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KC Southern Railway Bucks Bargaining, Unilaterally Installs Surveillance Cameras in Trains

Claiming “management perrogative,” officials from the Kansas City Southern Railway (KCS) have announced that they will install inward facing cameras on all of their locomotives in the upcoming weeks. As this represents a signal of distrust and managerial overreach, worker representatives are not pleased.

In a meeting with the presidents of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen and the SMART (formerly SMWIA) Transportation Division, KCS announced that it does not have to, or intend to, negotiate with the unions over the use of cameras or the effects the change will have on employees. Such cameras are currently being used on trains in Mexico and preparations are underway to fit locomotives with cameras in Shreveport. The sudden announcement led to a flurry of legal action:

Without notifying the unions, that same day KCS filed suit in federal district court in Shreveport, La., to obtain a ruling allowing it to implement its plan. Upon learning of these developments, BLET National President Dennis Pierce and Mike Futhey, President of SMART Transportation Division, together told the carrier that both unions vehemently disagree that the carrier has the right to install and use inward-facing cameras unilaterally without exhausting the bargaining processes of the Railway Labor Act.

The two presidents and the leadership of both unions view this as a serious change in working conditions and have agreed to work closely to resist its implementation. A coordinated effort is being undertaken in response.

Not only will both unions be fervently opposing KCS’s lawsuit, they will be asking the court to enjoin the carrier from going ahead with its plan.

As of now, and until the court has issued a ruling regarding the parties’ respective rights, the carrier has agreed not to turn on or use the cameras.

The Globe and Mail wrote earlier this year that, “Despite the existence of privacy legislation, privacy-based regulatory bodies, privacy principles and even privacy-based torts (wrongful acts that lead to damages) there is still no clear “right” to privacy for many workers,” with respect to video. Surveillance of union activity in the U.S., however, is illegal according to the National Labor Relations Act.


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