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It may be called BLET’s Eastern Regional Meeting, but the union’s gathering in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, this week was packed with 450 members from 177 BLET Divisions who traveled from 39 states. Attendees had an opportunity to learn from the union’s Advisory Board about the latest developments in the industry and issues related to the union during a closed-door members-only session. The meeting concludes today, Thursday, August 17, with educational workshops and specialized training for Local Chairmen, Legislative Representatives, and Secretary-Treasurers. Earlier in the week Jennifer Homendy, Chair of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), delivered a safety-focused speech where she made it clear that rail unions are a key component in creating a safety culture. “Unions like the BLET aren’t just the backbone of America; you are on the front lines of a battle for dignity for working people, for how working men and women deserve to be treated,” Homendy said. “You fight for a culture of safety so that you — so that your brothers and sisters, so that the general public — can go home at night to their loved ones. Your work with the NTSB to improve safety is crucial.” Additional speakers included: Greg Regan, the President of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO; Mike Baldwin, President of the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen; Andrea Wohleber, Senior Advisor with the Federal Railroad Administration; John Bragg, Labor Member of the Railroad Retirement Board; and Kathleen Bisbikis, National President of the BLET Auxiliary National. Regan told the audience that, “In their response to the East Palestine disaster, the railroads are counting on people forgetting.” TTD’s president added that, “It’s up to us to hold the industry accountable and make the rail industry safer. The industry isn’t going to regulate itself and we are the watch dogs.” The President of the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen focused his remarks on the use — and often misuse — of technology in railroading. “There is a constant threat of automation, artificial intelligence or AI, one-man crews, and deregulation as we move forward into a new era of technology,” BRS President Mike Baldwin said. “Like you, we believe that automation and technology can only provide a redundancy, adding a layer of safety and is not meant to replace the value of our members.” Andrea Wohleber, a Senior Advisor at the Federal Railroad Administration, thanked the BLET for its collaboration on rail safety issues, working with FRA to help reduce the severity and frequency of rail accidents. Her presentation touched upon Safety Advisories issued by the FRA regarding train length, train make up, and hot bearing detectors. Wohleber also discussed the FRA’s recent safety culture assessment at NS and the need for the carrier to improve training, trust and communication with its employees. Similar assessments will be released later this year on other Class I carriers. In her remarks, the BLET Auxiliary’s Kat Bisbikis thanked National President Eddie Hall for joining the Auxiliary, becoming the first BLET President to hold membership in the Auxiliary in its 135-year history. She also thanked BLET Vice President Jim Louis, who for the past 20 years has funded the Auxiliary’s Leona A. Louis Memorial Scholarship in honor of his late month. President Hall thanked the following members and staff for their assistance in planning and hosting the meeting: National Vice President Jim Louis, Special Representative Matt Kronyak, IT Director Mike Hager, and Arrangements Committee members Jamie Truesdale, Bly Bishop, Ray Gutierrez, and Greg Lund, along with Brother Chris Hyde who delivered the invocation.