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Teamsters Rail Conference Wins Gains, Protections for Members

6623 BLET UP member 3

The Teamsters Rail Conference recently notched victories in the ongoing fight to improve the lives of its members. 

The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) in May reached a tentative agreement with Norfolk Southern Corporation to provide seven paid sick days per year to BLET members. The tentative agreement came with no concessions by the union, which represents about 3,300 Norfolk Southern workers.

Unlike some agreements reached by other unions at Norfolk Southern, BLET members taking sick leave will not be subjected to a punitive attendance policy. Under the new policy, members may also cash in up to five days of unused sick leave at the end of each year.

“It’s not in the public’s interest or our members’ best interest to have locomotive engineers and conductors handle some of the most dangerous items that any transportation group handles go to work sick or dangerously overtired because they’re worried about being penalized for making the safe choice,” said BLET First Vice President and Rail Conference President Mark Wallace.

The BLET also made an agreement with Union Pacific to provide paid sick leave to about 5,600 locomotive engineers employed by the railroad. BLET members will have up to seven paid days to use in the event of an illness.

Beyond paid sick leave, the BLET reached a tentative agreement with Union Pacific Railroad that provides locomotive engineers with a schedule of 11 days on and four days off, a life-altering change for rail workers accustomed to being on call 24/7. The BLET represents about 6,000 Union Pacific workers.

“We applaud our BLET General Chairmen and Union Pacific’s management for this important step that we believe will improve our members’ quality of life,” said BLET National President Eddie Hall.

The tentative agreements with Norfolk Southern and Union Pacific will require ratification by BLET members at each railroad before going into effect.

“These agreements exemplify how diligent and disciplined bargaining gets the best results for our members,” said Teamsters General President Sean M. O’Brien. “Railroad executives everywhere need to take note and build on these examples for how to reach a decent agreement and fairly compensate rail workers for their labor.”

Meanwhile, the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes Division (BMWED) recently won a claim against Amtrak protecting flagging workers from the outside contractor RailPros.

A neutral mediator agreed with the BMWED’s claim that Amtrak was in violation of the collective bargaining agreement between the union and the railroad when Amtrak assigned flagging work in Chicago to RailPros instead of BMWED Amtrak qualified flagmen.

“We are vindicated in this award and I am happy that Amtrak has been rightfully punished for violating the agreement,” said Anthony Sessa, BMWED’s United Passenger Rail Federation General Chairman.