CLEVELAND, October 15, 2021 — The Transportation Division of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, and Transportation Workers (SMART-TD) and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) are jointly taking on Union Pacific Railroad (UP) over a series of unilateral and unlawful actions taken by the carrier recently.
SMART-TD President Jeremy Ferguson and BLET National President Dennis Pierce issued the following joint statement regarding their action:
“Over the past two weeks, the Union Pacific Railroad seems to have forgotten that it is not Walmart. The railroad has unilaterally changed pay provisions for vaccinated employees who experience a breakthrough COVID infection due to workplace exposure. It has ordered all UP employees to report that they are fully vaccinated by December 8th, or risk being medically disqualified from work. And, instead of negotiating with us as the law requires, the Carrier is directly dealing with its employees by offering a ‘financial incentive’ for compliance with its unilateral mandate.
“We generally support our members getting the vaccine. However, we have several objections to UP’s unilateral implementation of their policies mandating them and illegally dealing directly with its represented employees. The members of our Unions — including members who already are vaccinated — are irate over UP’s outrageous conduct.
“We have been in contract negotiations with UP since November of 2019, and federal law absolutely bars railroads from changing rates of pay, rules and working conditions while negotiations are ongoing. Not only is UP in violation of the law, it has explicitly spurned our demands that these matters be bargained. We have filed suit today in the United States District Court for Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, in an effort to stop UP’s lawlessness in its tracks.”
The SMART Transportation Division is comprised of approximately 125,000 active and retired members of the former United Transportation Union, who work in a variety of crafts in the transportation industry.
The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen represents nearly 57,000 professional locomotive engineers and trainmen throughout the United States. The BLET is the founding member of the Rail Conference, International Brotherhood of Teamsters.
On November 20, SMART Transportation Division (SMART-TD) General Chairpersons served on railroads represented by the National Carriers’ Conference Committee (NCCC) the SMART-TD’s intended amendments to agreements affecting rates of pay, rules and working conditions.
Such notices are required by Section 6 of the Railway Labor Act to reopen agreements. With this notice to the NCCC, and the NCCC’s earlier notice, the parties are set to begin the next round of bargaining.
While the national rail contract between the SMART-TD and railroads represented by the NCCC becomes amendable on January 1, 2020, the existing contract will remain in force until it is amended and ratified by SMART-TD members under the craft autonomy provisions of the SMART Constitution’s Article Twenty-One B (21B).
During this round of national contract negotiations with the SMART-TD, the NCCC will be the chief bargaining representative for matters pertaining to rates of pay, rules, and working conditions on behalf of BNSF, CSX, Kansas City Southern, Canadian National, Norfolk Southern, Soo Line, Union Pacific and numerous smaller railroads. Other railroads, including Amtrak, negotiate individually with the SMART-TD.
More than 40,000 SMART-TD members are affected by these national contract talks with the NCCC, and the resulting agreements frequently set patterns for other negotiated rail agreements.
SMART-TD President Jeremy R. Ferguson will lead the SMART-TD negotiating team. Members of the negotiating team will be selected early next month.
Major elements of the SMART-TD’s Section 6 notices include:
Complete and permanent elimination of existing service scale (entry rates of pay);
A series of general wage increases, effective Jan. 1, 2020, and every six months thereafter;
Cost of living adjustments;
Shift- and weekend-differential pay;
Paid sick leave for all crafts, without censure or discipline;
Technology pay for daily required utilization of all in-cab and handheld reporting devices;
Additional rest opportunities and ability to miss work for family needs, quality of life, and doctor visits;
Additional training pay for all crafts, including compensation for qualification, re-qualification, and familiarization trips;
Carriers to give first-employment consideration to qualified conductors furloughed from other railroads;
Furloughed employees called back to work will be guaranteed a minimum of 60 days of work and pay;
Increased meal allowances;
Restrictions on transferring, consolidating, combining or centralizing yardmaster assignments;
Establishment of a formula for yardmaster extra boards; and
Enhanced benefits under the NRC/UTU Health and Welfare Plan and the Railroad Employees’ National Health and Welfare Plan (GA-23000).
SMART-TD Section 6 notices were developed beginning with recommendations offered by SMART-TD members. A committee of general chairpersons from the Association of General Chairpersons, District No. 1, reviewed and fine-tuned those suggestions, which were then approved by the entire Association of General Chairpersons, District 1.
Washington – Working people are achieving significant victories through the most expansive period of collective bargaining in modern labor history, according to a new report by the AFL-CIO’s Center for Strategic Research.
“This country is having an important debate about raising wages and tackling income inequality,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. “This report provides clear evidence that joining a union and bargaining with your employer is the most effective way to give workers the power to raise their own wages. When working people speak with one voice, our economy is stronger, and all workers do better.”
The AFL-CIO report represents the most comprehensive look at the current state of collective bargaining in a period when an estimated 5 million American workers will bargain for new contracts.
According to the report, working people who bargained for new contracts in the first half of 2015 saw their wages increase by an average of 4.3 percent, an increase of $1,147 a year for an average wage earner in the United States. These increases are up from 2.9 percent in the first half of 2014, with substantial wage wins occurring in sectors from nursing and oil to airline pilots and teachers.
Other notable statistics from the report include:
Among private sector workers: grocery stores, health care, rail transportation, telecom, and auto manufacturing combined account for 31 percent of workers covered by newly bargained contracts.
The contracts in the top eight industries include workers from 22 AFL-CIO affiliated unions.
A combined 2.4 million union members will bargain for new contracts in the top eight industries negotiating contracts.
The full report, complete with bargaining trends and an industry analysis of where workers are bargaining can be found here.
MADISON, Wis. – A Madison judge on Monday found Wisconsin labor relations officials in contempt for enforcing parts of Gov. Scott Walker’s contentious bargaining restrictions despite a ruling that they’re unconstitutional, clearing the way for hundreds of school district and municipal worker unions to negotiate with their employers again.
Dane County Circuit Judge Juan Colas ruled last year the provisions were unconstitutional as they applied to two unions representing Madison teachers and Milwaukee public workers, creating confusion about whether the ruling applied to all school and municipal workers across the state.
Voters in Ohio overwhelmingly restored to public employees Nov. 8 their collective bargaining rights that a conservative majority in the state legislature – with support from Gov. John Kasich — chose to revoke earlier this year.
The mean-spirited legislative attack on collective bargaining rights was so repugnant to Ohio citizens that 1.3 million affixed their signature on petitions to place the law on the November general election ballot – a rare and not lightly taken action of direct democracy.
By nearly a two-to-one margin, Ohio voters overturned the law, sending it to the dust bin of political history, along with a strong message to conservative lawmakers that they best not again seek to trash workers’ rights to collectively bargain for wages, benefits and working conditions.
The New York Times called the landslide vote “a slap to Ohio’s governor, John Kasich, a prominent Republican who had championed the law.” Vice President Joe Biden said, “Fundamental fairness has prevailed.”
The UTU Collective Bargaining Defense Fund played a meaningful role in overturning the law, with active and retired UTU members in Ohio helping to organize public demonstrations, circulating petitions to place the law on the November ballot, and assisting in voter registration and get-out-the-vote drives that involved knocking on doors and providing rides to the polls.
The phrase repeated to Ohio voters a million times over by UTU volunteers was, “Don’t let others decide your future.”
UTU Ohio State Legislative Director Glenn Newsom spent months visiting locals and directing mail and phone messages to active and retired UTU members about the importance of voting and encouraging others to vote for repeal of the law.
This was the second victory for the UTU Collective Bargaining Defense Fund. In July, two anti-labor senators, who had voted in favor of a law similar to the one in Ohio, were removed from office in Wisconsin following a recall effort with strong UTU participation. Democrats and union leaders there now hope to channel momentum from the Ohio victory into an effort to recall Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.
Collective bargaining with Amtrak over revisions to the current wages, benefits and work rules agreement continues.
This report to the membership follows a briefing we provided the general committee during its recent quadrennial meeting.
Railway Labor Act Section 6 notices were exchanged with Amtrak in January 2010, and numerous bargaining sessions have been held since, with Amtrak General Chairpersons Roger Lenfest and Bill Beebe leading the UTU negotiators. I am serving as an adviser.
The next bargaining session is scheduled for mid-June.
Discussed at the most recent bargaining session in Philadelphia were improvements to the rates of pay, rules and working conditions, including conductor certification pay and an improved away-from-home meals allowance.
Given that Congress recently slashed federal assistance payments to Amtrak — and Amtrak is responding with an attempt to cut all its costs across the board — the negotiations are especially difficult.
In the face of these challenges, our negotiating team is working closely with the UTU’s financial and health care experts and the UTU National Legislative Office to ensure we are fully armed with concrete facts and data to support the items in our Section 6 notice.
At the most recent negotiating session, Amtrak restated its position that funds are not available for any costs beyond those already contemplated in its earlier proposal to the UTU. Amtrak says that given the difficult economic times, it isn’t possible to improve their initial offer.
In response, our UTU negotiating team advised Amtrak that their proposal is not acceptable — that it is “bare bones” and does not address many of the issues of concern to UTU members.
We told Amtrak that items in our Section 6 notice come directly from the membership as a result of membership outreach efforts by general chairpersons Beebe and Lenfest, and that each and every item requires good faith consideration during the negotiating process.
We continue to utilize an interest-based bargaining approach that takes into account the needs of both parties when crafting a final settlement. Interest-based bargaining historically has proven very effective in obtaining a satisfactory resolution, oftentimes producing results that are more favorable than those that can be obtained from a traditional demand-based negotiating process.
However, for the interest-based process to be successful, both parties must be fully committed to considering the needs and desires of each participating group. We maintain that a “take it or leave it” offer by Amtrak flies in the face of interest-based bargaining — and we have made that clear to Amtrak.
Amtrak responded that it will come to the next bargaining session in mid-June fully prepared to discuss the items set forth in our Section 6 notice.
While the UTU will continue to employ an interest-based strategy in negotiations, our negotiating team is fully prepared to move forward with a more traditional style of negotiations if at any time it appears that would be a more productive route.
The objective of the UTU negotiating team remains obtaining the best possible agreement for our members during these challenging economic times. As such, we will employ whatever proves to be the most effective strategy in accomplishing our goal.
The next negotiating session is planned for mid-June, and an update will be provided UTU members following that bargaining session.
Former Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis coined the term, “Sunlight is the best disinfectant.”
Indeed, sunlight cast by labor-union members on the dark-of-night action by political extremists in the Wisconsin legislature is having a meaningful impact in Wisconsin and beyond.
Recall that the Wisconsin legislature’s Republican majority voted in March — in violation of the state’s open meetings law — to eliminate collective bargaining rights for public employees. They gathered on less than two hours’ notice in the dark of night to vote without a single Democrat in the chamber.
State Judge Maryann Sumi last week granted a permanent injunction against the law’s implementation, and chastised those Republican lawmakers for the method in which they conducted the vote.
Judge Sumi called the action a trashing of “transparency of government,” adding that “one of the core principles of democracy [is] the right of the people to monitor the people’s business.” In the wake of the injunction, the Wisconsin Supreme Court will hear arguments on the bill in June.
Some of the credit for Judge Sumi’s ruling belongs to the UTU’s Collective Bargaining Defense Fund and similar efforts by other labor organizations.
Almost immediately after that now infamous in-the-dark-of-night Wisconsin senate vote, union members began demonstrating against union-busting by political extremists — demonstrations joined by tens of thousands of citizens that led to extensive media coverage and editorials criticizing the political extremists.
Public sentiment quickly turned against the political extremists in Wisconsin and in other states. A lawsuit followed, seeking the injunction issued by Judge Sumi; and public outrage resulted in petitions for a recall of the extremists, who now must face Wisconsin voters in a special election in July. Hundreds of UTU and other union members fanned out across the state seeking signatures for the recall petitions.
Also significant following the union demonstrations against union-busting was a surprise result in a race for a seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court.
The conservative incumbent, seen as a shoo-in, barely squeaked by as Wisconsin voters flocked to the polls in record numbers to support a moderate challenger. The Madison, Wis., Capital-Times newspaper said the close vote “would almost certainly never have happened had Democrats, unions and other liberal groups not channeled anger against Gov. Scott Walker and the Republican-controlled legislature into support” for the moderate challenger.
In Ohio, where extremists passed a similar union-busting law, union demonstrations also induced public outrage, and petition signings that have put the Ohio union-busting measure on hold pending a voter referendum on the law in November.
The UTU’s Collective Bargaining Defense Fund has one objective: Reminding elected officials that organized labor is a potent political force able to mobilize millions of voters, and to set the stage for recall elections of anti-union lawmakers.
To learn more about the UTU Collective Bargaining Defense Fund, click on the following link:
Former UTU International President Al Chesser (1972-1979) is now 97 years old, and the fire in his belly in support of organized labor has never dimmed.
The following was written by Chesser in response to creation by President Mike Futhey of the Collective Bargaining Defense Fund, intended to create public awareness of — and opposition to — the attack on collective bargaining rights by political extremists in scores of states and in Congress. Before his election as UTU International president, Chesser was the UTU’s national legislative director.
By Al Chesser
The objective of political extremists — those holding elective office and those seeking elective office — is to destroy labor unions, which are among the most patriotic and democracy-loving organizations in our nation.
When dictators take over a country, one of their first objectives is to destroy labor unions. If this no-compromise, labor-union hating group takes control of the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate — as they have done in a number of state legislatures — America could cease to be a democracy.
This group of extremists not only is targeting collective bargaining rights; it is intent upon destroying Railroad Retirement, Social Security and Medicare, threatening the financial security of current and future retirees.
If these political extremists are able to destroy organized labor, they will destroy the many achievements of the labor movement, and the principles we have worked and sacrificed so hard for on behalf of working families.
Overtime pay, paid vacations, employer-provided health care, retirement benefits and workplace safety laws and regulations all exist because of labor unions — and all are coming under attack by political extremists.
I am grateful for this opportunity to contribute $500 to the UTU’s Collective Bargaining Defense Fund to help fight this war against organized labor and working families.
I say to every labor union officer and union member: Don’t get caught asleep at the switch. Don’t let these political extremists fast talk you. If they destroy organized labor, our financial security will be a shambles. Our earnings, benefits and workplace safety will no longer be collectively bargained. We will be at the mercy of employers.
To my railroad brothers and sisters, I tell you that this would set us back to the 1800s, when the lives of working men and women were nearly the equivalent of slave labor.
The threat from today’s political extremists is the most dangerous we have faced since before enactment of the Railway Labor Act and the National Labor Relations Act.
Light the fire in your belly and join our fight. We can, will and must beat back this attack from those who want to destroy the union movement in America.
While we go about our daily lives, political extremists are gaining strength and working non-stop to undermine and eliminate much of what we cherish on the job and look forward to in retirement.
It’s not just Wisconsin and Ohio where right-wing majorities voted to eliminate public-employee collective bargaining rights.
In 20 states, bills have been introduced to restrict or eliminate collective bargaining rights.
In 14 states, right-to-work (for less) bills have been introduced, allowing workers to refuse to pay union-representation dues while unions remain required to represent the workers refusing to pay dues.
Right-to-work (for less) legislation is an dastardly effort to strangle union finances and disrupt the ability of unions to engage in collective bargaining, fight for better safety laws and prosecute work-place grievances.
In existing right-to-work (for less) states, workers earn 3.2 percent less and are less likely to have employer-sponsored health insurance and pension benefits.
In Congress, three conservative senators — Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) — have introduced national right-to-work (for less) legislation that would similarly amend the National Labor Relations Act and the Railway Labor Act.
In seven states, bills have been introduced to eliminate laws requiring contractors on state-funded projects to pay prevailing wages. A university study of 10 states, where half of all highway and bridge work in the U.S. occurred, revealed higher-wage workers built 74 more miles of roadways and 33 more miles of bridges for a total cost of half-a-billion dollars less than was accomplished by workers earning less than the prevailing wage.
Bills have also been introduced in Congress to close the National Labor Relations Board, which enforces private-sector workers’ rights to organize and bargain collectively; and to reverse a National Mediation Board decision that determines airline and railroad union-representation elections based on those actually voting and not count those not voting as “no” votes.
Political extremists — in every state legislature and in Congress — has chosen organized labor as a target to be attacked, weakened and destroyed.
At risk is all organized labor has achieved for the middle class in America — the 40-hour work week, overtime pay, injured worker compensation, unemployment insurance, workplace health and safety protections, restrictions on discrimination in hiring, time off for family and medical emergencies, and restrictions on child labor.
Eliminating collective bargaining doesn’t solve budget deficits; it demoralizes the workforce.
Cutting wages doesn’t create jobs; it depresses economic activity. For every $1 million in wage reductions, six jobs are lost, according to a study by the AFL-CIO.
Busting unions doesn’t make the economy more competitive; it widens the gap between the rich and poor and undermines the foundation of the middle class, which is the engine of economic growth.
Unions establish wage rates and worker benefits that non-union employers follow to stay competitive.
The time has come for our membership to get mad about this attack on middle-class wages, benefits and workplace safety.
Our jobs, our workplace safety, our benefits and our families’ economic security are at stake.
Contributing to the UTU Collective Bargaining Defense Fund and the UTU PAC is how we coordinate an effective and successful response to the political extremists’ attack on organized labor.
In union there is strength, and when members of all labor unions engage in political solidarity, the result is millions of union members and their families working toward a common goal of electing more labor-friendly lawmakers
As President Futhey says, “We have drawn a line in the sand from which we cannot retreat. We can and will make a difference. We will not go away. We will not forget.”
Please observe what is happening in state legislatures and Congress. The attack is on you and your family. Participate in the UTU Collective Bargaining Defense Fund and the UTU PAC to the greatest extent you are able.
I will always encourage everyone to be passionate about their beliefs. But I also want our members to be more passionate about their jobs, because without our jobs, we would have no means to be passionate about the other things we want in life and for ourselves and for our families.
Be a proud part of labor solidarity to stop the attack on organized labor before we are destroyed and it is too late.
MADISON, Wisc. — Are labor rallies in support of collective bargaining rights effective? Can the UTU Collective Bargaining Defense Fund make a difference?
Do trains run on tracks? Do buses operate on highways?
As for Wisconsin, the proof of the value of labor rallies was reflected in balloting for state supreme court justice, as a previously almost unknown state Democrat, JoAnne Kloppenburg, almost upset a presumed shoo-in April 5 — incumbent conservative Republican David Prosser, who had been “expected to coast to a victory for a second 10-year term,” according to the Madison Capital Times newspaper.
Hundreds of thousands of Wisconsin voters, vocally outraged at the state’s Republican governor and Republican-controlled legislature for their vicious attacks on public-employee collective bargaining, flocked to the polls in record numbers in support of the underdog Kloppenburg.
The balloting was widely viewed as more of a referendum on the anti-union attacks of the state’s Republican governor and Republican-controlled legislature than a vote for supreme court justice.
Said the Capital Times: “It is rare to unseat a sitting supreme court justice [and the close vote that followed] would almost certainly never have happened had Democrats, unions and other liberal groups not channeled anger against Gov. Walker and the Republican-controlled legislature into support for Kloppenburg.”
Prosser was viewed as a supporter of Walker and his anti-union agenda. The New York Times quoted Prosser as having said he was proud of his membership among the state supreme court’s “common sense 4-3 conservative majority.”
The Wisconsin law revoking public-employee collective bargaining rights is on hold pending a judicial challenge that is expected to reach the state supreme court. Had Kloppenburg prevailed, the state supreme-court’s seven-member majority will shift from conservatives to liberals.
Although neither candidate has expressed an opinion on the controversial collective bargaining law and how it was enacted — by the Republican majority after Democrats boycotted the legislature — it is widely recognized that the vote was, in large part, a referendum on the anti-union politics of Republican Gov. Scott Walker and the right-wing led extremist legislature.
Labor union members from across Wisconsin have rallied in opposition to Gov. Walker’s and the legislature’s anti-union attacks. The UTU Collective Bargaining Defense Fund is helping to supply UTU rally participants with signs and T-shirts with slogans — and other materials are on order for continued rallies nationwide that help to attract and focus public opposition to attacks on collective bargaining rights and labor unions.
Hundreds of labor-union members — including dozens of UTU members — were on hand at polling places in Wisconsin to collect thousands of signatures from voters on petitions to recall eight Republican lawmakers who voted to revoke public-employee collective bargaining rights.
Many of the lines to sign the petitions were said to have been as long as the lines to vote, in what was described by the media as an unusually large voter turnout.
UTU members interested in joining a rally in support of collective-bargaining rights should contact their state legislative director.
WASHINGTON — Although 16 Republicans refused to be cowed by their conservative leadership, the House of Representatives last week succeeded in another attack on collective bargaining by voting to nullify a National Mediation Board ruling making representation elections for airline and railroad workers more democratic.
All Democrats in the House stood with the NMB and labor, and 16 Republicans crossed over to do the same; but it was not enough given the Republican majority.
The House action, nullifying the NMB ruling in favor of more democratic representation elections, is contained in a Federal Aviation Administration authorizing bill.
The 220-206 vote to nullify the NMB ruling through legislation is not the end. The anti-union provision does not appear in a companion bill previously passed by the Senate, which means a House-Senate conference committee will have an opportunity to remove the anti-union provision from the bill before it goes back to the two chambers for a final vote.
President Obama said he will veto the FAA authorization bill if the anti-labor provision appears in the final bill.
The provision in the bill, inserted at the request of airlines, is to overturn an NMB ruling last year that scrapped the undemocratic means by which airline and railroad representation votes, under the Railway Labor Act, are counted.
Prior to the NMB ruling, those not voting in representation elections were considered to have cast a “no” vote for representation. The NMB changed the rule to provide that a simple majority of those actually voting determine the outcome of representation elections.
Were Congress to succeed in overturning the new NMB representation election rule, the NMB procedure would be counter to all other elections.
Neither elections for Congress, the White House or even the PTA count as “no” votes those not voting. In fact, as documented by the Communications Workers of America, had the Republican-desired provision been in effect for 2010 congressional elections, not a single member of Congress would have been elected.
Rep. Steven LaTourette (R-Ohio) and Rep. Jerry Costello (D-Ill.) introduced an amendment to remove the anti-union provision from the FAA reauthorization bill, and it was that amendment that was defeated by the 220-206 vote. The FAA reauthorization bill then passed the House by a 223-196 vote.
In threatening a veto of the FAA reauthorization bill if the anti-union provision remains, President Obama said the provision “would undermine a fundamental principle of fairness in union representation elections — that outcomes should be determined by a majority of the valid ballots cast.”
Earlier, airlines were turned back by a federal court in an effort to invalidate the NMB ruling, with the court giving deference to the experts at the NMB.
Republican members of the House, who refused to cast an anti-labor vote and joined with House Democrats were:
WASHINGTON — Speaking to labor’s rank-and-file via an AFL-CIO electronic town hall meeting last week, Vice President Joe Biden warned of “barbarians at the gate” of working families as attacks on collective bargaining and union membership move forward in numerous state legislatures.
“The only people who have the capacity — organizational capacity and muscle — to keep, as they say, the barbarians from the gate, is organized labor,” Biden said.
“And make no mistake about it: The guys on the other team get it. They know if they cripple labor, the gate is open, man. The gate is wide open.”
Encouraging organized labor to continue the fight against extremists who would destroy labor unions, Biden said, “You built the middle class. We don’t see the value of collective bargaining, we see the absolute positive necessity of collective bargaining.”