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Union for maintenance workers sues Genesee & Wyoming and affiliate

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The union representing maintenance-of-way workers is suing Genesee & Wyoming and a subsidiary, saying the companies violated the Railway Labor Act with a hiring freeze and layoffs after workers voted to join the union.

The suit by the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes Division of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, or BMWED, was filed earlier this month against G&W and Railroad Engineering Services in U.S. District Court in Jacksonville. It alleges that after the union filed an application to represent Railroad Engineering Service employees, the company instituted a hiring freeze and told employees there would be no hirings until the “union situation” was sorted out. About a month after the union was certified to represent the workers, the suit says RES laid off 31 of 66 workers, including some of the union’s most vocal supporters.

The suit says G&W should also be accountable for the violations as the “alter ego” of RES, since they have common ownership, management, and other features, “and coordinated together to infringe the rights of these employees.” It claims a G&W official told a group of managers and employees that he would “sell every piece of equipment and shut it down” before he would allow the company to unionize.

The Florida Times-Union reports the BMWED is asking U.S. District Judge Brian Davis for an injunction to prevent the companies from interfering with the employees’ right to unionize. The suit also asks for additional relief including “damages, attorneys’ fees and costs that the court may deem just and proper.”

The newspaper reports the union plans an informational picket outside the G&W and RES offices in Jacksonville today. A G&W spokesman contacted by the Times-Union declined to comment.