Unions counter Metra COVID vaccine mandate

Published: November 24, 2021

CLEVELAND, Ohio (Nov. 24, 2021) — The Transportation Division of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, and Transportation Workers (SMART-TD) and Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) have responded to the suit Metra filed against them on Nov. 8, 2021, in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Chicago Division. The two organizations not only answered Metra’s allegations, they also filed counterclaims challenging Metra’s actions in implementing their vaccine policy without the bargaining mandated by the Railway Labor Act.

The suit is similar to claims filed by the SMART-TD and BLET against Union Pacific (UP), Norfolk Southern (NS), the BNSF Railway (BNSF), and Amtrak regarding their vaccine policies. Metra has taken the position that it has the right to implement and enforce a COVID vaccination mandate among its employees and requests the court to issue a declaratory judgment holding that the dispute between the railroad and the unions is a “minor” dispute, which must be arbitrated if the parties cannot come to a satisfactory settlement.

The unions have countered that Metra has no such authority, and their actions in failing to negotiate terms of implementation violate the status quo requirement of the Railway Labor Act, thus engendering a major dispute.

SMART-TD President Jeremy Ferguson and BLET National President Dennis Pierce issued the following joint statement regarding their action:

“Under threat of discipline, up to and including termination of employment, Metra has ordered all its employees to report their vaccination status by December 7, 2021, with a deadline of January 21, 2022, to either submit proof that they are fully vaccinated or obtain a religious or medical accommodation. Instead of negotiating with us as the law requires, the Carrier is directly dealing with its employees.

“We have several objections to Metra’s unilateral implementation of its policies mandating them and illegally dealing directly with its represented employees. We will continue to fight on behalf of all BLET and SMART–TD members in an effort to stop Metra’s lawlessness in its tracks.”

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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.

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.