INDEPENDENCE, Ohio, June 27 — Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) National President Dennis R. Pierce and BLET Texas Mexican Railway (Tex Mex) General Chairman Chris Heise today rejected a plan by Kansas City Southern Railway (KCS) to replace American crews with Mexican crews in Laredo, Texas, setting the stage for a BLET strike on the Tex Mex at 12:01 a.m. on Monday, July 9.
KCS — a multinational corporation that owns both the Tex Mex and the former Transportación Ferroviaria Mexicana (TFM), with which Tex Mex connects at the International Bridge — wrote General Chairman Heise on May 23, 2018, advising of its intention to begin using Mexican crews to operate Tex Mex trains between the International Bridge in Laredo and Laredo Yard, nearly 10 miles away.
In a June 27 letter to KCS, National President Pierce and General Chairman Heise said the railroad’s reliance on a 1971 National Agreement to which TFM was not a party was “frivolous, if not preposterous,” because the intent was to abrogate, rather than apply governing collective bargaining agreements.
The letter also identified two pledges KCS made to the Surface Transportation Board in 2004, when it took over the Tex Mex and TFM: that it would “honor the terms of all existing” Tex Mex agreements; and that it would “make no significant changes in applicants’ operations, with safety remaining a top priority.”
National President Pierce and General Chairman Heise also pointed to several areas in which safety would be significantly degraded under the KCS job giveaway; among the most serious BLET safety concerns are:
• The railroad’s revised locomotive engineer certification program does not require the Mexican replacements to be proficient in the English language.
• The program’s section applicable to these replacements does not require them to take and pass by a 90% margin the 200-question test that is required of Tex Mex engineers who operate the trains currently.
• The skills testing the replacements will have to undergo is only half as long as that required of the Train Service Engineers currently operating the service.
• The railroad’s conductor certification program has not been revised at all, meaning that replacement Mexican conductors will not be certified.
National President Pierce and General Chairman Heise said the KCS “position does nothing more than force U.S. law, including federal railroad safety statutes and regulations as well as the Railway Labor Act, to retreat ten miles northward of the International Bridge, and abrogate our collective bargaining agreements for that same distance. It is contrary to the law and history.”
President Pierce also calls on all BLET members to be ready to join the fight to preserve our jobs. “The American middle class has been severely harmed by the exporting of jobs under NAFTA,” Pierce said. “Now, multi-national KCS wants to import workers to replace American train crews in Laredo; all BLET members must unite to repel this corporate attack on our Brothers and Sisters.”
A copy of the Pierce/Heise letter to KCS is available at:
More information regarding this developing story will be provided as it becomes available.