September 14, 2014

As we begin national rail negotiations …

By UTU International President Mike Futhey

As we begin this new round of bargaining with the railroads to amend our national rail contract, I am optimistic we will reach an equitable outcome — an agreement that benefits both parties.

The carriers and their contract employees cannot thrive without each other, meaning it is in both parties’ interest to jointly and harmoniously produce an outcome assuring competitive, world-class and safe railroads as well as a just wage, benefit and rules package.

Of course, there will be difficult issues to address along the way. The carriers are tough negotiators, as are we. To understand those difficult issues, I urge you to visit our UTU Web site at www.utu.org, and click on the “National Rail Contract” link, where you may read the UTU’s desired amendments as well as those of the carriers.

As difficult as these negotiations may be, I am confident the carriers share our view that it is not in the interests of either side to have a third party decide our contract terms. A voluntarily reached agreement is in both parties’ best interest.

Our negotiating committee, which is in the process of being selected, will have a single objective at each negotiating session: to produce a tentative agreement acceptable to our general chairpersons and our membership.

As is our proud and cherished guarantee under the UTU Constitution – a guarantee I will never surrender – each craft will exercise its autonomy in choosing whether to ratify the tentative agreement.

For benefit of our newer rail members, it is important to understand that under the Railway Labor Act, there is no contract expiration date, and the right to engage in self-help (strikes, lockouts and arbitrary management changes to contracts) is severely restricted. Our contract continues until amended.

Although we hope contract amendments can be negotiated quickly, there is no time limit on Railway Labor Act negotiated agreements. Thus it is also important to recognize that only the UTU contract provides that during contract negotiations, the carriers must pay twice yearly cost-of-living adjustments – payments that protect against inflation – beginning Jan. 1, 2011.

As the collective bargaining process moves forward, I pledge we will update the membership on a timely basis through postings at www.utu.org.