (c) authorize the Secretary of Labor to condition certification of bids in order to protect collective bargaining and workers' rights. The court ruling held that this was a "fair and equitable" provision.

Herzog Transit Services wanted to be one of the bidders for the maintenance and running of the trains and, aware of the Department of Labor's (DOL) interpretation of regulations in the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority (MBTA) case from earlier in 2000, filed a lawsuit challenging the application of these regulations.

The BLE, along with the Firemen and Oilers, IAM, IBEW, TCU and UTU, intervened last fall in support of the Labor Department, and were granted intervenor status in mid-December.

In the MBTA case, the U.S. Department of Labor and the Federal Transit Administration warned MBTA contractor Bay State Transit Service that it was not complying with 13 (c).

The contractor disagreed and tried to litigate the issue, but the federal agencies threatened to cut off about $200 million in funds immediately if the MBTA did not honor its 13(c) obligations. Amtrak's contracts to operate MBTA service have been renewed.

Transportation unions remain strong

Unions, struggling in many industries, are flying high on the nation's airlines and railroads.

Airline and railroad workers are governed by the Railway Labor Act of 1926, which gives their unions an unusual amount of power - although it's also more difficult for them to strike.

The RLA makes striking difficult because it requires extensive negotiations and allows the president and Congress to intervene.

But the RLA, combined with circumstances unique to transportation, has helped create much of the unions' strength. Among the reasons:

Bush selects Rutter as new FRA Administrator

President Bush on April 3 named Allan Rutter as head of the Federal Railroad Administration.

Rutter has been transportation policy director in the Texas governor's office since 1995, serving under Bush from 1995 until Bush resigned in December to assume the presidency. Since then, Rutter has served under Bush's successor, Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

Rutter was deputy executive director of the Texas High-Speed Rail Authority from 1990 to 1995. He served Texas Govs. Mark White and William Clements as a senior budget analyst from 1985 1990.

Rutter replaces acting FRA Administrator Mark Lindsey.

O'Brien sells more CP shares

Insider trading documents reveal that Canadian Pacific Ltd. chairman, president and chief executive David O'Brien has been a heavy seller recently.

Documents filed the week of April 8 showed O'Brien netted $2.6 million by selling 120,000 shares from Feb. 25 to Feb. 28.


2001 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers