Voting begins for national union contract

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A Norfolk Southern conductor switches freight cars at Point Pleasant, W.Va., in September 2013.
Chase Gunnoe
INDEPENDENCE, Ohio – Thousands of union railroaders are voting on a national contract agreement with more than a dozen railroads, including BNSF Railway, CSX Transportation, Union Pacific, Norfolk Southern, Soo Line, and Kansas City Southern.

Ballots were sent out on Nov. 9 and are due back by the end of the month. The new contract was negotiated by the Coordinated Bargaining Group, a coalition of six unions including the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen and International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers. Together the unions represent more than 25,000 members.

The tentative agreement includes an immediate wage increase of 4 percent, with an additional 2.5 percent six months later on July 1, 2018, and an additional 3 percent one year later on July 1, 2019. All benefits existing under the health and welfare plan will remain in effect unchanged and there are no disruptions to the existing healthcare networks.

One union, the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes, has come out against the tentative agreement, arguing that the wage increases do not do enough to cover inflation and that the unions should have improved the health care coverage each employee has. “You all know that the railroads are financially healthy; certainly they are much healthier than when I began my railroad career in 1974,” writes BMWED President F.N. Simpson. “The railroads are buying back stock, and they are paying huge salaries for CEO's. Yet, the railroads can't seem to find the money to pay adequate wages to their employees.”

The BLET has fired back and called the BMWED’s rhetoric “bombastic” and encouraged members to support the tentative agreement. BLET officials say misinformation has been spread about the agreement online.

“Make no mistake, President Pierce, our bargaining team and the Coordinated Bargaining Group through their dedicated efforts have managed to deal us a pair of aces with this tentative agreement,” writes BLET National Vice President and Union Pacific locomotive engineer Gil L. Gore. “Others – who do not have the same stake or buy-in that we transportation employees have in this round of national bargaining – are unscrupulously asking you to bust up the aces you’re holding in hopes of drawing an against-all-odds inside straight from a stacked political deck.”

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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