Historic Agreement Best in a Generation for Rail Labor
Source: Rail Labor Bargaining Coalition
(Washington, DC) Six of the seven rail unions that make up the Rail Labor Bargaining Coalition (RLBC) have ratified their contracts with the National Carrier’s Conference Committee (NCCC).
The RLBC represents seven rail labor unions whose contracts cover more than 85,000 rail workers or more than 50 percent of the carriers’ employees. The seven unions in the RLBC are American Train Dispatchers Association, Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes Division, Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen, International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, National Conference of Firemen and Oilers/SEIU, and the Sheet Metal Workers’ International Association.
The NCCC is the carriers’ bargaining coalition representing the nation’s major railroads in national negotiations, including Union Pacific, Burlington Northern Santa Fe, Norfolk Southern, CSX, Kansas City Southern, that transport most the rail freight in the country.
The agreement includes general wage increases totaling 17 percent (18.2 percent compounded over the life of the agreement), which will remain effective until December 31, 2009. Negotiations concluded in May after two and a half years of bargaining, after which the unions submitted the tentative agreement to their members for ratification. The final results were received today. Of the seven RLBC member unions, just the American Train Dispatchers Association failed to ratify the agreement.
“For the first time in a generation, a major portion of rail labor negotiated in solidarity,” said Fred Simpson, President of the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes Division (BMWED), “This agreement represents a historic achievement for rail labor. By standing together, we demonstrated to the carriers that their ‘divide and conquer’ strategy, in which they would pit one union against another to achieve the lowest common denominator, would no longer work.”
“Our members will see increases in wages and a cap on health and welfare contributions. Together with the other members of the Rail Labor Bargaining Coalition we were able to keep the carriers at bay,” said Don Hahs, National President of the BLET. “I believe this contract is further evidence of the increased power rail labor has now that we have merged with the Teamsters Union and are a part of the Teamsters Rail Conference.With the support of the RLBC, we stopped the rail carriers’ outrageous and dangerous proposal to reduce train crew size to one person because it imperils the safety of rail workers and the communities they serve.”
"These were difficult negotiations," stated Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen International President W. Dan Pickett. "The carriers were on the offensive throughout this entire process. The RLBC’s solidarity derailed the carriers’ all-out assault upon the wages, benefits, and work rules, and achieved the best contract we’ve gotten in decades."
“The rail carriers have woken-up to the fact that there’s a new sheriff in town,” said John Murphy, Teamsters International Vice President and Director of the Teamsters Rail Conference with which the BLET and BMWED are affiliated. “The carriers are no longer dealing with a divided and splintered rail labor force. The rail unions stuck together through an extraordinarily difficult, multi-year process. We stopped the carriers from singling out the union with the most to lose and then forcing other unions to accept a so-called pattern agreement. When negotiations open up again in 2010, rail labor will be stronger and more united, and we will be positioned to achieve even greater gains for our members.”
"This agreement proves the old adage that in unity there is strength," said RLBC Chair and President of the National Conference of Firemen and Oilers (SEIU) George J. Francisco, Jr. "Coalition bargaining led to a better contract and we were able to work with rail unions outside of the RLBC as well."
“From the legal counsel to the consultants we retained, the coalition demonstrated extraordinary value of solidarity,”Dan Hamilton, Representative of the Railroad Division of the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers. “Together we achieved far more than we could have separately. That is the power of the RLBC.”
“By sticking together and holding firm through a very difficult and trying process, we were able to secure our best contract in a generation, ”Dewey B. Garland, Director of the Railroad and Shipyard Department of the Sheet Metal Workers International Association. “This is the power of rail solidarity.”
The contract gives up no work rules, raises net wages over 16 percent after cost sharing for Health & Welfare (H&W), caps employee H&W contributions, expands access to in-network medical benefits for most of the 25 percent of rail employees previously denied them, and provides no concessions on contracting out or the carriers’ work exit demands.