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November 2, 2009 Section 6 Notice Served

UTU general chairpersons on Nov. 2 served on railroads represented by the National Carriers Conference Committee (NCCC) the UTU's intended amendments to agreements affecting rates of pay, rules and working conditions.

Such notices are required by Section 6 of the Railway Labor Act and are served on each other by parties to existing agreements.

The national rail contract between the UTU and railroads represented by the NCCC becomes amendable on Jan. 1.

The existing contract will remain in force as amended and ratified by UTU members under the craft autonomy provisions of the UTU Constitution.

•Complete and permanent elimination of existing service scale (entry rates of pay).

•Complete and permanent elimination of the two-tier pay system.

•A series of general wage increases, effective Jan. 1, 2010, and every six months thereafter.

•Cost of living adjustments.

•A crew calling window structure or no less than a 10-hour call.

•A process to resolve fatigue issues relative to cross-craft utilization, inaccurate line-ups and manipulation of pool crew boards caused by paper deadheading and dropping of turns.

•Compensation for certifying as a conductor (certification to be established by the FRA as directed by the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008).

•Peer related craft pay for training periods.

•Carriers to give first employment consideration to qualified conductors furloughed from other railroads.

•Furloughed employees called back to work will be guaranteed a minimum of 60 days of work and pay.

•Increased meal allowances.

•Restrictions on transferring, consolidating, combining or centralizing yardmaster assignments.

•Establishment of a formula for yardmaster extra boards.

•Enhanced benefits under the NRC/UTU Health and Welfare Plan and the Railroad Employees' National Health and Welfare Plan (GA-23000).

NCCC Section 6 Notice


The FRA HOS Interpretation

The Q&A's starts around page 15, this is not considered the final rule on the Q&A. There will be more coming as additional questions are answered.


Memorandum of Understanding (Ebb and Flow of Engineers)

This office has been getting numerous calls concerning the recent Memorandum of Understanding addressing Ebb and Flow of engineers, specifically Side letter 1. The memorandum is not an agreement but an interpretation addressing movement of engineers at locations under the jurisdiction of this office.

The BLET Primary Recall agreement does permit engineers to self demote, however the United Transportation Union was never party to that agreement. The UTU has exclusive jurisdiction on how seniority movement will be made for ground service employees.

Article XIII, Section 3(3) of the 1985 UTU National Agreement states:

“(3) An employee who has established seniority as conductor (foreman), trainman (brakeman-yardman), hostler or hostler helper (but without seniority as a locomotive fireman) who is selected for engine service shall retain his seniority standing and all other rights in train and/or yard or hostling service. However, such employee shall be permitted to exercise such rights only in the event he or she is unable to hold any position or assignment in engine service as engineer, fireman on a designated position in passenger service, hostler or hostler helper.”

Side Letter 1 addresses engineers that did not exercise seniority under the provision of Article XIII, Section 3(3) of the 1985 UTU National Agreement.





The following provides the timetable for when major provisions of the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008, directly affecting train and engine service employees, take effect.

The president signed the previously House-Senate passed legislation into law on Oct. 17.

Section 103. Railroad Safety Risk Reduction Programs: The carriers have four years after enactment of the law in which to develop such programs that must include methods to manage and reduce crew fatigue.

Section 104. Postive Train Control: Class I and passenger railroads have 18 months after enactment of the law to submit plans for implementing PTC by 2015.

Section 108. Hours of Service: Within nine months after enactment of the law, freight railroads must implement the required hours of service changes, including the reduction in limbo time.

Section 401. Minimum Training Standards: Within one year of enactment of the law, DOT must issue minimum training standards.

Section 402. Certification of conductors: Within 18 months of enactment of the law, DOT must have in place procedures to certify conductors.

Section 405. Locomotive Cab Studies: The study on use of personal electronic devices in cabs due within one year of enactment of the law. The study of the locomotive cab’s environment is discretionary. In the case of both studies, implementing regulations are discretionary. (The FRA already has imposed an emergency order banning the use of personal electronic devices in cabs.)

Section 406. Switch Position Indicators: Within one year of enactment of the law, DOT must publish regulations or guidance governing the use of technology in dark territory, which includes switch position indicators.

Section 413. Emergency Breathing Apparatus: Within 18 months of enactment of the law, DOT must require emergency breathing apparatus for train crews

Section 419. Prompt Medical Attention for Injured Train Crew members: This provision took effect immediately upon its enactment into law.

See for more information on the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008, including a copy of 315-page the act itself.


October 1, 2008 FRA issues cell-phone ban

WASHINGTON -- In an emergency order, the Federal Railroad Administration on Oct. 2 banned the use of personal electronic devices by railroad employees while operating trains and in other settings.

The emergency order will be published in the Federal Register shortly, and take effect 20 days later.

Violators of this prohibition are now subject to civil penalties and removal from safety-sensitive service.

"Operating freight and passenger trains, and maintaining track and signals requires the full and undivided attention of those charged with carrying out such responsibilities," said FRA Administrator Joseph Boardman.

The FRA's emergency order came after the National Transportation Safety Board said on Oct. 1 that the Metrolink engineer involved in a Sept. 12 train accident in Los Angeles had sent a cell phone text message 22 seconds before his commuter train crashed head-on into a freight train, killing 25, including the engineer.

Cell-phone records of engineer Robert Sanchez show he sent a text message after receiving one about a minute and 20 seconds before the crash, the NTSB said.

Records obtained from Sanchez's cell phone provider also showed that he sent 24 text messages and received 21 messages over a two-hour period during his morning shift, the NTSB said. During his afternoon shift, he received seven and sent five messages, the NTSB said.

The FRA's Boardman also said:

"The bottom line is railroad operating employees cannot focus on their critical safety functions while engaging in phone conversations, texting or any other form of unessential electronic communication, often in violation of railroad operating rules."

To read the emergency order, click below:


October 1, 2008  Rail safety bill headed to White House

WASHINGTON -- The Senate has passed, by a 74-24 vote, the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008, and its companion, the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008.

Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) voted "yes." Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) voted "no." The vote took place the evening of Oct. 1.

As the House previously voted in favor of the legislation, the two bills, packaged together, now move to the White House. Rep. John Mica of Florida, the senior Republican on the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, said Oct. 2 that he was informed by the White House that President Bush will sign the measure into law. (More)

July 13, 2008 FLMA Update

In 2005 the court held that "if a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) gives employees the right to determine when, or in what manner, they take accrued vacation and/or personal leave, an employer cannot force employees covered by that CBA to use such vacation and/or personal leave at a time of the employer's choosing". The Supreme Court decided not to disturb the lower courts' decision.

The Court ruling required the Organizations to arbitrate weather or not Vacation and Personal Leave days are protected by CBA's.

The International has informed me an Arbitration agreement was signed by BNSF, CSX, NS and UP with UTU, BLET, BMWE, BRS, ATDA, NCFO, SMWIA, TCU, IBEW and IAMAW.

Outside counsel shall handle the arbitration on behalf of the unions for this national agreement question. The question presented to the Board pursuant to this Agreement shall be as follows:

"Do the carriers’ policies requiring employees to substitute paid vacation and/or paid personal leave for unpaid FMLA leave violate the requirements of the national vacation and/or national personal leave agreements."

Link to the Arbitration Agreement


June 10, 2008 National Agreement Ratifies

The United Transportation Union has ratified the new national rail agreement covering wages, rules and working conditions.

45,000 ballots were mailed, 40 percent of those eligible to vote cast ballots. 18,076 votes were cast, with 15,313, or 85 percent, voting in favor of the agreement.






















The ratified agreement is retroactive to Jan. 1, 2005, and remains in force through Dec. 31, 2009. Per Side Letter #1, the carriers will make all reasonable efforts to pay the retroactive portion of such general wage increases as soon as possible and no later than sixty (60) days after the date of this Agreement.

Contract synopsis

2008 National Proposal

Questions and Answers


March 17, 2008

Response to Charges Against Members Of UTU Board Of Directors


BNSF Attempts Intimidation to Gain Support for HR2095

SMART Merger Ratified

United Transportation Union members have ratified a merger with the Sheet Metal Workers International Association (SMWIA), establishing the 230,000-member International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation (SMART) Workers.

The merger, previously ratified by the SMWIA, becomes effective Jan. 1, creating the 21st largest (of 4,000) political action committees (PACs), and the 7th largest PAC among labor unions, significantly increasing the effectiveness of UTU and SMWIA congressional and state-legislature lobbying. Combining the $2.8 million (per election cycle) UTU PAC with the $3.1 million SMWIA PAC creates an almost $6 million political action committee for SMART.

SMART merger agreement
AFL-CIO President John Sweeney
View Video
6-19-07 President Thompson outlines merger goals

SMWIA Railroad Department
Sheet Metal Workers Constitution


March 21, 2007 FRA OPS Testing

The FRA intends to implement a new safety initiative on the Northwest Division of inspecting/monitoring employee compliance of safety rule.

May 4, 2007    Rail Safety Bill – H.R. 2095

Sent via E-mail to all w/available e-mail addresses

General Committee Officers
 Legislative Board Officers
 Local Officers and Committeepersons

Dear Sisters and Brothers:

About a month ago this office distributed a letter advising that Congress will soon be considering a rail safety bill which would have a significant impact on not only the UTU membership, but the rail industry as a whole, and the International requested your assistance in our endeavor to include a vital provision to the bill pertaining to the elimination of limbo time.

Due to a united effort by our legislative department, rail labor unions, and most importantly with your support, I am proud to state that this provision has been included in the bill.  This bill has now been assigned a name and number:  “Federal Railroad Safety Improvement Act of 2007” – H.R. 2095.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who contacted their Congressional Representatives, assisted in distributing the message to the other rail employees and the public, and those who otherwise dedicated their time and efforts to this cause.

The process has now officially begun and the International needs your support now more than ever to ensure that H.R. 2095 is passed into law.

Attached you will find a summary of the bill outlining many of its provisions (to view H.R. 2095 in its entirety – click on the following link:  Also attached is a UTU website article that explains the bill and the next step in the process.  To obtain the phone numbers and e-mail addresses of your lawmakers, go to  Click on “Washington Update” in the red tile box to the left.  Then, click on “Contacting the Congress”, and then type in your full address and zip code.  The contact information for your respective congressional representative will appear.

It is important that we “keep the ball rolling” in the right direction and ensure that this legislation passes into law with a veto-proof majority.

This bill would not only improve the quality of life for employees in our industry, but more importantly the legislation will improve safety among rail industrial workers, the communities in which the railroads travel, and the general public. 

 It is requested that you forward this e-mail to other members of your respective Legislative Board, General Committee and Local.

United We Stand!

Fraternally yours,
Paul C. Thompson
International President



January 25, 2007
Voluntary Workforce Retention List

Brothers and Sisters:

Attached is a copy of the Voluntary Workforce Retention List (WRL) Agreement that is being implemented immediately on former Great Northern (GN), former Spokane, Portland and Seattle (SP&S) and former Colorado and Southern (C&S) territories, in order to provide some minimal income and benefits for employees who voluntarily choose that list in lieu of furlough or in lieu of working. This is due to the Carrier=s recent decision to reverse the advice we had previously received, indicating that furloughs would be kept to a minimum by increasing extra boards.

First and foremost, I want to make it clear that this is not something that BNSF is doing out of some sense of compassion for furloughed employees. This is nothing more than a cold, calculated monetary decision. BNSF management anticipates that business levels will increase again at some point, and they want a Ashort chain@ on a certain number of employees who can be recalled quickly (48 hours) rather than the usual 30-day recall notice, in order to insure that sufficient manpower will be available as business levels dictate.

Over the past several years, UTU has given the Carrier several proposals and made numerous attempts to negotiate some kind of alternative to furloughs, and in every case the Carrier rejected or simply ignored those proposals. Then on/or about Wednesday, January 10, 2007, I received a proposal from BNSF=s Labor Relations department, along with an E-mail asking if I would be interested in implementing that proposal. That initial proposal was completely unacceptable, because it would have allowed BNSF to cut extra boards to the bare minimum and use the WRL as a single supplementary source of supply for vacancies in all crafts. I immediately communicated with the other BNSF UTU General Chairmen and on Friday, January 12 we offered the Carrier a joint counterproposal based on earlier UTU drafts. The Carrier rejected that counterproposal out of hand, and advised that the Carrier=s proposal was intended as a Atake it or leave it@ deal.

The Carrier advised us that the BLET had already accepted their proposal, and Labor Relations then posted a Web Site article suggesting that UTU General Chairmen were dragging their feet in providing this benefit for furloughed employees. That propaganda was admittedly nothing more than an attempt to pressure UTU into accepting the Carrier=s proposal, and it was later pulled from BNSF=s Web Page. Engineers on BNSF already have protection from furlough, because UTU has provided that protection through our 1978 and 1985 National Agreements by allowing them to establish, retain and accrue ground service seniority while working as Engineers. In other words, for BLET this Agreement is not an alternative to furlough, it is simply an alternative to working. UTU does not have that luxury. We could not immediately accept the Carrier=s proposal as BLET did, because the consequences for ground service employees were simply too great.

Throughout the weekend and through the early part of this week, the UTU General Chairmen continued to communicate jointly with Labor Relations by phone in order to modify some of the most harmful provisions of the Carrier=s proposal, to clarify some of the confusing or misleading language, and to secure a Side Letter addressing those ground service employees who had already been adversely affected and left their home location seeking work elsewhere.

Although in my opinion the attached Agreement still does not provide an adequate level of compensation and benefits to provide sufficient protection for furloughed employees, under the circumstances it is the best we can do at this time. Attached are comments and observations intended to clarify certain items contained in this Agreement. Employees choosing the WRL should review this information so there is no misunderstanding as to the terms and conditions of these positions.

I have instructed the Carrier to implement this Agreement on properties where this Committee holds jurisdiction immediately. Please keep me advised of any problems you may encounter with the implementation of this arrangement. If desired, we can set aside some time during our upcoming General Committee Meeting to evaluate and discuss this arrangement.

This will cover the synopsis, the proposal, clarifications and applications, as well as, a ballot and return stamped envelope. Please review, cast your ballot and return your ballot to be received no later than February 15, 2007 in this office.

Please advise if you have any questions concerning this proposal.

With best wishes, I am

Yours truly,
/s/J.D. Fitzgerald
General Chairman


November, 2006 Small Victory

After the April 27, 2005 strike the BNSF took the UTU to court to get an injunction requiring to give 72-hour prior notice of any work action. Judge Samuel B. Kent denied the BNSF’s motion.

George H.W. Bush nominated Judge Samuel B. Kent on August 3, 1990. Judge Samuel B. Kent being a Bush appointee says a couple interesting things in the order.

“…While unionization has grown substantially weaker due to globalization, it is not dead. There are still viable industries within the U.S. economy in which employees rely on union representation, one of which is the Railroad industry. This Court refuses to sound the death knell to railway unions by taking away their last bargaining chip: the right to legally strike over a major dispute. “

“…Beyond this logical reality, though, lies a very real concern that if the Court were to intercede in this situation in the interest of protecting commerce, it would be overstepping its bounds under the Constitution. It is the duty of Congress to write laws and the duty of the courts to enforce them. This Court does not find the economic damage the Railroads may encounter if UTU strikes to be paramount enough to justify judicially rewriting the Constitution or the Railway Labor Act. If the interruption to commerce is indeed significant, the Court recommends that the Railroads ask Congress to address the issue.”

To read the entire order
Final Judgment

May 8, 2006 FMLA Claims

Members required to use Personal Leave (PL) days or vacation days under FMLA, by BNSF management should submit claims. (Example here)

January 3, 2006 FMLA

The U.S. District Court decision does not allow Carriers to force employees to use vacation time and sick days instead of the FMLA.

One paragraph on the last page says it all.

"The FMLA does not allow employers to violate pre-existing obligations. If CBA provisions grant employees the right to determine when, or in what manner, they utilize certain types of paid vacation and personal leave, those CBA provisions prevent employers from substituting such leave for FMLA leave."


July 19, 2005

Terminal Six, Rivergate Sale/Lease & BLET rhetoric


June 24, 2005

FYI - Kem Parton of Labor Relations was assigned to this committee for claims handling and discipline.

For some time he has been writing a novel entitled "End of the Line" about a fictional railroad CEO who develops a scheme to get rich by creating and then destroying his own railroad, with help from a terrorist and a crooked operating officer.

Mr. Parton advised his supervisor and the legal department had no objections. After Dave Dealy released his own book (The Good Boss) last year, Kem followed his lead and signed a deal with a publisher. Recently he was told to either dump the book or hits the bricks. He kept his book deal and the Company has now fired him.


April 27, 2005 Strike

Open Letter
UTU Members GO-386
BNSF Railway Company

All Members:

At 2:00p.m. Central Daylight time a peaceful withdrawal from service was made by all former BN North lines UTU Locals.

The reason is as stated in President Thompson’s letter of April 27, 2005.

Based upon discussions between the respective legal counsels and the presiding Judge, the pickets were withdrawn and the work stoppage ended at approximately 4:15p.m .Central daylight time.

The issue will be heard in the U.S. District court in the Twin Cities.

While we have encouraged our members to promptly return to service, we also wish to express our thanks to all Local Officers and members.

This office will keep you apprised of the continuing case.


BNSF Direct Dealing 4-15-05

BNSF has initiated a program of direct dealing with ground service employees by use of scare tactics and thereby attempting to force the General Chairmen into selling Crew Consist.

The Carrier's scare tactics assert everything will be lost if we, the UTU, do not cut a deal and eliminate all or most of the ground service positions. Carrier alleges new technology exists that will allow single position crews to operate some or all through freight trains. Again, review our web sites. The new technology does not exist except as fragmented experiments that do not interface with other Carrier's equipment or software.

Carrier makes promises of unheard of protections, buyouts, guarantees, etc. All should well remember the broken promises and broken agreements you experience each and every day. You should all well remember Carrier's sincere concern for your health, well being and that of your families.

Do not confuse propaganda with reality. If you really believe BNSF management will take care of you and your interests better than this Committee, I am wasting my time and efforts.

J.D. Fitzgerald


Letter to Paul Thompson National Handling 3-17-05

This is in regard to the above referenced issue as well as the Article posted on the UTU International’s web site concerning legal action against the NCCC in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois.

My concern issues from the statement in that Article concerning the “alternative” argument that Crew Consist is a minor issue subject to arbitration. I well remember the scenario from 1991 where we were forced to arbitration on that very issue, by PEB 219.

Please note the attached copy of my October 26, 2004, letter wherein this Committee joined National Handling on work rules, rates of pay, etc. In that letter you will also note this Committee did not relinquish the handling of Crew Consist issues, which are under the jurisdiction of individual General Committees of Adjustment and have been historically held to be “Local Issues.” If the Article accurately expresses the intent of the United Transportation Union International, please so advise and provide the case identification in order that this Committee, GO-386, can properly intervene in our own behalf in that legal action.

Awaiting your response, I am,

Fraternally yours,
J.D. Fitzgerald

GO386 Wins on Temporary Trackage Rights


No. 03-1212 (D.C. Cir. April 06, 2004)

Defendant's rule, adopting a class exemption for temporary trackage rights agreements, does not provide the statutorily required employee protective conditions required on discontinuance of trackage rights. Vacated and remanded for application of these conditions.

To read the full text of this opinion, go to:

[PDF File]


Letter to Paul Thompson 3-9-04

I wish to congratulate you on your difficult move to the highest office of this Union, as well as, UTUIA. While such move may not have been anticipated, I’m sure you now find yourself with additional burdens and responsibilities. I believe you also have the opportunity to view some pressing and serious issues on the property in a new perspective.

I also believe you may have a narrow window in which this Organization can seek to address one of the most pressing issues/policies issued by the Class I Carrier’s and affecting our members lives every day. That policy is known as “Attendance Guidelines” on BNSF and other nomenclature on other roads.

I believe the time is ripe, on behalf of both safety and our members well being, to notify and seek meetings with the Class I railroads in order that such policies be set aside. The existing policy on BNSF has not corrected any perceived problem and has caused a continual drain on our funds and has, likewise, distracted railroad management’s attention and resources.

I believe if such action is approached in a professional manner, improvements and corrections can be made that will accomplish goals for both parties. As never before, the UTU needs to emerge into a positive light.

I would appreciate an early response on this issue. Time is of the essence and the window of opportunity may be narrow.

Fraternally yours,
JD Fitzgerald


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Last Updated:  01/31/07  15:31