The city of Palestine and Anderson County battled Union Pacific in the 369th District Court in Cherokee County presided over by Judge Michael Davis on Monday in ongoing litigation with regard to the 1955 judgment between the parties.
Anderson County Judge Robert Johnston, Palestine Mayor Steve Presley, Texas State Senator Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola) and retired car shop foreman Harris Lohmeyer were all in attendance on behalf of Palestine.
While several merits of the lawsuits were addressed by attorneys representing both sides, Davis reserved any ruling on those merits to a later date, if necessary.
The city and county filed a show cause motion on Wednesday, June 9. However, no ruling was made on that motion. Union Pacific was found to be out of compliance with the 1955 judgment requiring Union Pacific to provide employment numbers and payroll reports on a monthly basis to the city. Union Pacific has been out of compliance with this since December 2020.
Davis ruled Union Pacific could not eliminate any jobs until after a hearing set for Thursday, July 8 to determine whether the company has complied and provided that information.
Davis did not rule on any of the other merits of the lawsuits.
Both Union Pacific attorneys reported potential conflicts with the July 8 date for the hearing. Davis said an agreement could be made by all parties should they need to reschedule to a later date.
The show cause motion was filed after Union Pacific notified its employees they would be furloughed and June 10 would be their last day of employment.
The ongoing legal battle will decide the future of Union Pacific’s railroad facility in Palestine.
At present, Union Pacific must employ 0.52% of its office and shop employees in Palestine, which according to the 1955 Agreement, includes the following classifications: executives, officials and staff assistants; professional, clerical and general; maintenance of equipment and stores; transportation, other than train, engine and yard; and transportation, yardmasters, switch tenders and hostlers.
In the current lawsuit, Union Pacific alleges that the Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act of 1995 preempts the 1872 Agreement between the company and the city of Palestine/Anderson County and asked the court to void its obligations to Palestine.
Union Pacific Railroad met with Palestine staff April 15 and told them they have 60 days until the Palestine car facility closes. Union Pacific said in a statement it has been accelerating its continuous improvement plan and implementing Precision Scheduled Railroading principles undertaking operational changes across its system. One of those operational changes is the closing of its main car repair facility in Palestine. The closure of the Palestine car repair facility will result in the abolishment of as many as 57 positions.