Part Two of a Special Series on Railroad Workers
Throughout 2005 contract negotiations, union rail workers faced concerted attack by an industry that wanted to slash the workforce to dangerous levels, decimate health care, and weaken the method of compensation for on-the-job injury. While the industry was united in the National Carriers Conference Committee (NCCC), the thirteen different craft unions representing the workforce operated independently at best, and antagonistically at worst. The United Transportation Union (UTU) and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET), the largest of these unions, were also the ones that clashed most often—and with the worst outcomes for its members.
Even though the members of the BLET (which represents most engineers and some conductors) worked right alongside the members of the UTU (which represents most conductors, some engineers and members of some other crafts), the leadership of the two unions often sought to undermine each other. For example, the industry was able to implement remote control technology on very favorable terms that undercut working conditions. Many railroaders believe that if the unions had stood united, this technology could have been prevented or at least have mitigated the impact on worker safety and job security.
In the past, efforts had been made to stop the feuding and actually unite the two unions, most recently in 1998 and 2000. (more…)