Ballots due Sept. 14 in proposed UTU merger
New union would end century of squabble
BLE members should now have in hand ballots to vote on the union's proposed merger with the United Transportation Union, a merger that would create the second-largest transportation union in the AFL-CIO.
Ballots were mailed on August 6, along with the Unification Agreement and Constitution of the new union, which will be called United Transportation Union-Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, pending ratification by a majority of BLE and UTU members. September 14 is the cut off date for ballots to be received, and they will be mailed to and tabulated by the American Arbitration Association in Cleveland, Ohio.
After a comprehensive review of the proposed Unification Agreement and Constitution, the BLE's Advisory Board voted on the weekend of July 28 to support President Edward Dubroski's decision to refer the merger proposal to the BLE's rank and file membership, pursuant to Section 1(e) of the BLE Constitution.
In adopting a resolution of support, the Board voiced its agreement that, "the future of the craft of locomotive engineer and the collective bargaining rights and working conditions, including seniority, of locomotive engineers shall be decided by the vote of the BLE rank and file."
If a majority of members approve the merger, the Unification Agreement and Constitution of the newly established union will become effective January 1, 2002.
"It was incumbent upon me as President of the BLE to follow the traditions of our democratic organization and allow the members to voice their beliefs on this issue," President Dubroski said.
A joint website designed to provide members and officers of both unions with information regarding the merger was launched on August 4. It will be updated regularly with answers to pertinent membership questions and other information regarding the proposed joining of the two organizations. The address is: <www.ble.org/utumerger>.
The merger web page has proven to be an important informational tool. In the first week that it was launched, more than 1,600 members registered to receive copies of responses to questions. The volume of questions has been so great that they are being categorized, so that numerous questions concerning a particular topic may be addressed at one time.
An informational meeting was held in Cleveland on August 3-4 for all BLE General Chairmen and State Legislative Board Chairmen. At the meeting, these officers discussed the unification agreement, side letters, and constitution of the new union.
If approved, the merger would create the AFL-CIO's second-largest transportation union and largest railroad union, with nearly 200,000 active and retired members. Side Letter #1 of the Unification Agreement confirms, "the officers of (the) New Organization shall promptly apply for membership in the AFL-CIO and the CLC." The new union would be based in Cleveland.
The ballot represents a major choice for the BLE's Canadian members, as well as members of the affiliated American Train Dispatchers Department (ATDD) and the Rail Canada Traffic Controllers (RCTC). Ballots for each of these groups shall be tabulated separately from each other as well as separately from ballots cast by BLE members living in the United States.
Should a majority of the ballots cast by BLE members living in Canada approve the unification, then BLE members living in Canada shall be included in the newly established union effective Jan. 1, 2002; otherwise, BLE members living in Canada shall not be a part of the UTU-BLE effective Jan. 1, 2002. The same also applies to members of the ATDD and RCTC.
"Following a century of struggling with each other, both unions now are poised to seize the opportunity to unify and concentrate on the real struggle: effective representation," wrote BLE President Edward Dubroski and UTU President Byron Boyd in a joint letter to all BLE and UTU members. "Solidarity is what is required in response to the mega-mergers creating global transportation companies. It is time to stop the squabbling between our two unions and concentrate 100 percent on protecting our members."
The union will continue to publish a monthly newsletter and the quarterly Locomotive Engineers Journal, which has been published since 1867.
As North America's oldest labor union, the BLE traces its roots to 1863, when it was founded as the Brotherhood of the Footboard. The organization adopted its current name one year later. The United Transportation Union was formed from the merger of four rail brotherhoods in 1969, the oldest of which was the Order of Railway Conductors and Brakemen, which traces its roots to 1868.
In addition to the Unification Agreement, Constitution and joint website, a number of other sources of factual information have been provided to BLE members.
The BLE Education & Training Department has prepared a Power Point presentation that recaps the events of the past three and a half years, explains key portions of both documents and summarizes the structure and operation of the proposed merged union. Special Representatives and members of the BLE National Mobilization Team will be available to present this information at meetings throughout the U.S. and Canada, and are coordinating meeting sites with General Chairmen who want to participate in this informational campaign.
To further assist the membership in reviewing the proposal, a 10-minute video has been provided, which summarizes the same subjects covered by the Power Point presentation. In addition, the BLE will facilitate the distribution of partisan internal comments to the membership, at the expense of any member or group of members wish to distribute such comments.
Commenting on this informational campaign, BLE President Dubroski said, "It is vitally important that all BLE members have the most accurate, factual information available so that their valid concerns about the proposal may be fully addressed. With the steps we are taking, the members should have information in hand, which will provide everyone with sufficient time to give their most careful consideration to the proposal. Members should wait to submit their ballots until they have had the opportunity to review these materials."
On August 13, a dedicated telephone extension was activated at the International Division headquarters, for BLE members who have not received their ballots and their copies of the Unification Agreement and Constitution. Any BLE members who have not received the ballot package may call (216) 241-2630, extension 333, and leave their name, division number, home address and home telephone number.
Finally, the BLE is conducting a series of Town Hall Meetings to answer membership questions regarding the proposed merger.
The meetings are being held throughout the month of August at various points across the country in an effort to allow as many BLE members as possible to participate in the interactive seminars, which will be conducted by members of the BLE National Mobilization Team, Special Representatives and/or International Officers.
Dates and locations of the remaining Town Hall Meetings are available on the BLE website. Meetings are scheduled for August 28 in Longview, Texas (10 a.m. and 6 p.m. at the IBEW Hall 2914 East Marshall Ave.), and August 29 in Seattle, Wash. (location and time to be announced).
© 2001 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers