OMAHA — Just days after Union Pacific announced it would require all of its employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 — in accordance with an executive order signed earlier this year requiring federal contractors to vaccinated their employees — a group of labor unions is suing the railroad.
Leaders of the Transportation Division of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, and Transportation Workers (SMART-TD) and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) have said they support having employees vaccinated, but they take issue with the railroad mandating policies impacting employees outside the contract negotiation process. Specifically, UP has stated that it will provide financial incentives to employees who get vaccinated.
“We generally support our members getting the vaccine. However, we have several objections to UP’s unilateral implementation of their policies mandating them and illegally dealing directly with its represented employees. The members of our Unions – including members who already are vaccinated – are irate over UP’s outrageous conduct,” said SMART-TD President Jeremy Ferguson and BLET National President Dennis Pierce in a joint statement. “We have been in contract negotiations with UP since November of 2019, and federal law absolutely bars railroads from changing rates of pay, rules and working conditions while negotiations are ongoing. Not only is UP in violation of the law, it has explicitly spurned our demands that these matters be bargained. We have filed suit today in the United States District Court for Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, in an effort to stop UP’s lawlessness in its tracks.”