SMART Transportation Division-represented train and engine workers employed by Lake Superior and Ishpeming Railroad Company have ratified a new five-year agreement by an overwhelming 89 percent majority.

The agreement provides for substantial wage increases equal to the 2011 national UTU agreement, including percentage increases to crew consist payments, full back-pay and increases in training pay.

The agreement also provides improved bereavement leave, establishes a Rule-G bypass agreement and establishes a health and welfare benefit package that replicates the National Health and Welfare package, including the Early Retirement Major Medical Benefit Plan.

SMART TD International Vice President Dave Wier, who assisted with the negotiations, congratulates International Organizer W.W. Lain, General Chairperson Dan Beckman and committee members John Hytinen, Tim Thomas and Jake Sinclair for “the effort put forth in bringing the members concerns’ to the bargaining table and negotiating an agreement with substantial improvements in wages and working conditions.”

Lake Superior & Ishpeming’s primary business is the transportation of iron ore over a 16-mile short line from the Empire-Tilden Mine, operated by Cliffs Natural Resources, south of Ishpeming, to Lake Superior for transport.

The Lake Superior and Ishpeming Railway was organized in 1893 as a subsidiary of Cleveland-Cliffs Iron Company (now Cliffs Natural Resources), the iron ore mining company. From its beginning, the railroad’s primary business was the transport of iron ore from the Marquette Iron Range, west of Marquette, to docks on Lake Superior, from which the ore could be shipped to steel mills on the lower Great Lakes.

By Vic Baffoni
Vice President, Bus Department

Negotiations for improved wages, benefits and working conditions are Bus Department priorities in 2008.

Negotiations are underway in Locals 710 (Newark, N.J.), 1589 (New Brunswick, N.J.) and 1670 (Laredo, Texas).

Agreements held by six other locals expire this year: Local 1582 (Albany, N.Y.) in April; Locals 172 (Darby, Pa.), 1741 (San Francisco), and 1785 (Santa Monica, Calif.) in June; Local 23 (Santa Cruz, Calif.) in September; and Local 1596 (Charlotte, N.C.) in December.

In all cases, we seek affordable health-care benefits and preservation of work rules. Also important is protection from layoffs and contracting out.

The UTU International will be assisting, as requested. The sooner we start working in unison on these issues of crucial importance, the sooner management will recognize and respect the unity and determination of the UTU to negotiate equitable agreements on behalf of its members.

We received a letter from Hillary Rodham Clinton, whom the UTU supports for president, asking that our bus members note the following:

If elected president, she promises:

  • To preserve labor protection for all federally funded transit programs;
  • To push for passage of the Employee Free Choice Act, ensuring workers have a fair chance to join a labor union;
  • To expand access to paid leave, permitting workers a better balance of work and family commitments.