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...

July 29, 2014

Thousands of union members to protest EPA proposal at rally and march in Pittsburgh on July 31

Thousands of members of the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) will be joined by electrical workers, boilermakers, railroad workers, utility workers and others at a rally and march in downtown Pittsburgh on July 31. The union workers are protesting the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed rule limiting greenhouse gas emissions from existing sources.

Some 70 busloads of union members and their families from Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky, Alabama and elsewhere are expected to arrive the morning of July 31, dropping off their passengers at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center prior to an 11:00 a.m. rally. At around noon, the members will march to the William S. Morehead Federal Building, where the EPA will be conducting a public hearing on the proposed rule. After circling the building, the march will proceed back to the Convention Center.

“We will be there to protest a proposed EPA policy that will be destructive to our members’ jobs, their families and their communities,” UMWA International President Cecil E. Roberts said. “We estimate this rule could cause more than 65,000 workers in the coal, utility and railroad industries to lose their jobs by 2025.

“Climate change is a global issue that requires a global solution,” Roberts said. “The EPA’s proposed rule will not have any real impact on reducing global greenhouse gas emissions. But it will cost many thousands of our members their jobs, have significant impact on their communities and will also mean higher electricity rates for everyone. That is a trade-off that doesn’t make any sense to us.

On June 2, 2014, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed to regulate electrical generation plants to reduce greenhouse gases, issuing a rule that could cost a staggering number of good railroad industry jobs.

“The rule, if it becomes final in its current form, would significantly reduce the amount of coal used to generate electricity,” BLET National President Dennis R. Pierce said. “Nearly one in five railroad jobs is directly linked to coal haulage. If these jobs are lost, it is unlikely that new business generated on our nation’s railroads will ever make up for the loss of coal. This rule has the potential to devastate communities reliant on the coal industry. We have a responsibility to those individuals and families, and they cannot be treated merely as collateral damage in our country’s efforts to curb climate change.”

President Pierce encouraged BLET members to participate in the rally if their schedule allows.

WHAT: Labor rally and march
WHEN: Thursday, July 31, 11:00 a.m.
WHERE: Rally begins at David L. Lawrence Convention Center, Hall A. March will begin at approximately noon
WHO: Speakers at the rally to include: Cecil E. Roberts, International President, United Mine Workers of America; Edwin D. Hill, International President, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers; Dan Kane, International Secretary-Treasurer, United Mine Workers of America; Jack Shea, President, Allegheny County Central Labor Council.

July 22, 2014

Protecting two-person crews is still our goal

(The following is a statement by Dennis R. Pierce, National President of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET), regarding recent media reports concerning a tentative contract agreement that would open the door to single-person train operations along portions of the BNSF Railway.)

CLEVELAND, July 21 — The BLET National Division has received many requests for comments following the announcement last week that BNSF and one of the SMART Transportation Division General Committees of Adjustment (STD GCA) representing trainmen on BNSF have negotiated a new Crew Consist Agreement that allows for engineer-only operations under certain circumstances. As we understand SMART’s internal rules, their General Committees of Adjustment are not unlike BLET’s in that they have the autonomous authority to negotiate and interpret contracts. That said, and from the statement issued by SMART Transportation Division President Previsich on July 18, the single STD GCA that entered into the new Crew Consist Agreement does not speak for the SMART Transportation Division. Correspondence is also in circulation that would indicate that this single STD GCA does not speak for any of the other STD GCAs on BNSF.

Almost one year ago to the day, I issued a statement following the disaster involving a one-person crew in Canada urging BLET’s membership, and the officers and membership of SMART’s Transportation Division, to join us in an effort to ensure safety on the nation’s rails by supporting two-person crews. I was clear then that there are three avenues available to protect a two-person crew: regulation, legislation, and collectively bargained agreements. BLET has no intention of discontinuing our efforts on the regulatory or legislative fronts. We will continue our effort to advance H.R. 3040 in the U.S. House of Representatives as well as similar legislation on the state level, and are awaiting FRA’s regulation on crew size with every intention of commenting in support of a two-person crew for all over the road train operations.

And on properties like the Wheeling and Lake Erie (WLE), where BLET is the designated bargaining agent for both engineers and conductors, BLET stands steadfastly at the bargaining table, refusing to give up the conductor’s position as WLE insists we do. In fact, I authorized a strike against the WLE in late 2013 over their refusal to call conductors when they were available. Our members on the WLE have made it clear through their solidarity that they will not accept an agreement that would eliminate the conductor’s position, and they have the full support of the BLET National Division in this fight.

Things are vastly different in the Class I railroad world, where BLET represents the majority of the nation’s engineers and SMART represents the majority of the conductors. To preserve a two-person crew through collective bargaining, each union must protect the craft and class that it is authorized to bargain for. In 2007, BLET and BNSF negotiated such an agreement, revising the scope of duties belonging to locomotive engineers and, in doing so, preserved the work rights of BNSF engineers well into the future. Similar agreements were negotiated on Norfolk Southern and CSXT in that bargaining round. The reasoning behind these agreements is straightforward: neither BLET nor SMART can protect a two-person crew if each union does not collectively bargain agreements that preserve the work rights of the craft for whom it is the bargaining agent.

While BLET’s 2007 agreements recognized that the involved railroads did not have to bargain further with BLET should engineer-only operations ever come to pass, that recognition was hardly necessary as it was merely recognition of the status quo. BLET General Committees of Adjustment, and the BLET at large, were not and are not the NMB designated bargaining agent for trainmen or conductors on the involved railroad properties, and as such, have no jurisdictional authority to bargain on their behalf. Instead, that authority is vested in SMART’s Transportation Division, formerly UTU, and only SMART has the jurisdictional authority to bargain for and protect those positions. In fact, when the 2007 BLET/BNSF Scope Agreement was negotiated, engineers had already been required to work engineer-only helper assignments on BNSF following UTU’s failed effort to preserve their ground crew position on those assignments. Purely as a result of SMART being the designated bargaining agent for trainmen and conductors, BLET’s agreements with BNSF have never included crew consist requirements that govern the number of ground crew members required or that prevent engineers from being required to work engineer only, nor can they.

BLET’s 2007 Agreement with BNSF was overwhelmingly ratified by a membership vote, a vote to preserve those members’ jobs, and it is my understanding that the BLET General Chairmen responsible for enforcing that agreement are reviewing the BNSF/STD proposal to determine whether any portion of it conflicts with BLET’s 2007 Agreement. At the same time, SMART’s membership on a portion of BNSF is now in the same position as BLET’s membership was in back in 2007; they must decide if the proposal they have been provided actually preserves jobs or eliminates them, and determine if the balance between those two outcomes warrants ratification or rejection.

In either event, BLET’s National Division remains as committed to working to preserve two-person crews as it was a year ago when I commented following the Canadian disaster. We will continue to work with the National Representatives of SMART’s Transportation Division wherever and whenever in an effort to preserve and protect two-person crews. That includes the regulatory front, the legislative front, and on the collective bargaining front where possible. 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.

July 21, 2014

BLET Legislative Reps meet for training

The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET), a division of the Teamsters Rail Conference, held a series of training classes for state legislative representatives at the Teamsters headquarters in Washington, D.C., last week.

Among the topics that were discussed were the safety concerns of fatigue and the industry’s push to change the crew size from two-people to one.

“We are standing with you in your fight to maintain safety standards with a two-man crew in locomotives on the nation’s railroads,” said Jim Hoffa, Teamsters General President, who spoke to the legislative representatives.

The BLET Education & Training Department conducted the workshop, in conjunction with the BLET’s National Legislative Office and the National Association of State Legislative Board Chairmen (NASLBC).

Dennis Pierce, BLET National President, E. Lee Pruitt, BLET First Vice President, Bill Walpert, BLET National Secretary-Treasurer, and John Tolman, Vice President and National Legislative Representative, all addressed the participants on important events within the union and on the upcoming Third National Convention. BLET National Vice Presidents Mike Twombly and Cole Davis were also in attendance.

The following BLET State Legislative Board Chairmen also assisted: Terry Briggs, Texas; Herb Harris, District of Columbia; Brian Kelley, Missouri; Matt Kronyak, New Jersey; and Paul Piekarski, Illinois. Vince Verna, BLET’s Director of Regulatory Affairs, led presentations regarding Hours of Service regulations and the Rail Safety Advisory Committee (RSAC).

Several politicians addressed the workshop, including: Senator Ed Markey (D-MA); Rep. Corrine Brown (D-FL); Rep. Michael Capuano (D-MA); and Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR).

Following the conclusion of the training sessions, the BLET members visited offices of their Senators and Representatives on Capitol Hill. For most of the participants this visit was their first time in nation’s capital.

All agreed that the training this week will assist each of them in understanding more about legislative duties in general and how they can help their brothers and sisters of the labor movement have safer and more secure workplaces.

June 11, 2014

Teamsters, Rail Conference demand crackdown on cheap Korean steel imports

Teamsters General President James P. Hoffa and top leaders with the Teamsters Rail Conference are calling on the Department of Commerce to fully weigh the concerns of the U.S. steel industry as it continues its anti-dumping probe into cheap imports being brought into this country by South Korea and eight other nations.

In a letter sent to Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker dated June 5, Hoffa was joined by Teamsters Rail Conference President Dennis Pierce, President of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET), and Freddie Simpson, president of the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes Division (BMWED), in raising objections to a preliminary ruling regarding Oil Country Tubular Goods (OCTG) imported into the U.S.

The Teamsters join the United Steelworkers, the U.S. Steel Corporation and the Alliance for American Manufacturing in voicing concerns about the ongoing investigation.

OCTG production is a critical segment of the steel industry and helps provide solid middle-class jobs to several sectors, including the 70,000 members of the BLET and BMWED. But those are threatened when others are allowed to dump cheap product in the U.S. OCTG imports have doubled since 2008 and Korea is responsible for almost half of the increase.

“American steel producers employ 8,000 workers across the country making OCTG and each of those jobs supports seven more in the supply chain,” Hoffa, Pierce and Simpson wrote. “The steel produced for the U.S. energy market accounts for ten percent of domestic production. It is imperative that American OCTG producers have a level playing field on which to compete.”

Noting that the agency is set to make a final ruling next month, the Teamsters urged Pritzker to devote “all available resources” to make sure the information sought from the countries being investigated is accurate. Hoffa, Pierce and Simpson also suggested that Commerce officials review and revise its preliminary decision so that it incorporates “the true costs of production and profit margins among the Korean producers of high-end OCTG pipes.”

A copy of the letter is available on the BLET National Division website.

June 5, 2014

Worthington reelected to third term as Chairman of Utah State Legislative Board

Jeffrie C. Worthington was reelected by acclamation to his third term as Chairman of the Utah State Legislative Board at the group’s quadrennial meeting in Salt Lake City on May 28, 2014.

Brother Worthington is a Union Pacific locomotive engineer and member of BLET Division 846 in Salt Lake City. He has been a BLET member since 1989 and was first elected Legislative Representative of his Division in 1998. In 2002, he was elected 1st Vice Chairman of the Utah State Legislative Board and was elected Chairman in 2006 when he replaced long-serving Chairman Walt Webster. He was reelected Chairman in 2010.

Also reelected by acclamation were: 1st Vice Chairman Mark R. Bleckert, Division 222 (Salt Lake City, Utah); 2nd Vice Chairman Larry E. Stevenson, Division 374 (Ogden, Utah); Secretary-Treasurer Patrick J. Whalen, Division 349 (Salt Lake City, Utah); and Alternate Secretary-Treasurer Robert A. Rock, Division 713 (Salt Lake City, Utah).

Elected by acclamation to serve on the Audit Committee were: Gary W. Mayer, Division 681 (Milford, Utah); Brady W. Tubbs, Division 888 (Helper, Utah); and Eric S. Thompson, Division 51 (Salt Lake City, Utah).

Representing the BLET National Division at the meeting was Vice President and National Legislative Representative John P. Tolman. BLET National President Dennis R. Pierce expressed regret that he could not attend the meeting in person, but offered congratulations to all members and officers of the Utah State Legislative Board.

“I thank these Brothers for their ongoing dedication to our Brotherhood and I have every confidence they will continue doing an excellent job of representing the legislative and political interests of BLET members in the proud state of Utah,” President Pierce said.

Additional guest speaker were Utah State Senator Karen Mayne (D-District 5) and Utah AFL-CIO President Dale Cox.

Brother Worthington noted that Brent J. Fenstermaker is the first trainman to serve the BLET as a Legislative Representative in the state of Utah. Brother Fenstermaker is a Union Pacific trainman who serves as Legislative Representative of Division 55 in Ogden, Utah.

The Utah State Legislative Board represents approximately 550 active and retired members from 11 different BLET Divisions.

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