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Reformers Win Rerun Election In Rail Machinists

Above photo: Reform leadership won in Machinists District 19, which represents 8,000 machinists who repair locomotives and heavy equipment for freight rail carriers including CSX, BNSF, and Union Pacific. Rusted Rail Images.

‘No More Closed Doors.’

Reformers in the Machinists rail union have ousted incumbents in a Department of Labor-supervised election.

According to the results posted on the union’s website, challenger Reece Murtagh won the presidential election in District 19 of the IAM, 820 to 748, while his slate-mate Marty Rosato won 787 to 774 for secretary-treasurer.

Both Murtagh and Rosato are full-time railroad workers. Murtagh is a roadway mechanic for CSX and the president of his local lodge in Richmond, Virginia; Rosato works at CSX in Selkirk, New York. They will take office June 3.

Murtagh received the news while he was finishing up his shift at work. In his shop, his co-workers celebrated victory by playing the “Rocky” theme from their phones.

“It was a long, long battle,” Murtagh says. “And it was a lot of work. But scrappiness and tenacity and persistence paid off.”

A rare do-over

District 19 represents 8,000 machinists who repair locomotives and heavy equipment for freight rail carriers including CSX, BNSF, and Union Pacific.

The Department of Labor and the Machinists entered into an agreement to rerun last year’s election—which Murtaugh lost by just six votes—after the challengers filed charges over irregularities with member addresses. It is extremely rare to have an election redone in this way. Fewer than 0.3 percent of union elections lead to a rerun supervised or ordered by the DOL.

Ballots were cast—or due in the mail—on May 3, but then had to be sealed and shipped to a central location to be counted under DOL direction.

Murtaugh and Rosato campaigned on a platform of increased transparency and a more militant posture toward the employers.

“The members have voted in a working member, because they’re tired of the ways things have been run,” says Murtagh. “I campaigned on having members engaged in the contract negotiations—no more closed doors.”

‘You can do this too’

Negotiations for the next national rail contracts are expected to begin later this year. Contract negotiations under the Railway Labor Act, which covers railroad and airline workers, often take years.

Members are still angry at how the last negotiations ended. District 19 was one of the rail unions whose members initially rejected a tentative agreement with the Class I freight carriers in the summer of 2022, and 89 percent voted to approve a strike. But instead of striking, union leaders pushed back the strike deadline and scheduled a vote on a slightly modified deal for more than two months later. It passed narrowly.

Murtagh’s message to other unionists: “Other people in other unions that feel like they’re sold out, dissatisfied—you can do this too. Don’t take any bullshit, just stick to your principles and talk to the members. Change can happen.”

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