UTU General Chairperson Rich Draskovich (Union Pacific, GO 953) has been recognized by the National Mediation Board (NMB) for “a special achievement” in helping reduce the agency’s backlog of rail-labor grievances.
In presenting the award, NMB Chairman Harry Hoglander said Draskovich, on behalf of the UTU, and in concert with Union Pacific and CSX, provided “essential support, leadership, dedication and expertise” in helping the NMB launch a program to attract a diversified pool of 91 new rail arbitrators.
Draskovich served as a classroom instructor at a CSX facility and on three multi-facility tours of Union Pacific across Nebraska, explaining rail operations and craft assignments and skills to more than 255 potential new arbitrators who responded to a recruitment drive by the NMB.
The addition of qualified rail arbitrators is intended to speed further the determination of grievances that reach public law boards and special boards of adjustment created under provisions of the Railway Labor Act.
NMB arbitrators have been “overloaded with cases in recent years, and justice delayed is justice denied,” Hoglander said.
To assure new arbitrators understand the rail industry and rail culture, Draskovich helped to develop and initiate the training program.
Included in the training was the presentation of 33 examples of discipline and rules violations that typically might be heard by a railroad arbitrator.
In recent years, the NMB has reduced the backlog of grievances from more than 5,500 to around 300, with some 2,700 new cases being filed annually.

Rich Draskovich, right, with NMB Chairman Harry Hoglander

LONGVIEW, Wash. — UTU-represented train and engine employees of Columbia & Cowlitz Railroad here have a new employer in Patriot Rail Corp. after Patriot completed purchase of the shortline from paper manufacturer and forest products supplier Weyerhaeuser.

Also included in the sale is Weyerhaeuser Woods Railroad (a non-UTU property) that connects with Columbia & Cowlitz. The two are slated to be consolidated into one shortline by Patriot, a shortline holding company whose properties include UTU-represented Louisiana & North West Railroad.

UTU Assistant President Arty Martin has met four times in recent months with the UTU train and engine employees on Columbia & Cowlitz, and has assigned International Vice President Paul Tibbit to work in conjunction with General Chairperson Sean Kibbee to monitor the transfer of ownership, which includes protection of seniority and work assignments.

“As the nation’s largest rail union, the UTU has a long history of successful experience in processing grievances governed by the Railway Labor Act, and the UTU will work diligently on behalf of our Columbia & Cowlitz members to ensure a smooth and properly protected transition,” Martin said.

By Vic Baffoni
Vice President, Bus

Congratulations to Local 1900 Chairperson Albert Collie and President Juan Ucanan at Parsec in Florida on their success in winning four of five grievances.

Kudos also go to Local 172 Chairperson Theresa Costantini and Trustee Kathleen Sitongia at Delco Transportation in Pennsylvania. They successfully resolved contract grievances resulting in reinstatement of a member and assurances for others of pay for lost work.

A special commendation goes to the New Jersey State Legislative Board and State Legislative Director Dan O’Connell for their efforts in helping to gain passage of legislation — signed by Gov. Jon Corzine — providing up to six weeks of paid family leave. They worked with the New Jersey State AFL-CIO and many community organizations to secure the legislation after 13 years of previously unsuccessful efforts.

Because of continued strong employer opposition, a compromise was required to gain legislative passage of the new law. Thus, the worker requesting family leave first must use two weeks of vacation or sick leave. This benefit will be paid out of New Jersey’s Temporary Disability Income Fund, with employees paying $33 annually to ensure the coverage.

The New Jersey Legislative Board unsuccessfully sought to gain coverage for rail workers in the state, but because they do not pay into the disability income fund, they were not included in coverage. The new benefit will commence July 1, 2009.

Our Organizing Department is in contact with bus operators and mechanics on numerous properties around the nation who have shown interest in representation by the UTU. If you know of unorganized workers seeking representation, please let me know, or call our Organizing Department at (216) 228-9400.