Delegates wrap up October 1 afternoon session at BLET Fourth National Convention

LAS VEGAS, October 1 — The Fourth National Convention of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) continued here this afternoon with more inspiring speeches and reports by the various standing committees.

The slate of afternoon speakers included: Teamsters International Vice President and Rail Conference Director John F. Murphy; BLET National Secretary-Treasurer (NST) Stephen J. Bruno; and Railroad Retirement Board Labor Member Walt Barrows.

John Murphy has been an Eastern Region Vice President for the Teamsters since 1998. He spearheaded merger negotiations with the BLE in the early 2000s and now serves as Director of the Teamsters Rail Conference. Vice President Murphy said the upcoming November election will have a major impact on the future of collective bargaining for all workers, not just those in unions. He said having worker-friendly politicians in office will help the BLET in the ongoing fight to preserve two-person train crews and to oppose autonomous trains.

Failure to elect worker-friendly politicians in the November election also could result in threats to the Rail Safety Improvement Act, whistleblower laws that protect railroad workers, and the Railroad Retirement system.

“We have to push back as hard as we can. When it becomes time to vote — we have to vote,” Vice President Murphy said. “As your President said, elections have consequences.”

Mike Collier, Director of the BLET National Division’s Accounting Department, gave a brief presentation regarding delegate payment procedures.

NST Steve Bruno was elected by acclamation to the office of National Vice President in 2010, and was elected by acclamation to the BLET’s top financial post in 2014. He is a member of Division 71 in Philadelphia and is a locomotive engineer for SEPTA.

NST Bruno discussed the National Division’s implementation of a new membership database and modernization of its accounting software and procedures. He also spoke about BLET membership levels and finances over the past four years. NST Bruno also serves as National Chairman of the BLET Safety Task Force. He said the Safety Task Force has assisted the NTSB in 26 accident investigations since the last BLET National Convention in 2014, and that those accidents resulted in 31 fatalities and 568 injuries — many of which could have been prevented had Positive Train Control been installed.

Walt Barrows has served as Labor Member of the U.S. Railroad Retirement Board since 2011. Prior to that, he served as Secretary-Treasurer of the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen from 1999-2011. Barrows discussed the history of the Railroad Retirement system, which was established over the strong objections of the railroad industry.

“Railroad Retirement benefits are among the best, if not the best, in America,” Barrows said. “But they did not always exist and they were not given to us. We had to fight for them. The history of Railroad Retirement and organized labor is one of struggle. We had a hard fight to earn and keep our Railroad Retirement benefits. Don’t ever let anyone ever deny that you have earned every penny of your Railroad Retirement.”

While Railroad Retirement is positioned for a strong future, Barrows said there are several current and future challenges that must be met in order to protect and preserve our benefits.

Delegates also heard reports from the BLET’s Work Committee and the Bylaws Committee to round out the afternoon session.

Brother M.B. Kenny, BLET Division 11 (New York, N.Y.) and Chairman of the Work Committee, gave the report and recommendations of his committee. He also introduced committee members T.L. Bryant, Division 532 (Richmond, Va.), D.L. Marlow, Division 179 (Parsons, Kan.), D.T. Hill, Division 71 (Philadelphia, Pa.), and J.W. Reynolds, Division 209 (Green Bay, Wisc.). Their report was accepted without debate.

Brother L.R. Fannon Jr., Division 37 (Norton, Va.) and Chairman of the Bylaws Committee, began the process of giving his Committee’s Report and Recommendations on changes to the BLET Bylaws. Their reporting will continue tomorrow and will take several days to complete. Brother Fannon began by introducing the members of his committee: B.P. Carr, Division 692 (Tracy, Calif.); G.D. Best, Division 498 (Abbeville, S.C.); and K.J. Sexton, Division 269 (Long Island, N.Y.). He also recognized Brother John F. Fink, the BLET National Division Director of Bylaws Administration, for serving as Liaison to the Bylaws Committee, and thanked Denise Doody, the BLET National Division Arbitration Department Manager, for her hard work and assistance to the Committee.

The BLET’s Fourth National Convention will resume Tuesday morning, October 2, at 9:00 a.m.

Please monitor the BLET’s convention website and the National Division’s Facebook page for additional news, photo and video updates.