BLET fights to stop UTU double dues
Lawsuit filed against UTu and Carriers to stop illegal "letter of intent"
The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) has filed a lawsuit to halt the United Transportation Union's attempt to implement a seniority maintenance and seniority retention agreement reached with the nation's railroads. The implementation of this agreement could require BLET members to pay double dues if they desire to retain their BLET membership while working in train service.
At meetings in Cleveland on November 17 and 18, the BLET's Advisory Board voted unanimously to fight the UTU on the issue of the implementation of this type of agreement. After consultation with the legal department, it was decided to pursue this fight through the federal court system. A lawsuit, seeking a permanent injunction declaring these types of agreements in violation of the Railway Labor Act, was filed on November 24.
UTU International President Paul Thompson stated in a letter dated October 20, 2004 addressed to all UTU U.S. General Committees, "There is no doubt that the BLET will implement similar provisions (as those contained in the UTU agreement)..." However, the fact is that the BLET Advisory Board voted unanimously not to enter into a similar agreement with the carriers even though the National Railway Labor Conference (NRLC) offered the same agreement to the BLET.
"Our overwhelming belief is that agreements - such as the one signed by the UTU that could require employees to pay double dues - are wrong and we intend to fight it," BLET National President Don M. Hahs said.
The BLET's lawsuit, filed in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia), charges that the seniority maintenance and seniority retention agreement between the UTU and the NRLC is illegal and violates portions of the Railway Labor Act (RLA).
Even though some courts have upheld seniority maintenance agreements in the past, the BLET's position is that the Letter of Intent influences or coerces employees in an effort to induce them to join or remain members of the UTU or not to join or remain members of the BLET in violation of Section 2, Fourth of the RLA.
The suit seeks a permanent injunction to stop implementation of the seniority maintenance and seniority retention agreement and also seeks to restore all seniority rights to employees negatively impacted by the UTU letter of intent.
The BLET also questions the timing of the UTU's Letter of Intent with the rail carriers. The BLET contends that the railroads' offer of this type of agreement coincides with the beginning of contract negotiations and is a purposeful distraction to rail labor.
President Hahs was also critical of UTU leadership for attempting to implement this agreement "as quickly as possible."
In his October 20 letter to UTU General Committees Mr. Thompson wrote, " it is important that we attempt to implement our provisions as quickly as possible. If we don't have ours in place and we implement after the BLET, then they could contend that UTU and not BLET was responsible on your property for the payment of double dues."
"It is painfully obvious that UTU had hopes of implementing an agreement that could require certain employees to pay double dues and then using BLET as its scapegoat," President Hahs said. "I am confident that the BLET will prevail for doing what's right and looking out for the best interests of rail operating employees."
Unlike the BLET, the UTU is not affiliated with the AFL-CIO. The UTU
has a history of conspiring with rail management to preserve the UTU enterprise
rather than maximizing the earnings and safety of rail operating employees.
© 2004 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen