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With AFL-CIO guidance, BLE looking 'south of border'

WASHINGTON, D.C. ­ With the passage of NAFTA and the increasingly rapid privatization of railroads south of the United States' border, the BLE is working with the AFL-CIO to explore options for representing rail employees in Mexico and South America, while protecting members in the U.S. Mexico is continuing its selloff of government-owned railroads with U.S.-based railroads like Union Pacific, Burlington Northern-Santa Fe, and Kansas City Southern in the bidding recently.

South American countries that are considering privatizing or that have recently sold their railroads to private U.S. companies include Brazil, Guatamala and Chile. Industry analysts predict that rail systems and networks will eventually run from Canada to the tip of Chile, near Cape Horn, north of the Antarctic Circle.

Pictured clockwise: BLE International President Clarence Monin and AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Richard Trumka exchange ideas.

International trade and labor consultant Jack Otero, a former U.S. deputy secretary for foreign relations and past vice-president of the Transportation Communications Union, shares insights on labor relations in Mexico.

Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes President Mac Fleming, far right, joins the discussion with the AFL-CIO's second-in-command Trumka and the BLE president. ·

Sweeny, AFL-CIO seek flood relief assistance

Editor's Note: The text of this article is taken from a letter written by AFL-CIO President John J. Sweeney.

"As you know, floods have ravaged cities in Eastern North Dakota and Northwestern Minnesota. Needless to say, this is a disaster of unparalleled magnitude in the history of these states and this region.

"There are approximately 20,000 union members in the Grand Forks/East Grand Forks, Fargo/Moorhead, and the Wahpeton/Breckenridge area. There are union members in small towns and villages, as far north as the Canadian border, that have experienced property damage and displacement as well.

"Mark Froemke, President of the Northern Valley Labor Council, AFL-CIO, in Grand Forks, N.D., reports that the labor council office lost everything even their charter in the flood.

"Besides moving, they will have to replace all of their furniture, all equipment and completely rebuild their records.

"It will be several weeks before the residents of the Red River Valley will be allowed to return to their homes and jobs to begin the arduous process of rebuilding their lives.

"Minnesota and North Dakota AFL-CIO members are in dire need of our help. A flood relief fund has been established to assist the people of Minnesota and North Dakota. I would request that you please ask your affiliates to contribute to the Flood Relief Fund.

"Please make donations payable to:

North Dakota and Minnesota
AFL-CIO Flood Relief Fund
c/o Bank Center First,
P.O. Box 2197
Bismarck, ND 58502-2197

"The distribution of support will be a cooperative venture between the state federations.

"Thank you in advance for any contributions or assistance you are able to provide to your union sisters and brothers and the people of Red River Valley." ·

Engineers ratify agreement on IC

New contract receives 83% approval by BLE members

MEMPHIS, Tenn. ­ The BLE General Committee of Adjustment on the Illinois Central Railroad announced that locomotive engineers ratified a contract with their railroad. The agreement's approval culminates a round of bargaining that started with a Section 6 Notice served on the railroad in November of 1994. The agreement was ratified by a vote of 261-53, an 83% approval.

"It was personally very gratifying for me to secure this agreement in my first year as general chairman, because the agreement has several points that distinguish it for our IC engineers," said BLE General Chairman John R. Koonce.

The general committee's contract talks began in early 1995, under then-General Chairman Jim McCoy. Brother McCoy, who was elected an international president last July, was assigned by President Clarence Monin to continue to assist the committee's negotiations with the carrier.

"Brother Koonce deserves thanks," noted Vice-President McCoy. "It is an excellent agreement, one that our Brother and Sister IC engineers can be proud of."

Among the agreements highlights:

· IC engineers received a 7% raise on the basic daily rate upon the effective date of the contract, plus a 7% raise on overmiles; additional pay increases occur in 1998, 1999 and 2000.

· Up to 11 Personal Leave Days per year.

· Every IC engineer will be grandfathered into 100% pay, with new hires receiving 90% rate of pay and 100% after the first year.

· A matching 401-K Plan, with the carrier contributing 25% of an engineer's contribution up to 4% of the engineer's earnings.

· Every engineer will be grandfathered to receive $15 Certification Pay per tour of duty, plus 15 cents per mile above the basic day mileage; new hires will receive $5 plus 5 cents.

· A Supplemental Sickness benefit that pays engineers 60% of earnings to a maximum of $546 per week income benefits, with an additional $40,000/$42,000 life/accidental death insurance benefit.

"The raises total a 17% increase in pay over the life of the agreement, and the agreement provides for a 1% signing bonus," reported Brother McCoy.

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