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BLET Weekly News Recap, 2-9-24
Feb 09, 2024

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


February 9, 2024

Follow the BLET online and stay up-to-date on all the latest union news and information.
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BLET leads joint labor endorsements of Homendy, Primus

The BLET is rallying rail labor support for the reappointment of Jennifer L. Homendy as Chair of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the appointment of Robert E. Primus as Chairman of the Surface Transportation Board (STB). Primus has been a member of board. The position of Chairman is open due to the retirement of Martin Oberman. The BLET secured unanimous support for Homendy and Primus from the 13 unions of the AFL-CIO’s Transportation Trades Department (TTD). On January 29, the TTD sent letters to President Joe Biden expressing enthusiastic support for the two nominees. Strengthening the joint effort, Teamsters General President Sean M. O’Brien also supported Homendy’s renomination in a January 29 letter to President Biden
PDF of Homendy endorsement letter here
PDF of Primus endorsement letter here

DOT Secretary Buttigieg aligns with BLET on rail safety in National Public Radio interview
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg: “Just basic common sense to me says that you at least want to have two people on board a train that might be carrying hazardous materials, that might be going at a high speed through communities.” IBT Image
In a February 3 interview with National Public Radio, timed to the one-year anniversary of the Norfolk Southern train derailment in East Palestine, Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg took a forceful stand on the issue of two-person trains that aligns with BLET’s long-standing position on rail safety and technology.
The BLET supports proven technologies as an added layer of safety to help protect railroad workers and the general public. Regarding two-person train crews, Buttigieg said that railroads should have an engineer and conductor in the cab AND use proven technology and safety devices in conjunction with the crew.  
To listen to the full interview, or to read a transcript, please visit the National Public Radio website.
Rail industry spends millions to obstruct rail safety laws and regulations after East Palestine
In a February 3 article detailing how railroad management’s public positions on railroad safety differ from their lobbying activity, the Washington Post exposed how the rail industry routinely says one thing — but does the opposite.

“Over the past year, the nation’s five largest rail operators together spent roughly $17 million to lobby lawmakers, while donating generously to key members of Congress who oversee transportation issues.” Some of the chief beneficiaries of industry cash are now opposing or slowing down rail safety legislation, according to The Post’s investigation.
U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) was quoted in the story saying, “For 150 years, the rail industry has been one of the most powerful industries in the country. They have spent tens of millions of dollars lobbying. It’s what they do. They’re very good at it.”
The BLET worked with Washington Post reporter Tony Romm on background for the story. It is available on the Washington Post website (paywall).
Filibuster ends Nebraska two-person crew bill; BLET member shines light on rail safety in Nevada
A filibuster stretching over three days derailed a proposal in Nebraska's unicameral legislature to require two-person train crews. State Sen. Mike Jacobson sponsored the proposal, which had been introduced multiple times in recent years. This was the first time it advanced to floor debate. Sen. Jacobson said it was a disappointing end to a hard-fought effort to bring about common sense rail safety legislation. In a message published by the North Platte Telegraph, Jacobson wrote, “I also believe that this vote sent a message to the FRA that they should act.” The Nebraska State Senators who fought against the proposal were clearly aligned with rail industry lobbyists. 
A similar situation recently evolved in Nevada when the governor vetoed a rail safety bill. In response, BLET member Jason Doering authored a guest editorial in The Nevada Independent detailing efforts by rail industry lobbyists to undermine proposed rail safety legislation in The Silver State. Brother Doering wrote: “The politics of rail safety in Nevada tread a fine line between earnest concern and political theater. On record, there's a chorus of agreement on the importance of rail safety. Yet, behind the scenes, the rail lobby's influence casts a long shadow over legislative decisions.” Given the development of Brightline West, he wrote, it’s crucial that Nevada reevaluate its stance on rail safety. “This project should be seen as an opportunity to set a new standard in rail safety, not just for Nevada but for the nation,” he wrote. “We must advocate for stringent safety standards for passenger and freight operations, comprehensive training for rail workers and a commitment to ongoing safety oversight for an industry that is historically self-regulated.”
Brother Doering has 20 years of experience as a locomotive engineer and conductor, and recently joined the BLET as a member of Division 766 in Las Vegas. To read his message in its entirety, please visit The Nevada Independent.
Brother Christopher M. Wilson laid to rest in Alabama
A visitation and funeral for fallen Brother Christopher M. Wilson was held this morning in Tuscumbia, Alabama. A member of BLET Division 423, Brother Wilson was killed in a Norfolk Southern rail yard accident on January 31. The National Transportation Safety Board and members of the BLET Safety Task Force are still investigating.
Brother Wilson, 55, worked for 28 years as a locomotive engineer at Norfolk Southern, where he received many accolades for his excellent service. He first joined the BLET in 2000, and had held continuous membership in BLET Division 423 since April 1, 2010. 
Division 423 Local Chairman and BLET Alabama State Legislative Board Chairman Todd Sizemore served as one of the pallbearers, while members of the crew from the Decatur Rail Yard served as honorary pallbearers.
Brother Sizemore said: “Chris was one of the best engineers that I have had the pleasure to work around. He was a great friend and would do anything for his Union Brothers and Sisters. We have been left with a large void in all of our lives because of this terrible accident.”

Brother Wilson's full obituary can be read here.
Did you know that an African American inventor was responsible for improvements that made the coupler safer? 
Andrew Jackson Beard (1849-1921), an African American inventor, was awarded patents in1887 and 1899 for improvements to the automatic railroad car coupler. Beard had lost a leg in a car coupling accident earlier in his life. Original railroad couplers required the dangerous task of manually placing a pin in a link between two rail cars. Thanks to Beard’s improved design, the coupling could be performed automatically, and rail workers would no longer have to risk life and limb standing between rail cars to couple and uncouple them. His invention is very similar to the technology used today. Beard’s design was so effective that in 1887, the same year his automatic coupler was patented, U.S. Congress passed the Federal Safety Appliance Act, which made it illegal to operate any railroad car without automatic couplers.
Two-hour online course available on February 17
Register now: A virtual rail related hazmat awareness training class is being held February 17 from 11:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m. Eastern.
Registration is now open for a virtual rail related hazmat awareness training class offered by the Teamsters Rail Workers Hazardous Materials Training Program. The 2-hour Hazard Recognition online course is scheduled for February 17 and will run from 11:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m. Eastern.
Please click here to register for this important safety program. First time users will need to create an account. The program is offered through the Teamsters Safety and Health Department.

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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