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...

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.

June 11, 2014

Teamsters, Rail Conference demand crackdown on cheap Korean steel imports

Teamsters General President James P. Hoffa and top leaders with the Teamsters Rail Conference are calling on the Department of Commerce to fully weigh the concerns of the U.S. steel industry as it continues its anti-dumping probe into cheap imports being brought into this country by South Korea and eight other nations.

In a letter sent to Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker dated June 5, Hoffa was joined by Teamsters Rail Conference President Dennis Pierce, President of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET), and Freddie Simpson, president of the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes Division (BMWED), in raising objections to a preliminary ruling regarding Oil Country Tubular Goods (OCTG) imported into the U.S.

The Teamsters join the United Steelworkers, the U.S. Steel Corporation and the Alliance for American Manufacturing in voicing concerns about the ongoing investigation.

OCTG production is a critical segment of the steel industry and helps provide solid middle-class jobs to several sectors, including the 70,000 members of the BLET and BMWED. But those are threatened when others are allowed to dump cheap product in the U.S. OCTG imports have doubled since 2008 and Korea is responsible for almost half of the increase.

“American steel producers employ 8,000 workers across the country making OCTG and each of those jobs supports seven more in the supply chain,” Hoffa, Pierce and Simpson wrote. “The steel produced for the U.S. energy market accounts for ten percent of domestic production. It is imperative that American OCTG producers have a level playing field on which to compete.”

Noting that the agency is set to make a final ruling next month, the Teamsters urged Pritzker to devote “all available resources” to make sure the information sought from the countries being investigated is accurate. Hoffa, Pierce and Simpson also suggested that Commerce officials review and revise its preliminary decision so that it incorporates “the true costs of production and profit margins among the Korean producers of high-end OCTG pipes.”

A copy of the letter is available on the BLET National Division website.

June 5, 2014

Worthington reelected to third term as Chairman of Utah State Legislative Board

Jeffrie C. Worthington was reelected by acclamation to his third term as Chairman of the Utah State Legislative Board at the group’s quadrennial meeting in Salt Lake City on May 28, 2014.

Brother Worthington is a Union Pacific locomotive engineer and member of BLET Division 846 in Salt Lake City. He has been a BLET member since 1989 and was first elected Legislative Representative of his Division in 1998. In 2002, he was elected 1st Vice Chairman of the Utah State Legislative Board and was elected Chairman in 2006 when he replaced long-serving Chairman Walt Webster. He was reelected Chairman in 2010.

Also reelected by acclamation were: 1st Vice Chairman Mark R. Bleckert, Division 222 (Salt Lake City, Utah); 2nd Vice Chairman Larry E. Stevenson, Division 374 (Ogden, Utah); Secretary-Treasurer Patrick J. Whalen, Division 349 (Salt Lake City, Utah); and Alternate Secretary-Treasurer Robert A. Rock, Division 713 (Salt Lake City, Utah).

Elected by acclamation to serve on the Audit Committee were: Gary W. Mayer, Division 681 (Milford, Utah); Brady W. Tubbs, Division 888 (Helper, Utah); and Eric S. Thompson, Division 51 (Salt Lake City, Utah).

Representing the BLET National Division at the meeting was Vice President and National Legislative Representative John P. Tolman. BLET National President Dennis R. Pierce expressed regret that he could not attend the meeting in person, but offered congratulations to all members and officers of the Utah State Legislative Board.

“I thank these Brothers for their ongoing dedication to our Brotherhood and I have every confidence they will continue doing an excellent job of representing the legislative and political interests of BLET members in the proud state of Utah,” President Pierce said.

Additional guest speaker were Utah State Senator Karen Mayne (D-District 5) and Utah AFL-CIO President Dale Cox.

Brother Worthington noted that Brent J. Fenstermaker is the first trainman to serve the BLET as a Legislative Representative in the state of Utah. Brother Fenstermaker is a Union Pacific trainman who serves as Legislative Representative of Division 55 in Ogden, Utah.

The Utah State Legislative Board represents approximately 550 active and retired members from 11 different BLET Divisions.

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.”

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