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Message Board For Questions About Local 302

 

Brothers & Sisters,

Most of you know by now that Bargaining Authorization cards for Local 302 of the International Union of Operating Engineers are being circulated on the Alaska Railroad. I'm certainly willing to take responsibility for that, but I believe the situation we find ourselves in with regard to our contract negotiations is such that something like this was bound to happen.

In brief, this is my perception of our situation. We negotiated in good faith with the ARRC for more than a year and a half. Unable to reach an agreement we proceeded to mediation. Mediation resulted in an agreement, which means we didn't reach impasse, which means we must go to mediation again, and reach impasse, before we can take an official strike vote. The agreement that resulted from mediation was rejected 3 to 1 by the membership on June 24th. The next information we received was at the union meeting on July 11th. We were informed that the Union had made an informal cost-neutral proposal to the ARRC several days prior to the union meeting. This informal proposal shifted money from the 401K employer match to wages, and moved money around amongst the different wage rates and steps, but added no cost to the proposal the membership rejected. We were told that the Union had expected, but not received, a response prior to the union meeting, and that a response from the ARRC was imminent. Nine days later we've heard absolutely nothing, as far as I know. Now perhaps the membership will approve a cost neutral proposal, but it seems unlikely to me. The bottom line is that now the ARRC can extend this process beyond our busy season, and thus beyond the time when a strike would be most effective. The prognosis given at the union meeting was that we should prepare ourselves for the process to be extended through the winter and into our next busy season, when a strike again becomes effective. Is that what we want to do? Do we have other options? What are they?

Obviously, I believe that we have at least one other good option, which is to seek representation by another Union. It's important to point out here that we are the union. We are the Train & Engine service employees of the Alaska Railroad. We are skilled professionals, dedicated to serving the needs of our customers by operating our trains safely and efficiently. Our loyalty to the Alaska Railroad and its customers is demonstrated by our willingness to do what it takes to get the job done. Our strength is in our pride, and in our belief that by speaking with one voice we can improve our wages and working conditions. Our strength is not in the name of our union. The name of our union should be the name of the organization best suited and best able to conduct our business with the ARRC, primarily the negotiation of our contract with the ARRC. I don't believe the UTU is that organization any longer. The UTU International hasn't negotiated our contract with the ARRC for at least 15 years. We've done it ourselves, and while that has become progressively more expensive for us we've continued to pay the UTU International tens of thousands of dollars in international dues each year. For that we get a timebook and the UTU News? I believe our interests are best served by seeking representation from an Alaskan union with local infrastructure and professional negotiators and business agents. I also believe that Local 302 of the Operating Engineers is the Alaskan union best suited to our needs. They represent equipment operators. Isn't that what we are? They have pension and health insurance plans geared to adapt easily to employees who work seasonally, which many of our members do. Their organization is large, giving us strength as well as the economies of scale, and they are very pleased that they may have the opportunity to represent us.

I know that many of you have questions about Local 302, about the process of switching from UTU to IUOE representation, and about 302's pension plan, health insurance plan and dues structure. It's my intention to start a list of frequently asked questions and answers here very shortly. I'll also post phone numbers and email addresses for representatives of Local 302, as well as T&E employees who can provide you a Bargaining Authorization card. If you do fill out a card please return it to the employee you got it from, or to me. You can also click the "Bargaining Authorization Card" link below to go to a card that you can print and then fill out. If you do that please return the card to any one of the employees listed to provide cards, or to me. Please note that by clicking the "Tell me when this page is updated" link you can stay apprised as information is added. My email address is rcsanderford@gci.net and my home phone number is 337-1028. Please feel free to contact me at any time with questions or concerns.

On a final note, let me assure you that I bear no ill will for the UTU, internationally or locally. I've been a UTU member for 27 years, and I take no pleasure in suggesting that the UTU is no longer the best organization to conduct our union's business. I cast no aspersions on the job our local UTU representatives have done for us in our contract negotiations. The job they've done is difficult and stressful, and I thank them for their efforts. I just think it's time to move on. Please stay tuned for further information.

 

Ray Sanderford

 

Bargaining Authorization Card

IUOE Local 302

Local 302 Contacts

 

Frequently Asked Questions

Q What will my status with UTU Local 1626 be if I sign a card?

A Signing the card has no impact on your status as an individual member of our current union. If less than 30% of T&E employees sign cards nothing happens. If 30% of the T&E employees sign cards there will be an election to determine what union will represent us. I believe that if more than 50% of T&E employees sign cards Local 302 will become the union that represents us. Once again, signing a card has no impact on your status as an individual member of the UTU.

Q How soon could we be in negotiations with Local 302 representing us, and what would we ask for?

A If more than 50% of the T&E employees sign cards 302 could begin representing us in fairly short order. We may not ask for anything more than we are asking right now, and we may ask for substantially more. 302's professional negotiator would assess the needs and wants of the membership, as well as assessing the ARRC's ability to provide those things. One thing you can be sure of is that 302's negotiator would be constantly guided by what the membership was telling him.

Q What are Local 302's dues?

A There is a one time initiation fee of $250.75. Monthly membership dues are $13.75. We could also institute a "working dues" or "dues check-off" in the contract negotiated for us by 302. Such working dues are a certain percentage of earnings. The more you earn the more you pay. This is common in contracts negotiated by 302, but it only happens if the T&E employees of the Alaska Railroad approve it.

Q Will we start "from scratch" in our negotiations with the ARRC if we switch to 302? Can the ARRC pay us whatever they want until we get a contract negotiated?

A Absolutely not. The T&E employees of the Alaska Railroad have a contract with the ARRC, with the UTU as our bargaining agent. It is our legal right to select any bargaining agent the majority of us choose. The validity or status of our contract with the ARRC is not dependent on who we select as a bargaining agent. The ARRC cannot change our wages or working conditions without negotiating those changes. They are required to negotiate with the bargaining agent we choose. Remember that the T&E employees of the Alaska Railroad are the Union, and the ARRC has a contract with us, not with our bargaining agent.

 

Jeff Ackerman, District Representative for IUOE Local 302, sent the following email on July 23rd.

"Hello Ray, Your site looks good. I'll do everthing I can to help. If any
of the RR people want to meet I will make myself available. I am available
at home after 6pm. 1327 Valarian Street Anchorage AK 99508. Home (907)
258-4841 Cell (907) 529-8893 Work (907) 561-5288 x124 1-800-478-5338. You
can also contact John Brown in Fairbanks (907) 452-8131 x229 Cell (907)
590-0614 Home (907) 452-5870. All the Agents in the Anchorage office are
aware of what you guys are doing. John Coble our organizer will help too.
His cell is (907) 227-2188 Home (907) 622-0484. Let everyone know that I
will do all I can to answer questions and put any fears to bed. Jeff"

Make an informed choice by being sure you're working with the facts.