BLE rejects merger
UTU merger defeated by 70% majority; UTU threatens war
By a vote of 17,251 to 7,425, members of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers rejected a proposed merger with the United Transportation Union.
"The members have spoken and I accept their decision," said BLE International President Don M. Hahs. "They have made it clear that this is not the right time and these are not the right conditions for a merger with the UTU.
"However, the BLE is prepared to continue working to improve working conditions for all operating crafts."
The ballots were counted by the American Arbitration Association (AAA) on December 10 in Southfield, Mich.
Of those BLE members who cast ballots in the referendum, an overwhelming 69.9% voted against a merger.
In spite of these numbers, UTU President Byron Boyd publicly announced his intentions to seek a "shotgun wedding" of BLE and UTU by forcing a series of representation elections.
"We now will pursue... winner-take-all representation elections on each of the major railroads, beginning with the Kansas City Southern," Boyd said in a prepared statement on the UTU website.
The on-again, off-again merger of the nation's two largest rail operating unions began on April 9, 1998, when - at the request of AFL-CIO President John Sweeney - the BLE and UTU began good faith discussions to resolve the matters dividing the two organizations. These original merger discussions broke off on May 8, 1999, when the BLE Advisory Board, the Brotherhood's top governing body, voted to end the unification bid due to questions regarding the UTU's financial situation.
After a two-year hiatus, however, members of the BLE Advisory Board voted to renew unification talks with the UTU on June 11, 2001.
The 24,676 votes represents 65% of active BLE membership. President Hahs credits the high-level of voter turnout to the importance of the vote and the hard work of the BLE's Department of Internal Organizing, Mobilizing and Strategic Planning.
"I commend the efforts of General Secretary-Treasurer Bill Walpert, whose department spearheaded the get out the vote drive, and all Special Representatives and National Mobilization Team members who spent countless hours making sure BLE members made their voices heard in this all-important vote," he said.
© 2001 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers