Results show 81 percent of eligible voters returned ballots, 100 percent of those voting were in support of strike authorization
BLET members at NJT are furious over the transit agency’s misplaced priorities. The agency has “millions for penthouse views, but not a dime for train crews.” NJT approved $440 million+ for luxury office space for execs, while engineers haven’t had a raise since 2019.
NEWARK, N.J. — The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) announced today that its members who work for NJ Transit have voted — unanimously — to grant BLET National President Eddie Hall the authority to call a strike. Results show 81 percent of the eligible 494 union voters cast ballots, with 100 percent of them in support of strike authorization. In total, 399 ballots were returned, 397 were cast for strike authorization. Two ballots were ruled void.
“NJT’s locomotive engineers have spoken loud and clear,” said Hall. “Our members at NJT are furious that the agency has millions for penthouse views, but not a dime for train crews who kept the trains running throughout the worst days of the pandemic and haven’t had a raise since 2019.”
NJT recently announced that they would spend more than $440 million to lease luxury office space.
NJT’s locomotive engineers have been seeking a new contract since October 2019. The contract dispute has been in National Mediation Board-sponsored mediation for nearly three years. The National Mediation Board (NMB) is the federal labor agency charged with facilitating labor-management relations for the nation’s railroads and airlines.
“We’re fed up with NJT’s misplaced priorities, deceit and stonewalling,” said Hall. “NJT’s managers wasted taxpayer dollars by going to court this month in a frivolous and failed attempt to block our vote count and strip us of our rights. They would rather litigate than negotiate. We would prefer to reach a voluntary settlement, but make no mistake, with this vote the clock is now ticking. The process to be granted release from the NMB has begun. As soon as it is lawful for us to act, we will.”
Similar to the process that nearly brought the nation’s freight railroads to a halt last year, this strike authorization vote is a step necessary under the union’s bylaws to set a strike date and withdraw the members from service.
Earlier this year, CNN, in a story titled Labor showdown looming at NJ Transit, one of nation’s largest commuter railroads, explained the steps and likely timeline for a shutdown at NJT.
“We will keep up the fight and use every lawful tool to reach a contract settlement,” said Hall. Following Labor Day, BLET will begin a public information and advertising campaign to educate both commuters and New Jersey’s voters about the status of contract talks and the transit agency’s decision to appropriate dollars for lavish office space rather than wages for the people who keep the trains moving. All 120 Assembly and Senate seats will be on the ballot in New Jersey this fall and the union, which is affiliated with both the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and the AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department, plans to reach out to labor households across the state with information about the NJT’s mismanagement, stonewalling and short-sighted decisions as well as inaction by state elected leaders.
The union maintains that NJT should have wages closer to engineers’ wages at other commuter railroads. With the exception of one other transit agency, NJT’s engineers are the lowest paid engineers working in commuter service in the nation.
Currently, certified locomotive engineers are in high demand at both freight and passenger railroads and can’t be easily replaced. Shortages of engineers leading to train delays and cancellations are not without precedent. NJT was forced to routinely cancel trains due to shortages of engineers during Gov. Christie’s years in office.
BLET members employed at NJT received a mailing from the union’s national office with a ballot and voting instructions earlier this month. The deadline for returning ballots was 12 p.m. on August 31.