After 25 years of generally good rapport, relations between the U.S. railroads and one of their three major operating unions have soured. The United Transportation Union (UTU) cites disagreements over health-care coverage and wages as the cause of the schism.
Statements in a letter from UTU President Paul Thompson to union members last month indicate just how far things have deteriorated. Thompson dropped broad hints that the union would support Senate Bill 919, the Rail Competition Act of 2005. That would represent a major policy shift for the union, which has traditionally sided with rail management on legislative issues (it supported passage of the wide-reaching Staggers Act in 1980 and has opposed repeated attempts to modify Staggers in the years since). The bill has drawn strong opposition from the U.S. railroads and their trade group, the Association of American Railroads (AAR). The AAR has called the bill "re-regulation."