Happy New Year! As we move forward into 2024, let’s examine the biggest achievements of the BLET’s five major departments in 2023: Protective, Legislative, Education & Training, Organizing, and Public Relations. Please enjoy our Year in Review!
PROTECTIVE DEPARTMENT: BLET secured paid sick leave for 19,000 members in 2023
A major focus for the BLET in 2023 was securing paid sick leave agreements and quality of life improvements, building on gains made in the national agreement in 2022. More than 19,000 active members now have paid sick leave for the first time ever.
The BLET also negotiated eight new collective bargaining agreements that were ratified in 2023. These newly approved agreements provide substantial wage increases and contractual improvements for more than 2,000 members. The largest agreement governs locomotive engineers at Amtrak. Additional contracts were ratified in 2023 by members at the Illinois Railway, Union Railroad, CP Rail/Soo Line, Springfield Terminal, South Buffalo Railway, New England Central, and Keolis Rail Services Virginia (VRE).
Lastly, a combined 500 BLET members working for New Jersey Transit and SEPTA voted unanimously to authorize National President Eddie Hall to call a strike.
LEGISLATIVE DEPARTMENT: A major regulatory win, and four states enacted two-person crew bills in 2023
The BLET’s State Legislative Board Chairmen worked tirelessly for their members in 2023 as two-person crew safety laws were enacted in four states in 2023: Ohio, Minnesota, Kansas, and New York. Eleven states now have crew size laws on the book.
The BLET’s National Legislative Office in Washington, D.C., scored a major regulatory win for BLET members in October by blocking Union Pacific’s attempt to move trains across the border into the U.S. at Laredo, Texas without stopping under certain conditions.
EDUCATION & TRAINING DEPARTMENT: Opening the doors to limitless possibilities
Reaching hundreds of members and officers, the BLET’s Education & Training Department conducted the following intensive workshops last year:
- LM-2 Workshop, Las Vegas, February
- Safety Task Force Training, Independence, May
- Legislative Representative Training, Washington, D.C., June
- Division & SLB Secretary-Treasurer Training, Virtual, June
- Secretary-Treasurer Training, Independence, September
- Legislative Representative Training, Washington, D.C., September
- Local Chairman Training, Independence, October
The E&T Department also held one-day training classes at the Regional Meetings in Milwaukee, WI and Myrtle Beach, SC, with record attendance at each location.
Also, more than 80 Secretary-Treasurers participated in last month’s virtual end-of-year refresher workshop.
ORGANIZING DEPARTMENT: Florida Gulf & Atlantic workers join BLET, with more organizing opportunities on tap in 2024
The BLET Organizing Department successfully organized the Florida Gulf and Atlantic Railroad (FG&A) when the National Mediation Board (NMB) certified the ballots in July 2023.
The FG&A has 21 transportation operating craft employees who are now represented by the BLET. They are under the Short Line Department of the BLET and are currently in Division 16, the National Short Line Division. The BLET is currently negotiating the first labor agreement with the FG&A and hopes to complete the process in the first quarter of 2024.
The BLET Organizing Department has been very busy with additional leads and looks forward to bringing more locomotive engineers and conductors to the BLET.
PUBLIC RELATIONS DEPARTMENT: Media outreach, revamped member communications highlight 2023
If you thought 2022 was a big year for media attention on rail issues and BLET being in the news, take a look at 2023. This past year BLET was mentioned in 11,023 news articles with an audience reach of a possible 24 billion according to our media monitoring search tool.
These articles mostly focused on rail safety and issues of importance to BLET members, such as paid sick leave and quality of life improvements. Additional articles quoting BLET leaders focused on the need for two-person train crews, the dangers of remote control trains, the risks of extremely long trains and Precision Scheduled Railroading, the East Palestine derailment, strike authorization votes, and the harassment and intimidation of workers. Many of these articles can be found in the BLET Media Archive on the National Division website.
The BLET Public Relations Department also secured a stronger social media presence on Instagram and X (formerly Twitter) in 2023. The BLET expanded upon its well-established Facebook page by launching a new private Facebook group for BLET members only. In terms of membership communications, the Public Relations Department also began publication of a Weekly Recap, which currently has more than 18,000 subscribers.