BLET, SMART members ratify national contract by wide margins

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INDEPENDENCE, Ohio — Four rail unions, including the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen and SMART, have ratified a new national contract.

On Friday, the nation’s two largest rail unions announced that their members had approved the new deal with the nation’s Class I railroads by a wide margin: 88 percent of BLET members and 79 percent of SMART members voted in favor of the five-year agreement. The announcement comes just days after the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen and American Train Dispatchers Association also voted in favor of the new contract.

The unions are part of the Coordinated Bargaining Group, a coalition of labor groups that include American Train Dispatchers Association; the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen; the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen; the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, Iron Ship Builders, Blacksmiths, Forgers, and Helpers; the National Conference of Firemen and Oilers; and the Transportation Division of the SMART. The grouped unions represent more than 85,000 railroad workers.

Those 85,000 railroaders include employees at the following railroads: Belt Railway of Chicago; BNSF Railway; Conrail; CSX Transportation (health and welfare only); Indiana Harbor Belt; Kansas City Southern System (KCS/L&A, Gateway Western, MidSouth, South Rail, and Tex Mex); Longview Switching; Norfolk Southern (health and welfare only); Portland Terminal; Soo Line Railroad (health and welfare only); Union Railroad (health and welfare only); Union Pacific Railroad; and Winston-Salem Southbound. It also covers all train service employees on the Texas Mexican Railway.

The new 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.

BLET National President Dennis R. Pierce applauded the vote on Friday.

“It is clear to me that our members took the time to study the issues before making a very careful choice. BLET members show their strength every time they get involved, and I again thank all members who took the time to participate in their own future,” Pierce says. “I must also thank the other unions who bargained with the coordinated bargaining group. BLET members benefited from the solidarity shown by the [unions], and my hope is that these unions will continue to work together going forward.”
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