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Action Center

What's At Stake
Jan 04, 2010

The Advantage of Union Benefits

WAGES: Our BMWE wages are negotiated, just as members of all unions have the opportunity to improve their working conditions through contract negotiations at the bargaining table. What would the Carriers pay if not for the Union negotiated wage package. Union wages are traditionally higher than our non-union counterparts. Without a Union, all wages, benefits, and working conditions are unilaterally set by the employer. Non-union workers have no avenue for employee input. Management gives the workers what it wants and creates a "take it or leave it" atmosphere.

STRONG SENIORITY SYSTEM: What if there was no seniority system. You've been on the job for 25 years, yet the boss calls his young nephew for overtime. Union Contracts give recognition to time of service and seniority rights. Without a Union, when the nephew works your overtime, you would only have the right to get mad.

A Seniority system is simple way for determining employment advantages based upon length of service. Our BMWE seniority system is instrumental in fairly determining who receives more favorable duty tours, work locations, promotions, and other work opportunities. Seniority also has an influence over bumping rights, which is a re-assignment of jobs, possibly for many people at a time. Our Seniority system has been formulated to avoid unfair 'bumping' in the event of a furlough. Generally Unions are strongly in favor of using seniority as the only criterion for making distinctions among employees. Most BMWE Agreements address seniority first but also take into consideration employee qualifications.

When there is a work reduction, or a reduction in forces that result in furloughs, the preference for those who stay and work is assigned as a function of seniority (first hired = last fired). You stay, the boss's nephew goes. Promotions, transfers, layoffs, training. All are protected by the Union and governed by our contract and a strong seniority system.

SAFETY: Union employees have a real voice regarding safety in the workplace. Safety agreements are negotiated into union contracts and union workers have a seat at labor-management safety committees. Many union employers realize that the input from union workers will result in fewer lost time injuries, higher productivity, and reduced operating costs. Non-union employers may listen to the safety concerns of the employees and then do whatever they choose to do, regardless. Many times the safety of non-union workers is last for consideration.

DUE PROCESS: Our BMWE contracts provides each member with access to "due process" through the grievance and arbitration procedure. We have the right to file and progress claims for compensation against contractual violations. Without a Union there is no formal grievance process with arbitration. In some cases in the non-union workforce, there may be an internal, self-policing "appeals" process that is ultimately unenforceable. Without Union guaranteed rights of due process you could not file claims against the boss's nephew.

CHANGES in WORK RULES: Our negotiated BMWE contracts establish all working conditions, what we refer to as our "work rules". These rules can only be changed by negotiations between the parties. Without a union, work rule changes can be made at any time, without warning, by the employer alone. Big non-union employers force the "Our way or the highway" brand of employee relations.

RIGHTS TO REPRESENTATION: These basic rights allow an employee to have a union representative present during investigatory meetings when discipline may result. No more back office meetings and the intimidation of union workers. No more threats of termination and fear tactics dispensed by the Company bosses. Without a union, no such rights of representation exists. The National Labor Relations Board under the Bush administration insured that non-union workers are denied these basic rights.

DISCIPLINE: Any disciplinary action is usually subject to the "just cause" standard, meaning that there is a burden of proof on the employer to justify the discipline. Union workers have a right to an investigation, and if our BMWE members are suspended from work they are paid pending any investagation. Our BMWE members will receive any and all evidence to be used at their investagation or hearing, and that evidence will be received prior to the investigation. Our BMWE members will know if the company intends to call any witnesses which may testify against our member. Without a Union, workers are "employees at will" meaning that they are subject to discipline and termination for no reason at all, depending on the whims of the employer. A just cause standard does not apply to non-union employees.

ON the JOB INJURY BENEFITS: The Federal Employer's Liability Act (F.E.L.A.) was enacted by Congress in 1908 to provide benefits for railroad workers who sustain injuries on the job. Unlike state Worker's Compensation laws which provide benefits on a no-fault basis, F.E.L.A. is based on the principles of fault. To recover damages in this type of claim, the injured worker must establish that the railroad caused or in some way contributed to the accident. Damages for which an injured worker is entitled to receive under F.E.L.A. are not limited.

Union Difference by the Numbers

A comparison of union jobs versus non-union jobs. Figures compiled by the US Department of Labor

A World Of Difference

Being unionized makes a world of difference in clear and measurable ways. The evidence illustrates that union workers earn more than their non-union counterparts. Union members have better pensions and health care benefits. Union members have better sickness and accident benefits. Union members have contractual protections for safety on the job. Union members have better job security and protections from discretionary actions by the employer. Union members have a voice in their workplace. Union members have access to a grievance and arbitration procedure to challenge contract violations and unfair treatment.

According to recent studies, unions and union workers translate into increased productivity for the employer with better training, less turnover, and longer tenure of the workforce. Our aging BMWE workforce is a prime example. Where else in this nation can you find workers who are as highly skilled and experienced in constructing and maintaining railroad. Where else in this nation can you find workers who stay on the job long after their non-union counterparts have been bounced from job to job to no job at all.

While there are some laws that affect workers' rights, such as minimum wage, OSHA, FMLA and ERISA, these are regarded as the floor in union facilities. That is, the union views these legal rights as the starting point from which to bargain better benefits above and beyond what the laws provide. However, in non-union facilities, these laws are most often the ceiling. In a non-union shop, what you get is all you get. End of story.

The differences between Unions and non-union benefits are dramatic. Furthermore, the benefits of unionization extend well beyond those of simple self-interest. Union contracts and benefits make a difference in the lives of our members, and make a difference in the non-union sector by helping to keep all wages elevated. Unions lobby our nation's legislators for protections and securities in our workforce. Unions use their power and strength to organize demonstrations and protests against factions that would reduce benefits for the worker. Non-union workers reap the benefits of the Union's efforts.There is a measurable benefit for labor and management when workers have a real and legitimate voice in the workplace.



"An Injury To One Is An Injury To All"




Next to a scab, a snitch or an informer is one of the lowest forms of humanity. All we have is our ability to stick together. Statements given to railroad management and their agents will only be used against you. Management is not interested in the truth and is only interested in protecting their money at our expense. Be careful what you say and never volunteer any information.

Remember, nobody likes a snitch. No one can say you saw something that you did not see. This includes but is not limited to injuries, investigations and accidents of all kinds.





United Passenger Rail Federation BMWED-IBT
190 South Broad Street
Trenton, NJ 08608

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