BLE-T Division 622

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BLET Weekly News Recap, 3-15-24
Mar 15, 2024

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


March 15, 2024

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Tell your Senator to reinstate full railroad unemployment and sickness benefits
BLET members have sent more than 2,500 messages in support of the bipartisan REEF Act (S. 1274) to members of the United States Senate since the bill was passed by the Senate Budget Committee on March 6.
The Railroad Employee Equity and Fairness Act, or the REEF Act, would restore full Railroad Unemployment Insurance Act (RUIA) benefits to railroad workers by removing the harmful sequester that was implemented in 2013. Congress wrongfully has taken money from Railroad Retirement since 2013, following passage of the Budget Control Act (BCS), which triggered automatic spending cuts. The problem is that Railroad Retirement is fully funded by taxes on railroad workers and railroad employers, so cuts to benefits does nothing to reduce federal spending. The REEF Act rights this wrong.
Add your name to the growing list of BLET members who are urging the Senate to act by using the Take Action legislative outreach tool on the National Division website. A pre-written statement can be sent to your Senators in support of the REEF Act (S. 1274), or you can take the time to craft your own personalized story.

Please click here to make your voice heard!
Autonomous rail technology “not ready for prime time,” Verna says
Actual photos of autonomous rail equipment differ significantly from the computer-generated imagery widely distributed by manufacturers. (BLET photo taken during 2022 demonstration in Culver City, Calif.)
BLET National Vice President Vince Verna reiterated the BLET’s support for new technology that makes the rail industry safer, but urged caution against the introduction of autonomous train technology that is “not ready for prime time.”
Brother Verna testified on March 12 at a Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) hearing to consider numerous safety waivers requested by two Genesee & Wyoming short lines in Georgia that wish to test autonomous, self-propelled battery-powered freight cars from a tech manufacturer called Parallel Systems.
“We believe that technology should be used to improve the safety and experience of people on the job, not to reduce employees solely in the pursuit of profit margins… We are pleased that Parallel Systems has included a place for certified locomotive engineers in the operation of its proposed automated rail car technology… However, the BLET has many critical safety concerns with the program that was submitted to the FRA. This technology is new but is similar to remote control operations in practice. We are concerned that Parallel Systems is trying to roll out this technology before it is developed enough for ‘prime time.’”
Brother Verna objected to the wholesale waiving of certain parts of the Code of Federal Regulations. He also urged the FRA to avoid repeating the same mistakes made years ago when FRA allowed the introduction of remote control switching operations.
“This submission is asking FRA to waive a great number of regulations in one fell swoop. FRA should not revisit its mistakes of the past that are haunting our present with remote control technology. Before remote control equipment was introduced, no person had ever run themselves over by their own train or cut of cars,” Verna says.
Some of BLET’s concerns with the current autonomous technology include: stopping distance; interaction with track employees, trespassers, or other equipment on the track; and the batteries used to power the autonomous units. Verna said: “If any derailment of these cars were to occur, the presence of the batteries would necessitate a hazardous materials response regardless of the goods being carried.”
Verna concluded: “From our attendance at multiple demonstrations of the automated cars, the technology is just not developed enough yet to meet a basic level of safety that is needed to be used outside of dedicated, unconnected testing facilities. As the technology improves, we will re-evaluate our position. I would like to reiterate that the BLET supports technology and innovation that makes our members safer.”
Complete audio of his testimony can be found here on the National Division website.
BLET seeks to overturn governor’s veto of two-person crew bill
Virginia Governor Glenn Younkin vetoed a two-person crew bill on March 8, but the fight isn’t over yet. BLET Virginia State Legislative Board Chairman Tim Craver said supporters of the measure are seeking to enlist enough members of both chambers to overturn the veto. A two-thirds majority is required to overcome the veto, allowing the bill to become law without the governor’s signature. In February, SB 143 was approved by the Senate and  HB 385 was approved by the House.
Rail unions hold major rally to urge passage of Railway Safety Act
A fellow Rail Conference member from the BMWED (wearing red) joined BLET members (from left to right) Ulises Flotte, Div. 20, Ryan Snow, BLET California State Legislative Board Chairman, Jerry Padilla, Div. 660, and Jacob Klatt, BLET Div. 126, at the rally in Los Angeles. 
In February, members of the BLET joined multiple rail labor crafts in Los Angeles for a rally to support the Rail Safety Act, the bipartisan bill in the U.S. Senate intended to boost industry safeguards in the aftermath of the 2023 toxic train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio. The act is a significant step towards improving safety measures within the railway industry, reflecting the collaborative efforts of different labor groups and lawmakers.
However, the bill has languished in Congress due to heavy opposition from rail industry lobbyists. The rally called upon Senators to take immediate action to protect rail workers and communities from the ongoing scourge of rail accidents.  
Ryan Snow, Chairman of the California State Legislative Board, spoke at the rally on behalf of the BLET. Also in attendance were: Ulises Flotte, Legislative Rep. of Division 20 (Los Angeles, Calif.); Jacob Klatt, Legislative Rep. of Division 126 (Bakersfield, Calif.); Jerry Padilla Jr., Legislative Rep. of Division 660 (Los Angeles, Calif.); and Carlos Maravilla, member of Division 214 (Long Beach, Calif.).
“It is time for us to take decisive action to prioritize safety over profit and to ensure that the tragic events that have spurred this legislation are never repeated,” Brother Snow said. “We should not and cannot wait for the big derailment that is destined to occur to destroy a community in California.”
The rally was organized by the International Association of Machinists (IAM) District 19, the IAM’s Rail Division.
Click here for a video of all speakers from the rally (Brother Snow is introduced around the 42:40 mark).
Click here for a photo gallery.
Ray Vigil reelected State Legislative Board Chairman
New Jersey State Legislative Board’s quadrennial meeting was held on March 12, 2024. Ray Vigil, front row, 2nd from left, was reelected Chairman. Congratulations to Brother Vigil and all who were elected at the meeting.
Brother Ray Vigil was reelected Chairman at the New Jersey State Legislative Board’s quadrennial meeting on March 12, 2024. A Norfolk Southern locomotive engineer, Brother Vigil is a member of BLET Division 226 (Newark, N.J.). He was elected 1st Vice Chairman in 2020, and was elevated to the Chairman’s office in 2022.
Also reelected by acclamation were: 1st Vice Chairman Mel Caban, Division 272 (Dover, N.J.); 2nd Vice Chairman James Deluca, Division 171 (Hoboken, N.J.); Secretary-Treasurer Andrew Arias, Division 157 (Jersey City, N.J.); and Alternate Secretary-Treasurer Kevin Gabriel, Division 601 (Newark, N.J.). Elected to serve as Trustees were: Kevin Gabriel, Division 601 (Newark, N.J.); Mel Caban, Division 272 (Dover, N.J.); and Leroy Hurley, Division 387 (Camden, N.J.) Elected to serve as Alternate Trustees were: James Deluca, Division 171 (Hoboken, N.J.); James Wilson, Division 373 (Trenton, N.J.); and John Dawes, Division 53 (Jersey City, N.J.).
The New Jersey State Legislative Board represents 11 BLET Local Divisions and more than 1,400 active and retired members from various freight and commuter railroads.
Chairman Vigil with speakers during the New Jersey SLB meeting: left, VP & NLR Vince Verna; center, National S-T David Estes; and right, SLB S-T Andrew Arias
Eliza Murfey invented early train axle lubrication technology
Eliza Murfey was an 1800s American inventor who focused on the mechanics of railroads. She created a device, called packing, that was used to lubricate a train’s axles with oil. This helped to reduce derailments caused by seized axles, an important safety innovation. Murfey held 16 patents for her 1870 invention. She is one of the early women railroad pioneers featured in the 2021 book by Chris Enss titled, “Iron Women: The Ladies Who Helped Build the Railroad.”
Proud to Be Union!

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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