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...

May 7, 2014

Tim Smith reelected to fifth term as Chairman of California State Legislative Board

Timothy L. Smith was elected to his fifth term as Chairman of the California State Legislative Board during the Board’s 7th Quadrennial Session in Santa Barbara, Calif., during the week of April 28.

A member of BLET Division 415 in Roseville, Calif., Brother Smith is a Union Pacific locomotive engineer. He first joined the Brotherhood on June 1, 1975.

Also elected during the quadrennial session were: 1st Vice Chairman Ryan K. Snow, Division 126 (Bakersfield, Calif.); Sean H. Morgan, Second Vice Chairman (and Alternate Secretary-Treasurer), Division 144 (Oakland, Calif.); and Secretary-Treasurer Scott A. Long, Division 415 (Roseville, Calif.). Brother Snow and Brother Long were both elected by acclamation.

The delegates elected the following members to serve on the Board’s Executive Committee: Bruce D. Bishop (Chairman), Division 415 (Bakersfield, Calif.); Ulises Flotte, Division 20 (Los Angeles, Calif.); Josh S. Faulkner, Division 739 (Bakersfield, Calif.); and John B. Mobley, Division 398 (San Bernardino, Calif.).

The following were elected to serve on the Rules Committee: Chris T. Ranford (Chairman), Division 56 (West Colton, Calif.); Chris K. Jackson, Division 553 (Calwa City, Calif.); Martin L. Martinez, Division 5 (Los Angeles, Calif.); Alfredo Ortiz, Division 214 (Long Beach, Calif.); and Ulises Flotte, Division 20.

Three members were elected to serve on the Board’s Audit Committee: John Mobley (Chairman), Division 398 (San Bernardino, Calif.); Josh Faulkner, Division 739 (Bakersfield, Calif.); and Chris D. Camara, Division 283 (Oakland, Calif.).

Two long-serving officers retired from the California State Legislative Board and did not seek reelection: 1st Vice Chairman Darrell Azarcon and Secretary-Treasurer Mike Holt. While Brother Holt has already retired from the railroad, Brother Azarcon is planning to retire this summer. Each received an engraved BLET 150th Anniversary mantle clock in recognition of their service to the Brotherhood, along with other gifts.

Representing the BLET National Division at the meeting were: National President Dennis R. Pierce; First Vice President E. Lee Pruitt; National Secretary-Treasurer William C. Walpert; and Vice President & National Legislative Representative John P. Tolman.

“I congratulate Brother Tim Smith and all members and officers of the California State Legislative Board,” President Pierce said. “Brother Tim provides great veteran leadership to our Brothers and Sisters living in California and I know he will continue doing an excellent job. I also want to thank outgoing Board members Darrell Azarcon and Mike Holt for their years of service and dedication to the BLET.”

Special guests included: General Chairman D. W. (Bill) Hannah, Union Pacific-Western Lines General Committee of Adjustment; and General Chairman J. A. (Alan) Holdcraft, BNSF (former ATSF) General Committee of Adjustment.

The BLET California State Legislative Board represents nearly 3,000 active and retired members in 20 different Divisions.

April 29, 2014

Day of Action: Fast Track is the wrong track!

On April 30, BLET members are encouraged to participate in the Teamster Fast Track Day of Action. As background, the fair trade movement has been successful thus far in delaying a vote on Fast Track legislation, which would allow potentially harmful “Free Trade” agreements to sail through Congress and ship American jobs overseas.

While a vote doesn’t seem likely any time before the midterm elections, the Teamsters are continuing to keep the pressure on by reminding Congress that Fast Track is the wrong track. To that end, April 30 is a Teamster Fast Track Day of Action. All active and retired BLET members, the BLET Auxiliary, their families and friends are encouraged to call the Teamster Fast Track Hotline at (888) 979-9806 and tell your Representative and Senator to oppose Fast Track.

Some talking points are as follows:

1. Fast Track steals Congress’s constitutional authority to review and amend trade agreements that are crafted in secret by corporate lobbyists.

2. Fast Track forces Congress to vote on all trade deals with almost no time for review, which lets Wall Sleep anti-worker provisions into the fine print.

3. Fast Track is a one-way trip to trade deals worse than NAFTA, especially with the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) being negotiated in secret by corporate lobbyists — even as we speak.

4. Fast Track makes it easier and faster for Wall Street and corporations to ship American and Teamster jobs overseas.

Again, remember to call your member of Congress on May 30 at (888) 979-9806 and tell them to vote no on Fast Track legislation.

“We have to hold our members of Congress accountable on this issue,” BLET National President Dennis Pierce said. “Your help in the fight against Fast Track is greatly appreciated.”

BLET to conduct workshop for Legislative Representatives

The BLET Education & Training Department, in conjunction with the National Legislative Office and the National Association of State Legislative Board Chairmen (NASLBC), will conduct a workshop for BLET Division Legislative Representatives from July 13-17 in Washington, D.C.

The workshop will take place at the International Brotherhood of Teamsters headquarters with classroom training beginning the evening of Sunday, July 13. All-day classroom training will follow from July 14 to July 16, 2014.

The workshop will cover the following topics:

• Computer skills (principles of letter writing and database management);
• Regulatory affairs (reporting and documenting important issues);
• Political affairs (the anatomy of elections, how a bill becomes law, communications skills, and writing to politicians);
• Understanding individual State Legislative Board bylaws; and
• Division Trustee.

After completion of the classroom training, attendees will participate in a full day on Capitol Hill on July 17. Travel home is scheduled for July 18.

Participation in the workshop is limited to the first 20 who register, with a limit of two representatives from each state.

Those who successfully complete the July 13-16 classroom portion of the workshop will be eligible for a $129 per diem from the North American Railway Foundation (NARF). It will be paid directly to the State Legislative Board or Division Secretary-Treasurer.

NARF is a non-profit operating foundation formed by the Brotherhood’s Relief and Compensation Fund (BR&CF) to support rail history, education, safety, and technology in the United States and Canada. With initial funding and continued Board of Directors stewardship coming from the BR&CF, NARF has supported many non-political projects throughout the United States and Canada over the past 18 years. The primary focus of these efforts has been in support of organized rail labor — giving back to all of the men and women of the railroad community across North America.

Register for the class at www.ble-t.org/lr.

The BLET has secured a room block for this class at The Liaison Capitol Hill (415 New Jersey Ave NW, Washington, DC 20001), located right next door to the Teamsters Building, which is adjacent to the Capitol grounds. Reservations can be made by calling (866) 233-4642 and make sure to tell them you are booking under the BLET Legislative Class room block to secure the $259 per night rate. You will need to give them a credit card to hold the room and if you have to cancel for any reason it will be your responsibility to call the hotel directly. You should make your reservations no later than June 12, 2014.

Workshop attendees will receive an e-mail confirmation after registering through the BLET website. Attendees are responsible for their transportation costs, along with the cost of room and board. Members planning to bring family members may contact the BLET National Legislative Office for help in scheduling a tour of the Capitol. If interested, please call (202) 624-8776.

For more information, please contact Jason Wright, Coordinator of the BLET Education & Training Dept., at (216) 296-4447 or wright@ble-t.org.

April 23, 2014

BLET, SMART–TD to seek two-person crew laws on the state level

As part of an ongoing effort to secure a law mandating a minimum of two crew members in the cab of all locomotives, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) and the Transportation Division of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART–TD) have provided their State Legislative Boards with model legislation to secure minimum crew size laws on the state level.

The state-lobbying campaign was developed jointly by the two Unions.

“Significant research and work has gone into developing language that both minimizes the potential for a federal preemption challenge and maximizes the likelihood that the legislation will survive any such challenge,” wrote BLET National President Dennis R. Pierce and SMART–TD President John Previsich in a cover letter introducing the model legislation to BLET and SMART local officers. “Therefore, when proposing legislation on this subject it is imperative that you do not deviate from the model.”

Among other items, the legislation stipulates that any person who willfully violates the two-person crew law would be subject to financial penalties.

Crew size has become a hot button issue following the 2013 oil train derailment and explosion in Lac-Megantic, Quebec. While an official cause has not been determined, the train in question was operated by a single employee.

“We urge BLET and SMART Transportation Division officers to work with their counterparts in moving legislation forward on this issue of paramount importance to the members we represent,” President Pierce and President Previsich wrote.

On the national level, the Safe Freight Act (H.R. 3040) is currently making its way through the U.S. House of Representatives. Representatives Michael Michaud (D-ME) and Chellie Pingree (D-ME) introduced the legislation on August 2, 2013, in the aftermath of the Lac-Megantic tragedy, and the bill currently has 70 co-sponsors.

H.R. 3040 would require 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.”

April 11, 2014

BLET Fighting to Protect Worker, Public Safety in Rulemaking

Statement by National President Dennis R. Pierce

Dennis Pierce, National President of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, a Division of the Teamsters Rail Conference, issued the following statement concerning the April 9 announcement by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) that the agency planned to issue a proposed rule regarding railroad industry crew size:

“Since the FRA’s announcement on Wednesday of plans to issue a proposed regulation regarding crew size on America’s freight and passenger trains, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen has received numerous requests for comments. While it is not our practice to publicly comment on a pending rulemaking — and although no substantive comment can be made on FRA’s proposal, which has yet to be published — recent attempts by the industry’s lobbying arm to change the debate compel me to respond.

“It is undeniable that last summer’s catastrophic runaway, derailment and explosion that devastated the Quebec town of Lac-Mégantic was facilitated, if not directly caused, by operational adjustments that had to be made by the Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway’s decision to operate the runaway train with a single-person crew. The outrage over that tragedy led to numerous regulatory changes in Canada and here in the United States to enhance railroad safety.

“The Congress has taken notice of this crisis, as well, and the Safe Freight Act (H.R. 3040), which would require a two-person crew on virtually all freight trains, is pending before the House of Representatives. We applaud the legislators who introduced that bill, and we are working toward its passage.

“FRA also has made its position clear. We agree with Federal Railroad Administrator Joe Szabo that ‘safety is enhanced with the use of a multiple person crew’ and with the agency’s position that ‘a second crew member provides safety redundancy and provides a method of checks and balances on train operations.’ Safety is our goal, and FRA’s goal, in supporting a minimum crew size of two employees. Each and every day when our members go to work, their goal is to perform their jobs in the safest and most professional manner possible. BLET members are honest and dedicated working class Americans, and working as part of a two-person train crew will give them a better chance of returning home to their families and loved ones at the end of the day.

“Unfortunately, however, the rail industry seems hell-bent on hijacking this issue and converting it into a process to further pad its already historic profit levels. From the day FRA placed crew size before its Railroad Safety Advisory Committee, the railroads have attempted to hold the issue hostage to the implementation of Positive Train Control (PTC) technology, a stance that was publicly confirmed by the Association of American Railroads earlier this week. PTC is a necessity as it will save lives, but it should never be the basis for a waiver of the two-person train crew requirement, which — sadly — is what rail management is hoping to achieve.

“To be clear, PTC is a significant upgrade and overlay on existing signal and train control technology. It will save lives and reduce accidents and property damage. For these reasons it can and must be installed by the December 31, 2015 deadline Congress has set, and we will continue to oppose the industry’s request for a blanket 5-year extension of the deadline.

“However, at the end of the day — and while significant — PTC is only an upgrade and overlay on existing signal technology. It is not designed or required to prevent every accident. As just one example, the April 17, 2011 collision near Red Oak, Iowa, that led to a derailment and fire, and which claimed the lives of two crew members, would not have been prevented had PTC been installed on the line where the accident occurred.

“Nor is PTC designed or intended to perform all of the varied duties currently performed by the second operating crew member. In addition to in-cab safety redundancy at numerous levels, the public safety aspect of these duties include, among others, monitoring the ‘left’ side of the train for defects, observing the ‘left’ side of highway-rail grade crossings for drivers who fail to stop for the approaching train, and separating stopped trains blocking crossings to facilitate the movement of motor vehicles operated by first responders and other emergency personnel who must cross the tracks.

“The industry’s response is nothing more than a red herring, and it is unfortunate — if not reprehensible — that railroads are preying upon the legitimate safety concerns of railroad workers and the general public to further stuff their coffers. We also view the railroads’ response as a thinly-veiled threat against collective bargaining agreement provisions that address crew size, which would be unaffected by the proposed regulation, and which we will vigorously defend. We will continue to put the safety of BLET members, of all railroad workers, and of the American public first and foremost, and we will work with all our energy to ensure FRA develops a regulation that does just that.”

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