Union members warn Canadian Pacific they won’t settle for less

Union members rally for a fair contract outside Canadian Pacific’s U.S. headquarters in Minneapolis.

Canadian Pacific Railway workers were careful to note that their protest in downtown Minneapolis last week was not a strike, but they weren’t optimistic about the chances of avoiding one, either.

Members of the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way (BMWED), a Teamsters affiliate, blasted CP Railway for being a “bad actor” in contract negotiations during a rally Friday that also drew support from other rail unions currently in contract talks with the carrier.

“They walked out of bargaining, and that’s why we’re here,” BMWED General Chairman George Loveland said. “We just want a fair shake, that’s all.”

Loveland, who represents CP rail workers in the Burlington System Division, said rail workers expect CP to match the wage increases – 24% over five years – achieved by other Class 1 rail workers in national bargaining last year, at minimum.

But instead of agreeing to competitive wages, Loveland said, CP brought proposals into bargaining that would further strain members’ work-life balance and force workers to cover many of the costs they incur while working away from home.

If CP sticks to those demands, would BMWED members go on strike?

“Absolutely,” Loveland said. “We’re ready to go right now.”

CP Railway did not participate in nationwide contract bargaining with other Class 1 railroads last year – talks that resulted in President Biden and Congress imposing agreements on unions and the carriers in December.

“We just want a fair shake, that’s all,” BMWED General Chairman George Loveland said.

BMWED represents workers who build, maintain, repair and inspect CP Railway’s infrastructure. Other unions, including SMART-TD, Teamsters Local 120 and the Machinists union, joined the frigid rally, staged on the sidewalk that lines the Canadian Pacific Plaza skyscraper in downtown Minneapolis.

Minneapolis has been home to CP Railway’s U.S. headquarters for more than 120 years, with the CP-owned Soo Line part of Minnesota’s economy since 1880. The metro is also home to CP’s Humboldt and Shoreham rail yards.

As other rail workers did in nationwide bargaining last year, union members at CP are taking aim at rail bosses’ business model, which puts profits before workers’ health, safety and quality of life.

At the rally, BMWED members said they face harsh discipline for failing to adjust to arbitrary changes to their start times, working hours and workdays. And the railroad struggles to fully staff its operations because its wages lag other carriers’.

Meanwhile, Canadian Pacific is pursuing a merger with Kansas City Southern (KCS), which would create the first railroad to span Canada, the U.S. and Mexico – an indication, workers said, that the railroad has plenty of money to put on the table in contract negotiations.

Teamsters who work for CP Railway in Canada went on strike for two days in March 2022 and eventually settled a two-year contract in August that included 3.5% wage increases and pension improvements.

BMWED’s contract negotiations with CP began over a year ago.

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