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 13, 2011

Brown reelected Minnesota State Legislative Board Chairman

David K. Brown was reelected by acclamation to a second term as Chairman of the Minnesota State Legislative Board at their quadrennial meeting in Bloomington, Minn., September 27-29, 2011.

Brother Brown is a member of BLET Division 517 (St. Paul, Minn.) and has 40 years of service with the BNSF Railway. He first joined the Brotherhood on December 1, 2002.

“I am honored for the opportunity to serve the members of this board and the BLET for another four years,” Brother Brown said. “Together we will work to support legislation and the candidates in this state and this nation that benefit our rail labor agenda.”

The delegates elected the following slate officers — all by acclamation — to serve BLET members in Minnesota:

Wally Czerwinski of BLET Division 202 (Dilworth, Minn.) was elected 1st Vice Chairman; Chuck Loomis of BLET Division 549 (Willmar, Minn.) was elected 2nd Vice Chairman; Mark Anderson of BLET Division 333 (St. Paul, Minn.) was reelected to his third term as Secretary-Treasurer; and Joel Mueller of BLET Division 9 (Waseca, Minn.) was elected Alternate Secretary-Treasurer.

Elected to the Audit Committee were: Joel Mueller, Division 9 (Waseca, Minn.); Greg Shirley, Division 27 (St. Cloud, Minn.); and Rick Johnson, Division 357 (Minneapolis, Minn.).

BLET National President Dennis R. Pierce congratulated these officers on their election and thanked them for serving the Brotherhood. He expressed his regret that he was unable to attend the meeting himself due to National Mediation Board hearings in Washington, D.C., regarding the BLET’s national contract and possible strike.

“Congratulations to Brother Brown on his second term of office,” President Pierce said. “I have every confidence that he and his slate of dedicated officers will do an excellent job of representing the best interests of BLET members in Minnesota.”

In place of President Pierce, BLET 1st Vice President E. Lee Pruitt addressed the delegates. He discussed current contract negotiations, possible strike scenarios, FRA Emergency Order 26 and inward facing cameras in locomotive cabs.

National Secretary-Treasurer William C. Walpert reported on National Division finances, membership totals and the state of the BLET Education and Training Department and the proposed training center in Cleveland.

BLET Vice President and National Legislative Representative John P. Tolman spoke about a bill to propose favorable changes to the Rail Safety Improvement Act.

Sereena Hogan, BLET Auxiliary Vice President and National Legislative Representative, made a presentation on the Auxiliary and how they can help the BLET members.

Other VIPs and guests included: Ken Kroeger, BLET Special Representative and Coordinator of Education and Training; Matt Wilson, BLET General Chairman (BNSF-MRL GCofA); John Reynolds, BLET General Chairman (CN/WC); Keith Stauber, BLET General Chairman (CN/DM&IR); Katherine Blauvelt, Field Director for U.S. Senator Al Franken; Minnesota Senator Scott Dibble, Ranking Minority Member of the Senate Transportation Committee; Minnesota Representative Frank Hornstein, DFL Lead of the Transportation Policy and Finance Committee; Tom Dwyer, National President of NARVRE; Mike Condon, Railroad Retirement Board; Rick Olson, BLET Safety Coordinator for the BNSF Railway — Twin Cities Region; Mike Muscha, North Dakota State Legislative Board Chairman and NASLBC Region 4 Legislative Chairman; Paul Piekarski, Illinois State Legislative Board Chairman; and Jeff Kurtz, Iowa State Legislative Board Chairman and NASLBC Vice Chairman.

The officers and members of the Minnesota State Legislative Board thanked all those who helped make their meeting a success.

The Minnesota State Legislative Board is comprised of 12 Divisions representing a total of 1,025 members.

September 28, 2011

Senate confirms Walt Barrows to RRB Labor Member post

On September 26, the U.S. Senate confirmed Walter A. Barrows to serve as the Labor Member of the Railroad Retirement Board.

Brother Barrows is the candidate unanimously endorsed by the BLET and the Teamsters Rail Conference Policy Committee, and he currently serves as Secretary-Treasurer of the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen (BRS).

“Brother Barrows has our unanimous support and his expertise as a Trustee for the Railroad Retirement Investment Trust makes him by far the most qualified person for the position,” said Dennis R. Pierce, BLET National President and President of the Teamsters Rail Conference. “On behalf of the BLET, and the men and women of the Rail Conference, I offer congratulations to Brother Barrows on his hard-earned confirmation.”

President Barack Obama nominated Brother Barrows for the RRB Labor Member position in March of 2011. Regarding Brother Barrows and other nominees, President Obama said: “I am honored that these talented individuals have decided to join this Administration and serve our country. I look forward to working with them in the months and years to come.”

Brother Barrows was elected to Secretary-Treasurer of the BRS in 1999 and was reelected in 2002, 2006, and 2010.

In 2004, 2007, and 2010, Barrows was elected as a labor Trustee to oversee the National Railroad Retirement Investment Trust Fund. The Trust manages investments currently totaling approximately $25 billion. BLET National Secretary-Treasurer Bill Walpert, who was appointed to serve as a shadow Trustee in May of 2011, will fill the position vacated by Barrows and become a full Trustee.

Barrows is replacing outgoing Labor Member V. M. “Butch” Speakman on the three-member board. Speakman is retiring at the end of the year.

The Teamsters Rail Conference Policy Committee is comprised of members of the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes Division and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, both divisions of the Rail Conference of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

September 20, 2011

Faulkner elected Chairman of Tennessee State Legislative Board

Barry J. Faulker was elected by acclamation to serve as Chairman of the Tennessee State Legislative Board at the quadrennial meeting in Nashville, Tenn., September 6-9, 2011.

Brother Faulkner is a CSX locomotive engineer and member of BLET Division 41 (Nashville, Tenn.). He also serves his Division as Secretary-Treasurer and Legislative Representative. He joined the Brotherhood on August 1, 1978, and has held continuous membership ever since. He is also the mayor of Cross Plains, Tenn., the town where he lives.

Brother Rusty Jones, BLET Division 239 (Knoxville, Tenn.), was reelected by acclamation to continue serving as Secretary-Treasurer.

Elected by acclamation to their first terms were: 1st Vice Chairman J. Doug Ford, Division 239 (Knoxville, Tenn.); 2nd Vice Chairman Justin Wilcox, Division 781 (Erwin, Tenn.); and Alternate Secretary-Treasurer Jason Lane, Division 205 (Chattanooga, Tenn.).

Chairman Faulkner fills the office vacated by Brother J.T. Little, who is retiring.

National President Dennis R. Pierce addressed the assembled delegates in Nashville and discussed various issues of importance on the national level, including contract negotiations.

“I congratulate Brother Faulkner and all members of the Tennessee State Legislative Board,” President Pierce said. “I have every confidence they will do an excellent job of representing our members in the proud state of Tennessee. Also, I extend thanks to outgoing Chairman J.T. Little for his many years of dedication to the Brotherhood. I wish him all the best during his hard-earned retirement.”

National Secretary-Treasurer Bill Walpert and Vice President & National Legislative Representative John Tolman also addressed the group.

Fellow State Legislative Board Chairmen Terry Todd (Arkansas) and Paul Piekarski (Illinois) also attended the meeting.

The delegates were honored by the attendance of special guest Paul Wingo and Don Moates, both retired National Vice Presidents of the BLET.

Larry James, BLET System Liaison CSXT and SENSE Safety Coordinator, was also in attendance.

Additional special guests included Tennessee State Senator Joe Haynes, Tennessee Democratic Party Vice Chairman Elisa Parker, and Tennessee State Representative and Tennessee AFL-CIO President Gary Moore.

Nine new Legislative Representatives were trained the day before the quadrennial meeting’s official open of business, successfully completing a workshop conducted by Ken Kroeger, Coordinator of the BLET Education & Training Department.

A highlight of the meeting came when all Legislative Representatives in attendance signed up to become BLET PAC Fund contributors. In addition, there were numerous BLET Division PAC Fund challenges from one Division to another, which was in response to outgoing Chairman Little’s challenge to increase PAC contributions within the state.

September 16, 2011

BLET to hold strike authorization vote

In a conference call held with all BLET General Chairmen yesterday morning, National President Dennis R. Pierce announced that preparations are underway to poll members to authorize a strike in the event one becomes necessary to attain the Organization’s bargaining goals.

The National Mediation Board released the BLET and several other Rail Labor unions from mediation with rail carriers on September 6, triggering a 30-day cooling off period, which expires at 12:01 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time on October 7, 2011. At that point self-help is available to the parties, unless President Obama appoints a Presidential Emergency Board (PEB) pursuant to Section 10 of the Railway Labor Act. A PEB would halt any strike or lock out by the parties, and would investigate and issue a report and recommendations concerning the dispute.

BLET members who are employed on the railroads where the dispute exists and where the BLET has representation rights for their craft are eligible to participate in the strike authorization vote. The following members may participate in the vote:

• All active locomotive engineers, except company officers, employed by the Belt Railway Company of Chicago.
• All active locomotive engineers, except company officers, employed by BNSF Railway.
• All active locomotive engineers, except company officers, employed by Consolidated Rail Corporation.
• All active locomotive engineers, except company officers, employed by CSX Transportation.
• All active locomotive engineers, except company officers, employed by the Indiana Harbor Belt Railroad Company.
• All active locomotive engineers, except company officers, employed by Kansas City Southern Railway Company, including the following subsidiaries: Kansas City Southern Railway; Louisiana and Arkansas Railway; MidSouth Rail Corporation; Gateway Western Railway; SouthRail Corporation; and Texas Mexican Railway Company (locomotive engineers and train service employees).
• All active locomotive engineers, except company officers, employed by Longview Switching Company.
• All active locomotive engineers, except company officers, employed by Norfolk Southern Company.
• All active locomotive engineers, except company officers, employed by Portland Terminal Railroad Company.
• All active locomotive engineers, except company officers, employed by Soo Line Railroad Company d.b.a. Canadian Pacific.
• All active locomotive engineers, except company officers, employed by Union Pacific Railroad Company.
• All active locomotive engineers, except company officers, employed by Winston Salem Southbound Railway Company.

Beginning early next week, these members will receive a mailing from TrueBallot with toll-free voting instructions. Voting will begin at 11:00 a.m. EDT on Tuesday, September 20, and members will have until 10:00 a.m. EDT on Monday, October 3 to cast their votes. Authorization does not mean a strike will occur, nor does it mean that all railroads polled may be struck.

The BLET National Division has retained TrueBallot, Inc., to conduct the strike authorization vote via telephone. TrueBallot, which is a nationally-renowned election service provider, previously conducted a membership initiative election for the BLET in 2010.

National President Pierce urged all BLET members who receive a notice from TrueBallot to vote. “While we anticipate that President Obama will appoint a Presidential Emergency Board near the deadline, we must be prepared for all eventualities,” he said. “Now is the time for all BLET members to deliver a unified message to the carriers that we will not stand for shifting health care costs to the backs of older and sick workers and families with children, and that our wage increases should better reflect our members’ contributions to the industry’s record profits.”

September 8, 2011

NMB proffers arbitration in national contract dispute

On Friday September 2, 2011, the National Mediation Board (NMB) urged the unions comprising the Rail Labor Bargaining Coalition (RLBC) and the carriers represented by the National Carriers’ Conference Committee to submit their unresolved national contract dispute to binding arbitration pursuant to Section 5, First and Section 7 of the Railway Labor Act, as amended (RLA).

The RLBC — consisting of Teamsters Rail Conference affiliates the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen and the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes Division, along with the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen, the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, the National Conference of Firemen and Oilers of the Service Employees International Union, and the Sheet Metal Workers International Association — has been bargaining for new national agreements since November of 2009.

The proffer of arbitration is a mandatory step in the RLA bargaining process. If either party to the negotiations declines to accept the proffer, the NMB will then notify the parties that its mediatory efforts have failed and will release them from mediation. By letter dated September 2, 2011, all unions comprising the RLBC notified the NMB that the RLBC was rejecting the proffer of arbitration. This rejection will release the parties from mediation and will also trigger a final 30-day cooling off period, after which the parties will legally be entitled to exercise self help.

It is anticipated that the NMB will notify President Obama that the dispute threatens substantially to interrupt interstate commerce to a degree such as to deprive one or more sections of the country of essential transportation service, and that President Obama will create a Presidential Emergency Board (PEB) to investigate the dispute and issue a report and recommendations for settlement pursuant to Section 10 of the RLA.

Although it is expected that President Obama will create a PEB within the 30 day cooling off period, BLET is working now to mobilize strike committees in preparation for the possibility that a PEB will not be appointed.

BLET National President Dennis R. Pierce thanked the NMB for acknowledging that an impasse in bargaining had been reached. “It is unfortunate that, in this time of record industry profits, the carriers insist upon attempting to take advantage of a weakened general economy to further line its corporate pockets at the expense of the railroad workers whose labor generates those profits,” Pierce said.

“And it is shameful that the carriers have chosen to specifically target those railroad workers who are most vulnerable — older workers and the sick and injured — to shoulder a disproportionate share of the demanded giveback,” Pierce added. “We appreciate that the NMB has finally acknowledged that the carriers’ immovable position prevents any possibility of a negotiated settlement.”

Additional information will be provided as developments warrant.

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