CLEVELAND, January 7 — On January 6, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, ruled against the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) and the Transportation Division of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART-TD), denying the unions’ preliminary injunction motions to stop Metra’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
The unions took the position that Metra had no authority to unilaterally implement and enforce a COVID vaccination mandate among its employees without the required bargaining pursuant to the Railway Labor Act (RLA). The unions contended that by failing to negotiate the terms of implementation, Metra violated the status quo requirement and, in turn, engaged in a major dispute. The court ruled in favor of Metra finding the matter to be a minor dispute. The court also rejected the unions’ alternative argument that the mandate should be put on hold while the Adjustment Board decided the dispute.
BLET and SMART-TD are engaged in similar lawsuits to halt vaccination mandates on other rail carriers, including BNSF Railway (BNSF), Norfolk Southern (NS), and Union Pacific (UP).
“Needless to say we are disappointed in the outcome of this lawsuit, especially considering other federal judges blocked vaccine mandates,” BLET President Dennis Pierce and SMART-TD President Jeremy Ferguson said. “We will continue to fight to protect the rights of our members during these historically difficult times.”
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The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen represents nearly 57,000 active and retired locomotive engineers and trainmen throughout the United States. The BLET is the founding member of the Rail Conference, International Brotherhood of Teamsters.
The SMART Transportation Division is comprised of approximately 125,000 active and retired members of the former United Transportation Union, who work in a variety of crafts in the transportation industry.