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Published: Thursday, 7/20/2006

Railroad loses bid to halt strike in 3 states

BY GARY T. PAKULSKI
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER
The track maintenance union's pickets are posted at the railroad's Lang Yard in north Toledo. The track maintenance union's pickets are posted at the railroad's Lang Yard in north Toledo.
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An injunction sought by Canadian National Railway Co. to send striking track maintenance workers back to the job was refused yesterday evening by U.S. District Judge David Katz.

The walkout by 250 workers, which began at 6 a.m. yesterday, threatens to disrupt operations of the railroad.

The Teamsters union's Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees said other rail unions agreed to honor its picket lines beginning with the afternoon shift yesterday.

Giving an oral decision after an emergency hearing in federal court in Toledo, Judge Katz said the railroad had not proven its case for the injunction, Rich Edelman, lawyer for the union, said last night.

The hearing on the injunction was moved to Toledo after a federal judge in Chicago referred the matter here.

About 30 members of Local 1664, Toledo, are involved in the walkout. The railway, known as CN, operates Lang Yard off Schwartz Road in north Toledo.

Jim Kvedaras, a spokesman at CN's U.S. headquarters in Homewood, Ill., said yesterday, "We're prepared to continue operating as best we can with management personnel."

The strike directly affects the firm's operations in Michigan, northwest Ohio, and in Indiana, union officials said.

But shipment of coal, auto parts, and other goods along CN lines stretching to the Gulf Coast could be disrupted if the matter isn't resolved quickly, parties added.

"While other unions might honor the strike, my sense is that management could step in do the work for a short period of time," said David Newman, an analyst with National Bank Financial Inc. in Toronto.

Over the longer haul, a walkout supported by other unions could do damage, he said.

"Detroit is a key trans-border crossing. It's fairly material."

The railway had contended that the union's action is illegal under U.S. rail labor laws because the walkout began while the two sides were involved in mediation.

However, Judge Virginia Kendall, of U.S. District Court in Chicago, declined yesterday to issue a restraining order halting the walkout.

Instead, she referred the matter to federal court in Toledo, where the union filed suit Monday against the Montreal-based company.

Lines targeted by the walkout were owned by the former Grand Trunk Western, Detroit Toledo & Ironton, and Detroit, Toledo & Shore Line railways.

Contact Gary T. Pakulski at:

gpakulski@theblade.com

or 419-724-6082.



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