Voting packages for the tentative national rail contract were mailed Friday, Aug. 12, to UTU members eligible to vote.
The balloting period will extend for 21 days to 4 p.m., Eastern time, Friday, Sept. 2.
Voting will be by craft under the craft-autonomy provisions of the UTU Constitution. Crafts voting will be brakeman, conductor, engineer, fireman, yardman and yardmaster.
Members will vote based on the craft in which they worked on the day previous to ballots being mailed.
Voting packages provide instructions on how to cast ballots by telephone.
Votes will be tabulated by BallotPoint, which will report the results to the International. Results will be posted at smart-union.org/td/ when received by BallotPoint, which is expected the day voting is closed.
Results will be based on valid ballots cast.
To stay current on news relating to the tentative national rail contract, visit smart-union.org/td/ and click on the “National Rail Contract” link at the bottom right corner of the home page.
AFL founder Samuel Gompers said the objective of labor is, “more, now.”
Our national rail agreement fulfills that objective.
In an economic environment that has our brothers and sisters in other industries in a vice grip of difficult times, our agreement delivers more than just a 17 percent wage increase, a 6½-year cap on health care insurance premiums, certification pay, a faster process for new hires to reach full-pay rates and no work-rules give-backs.
The 17 percent wage increase is significantly higher than the rate of price inflation – giving you a greater boost in purchasing power than any other national contract in the past 40 years.
By contrast, President Obama imposed a two-year wage freeze on federal employees, and not a day passes without news of wage and health care givebacks in other industries.
Our $200 monthly cap on health care insurance contributions is less than half what federal workers currently are paying; and is more than $140 less than the average currently paid by private-sector workers.
Health care plan design changes deliver expanded and improved health care benefits, such as personalized medicine and access to centers of excellence – benefits we never before had. Personalized medicine assure you access to the most up-to-date health care products available; and centers of excellence means that if you or a family member suffers a serious illness, you gain access to the most advanced treatment center for that illness in America.
Sadly, other organizations – unable on their own to reach a national agreement — have attacked ours.
These other organizations ignore that neutral arbitrators have previously ruled that carrier profitability is not a valid reason for increasing wages. Moreover, the Surface Transportation Board has concluded that while rail profits are up sharply, the carriers remain revenue inadequate. Captive shippers, citing higher rail profits, have lost every argument before Congress to impose caps on freight rates.
These other organizations also ignore that presidential emergency boards merely make recommendations under the Railway Labor Act. Those recommendations are subject to amendment by Congress, and if we turn our fate over to Congress, it is the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee that will be the committee of jurisdiction. The chairman of that committee is Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.).
In recent weeks, Chairman Mica has voiced opposition to union representation for Transportation Security Administration workers, advanced legislative language to privatize Amtrak and slash transit funding, and to overturn a National Mediation Board ruling assuring that a majority of those voting determine the outcome of airline and railroad representation elections. Rep. Mica wants the NMB to count as “no” votes anyone who does not cast a ballot.
In fact, if this agreement is rejected, and third parties determine our fate, the carriers will cite federal worker benchmarks – the wage freeze and far higher health care insurance premiums — to Congress. Everything we won in this agreement is off the table if we go to a presidential emergency board, with the carriers able to resort to their original Section 6 notice.
Brothers and sisters, this agreement deserves to be ratified on its merits. It delivers “more, now.”
Members of the UTU National Rail Contract Negotiating Committee, assisted by International officers and general chairpersons, are barnstorming the nation, holding face-to-face meetings with members to explain the tentative agreement and respond to questions.
The meetings began last week and continue through early August — prior to voting packages being mailed to some 38,000 members eligible to vote on the agreement.
A slideshow, shown at these meetings, provides an overview of the agreement; and a link to that slide show is found below.
A listing of meeting locations and dates can be found be clicking on another link, below.
A link also is provided to a webpage with additional information, including a link to the actual agreement.
Key points being explained to members include:
* The 17-percent wage increase is substantially higher than the rate of price inflation in 2010 and 2011, and the Department of Labor’s estimate of price inflation in subsequent years.
* The wage increase actually is 18.24 percent compounded, because each annual sequential wage increase is computed on the wage base increased by the previous year’s wage increase.
* This agreement exceeds the level of price inflation by more than any previous national rail agreement in the 41-year history of the UTU. Although the excess of the wage agreement over price inflation may appear greater in the 1970-1973 agreement (as shown graphically in a slide), that agreement didn’t account for cost-of-living adjustments; and there were givebacks, including changes in interdivision service, road-yard demarcation and run-throughs. There are no givebacks in the current tentative agreement.
* Price inflation, as computed by the Department of Labor, includes increases in costs of such items as food, autos, gasoline, clothing and other consumer goods and services. Wages that exceed price inflation provide members with greater everyday purchasing power.
* The $200 monthly cap on health care insurance assures that members will pay considerably less than is being paid by federal workers and workers in the private sector (as shown graphically in a slide). That slide also shows that were this agreement not ratified, and the existing formula for health care insurance premiums continued, members would pay considerably more than $200 monthly.
* Health care costs have been rising dramatically – more than doubling since 2000; and UTU member health care insurance premiums doubled from $100 monthly to $200 monthly in the previous agreement. This tentative agreement has provisions to help bring these costs under control, while improving the quality of health care (shown in several slides). Without bringing health care costs under control, members would face considerably higher premiums in future years.
* A significant provision in this tentative agreement maintains the $200 monthly cap for 6 ½ years, or 18 months beyond the reopening of the contract. There are certain to be increases in existing health care insurance premiums for federal workers and other private sector workers during this period – workers already paying considerably more than the $200 monthly cap provided in this tentative agreement.
* While it is alleged by some that the UTU National Rail Contract Negotiating Committee could have extracted more from the carriers owing to record-profits of major railroads party to the agreement, the fact is that carrier profitability has been ruled by neutral arbitrators not to be a valid reason for increasing wages.
* Said Arbitration Board No. 559 in 1996: “We do not think that ‘bigness’ alone or profits by themselves are permissive reasons for recommending wage increases … in our view, the union’s claim that current profit levels justify greater wage increases does not fly.”
* Were this agreement not to be ratified, third parties would decide. A presidential emergency board would consist of neutrals, all aware that President Obama froze wages of federal employees for two years, that federal employees’ health care premiums are more than double the $200 cap in this tentative agreement, that 46 million Americans have no health care insurance, and millions of unionized workers have suffered wage cuts, loss of health care benefits and loss of pensions.
* Presidential emergency board recommendations are subject to congressional amendment. The committee of jurisdiction will be the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, whose chairman, Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), proposes eliminating Amtrak and slashing transit funding, and opposes union representation of Transportation Security Administration workers. Moreover, the anti-labor Republican leadership in the House proposes folding Railroad Retirement into Social Security and privatizing Social Security and Medicare.
* Historically, rail unions do poorly after rejecting tentative agreements. Many members recall the devastation in 1991 of PEB 219 recommendations, when two of the most labor-friendly lawmakers – Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) and Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) — chaired the committees of jurisdiction.
* As National Legislative Director James Stem counsels: “This agreement provides significant financial improvement and economic stability for our families. Any other option would be a big gamble we cannot afford to take.”
To download a .pdf version of the presentation, click here.
To view the listing of meetings scheduled for locals, click on the following link:
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.
The tentative national agreement with BNSF, CSX, Kansas City Southern, Norfolk Southern, and Union Pacific, which you will vote on soon, was hammered out in an intense two-day bargaining session Jan. 22-23 because the carriers recognized the unity the UTU brought to the negotiating table.
Equally important to the process was our return to interest-based bargaining, whereby both sides choose mutual problem solving to confrontation.
A year had gone by without a single meeting between the two sides, and the situation looked bleak. There were credible signals from the carriers that they intended to cash-in their Bush administration IOUs and move for a presidential emergency board (PEB) by spring. After all, the carriers had established a pattern, holding ratified agreements from most of the other labor organizations.
The carriers reasoned they could count on a carrier-friendly PEB to recommend that the pattern be forced on us. In an election year, with Congress not wanting a rail strike dumped in its lap, the odds were similarly high that lawmakers would quickly pass legislation ordering us back to work under the precise recommendations of the Bush-appointed PEB.
With that unhappy chain of events looming, I met with CSX CEO Michael Ward and made clear that the UTU’s intent was to craft a win-win agreement. We both agreed that a mutually negotiated settlement is preferable to one imposed by a third party – even if the carriers thought the White House is on their side. I asked Mr. Ward to relay our message to the other CEOs and the industry’s labor negotiators.
Our bargaining team reaffirmed our intent to reach a negotiated settlement when we sat down Jan. 22 with the carriers’ chief labor negotiators in Jacksonville, Fla. We were told that they and their CEOs had been reading our leadership messages on the UTU Web site, and sensed a more positive approach from the UTU — and they were prepared to respond in kind.
Before the sun set on the second day, we had that win-win agreement. The carriers acknowledged that prolonged warfare in Congress and before the federal courts was counterproductive.
The carriers agreed to go beyond the pattern. They offered the UTU — and only the UTU — a continuation of a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) during the period new agreements are being negotiated. The UTU also was the only union to achieve, in national negotiations, an increase in the meal allowance.
Also, the carriers agreed to provide full health-care insurance to new hires and their families after only one month, rather than four; and agreed to arbitrate the dispute over entry rates tied to training; and, for the first time, to make contributions to the yardmasters’ supplemental retiree medical insurance program.
We busted the pattern. But if we fail to ratify this agreement, we could lose it all — and more, because a PEB and Congress could embrace the carriers’ desire for one-person crews and elimination of the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA).
In the days ahead, we will be providing much more information on the tentative agreement, including answers to questions posed by general chairpersons. Please, stay informed. This agreement deserves ratification. The alternative is unthinkable.