|ONLINE VERSION||NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2000|
|JANUARY - MARCH|
The first month of the new century found BMWE leadership heavily engaged in struggles on two fronts — bargaining and railroad retirement. For the entire week beginning January 10 BMWE bargaining committees met in Chicago to work on developing a comprehensive settlement proposal from the BMWE Section 6 Notice served on November 1, 1999. (A copy of the BMWE's demands as well as those of the railroads were printed in the Jan/Feb 2000 issue of the BMWE JOURNAL.) This comprehensive proposal was delivered to the National Carriers' Conference Committee (the bargaining agent for the railroads) the following week and was discussed in bargaining on January 26 and 27. As a result of these bargaining talks, the BMWE bargaining committees further modified their comprehensive proposal for settlement and again asked for 10 consecutive days of bargaining. The NCCC refused and since it was then clear that the NCCC was not interested in reaching a prompt resolution of the dispute, on January 28 the BMWE requested mediation from the National Mediation Board.
On January 14 the railroads and rail unions (except for the BMWE and BLE) representing approximately 60% (at that time) of rail workers initialed an agreement which proposed changes in the Railroad Retirement Act that will give the railroads over $430 million per year of rail workers' money beginning in 2003. On January 21 the BMWE filed suit against the railroads in U.S. District Court in Illinois seeking to refrain the railroads from acting in accordance with this agreement because it would have the effect of making "unilateral changes to maintenance of way employees' pension benefits ... railroad retirement taxes, retiree health insurance ... and total compensation" without the participation of the BMWE. On January 25, 2000, a special BMWE International Association meeting of Grand Lodge and System Officers was held in Washington, DC to discuss and determine the extent of further action necessary to protect and enhance BMWE members' railroad retirement benefits. Following the IA meeting and in spite of a severe snowstorm, BMWE legislative directors and system officers conducted the first of many lobbying sessions through the year with members of Congress on the railroad retirement issue.
January 15 — Martin Luther King, Jr. Honored
"We Shall Overcome" — Martin Luther
In honor and tribute to the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. — his great work and commitment to ending poverty and seeing that ALL men and women have good jobs and decent living and working conditions — his birthday, January 15, was designated a national holiday in 1983. Let us all take a moment on that day to remember him and his great positive impact on the human condition.
January 18 — New Lodge Has First Meeting
In the summer of 1999, employees of Hallmark Hotels in North Bend, British Columbia contacted BMWE Pacific Region General Chairman W. J. Brehl of the Canadian System Federation for support in organizing them into the BMWE. That support was "immediately and enthusiastically given," said Brehl and after months of organizing effort during which "Hallmark Hotels did everything legally possible to delay the process," the BMWE was legally certified as the official bargaining agent for these employees on December 22, 1999.
After the first meeting of the new lodge, Brehl filed the following report:
On the 18th of January, 2000, myself and Brother Shane Brighton, Joint Protective Board member for British Columbia, had the honour of attending the first lodge meeting on the Pacific Region of the Canadian System for this brand new century. And to top it off, it was the first meeting of the newly organized employees of Hallmark Hotels at North Bend, B.C.
When I was hired by CP Rail, I automatically became a member of the BMWE. With regret, I admit that I took the rights and privileges that membership entitled me for granted. It wasn't until I became more involved in this great organization that I began to realize the sweat and blood that our forefathers shed to gain a decent contract for us. After almost 20 years in this Brotherhood, I had nearly forgotten what it was like to work without a union, but this meeting was a good reminder.
You see, most of the new sisters present have never belonged to any union. They are working for an average rate of just above the minimum wage with no security or seniority to speak of, no bidding procedures, next to no benefits and no representation. Before January 18, 2000 they didn't even have a Health & Safety representative or committee, even though one is required by law.
And now here they sat, after a successful organizing campaign, together at their own lodge. Their "own" lodge. Can you imagine how sweet that sounds to someone who had to fight to achieve it? What we sometimes take for granted, they cherish. These new members have ceased to simply work together and have now begun to work together in solidarity, for the common good.
Left to right, Shane Brighton, President Daizy Lowe, Local Chairman (Bunkhouse) Cindy Walton, Secretary-Treasurer Arlene McGilvray, Local Chairman (Restaurant) and Health & Safety Representative Carol Hughes, Vice President Elizabeth Alam and W. J. Brehl.
Sure, they were nervous. They have a lot to do and a lot to learn. But they are willing. Willing and determined to work together to improve their lives and to achieve a fair and equitable contract and working conditions. And we are going to be there for them and with them, and all of us are going to succeed.
To quote an anonymous union organizer: "The union is the people themselves, joining together in a triumph of hope over fear, standing up together for justice."
That night a new lodge executive and H&S representative were elected. For the first time, five women were sworn in as the governing body of a brand new BMWE local lodge. And so again I offer my congratulations to the newly elected executive and am looking forward to the work we will perform together in the future. And congratulations to all the members of this lodge, you have a lot to be proud of, you did well.
There were only two sad notes to the whole evening. The first was that after devoting such time and effort to unionizing Hallmark, Sister Elizabeth Foreman resigned prior to seeing her dream realized and was not able to be present. The other was that organizing committee volunteer, Brother Joe Doherty, who worked tirelessly on this campaign, was stuck up the hill fighting snow and so missed the first meeting. Both of these people were invaluable to this success and they were sorely missed. But they both have our gratitude.
January 31 — BMWE Strike on DM&IR
On the morning of January 31, 2000, BMWE members struck the Duluth, Missabe & Iron Range Railway over the carrier's unilateral change to the agreement by forcing substitution of paid leave (vacation time) for unpaid leave during periods when members were absent from work pursuant to the federal Family and Medical Leave Act. The carriers obtained a temporary restraining order on the evening of February 1, retaining the status quo, meaning the BMWE was restrained from striking and the company's policy was temporarily suspended. In late September the issue was settled out of court and the carrier withdrew its change in policy.
In early February, pursuant to the Railway Labor Act, the National Mediation Board accepted the BMWE's January 28 request for its assistance by invoking mediation and assigned Mediators Jack Bavis and Les Parmelee to the case. Meetings were held in Miami, Florida on February 16, 17 and 18. At that time, the parties discussed work rules changes which each side felt were important. But the carriers still had not made a comprehensive counterproposal. The BMWE continued to request ten days of continuous negotiations in order to either reach agreement or get to the next step in the process. "Meeting for one or two days a month will not lead to any significant progress in the talks," said President Fleming.
On February 15 BMWE President Mac A. Fleming wrote every Congressman and said in part, "we are not asking that you analyze or get involved in the substance of the [railroad retirement] deal — we are asking that no legislation move until all of the organizations involved in Railroad Retirement are in agreement." BMWE representatives continued to lobby Congress with the message "No Consensus — No Deal" while literature was distributed and meetings held across the country explaining the BMWE's position that the deal is too rich for the railroads, too little in improved benefits, and all of the money to be used is railroad workers' money.
February, 1900 — Affiliation of the BMWE with the American Federation of Labor
February 1, 1951 — First Union Shop Agreement Signed by BMWE in the U.S.
February 18 & 19 — Secretary-Treasurer Seminar, Houston, Texas
February 20 & 21 — Secretary-Treasurer Seminar, Birmingham, Alabama
February 24 — BMWE Strike on Union Pacific
At 6:00 a.m. CST on February 24, 2000, BMWE members set up picket lines on the former Union Pacific Railroad proper which does not include the former Chicago & North Western, former Missouri Pacific and former Southern Pacific. The UP operates 33,000 miles of track in 23 states in the western two-thirds of the U.S. and employs 52,000 employees of which approximately 8,000 are represented by the BMWE.
The strike was called because UP announced that a track panel assembly plant in Laramie, Wyoming, operated by maintenance of way employees, would be closed down and future panels would be purchased from outside contractors.
Four hours after the strike began, Judge Joseph F. Bataillon, of the U.S. District Court for the District of Nebraska, issued a temporary restraining order pending a hearing originally scheduled for February 28 in Omaha but transferred to Denver where the BMWE had filed suit on February 22. The Judge ordered BMWE members back to work but also temporarily restrained UP from closing the plant.
On March 2 Judge Zitz Weinshienk of the U.S. District Court in Denver found that UP's threat to close the panel plant and instead install track panels made by contractors was a "major dispute" — a violation of the plan language of the BMWE/UP collective bargaining agreement — and granted the BMWE's motion to enjoin UP from closing the plant. The Judge also ordered that fabricating track panels must be done by BMWE-represented employees since it is clearly maintenance of way work.
As the BMWE continued to stress the need for at least 10 days of continuous national negotiations, the parties met on March 22 and 23 and again discussed work rules absent any comprehensive counterproposal to the BMWE's complete proposal of late January. When the BMWE requested bargaining dates for April, the NCCC refused, stating that now that mediation was invoked, the NMB should schedule meetings. When the BMWE contacted Mediator Bavis, he advised he was leaving the NMB to accept a management position with Northwest Airlines. Mediator Parmelee later advised the carriers refused to provide dates to meet until the three days immediately before the Memorial Day weekend at the end of May. On March 30 the BMWE requested the services of the NMB on Amtrak because "discussions with Amtrak are not heading towards any meaningful resolution" of the current Section 6 dispute.
Several weeks before the Spring recess of Congress, Congressman James Oberstar, a good friend of labor, in an effort to heal the division in rail labor over the railroad retirement issue, attempted to negotiate a compromise. He suggested that an actuarially reduced retirement benefit be provided at ages 59 and 58 with the same medical benefit under group plan GA-46000 provided for in the deal between the railroads and the other rail unions. The railroads immediately rejected this suggestion. After several hours of discussion in two conference calls held on March 27 and 30 with all BMWE system officers, BMWE also rejected Oberstar's compromise and voted to continue to fight for an earlier retirement.
March, 1913 — BMWE Grand Lodge Headquarters Moves from St. Louis to Detroit
March 1, 1941 — Minimum Hourly Rates of 33 and 36 cents Established for Railroad Workers in the U.S. under the Wage-Hour Act
March 6 — MofW, Norfolk Southern Camp Cars, Bluefield, West Virginia
Editor's Note: I thank all those who took the time to talk with me after a hard day's work and apologize because my notes have been lost which unfortunately prevents me from printing your names and all the great quotes you gave me.
Alvin R. Humes, March 7, 2000.
Kids On Track
Although his father worked in hotels and in the dry cleaning business, Alvin Humes followed his "granddaddy Arthur James who worked in the old tie yard in Radford" onto the railroad. Humes, age 54, started working on the Norfolk Southern Railroad 22 years ago as a laborer after serving six years in the U.S. Navy. Later he worked as a railroad cook for 13 years without missing a day.
After a layoff almost two years ago, Humes, who has been active in the affairs of BMWE Local Lodge 568, became Area 10 Chairman of the NAACP. Area 10 is comprised of the territory just southwest of Christiansburg, Virginia to Bristol, Tennessee.
Very few initials are as well known in America as NAACP. They stand for the "National Association for the Advancement of Colored People" which traces its beginning to 1909 in New York City. With a membership of over 500,000, the NAACP is primarily a volunteer organization whose strength derives from its deep roots in local communities. While civil rights remain a major focus, the NAACP is involved in a wide spectrum of initiatives directed toward the strengthening of the economic, cultural, social and family bases of the black community.
Working with the NAACP is only the most recent of Hume's efforts to strengthen the community in the area of Radford, Virginia where he was born and raised. He has worked with the Diversity Committee on the School Board and in 1994 founded and became president of Kids on Track. Kids on Track is an interracial organization because Humes strongly believes that "it's only really effective if we all work together to make change."
The articles of incorporation of Kids on Track list the following goals it will work to promote through its own programs and through support of the programs of others:
To provide supportive attention to children and youth in the New River Valley, especially those in households where one or both parents are absent, those whose families lack financial resources to enable them to develop their full potential, those whose circumstances may not provide them with the understanding and love they need, and those who have problems or are at risk of problems with abuse of alcohol or drugs, to get or keep them "on the right track."
To help provide for the fundamental needs of children and youth in the New River Valley, to enable them to grow to maturity in an environment free of avoidable anxiety and worry.
To promote the activities of children and youth in worthwhile school-related programs.
To assist New River Valley youth financially to enable them to continue their education and training after high school.
To coordinate programs of Kids on Track with programs or activities of other groups and cooperate with others in advancing the purposes of Kids on Track.
For more information, contact Alvin Humes at P.O. Box 2323, Christiansburg, Virginia 24073.
March 9 — Florida Judge Stops Strike Against CSX
At 11:00 p.m. on March 9, Federal Judge Nimmons of the U.S. District Court in Jacksonville, Florida — headquarters of CSX — issued a temporary restraining order which prevented BMWE from initiating its strike against CSX planned for 5:00 Friday morning, March 10, over contracting out.
On June 1, 1999, the day CSX Transportation and Norfolk Southern completed their carve-up of Conrail, CSX began operating under a new agreement with the BMWE. As a result of the CSX purchase of approximately 40% of Conrail, the BMWE and CSX had entered into this new collective bargaining agreement to integrate the newly acquired property into CSX operations.
The agreement was explicitly designed to reserve BMWE work to BMWE members and to eliminate the sub-contracting of most bargaining unit work over CSX's 22,700-route mile network in 23 states, the District of Columbia and two Canadian provinces.
Almost immediately, however, CSX began serving BMWE General Chairmen representing members on the property with numerous contracting notices — over 450 between June 1 and December 31, 1999. And CSX began to regularly sub-contract core bargaining unit work in the form of routine maintenance and regular programmed repairs such as renewals and rehabilitation of tracks, roadbed and structures.
After numerous meetings with CSX that began in early June 1999 it was clear that CSX was not making a good faith effort to resolve the contracting dispute and intended to continue the avalanche of sub-contracting, resulting in the strike planned for March 10, 2000.
March 10 — NPW&LE JPB Reviews New Agreement
Members of the Nickel Plate-Wheeling & Lake Erie Federation Joint Protective Board attended a training seminar on March 10 in Toledo, Ohio to review the N&W/Wabash agreement which replaced the Nickel Plate agreement formerly in effect on NPW&LE territory. A membership ratification vote following the carrier's notice of realignment approved the new agreement on the property by a small margin.
March 15 — United Transportation Union Withdraws from AFL-CIO
March 27, 28 & 29 — BMWE Railroad Retirement Meetings
BMWE Director of Organizing Paul Swanson, standing at right, with the assistance of CRSF General Chairman Perry Geller, standing at left, and CRSF Assistant General Chairman T. J. Nemeth, seated between them, conducted one of the many BMWE informational meetings on the early retirement struggle on March 27 in Cleveland, Ohio.
March 27, 2000, Cleveland, Ohio.
Paul Swanson, at left, with the assistance of CRSF Assistant General Chairmen Ed Long, at right, and CRSF First Vice Chairman Brad Winter, conducted early retirement informational meetings on March 28 in Buffalo, New York and on March 29 in Albany, New York.
March 28, 2000, Buffalo, New York.
March 29, 2000, Albany, New York.