BLET responds to UTU President
(BLET Editor's Note: The following is the text of a letter from BLET
National President Don M. Hahs to UTU President Paul Thompson.)
July 16, 2004
- Paul C. Thompson
- President - UTU
- 14600 Detroit Ave
- Cleveland, OH 44107-4250
Dear Mr. Thompson:
This will acknowledge your letter dated July 13, 2004, wherein you stated
that since being elevated to International President of the UTU you have
repeatedly done all you could to make peace with BLET. You suggested a review
of the BLE/UTU Merger document to determine if the concerns of the BLE membership
could somehow be addressed. You further state that my response to your proposal
was that peace is impossible unless the UTU joins the BLE in an affiliation
with the Teamsters.
In actual fact, my reply to your suggestion was that the BLE has now
merged into IBT by a favorable vote of 81% of the BLE membership. The BLET
is a member of the IBT Rail Conference and that any discussion would now
have to include the IBT. I offered to set up a meeting between UTU and IBT
representatives to determine if any common ground for additional discussions
could be found. BLET did not request to be a part of the proposed meeting.
You refused to meet.
In the same discussion, you related several concerns about IBT, to which
I said that a meeting may allay what appeared to be personal concerns you
have with IBT. I also suggested you survey the UTU membership to determine
if they are interested in UTU opening discussions with IBT. A suggestion
you also refused. At that time, while you were not receptive to a meeting
with IBT, I did not believe you had drawn a line in the sand on the issue.
Now I find at the end of your July 14, 2004, web page post titled "UTU
responds to unprovoked BLE&T raid," a quote attributed to you at
the UTU regional meeting in Boston which does appear to draw a line in the
sand. The quote is "Not in my administration will we ever become a
member of the Teamsters organization."
Given your stated position on an affiliation with IBT of which the BLET
is now a part, you leave the UTU membership without hope of being represented
by the strongest transportation union in North America, unless they join
the BLET. Your members know that the UTU's failure to join together with
other rail unions has seriously undercut the collective strength of all
rail labor at the bargaining table. Your members know that the Teamsters
Union has a well deserved reputation for getting good contracts for its
members in the transportation sector, from United Parcel Service to the
major freight companies, to air freight, to carhaul, and elsewhere. And
your members know that the Teamsters Union is committed to re-establishing
strength and solidarity in rail labor through the recent merger with the
BLE, the pending merger with the BMWE and IBT's overtures to other rail
unions. IBT has guaranteed to preserve the autonomy of these proud organizations
while supporting them in their fight to regain strong contracts for their
BLE members overwhelmingly approved the merger with the Teamsters. A
recent poll shows the vast majority of BMWE members support a similar merger.
When you tried to raid the Teamsters/BLET General Committee at Canadian
Pacific, your own members turned against you and voted for Teamsters/BLET
representation. Again, I challenge you to conduct an impartial poll of your
members to ascertain if they want to be part of the new Rail Conference
within the Teamsters.
Your letter is a fabric of misrepresentations and half-truths, which
was obviously written in a spirit of desperation on your part, accusing
the BLET of raiding the membership of the UTU. We do not consider offering
trainmen the opportunity to join the BLET as an act of raiding. While the
BLET is not raiding the membership of the UTU, I assume that your desperation
may be fueled by the fact that in the last several months more than 1,500
former UTU members have seen the wisdom in joining the BLET and recognizing
the strength that the Teamsters bring to rail labor.
- I find it outlandish that the UTU would accuse any other union of raiding
in view of the fact that the UTU leadership found it necessary to disaffiliate
itself from the AFL-CIO to avoid the sanctions involved in its raiding
of this organization.
- Do you remember the UTU's effort to destroy this organization back
in 1997 through what has become known as its "Bosnian Amendment"?
- Do you remember the petition filed by former UTU President Charles
Little in January 1998 with the National Mediation Board attempting to
get the Board to rule that a single craft existed on the Union Pacific
Railroad and force a representation election on that property?
- Do you remember the petition filed with the National Mediation Board
by the UTU in 2001 for a single craft determination and a representation
election on the Kansas City Southern Railroad?
- Do you remember the "war chest" created at the 1999 UTU convention
to destroy the BLE?
- If you do not remember those efforts on the part of the leadership
of the UTU to destroy the BLE, you should remember the most recent effort
of your Legislative Department to get a bill introduced in the House of
Representatives which would require the National Mediation Board to conduct
a survey of all railroad employees described in the first division of Section
3 (h) of the Railway Labor Act to determine the membership of those employees
in any labor organization? The bill would require the NMB to certify for
each rail carrier as a representative of the employees described in Subsection
A of that rail carrier, the labor organization with the greatest number
of members who were surveyed under this proposed bill. I am enclosing a
copy of this proposed bill for your reference.
- And last but by far not least, UTU, after committing more than once
to work with the BLE on remote control, entered into a letter of intent
with the carriers conference to grab remote control work for so called
UTU represented employees while the BLE was in the middle of its International
- Your allegation that the Van Wart Study Commission of 1982 was a result
of the strike by the BLE is completely untrue. UTU voluntarily accepted
the recommendation for creating "the Study Commission" before
the BLE strike of 1982. The findings of that study commission, in part,
eventually led to the disastrous 1985 UTU Halloween Agreement. Former UTU
International President Charles Little even admitted that the 1985 Halloween
Agreement was probably one of the biggest mistakes the UTU ever made. That
agreement resulted in almost 20 years of substandard pay for operating
employees in the railroad industry.
- Another point in your letter described the successes of the UTU in
negotiating national agreements. In looking at the last four UTU negotiated
national agreements, I would be embarrassed to describe those agreements
as successes. I doubt that UTU members would characterize those agreements
as anything other than failures. You continue to tout the UTU's "zero
cost health care option" in your latest agreement. The latest numbers
available indicate that less than .5 percent of UTU members have chosen
this option for their health care plan because they understand that if
they get sick or become injured, this plan will cost them thousands of
dollars. While the most recent UTU national agreement did address the post-85
pay issue, it also created a new sub class of operating employee through
entry rates that we will have to deal with in future negotiations.
- Teamster/BLET have organized a dozen new shortlines since we started
discussing our merger. Each year the Teamsters Union organizes more than
10,000 new workers through NRLA and NMB administered elections.
- During the latest National Master Freight Agreement the IBT "got
the hammer back," forcing freight employers to once again recognize
the right to strike even during the term of the contract. The Master Freight
Agreement has had no negative effect on freight railroads.
- The IBT fought Overnite for three years until the IBT was betrayed
by a federal court decision that came out of Overnite's home town in Richmond,
Virginia. Even so, Overnite had to spend hundreds of millions of dollars
opposing IBT. And, because of IBT's aggressive campaign, Overnite employees
saw their wages increase by more than $5 per hour and now enjoy many other
- It is interesting that you raise Central States Pension Fund, since
nothing at Central States could affect rail employees who are, as you point
out, covered by Railroad Retirement. The problems at Central States are
no different from those affecting hundreds of other pension funds as a
result of the adverse equity markets in 2000-2002. IBT is working hard
with the government, employers and pension experts to preserve good Teamster
pensions and to solve these problems.
Mr. Thompson, it's easy to throw stones and spread disinformation to
mislead, but that will not help rebuild Rail Labor. The reality is that
everyone knows that Rail Labor is in crisis and that unity and solidarity
are the only way forward. We call on you to put aside the rancor and look
at what is best for the members of UTU and Rail Labor as a whole.
Very truly yours,
Don M. Hahs
© 2004 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen