BLET Bribery Scandal: Rodzwicz Resigns
November 20, 2009: Ed Rodzwicz, the President of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen of the IBT, stepped down today after he was arrested last month for taking a $20,000 bribe.
Rodzwicz allegedly solicited a $20,000 bribe for an attorney in exchange for letting the attorney remain on the union’s list of designated legal counsel for injury cases. He was arrested on Oct. 12.
Rodzwicz became president of the BLET after Don Hahs embezzled tens of thousands of dollars from the union. Hahs was caught in 2007.
Paul Sorrow is the new president of the BLET—at least until next year. That’s when members will have a chance to elect new national leadership for the BLET in the rail union’s first-ever direct election for top officers.
What do you think? Click here to send your comments to TDU.
Berkshire Hathaway to Buy BNSF for $100/Share
November 3. 2009: Berkshire Hathaway Inc., controlled by billionaire Warren Buffett, said Tuesday it will buy freight railroad Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp. for $100 a share, in a transaction worth about $44 billion.
Berkshire Hathaway, which has trucking and other transportation interests, already owned about a 22% stake in BNSF and said it will split its stock 50-to-1 as part of the deal.
Click here to read more at Transport Topics.
Union-Vote Rule Change Rankles Transport-Agency Head
The chairwoman of the National Mediation Board has sharply criticized the federal agency's proposal to change a decades-old election rule that would make it easier for airline and railway employees to unionize, exposing a sharp rift at the agency's three-person board.
In a letter sent to more than a dozen Republican senators Monday, NMB Chairwoman Elizabeth Dougherty said the process by which the proposal was drafted by her two colleagues is "flawed," and she questioned whether the agency had the authority to make such a rule change.
Click here to read more at The Wall Street Journal.
Plain-Dealer: Is Rodzwicz on Paid Leave?
October 16, 2009: The president of a national locomotive engineers union based in Cleveland has been placed on leave after being arrested on federal charges that he accepted $20,000 in bribes from a lawyer who wanted to keep representing injured members.
Edward Rodzwicz, president of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, which has about 55,000 members, has been on leave since Thursday, according to the union's Web site.
Union spokesman John Bentley declined to say whether Rodzwicz would be paid during his leave. Leigh Strope, a spokeswoman for the International Brotherhood of Teamsters in Washington, D.C., the national umbrella group to which the BLET belongs, also declined to comment.
Read the full story from the Cleveland Plain-Dealer.
Update: BLET President Takes Leave of Absence in Bribery Scandal
UPDATE October 16, 2009: Ed Rodzwicz has taken a leave of absence from his union post after being arrested for accepting a $20,000 bribe.
BLET First Vice President Paul T. Sorrow will be the acting BLET President.
Rodzwicz made $204,757 in salaries from the BLET and the IBT in 2008.
October 14, 2009: Edward Rodzwicz, President of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen division of the IBT, was arrested on October 12 on charges of bribery.
Rodzwicz allegedly solicited a $20,000 bribe for an attorney in exchange for letting the attorney remain on the union’s list of designated legal counsel for injury cases.
The BLET represents railway engineers and conductors.
Rodzwicz became president of the BLET after Don Hahs embezzled tens of thousands of dollars from the union. Hahs was caught in 2007.
Earlier this year, the Independent Review Board charged BLET VP Rick Radek with embezzling members’ money, too.
If convicted, Rodzwicz could go to jail for 15 years and pay fines up to half a million dollars.
A Cure for Corruption
Luckily, BLET members have a cure for the corruption at the top of their union: the Right to Vote.
In 2006, BLET members voted for direct election of their top union officers.
Ever since then, many top BLET officials have been pushing to take away that right. No wonder. Too many officers have been treating the union like a personal piggy-bank.
BLET members will get their first chance to vote for the head of their union next year.
Read more. Click here to read the story from the Associated Press.
What do you think? Click here to send your comments to Teamsters for a Democratic Union.
BLET VP Embezzled Members Money
January 20, 2009: The second BLET officer in two years has been charged with embezzling union funds.
On January 15, the Independent Review Board charged Rick Radek, a Vice President of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET), with taking over $6,700 for his own use. Radek is also the BLET’s Director of Arbitration.
Click here to download the charges against Radek.
This new charge comes two years after BLET President Don Hahs was charged with spending over $58,000 of union funds basketball tickets and meals and travel for his wife.
The IRB found that Radek spent $3,909 on 57 personal meals that he then charged to the BLET.
When questioned by the IRB, Radek admitted that some of these meals were “non-business meals.”
Radek also double dipped into union funds. BLET Vice Presidents receive a $50 At Home Station Allowance for every day they are at home to pay for the expenses of maintaining a home office.
Radek double-billed the BLET for $2,865.28 worth of office supplies that should have been covered by the allowance. “This double dipping was intentional,” the IRB reported.
Change at the Top
Radek was well-paid for his work for the BLET. In 2007, he took home a base salary of $134,710, and made total compensation of $178,475.
The IRB has submitted the charges for General President Hoffa to take action. In the Hahs case, Hoffa tried to let the officer off with a light sentence, but the IRB insisted that Hahs be suspended from the Teamsters and pay back most of the money he stole.
Change may be coming at the top of the BLET. In 2010, all members will elect the BLET president and vice presidents in the first ever direct election for BLET officers.
Members won the right to vote in 2006 after a successful rank-and-file campaign.
What do you think should be done to get rid of corruption in the BLET? Click here to send your comments or suggestions to Teamsters for a Democratic Union.
Rejection Wins Improvements on Norfolk Southern
September 19, 2008: BLET members on the Norfolk Southern railway have ratified a new six-year contract that contains improvements after voting down a weaker tentative agreement last year.
Members ratified the agreement by a vote of 1,894 to 1,091.
The biggest improvement is in wages. The new agreement raises wages an average of over three percent a year, with the biggest raises coming early in the contract.
For several years, NS engineers have gone without regular wage increases.
In place of wage hikes, they’ve participated in a bonus system that rewards them when the company reaches its financial goals. That’s left their base rate frozen. The new agreement will help NS engineers start to close the gap with other carriers.
By the end of the agreement, NS engineers will be at a wage level of around $29 per hour. Existing agreements on other properties already pay over $35 an hour. Other improvements include:
- A significant increase in the weekend differential from $30 to $45 in through freight, and from $7 to $21 in all other service, will kick in on Jan. 1, 2010.
- The away-from home meal allowance will go to $12, up from $9.
- The 401(k) match will go to 30 percent in 2010.
- The threshold for when held-at-away-from-home terminal payments kick in was lowered from 16 hours to 14 hours.
On the downside, engineers gave up a performance bonus provision currently capped at 15 percent of wages for a two-tiered system that starts at 10 percent. Higher standards are required for an engineer to receive the 15 percent bonus.
This agreement may also get Norfolk Southern one step closer to one-man crews, the long-term goal of the carriers.
The new contract spells out a scope agreement that limits the use of UTU remote control operators to within yard limits. But the agreement also sets rates for remote control operation by an engineer for on-the-road operations.
BNA Daily Labor Report: UTU Merger on Hold
June 30, 2008: A federal judge June 26 enjoined the pending merger between the United Transportation Union and the Sheet Metal Workers International Association, finding that UTU members were not aware when they approved the merger of conflicts between the constitutions of the two unions (Michael v. United Transp. Union, N.D. Ohio, No. 1:07-cv-3818, preliminary injunction issued 6/26/08).
Granting a request by four UTU rank-and-file members for a preliminary injunction to prevent the merger from going forward until UTU members vote on a new constitution, Judge John R. Adams of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio found that the plaintiffs had shown a substantial likelihood of success on their claim that they were deprived of a "meaningful vote" on the merger, a violation of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act.
The merger of UTU and SMWIA to form the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, and Transportation Workers (SMART), was scheduled to take effect Jan. 1, 2008, but Adams Dec. 27 issued a temporary restraining order putting the merger on hold (6 DLR A-11, 1/10/08). The TRO resulted from a suit filed Nov. 30, 2007, by four UTU members against the union and its then-President Paul Thompson, charging LMRDA violations. The plaintiffs charged that a copy of the new SMART constitution was not made available to UTU members before the vote.
According to Adams, in June 2007, then-UTU-President Thompson informed the members of the union's board of directors about the terms of the merger he had negotiated with the SMWIA's president and requested their approval. During discussions, the board learned that the UTU and SMWIA constitutions would be joined in their entirety to become the SMART constitution. The board voted to submit the merger agreement to the membership for its approval or rejection.
A mailing was sent to UTU members in July 2007 that included a copy of the merger agreement, supporting materials, and directions for telephone electronic voting that was to take place from July 17 to Aug. 7. While the agreement said that the new union would be governed by the SMART constitution, the packet did not include a copy of that constitution nor copies of the unions' current constitutions.
Meanwhile, UTU was scheduled to have its convention in August 2007, and Thompson admitted during a May 28, 2008, hearing before Adams that the UTU leadership "knew at the time of the merger vote that the convention would likely result in amendments to the UTU constitution," making it impossible to know the "extent of the conflicts between the UTU and SMWIA constitutions," which would form the SMART constitution.
The vote, nonetheless, took place, and out of 68,000 mailed ballots, 12,097 members voted with 8,625 casting votes in favor of the merger.
The UTU convention elected new officers, and Malcolm Futhey succeeded Thompson as president Jan. 1, 2008. When the plaintiffs attempted to substitute Futhey for Thompson in the litigation, six vice presidents and the legislative director of UTU, who all supported the merger, sought to intervene as defendants because they were concerned that as president Futhey would not defend against the plaintiffs claims.
As Adams was considering whether to allow the UTU officers to intervene, Futhey and the UTU board agreed to attempt to produce a SMART constitution so that a new vote could be conducted among the membership. The agreement was included in the terms of an extension of the TRO, which was to last until 10 days after the court ruled on the motion to intervene.
In a June 18 decision, Adams ruled that the UTU officers and legislative director may intervene in the case. Adams, however, ruled that Thompson could not intervene in the case.
Four Factors Considered
In granting the June 26 injunction, Adams reviewed four factors—the likelihood the plaintiffs would be successful on the merits, whether the plaintiffs may suffer irreparable harm if the injunction was not granted, whether granting the injunction would cause substantial harm to others, and the impact of an injunction upon the public interest.
Finding the plaintiffs likely to be successful, Adams said that the SMART constitution never was provided to UTU members prior to their approval of the merger. "The failure to provide such relevant information constituted a failure to disclose the relevant terms of the proposal between the parties. Plaintiffs therefore have demonstrated a substantial likelihood of success on their claims that they were deprived of a meaningful vote."
Adams found that UTU members were harmed through the failure of their elected officials to provide them adequate information prior to the merger vote. Noting that a review by attorneys involved in the merger found the possibility of 40 conflicts between the two unions' constitutions, Adams wrote: "Members were forced to vote with little or no knowledge of the conflicts between the two Constitutions that could ultimately lead to a SMART Constitution with terms very different from that of the current UTU Constitution. The SMART Constitution would then govern their working lives for the foreseeable future." Without information about the possible changes to the constitution, the UTU members' votes "cannot be said to be meaningful," he added.
Adams also found that no substantial harm would occur to others if he issued an injunction. "No harm will befall the UTU if an injunction prohibits the merger from being effectuated. Instead, an injunction will ensure that the merger will not take place until a meaningful vote on the SMART Constitution has occurred." In addition, there is no harm to SMWIA, he said, because the merger was dependent on the UTU members approving it. "Until such a vote that complies with the LMRDA has taken place, SMWIA has no legally enforceable rights" under the merger agreement.
Lastly, in finding that the public interest weighs in favor of issuing an injunction. Adams quoted from a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit:
"The clear policy of the [LMRDA] is to bid farewell to the regime of benevolent well-meaning union autocrats and to give favor to a system of union democracy with its concomitants of free choice and self-determination."
Arthur L. Fox II of Lobel, Novins & Lamont, Washington, D.C., represented the four rank-and-file member plaintiffs, while sole practitioner Joyce Goldstein, Cleveland, represented Thompson and the six intervening UTU vice presidents and legislative director. Joseph Guerrieri Jr. of Guerrieri, Edmond, Clayman & Bartos in Washington, D.C., represented Futhey, and David A. Campbell III of Vorys, Sater, Seymour & Pease, Cleveland, represented UTU.
Text of the decision ordering the preliminary injunction may be accessed at http://op.bna.com/dlrcases.nsf/r?Open=mamr-7fzq3z.
UTU Merger on Hold
June 27, 2008: In a victory for rank-and-file democracy, Judge John Adams has issued a preliminary injunction stopping the merger of the United Transportation Union and the Sheet Metal Workers.
The preliminary injunction puts the merger on hold until the disputed merger can be resolved.
Click here to read more in Traffic World.
Click here to read the judge’s injunction.
Members Spying on Members on the Rails?
June 20, 2008: All Teamsters want to work safely, without injury. But company programs that put the blame on union members—rather than unsafe working conditions—won’t make our jobs safer.
Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) members and divisions are saying no to company spy programs that don’t improve our safety.
On the Union Pacific, management and some union leaders are working on a “Total Safety Culture” program.
The program sends out special Implementation-Teams (“I-Teams”), made up of management and union reps, to observe union members on the job.
The I-Teams are not supposed to discipline workers, but the opportunities for abuse are obvious.
The observations and the resulting data are supposed to remain totally anonymous. But the UP has already started awarding prizes to the employee who agrees to be observed the most times.
Members Say No to Spying
Other divisions are not going along.
In Selkirk, N.Y., CSX used information gathered by a joint union-company safety committee to discipline members.
Members of Selkirk BLET Division 867 voted unanimously to leave the company’s safety committee.
In Atlanta, Norfolk Southern asked BLET Division 316 to participate in safety audits.
While the division agreed in principle to audit unsafe infrastructure, it refused to monitor or observe union employees—a move that would have divided the union.
Railroad Workers United, a rank-and-file organization on the railroad, is organizing a nationwide campaign to educate members about the Blame the Worker safety programs, and what they can do to respond.
Contact RWU at info [at] railroadworkersunited.org (info [at] railroadworkersunited.org).