BLE-T Division 622

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Nov 17, 2023

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


November 17, 2023

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In depth ProPublica article exposes rail worker harassment and intimidation
ProPublica reviewed 111 court cases in which workers alleged they had been disciplined or fired after reporting safety concerns.

A major investigative report published by ProPublica on November 15 exposes how America’s railroad corporations are intimidating workers by putting speed ahead of safety. According to the ProPublica team of investigative reporters, as railroads strive to move their cargo faster, its managers are going to dangerous lengths to avoid disruptions. As one example cited, railroads use performance-pay systems that penalize mangers for taking time to fix hazards, so managers in turn pressure workers to ignore safety defects with equipment to keep the trains rolling. Workers are harassed, intimidated, and even fired for slowing the flow of traffic. As part of their report, ProPublica reviewed 111 court cases in which workers alleged they had been disciplined or fired after reporting safety concerns. 
The BLET was the only labor union quoted by ProPublica in the article. BLET National Vice President Randy Fannon explained how many rail workers, especially on non-union short lines, will not report safety problems for fear of losing their jobs. Such was the case earlier this year when a runaway cut of 90 cars — including 47 tanker cars filled with propane — became a rolling bomb. The crewless runaway train traveled for three miles and through two public crossings before it came to a stop on its own. But the workers were too afraid to report it. “Evidently the employees felt that they couldn’t acknowledge it or report it for fear of retribution,” Vice President Fannon said. 

To read more, please visit the ProPublica website.

Rail labor unions back re-nomination of RRB Labor Member John Bragg
BLET stands with Bragg: From left: BLET National President Eddie Hall, Labor Member of the RRB John Bragg, BLET First Vice President Mark Wallace and BLET National S-T David Estes
In a November 13 letter to President Joe Biden, all 13 rail labor unions unanimously endorsed the re-nomination of John Bragg as Labor Member of the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB). Under the Railroad Retirement Act, the President must nominate one candidate to represent rail employees on the RRB. There is also one board member representing management and one neutral board member.
“[John Bragg] has demonstrated excellent service on the Board for the last four years since his confirmation in early 2019, and we request that he be nominated for another term to serve on the Board,” the unions said, writing jointly as the Rail Labor Division (RLD) of the AFL-CIO’s Transportation Trades Department (TTD).
The unions said Bragg and his RRB staff were instrumental in rolling out and implementing enhanced rail worker benefit packages during the COVID-19 pandemic. Also during his tenure, Bragg has advocated for and provided oversight of the long overdue modernization of RRB’s IT systems.
“If granted a second term as the RRB’s Labor Member, Mr. Bragg will continue bringing an invaluable level of experience, knowledge, and understanding of the needs of rail workers, retirees, and their families who rely on the system,” the unions concluded.
A copy of the Rail Labor Division’s November 13 letter is available on the BLET website (PDF).
BLET hosts Governor Evers for ride-along inside locomotive cab
Brother Chuck Schulz, Chairman of the BLET Wisconsin SLB (left), in the cab with Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers during his ride-along on November 15.
Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers got to experience firsthand what locomotive engineers and trainmen deal with on a daily basis when he went for a ride-along in the cab of a CPKC locomotive on November 15.
The idea for the ride along originated with Brother Chuck Schulz, Chairman of the BLET’s Wisconsin State Legislative Board. Schulz said: “Our nation has had several high profile railroad incidents this year, including one in Wisconsin. In April, a BNSF train derailed in La Crosse, dumping freight cars into the Mississippi River. These incidents came up in conversation when I met with Governor Evers at the BLET regional meeting in Milwaukee. I mentioned the idea of a ride-along in the cab of a locomotive, and being an educator his entire life, the governor wanted to observe firsthand a train crew's responsibilities and duties while operating the train.”
Neither Brother Schulz nor the governor’s office were able to arrange a trip on Brother Schulz’s home railroad, the CN, so the November 15 ride-along was hosted by the CPKC. Brother Bob Fuller, a member of BLET Division 253 (Portage, Wisc.), worked as the locomotive engineer during the trip.
The ride began in DeForest, Wisc., and lasted approximately 30 minutes. According to Brother Schulz, Gov. Evers was impressed with the skills of the train crew members, adding that the ride reinforced the Governor’s support for two-person train crews.  
Wisconsin has had a two-person crew law since 1997 and was the first state in the U.S. to put such a law on the books. The state of Wisconsin played a key role in overturning former FRA Administrator Ron Batory’s attempt to preempt two-person crew regulations a few years ago when State Attorney General Josh Kaul joined the lawsuit against the FRA.

Click to see a photo gallery of the ride-along.
Rail Labor partners with High-Speed Rail Authority 
Artist's rendering of a California high-speed train. Image: courtesy of California High-Speed Rail Authority
The California High-Speed Rail Authority and 13 rail labor unions, including BLET, announced on November 17 that they have entered an agreement that ensures the hard-earned gains in federal labor laws will be applicable to the operations of the nation’s first high-speed rail project. This agreement will cover an estimated 3,000 workers.

More information is available from the California High-Speed Rail Authority’s website.
Teamsters General President O’Brien won’t back down from Senator’s bullying
“He made a lot of statements and his statements are fiction at best,” said Teamsters General President Sean O'Brien about Senator Markwayne Mullin.
Photo: courtesy of the Teamsters
A Republican senator challenged Teamsters General President Sean M. O’Brien to a fist fight during a fiery exchange at a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing on November 14. Rather than asking the witness questions about important economic issues, Senator Markwayne Mullin (R-OK) used his time to address a long-simmering dispute with President O’Brien and challenged him to a fight in the hearing room. President O’Brien stood up to the bullying and cooler heads prevailed. Following the incident, President O’Brien said: “We are fighting Corporate America. We are closing the gap. We are taking what we deserve. But do not forget what we face against those who want to bully workers and hold us back.”
TTD unions oppose increases to pilot retirement age at Fall Executive Committee meeting
TTD Fall Executive Committee meeting: From left: Political Analyst David Wasserman, TTD President Greg Regan and TTD Secretary-Treasurer Shari Semelsberger
The AFL-CIO’s Transportation Trades Department (TTD) held its Fall Executive Committee meeting in Washington, D.C., on November 9. The TTD represents 27 different transportation unions, including the rail, maritime, and airline industries. National President Eddie Hall attended the meeting on behalf of BLET, and several fellow rail labor chiefs were also in attendance, representing the ATDA, BMWED, BRS, Fireman & Oilers, and others. During the meeting, the TTD adopted a policy statement opposing any increase to pilot retirement age. Also, TTD members heard from David Wasserman, who is regarded as one of the nation’s top election forecasters. Wasserman provided a 25-minute analysis of the upcoming 2024 presidential election and then engaged in a lengthy question and comment session with attendees.
Donate to the BLET-PAC Fund to help give members a voice on important issues
Join with thousands of other BLET members running with the PAC from coast to coast to secure our future today — for tomorrow.
Paid sick leave. Excessive train length. Two-person train crews. Right now, these and other important issues are being debated in Congress and in state capitals across the country. You can be sure that corporate railroad lobbyists are out in full force making their viewpoints known. That’s why it’s more important now than ever to support the BLET-PAC Fund. Your voluntary contribution will help make certain that the voice of BLET members is heard on these and other important issues. Your donation is used for railroad-specific issues only.

If you’re interested in signing up to support the BLET-PAC Fund, please talk to your Division Legislative Representative for an application. Or download and print a PDF from the National Division website.
Opt-in program continues
As reported last week, a limited number of Time Books are being printed for distribution in 2024 and will only be mailed to members upon request.
To request a Time Book, members must first log in to the Members’ Area of the BLET National Division website. Then click the “Yes, send me the 2024 BLET Time Book” button.
Happy Thanksgiving!
Due to the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, the BLET National Division will not publish a Weekly Recap next week. Publication will resume the following week. The National Division extends best wishes for a happy, healthy, and safe Thanksgiving.

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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