UTU members are stepping up to the plate in the fight to preserve collective bargaining rights, Amtrak, workplace safety, Railroad Retirement, Social Security and Medicare by mounting a counter attack on political extremists intent on destroying organized labor and all it has achieved for working families.

Hundreds of active and retired members — individually and through their locals, general committees and state legislative boards — have contributed to the UTU Collective Bargaining Defense Fund and the UTU PAC.

A $10,000 contribution to the Collective Bargaining Defense Fund was made by Amtrak General Committee of Adjustment 769 and delivered by General Chairperson Roger Lenfest.

In Arizona, , the 292 members of UTU Local 113 in Winslow recently almost doubled their monthly PAC contributions. “They have a lot of pride and they talk about the UTU PAC at every meeting,” said State Legislative Director Greg Hynes. “All the officers of this local are dollar-a-day PAC members or more — and some contribute $50 monthly.”

Three of Local 113’s officers made clear why they are active in the UTU PAC:

Alternate Delegate Chris Todd: “PAC is our political voice. Without it we’re just rolling the dice on our future.”

Local Chairperson Jim Polston: “I was able to convey to our membership the importance of PAC. Once you do that our members are proud to help out.”

Treasurer Mike Branson: “I contribute to our UTU PAC because without action there would be no union.”

In the wake of UTU members — in solidarity with brothers and sisters from other labor organizations — demonstrating against state legislative action to destroy organized labor, anti-labor bills have been slowed and education of the electorate and the media has generated public outrage.

In Wisconsin, six state lawmakers who led the fight to strip public employees of their collective bargaining rights now face a recall election; and an injunction against implementation of the legislation was ordered by a state court, with the law now facing state supreme court review.

In Ohio, a petition drive led by union members placed a similar law as Wisconsin’s on hold pending a voter referendum this fall.

The UTU Collective Bargaining Fund is providing assistance to UTU members who are engaging in demonstrations and other voter outreach activities nationwide.

The UTU PAC, meanwhile, is helping labor-friendly state legislative and congressional candidates prepare to mount challenges against political extremists who have declared war on working families and organized labor.

The National Conference of State Legislatures reports that since 2009, 729 anti-labor bills have been introduced in 48 separate states. In Congress, a bill is pending to invalidate a National Mediation Board ruling that representation elections be decided on the number of votes cast, without counting those not voting as having voted against union membership.

A U.S. Supreme Court decision known as “Citizens United” opened the door to unlimited political donations by corporations for political advertising that will accelerate attacks on organized labor. While labor unions cannot match such donations, labor-union PACs can make a difference on behalf of labor friendly candidates; and our primary strength is in getting out the vote — and then casting ballots — on behalf of labor-friendly candidates.

It is well established that union families are more likely to vote in elections, and the combination of PAC contributions to labor friendly candidates, voter outreach by union members and union families casting votes for union-endorsed candidates is a powerful response to corporate interests and their candidates whose intent is to destroy organized labor.

For more information on the UTU Collective Bargaining Defense Fund, click on the link at the end of this article, and please consider increasing your UTU PAC contributions. If you are not yet a UTU PAC member, please consider joining.

As President Mike Futhey has said, “If you believe in something strong enough, you fight for it. Together, in solidarity, we can and will win this fight and emerge stronger than ever.”


BOSTON — Some 450 UTU-represented conductors and assistant conductors on Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad (MBCR) have a tentative new agreement covering wages, benefits and working conditions.A ratification vote is currently underway, with ballots to be counted March 17.

The tentative four-year agreement is retroactive to July 2009, and may be reopened for amendment in July 2013 under provisions of the Railway Labor Act.

Included in the tentative agreement are retroactive pay, a signing bonus, a 13.7 percent overall increase in wages by July 2013, certification pay for conductors, a cap on health care cost-sharing, and a provision that discipline records will not be retained beyond a maximum of 36 months (other than substance abuse violations, which are subject to record-keeping under federal law).

Noteworthy in the tentantive agreement is an increase in compensation for release-time — from the decades-old 50 percent of the full-time rate to 62.5 percent.

The agreement was negotiated by UTU General Chairperson Roger Lenfest and Assistant General Chairperson Dirk Sampson (both, Amtrak, GO 769), with assistance from International Vice President John Previsich. Praised was Local 898 Chairperson Don Wheaton for his input and participation in all aspects of the negotiations.

The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen has reached a separate tentative agreement with the MBCR. The UTU and the BLET negotiated jointly to reach those separate craft agreements, with the expectation that a better agreement for each craft would result if negotiations were held jointly.

The Transportation Communications Union and shopcrafts recently were released from mediation with the MBCR by the National Mediation Board, but a presidential emergency board (PEB) has yet to be appointed.

The following update on Amtrak negotiations is from UTU General Chairperson Roger Lenfest (GO 769), who is the UTU lead negotiator. The UTU International is not participating in the talks. Under the UTU’s guarantee of craft autonomy, the International participates in on-property negotiations only when requested to do so by general chairpersons.

The existing UTU agreement with Amtrak remains in force until amendments are concluded under provisions of the Railway Labor Act.  

According to Lenfest:

“Here are some of the reasons why we have not yet reached a settlement.

“So far, none of the crafts who have settled have come close to a net 3 percent increase in pay for their members any year for the next five years. In fact, in the last three years of those agreements, the single-employee contribution to health and welfare could be $230 per month.

“On the other hand, there are several important issues specific to our craft that we are serious about resolving. Certification and the attendant pay for certification is important, as is the issue of the treatment of single-day vacations.

“Furthermore, the meal allowance for conductors who are required by Amtrak to be away from home must be addressed.

“Another important issue to our members is to achieve an adequate amount of time-off for those members who work for long hours.

“In the meantime, there are several economic reports coming in that inflation and increased costs for fuel and groceries are right around the corner.

“It is our goal to reach a reasonable and honorable settlement with Amtrak in the near term; however, we must be vigilant that any settlement is equitable and that we meet our responsibility to place our members in a better economic situation.

“Presently, we are not the only major craft negotiating with Amtrak. The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen and the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes have yet to reach a settlement with Amtrak.

“In fact, the BMWE recently polled its Amtrak-employed members concerning the acceptance of a contract with Amtrak under similar terms and conditions as those accepted by the crafts who have already signed. We understand that more than 2,000 ballots were sent out to BMWE members; and 85.5 percent of the responses voted to continue to bargain for a better settlement.

“I shall provide further updates as negotiations continue.”

(Editors’ note: In May 2010, Amtrak clerks and carmen represented by the Transportation Communications Union ratified new five-year agreements with Amtrak that, according to the TCU, provided for a 15 percent general wage increase over five years.)