National Legislative Office

Welcome to the website of the National Legislative Office of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, a division of the Rail Conference of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

This site is intended to be a resource for BLET members, as well as anyone who is interested in the legislative and regulatory activities of our union.

As the site evolves it is our hope that it will be a useful tool in helping the BLET to continue to maintain, expand and deepen its relationships with Congress, labor leaders, government agencies and the general public.     Read Vice President Tolman's welcome message...

October 23, 2014

Your vote counts

(Editor’s Note: The following is an excerpt from the upcoming October 2014 issue of the Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen News.)

By Dennis R. Pierce
BLET National President

For those of you who were in attendance at the BLET’s Third National Convention earlier this month, you know that we talked a lot about this fall’s mid-term elections. Whether it was from our guest speakers like Teamster General Secretary-Treasurer Ken Hall, or from a video message like the one from Senator Elizabeth Warren, the common thread that all of our speakers shared was the importance of this year’s election, both at the Federal level and at the State level.

In the U.S. Senate, there are 36 seats to be decided, and those who support an anti-worker, anti-union and therefore anti-middle class agenda are working hard to take control. At the same time, all 435 seats are up for re-election in the U.S. House of Representatives, and the same group is working hard to increase their existing majority. There is a reason for this push in the House and the Senate, and that reason does not benefit you as working class Americans.

Quite to the contrary, the agenda being pushed by the so-called conservatives trying to increase their power in Washington, D.C., is one that is bought and paid for by corporate America. Many of you do not know who the Koch brothers are, but they are billionaires who have long advocated ending Social Security and Medicare. By the end of the year, they will have spent millions trying to persuade voters, including good union men and women, to vote for their issues.

They will convince some of you to support their agenda, even though their cause includes nothing good for working class Americans. They oppose any increase to the minimum wage, even though our nation’s workers are some of the most productive in the world and their wages lag behind the bulk of the industrialized world. If their bought and paid for politicians take full control, they would end all hope of a secure retirement for millions of working class Americans by ending Social Security — and our Railroad Retirement system would not be safe either.

You only have to study the voting records of the politicians that these billionaires have already bought, to know what being owned by billionaires like the Koch brothers, the Walton family or Sheldon Adelson requires. Although said in jest by a well-known comedian, it was speculated during the recession that due to the downturn in the economy, the Koch brothers actually had to lay off several congressmen. In all truth though, it is imperative that you look beyond the advertisements that corporate America and its supporters will put on your television this year. You must instead study the voting records of all politicians that seek your vote, and if you truly want a strong working middle class in this country, you must not support those whose true agenda is just the opposite.

At our Third National Convention, delegates were honored to hear from U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who offered his unique insight into the importance of the upcoming elections:

“And while the rich get richer, the billionaire class, as a result of the disastrous ‘Citizens United’ Supreme Court decision, is investing hundreds of millions of dollars into political campaigns to make sure that elected officials in Washington will keep making sure the folks on top get an even greater share of the pie,” Sanders said. “If ever there was a time for a political revolution, one that engages millions of Americans in the political process, and significantly increases voter participation, now is that time. We need to educate, organize and bring to the polls millions of workers and young people who otherwise might not vote. We need to make clear to every American what the Koch brothers’ agenda is and what Republican control of Congress will mean for the working families of this country, and we need to bring forth a strong progressive agenda that reverses the decline of the middle class.”

Perhaps the most disappointing misrepresentation in all of this year’s politics is what I call the “wolf in sheep’s clothing” politician. I am talking about those politicians who are bought and paid for by corporate America, but try to convince you that they actually support you or a social issue important to you. Having been raised in a devoutly religious home, I am especially offended by those corporate owned politicians who claim to stand on “high ground” religiously.

There is no greater hypocrisy than to claim to support a religious philosophy, while at the same time supporting an economic philosophy that allows corporations to crush the working class of this great nation. It has been said that truly being religious requires a conscience, but that is the one thing that no corporation owns. Quite the opposite, corporations serve only one purpose, that being to make money for those who own and operate them. What that does not include in many cases is paying a living wage, providing benefits or allowing employees to have the time off that they need to enjoy the fruits of their labor. The almighty dollar — and not the Almighty — is king in corporate America.

I will leave you with this quote from Pope Francis, who eloquently explains the economic inequalities facing Americans today. I ask you to keep this in mind when you vote in November:

“Some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system.” — Pope Francis, Joy of the Gospel apostolic exhortation, November 2013.

October 17, 2014

New Jersey economic group backs two-person train crews

A leading economic group in the state of New Jersey, comprised of labor and business leaders, is supporting national legislation that would mandate two-person train crews throughout the United States.

The New Jersey Society for Environmental, Economic Development (NJ SEED) recently issued a letter supporting the BLET’s efforts to advance H.R. 3040 in the U.S. House of Representatives as well as similar legislation on the state level.
“NJ SEED is committed to working to preserve two-person crews for the … safety of our railways and citizens,” wrote Michael K. Drulis, Executive Director of NJ SEED. “The stakes are too high to do otherwise; the safest and securest workplace for the nation’s railroads, their employees and the public at large is one that includes a minimum of a two-person crew.”

H.R. 3040, also known as the Safe Freight Act, would mandate that “no freight train or light engine used in connection with the movement of freight may be operated unless it has a crew consisting of at least 2 individuals, one of whom is certified under regulations promulgated by the Federal Railroad Administration as a locomotive engineer pursuant to section 20135, and the other of whom is certified under regulations promulgated by the Federal Railroad Administration as a conductor pursuant to section 20163.”

“Both the engineer and conductor are critical to train operations — working symbiotically — dependent on one another for proper and sound procedures,” according to NJ SEED’s letter of support. “Paramount to the issue of crew size for train operations is ensuring safety on the nation’s rails. Instances in the past have proven that two-person crews play a vital role in working with first responders to protect the public and work in effort to guarantee safe practices.”

Dennis R. Pierce, National President of the BLET, thanked Executive Director Drulis and NJ SEED for supporting two-person train crews and recognized Brother Matt Kronyak, Chairman of the BLET’s New Jersey State Legislative Board, for educating the members of NJ SEED regarding this important safety issue.

NJ SEED is the leading voice in New Jersey for environmental balance and economic growth, focusing on issues such as maintaining New Jersey’s transportation infrastructure and its port facilities.

For a copy of NJ SEED’s letter, please click here.

Memorial service to be held for son of Alabama SLBC M.D. Frank

David “Ryan” Frank, the son of BLET Alabama State Legislative Board Chairman M.D. Frank, passed away on October 4, 2014. Ryan Frank was 31 years old.

Frank is survived by the love of his life Nicole C. Pawenski and their two children Isabella Nicole Frank and Jace Ryan Frank. He is also survived by his father M.D. Frank and his wife Kelley; his mother Sharon Willis Bassette and her husband Dan; three brothers Michael Jason Frank (Teresa), David William Frank III and Jackson Andrew Walters; and a sister Kristen Nicole Frank. Additionally, he is survived by grandmother, Lois “Honey” Willis; and two nephews, Tate Frank and Josh Frank (Lindsay).

“The BLET was saddened to hear of the passing of Ryan Frank,” BLET National President Dennis R. Pierce said. “The loss of one so young is always tragic, and is never an easy thing for loved ones to go through. Ryan’s family and friends have our deepest sympathy, and I extend the thoughts and prayers of all BLET members to Brother Frank and all of Ryan’s family and friends.”

A memorial service will be held for Ryan on October 19, 2014, at the Centre at Arbor Place (7475 Douglas Blvd, Douglasville, Ga.) from 1-3 p.m.

In lieu of flowers or cards, the family requests that memorial gifts be made to the college funds of the children of Ryan Frank. Anyone wishing to donate can go to any Wells Fargo Bank branch and fill out a savings deposit slips in the name of Isabella Frank (birth date July 9, 2006) or Jace Frank (birth date August 25, 2010). The family asks that all contributors place their names on the deposit slips so they may thank contributors for their gifts.

Brian J. Farkas elected chairman of Indiana State Legislative Board

Brian J. Farkas was elected by acclamation to serve as Chairman of the Indiana State Legislative Board at its quadrennial meeting in Indianapolis, October 8-9, 2014.

Brother Farkas is a CSX locomotive engineer who has held continuous membership in BLET Division 121 (Indianapolis, Ind.) since September 1, 1997.

Also elected to the Board’s Executive Committee were: 1st Vice Chairman James R. Radtke, Division 548 (Peru, Ind.), reelected by acclamation; 2nd Vice Chairman Michael Harting, Division 754 (Elkhart, Ind.), reelected by acclamation; Secretary-Treasurer Carl W. Fields, Division 682 (Hammond, Ind.), reelected by acclamation; and Alternate Secretary-Treasurer Chris Hubbard, Division 343 (Princeton, Ind.), elected by acclamation.

All terms of office become effective November 1, 2014. Incumbent Chairman C. Ray Ford, Division 742 (Evansville, Ind.), who has served in that role since August 2013 following the retirement of Bill Verdeyen, will continue serving as Chairman until November 1.

Officers representing the BLET National Division at the meeting were: National President Dennis R. Pierce; and Vice President and National Legislative Representative John P. Tolman.

“I offer my congratulations and sincere thanks to all officers of the Indiana State Legislative Board for their commitment to representing our members in the proud state of Indiana,” President Pierce said. “Brother Farkas is a bright young man and a dedicated union officer. I have every confidence that he will excel in his new role as Chairman of the Indiana State Legislative Board. I would also like to thank Ray Ford for his leadership during his chairmanship of the Board after Brother Verdeyen retired.”

Additional BLET guests included Illinois State Legislative Board Chairman Paul Piekarski and retired Indiana State Legislative Board Chairman Bill Verdeyen, who held the Chairman’s position for five terms prior to his retirement in 2013. Brother Carl Fields, Coordinator of the BLET Safety Task Force (STF), gave a presentation regarding hazardous materials that focused on crude oil and ethanol transportation by rail.

Representative Scott Pelath (D-District 9, Michigan City, Ind.), the ranking minority leader of the Indiana House, was on hand to address the delegates. Also, the delegates heard a presentation from Mr. Sherrill Benjamin, U.S. Department of Labor, regarding the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) whistleblower program.

The Indiana State Legislative Board consists of 22 Divisions representing more than 1,200 locomotive engineers and trainmen throughout Indiana.

September 19, 2014

Kertesz reelected at Pennsylvania State Legislative Board meeting

Chairman Ken Kertesz was reelected by acclamation to his fourth term at the Pennsylvania State Legislative Board’s quadrennial meeting in Hershey, Pa., from September 13-15, 2014.

Brother Kertesz is a Delaware & Hudson locomotive engineer and member of BLET Division 263 in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. He first joined the Brotherhood on January 1, 1974. The 2014 quadrennial marked the third consecutive time he has been elected to the Chairman’s position by acclamation.

Also elected by acclamation were: 1st Vice Chairman Jim O’Neill, Division 483 (Philadelphia, Pa.); 2nd Vice Chairman Jeff Johnson, Division 71 (Philadelphia, Pa.); and Secretary-Treasurer Tim Laveing, Division 325 (Wilkinsburg, Pa.).

Members of the Board’s Executive Committee were also elected by acclamation: Pete Fernandez, Division 757 (New Castle, Pa.); and Steve Gothreau, Division 276 (Allentown, Pa.).

Representing the BLET National Division at the meeting and addressing the delegates were: National President Dennis R. Pierce; First Vice President E. Lee Pruitt; National Secretary-Treasurer William C. Walpert; Vice President and National Legislative Representative John P. Tolman; and National Vice President Stephen J. Bruno.

“Congratulations and thank you to Brother Kertesz and all members and officers of the Pennsylvania State Legislative Board,” President Pierce said. “Brother Kertesz and his officers will have a lot of work ahead in the realm of politics as Pennsylvania will once again play an important role in the November elections and again in 2016. I have every confidence they will do a fine job.”

Sereena Hogan, Vice President and National Legislative Representative of the BLET Auxiliary, was also in attendance and addressed the delegation.

Additional BLET guests included: Dave Kearsing, New York State Legislative Board Chairman; Matt Kronyak, New Jersey State Legislative Board Chairman; and Tim Price, 1st Vice Chairman of the Ohio State Legislative Board.

Other guest speakers included: State Representative Jim Marshall (R-14); Pennsylvania AFL-CIO President Rick Bloomingdale; Pennsylvania AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Frank Snyder; and Mark McDermott, a motivational speaker from Washington state who, among other items, discussed labor history.
The BLET Pennsylvania State Legislative Board represents more than 2,300 active and retired members from seven different railroads belonging to 19 different BLET Divisions. Brother Kertesz is its third chairman of the Pennsylvania State Legislative Board since it was founded in 1986.

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