What the AFL-CIO forgot to mention

BLE supporters join a 2003 rally to condemn the United Transportation Union and the operation of remote control locomotives. From left: Ed Wytkind, Executive Director, AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department; Rich Trumka, AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer; Don Hahs, BLET National President; Pat Friend, National President, Association of Flight Attendants; and James P. Hoffa, Teamsters General President. Trumka is now condemning the BLET for "raiding" the UTU.


(Editor's Note: On August 8, the AFL-CIO Executive Council passed a UTU-sponsored statement that accuses the BLET of raiding the UTU. Even though the AFL-CIO Executive Council has no jurisdiction over the BLET, National President Don Hahs responded with the following statement.)

As the victim of raiding at the hands of the United Transportation Union for the better part of the last decade, it is an understatement to say that the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen takes exception to the AFL-CIO's August 8 statement.

In the last decade, this organization spent countless man hours and hundreds of thousands of dollars to protect our membership from numerous hostile takeover attempts waged by the United Transportation Union.

Out of respect for the 55,000 men and women of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen - the men and women who had to endure those constant attacks - it is my duty to set the record straight.

I count at least three separate resolutions passed by the AFL-CIO and its subordinate bodies condemning the UTU for raiding the BLE, the most recent of which is still available for download from the AFL-CIO's own website:

More recently, top AFL-CIO officials have publicly criticized the UTU and its leadership for its ceaseless raiding of the BLE and its members.

For example, AFL-CIO President John Sweeney's March 22, 2002, letter to UTU leaders warns that UTU's reaffiliation with the AFL-CIO is jeopardized considering UTU's history of aggressive raiding.

Another example came in March of 2003, when Rich Trumka, AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer, and Ed Wytkind, Executive Director of the AFL-CIO's TTD, joined myself and hundreds of Teamsters at a rally in front of Federal Railroad Administration headquarters in Washington, D.C., to protest the use of remote control locomotives. Trumka and Wytkind delivered passionate speeches pledging to support BLE and condemning the UTU for stealing BLE jobs.

In spite of these numerous resolutions condemning the UTU, and in spite of their solemn pledges to support the BLE, the AFL-CIO's leaders did an about-face and welcomed the UTU back into the fold with open arms. Why the sudden change of heart? The AFL-CIO faced a huge loss of revenue when the Change to Win Coalition unions withdrew from the AFL-CIO. When it came down to it, the UTU's slate was wiped clean and AFL-CIO leaders sold out to the all mighty dollar.

Another item the AFL-CIO Executive Council neglected to mention in its August 8 statement is that the UTU was twice found guilty of raiding the BLE. On February 27, 1998, an impartial AFL-CIO umpire found the UTU guilty of raiding BLE membership at the Union Pacific Railroad in violation of Article XX of the AFL-CIO constitution. Article XX is the "no raiding" clause that prohibits one affiliate from raiding another. The other such case was in the 1980s on the Springfield Terminal/Delaware & Hudson.

The AFL-CIO Executive Council also neglected to mention that the AFL-CIO formally sanctioned the UTU in June of 1999 for raiding the BLE. The sanctions removed AFL-CIO protections against raids on the UTU by other unions and prohibited the UTU from filing Article XX complaints.

Deeming those sanctions too light, the BLE spent the following months lobbying the Executive Council to adopt stiffer penalties for habitual raiders like the UTU. And in February of 2000, the Executive Council adopted a new policy that stiffened sanctions against non-compliant affiliates that were found guilty of violating Article XX. The new sanctions would force non-compliant affiliates (like the UTU) to financially compensate affiliates adversely impacted by raiding (like the BLE). In order to avoid those penalties, the UTU withdrew from the AFL-CIO and immediately began to raid the BLE at the Kansas City Southern.

Today, with this history in mind, it is inexcusable for AFL-CIO leaders to accuse the BLET of raiding the UTU. Such slanderous accusations are not taken lightly by the BLET and I cannot let such statements go unchecked.

The AFL-CIO's August 8 statement is based entirely on hearsay and conjecture. BLET agreements do not sell out other crafts or classes of workers. The BLET does not support reductions in the size of operating crews. BLET agreements protect the work and the jobs of its members.

The AFL-CIO accuses the BLET of offering reduced or free dues in hopes of "enticing UTU members to join the BLET." What the AFL-CIO fails to mention is that, even today, the UTU offers reduced dues to locomotive engineers as a way of enticing BLET members to join the UTU.

The BLET dues structure for trainmen varies from property to property and is very much in the ballpark with UTU dues. In some cases, it may even be more. BLET does not give "free dues." We offer trainmen first-class representation in what now appears to be the railroad industry's only remaining operating union now that UTU has become a part of the Sheet Metal Workers union.



© 2007 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen