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BLET Weekly News Recap, 2-16-24
Feb 16, 2024

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


February 16, 2024

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BLET formally signs on to confidential safety reporting pilot program at NS
At the February 15 signing ceremony, from left: General Chairman Scott Bunten, General Chairman Jerry Sturdivant, NS CEO Alan Shaw, FRA Administrator Amit Bose, and General Chairman Dewayne Dehart. (Photo: courtesy of NS)

Representatives of the BLET, Norfolk Southern, the Federal Railroad Administration, and SMART-TD signed a landmark agreement for a Confidential Close Call Reporting System (C3RS) pilot program at the offices of the U.S. Department of Transportation in Atlanta, Ga., on February 15. C3RS allows operating employees to confidentially report close calls or other safety issues without fear of disciplinary action imposed by railroad management.
Signing the implementing memorandum of understanding (IMOU) on behalf of the BLET was General Chairman Scott Bunten (NS-Eastern Lines GCA), General Chairman Jerry Sturdivant (NS-Southern Lines GCA), and General Chairman Dewayne Dehart (NS-Northern Lines GCA). 
The C3RS pilot program includes BLET members whose home terminals are Atlanta, Ga. (Sturdivant), Elkhart, Ind. (Dehart), or Roanoke, Va. (Bunten). Close calls will be reported to NASA, the federal space agency which has a long history of monitoring this type of safety protocol. NASA will process the information to maintain the confidentiality of the reporting employee. Then, a Peer Review Team with representatives of labor and management will analyze the close call incidents to determine the most appropriate corrective action.

NJ Transit wants fare increases without fair treatment for locomotive engineers — Not if BLET has its way
BLET members are being encouraged to attend a series of public meetings to make their voices heard regarding fair treatment for NJ Transit's locomotive engineers. 
NJ Transit will hold 10 scheduled in-person public meetings in 10 New Jersey counties — including morning and evening sessions — beginning Monday, March 4 through Friday, March 8, to allow for public comments before the plan for a 15 percent fare increase goes up for vote by the NJ Transit Board of Directors.
NJ Transit hasn’t given its locomotive engineers a raise since 2019, but somehow found more than a half-billion dollars (billion with a B) for a lavish new office building for its execs. BLET has worked to expose NJ Transit’s misplaced priorities with a public campaign that includes the slogan: “Millions for penthouse views, not a dime for train crews.”
BLET has taken a strike vote — approved unanimously by the members at NJT — and another round of mediation is scheduled between the commuter railroad and the union at the National Mediation Board in Washington next month.
During the March public meetings, BLET members will be sending a message that there shouldn’t be fare increases without fair treatment for locomotive engineers. Please join us. If you are in the area and can volunteer to attend one or more of the public meetings, please email

If you cannot make it to the meetings, send in comments for the record at The public comment period will be open until 11:59 p.m., Friday, March 8.
Death of BLET member Chris Wilson leads to FRA issuing a Safety Bulletin
The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has issued a Safety Bulletin warning about the dangers of rolling equipment following a tragic accident that took the life of BLET Division 423 member Chris Wilson at a rail yard in Decatur, Alabama, on February 7. The incident is still under investigation by both the FRA and the National Transportation Safety Board. BLET has Party Status in the NTSB investigation. More details can be found in this FreightWaves article. NTSB is investigating a second recent employee fatality that involved rolling equipment, which occurred on February 13 on CSX's Northend Subdivision in Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina.
Ballots mailed to BLET members at three railroads to vote on tentative agreements
Ballots were mailed to BLET members this week for voting on tentative agreements at three railroads —Utah Railway, Missouri & Northern Arkansas (M&NA), and Berkshire & Eastern (B&E). Details are as follows:
Utah Railway

The five-year tentative agreement provides wage increases totaling 41% (46.7% compounded) over the life of the contract (23% at signing; 5% in 2025; 4% in 2026; 4% in 2027; and 5% in 2028). Signing bonuses will be paid to employees based on length of service (10+ years of service will receive $19,000; 4+ years of service will receive $7,500; 1+ year of service will receive $1,500). Ballots will be counted on Wednesday, March 20. For more information about the contract and instructions for requesting a replacement ballot, please visit this link on the BLET National Division website.


The five-year tentative deal runs through January 1, 2028, and provides general wage increases of 25% (27.5% compounded) over the life of the contract (7% at signing in 2024; 5% in 2025; 5% in 2026; 4% in 2027; and 4% in 2028). Ballots will be counted on Wednesday, March 20. For more information about the contract and instructions for requesting a replacement ballot, please visit this link on the BLET National Division website. 

The tentative agreement provides an increase of 13% to the hourly rate of pay while accelerating the progression of Entry Level rates of pay so engineers would receive the 100% rate of pay much sooner. Ballots will be counted on Tuesday, March 7. For more information about the contract and instructions for requesting a replacement ballot, please visit this link on the BLET National Division website. (CP image)
Two-person crew bill advances in Virginia; Rail safety bill gets media attention in Colorado
BLET Virginia State Legislative Board Chairman Tim Craver reports progress on the state’s two-person crew bill. Both bills — SB 143 and HB 385 — have passed their respective chambers after their third reading earlier this month. Both are in the legislature’s “crossover” period now, meaning bills must pass in their respective chambers in order to be considered in the other chamber. Periodic updates will be provided as the Virginia’s General Assembly session unfolds over the next several weeks. Its last day in session is March 9.
BLET Colorado State Legislative Board Chairman Paul Pearson reports the state’s rail safety bill is getting positive media attention as legislators prepare to debate the measure. HB24-1030 would implement a maximum train length of 8,500 feet and require installation of more wayside defect detectors, among other rail safety improvements.
In an opinion column published by the Pueblo Chieftain, Daneya Esgar of the Colorado Board of Pueblo County Commissioners urged legislators to support the bill. Brother Pearson said the BLET endorsed Esgar when she represented Pueblo in the Colorado House of Representatives for eight years, and that she was a co-sponsor of the state’s two-person crew bill, which was signed into law. “Railroad companies are not doing enough to prevent derailments and are actively engaging in profit-driven practices that defy common sense,” Esgar wrote. Her full column is available at the Pueblo Chieftain.
East Palestine disaster may have been last year, but it’s a 2024 story as well. Biden travels to Ohio town today, NTSB to release final report June 25
President Biden is scheduled to visit East Palestine to witness firsthand how the town is recovering from the devastation of last year's derailment. This visit should help keep a spotlight on rail safety. (NTSB image)
As the Weekly Recap goes to press, President Joe Biden is scheduled to visit East Palestine, Ohio, to witness firsthand how the town is recovering from the Norfolk Southern derailment that caused a massive fire and chemical spill on February 3, 2023. The President’s visit will help keep the national spotlight on the issue of rail safety.
Last week, the National Transportation Safety Board announced that it will release its final findings, probable cause, and recommendations regarding the 2023 Southern derailment in a public meeting to be held at East Palestine High School on June 25.
Release of the NTSB’s findings should eliminate an excuse used by some Republican members of Congress for the delay on moving pending rail safety bills. A spokesman for Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.), leader of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, recently told the Washington Post that the Congressman believes “the NTSB should be allowed to finish their investigation and report their findings to Congress before it takes up any legislation…” Graves has been one of the biggest beneficiaries of rail industry contributions in 2024.
African-American inventor known as the “Black Edison” made important contributions to rail safety technology
Granville T. Woods (1865-1910) an African American inventor, held more than 50 patents in his lifetime and was referred to by some as the “Black Edison.” Woods concentrated most of his work on trains and streetcars. One of his most important inventions was the Synchronous Multiplex Railway Telegraph, which allowed for telegraph messages to be sent from train stations to moving trains via ambient static electricity from existing telegraph lines. The ability to give train crews advance notice of potentially dangerous situations on the tracks ahead was a key safety improvement. Woods is sometimes credited with the invention of the air brake and the third rail for trains. While Woods was not the primary inventor of either device, he invented significant improvements to each and received patents on the changes he suggested.
Secretary-Treasurers benefit from additional Zoom sessions
Last week 52 BLET Secretary-Treasurers participated in a two-day online refresher session hosted by the BLET Education & Training Department.
A total of 52 BLET Secretary-Treasurers participated in online refresher sessions hosted by the BLET Education & Training Department last week. The training on February 6 and February 8 helped Secretary-Treasurers prepare their LM-3 or LM-4 reports for the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Labor-Management Standards (OLMS).
The Education & Training Department hosted similar online refresher sessions in December 2023 to help Secretary-Treasurers with year-end reporting requirements. More than 80 BLET Division, General Committee of Adjustment, and State Legislative Board Secretary-Treasurers took part in that training.
“Our Zoom sessions are a convenient tool for our Secretary-Treasurers, and the BLET Education & Training Department will continue to host them as the need arises,” said BLET National Secretary-Treasurer David Estes, who heads the Education & Training Department. “We will also continue to utilize technology in order to supplement our in-person classes with hybrid attendance options moving forward.”
In addition to Brother Estes, National Division staffers taking part in the training included Sister Megan Mead, Director of Records and Compliance, and Walt Schmidt, Director of Online Services.

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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