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 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.

September 18, 2014

Piekarski reelected by acclamation in Illinois

Paul S. Piekarski was reelected by acclamation for the third time, his second full term as Chairman of the Illinois State Legislative Board, at a quadrennial meeting held in St. Louis, Mo., September 8-9, 2014.

Brother Piekarski is a Union Pacific locomotive engineer who is a proud member of Division 683 (Chicago). He joined the Brotherhood on November 1, 1974. He became 1st Vice Chairman in 2004 and was elected by acclamation to that position at the Board’s 2006 quadrennial convention. He was promoted to the Chairman’s position following the retirement of C. Edward Way on May 31, 2010. Brother Piekarski was then elected by acclamation to continue serving as Chairman at the Board’s 2010 quadrennial convention.

Elected to the Executive Committee were: 1st Vice Chairman Tim Dunn, Division 24 (Centralia, Ill.); 2nd Vice Chairman James McGovern IV, Division 644 (Galesburg, Ill.); 3rd Vice Chairman, Pat Randolph, Division 512 (Benton, Ill.); and Secretary-Treasurer Jody Thomas, Division 155, (Decatur, Ill.). Additional Board officers elected were: 1st Vice Alternate Chairman Chris Falaney, Division 683 (Chicago, Ill.); 2nd Alternate Vice Chairman Tim Simmons, Division 294 (Elgin, Ill.); 3rd Alternate Vice Chairman James Wasson, Division 602 (Champaign, Ill.); and Alternate Secretary-Treasurer David Hilligoss, Division 96 (Arlington Heights, Ill.).

Elected by acclamation to serve on the Audit Committee were: Tyrone Hughes, Division 815 (Oak Forest, Ill.); Pat Randolph, Division 512 (Benton, Ill.); and Doug Pope, Division 444, (Granite City, Ill.).

“I thank Brother Piekarski and all officers and members of the Illinois State Legislative Board for their continuing dedication to our Brotherhood,” BLET National President Dennis R. Pierce said. “I have everyone confidence they will continue doing an excellent job of representing the rights and interests of all BLET members in the proud state of Illinois.”

A number of milestones were celebrated one being Brother Piekarskis’ upcoming 40th anniversary with the BLET, and more importantly, the 125th anniversary of the Illinois State Legislative Board, which was founded in Springfield, Ill., on February 17, 1889.

On September 8, the board held it business meeting with Brother Vince Verna, BLET Director of Regulatory Affairs, giving a presentation.

Also, several legislators from across Illinois addressed the group, including: U.S. Congressman Bill Enyart, (12th District); Illinois State Senator Michael Frerichs (52nd), who is also a candidate for Illinois Treasurer; and Rep. Jay Hoffman (113th), who represented House Speaker Michael J. Madigan.

The Board set the date of their quadrennial convention to coincide with the 79th annual Southwestern Convention Meeting in St. Louis.

“I don”t know if this has ever been done before,” Brother Piekarski said. “It was a decision made by our Executive Committee when planning this meeting. It was all about Unionism — building unity and networking together for not only the members of the Illinois State Legislative Board but all involved with the regional meeting.”

On the morning of September 9, the entire Illinois State Legislative Board delegation assembled and then marched in procession to be seated in the opening ceremony of the SWCM. They did the same for the afternoon’s closed session, where they heard presentations by BLET National President Dennis R. Pierce, First Vice President E. Lee Pruitt, and National Secretary-Treasurer William C. Walpert.

The Illinois State Legislative Board represents nearly 3,400 active and retired members from 40 different BLET Divisions.

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