Opinion: UTU misrepresented BLET agreements during BNSF strike

(The following are portions of an April 29 memo from BLET General Chairman Dennis Pierce, BNSF (Former BN Northlines)/MRL, issued to all his Local Chairman regarding the UTU's strike at BNSF on April 27.)

Dear Sirs and Brothers:

This is in reference to (the April 27) strike against BNSF Railway by UTU. As most of you know, UTU used the BLET/BNSF Primary Recall Agreement as its justification to strike. Since the strike, BLET's agreement and our actions have been grossly misrepresented and this is to give you the other half of the story that UTU has omitted in its spin.

From what we know, UTU's complaint regarding BLET's agreement is centered around the portion that allows junior demoted engineers to bid or be forced into the engineers' quota at their location, while senior demoted engineers remain on the ground. UTU accuses in its posts that this portion of the agreement created "flow back" as was implemented on the former SF portion of the property with the concurrence of UTU.

The truth is that the Primary Recall Agreement did not create "flow back" as was created on the former SF. The former SF "flow back" agreement allows engineers to self demote prior to exhausting the engineer's quota and return to the ground at their own discretion. Quite the opposite, the Primary Recall Agreement changed nothing in that regard. Engineers on the former BN portion of the property must still exhaust the same engineers' positions before returning to the ground that they had to exhaust prior to the new agreement. While UTU may choose to ignore this fact, BLET went out of its way to avoid any changes to the steps that must be followed before engineers on the former BN portion of the property are allowed to flow back to ground service crafts. Rather, the only provisions that were changed in the primary recall are those that govern the promotion or entrance to the engineer's craft.

BLET's agreements have always governed engineer's promotion and the filling of engineer's positions. The last time that our jurisdictional rights on this Committee were challenged in that regard was in 1967. In that case, the UTU predecessor BLFE argued that BLE was not within its rights to implement the 5 day work week agreement in yard service without UTU concurrence. The complaint then centered around BLE's decision to create the engineer's "hog board," modifying how engineer's vacancies were filled. BLFE lost that argument and we are certain that the former BLFE leadership of the UTU that now brings the same argument forward now will lose the argument again. A critical court decision in 1942 established the "cleavage of power" for any union to begin at the entrance to the craft(s) that it represents. That court precedent was quoted in the 1967 arbitration settlement and has been quoted in other similar arbitration awards as late as 1991.

Ironically, UTU argues in its court case that under UTU Agreements, engineers can never be on the ground when they could hold an engineers position on their district. As most of you know, BLET's agreements have never required that, we have always forced and accepted bids from the junior men when jobs went otherwise "unbid" at other locations. In addition, senior forced engineers have always been released back to the ground when junior engineers were available to properly release them. While the Primary Recall Agreement may have expanded the bidding and forcing of junior engineers to include the home location, that application was in already in effect on the former FWD and CS portions of the former BN property. For many years, junior engineers have been allowed to bid and were forced to vacant engineer's positions at their home location and UTU registered no complaints.

You can rest assured that we will be taking the action necessary to defend our right to negotiate and implement agreements that are specific to locomotive engineers, be that in the court proceeding or in any possible arbitration if that is where things go. Just so you know, multiple disputes around the country concerning ebb and flow related issues have been arbitrated and none have risen to the level of a major dispute up to now. We don't see this one ending up any different.

 

Fraternally,

Dennis Pierce

General Chairman

BNSF (Former BN Northlines)/MRL

 

 

© 2005 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen