|ONLINE VERSION||MARCH 2001|
|BMWE Strikes KCS's MidSouth Rail|
|The BMWE set up picket lines at rail yards
of the former MidSouth Rail Corporation, a subsidiary of Kansas City
Southern Railway Company, in Jackson and Meridian, Mississippi and
Bossier, Louisiana at 5:00 a.m. central time on January 22.
MidSouth and BMWE are parties to a collective bargaining agreement which requires that before MidSouth can contract out maintenance of way work, it must first provide the union with written notice. Then, if the union requests a meeting, the parties are to promptly meet to engage in a good faith discussion of the manner in which the work will be performed.
Despite the BMWE's request for a meeting in accordance with the agreement, MidSouth hired contractors "to perform a major rehabilitation on the East/West main line beginning January 2, 2001 and [to] continue throughout the year of 2001."
The BMWE made repeated requests that MidSouth live up to the requirements of the agreement and demanded that the contractors be immediately removed from the property. MidSouth refused each and every request.
Under the Railway Labor Act, it is unlawful for an employer to ignore the clear, unambiguous directives of labor agreements. Railroad violations of this type are "major disputes" and permit the BMWE to lawfully strike until the carrier remedies the violation.
A temporary restraining order was served on the BMWE before 6:00 a.m. and also ordered that a hearing be held on January 29. The order, issued by the United States District Court, Western District of Louisiana, Shreveport, Louisiana was signed at 9:07 p.m. on January 21 by Judge Tom Stagg. The January 29 hearing was postponed to February 20 after this JOURNAL went to press.
"The decision to strike is a very serious matter because it is disruptive for our members and other railroad employees," said Hayward Jude Granier, BMWE General Chairman, "but MidSouth's refusal to honor the crystal clear provisions of the agreement left us with little alternative. Although we are not pleased with the temporary delay, perhaps MidSouth will utilize this time to recognize the abject incompetence of its middle management in interpreting the work agreement and speedily reverse its illegal actions so we can all get back to the business of running the railroad."