Trainmen sue UTU, UP so they can be represented by BLE

Five veteran trainmen from the former C&NW railroad are suing the United Transportation Union (UTU) and the Union Pacific Railroad (UP) in a Chicago federal court so they can be represented by the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers (BLE).

The lawsuit, filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois in Chicago, asks that an order be issued so these five BLE members, who all once belonged to the UTU, can be represented by the BLE in disciplinary actions and other disputes with the railroad.

"We believe these veteran trainmen, who left the UTU to join the BLE, should be able to be represented by the BLE and we support their cause," said BLE International President Ed Dubroski. "It is very clear that the UTU and UP have thrown out more than a decade of past practice and have colluded to deny representation to trainmen who want the BLE in their corner. This is illegal and cannot stand. They cannot punish these men, or any other trainmen, who want strong BLE representation."

The lawsuit asks the federal court to:

In total, more than 100 trainmen belonging to the BLE, who work on the former C&NW property now owned by UP, could be directly affected by this case. According to the lawsuit, the five plaintiffs - who range in seniority from 6 to 33 years - claim that trainmen can be represented by the BLE in certain matters related to their employment with the carrier under provisions of the Railway Labor Act.

For many years before the UTU's attempt to use the National Mediation Board (NMB) to force the BLE to merge with it, the UP allowed the BLE to represent trainmen on the former C&NW property, as it did on all the other UP components. However, some time after the UTU's plot was rejected unanimously by a special NMB panel, and trainmen began to join the BLE in droves, the UP stopped the past practice of letting BLE officers represent these BLE trainmen.

Specifically, the five plaintiffs -- T. V. Ryan, Robert J. Katcher, Gary P. Strack, Julius D. Mann, and W.K. McKenzie -- say that on or about June 23, UP "unilaterally announced a major, substantive change" and advised the BLE that it would no longer be allowed to handle claims or grievances for trainmen and that only the UTU could do so.

Until that time, the G.C.A. BLE-C&NW had filed hundreds of claims and grievances on behalf of trainmen it represented, going back to at least May 1989, taking more than a dozen of them to final and binding arbitration before the National Railroad Adjustment Board.

"Why is it that after all of the UTU's attempts to manipulate the NMB to force an unfair and illegal merger vote on the Union Pacific Railroad," said Dubroski, "the railroad does an about-face and suddenly throws out years of precedent, and brazenly and suspiciously supports the UTU? Everyone knows the answer. Everyone knows about the real relationship between top UTU leaders and UP management. Everyone knows why the UP only wants one union."

Four of the five plaintiffs are pre-85 train service employees.

No trial date has been set.

2000 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers