mbhoward wrote:MEC407, thanks for the links. They made for interesting reading. Especially the long read that summarized the legal cases national impications. My only source for this time period has been the book "American Railroads" by Stover. In it, he talks about the period being one of great change in the industry as a whole. He points out total employment was cut in half between 1980 and 1990 while average annual wages actually rose from 25K to almost 50K, exceeding inflation by a wide margin. Reading between the lines, it seems the turmoil in the industry was almost unprecedented.
Keep in mind that the localized conditions on the Maine Central may or may not have followed this trend. My guess is that they didn't as a lot of the increases here were probably on the Class I railroads which were at the very beginning of the post-Staggers renaissance.
mbhoward wrote:Stover does talk about unions fighting the increase in the definition of a "day's work" from 100 miles to 130 miles and the loss of the caboose with other end-of-train devices. These issues didn't seem too big to me and in New England, with the distances so short, I didn't think it would be much of an impact.
These issues also were not likely relevant to the MoW Employees as they are largely operating rules relevant to engineers and conductors (and brakemen and firemen of course when they were still around).
mbhoward wrote:I thought management must have had other issues in mind when they approached the Brotherhood. However, as others have insisted personalities played a large role in what happened, I guess I'm forced to bend my earlier rule about not talking about personalities. I'll do so in as delicate a manner as I can so as not to inflame people.
Personality is just one part of the issue of the particular person, Mr. David A. Fink, Sr., that people are referring to. His employment experiences at Penn Central in some truly dark times also likely had an enormous influence on his approach to management-labor relations.
mbhoward wrote:If management approached the union with such broad, across the board changes that the union had to reject outright, surely management would have known, or should have known, a strike was inevitable. That means some sort of forced mediation was inevitable. In that case, the natural course of the management position would have been to reach for the moon. The logic being since a strike will happen, might as well demand everything you could possibly want, and let the mediator decide. In the end, perhaps we (management) will end up with exactly what we want.
Actually I'm not entirely certain the logic is that simple. On first read I thought your proposition was very reasonable. However, remember the following very important
fact of law. Companies that are the target of a labor action may fire the striking employees and hire permanent replacements. For entities not covered by the RLA deliberately provoking a strike can be an easy way to end the union presence in your workplace, especially if you plan ahead for replacements (of whom you can of course hire at potentially lower wages). You then simply negotiate ad nauseum
with the strikers with your ultimate goal to be to keep them out of work as long as possible to make the strike economically unsustainable. This is probably very close to what International Paper did to the United Paperworkers Internationl Union (UPIU) Local #14, Jay, ME in 1987 less than a year after the BMWE strike ended. The key here being that the RLA provides for the convening of a Presidential Emergency Board and other remediation as necessary. Labor actions at private companies not involved in transportation (such as IP) have virtually no effect on the national economy and as such there has never been an impetus to provide for governmental remedies.
Again, the BMWE and MEC's status as entities covered by the RLA is essential to understanding the outcome. So....GTI decides that they are going to negotiate for changes in the contract with the BMWE that will essentially gut the union's protections for workers as well as their wages and any remaining job protection. In short they make an offer the union truly could never accept. This provokes a strike. GTI management of course knows that there is potential
for governmental involvement but perhaps miscalculates on a couple of key points. First they believe that the small size of their railroad means that they are unlikely to the target of government intervention. Second they do not
in any way shape or form believe that secondary actions at Class I railroads are likely or even conceivable. In short they underestimate the national cohesiveness of the BMWE. Perhaps what they are hoping for most is the aforementioned scenario, a long drawn out strike action which gives them time to get replacements in place and to ultimately fire all of the union workers.
As you might imagine it was one thing for MoW forces to be on strike at the Maine Central, it was entirely another thing for Class I railroads to lose their MoW forces on their heavily trafficked transcontinental freight main lines where they were busy and needed every day of the year. The BMWE's secondary actions made the long term strike scenario impossible and ultimately forced binding arbitration upon the company. The result of which was more or less the status quo ante
, which was unacceptable to Guilford. Shortly after that they leased the line to Springfield Terminal in order to get the MEC lines (and the B&M, and the D&H) out from under the legacy CBAs that were in place when they took over the respective railroads.
mbhoward wrote:I can't help but wonder if the players at the time realized the significance of the events as they were unfolding, or if this was seen as something local that was spiraling out of control?
I think it is likely the latter, in part because the way Guilford did it was a lot more expensive than just leasing everything to the ST in the first place. At least in my mind this also brings up an interesting point. Was leasing to the ST something that they didn't want to do? Did this get in the way of something they had in mind for the railroads later? I can't imagine what this might be except that there is some kind of quirk of railroad property law or tax law that made leasing to the ST unattractive initially. Of course there's always the possibility that this was something they hadn't even thought of in the first place either.