Posts Tagged ‘NCCC’

National Negotiations update: Coordinated Bargaining Group unions reach tentative national contract agreement

Independence, Ohio, October 5 — Rail Unions making up the Coordinated Bargaining Group (CBG) announced today that they have reached a Tentative National Agreement with the Nation’s Freight Rail Carriers. The CBG is comprised of six unions: the American Train Dispatchers Association; the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (a Division of the Rail Conference of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters); the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen; the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, Iron Ship Builders, Blacksmiths, Forgers, and Helpers; the National Conference of Firemen and Oilers / SEIU; and the Transportation Division of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART TD).

On Wednesday, October 4th, the CBG’s full Negotiating Team met in Independence, Ohio for a review of the terms of the proposed voluntary agreement. Following that review, each of the CBG Unions’ Negotiating Teams unanimously endorsed the Tentative Agreement. On Thursday, October 5th, the involved General Chairpersons of SMART TD, BRS and BLET met as well and those groups also unanimously endorsed the Tentative Agreement for consideration by the respective membership of each Union.

The Tentative Agreement, which will be submitted to the memberships of each involved Union in the coming weeks, includes an immediate wage increase of 4%, with an additional 2.5% six months later on July 1, 2018 and an additional 3% one year later on July 1, 2019. In addition, wage increases of 2% effective July 1, 2016 and another 2% effective July 1, 2017 will be fully retroactive through implementation, for a compounded increase of 9.84% over an 18-month period and 13.14% over the 5-year contract term (this includes the First General Wage Increase of 3% implemented on January 1, 2015).

All benefits existing under the Health and Welfare Plan will remain in effect unchanged and there are no disruptions to the existing healthcare networks. While some employee participation costs are increased, the tentative agreement maintains reasonable maximum out-of-pocket protections for our members. The TA also adds several new benefits to the Health and Welfare Plan for the members of the involved unions and, importantly, it requires that the Rail Carriers will, on average, continue to pay 90% of all of our members’ point of service costs.

On a matter of critical importance, the employees’ monthly premium contribution is frozen at the current rate of $228.89. The frozen rate can only be increased by mutual agreement at the conclusion of negotiations in the next round of bargaining that begins on 1/1/2020.

In addition, the CBG steadfastly refused to accept the carriers’ demands for changes to work rules that would have imposed significant negative impacts on every one of our members. As a result of that rejection, the Tentative Agreement provides for absolutely no changes in work rules for any of the involved unions.

“This Tentative Agreement provides real wage increases over and above inflation, health care cost increases far below what the carriers were demanding, freezes our monthly health plan cost contribution at the current level, provides significant retroactive pay and imposes no changes to any of our work rules,” said the CBG Union Presidents. “This is a very positive outcome for a very difficult round of negotiations. We look forward to presenting the Tentative Agreement to our respective memberships for their consideration.”

# # #

Collectively, the CBG unions represent more than 85,000 railroad workers covered by the various organizations’ national agreements, and comprise over 58% of the workforce that will be impacted by the outcome of the current bargaining round.


Click here for a pdf of this letter.

Click here for the Tentative Agreement.

National negotiations update: Coordinated Bargaining Group Unions say contract negotiations take a “step backwards”

For immediate release
July 7, 2017

As part of our ongoing effort to conclude national contract negotiations, the Coordinated Bargaining Group (CBG) met with the nation’s freight rail Carriers (NCCC) for three days during the week of June 26th. These efforts were part of our ongoing mediation process, mandated by the Railway Labor Act when the parties have been unable to reach a voluntary agreement, and managed by the National Mediation Board.

Despite the CBG’s best efforts to reach a fair agreement with the NCCC, the mediation process took a step backwards on Thursday, June 29th, when the Carriers presented new, onerous bargaining positions. Their new contract demands would have the employees not only paying more per month towards their monthly insurance premiums, but would also make drastic changes in the amount the average employee pays when medical services are needed. Combined with the Carriers’ outlandish demands for this dramatic cost-shifting, they suggested we agree to below-standard General Wage Increases with no retroactivity, and, for certain crafts, harmful work rules changes that would have employees doing more work for less pay in many circumstances.

It is clear from the Carrier’s latest contract demands that they are emboldened by the potential of management-friendly recommendations that could come from a Presidential Emergency Board appointed by President Trump, and ultimately be imposed on the employees by a Congress that already has enacted or is pushing for changes in longstanding labor laws that protect employee rights.

We of course are frustrated by the Carriers’ hard-line attitude. But we will not let this stand in our way. In spite of this latest turn of events, the CBG will not give up its efforts to achieve a voluntary settlement that is fair and protects our members’ best interests. We therefore requested and have been granted additional mediation sessions later this month. This is not by any means the end of the road. The Railway Labor Act makes it the duty of both labor and management “to exert every reasonable effort to make agreements.” We take that obligation seriously. Be assured that we have been working very hard on your behalf and we will continue to pursue every available avenue to achieve a fair contract settlement worthy of your consideration.

The Carrier’s latest offer is neither a fair settlement, nor a settlement that we expect our members would ratify. So that you all are fully aware of what has been proposed, and in an effort to bring all affected members up to speed, the Carrier’s latest proposal, with a brief synopsis, can be found at

https://static.smart-union.org/worksite/ContractNeg/NCCC_2017-06-29_Synopsis_and_Proposal.pdf

More information will be forthcoming after the mediation sessions scheduled later this month. We appreciate your continuing support.

# # #

The Coordinated Bargaining Group is comprised of six unions: the American Train Dispatchers Association; the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (a Division of the Rail Conference of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters); the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen; the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, Iron Ship Builders, Blacksmiths, Forgers, and Helpers; the National Conference of Firemen and Oilers / SEIU; and the Transportation Division of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers.

Collectively, the CBG unions represent more than 85,000 railroad workers covered by the various organizations’ national agreements, and comprise over 58% of the workforce that will be impacted by the outcome of the current bargaining round.

Proposed legislation spurs rail agreements

U.S. Capitol Building; Capitol Building; Washington D.C.WASHINGTON — In the face of bipartisan get-tough-with-labor legislation introduced in the House and Senate, two of the remaining unions without national rail contracts agreed to a tentative settlement Dec. 1, and a third reached agreement with the carriers Dec. 1 to extend a cooling-off period into February.

With these agreements, the threat of a national railroad strike has been averted for now.

Previously, the Transportation Communications Union, the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen and the various shopcrafts, including the Sheet Metal Workers International Association, reached tentative six-year agreements with the National Carriers Conference Committee (NCCC). The NCCC represents BNSF, CSX, Kansas City Southern, Norfolk Southern, Soo Line, Union Pacific and numerous smaller railroads in national handling.

UTU members earlier ratified a five-year national rail contract.

The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen and the American Train Dispatchers Association agreed Dec. 1 to a tentative six-year agreement as recommended last month by Presidential Emergency Board No. 243. References to the UTU’s ratified national rail contract are extensive in the PEB recommendations.

While the BLET is in national handling for health care, it previously reached ratified wage agreements with BNSF, CSX and Norfolk Southern for lower wage increases than the UTU and other organizations, and continues separate talks on wages with Union Pacific.

Also, the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes reached agreement with the NCCC to extend into February a cooling-off period that was to expire Dec. 5.

The BLET and train dispatchers’ tentative agreements, and the cooling-off period extension agreed to by the BMWE Dec. 1, came in the face of separate House and Senate resolutions.

The House resolution, H.J. 91 and introduced by House Transportation & Infrastructure Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.), would have imposed as a final agreement on the BLET, the train dispatchers and the BMWE the PEB recommendations.

Separately, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) was set to introduce for immediate Senate vote an identical resolution (S.J. 31). After the BLET, train dispatchers’ and BMWE agreements were announced late Dec. 1, Sen. Reid said:

“I applaud all the stakeholders who worked to avert a work stoppage that would have hurt our nation’s economy just as the holiday season gets underway. It is Congress’ constitutional duty to ensure the unfettered flow of interstate commerce, and to protect the nation’s economic well-being. I am pleased with this outcome and congratulate all sides, including the White House and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, for their effort to find common ground that protects our economy and keeps it on-track.”

Others settling as PEB recommended

The UTU International is receiving questions from members regarding recommendations of Presidential Emergency Board 243, which was created under provisions of the Railway Labor Act after talks between other rail unions and the National Carriers’ Conference Committee (NCCC) broke down.

In the wake of that PEB 243’s recommendations, the Brotherhood Railroad Signalmen, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, the International Association of Boilermakers & Blacksmiths,the International Association of Machinists, the National Conference of Firemen & Oilers, the Sheet Metal Workers International Association, and the Transportation Communications Union, including its Carmen Division have reached a tentative agreement with the NCCC, which are said to “mirror exactly” the PEB’s recommendations.

The other rail unions have resumed negotiations with the NCCC to consider the PEB recommendations, as required by the Railway Labor Act.

References to the UTU’s ratified agreement are extensive in the PEB recommendations. Out of respect to the other organizations, an analysis of those findings will be provided our membership after the other organizations complete the negotiation process.

 To read PEB 243, click on the following link:

11-07-11:  President Releases Railroad PEB Report #243
   

 

Record pay boost in UTU tentative rail pact

A 17 percent pay increase, retention of the $200 monthly cap on health care cost-sharing, FRA certification pay, a faster process for new hires to reach full pay rates, and no rollback of the January 2011 cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) highlight the new five-year national rail agreement negotiated between the UTU and the National Carriers’ Conference Committee (NCCC).

Railroads represented by the NCCC include BNSF, CSX, Kansas City Southern, Norfolk Southern, Union Pacific and many smaller railroads. Some 38,000 UTU members, including yardmasters, are covered by the tentative new agreement.

UTU District 1 general chairpersons voted unanimously June 2 to submit the tentative agreement to the membership for ratification under the craft autonomy provisions of the UTU constitution. The general chairpersons also voted unanimously to recommend ratification.

General chairpersons now have until June 20 to submit questions regarding details of the tentative agreement. The questions will be submitted to the NCCC for answers. The agreed-upon questions and answers will become part of the tentative contract submitted to the membership for ratification.

Additionally, forums will be scheduled nationwide at which UTU International officers will brief members on the contract’s details and respond to member questions. A ratification vote will later be scheduled.

“In the 41-year history of the UTU, this wage increase is the highest in excess of the current and projected consumer price index,” said UTU International President Mike Futhey. The Consumer Price Index, or CPI, is a barometer of prices for goods and services as measured by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“Combined with the previous agreement this administration reached with the NCCC in January 2008, our members will realize a more than 40 percent increase in their base wages at the conclusion of this agreement, if it is ratified,” Futhey said. “A UTU member earning $80,000 in 2007 will be earning about $112,000 on the same job by 2015.”

The tentative agreement is retroactive to Jan. 1, 2010, and extends through Dec. 31, 2014. The contract provides that retroactive pay, commencing with the July 1, 2010, increase, will be made by the carriers within 60 days of the effective date of the final agreement.

The cap on employee health care cost contributions is a major provision of the tentative agreement. The $200 cap on monthly contributions compares with an average of more than $340 monthly paid by workers in other industries.

Without the negotiated $200 cap, and under provisions of current UTU agreements, UTU member health care cost contributions could soar to $355 monthly by 2015.

To retain the current $200 monthly cap, adjustments are made to copayments to reflect more economical ways to purchase medicines and reduce plan costs.

A new annual deductible is capped at $200 per individual ($400 per family), and an out-of-pocket maximum of $1,000 per individual ($2,000 per family) can be reached only if family medical costs exceed $40,000, which statistically affects only two percent of members.

The national rail agreement’s five-year entry rates provision has been amended to four years. Individuals under the five-year plan — as of May 1 and until the effective date of the final agreement — will receive a one-time $3,000 payment. Individuals on properties with modified service-scale rules will receive a one-time payment of $1,200. Individuals under entry-rate agreements that commence at 90 percent, and increase to 100 percent within two years, shall not receive a bonus payment.

Additionally, the tentative agreement provides that local agreements may be negotiated — not subject to binding arbitration if the sides cannot agree — for alternative compensation, compensated leave, compensation enhancement, and electronic bidding and bumping.

Yardmasters have essentially the same agreement, but with additional pay increases unique to their craft.

The UTU national negotiating team, in addition to Futhey, included Assistant President Arty Martin; National Legislative Director James Stem; UTU International Vice Presidents Robert Kerley and Delbert Strunk; and General Chairpersons John Lesniewski (CSX, GO 049), Pate King (NS, GO 680) and Doyle Turner (CSX, GO 347).

To read the tentative national agreements, select one of the links below:

To view a comparison of historic general wage increases to the Consumer Price Index, click here.

UTU, rails in tentative new five-year agreement

A tentative new five-year national rail agreement covering wages, benefits and working conditions has been reached between the UTU and the National Carriers’ Conference Committee (NCCC).

The tentative agreement is retroactive to Jan. 1, 2010, and extends through Dec. 31, 2014.

The tentative agreement, which amends the existing national agreement, must be ratified by each affected UTU craft under the craft-autonomy provisions of the UTU Constitution. The existing national agreement remains in force under provisions of the Railway Labor Act.

Details of the tentative agreement are being withheld pending their presentation at a June 2 meeting of the Association of General Chairpersons – District 1. General chairpersons will then have 15 days to submit written questions. The questions and answers will be provided to all members prior to the ratification vote.

Railroads represented by the NCCC include BNSF, CSX, Kansas City Southern, Norfolk Southern, Union Pacific and many smaller railroads. Some 38,000 UTU members are affected by the tentative new agreement.

This is the first agreement reached in this round of national bargaining with the NCCC. It was reached, voluntarily, without need for mediation. However, two members of the National Mediation Board — Elizabeth Dougherty and Linda Puchala — served as facilitators during the two most recent rounds of talks between the UTU and the NCCC, leading to this tentative agreement.

UTU International President Mike Futhey thanked his negotiating team for “their hard work and long hours. I am confident our general chairpersons will react positively when the details of this agreement are presented to them.”

In addition to UTU lead negotiator Futhey, the negotiating team includes Assistant President Arty Martin; National Legislative Director James Stem; UTU International Vice Presidents Robert Kerley and Delbert Strunk; and General Chairpersons John Lesniewski (CSX, GO 049), Pate King (NS, GO 680) and Doyle Turner (CSX, GO 347).

Futhey also praised retired UTU General Secretary & Treasurer Dan Johnson for his emphasizing, early in the process and through a series of opinion articles published on the UTU website, the value of interest-based bargaining whereby both sides strive to understand the needs of the other.

“Interest-based bargaining worked well for the UTU in reaching a ratified national agreement in 2008, and interest-based bargaining was instrumental again this round in guiding both sides to a voluntary tentative agreement,” Futhey said.

Other labor organizations — bargaining as part of two separate coalitions — remain in negotiations with the NMB, and mediation has been invoked in those separate talks.

One coalition includes the Transportation Communications Union, the American Train Dispatchers Association, the International Association of Machinists, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, and the Transport Workers Union.

A second coalition still negotiating with the NCCC includes the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes, the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen, the Brotherhood of Boilermakers and Blacksmiths, the National Conference of Firemen and Oilers, and the Sheet Metal Workers International Association.

To court, again, over crew consist

To court, again, over crew consist

The UTU has asked a federal district court in East St. Louis, Ill., to rule, yet again, that the UTU has no obligation to bargain nationally over crew consist, or what the carriers now are terming, “staffing and consolidation.”

That same federal district court so ruled on March 10, 2006, after the railroads’ bargaining agent, the National Carriers’ Conference Committee (NCCC), demanded that the UTU negotiate, at the national level, that crew size be reduced. The carriers had sought, during the 2005 round of negotiations, to eliminate conductor and brakemen positions on all through-freight trains.

The UTU successfully contended that existing agreements relating to minimum train crew size are negotiated on a railroad-by-railroad basis through UTU general committees of adjustment, and any attempt by the carriers to change those agreements must be handled at the general committee level and not in so-called national handling where the major railroads coordinate their bargaining through the NCCC.

The court agreed in 2006.

But in serving on the UTU their latest intended amendments to agreements affecting rates of pay, rules and working conditions, the NCCC on Nov. 2 said it wants to “Explore opportunities for mutually beneficial alternatives to existing staffing models that enhance safety and productivity, fairly address employee interests and concerns, and recognize the unique opportunities still available to the parties to negotiate meaningful changes.”

Citing the March 10, 2006, decision of the federal district court, as well as similar court decisions dating to 1967, the UTU asked that yet another ruling be made that “crew consist or ‘staffing and consolidation’ is not subject to national handling” and that the court award the UTU its costs and attorney’s fees incurred in this proceeding, as well as “such other and further relief as the court deems just and proper.”

To keep current on this round of national handling, click on the “National Rail Contract” link at www.utu.org, where the so-called Section 6 notices of the UTU and the NCCC — intended amendments to agreements affecting rates of pay, benefits and working conditions — are also posted.

UTU serves Section 6 notice on carriers

UTU general chairpersons on Nov. 2 served on railroads represented by the National Carriers’ Conference Committee (NCCC) the UTU’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 and are served on each other by parties to existing agreements.

The national rail contract between the UTU and railroads represented by the NCCC became amendable on Jan. 1, 2010.

The existing contract will remain in force until tentantively negotiated amendments are presented to UTU members and ratified under the craft autonomy provisions of the UTU Constitution.

During this round of national contract negotiations with the UTU, the NCCC will be the chief bargaining representative for BNSF, CSX, Kansas City Southern, Norfolk Southern, Soo Line, Union Pacific and numerous smaller railroads.

Other railroads, including Amtrak and U.S. operations of Canadian National, negotiate individually with the UTU.

Some 40,000 UTU members are affected by these national contract talks with the NCCC, and the resulting agreements frequently set patterns for other negotiated rail agreements.

UTU International President Mike Futhey, who headed the UTU team that negotiated the most recent member-ratified amendments to the existing agreement, will lead the UTU negotiating team in this round of collective bargaining. Members of the negotiating team will be selected later in November.

Other rail labor unions will negotiate their own agreements with the NCCC.

Major elements of the UTU’s Section 6 notices include:

  • Complete and permanent elimination of existing service scale (entry rates of pay).
  • Complete and permanent elimination of the two-tier pay system.
  • A series of general wage increases, effective Jan. 1, 2010, and every six months thereafter.
  • Cost of living adjustments.
  • A crew calling window structure or no less than a 10-hour call.
  • A process to resolve fatigue issues relative to cross-craft utilization, inaccurate line-ups and manipulation of pool crew boards caused by paper deadheading and dropping of turns.
  • Compensation for certifying as a conductor (certification to be established by the FRA as directed by the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008).
  • Peer related craft pay for training periods.
  • 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.
  • Enhanced benefits under the NRC/UTU Health and Welfare Plan and the Railroad Employees’ National Health and Welfare Plan (GA-23000).

UTU Section 6 notices were developed beginning with recommendations offered by UTU members.

A committee of general chairpersons from the Association of General Chairpersons, District 1, reviewed and fine-tuned those suggestions, which were then approved by the entire Association of General Chairpersons, District 1.

To view the UTU Section 6 notice, click here.

To view the carriers’ Section 6 notice, click here.

Leadership message: Jan. 18

Brothers and Sisters:

We know our rail members employed by BNSF, CSX, KCS, NS and UP are anxious about the status of talks with the National Carriers’ Conference Committee (NCCC).

The talks resume Jan. 22 in Jacksonville, Fla.

It has been a year since the UTU and the NCCC held negotiations; and, in the interim, other organizations did reach a new agreement with the carriers.

Our talks stalled, in part, over the matter of entry-level pay tied to training (which was the subject of a side-letter in the previous round of negotiations).

The talks are under the control of the National Mediation Board, and this session in Jacksonville will be the first with President Futhey leading the negotiating team.

There are some changes in the negotiating team owing to retirements and election-related departures. Assistant President Martin has been added to the team, having been on the team that negotiated in two previous rounds.

We do not anticipate we will be returning to square one with the carriers, as there was progress in previous sessions even though a tentative agreement was not forged.

We can say this in advance of the Jan. 22 resumption of negotiations: The UTU negotiating team will encourage a new and progressive attitude by both sides.

As you know, successful negotiations cannot and do not occur in public, but every UTU member affected should be assured that the UTU negotiating team recognizes the issues near and dear to our members, and your negotiating team intends to forge a tentative agreement that can and will be ratified by the membership.

We will provide an update on progress as soon as we are able.

Meanwhile, we have made significant progress in updating International vice president assignments, with the majority of requests for assistance from general committees — some extending back to mid-October — having been made.

Also, assignments for UTU representation on various FRA safety-related committees, as well as National Transportation Safety Board incident and accident committees, are in the process of being updated.

During the past week in Cleveland, we met with the dedicated and loyal International headquarters staff and assured them that this administration is sensitive to their concerns as we embrace change. We emphasized that we are all members of working families, and that working families survive and prosper by standing together and working together.

Additionally, we are working with staff of the UTUIA to ensure that the insurance needs and concerns of active and retired UTUIA policy holders are serviced properly and in a timely manner.

Another area receiving our attention is the Discipline Income Protection Plan (DIPP). The carriers have been accelerating the imposition of discipline and dismissal of UTU members. While we have made some changes to ensure the continuation of the DIPP, the accelerated discipline and dismissal of employees by the carriers requires a complete review of the DIPP.

It is essential to emphasize that while other job benefit plans are looking for ways to AVOID paying claims, the UTU’s DIPP has remained steadfast in looking for ways to pay claims of participants. We intend to shore up this plan and continue to provide the peace of mind expected by members and their families who participate in the DIPP.

With regard to the SMART merger, recall it is on hold through a federal-court temporary restraining order. A status telephone conference call with the judge, involving all parties to the case, is scheduled for Feb. 1, and a court-hearing is scheduled for Feb. 8 and 9. We shall be reporting more on this issue as events warrant.

Finally, we have scheduled a meeting with all International officers, general chairpersons and state legislative directors in New Orleans for the end of January.

On Jan. 29, which is a meeting for International officers only, we shall fulfill a campaign promise to provide training and education in available computer software related to their jobs, as well as work-related resources available to them.

On Jan. 30, International officers, general chairpersons and state legislative directors will be provided a review of the union’s financial condition. Also, at the Jan. 30 meeting, there will be a discussion of various issues facing the International, its officers and membership.

General chairpersons and state legislative directors should attend the Jan. 30 meeting only.

In solidarity,

Mike Futhey, International President

President@utu.org

Arty Martin, Assistant President

AsstPres@utu.org

Kim Thompson, General Secretary & Treasurer

GST@utu.org

Leaders report: Week one

Brothers and Sisters:

This is another in a series of what will be many leadership messages to our membership.

Our first week in office involved:

  • Familiarizing ourselves with the day-to-day operation of the International;
  • Assessing the financial condition of the UTU and the UTUIA;
  • Reviewing activities of the past few months that affect our union going forward;
  • Assessing the needs of general committees;
  • Assigning projects to International officers based on priorities and specific skills; and,
  • Working feverishly to assure that our cherished craft autonomy is not sacrificed through what has been revealed as a too-hastily concluded merger agreement.

We are also preparing to meet with the National Carriers’ Conference Committee Jan. 22 for the first national contract negotiations held in more than a year.

As you are aware, we have five new International vice presidents. Also, there have been abolished four U.S. International vice president positions, and two in Canada, which constitutes a significant cost savings for our union.

This major transition required a thorough review of assignments, which we are in the process of completing. Within the next few days, all current International officers will have been given their new assignments.

We are also working with the National Mediation Board to jump-start grievance handling at that level following a lengthy delay owing to a congressional budget deadlock that required the NMB to halt all travel for neutrals.

Another area of concern is passenger railroads, including Amtrak and commuter carriers. As you are aware, a Presidential Emergency Board made non-binding recommendations this month in an effort to settle a collective bargaining impasse between Amtrak and eight of its unions. The UTU is not one of those unions.

The UTU has been in difficult negotiations with Amtrak since August 2000, on behalf of some 2,600 Amtrak conductors, assistant conductors and yardmasters.

A significant sticking point in our negotiations is Amtrak’s demand that management have an unrestricted right to determine the staffing level of passenger trains, which could mean the elimination of many assistant conductor positions.

We have been resolute in our insistence that the assistant conductor is absolutely essential for passenger safety and security — especially in this post-9/11 environment. To this end, the U.S. Department of Transportation, at the direction of Congress, has commenced a study on that issue and we are confident our position will be validated by the federal government.

In the meantime, we continue our effort to gain for our Amtrak-employed members an equitable agreement on wages, benefits and working conditions, which includes the back pay already recommended by the PEB for the other organizations. On Amtrak, we are also mindful of actions by management to eliminate many yardmaster positions.

The federal study into the safety and security-related roles of Amtrak conductors and assistant conductors could also provide protection for UTU-represented assistant conductors employed in commuter operations.

We are reminding our negotiators of a conclusion by a special Presidential Railroad Commission — created by President Kennedy in 1962 — that, “In this [railroad] industry, whatever may be said of others, the employees have a legitimate collective bargaining interest in the matter of crew consist, and it is our view that the collective bargaining process should remain the basic method for resolving disputes concerning this matter.”

As gasoline prices skyrocket, air travel becomes more problematic and the population ages, Americans are voting increasingly with the feet and wallets to ride Amtrak and the various commuter rail systems nationwide. The growing demand for high-speed regional rail and expanded commuter rail also provides new opportunity for organizing the unorganized.

The UTU also will work with Amtrak and commuter railroads to ensure freight railroads do not discriminate against passenger operations by denying them the priority dispatch access to which they are entitled. We will also lobby at the state and congressional level for sufficient public funding for new and expanded commuter and transit services.

Another subject we are investigating is the appointment last July of a sitting UTU president to the advisory board of the American Income Life Insurance Co., which competes with our own UTUIA. That appointment may have constituted a conflict of interest with his position as a director and chief executive officer of the UTUIA, and we will report to you on the results of that investigation. We stress that this is not a matter of “going after” a former officer, but a matter of protecting UTUIA.

We also are following the unfortunate demise and pending liquidation of Big Sky Airlines. Protection of our members employed by Big Sky is our number one priority, and the UTU law department is researching all options to ensure the letter of the law and collective bargaining agreements are followed.

Bus operators and mechanics represented by the UTU also are important to us, and we will devote what ever resources are required to assist our bus locals in negotiating equitable contracts, and to organize unorganized properties.

We also pledge to continue efforts before Congress to right the wrong of prior federal legislation that puts each commercial driver’s license at risk for even minor traffic violations when operating a private automobile. We also are working with Congress to gain additional federal funding for training of bus operators, and means of increasing the physical protection of drivers from assaults by passengers.

Additionally, we are seeing an increase in demand for bus travel — local and intercity — throughout the nation as the price of gasoline soars. This is especially so in rural and low population areas without air service. The UTU will be encouraging communities and states to devote additional tax revenue to enhancing local and intercity bus service, which also will create new organizing opportunities for the UTU.

Clearly, we have a lot on our plates. Our union is especially fortunate to have highly skilled, loyal and determined officers and staff at the International, general committee and local levels, as well as in state legislative and provincial board offices, whose advice and assistance is crucial to providing second-to-none service to all our members.

In solidarity,

Mike Futhey, International President

President@utu.org

Arty Martin, Assistant President

AsstPres@utu.org

Kim Thompson, General Secretary & Treasurer

GST@utu.org