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This 2018 photo shows a Union Pacific train in Union, Nebraska. (AP file photo: Nati Harnik)

Union Pacific and its unions sue each other over vaccine

OMAHA, Neb. — Union Pacific and its labor unions are suing each other to determine whether the railroad has the authority to require its employees to get vaccinated against the coronavirus.

The unions argue that the Omaha, Nebraska-based railroad should have negotiated with them before announcing it would require all employees to get the shots. The railroad contends in its own lawsuit that it believes it has the authority to require the vaccine under its existing contracts because it can set standards for when employees are fit for duty.

Union Pacific announced this month that it would require all employees to be vaccinated by Dec. 8 to comply with an executive order President Joe Biden issued requiring all federal contractors to have their employees vaccinated. The railroad is also offering its union employees a $300 bonus if they get the shots. Nonunion employees at the railroad are being offered a half day of vacation if they get vaccinated.

On the same day the Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers — Transportation Division, or SMART-TD, union filed its lawsuit against the railroad, Union Pacific filed its own lawsuit Friday against SMART-TD and two other unions that objected to the vaccination mandate to force the issue.

“This action is necessary to prevent any disruption of the national rail network and to avoid any impact on America’s supply chain, as it continues to recover from the pandemic,” Union Pacific spokeswoman Kristen South said in a statement.

Union Pacific is one of the nation’s largest railroads. it operates 32,400 miles of track in 23 Western states.

 

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