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...

June 4, 2014

EPA needs a more balanced energy plan for coal

The following statement was issued by Teamsters Rail Conference President Dennis R. Pierce on June 4, 2014:

“On June 2, 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. 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.

“The railroad jobs that could disappear under this regulation are among the most highly skilled blue-collar jobs in America. We support efforts to invest in renewable energy and corresponding jobs in the so-called “green economy,” but the nation’s economy, as a whole, will suffer if those jobs are not as well-paying and secure, which is likely.

“We understand that the United States must play a leadership role in reducing emissions globally, but other countries like China and India are in no position to switch from coal anytime soon. Without a binding agreement on global greenhouse gas emissions, this proposal threatens to put U.S. manufacturing at a cost disadvantage and even more jobs will go overseas. This is why deploying cost-effective carbon capture and sequestration technology is essential and should be a priority for this Administration and the Congress.

“The Teamsters Rail Conference will continue to work for a balanced energy policy that stresses affordability and reliability — a policy that includes coal in an ‘all of the above’ plan for America’s energy future. There is a place for renewables in this plan, but the rising cost of energy in Spain and other European countries should act as a cautionary tale against moving too quickly and aggressively, and failing to diversify our energy portfolio.

“Recognizing that this is only the beginning of what will be a lengthy policy-making process, we will continue to work with the Administration and the broader labor community to ensure that any final rule prioritizes the economic health of working people as highly as it does the health of our planet. There is a place where both priorities may coexist, but with this proposal we are most definitely not there yet.”

May 21, 2014

Colorado bill seeks to preserve Amtrak’s Southwest Chief

Last week, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper signed legislation to preserve the current route of Amtrak’s Southwest Chief, helping to secure the jobs of locomotive engineers and other unionized crafts.

Supported by the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, the new law establishes a Commission charged with securing the means necessary to keep the Southwest Chief running through Southwest Kansas, Southeast Colorado and Northern New Mexico.

With the signing of HB 14-1161, Colorado joins Kansas and New Mexico in a multi-state partnership applying for $24.5 million in grant funds from the U.S. Department of Transportation to pay for repairs to the railroad tracks that the Southwest Chief travels on. Amtrak had reported that it may need to re-route or cancel the Southwest Chief service if tracks were not upgraded.

Members of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen in Colorado were active in lobbying to save the Southwest Chief and in supporting HB 14-1161, reports Colorado State Legislative Board Chairman Jim Wilmesher. Brother Wilmesher attended the signing ceremony on behalf of the BLET.

“The Governor spoke briefly about this new law being demonstrative of Colorado’s commitment to keeping the Amtrak Southwest Chief and its current routing with the possibility of adding a couple of additional stops,” Brother Wilmesher said. “His comments spoke to all the hard work of the Pueblo County Commissioners, Representatives of La Junta, Lamar, Walsenberg, Pueblo, Trinidad in Colorado, and La Vegas, Raton, and other municipalities in New Mexico and Kansas that have banded together to retain this passenger rail service.”

BLET National President Dennis R. Pierce thanked Brother Wilmesher and the BLET members in Colorado who played a role in lobbying to save the Southwest Chief.

“The passage of HB14-1161 into law shows the commitment that Colorado has to keeping, maintaining and improving this vital passenger rail corridor through Colorado,” President Pierce said. “I am proud to thank Chairman Wilmesher and all our members in Colorado for a job well done.”

May 15, 2014

Brian Kelley elected to third term as Chairman of Missouri Legislative Board

Brian P. Kelley was reelected by acclamation to his third full term as Chairman of the Missouri State Legislative Board at its quadrennial meeting in Jefferson City, Mo., on May 5.

Brother Kelley is a BNSF locomotive engineer and member of Division 502 in Kansas City, Mo. He has held continuous membership in the BLET since November 1, 1994. Brother Kelley became Chairman following the retirement of Mickey Gage and was previously elected Chairman in 2006 and 2010.

Also elected by acclamation during the meeting were: 1st Vice Chairman Ted W. Stauffer, Division 75 (Kansas City, Mo.); 2nd Vice Chairman Steven C. Gillett, Division 107 (St. Joseph, Mo.); Secretary-Treasurer Tim L. Morgan, Division 86 (Moberly, Mo.); and Alternate Secretary-Treasurer William D. Honeycutt, Division 285 (Thayer, Mo.).

Elected by acclamation to the Executive Committee were: Calvin L. Groose, Division 609 (Jefferson City, Mo.); and Brian J. Young, Division 48 (St. Louis, Mo.).

The following Brothers were elected by acclamation to serve on the Auditing Committee: James W. Weishuhn, Division 442 (Dexter City, Mo.); Steven C. Gillett, Division 107 (St. Joseph, Mo.); and Michael A. McGill, Division 42 (St. Louis, Mo.).

The meeting began on Sunday, May 4, with a welcome reception. Delegates conducted all business on Monday, May 5, which included updating their bylaws, resolutions, policies and conducting officer elections.

During the day on May 5, delegates heard from BLET National President Dennis R. Pierce and BLET Vice President & National Legislative Representative John P. Tolman. Both officers addressed the delegates by telephone due to a scheduling conflict.

“I offer my sincere congratulations to Brother Kelley and all members of the Missouri State Legislative Board and thank them for their commitment to the Brotherhood,” President Pierce said. “I know they have their work cut out for them in Missouri’s challenging political atmosphere but I have every confidence that they are up to the task.”

Missouri’s Secretary of State Jason Kander addressed the delegates on May 5 and spoke on a variety of subjects including alleged voter fraud, early voting, and a new system his office has implemented to make the voter registration process easier.

The BLET Missouri State Legislative Board represents more than 2,000 active and retired members in 22 different Divisions.

May 8, 2014

BLET marks 151st anniversary today

The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen proudly celebrates its 151st anniversary today. The union was founded as the Brotherhood of the Footboard on May 8, 1863 in Marshall, Mich. In 1864, the union changed its name to Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers (BLE), the name it retained for 140 years until merging with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters on Jan. 1, 2004, when it became BLET.

The organization was formed in the early 1860s when locomotive engineers on the Michigan Central Railroad became discouraged with pay cuts and the dismissal of their firemen. During that time, locomotive engineers at the Michigan Central were being paid at the rate of $60 a month on the condition that they ran at least 2,500 miles each month, regardless of the time consumed.

The BLET was the first labor organization to obtain contracts with railroads. Among the earliest was an agreement with the former New York Central in 1875. Today, the BLET has dozens of contracts with railroads large and small, and represents locomotive engineers on 98 percent of rail trackage in the United States.

The Brotherhood has always been proud to support America’s soldiers and their families. Born in the midst of the Civil War, our union’s membership has been comprised of veterans of every major military conflict since, up to and including the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Today, the BLET is the founding member of the Teamsters Rail Conference. The union represents more than 50,000 active and retired members throughout the United States, and remains one of the largest and most influential railroad unions in the nation.

May 7, 2014

Teamsters Rail Conference Officers Reelected

BLET National President Dennis R. Pierce was reelected to the office of President of the Teamsters Rail Conference at the Rail Conference’s Quadrennial Convention in Las Vegas on May 4, 2014.

Also reelected were BLET First Vice President Lee Pruitt, who will continue serving as Vice President of the Rail Conference, and BMWED National Secretary-Treasurer Perry K. Geller, Sr., who was reelected to the office of Rail Conference Secretary-Treasurer.

“Brother Pruitt, Brother Geller and I are all honored to continue serving the Teamsters Rail Conference, and look forwarding to advancing the causes of the BLET and BMWED membership,” President Pierce said.

The BLET and BMWED also announced their representatives to serve on the Rail Conference Policy Committee, and they are: Dennis Pierce, Lee Pruitt, Bill Walpert, and John Tolman from the BLET; and Fred Simpson, Perry Geller, Roger Sanchez and David Joynt representing BMWED.

BMWED President Freddie Simpson offered, “Both BMWED Vice Presidents David Tanner and Randy Cook will be retiring later this year and chose not to seek reappointment to the Rail Conference Policy Committee. They have served as Policy Committee members since 2005 with great distinction and will be missed. I look forward to continuing to work with President Pierce and the newly appointed committee members on behalf of our Teamster Brothers and Sisters.”

Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa, General Secretary-Treasurer Ken Hall and Vice President and Rail Conference Director John Murphy all attended the meeting and addressed the delegates.

As Rail Conference President, Pierce is the principal officer of the group and is responsible for conducting its day-to-day affairs. He also presides over meetings of the Rail Conference Policy Committee and all meetings of the Conference.

The Teamsters Rail Conference represents more than 70,000 rail workers employed as locomotive engineers, trainmen and maintenance of way workers across the United States as members of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen and Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes Division.

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