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Court forces local railroad strikers back to work

May 04, 2000|By JULIE E. GREENE

A court order forced striking Norfolk Southern Railroad maintenance workers back to work Thursday just hours after they formed a picket line, officials said.

Norfolk Southern secured a temporary restraining order from U.S. District Court in Roanoke, Va., just a few hours after the picket line formed at 6 a.m. Thursday, Rudy Husband, the railroad's spokesman in Philadelphia, said.

The maintenance workers returned to their jobs around lunchtime, Husband said in a telephone interview.

Union members build and maintain the railroad track, buildings and bridges.

"This is a minor dispute over seniority issues and the affected employees of the union can file a grievance with the company," Husband said.

Five strikers representing the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees picketed at the Vardo Yard on Maryland Avenue in Hagerstown Thursday morning.

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At least two of the strikers were Washington County residents. They could not say how many union members live in the Tri-State area.

The strikers wanted to shut down the railroad's operation to protest Norfolk Southern laying off 600 union members and not filling available positions based on seniority, said picketer William K. Manning, the union's legislative director for Pennsylvania.

Local strikers said Thursday morning they succeeded in keeping the trains at a standstill at Vardo Yards after Northern Southern workers showed up for work and left, refusing to cross the picket line.

Husband said the strike delayed the departure of some freight trains from terminals Thursday morning, but couldn't confirm that trains at Hagerstown's terminal were delayed.

In a prepared statement, Tom McCoy, general chairman of the Norfolk and Western System Division of the union, said Norfolk Southern's purchase of Conrail was a bad business decision and precipitated the strike at yards in seven states, including Maryland and West Virginia.

Husband said it was actually 550 maintenance workers who were laid off in February and those layoffs were not attributable to the Conrail deal, but to declining business.

The maintenance workers union wasn't the only employee group affected, he said. The railroad has laid off nearly 1,000 people from management positions since Jan. 1 as well as employees in other areas.

Husband said available positions are filled with senior qualified employees.

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