CLEVELAND, April 21 — In a major legal victory to protect two-person train crews, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit has ruled in favor of Brotherhood Locomotive Engineer and Trainmen’s (BLET) position that the Wheeling & Lake Erie’s (WLE) use of managers in place of Union conductors is a major dispute under the Railway Labor Act. The ruling, which occurred yesterday, vindicates BLET’s decision to strike over the issue more than 18 months ago.
In September 2013, the BLET went on strike over the W&LE’s repudiation of Collective Bargaining Agreements that cover the locomotive engineer and trainmen operating crafts. Specifically, the Carrier ignored longstanding crew consist agreements and operated single-person operations in an effort to eliminate Trainmen.
When W&LE challenged the strike, the District Court ruled the dispute to be a minor one and granted the Carrier a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO). While the TRO put the BLET members back to work, the District Court conditioned it “on WLE’s agreement not to use supervisors or other management employees in place of engineers or conductors in the operation of its trains.” The TRO was later converted into an injunction.
A unanimous three-judge panel on the Sixth Circuit reversed the District Court. It found that W&LE’s “claim that the Trainmen Agreement allowed it to man trains without union conductors is frivolous or obviously insubstantial, and the dispute is major.” The Court of Appeals also vacated the injunction and remanded the case back to the District Court with instructions to dismiss the W&LE’s complaint.
“The favorable ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit constitutes a major victory for all BLET members, especially our Brothers and Sisters at the W&LE,” said Dennis Pierce, National President of the BLET. “They have fought the good fight for many years now and have stood strong against the carrier’s wishes to implement one-person train operations. They deserve our thanks for holding the line on this all-important safety issue.
“I would also like to thank General Chairman Dewayne Dehart, retired General Chairman R.H. Linsey, Local Chairmen Kevin Nahrebecki and Lonnie Swigert and the members of Division 292 for standing strong. I want to thank General Counsel Mike Wolly and his team for helping to secure this major court victory on behalf of our members,” Pierce said.
A copy of the court ruling is available for download from the BLET National Division website (PDF).