Monday, December 6, 2021

Railroads fight in court with unions over vaccine mandate

OMAHA, Neb. (NWN) — Another major railroad has gone to court to determine whether it has the right to have all of its employees vaccinated against the coronavirus.

The BNSF Railroad filed suit against its major unions on Sunday over its mandate. It joins Norfolk Southern and Union Pacific, both of which filed similar lawsuits against the unions last month. The unions, who have filed some lawsuits of their own in response, argue that the railroads should have negotiated with them before implementing their mandates.

Railroads implementing vaccine mandates say they are complying with President Joe Biden’s executive order requiring all federal contractors to vaccinate their workers. Railroads are not alone in facing resistance for the vaccine mandate. Similar rules have generated controversy in various workplaces.

BNSF said in its lawsuit that it regularly updates its requirements for workers when federal regulations change, so the vaccine mandate should be no different. The BNSF said unions do not dispute when drug testing rules change, and they did not oppose it earlier this year when railroads imposed a mask mandate after being ordered by the Federal Railroad Administration.

Railroad said in its lawsuit, “BNSF has a long and well-established past of unilaterally changing its rules and policies governing position requirements, medical standards, and safety in response to legitimate federal government directives.” It’s practice.”

The railroad has said that employees will be disciplined if they fail to comply with the vaccine order.

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Unions did not immediately respond to BNSF’s lawsuit in court on Monday, but in other lawsuits they have argued that railroads violated the terms of their contracts by requiring vaccines and offering workers bonuses if they get vaccinated. Were were Union Pacific and Norfolk Southern are both offering employees $300 when they get the shots.

Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers – Transportation Division, or SMART, “unilateral decisions for non-negotiable bonuses and disciplining employees who have not been vaccinated can undermine collectively bargained agreements and those Worked to reduce Norfolk Southern’s obligations under the agreements.” -TD, the union said in its response to Norfolk Southern.

Leaders from the Smart-TD union and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen have said they generally support vaccinating workers, but they don’t think railroads should require it without first negotiating.

Federal judges have yet to rule on any of these lawsuits related to the railroad’s vaccine requirements.

The BNSF, Norfolk Southern and Union Pacific are the three largest US railroads. Spokesmen for two other major US railroads, CSX and Kansas City Southern, said officials at those railroads are still considering whether to implement vaccine mandates in response to the executive order, but both railroads encouraged employees to get the shots. are doing.

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