Arbitrator Sides with KCS in Tex-Mex Border Dispute with Union

By Railfan & Railroad Staff

LERADO, Tex. — Kansas City Southern’s Texas Mexican Railway will be able to continue to use Mexican train crews on 9 miles of track between the international border and the rail yard at Lerado, Tex. after a Special Board of Adjustment ruled in the railroad’s favor this week. The decision followed three years of conflict between the railroad and the union representing the U.S. employees, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen.

In July 2017, BLET learned that the railroad wanted to move the crew change point for trains crossing the border from the border itself to the yard at Lerado. One reason was that it was easier to change crews in the yard than at the border. The union objected, stating that agreements dating back to the 1950s demanded that the crew changes happen at the international border. The union also argued that its members were losing hours and compensation because they were no longer moving trains over the 9-mile stretch of tracks to the border. Despite objections, KCS began using Mexican crews into Lerado in 2018. That same year, the union tried to no avail to get President Trump to intervene, arguing that it was a safety issue. A Special Board of Adjustment was created to resolve the issue and included a representative from the railroad, the union, and a neutral member. On Aug. 4, the board ruled in favor of the carrier.

In a statement to media, BLET National President Dennis R. Pierce expressed frustration in the resulting decision. “As stated in the Organization Member’s dissent, the majority missed the mark by a long shot with its decision,” he said. “This ruling is an affront to BLET’s membership and an attack on the collective bargaining rights of all American workers. The Carrier was wrong in 2017 when it gave the jobs of hard-working Americans to Mexican Nationals, it was wrong in 2018, and it’s wrong today.”

Although this week’s decision was in regards to the situation in Lerado, it’s possible it could have far-reaching implications across North America at other places where trains are swapped at international borders, be it with Mexico or Canada.

This article was posted on: August 7, 2020