July 23, 2014

UTU wins protection for members on beer railway

WASHINGTON – The UTU has won a victory on behalf of 12 train and engine employees represented by the UTU and employed by Manufacturers Railway, a 124-year-old subsidiary of brewer Anheuser-Busch for which Manufacturers performs switching services in St. Louis.

In March, the carrier sought permission from the U.S. Surface Transportation Board (STB) to discontinue operations, and asked the agency not to impose so-called labor protection (actually income protection) for workers who would be put in unemployment lines as a result of the discontinuance.

The railroad’s case rested on a long-standing policy of the board and its predecessor, the Interstate Commerce Commission, not to impose labor protection when an entire system is abandoned.

The UTU Law Department intervened, telling the STB that Manufacturers had provided the agency with “misleading information” with regard to the intended cessation of operations.

Rather than abandon its system, the UTU told the STB that Manufacturers, in its own press release, had said it intended, in fact, to transfer those rail operations to a third party that would operate over the railway’s tracks and yard, which would remain under Manufacturers Railway and Anheuser-Busch ownership.

“It is clear,” said the UTU, that Anheuser-Busch intends the transaction as “a means to get around the labor protection which should rightly be imposed,” and that Anheuser-Busch “stands to benefit financially from this transaction by contracting out the rail switching operations and reducing its labor expense.”

The STB agreed, and ruled that so-called Oregon Short Line labor protection be granted as a condition of the discontinuance of operations by Manufacturers Railway.

The protection provides for six years of income protection – as opposed to a guarantee of employment — for all adversely affected employees of Manufacturers Railway.