Would anyone be proud of UTU?
Eugene V. Debs -- or anyone, for that matter -- would find it hard to back UTU leaders
Former New York Mayor David Dinkins may have said that "service to others is the rent we pay for the space on earth we occupy," but two former UTU Presidents spoke with their actions more than their words.
Court documents reveal the actions of two former (infamous) UTU presidents, who may have said, "Bribes and kick backs are the rent you pay to belong to the UTU's Designated Legal Counsel list."
These former UTU Presidents and others mentioned in court documents have done irreversible damage to the image of labor unions, perpetuating the ugly stereotype of corrupt union bosses getting fat and rich on illegal payments. But more importantly, they've jeopardized the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA) through their selfish and illegal actions.
Sadly, current UTU leaders conveniently get a case of amnesia and forget this glaring black eye each time they take pot shots at the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen.
Would Eugene V. Debs be proud of a union like the UTU? Would Debs - or anyone, for that matter - be proud of a union whose two previous International Presidents are now in prison for racketeering and extortion?
Would Eugene V. Debs be proud of a union like UTU, whose leadership has done so much harm to FELA? Or would Debs be proud of a union like the BLET, which went all the way to the United States Supreme Court to protect FELA. As part of a major ruling regarding worker rights in asbestos litigation (Norfolk & Western Railway v. Ayers, 01-963), the BLET filed an Amicus Brief and successfully defended portions of FELA that had fallen under attack by rail management, winning a landmark decision that benefited all of Rail Labor on March 10, 2003.
The UTU leaders are masters of spin. They have a high-priced former railroad public relations official on their payroll, yet they are critical of the BLET for merging with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. Would Eugene V. Debs be proud of a union like UTU that appears to be under the control of a rail management spin doctor? Or would Debs be proud of a union like BLET, which is part of the Rail Labor Bargaining Coalition, seeking to unite rail labor under one umbrella at the negotiating table?
Only UTU has craft autonomy written into its constitution? Then why is it trying to use the National Mediation Board to combine operating crafts at the Union Pacific Railroad? It appears the UTU's craft autonomy clause in its constitution isn't doing much good to protect operating crafts. Would Eugene V. Debs be proud of a union that is seeking to eliminate the locomotive engineer and conductor crafts to create a new "train and engine service employee" craft? Or would Debs be proud of union like BLET, the union fighting to protect the crafts and jobs of locomotive engineers and conductors?
Engineer only operations? UTU is the only railroad in North America to negotiate engineer-only operations at a freight railroad. Take a look at the Quebec, North Shore and Labrador Railway (QNS&L) in Canada. Would Eugene V. Debs be proud of a union that sold out its own members to run freight trains with only one engineer on board? Or would Debs be proud of a union like BLET, which is successfully negotiating for and protecting the jobs of engineers and trainmen throughout the United States, as it did recently with its new agreement with the Utah Railway?
Bribes and kickbacks? High-priced management spin doctors on the payroll? Engineer only operations on freight trains? Yep. Eugene V. Debs would certainly be proud of an organization like the UTU.
© 2005 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen