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Railroaders' Nostalgia > Railroad Union history and time line

Date: 08/27/19 14:56
Railroad Union history and time line
Author: mns019

It seems that all the rail labor organizations that I grew up with have morphed into something else, can anyone add timelines or more info.

I am so old that I remember when UTU (United Transportation Union)  was the new kid, and a conglomeration of various operating Brotherhoods, like BRC (Brotherhood of RR Conductors) BRT (Trainmen) and others.  Today its something called SMART when and why did that happen?

So the BLE (Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers) is now part of the TEAMSTERS!!  I never got that one . . .the teamsters, the hated modal enemy?    When and why?   I recall my retired BLE buddy trying to fight this as he was absolutely convinced it was a scheme by the evil truckers to raid his Railroad Retirement funds.

My first railroad job was as a clerk and brought with it membership in BRAC (at the time Brotherhood of Railway Airline, & Steamship Clerks, Freight Handlers and Station Employees).  Where did the very few clerks left end up union wise?  Still have my BRAC exit card so if I need to go back don't have to pau my initiation fee again. 
PS:  I never liked BRAC, I considered them completely ineffective and pretty much a joke.  I recall when the railroads were eliminjating thousands of clerk jobs, their slick monthly magazine was filled with heroic stories of how BRAC was helping organize agricultural workers, so the membershio was supposed to be happy that their union was saving the pumpkin pluckers while their own craft was being wiped out.

While the bulk of my RR career was in exempt positions, the unions made my working career  and my retirement way way better, thank you Brotherhoods!  I hope todays railroad employees do as well as I did.


Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 08/27/19 14:57 by mns019.

Date: 08/27/19 17:32
Re: Railroad Union history and time line
Author: trainjunkie

I complied a brief history of UTU/SMART TD for my previous local's website. Some info here: http://smartutu1626.org/about.html

Date: 08/28/19 06:33
Re: Railroad Union history and time line
Author: AmHog

Most of the clerks at Amtrak were TCU

Date: 08/28/19 08:11
Re: Railroad Union history and time line
Author: Notch7

The BLE-Teamsters affiliation offer came at a time when the Charlie Little - Byron Boyd administered UTU was forcing the BLE into a takeover vote.  The takever vote was well fought and was ended during the 2001 Miami Beach BLE international convention.  A group of Eastern and Southern General committees challenged the vote in federal court.  The federal judge saw merit and had the ballot boxes sealed and the vote disqualified.  A subsequent attempt at another merger vote failed.  The IBT merger vote suceeded.  As a long time local chairman and vice general chairman I supported the IBT affiliation from the beginning.  My general committee has benefitted from it.  As for the argument that there is any fight between the unionized truckers and unioned T&E, that faded away before I went firing.  Railroads exited the LCL business, and few unionized truckers are TL.  In most traffic lanes the unionized truckers can't take advantage of the intermodal levels allowed them in IBT agreements because of the slow and uneven intermodal service we provide.  In my area the unionized LTL's use us mainly on the weekends, when some off their drivers are off.  Precision Scheduled Railroading, PTC, energy management and engineer assist systems are slowing the intermodal trains even more.  The present level of railroad management could not have brought us to what we became, they can only preside over our decline.

Date: 08/30/19 08:29
Re: Railroad Union history and time line
Author: eminence_grise

In Canada, there was a period in the 1870's where the "Knights of Labour", a fraternal organization similar to the Free Masons represented railway workers. By the 1870's, the first BLE and BRT Locals were founded around Toronto.

However, recognition of the unions as representative of the employees was up to the railways, and in the case of the Intercolonial, that railway refused to allow any union representation, and routinely fired employees for attempting to organize.. 

In 1904, the shop workers for the Grand Trunk Railway at Montreal and Stratford went on strike, followed by the CPR shop workers in Montreal. Canada still was strongly influenced by Britain. To resolve the strike by shopworkers, the "Railway Disputes Act" was passed by the Canadian Government. This Act arose out of the "Taff Vale Act" in the UK . In 1907, the "Industrial Disputes Act" was also imported from the UK which covered all industries.

The US railroad unions took the opportunity to organize most trades within the industry after 1904.

The Intercolonial still resisted all attempts to unionize and when the railway attempted to reduce wages by 10% during a downturn in business, there was a strong call to organize , however the US Brotherhoods were unwilling to continue to attempt to organize after several failed representational elections. An Intercolonial baggage handler, Aaron Mosher sought assistance from the Transport Workers Union in New York City, and the Transport and General Workers Union in Dublin, Ireland.

Where others had failed, Mosher succeeded, and formed the CBRT&GW to represent all Intercolonial non-operating staff, which not only unionized a large portion of the Intercolonial staff, but then went on to represent most of the CN non operating staff, plus numerous streetcar and bus operations.
In the 1990's, the CBRT was the first to break with the railway brotherhoods by merging with the Canadian Auto Workers (itself previously the UAW).

Next, the shopcraft unions and the carmen, facing runoff votes between the various unions in the 1990's voted to join the CAW.

The Via on boards were CBRT members if of CN heritage, or Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters if CP, and were part of the CBRT move to the CAW.

The CP clerks, member of the TCIU (formely BRAC) joined the Steelworkers (USWA) during a runoff election between the airline clerks union locals.

Internationally, while still BRAC, the train dispatchers in Canada split with the clerks over seniority and work rule issues, and formed an independent union RCTC. In time, RCTC affiliated with the BLE.

The BLE/UTU issue taking place across North America had a similar outcome, with a new conference of the Teamsters, TCRC (Teamsters Canada Rail Conference).

The sole remaining unmerged railway union is the IBEW (International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers).

The CAW merged with the energy and paper industry union CEP to become UNIFOR.


Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 08/30/19 10:24 by eminence_grise.

Date: 08/30/19 11:37
Re: Railroad Union history and time line
Author: RRTom

IBEW is of course more than just railroad workers.

Date: 08/30/19 13:04
Re: Railroad Union history and time line
Author: Lackawanna484

That's a good summary of the evolution of craft unions into semi-mass unions.

Posted from Android

Date: 09/01/19 12:06
Re: Railroad Union history and time line
Author: zr190

AmHog Wrote:
> Most of the clerks at Amtrak were TCU

Open to correction, but I think the TCU was the result of the merger of
the Telegraphers and the clerks unions.
Order of Railroad Telegraphers (ORT) changed to Transportation-Communication Workers
which in turn merged with BRAC.

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