September 11, 2014: Rail workers have shouted a loud “No” to single-person train crews. The contract rejection was delivered by conductors who work for the Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF), who are members of SMART (Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers union).
“Rail workers told the BNSF railway, their union leaders and fellow rail workers that they will not support single-person crews,” said Ron Kaminkow, an engineer for Amtrak and member of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers (BLET) affiliated with the Teamsters.
Kaminkow is an activist in Railroad Workers United (RWU), a network of rail workers in various unions, including the Teamsters. RWU seeks to build solidarity and break down petty rivalries fostered by certain union officials.
RWU noted that the SMART top officials negotiated the deal in secret, then tried to sell it with smoke and mirrors and a “signing bonus.”
“The surprise attack, coming from the union, on the 2 person train crew, lit a fire under the rank and file like I have never seen in my 13 years of railroading” said JP Wright of BLET IBT 740 and Co-Chair of RWU.
RWU’s press release notes that the contract rejection is “a decisive victory, not just for the trainmen and engineers on the BNSF, but for every railroad worker in North America.”
It is especially important for the 33,000 rail engineers of the BLET-IBT. These Teamsters would be under the gun to accept single-person operating crews, if the second-largest rail line in North America had won that concession.
RWU was instrumental in coordinating the opposition to the contract among trainmen and engineers, with conference calls on strategy, leaflets, stickers, rallies and media coverage.
Kaminkow said the priority now is to build on the solidarity that powered this win. The RWU statement calls this “the opening shot in a protracted war” to preserve union jobs and public safety on North America’s rail lines.
Click here to read the Railroad Workers United press statement for more information.