Union Is Holding Railway ‘Hostage,’ Suit Claims

     DALLAS (CN) – A Texas railway that plans to open a new freight line in Washington state wants an injunction to block union workers from striking over the move.
     Fort Worth-based BNSF Railway says it wants to create a new interdivisional freight line, known as the Northwest Triangle, to run between Auburn, Pasco and Vancouver, Wash., beginning in June. In the train industry, the words interdivisional and intradivisional are abbreviated to ID.
     “Creating this ID freight service assignment will increase efficiency and improve capacity issues,” the federal complaint states. “More trains will move because more trains would be travelling in the same direction.”
     But the move is still an ID change for the points between which union workers move BNSF trains, according to the complaint.
     Since the new line will not run through a home terminal, BNSF says it can implement the change on 20-days notice under the collective bargaining agreement. If that was not the case, BNSF says it would have to engage in additional procedures.
     After presenting the plan at an August meeting, neither the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen nor the United Transport Union challenged the home terminal factor, the railway says.
     Now, however, the union has characterized the line as a “major dispute” or unilateral change under the agreement, and strike-worthy.
     “On May 4, 2012, BLET General Chairman Matt Wilson refused to agree that the dispute at issue was a minor dispute, and he expressly reserved the right to consider this dispute a major dispute if he was not granted certain concessions unrelated to these Northwest Triangle Operational change,” the complaint states.
     BNSF says this position is “indefensible,” that the dispute is minor based on the language of the agreements, arbitral authority and past practices, as well as Wilson’s willingness to arbitrate if he is granted the concessions.
     It says Wilson is holding the railway “hostage to his major-dispute threat” to get the concessions.
     BNSF seeks a declaration that the dispute is minor, subjecting it to compulsory arbitration under the Railway Labor Act. It also seeks to enjoin the union from calling a strike or work stoppage, and from picketing or refusing to work.
     It is represented by general counsel David Pryor.

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