BLE-T Division 622

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Sep 29, 2023

The BLET exists to promote and protect the rights, interests, and safety of its members through solidarity, aggressive representation, and education.


September 29, 2023

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CAPITOL HILL: BLET Legislative Reps meet in DC to sharpen skills and lobby Congress
BLET members and instructors at the Legislative Representative workshop this week at IBT headquarters in Washington, D.C.

The BLET’s Education & Training Department wrapped up its Legislative Representative Workshop this week at Teamster headquarters in Washington, D.C. The workshop for 20 BLET Legislative Reps taught them how to become better lobbyists on behalf of the union. 
The workshop featured presentations by guest speakers Sen. Edward Markey of Massachusetts, Rep. Van Hoyle of Oregon, former House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Peter DeFazio, and former AFL-CIO Political Director Michael Podhorzer. BLET National President Ed Hall also held discussions with the Legislative Reps. 
Classroom training touched on topics such a legislative letter writing, database management, reporting and documenting issues, the anatomy of elections, how a bill becomes law, communications skills, and correspondence with politicians.
The Legislative Reps put their skills to work when they headed to the Capitol, making 65 office visits to lobby members of Congress on rail safety as well as passage of the REEF Act which would remove unfair punitive sequestration constraints on the unemployment insurance program for railroad employees. 

The workshop opened with a moment of silence of in honor of Brother Chris Falaney, late Chairman of the BLET Illinois State Legislative Board, who passed away unexpectedly on September 20 (see related story below). Those present then shared memories and stories about Brother Falaney. 
BLET National Secretary-Treasurer David Estes, who heads the BLET Education & Training Department, congratulated the members who successfully completed training this week and thanked them for their dedication to our Brotherhood. “In light of the increased national spotlight on railroad safety since the East Palestine derailment in February, this is an important time for our union to make our voices heard. Legislative Representatives this week learned important skills to help the BLET convey our issues and our concerns to members of Congress.”

BLET Vice President and National Legislative Representative Vince Verna said: “We had another great LR Workshop this week in Washington, D.C., which was the second of 2023. These workshops were overdue and held up due to COVID and the Congressional calendar. Our Brothers and Sisters put in their time and effort to learn and go to Capitol Hill to tell Congress the truth about restoring our benefits under the REEF Act. Great job. Their participation helps multiply our efforts in D.C. going to 65 offices in a single day!”

NEW JERSEY:  Read it and weep. BLET billboard in state capital highlights NJ Transit’s misplaced priorities
BLET’s campaign in support of a fair contract for its members at NJ Transit continues. This week, billboards purchased by the union went up near the state capital in Trenton. The billboards carry the same message as ones that went up earlier in Newark, documenting how the transit agency chooses to spend taxpayer dollars for lavish office space rather than a fair wage to locomotive engineers who keep the commuter trains running.
RAIL SAFETY: FRA, DOT join with rail labor to examine recent UP failures
From left: BLET Nebraska SLB Chairman Pat Pfeifer speaks with FRA Administrator Amit Bose. 
Photo from the North Platte Bulletin
Federal safety regulators have their eyes on Union Pacific. UP’s safety record has come under fire after an FRA investigation found rail car and locomotive defects at twice the national level. UP has also been criticized for a slow and disorganized response to an alarming explosion and fire in Bailey Yard, which forced the evacuation of nearby residents.
This past Monday, September 25, Amit Bose, Administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration, and Lynda Tran, Senior Advisor to U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, toured Bailey Yard in North Platte, Nebraska. They also met with BLET representatives including BLET Nebraska State Legislative Board Chairman Pat Pfeifer along with other rail labor leaders. The conversation moved to Lincoln later where rail labor leaders met with Secretary Buttigieg.
FRA has publicly questioned UP’s ability to address the dangerous level of defects due to massive layoffs. As one example, according to the North Platte Bulletin, UP ignored documented reports of a defective wheel for three months before it finally failed, leading to a derailment in Gothenburg.
MAJOR INVESTMENT: Biden administration announces $1.4 billion to improve rail safety and boost capacity in 35 states
The Biden administration announced on September 25 that it has awarded more than $1.4 billion to projects that improve railway safety and boost capacity, with much of the money coming from the historic 2021 infrastructure law. The money will fund 70 projects in 35 states and Washington, D.C. Among the projects is $178.4 million to restore Amtrak service in parts of Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi along the Gulf of Mexico for the first time since Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005. More information from the Associated Press can be found here.
For a full list of projects, please visit the FRA website (PDF).
DEEPEST CONDOLENCES: Illinois State Legislative Board Chairman Chris Falaney, 1968-2023
Brother Chris Falaney, a member of Division 683, was the Chairman of the Illinois SLB. He had been a BLET member since 1999.
The BLET National Division sends deepest condolences to the family and friends of Brother Chris G. Falaney who unexpectedly passed away on September 20, 2023. He was 55 years old.
A member of BLET Division 683 (Chicago, Ill.), Brother Falaney served the BLET as Chairman of the Illinois State Legislative Board. He hired out in 1994 with the Chicago & Northwestern. He became engineer qualified for the Union Pacific Railroad in 1995, then promoted to fully set up engineer in 1997. He joined the BLET as a member of Division 683 in 1999.
Brother Falaney is survived by his wife, Misty, seven children, and three grandchildren.
A Go Fund Me has been established to assist the Falaney family with expenses.

Registration open for upcoming rail hazmat training classes

The Rail Workers Hazardous Materials Training Program is hosting four in-person rail worker training sessions in late 2023 and early 2024. The dates are as follows: October 15-20, 2023; January 14-19, 2024; February 4-9, 2024; and March 3-8, 2024. The following student expenses are covered: travel, lodging and meals. In addition, an incentive of $175.00 per day is available to all training participants of these programs, except those who are able to secure regular pay through their employer, or are paid union officers.
Register now at the Moodle Learning Platform via the Teamsters Safety and Health Department’s E-learning website.
Full details can be found here.
Download a PDF flyer for more information.
GENERATION Z: Future is bright for organized labor, thanks to America’s most pro-union generation
The future is looking bright for organized labor, with strong support across all generations and highest among Generation Z. According to recent reports, members of Gen Z have been on the frontlines leading the renewed push for labor unions.
A new analysis from the Center for American Progress confirms that Generation Z is America’s most pro-union generation, even more so than older workers were at their age. And in a recent AFL-CIO poll, 88% of people under 30 view unions favorably.
The Center for American Progress concluded: “As more young people complete their education and enter the workforce, the trend of Millennial- and Gen Z-driven organizing on the basis of widespread pro-union consciousness among young workers may accelerate, promising organized labor a home in America’s workforce for decades to come.”
More information here.
From left: Phil Bunker, Political Coordinator for Teamsters Joint Council 58; Bryce Dondero, 1st Vice Chairman, BLET Texas State Legislative Board; Ben Wright, Chairman, BLET Texas State Legislative Board; and Rep. Lloyd Doggette.
U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggette (D-TX) pledged to support the REEF Act after a visit from the BLET and IBT. The REEF Act would remove the unfair sequestration constraints on the Railroad Retirement Sickness and Unemployment benefits.
SHUTDOWN SCENERIOS: Government shutdown would impact FRA, STB, RRB
This week, Congress must enact a continuing appropriations act, or Continuing Resolution (CR), to prevent a government shutdown beginning Sunday, October 1. At this point, it is unclear if Congress will reach an agreement to prevent a shutdown. There are also question marks about this would impact railroad workers and Railroad Retirement beneficiaries.
• FRA: According to a report from APTA, 35 percent of FRA’s 1,006 employees would be furloughed during a government shutdown. Remaining FRA personnel would be focused primarily on activities necessary to protect life and property. For instance, FRA staff that manage rail accident/incident investigations would continue working.
• STB: According to industry publication Railway Age, a shutdown would also impact the Surface Transportation Board. “However, Senate-confirmed agency administrators and Senate-confirmed STB members cannot be furloughed during a government shutdown, as their jobs and compensation are provided by statute. And while furloughed employees technically are furloughed without pay, it is customary, upon the end of the shutdown, that Congress votes to provide all furloughed federal employees with back pay. The STB and FRA will retain a skeleton staff to deal with emergencies such as car supply issues, emergency service orders and challenged embargoes.”
• RRB: The Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) published a contingency plan for government shutdowns in 2017. All activities related to the Railroad Unemployment Insurance Act (RUIA) would continue without change because these are funded by a permanent appropriation. Activities needed to ensure accurate and timely payment of benefits under the Railroad Retirement Act (RRA), which are not funded through an annual appropriation, would continue. Activities which would continue within limited capacity include: Processing partial-to-final awards; processing spouse-to-widow adjustments; processing one-payment-only awards; processing new supplemental annuity awards; and providing pre-retirement counseling and preparing annuity estimates.

Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers & Trainmen
7061 East Pleasant Valley Road, Independence, Ohio 44131

PH (216) 241-2630   |

If you are a member of the BLET, then please consider signing up for the Members’ Area of the BLET website:  

Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen · 7061 East Pleasant Valley Road · Independence, OH 44131 · USA

BLE-T Division 622

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