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...

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.

September 3, 2014

Bryan Aldridge reelected by acclamation in Kentucky

Bryan T. Aldridge was reelected by acclamation to his second full term as Chairman of the Kentucky State Legislative Board at quadrennial meetings in Newport, Ky., August 12-13, 2014.

Brother Aldridge is a CSX locomotive engineer and has been a member of BLET Division 78 (Louisville, Ky.) since September 1, 2003. He was elected 1st Vice Chairman in October of 2006 and was elevated to Chairman in September of 2008 following the passing of long serving Chairman Tommy G. Mayne.

Also elected by acclamation were: 1st Vice Chairman Jeff P. Jones, Division 199 (Danville, Ky.); 2nd Vice Chairman Jason P. Cornett, Division 829 (Ravenna, Ky.); Secretary-Treasurer Daniel K. Maynard, Division 271 (Russell, Ky.); and Alternate Secretary-Treasurer David D. Marlin, Division 508 (Fulton, Ky.).

BLET National President Dennis R. Pierce addressed the membership regarding several issues of national importance to the Brotherhood.

“I thank Brother Aldridge and all officers of the Kentucky State Legislative Board for their commitment to the Brotherhood and our members,” President Pierce said. “I thank them for their dedication and hard work on behalf of the Brothers and Sisters in the proud commonwealth of Kentucky.”

BLET Vice President and National Legislative Representative John P. Tolman was also in attendance, providing a legislative update and discussing the upcoming Senate race in Kentucky and a host of other key races in the November elections.

Several Legislators from across the Commonwealth attended. Jeff Donohue, House District 37, and former officer with the United Auto Workers (UAW) addressed the group. C.B. Embry, a Republican candidate for State Senate, also addressed the delegates concerning the introduction of a two-person crew bill.

The BLET’s Kentucky State Legislative Board represents more than 1,450 members from 12 different BLET Division. They work for Norfolk Southern, CSX and the Canadian National railroads.

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.

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