Teamsters’ Ken Hall highlights Day 2 of BLET’s Fourth National Convention

LAS VEGAS, October 2 — Teamsters General Secretary-Treasurer Ken Hall energized BLET delegates with a motivational speech that was a highlight today of the BLET’s Fourth National Convention. Delegates also enjoyed video messages from U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown and U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren during Day 2 of the four-day convention.

Delegates were also read messages of solidarity from Teamsters Canada Rail Conference (TCRC) President Doug Finnson and three of the fellow rail unions that comprised the Collective Bargaining Group (CBG), the coalition of unions that successfully bargained together during the most recent round of national contract negotiations.

GST Hall talked about the need for solidarity among all unions, the latest round of contract negotiations, and the upcoming November elections.

“Unions have got to get back to the days of old. We have to stand up and fight. Being involved in a union is nothing to be ashamed of,” GST Hall said. “Corporate America has tried to kill public employee unions. They’re on a mission to turn every state into a right-to-work state. We need to get out and vote and take back the House of Representatives.”

During his video presentation, Senator Brown (D-OH) thanked the BLET and Teamsters for fighting to preserve the labor movement.

“The union movement is under attack now like never before,” Senator Brown said. “We have a Supreme Court that always sides with corporations over workers and corporations over consumers. State legislatures often captured by interest groups like oil companies and drug companies, who undermine your ability to bargain collectively. I fight those efforts to support our rail workers. I’m fighting for legislation like the Safe Freight act to protect worker and community safety with two person crews on all freight trains. Obviously we can’t do it by ourselves. This has to be a movement from the ground up. That’s why your work matters. You organize in your communities and remind workers of the critical role that unions play in protecting our middle class. That’s what our labor movement is all about. That’s why BLET fights.”

In September, President Pierce traveled to Vancouver to address members of the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference (TCRC) during their Fourth Quadrennial Convention. As part of his Vancouver address, President Pierce described the BLET’s long history with Canada, which dates back nearly 153 years. The former BLE was founded in 1863, and the first Canadian Division of the union was formed in Toronto on December 5, 1865. When the BLE merged with the Teamsters union in 2004, the administrative structure of the union required the separation of the Canadian members into the TCRC, with the remaining portion of the original BLE becoming the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen in the U.S.

President Doug Finnson sent greetings on behalf of all members of the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference (TCRC).

“I feel you should know that a number of the younger delegates shared with me their complete amazement to know about the history of the Union, and how good that made them feel to be part of such a long standing and historical part of Unionization throughout North America. So, you made a very important impression on those young delegates, which I wanted to share with you. Again, thank you for attending our convention and hope that your convention is successful too,” President Finnson wrote.

During her video presentation, Senator Warren (D-MA) thanked the BLET and Teamsters for standing up for workers, and explained why America needs a strong labor movement.

“Working families are deeply frustrated about an economy and a government that only works great for the rich and the powerful, and it leaves everyone else in the dirt. People are angry... that our political system is awash in dark money and barely legalized campaign bribery. Let’s face it. The playing field is tilted against hard working families and we need to fight back against the powerful interests that keep the game rigged against our families. And that’s why now, more than ever, the United States needs a strong labor movement... Thanks for everything you do. We’re going to be in this fight together,” Senator Warren said.

The BLET was one of six rail labor unions that comprised the Coordinated Bargaining Group during the most recent round of national contract negotiations. Three of those unions sent greetings to BLET delegates: the American Train Dispatchers Association (ATDA); the National Conference of Firemen and Oilers / SEIU (NCFO); and the Transportation Division of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART TD). Collectively, the CBG unions represented more than 85,000 railroad workers who were covered by the various organizations’ national agreements, and comprised over 58% of the workforce that were impacted by the outcome of the most recent round of national bargaining.

ATDA President F. Leo McCann wrote, “Both of our unions play a dominant role in making America''''s freight rail system the best in the world and safely move thousands of passengers each day to their destination. Working together, we have a proven track record in serving our members needs and interests. This was never more evident than the last round of National Bargaining. Our two unions formed a coalition with other unions to forge an agreement on wages and health and welfare that was overwhelmingly ratified by our members. Through your leadership, we accomplished a fair and equitable settlement that preserved the many benefits we have enjoyed by the hard work of those labor leaders before us. And this was accomplished with an anti-union President and Congress! By taking control of our own destiny, we avoided the disaster of a Trump-appointed Presidential Emergency Board.”

NCFO President John R. Thacker wrote, “Our unions have gone through a great deal together over the years as staunch bargaining partners, and this last round was no exception. The great unity in our bargaining coalition helped us dodge a bullet in winning an excellent contract, especially given the times. Had the railroads insisted on going to a Trump-appointed Presidential Emergency Board, God only knows what would have happened to the many gains we have made together over the years.”

SMART TD President John Previsich wrote, “I will take this opportunity to express my deep satisfaction with the cooperation between our unions during the last round of national negotiations. For the first time in history, our unions stood together in solidarity, withstanding unreasonable demands and an unfavorable political climate to secure an excellent agreement that received the overwhelming approval of our members. Your efforts, along with those of the other unions in our bargaining group, were instrumental in that success. I firmly believe that by standing together through challenging times our group advanced the cause of solidarity while providing a very positive outcome for our respective memberships. I look forward to our ongoing collaboration and continuing solidarity to further improve the wages, benefits and working conditions of our members.”

Throughout the remainder of the session, delegates debated and considered the resolutions and recommendations of the BLET Bylaws Committee.

Additional news updates, photos and videos will be made available on the BLET convention website and the National Division Facebook page.