In Brief

N.J. train engineers ordered back to work after labor dispute sparks Juneteenth callouts

By: - June 20, 2022 9:40 am

Hundreds of train engineers called out sick over the weekend in a labor dispute, prompting massive delays. (Fran Baltzer for New Jersey Monitor)

A federal judge on Sunday ordered New Jersey Transit train engineers back to work after hundreds called out sick over the weekend in a labor protest, prompting widespread cancelations and delays.

Jim Brown, general chairman of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, emailed all train engineers last Monday about Juneteenth, a federal and state holiday that they don’t have off because of a labor dispute. Contract negotiations and mediation have been ongoing since the union’s last contract with New Jersey Transit ended Dec. 31, 2019, according to court documents.

“NJT has made it clear that Engineers will not be paid for the holiday. Don’t let that deter you from celebrating THE HOLIDAY!!!” Brown wrote, according to court documents.

Hundreds of engineers consequently called out sick — 205 on Friday (two and a half times the average), 143 on Saturday (44% higher than normal), and at least 133 on Sunday (above average), according to a court order first reported by NorthJersey.com.

U.S. District Judge Christine P. O’Hearn ruled Sunday that such a pattern “can reasonably be construed as a job action.”

After the callouts began Friday, New Jersey Transit filed a complaint against the union seeking an injunction to thwart such actions while negotiations remain ongoing.

O’Hearn issued a temporary injunction Sunday forbidding union leaders from any actions that could interfere with NJ Transit operations, including work stoppages and sick-outs.

In a subsequent notice to members, union officials told members they face discipline for unauthorized absences.

“To be clear, the BLET does not support or condone any employee marking off without a legitimate and authorized reason for doing so,” the notice states.

A full hearing on the matter is set for 9 a.m. Tuesday in Camden.

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Dana DiFilippo
Dana DiFilippo

Dana DiFilippo comes to the New Jersey Monitor from WHYY, Philadelphia’s NPR station, and the Philadelphia Daily News, a paper known for exposing corruption and holding public officials accountable. Prior to that, she worked at newspapers in Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, and suburban Philadelphia and has freelanced for various local and national magazines, newspapers and websites. She lives in Central Jersey with her husband, a photojournalist, and their two children.

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