On January 8, 2021, Arbitrator Wendell Bell issued his arbitration award regarding the process and procedure in arbitrating the Carriers’ (UP, BNSF, NS & KCS) attack on the Crew Consist Moratoria.
The arbitration, known as a “Procedural Public Law Board,” had the purpose of determining the terms of how any primary arbitration should proceed. Procedural PLBs 7959, 7960, 7961 & 7962 were a result of SMART-TD’s efforts disputing the improper action of the Railroads to prematurely re-open crew consist negotiations before the appropriate moratorium expired.
SMART-TD argued the Carriers improperly served their Notice to Arbitrate and failed to properly conference their suddenly new-found interpretations of the moratoria. SMART-TD not only prevailed in these arguments, it also secured a ruling ensuring the terms of the next round of arbitration will be conducted properly.
In a fairly dense 35-page award, which cited U.S. Supreme Court and numerous lower-court decisions along with several arbitration awards, the Procedural Arbitrator set May 1, 2021, for the next round of arbitration, dependent upon funding approvals by the National Mediation Board. As currently constructed, the National Mediation Board consists of two Republican members appointed by President Donald Trump and one Democrat member. It is expected the make-up of the Board will change shortly once the nominations by President-elect Biden are confirmed by the U.S. Senate. Whether those changes will be able to take place prior to the selection of the next arbitrator or May 1st is unknown.
The railroads’ efforts to swiftly force a change to crew consist while still under the railroad-friendly Trump Administration is now unlikely due to the unwavering effort of SMART-TD. Since October 2019, when the railroads first ignited this fight, SMART-TD has defended our agreements against this attempted subversion by the carriers. We have and continue to tirelessly fight for our members’ livelihoods.
SMART-TD members can rest assured that their union will continue to fight to protect your crew consist agreements and livelihood, while seeking to secure the opportunities of the future in the rapidly changing and technology-laden railroad industry.

By UTU International President Mike Futhey

“Stay calm and carry on” has always been the best advice during challenging times.  It is appropriate advice for UTU members and employees as we move forward following the October 10 merger arbitration award.

That arbitration ruling makes the merger look very similar to the merger we were initially promised — the merger the UTU membership and I voted for in 2007.

The arbitrator recognized that maintaining the historical governance of the UTU was important by ruling that the UTU’s cherished craft autonomy, along with general committee autonomy, be preserved post-merger; and that changes to the UTU Constitution not be unilaterally made by the SMWIA executive council.

As required by the arbitration decision, I met with new SMWIA General President Joe Nigro, who took office July 1. The meeting was productive and positive.

At a meeting in early November of all incoming UTU International officers — a meeting traditionally held between a quadrennial convention and those officers being seated — we discussed the events of the past four years. 

We agreed unanimously that UTU members’ interests have been vigorously defended, and it is now time to move forward — discussing with the SMWIA the rights and traditions of both organizations, and to collaborate constructively in finding the most efficient and equitable means of resolving any further outstanding differences, including pending litigation.

I know that I speak for Joe Nigro, as well, when I say that the leadership of both the UTU and the SMWIA has, as our highest priority, the delivery to our members of the wages, benefits and working conditions they expect and deserve.  We also share a commitment to our loyal employees, who serve our members on a daily basis.

In the meantime, I assure you that our United Transportation Union and our United Transportation Union Insurance Association are each financially strong and are continuing to grow stronger notwithstanding this deep and lengthy recession.

As we put substantial merger-related litigation expenses behind us, and continue managing our other costs wisely, the UTU’s monthly surplus will continue to grow and allow for improved member representation.

The UTU and its predecessor unions have persevered and prospered for nearly a century and a half by being resolute in representing our members and flexible in the face of changing demands and events. It is a formula that has served our members well and will continue to serve us well.