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...

March 28, 2012

BLET to conduct workshop for State Legislative Board Chairmen

In this important election year, the BLET Education & Training Department, in conjunction with the National Legislative Office and the National Association of State Legislative Board Chairmen (NASLBC), will conduct a workshop for BLET State Legislative Board Chairmen in Washington, D.C., from June 3-6, 2012.

The workshop will take place at IBT headquarters with classroom training beginning the evening of Sunday, June 3, and will conclude the evening of June 6. After completion of the classroom training, attendees will participate in a full day of lobbying on Capitol Hill on Thursday, June 7.

The National Division Education and Training Department has updated the curriculum for the upcoming workshop based on suggestions from the NASLBC’s Education and Training Committee. The updated workshop will cover the following topics: the upcoming November elections, both national and state; mobilization; State Board bylaws; elements of Political Action Committees; leadership skills; Internet research; regulatory affairs update; new online filing of monthly audit reports; and a segment on yearly reports.

Participation in the workshop is limited to the first 20 who register.

Those who successfully complete the classroom portion of the workshop will be eligible for a $123 per diem from the North American Railway Foundation (NARF). It will be paid directly to the State Legislative Board or Division Secretary-Treasurer.

NARF (www.narfoundation.org) is a non-profit operating foundation formed by the Brotherhood’s Relief and Compensation Fund (BR&CF) to support rail history, education, safety, and technology in the United States and Canada. With initial funding and continued Board of Directors stewardship coming from the BR&CF, NARF has supported many non-political projects throughout the United States and Canada over the past 15 years. The primary focus of these efforts has been in support of organized rail labor — giving back to all of the men and women of the railroad community across North America.

Register for the class at http://www.ble-t.org/lr.

After registering for the workshop, workshop attendees will receive an e-mail confirmation that will include hotel registration information. Attendees are responsible for their transportation costs, along with the cost of room and board.

For more information, please contact Ken Kroeger, Coordinator of the BLET Education & Training Dept. at (216) 272-0986 or kroeger@ble-t.org.

March 22, 2012

BLET Boston Division 57 joins in groundbreaking safety study

Members of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen in Division 57 (Boston, Mass) are working in conjunction with researchers at the John A. Volpe National Transportation Center on a groundbreaking rail safety study to examine the issue of distraction among commuter rail locomotive engineers.

This study of distraction and attentional error is the first to apply the science of cognitive performance to the railroad workplace. The project’s goal is to identify causes and reasons for distraction and to develop strategies and countermeasures to prevent rail accidents/incidents.

Members of Division 57 are participating in this joint project with the Federal Railroad Administration, passenger rail operator Veolia, and the Volpe Center. The study is funded by a grant from FRA. In late February, BLET National President Dennis R. Pierce and a delegation of BLET members and officers toured the Volpe Center’s Cab Technology Integrated Laboratory (CTIL) in Cambridge, Mass., where they learned about the study first-hand.

Joining President Pierce in the hands-on tour were: National Secretary-Treasurer William C. Walpert; Vice President & National Legislative Representative John P. Tolman; Vice President Cole W. Davis, and several BLET staff members.

During the tour, several members of the BLET delegation became test subjects themselves. While operating the CTIL locomotive simulator, they were asked to perform numerous short-term memory tests while at the same time properly executing the safety-sensitive task at hand. The goal of the test was to gauge when too much information became a distraction and resulted in a breakdown of safety.

Recently retired BLET Division 57 members George Newman and Richard (Pie) Duggan have been collaborating with the Center, assisting in the design and construction of the testing simulations being developed for the CTIL simulator.

Additionally, there are volunteer locomotive engineers who will serve as anonymous testing subjects. BLET Division 57 President Paul Chaput and Local Chairman Gary Hobson, have visited the CTIL facility and have operated the CTIL simulator. BLET Division 57 fully supports the project and has recruited test subject locomotive engineers from the ranks of active BLET MBCR commuter rail engineers. Along with the members of Division 57, MBCR General Manager Hugh Kiley has also toured the CTIL and has given his full support and cooperation to the project. He works with Brother Chaput and Brother Hobson to facilitate the participation of MBCR engineers.

Another objective of the study is to further demonstrate the way all human beings respond to situations that involve task overload and the influence of mind wandering, which can cause them to lose their focus on the task at hand and inadvertently make mistakes that — in the rail industry — result in rule violations or accidents. Researchers hope that the lessons learned through this research will result in training that can not only benefit rail operators, but all employees involved in safety sensitive occupations. The researchers also hope that the results of the study will be educational for not only BLET locomotive engineers, but for rail management as well.

Already the preliminary portions of the study have resulted in the development of a training video that teaches locomotive engineers about attention lapses and attention-related errors. Researchers have also developed a series of presentations aimed at further educating rail management about the limits of human attention, as well as several hands-on experiential demonstrations of attention-related errors.

“This is a great example of railroad labor and management working together for the benefit of both our members and the railroads,” President Pierce said. “Instead of the railroad applying punitive discipline, as many railroads do, they are collaborating with us to help determine the root causes behind distraction related incidents. Operating crews are threatened with what can only be called situational overload on a daily basis. By working together, it is my hope that we can identify human limitations and develop strategies to create a safer industry for our members and the traveling public. This is an example of something that we need more of in the industry.”

Rail Conference urges Obama to reconsider coal regulations

The Teamsters Rail Conference is urging the Obama Administration to reconsider tough new environmental regulations for coal-fired power plants that could negatively impact railroad workers.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently issued a final rule establishing Mercury and Air Toxic Standards (MATS). According to Teamsters Rail Conference President Dennis R. Pierce, “This rule has the potential to cost our membership a staggering number of jobs by significantly decreasing the amount of coal used in electricity generation.”

In a March 16 letter to President Barack H. Obama, President Pierce alerted the White House of the potentially devastating impact the MATS rule could have on rail workers who are members of the BLET and BMWED, Divisions of the Teamsters Rail Conference. Pierce also serves as National President of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET).

“Nearly one in five railroad jobs are related to coal haulage; if these jobs are lost, it is not likely that new business generated on our nation’s railroads will ever make up for the loss of coal,” President Pierce wrote.

According to the EPA, 40 percent of coal-fired power plants in operation in the U.S. are not equipped to comply with the new MATS requirements. Bringing the plants into compliance would be so expensive that some power companies already have announced that they intend to close plants because complying with the regulation in the short time permitted by the rule would be too difficult and expensive.

President Pierce stressed that, in these tough economic times, America needs more jobs, not less.

“We fully support (the White House’s) high-speed rail and green jobs initiatives,” President Pierce wrote. “The MATS requirements take the nation in the opposite direction and our members simply cannot bear the costs of these emissions regulations. Accordingly, I ask you today for your support for the petitions for reconsideration of the new source MATS emission limits that will be filed with EPA. We also ask you to include coal in your ‘all of the above’ plan for America’s energy future so that a balanced energy policy can be maintained.”

The Teamsters Rail Conference represents more than 70,000 locomotive engineers, trainmen and maintenance of way workers on commuter, passenger and freight rail lines across the United States.

For a copy of President Pierce’s letter to the White House, please visit:
www.ble-t.org/pr/pdf/Obama_MATS_Rule.pdf

March 19, 2012

BLET members join major pro-worker rally in Phoenix

CLEVELAND, March 16 — More than 50 BLET members, led by Vice President & National Legislative Representative John Tolman, joined over 1,000 of their fellow union members at a pro-worker rally in Phoenix, Ariz., as part the Arizona AFL-CIO’s Day of Action on March 1, 2012.

Vice President Tolman delivered a speech on behalf of the BLET at the rally, which was organized to protest several anti-union bills pending before the Arizona state legislature.

Nick Johnson, Chairman of the BLET’s Arizona State Legislative Board, and Sereena Hogan, Vice President & National Legislative Representative of the BLET Auxiliary, helped organize the BLET’s participation in the rally. Members from all four BLET Divisions in Arizona participated — Division 123 (Phoenix), Division 647 (Phoenix), Division 28 (Tucson) and Division 134 (Winslow).

BLET National President Dennis R. Pierce thanked Brother Tolman and all BLET members and their families who participated in the rally.

“I am proud of our Arizona-based BLET members for stepping up to fight for the rights of all workers,” he said “and for reinforcing our core message that an injury to one is an injury to all.”

In addition to the rally, BLET members and representatives from other unions met with dozens of state legislators at the Capitol regarding bills SB1484, SB1485, SB1486, and SB1487. These are all anti-union and anti-worker bills that are similar to legislation passed in Wisconsin, Ohio, and other states. The BLET members lobbied at the Capitol and were joined by members of nearly all the state AFL-CIO unions.

“It was great to see so many members of the BLET in attendance,” Vice President Tolman said. “Although these issues do not currently affect our membership, this is a war against all workers and we chose to act in support of our Brothers and Sisters in the labor movement.”

In his remarks to the crowd of over 1,000 unionists, Vice President Tolman said that while these bills are mostly about public sector unions now, they will eventually affect all union members — including BLET members — because we are a part of a broader campaign to erode union rights and the middle class.

“Our mothers and fathers and grandfathers and grandmothers worked hard to get where we are today in the labor movement,” Vice President Tolman said. “It is your right and obligation to fight to protect the labor movement. There are people here today that this won’t affect, but they are going across the board. Educate your neighbors, your friends, your children. Never forget this is about your children and grandchildren. We need to preserve the labor movement so they can live in a middle class in America. They need good schools, good medical services, and the opportunity to get a good job.”

A video from the rally, including highlights from Vice President Tolman’s remarks and from other speakers, is available at:
www.huffingtonpost.com/pamela-powers-hannley/1000-arizona-unionists-ra_b_1324469.html

March 13, 2012

Lauzon reelected Massachusetts State Legislative Board Chairman

CLEVELAND, March 13 — Daniel J. Lauzon was reelected by acclamation to his first full term as Chairman of the BLET Massachusetts State Legislative Board at its quadrennial meeting in Boston on February 23.

Brother Lauzon, a member of BLET Division 57 (Boston, Mass.), joined the Brotherhood on January 1, 1978. He was elected to serve as 1st Vice Chairman at the quadrennial meeting in 2008, and began serving as Chairman following the retirement of George Newman in early 2011.

The following officers were also elected by acclamation: 1st Vice Chairman P.C. Chaput (Division 57, Boston); 2nd Vice Chairman Tom F. Hebert Jr. (Division 312, Boston); Secretary-Treasurer Joseph R. DeBartolomao (Division 112, Greenfield, Mass.); and Alternate Secretary-Treasurer Michael A. Musshorn (Division 439, Allston, Mass.).

Kevin J. Moore, BLET Division 191 (Lunenburg, Mass.), was elected to serve on the Auditing Committee, along with Brothers Hebert and Musshorn.

Representing the BLET National Division at the quadrennial meeting were: National President Dennis R. Pierce; National Secretary-Treasurer William C. Walpert; Vice President & National Legislative Representative John P. Tolman; Vice President Cole W. Davis; Vice President Stephen J. Bruno; Assistant to the National President Tom Pontolillo; Special Representative & Coordinator of Education & Training Department Ken Kroeger; and Director of Regulatory Affairs Vince Verna.

“I offer my sincere congratulations to Brother Lauzon and all members of the Massachusetts State Legislative Board,” President Pierce said. “I thank them for their commitment to the Brotherhood and I have every confidence they will do an excellent job of protecting the interests of their members at the State Capitol.”

Other BLET State Legislative Board Chairmen in attendance were: Terry Briggs (Texas); Tim Hanely (Ohio); Dave Kearsing (New York); and Ken Kertesz (Pennsylvania).

Other dignitaries and guest speakers who attended the meeting included: Harry Hoglander of the National Mediation Board; Steve Tolman, President of the Massachusetts AFL-CIO; Congressman Bill Keating; and Congressman Mike Capuano; and Mark Robb of the North American Railway Foundation (NARF). AFL-CIO President Tolman is the brother of BLET Vice President & National Legislative Representative John Tolman.

The body also enjoyed a visit with U.S. Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren. The BLET’s Massachusetts State Legislative Board also invited several guests to its meet-and-greet with Warren, including: FRA Region 1 Administrator Les Fiorenzo; Congressman John Tierney; UTU National Legislative Director James Stem; and UTU Massachusetts State Legislative Director George Casey.

While delegates conducted business during the morning of February 23, a delegation of BLET members and officers, led by National President Pierce, visited the John A. Volpe National Transportation Systems Center in Cambridge, Mass. There, the BLET delegation received learned about the Volpe Center’s Sustained Attention Training program. Retired BLET Division 57 members George Newman and Richard (Pie) Duggan are deeply involved in the study, which uses a state of the art locomotive simulator to study locomotive engineer distraction.

Later that evening, members of the Massachusetts State Legislative Board presented Brother Newman with a commemorative drawing in thanks of his many years of service to the Brotherhood.

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