BLE-T Division 622

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BLET New Recap Dec 1st
Dec 02, 2023

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


December 1, 2023

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BLET members vote unanimously to authorize a strike

BLET members who operate regional rail trains for SEPTA in Philadelphia and the surrounding area have voted to grant BLET National President Eddie Hall the authority to call a strike. Results of the vote count on November 20 show that of engineers eligible to cast ballots, all voted to strike.
Don Hill, General Chairman of BLET’s SEPTA locomotive engineers, said that SEPTA currently employs only 177 engineers instead of the 230 needed to properly maintain the agency’s regional rail schedule. A week earlier, in remarks to the SEPTA board, BLET Vice President James P. Louis told board members that the agency’s engineers and trainmen are the lowest paid in the industry, with new engineers paid 58% per hour less than counterparts at Amtrak and the top pay is 20% lower than other commuter railroads in the Northeast. VP Louis also described to the Philly Voice the lack of benefits, such as parental leave and pension plans, that are standard at other commuter agencies but not at SEPTA.
Read more on the National Division website.

BLET testifies in favor of rail safety bill at Senate hearing
From left: BLET’s Andrew Arias, NJ State Senator Patrick Diegnan, and BLET’s Ray Vigil at the New Jersey State Senate’s hearing to consider a rail safety bill on November 27, 2023.
Members of the BLET’s New Jersey State Legislative Board (NJ SLB) delivered important testimony on November 27 as the State Senate considers rail safety legislation.
Ray Vigil, NJ SLB Chairman, and Andrew Arias, NJ SLB Secretary-Treasurer, testified in favor of Bill S4049, which would mandate two person train crews, limit train length, and require wayside detectors. During his testimony, Brother Vigil explained how excessively long trains are risky and can delay first responders when seconds count. “The longer the train, the higher the risk. The longer the train, the more crossings that are blocked for long periods of time, in many cases, sometimes two and a half hours or three hours,” Vigil said.
Other key elements of Brother Vigil’s testimony were featured in the New Jersey Monitor.
Speaking in support of the bill’s two-person crew provision, Art Vatsky, a Teaneck resident and member of the Coalition to Ban Unsafe Oil Trains, told lawmakers: “I favor two-person crews the same as I favor two-person pilots in airlines. Would anyone fly with a plane worth millions of dollars with one pilot? Pilots are human. Pilots get sick. Pilots have heart attacks. Pilots have emotional problems. We need two engineers on these cars, on these trains.”
TTD urges Senate to act on NMB nominees
In a November 21 letter to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO, urged the Senate to “expeditiously” schedule a floor vote on the reappointment of National Mediation Board (NMB) Members Linda Puchala and Deirdre Hamilton, and the confirmation of Loren Sweatt to be a Member of the Board. The appointment has been delayed in the Senate for over four months, “meanwhile, workers need a fully confirmed NMB that will continue to advance workers’ rights.”
TTD wrote: “Created by Congress through the Railway Labor Act (RLA), the NMB plays an essential role in the facilitation of labor-management relations in the aviation and rail industries… The rail and aviation industries support good middle-class jobs that are critical to the economy and the mobility of Americans. NMB Members play an important role in protecting these jobs and expanding workforce opportunities in sectors covered by the RLA… These workers are best served when the NMB is reliably staffed with public servants who understand the importance of collective bargaining and who will seek fair and timely resolutions when disputes arise. “
A PDF of TTD’s letter to Sen. Schumer is available here.
Replacement ballot instructions
Eligible members who have not received a ballot packet by Thursday, November 30, should call the National Division for a replacement ballot.
Photo: David T. Magill, BLET Division 752 (Rensselaer, N.Y.)

As announced on November 10, the BLET has reached a tentative agreement for more than 1,400 locomotive engineers who operate Amtrak’s passenger and commuter trains. Ballots were mailed on November 15.

Eligible members who have not received a ballot packet by Thursday, November 30, should call the National Division at (216) 241-2630, extension 222. When connected with the extension, please leave the following information:

• your name, address and phone number;
• your local division number;
• the date you were promoted to locomotive engineer;
• your date of birth;
• the last four digits of your Social Security number; and
• your email address.

TrueBallot, Inc. is conducting the balloting process and will issue replacement ballots by email only. Therefore, members who do not leave a voicemail with their email address will not receive a replacement ballot. Results will be announced by the National Secretary-Treasurer on December 6, 2023.
BLET members ratify agreement with Keolis Rail Services Virginia
The agreement with Keolis governs rates of pay and health care benefits for locomotive engineers who operate trains for Virginia Railway Express.
Photo: courtesy of VRE

On November 29, BLET members ratified a new five-year contract with Keolis Rail Services Virginia (VRE). The agreement governs rates of pay and health care benefits for locomotive engineers who operate trains for Virginia Railway Express (VRE).

The agreement runs through 2025 and includes full retroactive payments dating to 2021. It provides general wage increases compounded at 22.2% over the life of the agreement (2% in 2021, 5% in 2022, 5% in 2023, 4% in 2024 and 4.5% in 2025). There are no work rule changes, and membership contributions to health and welfare will be capped beginning in 2025.

The negotiating team consisted of General Chairman Mark B. KennyVice General Chairman Patrick W. Darcy Jr., and Division 14 Local Chairman Jamie Wooldridge. VRE provides commuter rail service from the Northern Virginia suburbs to Alexandria, Crystal City, and downtown Washington, D.C., along the I-66 and I-95 corridors.

GA-46000 Lifetime maximum adjusted for 2024
Beginning January 1, 2024, the lifetime maximum benefit for ERMA will increase from $188,000 to $195,100. 

The lifetime maximum benefit for the Railroad Employees National Early Retirement Major Medical Benefit Plan (also known as ERMA or GA-46000) will increase from $188,000 to $195,100 on January 1, 2024.

At the end of 2001, Labor and Management agreed on various procedures to administer the annual changes in the amount of the lifetime maximum benefit under the ERMA plan. In conjunction with the formula established in 2001, a new lifetime maximum was calculated for 2024 by utilizing the October 2023 consumer price index (CPI) data for Hospital and Related Services and Physician Services.

Additionally, for individuals who have reached the lifetime maximum, the incremental maximum available is applied to eligible expenses submitted for dates of service on or after the effective date of the new maximum. For 2024, this amount will be $7,100.

This change will apply to all railroads and crafts participating in ERMA.
Check your mail for the latest BLET newsletter
The November 2023 issue of the Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen News is now arriving in the homes of BLET members. The issue was mailed out of Washington, D.C., on Monday, November 20.

A PDF of the publication can be found here on the National Division website.
Opt-in program continues
A limited number of Time Books are being printed for distribution in 2024 and will be mailed to members upon request.

To receive a hard copy of the 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.

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: members.ble-t

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

BLE-T Division 622

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