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From left: National President Eddie Hall, Rep. Donald Payne Jr., VP & NLR Vince Verna and National S-T David Estes at a BLET Legislative Rep. training class in 2023.

Rep. Donald M. Payne Jr. (D-NJ), a staunch advocate for rail safety who served as Ranking Member of the House Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials, passed away in late April. Rep. Payne faced medical complications due to diabetes and high blood pressure that led to cardiac arrest.

Rep. Rick Larsen (D-WA), who now serves as Ranking Member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, said: “Donald was a fierce friend and advocate for rail workers, supporting their bid for sick leave, higher wages, and improved working conditions. I offer my heartfelt condolences to his wife Beatrice, and their three children, Donald III, Jack, and Yvonne, and to the people of New Jersey that he represented dutifully for over a decade.”

In one of his final acts, Rep. Payne hosted a roundtable discussion to examine safety issues in the railroad industry, where Vice President & National Legislative Representative Vince Verna testified on behalf of BLET and its members. In June 2023, Rep. Payne was a featured speaker at a BLET Education & Training class for Legislative Representatives at Teamster headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Rep. Payne had served in Congress since November 2012, representing New Jersey’s 10th Congressional District, which covers parts of Essex, Hudson and Union counties. Payne succeeded his father, Rep. Donald M. Payne, who also died in office.