‘United, Moving Forward:’ President Pierce addresses BLET delegates at Fourth National Convention

LAS VEGAS, October 1 - BLET National President Dennis R. Pierce delivered the Report of the National President today to conclude the morning session of the BLET's Fourth National Convention. With the theme of "United, Moving Forward," President Pierce's report focused on to two general areas: the major accomplishments of the Brotherhood over the past four years since the Third National Convention concluded in 2014; and what challenges lie ahead for the organization.

President Pierce told the delegates: "This week you are the National Division, and this week you will set the course for our great Brotherhood as we enter a time that is more perilous than any of us have seen or can imagine in our lifetimes."

During that past four years, the National Division negotiated a new national contract, which protected work rules, preserved health and welfare benefits, and provided real wage increases. The National Division also assisted its General Committees of Adjustment with more than a dozen on-property agreements that have been ratified, including: Amtrak, Norfolk Southern, CSX, Long Island Rail Road, SEPTA, New Jersey Transit, and several other short line railroads.

President Pierce also touched upon the BLET's legislative agenda, describing how the union has worked to fix problems associated with the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and has lobbied for a national two-person crew bill. "Our National Legislative Office continues to be the best in the business, and they do a great job given the current climate in Washington," he said.

President Pierce also discussed legislative victories on the state level, including passage of a two-person crew bill in California, a new train crew transportation safety law in Washington state, and victories in overturning harmful "right-to-work" laws in Missouri. He also acknowledged the chartering of the Maryland State Legislative Board.

In terms of two-person train crews, the BLET secured a major legal victory in 2015 when the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that our 2013 strike at the Wheeling & Lake Erie involved a major dispute, and then convincing the Supreme Court not to disturb that ruling. The struggle continues, however, as our W&LE Brothers and Sisters continue to oppose management on the issue of one-person train crews. President Pierce also discussed the Brotherhood's current legal battle to stop the Kansas City Southern from allowing Mexican train crews to take the jobs of American workers in Laredo, Texas.

President Pierce also emphasized the many benefits BLET members enjoy by belonging to a union. Those benefits include: strong Railroad Retirement and an occupational disability pension; health care benefits; paid time off; high wages; seniority rights; the right to representation and an appeal process when facing discipline; and a whole range of work rules to protect locomotive engineers and trainmen while on the job.

"These advantages ... are not enjoyed by the 93.5 percent of private sector workers not represented by a union," he said. "And all of these are the things Corporate America and the one percent want to take back from BLET members and all union workers, so they can stick that money in their own pockets."

Looking ahead, the BLET and all of organized labor is facing unprecedented challenges as Corporate America has chipped away at worker-friendly laws over the past 40 years, culminating in the Supreme Court's Janus decision this summer.

"The Janus ruling is intended to drive unions into bankruptcy by forcing them to expend resources on people who pay nothing for their representation," he said.

Emphasizing that "elections have consequences," President Pierce advised BLET members to vote for union-friendly candidates in the upcoming November elections.

"Mark my words . unless average Americans rise up en masse to take back their federal government this fall - in order to protect and preserve their economic security - we will face some very difficult choices in the coming years. But I do have to share that we won't be in a situation that is completely foreign to our Brotherhood," he said.

In spite of these challenges, President Pierce concluded his presentation on an optimistic note.

"This Brotherhood didn't survive for 155 years by conducting itself like a bank, or an insurance company, or any other type of service business," he said. "The BLE survived - and thrived - because of its core ethic, which dates back to 1863 . each member has a personal obligation to be informed, and the responsibility to act in concert with other members. In other words, we must be UNITED, MOVING FORWARD!

President Pierce received a standing ovation following his presentation.

As the convention unfolds, regular news updates, photographs and videos will be provided at the BLET's convention website (http://www.bletconvention.org) and Facebook page (http://www.Facebook.com/BLETNational).