FRA Administrator Bose talks safety on Day 3 of BLET’s Fifth National Convention

LAS VEGAS, October 13 — “The BLET and the FRA have a shared commitment to make sure rail operations are safe,” said Amit Bose, the Administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) in remarks to the Fifth National Convention of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen Wednesday. With renewal of the Rail Safety Advisory Committee, along with existing safety programs such as FAMES, SOFA and C3RS, “I’m optimistic about the future of rail safety in America,” Bose told delegates.

Major safety initiatives driven by the FRA this year include a fatigue risk management program and a two-person crew rulemaking. He said the FRA extended the comment period for the two-person crew rulemaking, and he encouraged BLET members to file their comments if they have not already done so. He thanked BLET members for their dedication and recognized their efforts and sacrifices to make sure freight gets to where it needs to go.

Amit Bose
Amit Bose – Administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration

“The FRA is making efforts every day to ensure your safety,” Bose said. “Our goal is to keep those who move our nation’s rail freight safe.”

On Wednesday, delegates also conducted the nomination of officers, which will be reported in an upcoming News Flash.

Other guest speakers addressing the BLET convention delegates Wednesday included U.S. Rep. Ruben Gallego of Arizona’s 7th District, Kat Bisbikis, President of the BLET Auxiliary, and Lyndon Isaak, President of Teamsters Canada Rail Conference (TCRC).

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vermont) delivered a fiery speech via video and U. S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Massachusetts) also delivered her remarks to the convention via video.

Last month, Sanders blocked attempts by some senators to impose Presidential Emergency Board recommendations on rail workers. In his remarks Wednesday, Sanders explained why he took the stand he did. He also thanked BLET members for working through the pandemic. He said the reason railroads are making record profits is not because of Wall Street, but due to the hard work of railroaders. “You are the reason for rail profits,” he said.

Kat Bisbikis, National President of the BLET Auxiliary, said her organization was hosting its Fourth National Convention in Las Vegas this week and also celebrating its 135 anniversary. She told BLET delegates that the Auxiliary has become reinvigorated over the past four years in response to attendance policies such as Hi-Viz and other harsh treatments that railroad corporations mete out to their employees.

“Our BLET Auxiliary has found its voice over the last four years, and we have awakened the voice of railroad families across America,” she said. “And we are loud and we fight for our families.”

Kat Bisbikis
Kat Bisbikis – National President of the BLET Auxiliary

She described how the Auxiliary played a key role in Rail Labor protests at the Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting in Omaha earlier this year. “We let the railroads know that we’re not here for a fight — we’re here for war!”

Rep. Gallego’s congressional district, which includes parts of Phoenix, sees high levels of rail traffic. He praised and thanked BLET members for their important work not only in his district but throughout the United States. Echoing Sanders’ remarks, he said, “Working class Americans like you kept America going during the pandemic — not Wall Street investors or hedge fund managers.”

Lyndon Isaak, President of Teamsters Canada Rail Conference (TCRC), brought greetings on behalf of 10,000 railroad Brothers and Sisters in Canada. Like railroaders in America, President Isaak said work/life balance has become a huge issues for Canadian train crews. It is one of the long term battles TCRC has faced over the past four years, in addition to the fight against one-person train crews and the introduction of in-cab video and audio recordings. The investigation into the tragic CP Rail fatality near Field, B.C., which took the lives of three crew members in February of 2019, has been an area of grave concern for TCRC and its members. President Isaak said the TCRC continues to honor the memory of locomotive engineer Andrew Dockrell, conductor Dylan Paradis, and trainee Daniel Waldenberger-Bulmer. “We will continue to fight the good fight,” he said.

The BLET’s Legislative Committee, chaired by Brother Shane Hubbard, BLET Division 343 (Princeton, Ind.), dedicated his Committee’s report to the memory of Shahraim Allen and Tim Price, two dedicated BLET State Legislative Board Chairmen who recently and tragically passed away. He also introduced Committee members D. Wayne Denson, Division 182 (North Little Rock, Ark.), B.J. Trumble, Division 33 (Battle Creek, Mich.), and J.T. Sizemore, Division 423 (Tuscumbia, Ala.). Brother Hubbard also thanked National Division Staff Liaison, Brendan P. Sullivan, Director of Political Affairs for the BLET’s National Legislative Office. Their report was accepted without debate.

Near the end of Day 3 of the BLET’s Fifth National Convention, delegates completed consideration and debate regarding the Bylaws Committee report. Brother Randy Fannon of BLET Division 37 (Norton, Va.) serves as Chairman of the Bylaws Committee.

Approximately 435 delegates are meeting at the Bally’s Convention Center in Las Vegas this week, representing more than 57,000 locomotive engineers and trainmen members on national freight and passenger rail systems across the United States. More information, including news and photo updates, is available on the BLET’s convention website and the National Division’s Facebook page.