By Railfan & Railroad Staff
OMAHA — A U.S. District Court judge has derailed plans for a union representing maintenance of way employees to go on strike against Union Pacific. Last week, Judge Brian Buescher ruled that the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees must resolve its issues regarding UP’s pandemic response through traditional means and not the picket line.
“This order will allow Union Pacific to continue to meet the country’s freight demands, while we work with the BMWED towards our common commitment to ensure the safety of our employees,” Union Pacific spokeswoman Elizabeth Graham told the Associated Press.
In December, the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees made a series of public safety demands — including asking for full quarantine pay and what it called “common sense” COVID-19 safeguards — or its members would walk off the job in late December. According to the union, at least two members have gotten sick and died because of exposure to the virus at work.
Two days later, UP filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Nebraska alleging that the union’s threat to strike was in violation of the Railway Labor Act. On Dec. 23, a judge handed down a restraining order against the union preventing it from going on strike until at least Jan. 8, 2021.
The threat of a strike over COVID-19 came just a month after the railroad announced that it would be giving a one-time $1,000 bonus to any union employees who worked at least 30 days during the pandemic.