SMART, BLET to fight KCS in-cab cameras

May 10, 2013

KCS_rail_logo During a meeting with the presidents of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen and the SMART Transportation Division on April 24, 2013, Kansas City Southern Railway announced that it intends to install and begin to use inward facing cameras in all of its locomotives over the next few weeks.

According to KCS, each locomotive will have two cameras – one behind the engineer focused on the control panel, and one across the cab focusing on both crew members. (Some locomotives with cameras installed already are in use in Mexico; others are being fitted for cameras in Shreveport.)

The carrier told the two presidents that it has “management prerogative” to take these actions and does not have to, and does not intend to, bargain with the unions over the use of these cameras, or the effects of this dramatic change on its operating craft employees.

Without notifying the unions, that same day KCS filed suit in federal district court in Shreveport, La., to obtain a ruling allowing it to implement its plan. Upon learning of these developments, BLET National President Dennis Pierce and Mike Futhey, President of SMART Transportation Division, together told the carrier that both unions vehemently disagree that the carrier has the right to install and use inward-facing cameras unilaterally without exhausting the bargaining processes of the Railway Labor Act.

The two presidents and the leadership of both unions view this as a serious change in working conditions and have agreed to work closely to resist its implementation. A coordinated effort is being undertaken in response.

Not only will both unions be fervently opposing KCS’s lawsuit, they will be asking the court to enjoin the carrier from going ahead with its plan.

As of now, and until the court has issued a ruling regarding the parties’ respective rights, the carrier has agreed not to turn on or use the cameras.

Union members who work for KCS on a locomotive that has a camera installed should request assurances from the proper carrier officials that the camera is not turned on and not in use. Any instance where that assurance is not given should be immediately reported to your general chairperson.

Also, to avoid any possibility of discipline, no member should attempt to move, cover or otherwise tamper with the cameras they encounter. Cooperation in this manner is vital. 

Lastly, train and engine employees can be assured that their unions are diligently working to protect them and their interests in this matter. No legal stone will be left unturned in opposing the carrier on this issue.