NS mandates vaccination, sues unions

By progressiverailroading.com

Norfolk Southern Railway last week filed a lawsuit that seeks to stop several labor unions from suing over the Class I’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

Last week, NS, represented by Jones Day, field a petition in Chicago federal court claiming the unions’ objections to the vaccine requirement must be brought in arbitration and not in court, according to a Reuters report.

The article quotes NS officials saying that because President Joe Biden issued an executive order requiring federal contractors to mandate vaccines for its workers, the railroad reserves the right under its union agreements to require the COVID-19 vaccine in order to comply.

NS filed the suit against the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, and Transportation Workers — known as the SMART Transportation Division (SMART-TD) — and two other unions that represent its employees, the news service reported.

NS’s action follows that of Union Pacific Railroad, which on Oct. 15 filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court after receiving communications from three unions protesting that Class I’s vaccination mandate.

The unions involved in that case are SMART-TD, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen and the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees Division.

Amtrak is also requiring its employees to be vaccinated. In an Oct. 20 website post, SMART-TD Jeremy Ferguson said it’s anticipated that the remaining Class Is “will eventually implement similar policies, citing their status as government contractors and federal mandates as their reasons.”

“In every instance to date, the carriers implemented their policies without first meeting with SMART-TD to bargain over the provisions of their mandates,” Ferguson wrote.

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