Article 262 of 6821 articles posted under "Denied Claims"


Name: HR 1748 safe freight act 
Employed as: Conductor, for 10-20 years
Posted: 14 February 2020

February 14 — As we begin 2020, the month of January gives us a chance
to look back at the year gone by and to set our sights on the year

In January 2019, members of our current BLET Advisory Board pledged
their oath of office and were sworn in. These fine Brothers are all a
part of a strong and united Advisory Board, and I am confident that
they will represent our membership to the best of their ability.

I am also proud to reflect on a major milestone achieved by our
Education and Training Department in 2019. As usual, we hosted numerous
training classes for Local Chairmen, Secretary-Treasurers and
Legislative Representatives — both at our Training Center at National
Headquarters in Cleveland and also on the road in Washington, D.C., and
other locations. What made 2019 so special was the launch of our
highly-anticipated online officer video training program, which made
its debut on February 6, 2019. This was an important step in providing
better educational opportunities for our members, especially those
willing to become officers. And, while the online classes will not
replace the actual classroom training courses that we offer, they will
serve as an enhancement by giving our newly elected officers in the
field the opportunity to get started on the right foot. In 2019, we
were able to continue and expand upon our long-standing tradition of
providing the best education and training opportunities anywhere in
organized labor, with the goal of having the best trained and educated
union membership in the United States.

In 2019, BLET also teamed up again with our Brothers and Sisters in the
SMART Transportation Division to lobby for crew size bills at the
federal and state levels. These bills would require that two certified
crew members operate freight trains in the U.S. In the U.S. House of
Representatives, the Safe Freight Act (H.R. 1748) was introduced in
late March, while in the U.S. Senate, a companion bill was introduced
in June. The BLET has led the fight for railroad safety since 1863, and
two-person crews make for safer, more efficient train operations. We
will continue to publicly push for legislation requiring two-person
crews in 2020, because we need the general public to know that
two-person crews play a key role in safeguarding our nation’s

At the state level, we enjoyed success with two-person crew bills
passing in Nevada, Colorado and Illinois. I’m proud to offer my thanks
to Nevada State Legislative Board Chairman (SLBC) Matt Parker, Colorado
SLBC Paul Pearson, and Illinois SLBC Paul Piekarski. We came close in a
number of other states, and the work will continue in 2020. We will
continue to encourage other state governments to follow the examples
set by these three states.

Unfortunately, the news was not all good in 2019. In May, the Federal
Railroad Administration reduced the prospects for a safer railroad
industry by withdrawing a 2016 notice of proposed rulemaking that would
have established a minimum train crew size for most rail freight
operations in the United States. This was not surprising, as we all
know the Administrator of the FRA is the former CEO of Conrail. But it
was shocking that FRA would denigrate the reliability of a vast factual
record supporting two-person crews and would give short shrift to the
lessons of the 2013 Lac-Megantic tragedy and the oil train derailment
in Casselton, North Dakota (and subsequent explosion and fire) in the
crew size debate. As part of its withdrawal of the proposed rule, FRA
also declared its intention to negatively preempt all state laws
governing crew size. This combined effort by FRA was obviously a key
part of the Carriers’ effort to prevent any form of regulation or
legislation that mandates a minimum crew size. 

You can rest assured that BLET did not allow this act by FRA to go
unchallenged. In fact, in July, BLET and SMART-TD jointly filed a
petition for review in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit,
challenging FRA’s authority to preempt State laws when there is no
Federal law. The States of California, Washington, and Nevada filed
their own petitions, joining in the challenge to the FRA action. Rest
assured that BLET and SMART-TD will continue to work together to fight
all of the actions by the current administration to undermine the
safety of two-person crews.

In fact, on the heels of the FRA announcement, the Indiana Rail Road,
the Association of American Railroads, and the American Short Line and
Regional Railroad Association (the Carriers’ own lobbying groups) filed
suit in Illinois attempting to overturn that State’s crew size law,
relying on FRA’s attempt at negative preemption. BLET and SMART-TD once
again joined forces to defend the Illinois law, and as this message goes
to print, the Illinois State AFL-CIO has joined us in this fight. 

I share this information to make it clear to BLET’s membership that our
proud Union stands with our Brothers and Sisters in SMART’s
Transportation Division in the fight to preserve two-person crews. Be
it on the regulatory front, the legislative front, in court or at the
bargaining table, BLET is working with SMART-TD to protect the
interests of all operating employees.

This does not mean that there will not be those who will try to divide
our two Unions. In fact, in recent weeks, certain Carriers have
misrepresented conversations with one of our two Unions in an effort to
provoke a dispute between us. All things considered, acts like this by
Rail Carriers should not surprise us; they have used divide-and-conquer
tactics between us for decades. I must honestly say that now is not the
time for the members and officers of either Union to take the so-called
bait being thrown out by the Carriers. Their actions, whether it be
through FRA, or through their attempts in court to undo Crew Consist
moratoriums, should make it clear that they will stop at nothing in
their quest to reduce crew size. 

The bottom line is this: in order to preserve two-person crews, each
Union must protect and preserve its member of those crews. With only a
few exceptions, BLET cannot bargain nationally for Conductors. The same
is true in reverse; with only a few exceptions, SMART-TD cannot bargain
nationally for Engineers. For these reasons, and regardless of the
fearmongering going on, BLET cannot “sell” Conductor positions to
benefit Engineers in national negotiations, and the same in true in
reverse for SMART-TD. Again, each Union must protect its half of our
two-person crews for all operating employees to prevail.

The “crack in the armor” of this process that Carriers rely on is the
fact that neither Union has agreement language in place that allows its
members to refuse to go if a crew member represented by another Union is
somehow eliminated. Engineers on BNSF found that out many years ago when
UTU lost its single ground position on Helper service; they were
required to work alone without a ground crew. UTU Switchmen found that
out when Engineers were removed from yard service as part of RCO
implementation; they were required to work without an engine crew.
Bringing it full circle to today’s dispute, neither of these facts
means that any operating crew member wants to work alone in freight

Our challenge now is to ensure that all operating employees understand
exactly what the ground rules are as we move forward. Once they do, I
am certain that they will agree with me that our two Unions are far
better off working together than we are being divided. 

To that end, the National Division took formal steps to initiate the
next round of national contract negotiations late in 2019. The BLET
served Section 6 notices in November 2019 and will begin negotiations
in early 2020. On November 1, I joined nine other Rail Chiefs in
announcing that our unions would be bargaining together as the
Coordinated Bargaining Coalition (CBC). Jointly, our 10 unions
represent more than 105,000 railroad workers covered by our various
national agreements, and we comprise over 80 percent of the workforce
who will be impacted by this round of negotiations.

Our Coalition is founded on two key values that we all share. One is
that we understand the importance of each Union’s autonomy to pursue
membership-specific goals within a framework of broad solidarity to
defend and improve the wages, benefits and working conditions of our
members. The other is that we will spare no effort to defeat the attack
by the railroads on the very foundation of our members’ economic

Looking ahead, our Brotherhood will have a full plate in 2020 with much
of our collective effort focused on national contract negotiations. Our
economic issues and safety issues are common issues to all BLET members
— regardless of political affiliation — and our fight to protect those
interests form the foundation of our Brotherhood. As Union members, we
have much more in common than we often realize, and our goal moving
forward is to further unite our Brotherhood to make for an even
stronger Union. Please join me as we move ahead together in the New

don't click here