Ladies and Gentlemen/Sisters and Brothers:
Have you ever been ticked off with a member of your family and yet not said anything for fear of offending them? Have you sat back, bit your tongue and hoped the situation would resolve itself? For the most part, this is what I have been doing for the past few months. I am no longer willing to remain silent.
The Canada Industrial Relations Board (CIRB) has directed that a representation vote be taken within the Canadian Council of Railway Operating Unions' (CCROU) bargaining unit and, that employees within the bargaining unit on July 10, 2003, (the date of the application for certification by the UTU) and still employed, shall be eligible to vote. Thus, each of us will be entitled to participate in the determination of the future face of labour at Canadian Pacific Railway. How then will we cast our ballots; which organization will we support? You are each entitled to your opinion(s), as am I.
Locomotive Engineers have already chosen to merge with the Teamsters. The ballots cast by Canadian BLE members and those cast by American BLE members were counted separately and a majority of members from BOTH countries voted in favour of the merger. The merger agreements provide an environment whereby our organizational structure will remain virtually unchanged and we will have more CANADIAN AUTONOMY than ever before. I believe the merger to be a positive step and I hope this will be proven over the next two
(2) years. Why two years? Because, if the merger is not working, either organization, under the terms of the merger agreement, has the right to withdraw within two years. HOW CAN WE LOSE. WE GET TO TEST DRIVE THE VEHICLE, FOR 2 YEARS, AND IF WE DON'T LIKE IT WE CAN GIVE IT BACK!!!!
However, the UTU executive appears determined to undermine this democratic choice made by the BLE membership.
In July of this year, during the final stages of the merger discussions, the UTU conducted a raid. I realize they refer to their actions as an organizing effort but representatives of the BLE term their actions a RAID, and in a decision handed down by the Honourable Alan B. Gold, impartial umpire for the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC), he also makes reference to a raid:
"The UTU did not file a claim of justification before taking action. In the result, even if it were justified in carrying out the raid, it cannot escape a finding of guilt. There is no valid defence of justification available after the raid."
Imagine, conducting a raid upon sisters and brothers, members of our joint Council!
Mr. D. Warren, General Chair UTU East, has stated that a reason for the UTU actions in July was to enable all members within the Council
(CCROU) a choice. What in fact the UTU's actions could have accomplished was to remove my ability, and that of all Canadian BLE members, to choose. My democratic right as a BLE member provided the opportunity to cast a ballot for, or against, a BLE merger with the Teamsters. Had the UTU been totally successful in their application to the Canada Industrial Relations Board (CIRB) they would have assumed sole representation rights for all members of the CCROU and I would no longer have been a member of the BLE. This would have eliminated my ability to cast a ballot on the Teamster/BLE merger. Plain and simple, the UTU was interfering with BLE business. How would you feel if your next door neighbour attempted to remove your right to cast a ballot during an election!!
Mr. R. McKenna, former General Chair BLE East, has been quoted:
"Canadian locomotive engineers should control their own destiny,"
McKenna said. "They should determine among themselves if they are to become a very small segment of a large non-rail organization (the Teamsters) or control their own destiny (by joining the predominantly rail UTU)."
I wonder if Mr. McKenna recognizes the irony of his first sentence in this quote. In my view, his support of the July raid conflicts with the very principle he puts forth. Any actions which might have prevented me from casting a ballot on the Teamster/BLE merger would have removed my right and ability to control my own destiny as a Canadian locomotive engineer.
Also included in the above quote is the comment that the Teamsters is a large non-rail organization. Do any of you recall the reaction when CPR Carmen joined the CAW? I do. I heard MANY people express their support for the Carmen's decision; the CAW was big, they were powerful, they were listened to. It was even suggested, at the time, that running trade employees should consider looking at such an affiliation. Was, or is, the CAW a large rail organization? I don't believe so. Is the Teamsters organization not big and powerful? 1.5 million members throughout North America! Are they not a force to be reckoned with? I think so. Perhaps this is why the UTU has been, and is, interfering with the BLE/Teamsters merger!!!!
In the past the UTU made reference to the CCROU and pointed out how well the Council (the CCROU) had represented its members.
"Since the Council was certified on February 13th, 1992 it has worked to the benefit of all members."
Now, suddenly, the UTU is NOT in favour of the Council? They are asking that on the CIRB ballot, which you should soon receive, you vote for a bargaining agent other than the CCROU? WHY? I too believe the Council has functioned well in the past and see no reason why it could not continue to function in the future.
The BLE leadership approached and met with five (5) other unions before determining that the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) was the best fit for the BLE.
The Teamsters organization is driven from the ground-roots, by the members, as is the BLE.
The Teamsters organization allows Canadian engineers to retain our organization, under the title of Teamsters Canada Rail Conference (TCRC). Therefore, Division 319 in Chapleau does not have to amalgamate or fall under a division/ local of the Teamsters in Sudbury, or Toronto, or wherever. We remain Division 319 and our engineers will elect our local officers, who will in turn elect our national representatives, just as it was prior to the Teamster/BLE merger.
The Teamsters already have an established legal department and lobbyists. The resources of these departments will now be available to the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference (TCRC) representatives. Imagine the potential monetary savings.
We will have the backing and support of an organization which represents 1.5 million sisters and brothers in North America. I have heard accounts where Teamster members were on the picket line and supporting members of the Rail Traffic Controllers (RTCs) when they were on strike recently. This was before the Teamsters/BLE merger ballots were even counted! I recently saw a document which mentioned a figure of 16 million dollars (that's $16,000,000) having been spent in the past 6 years due to UTU raids on the BLE. I am not able to confirm this figure I simply noted it in another document. If it is in fact correct, or even close, that was our money sisters and brothers, squandered fighting each other rather than used to improve our situation within the work place. Perhaps membership in the Teamsters will help reduce such expenditures!!
In my humble opinion, the UTU has used the BLE/Teamsters merger as an excuse to raid a portion of the BLE in Canada, as they have been raiding the BLE in the US for the past several years. Partially as a result of these raids the UTU is no longer a member of the American Federation of Labor/American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL/CIO) and the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) has recently ruled that the UTU is in violation of the CLC constitution.
Sisters and brothers, people I considered part of my union family are condoning and participating in actions which will damage relationships I have spent my working career developing. If the UTU leadership is successful in their attempts to obtain sole representation of all CPR running trades, we, you, will have allowed them to drive a wedge between engineers and conductors. Animosity will be created and remain for many years. This is not the atmosphere I wish to work in. DO YOU??
Please consider carefully how you will cast your ballot. I urge you to support and retain the Council (CCROU). Where the ballot asks:
"Do you wish to choose a bargaining agent OTHER THAN the Canadian Council of Railway Operating Unions (CCROU) to represent you?"
If you are unable to support the CCROU, and "wish to choose a bargaining agent other than the CCROU", then I further urge you to cast your ballot in support of the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference (TCRC). I truly believe the journey with this organization is going to be fantastic.
If you wish to discuss the content of this letter or feel that I may be able to provide further information, please do not hesitate to contact me. I will gladly take the time to share with you what information I have.
In closing, PLEASE ensure you utilize your voting privilege. Carefully follow voting instructions (for example, you MUST respond to BOTH questions on the ballot) and ensure your ballot is mailed to the Returning Officer on time and in the correct format. ENSURE YOUR OPINION IS COUNTED.
John McKnight 864-0835