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BLET Weekly News Recap, 1-26-24
Jan 26, 2024

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


January 26, 2024

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BLET secures up to $18,000 in bonus payments for Pacific Harbor Line members
BLET General Chairman Brian Carr: “This is a win for BLET members. Professional locomotive engineers play a major role in the success of any railroad, and this agreement recognizes the valuable contributions made by BLET members.”

A new agreement between the BLET and the Pacific Harbor Line (PHL) illustrates the importance of locomotive engineers to a railroad’s success.
The PHL Employee Retention Program, signed by BLET General Chairman Brian Carr on January 17, 2024, rewards BLET members with substantial bonus payments for maintaining employment with the railroad. Qualifying members can earn up to $18,000 in bonus payments if they meet program requirements over the next two years.
The deal covers approximately 200 BLET members who belong to Division 214 in Long Beach, Calif. Along with General Chairman Carr, Division 214 Local Chairman Jose Covarrubias invested significant time and energy working with PHL management to negotiate the deal.
It reads in part: “PHL and its employees represented by the BLET share a common interest in the retention of qualified locomotive engineers… to provide excellent customer service.”
Qualifying members will earn up to $8,000 in bonus payments between January 1, 2024, and December 31, 2025. They will earn an additional $10,000 bonus if the PHL is selected by the Port of Los Angeles and the Port of Long Beach as the switching company for the ports after January 1, 2026. These bonus payments are in addition to the negotiated rates of pay under the BLET’s collective bargaining agreement with PHL.
“This is a win for BLET members,” General Chairman Carr said. “Professional locomotive engineers play a major role in the success of any railroad, and this agreement recognizes the valuable contributions made by BLET members.”
Assigned National Vice President Garrison Best stated: “This agreement provides a foundation to retain and reward the workforce of PHL. The efforts of GC Carr and LC Covarrubias reinforce that the supply chain is directly impacted by BLET members. I am proud to have assisted in finalizing an agreement that recognizes that.”
PHL’s primary business is intermodal containerized traffic. It operates over 96 track miles and provides switching services at the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, which together form the largest container port in the United States.

Train robberies see a 21st-Century revival
BLET National President Eddie Hall told the New York Times Magazine that he has seen all kinds of merchandise spread out across the tracks, including tires and televisions, while working as a locomotive engineer.
The New York Times Magazine published a lengthy story on January 23 examining modern day train robberies. The story quotes BLET National President Eddie Hall, who has 28 years of seniority as a locomotive engineer for the Union Pacific Railroad out of El Paso, Texas, and mostly Tucson, Ariz. President Hall told the Times that he regularly passed stopped trains and saw people climbing up ladders or loading cargo into their trucks pulled up alongside the tracks. “Between L.A. and Tucson is where I know a lot of theft happens,” Hall said.
President Hall said sometimes he would see people breaking into moving trains too. He would notify the train dispatcher and keep going. Those container doors, meanwhile, stayed open, he said, spilling boxes as the train rolled on.
According to the Times: “Hall saw all kinds of merchandise spread out across the tracks, including tires and televisions. Engineers don’t stop for this flotsam of global capitalism; they run over it. Once, near the Dragoon Mountains, in southeast Arizona, Hall drove a train through a desolate quarter-mile of track littered with hundreds of pairs of Nike sneakers.”
The full story (behind a paywall) is on the New York Times website.
Rail safety bills introduced in Virginia, Colorado
As we advance into 2024, the BLET is advancing rail safety legislation in multiple state legislatures throughout the United States. Last week, we reported on a bill that in Nebraska. This week, we added Virginia and Colorado to the list.
In Virginia, BLET State Legislative Board Chairman Tim Craver and members of his Board are lobbying for passage of rail safety bills in the State House and Senate. House Bill No. 385 and Senate Bill No. 143 would limit train length to 8,500 feet, mandate two-person train crews, prohibit railroads from blocking public grade crossings, and prohibit them from parking train cars within 1,500 feet on both sides of any public crossing. Both House and Senate bills would impose financial penalties on railroads for violations of the law.
In Colorado, BLET State Legislative Board Chairman Paul Pearson reports that House Bill 24-1030 was introduced on January 10, 2024, and is scheduled for a hearing before the Committee on Transportation, Housing & Local Government on February 7, 2024. The bill would limit train length to 8,500 feet, require wayside defect detectors every 10-15 miles, prevent railroads from blocking public grade crossings for more than 10 minutes, grant union representatives access to all accidents, mandate minimum insurance requirements for railroads carrying hazardous materials, and would require railroads to offer training at least once every three years to each fire department having jurisdictions along the tracks upon which the railroad operates in the state. The bill would carry financial penalties for rail corporations that fail to meet these safety requirements, with money collected going into the Front Range Passenger Rail District maintenance and safety fund. 
Updates will be published on BLET social media and upcoming issues of our Weekly Recap.
Training for Division Legislative Reps
BLET members at a training class hosted by Chairman Ryan Snow and the California State Legislative Board earlier this month: Seated, from left: Emidio Gonzalez, Nevada SLB First Vice Chairman; Jacob Young, Div. 692; Joe Bridge, Div. 56; Jeff Sturgis, Div. 415; and Cliff Owen, Division 425. Standing, from left: Jacob Klatt, Div. 126; Chris Myron, Oregon SLB Chairman; Anthony Langel, California SLB Secretary-Treasurer; Joshua Faulkner, Div. 739; Ken Cowger, Div. 553; Jason Edwards, Div. 839; Ryan Snow, California SLB Chairman; and Jacob Alexander, Div. 739. (Present but not pictured: Kevin Quest, Division 65)
BLET California State Legislative Board Chairman Ryan Snow hosted a training session for Division Legislative Representatives earlier this month. They were joined by Oregon State Legislative Board Chairman Chris Myron and Nevada State Legislative Board First Vice Chairman Emidio Gonzalez.
Those in attendance discussed railroad safety and other issues of importance to BLET members in the region. Chairman Snow told the Legislative Reps: “Your hard work, dedication, and sacrifices are not forgotten. The BLET is only as successful as it is because of you and all you do for your members.”
St. Lawrence & Atlantic members ratify new contract
The St. Lawrence and Atlantic Railroad is a short-line railway operating between Portland, Maine, on the Atlantic Ocean, and Montreal, Quebec, on the St. Lawrence River. (G&W image)
On January 23, BLET members ratified a new six-year agreement with the St. Lawrence & Atlantic Railroad (SL&A).
The agreement provides retroactive pay dating to January 1, 2022, for all active employees, and general wage increases of 24% over the life of the agreement (5% in 2022; 4.5% in 2023; 4% in 2024; 3% in 2025; 3.5% in 2026; and 4% in 2027).
Additional contractual improvements include:
• A fifth week of vacation after 22 years, as opposed to 25 years currently;
• Annual safety shoe allowance would be increased to $400.00; and
• All employees would be paid at time-and-a-half for training or examinations on their rest days.
BLET first organized the St. Lawrence & Atlantic in August of 2013. The membership belongs to BLET Division 274 in Gorham, N.H., and they are represented by the BLET’s CPR-D&H/PanAm (ST), SL&A, NYS&W, CSOR, and NECR General Committee of Adjustment. The BLET negotiating team consisted of National Vice President Randy FannonGeneral Chairman Kevin Moore, and Division 274 Local Chairman Daniel Couture.
A subsidiary of Genesee & Wyoming, the St. Lawrence & Atlantic operates over 162 miles of track and interchanges with the New Hampshire Central Railroad in North Stratford, N.H., and Pan Am Railways at Danville Junction, Maine. Its top commodities include chemicals, plastics, lumber and forest products, petroleum products, pulp, and paper.
Union membership grew in 2023, thanks to worker wins
On January 23, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released its annual report on union density. The report shows that union membership grew by 139,000  in 2023. Union membership in the private sector increased by 191,000 members, with a majority of new members under the age of 45. These numbers are a result of how more than 900,000 union members won double-digit wage increases through new contracts last year.
Polling data shows that 71% of Americans support unions, the highest level in nearly 60 years, with 88% of young people showing support for unions. The BLS numbers also show that the union difference in wages remains strong: Among full-time wage and salary workers, union members had higher median weekly earnings than nonunion workers in 2023. 

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

PH (216) 241-2630   |

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

BLE-T Division 622

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