FRA Certification Helpline: (216) 694-0240

Division 11 Member Mark B. Kenny retired on December 31, 2023, bringing an end to more than a quarter century as Chairman of the Amtrak/KCS/VRE/Caltrain General Committee of Adjustment. Brother Kenny was elected to seven consecutive terms as General Chairman (1998, 2001, 2005, 2009, 2013, 2017 and 2021), all by acclamation. He negotiated dozens of collective bargaining agreements with, and represented members in several hundred arbitration cases against, the railroads where the General Committee held representation rights. Prior to becoming General Chairman, Kenny served as Alternate General Chairman and, for multiple terms, as Eastern Region Chairman.

Brother Kenny was hired as a Locomotive Fireman by the Consolidated Rail Corporation (Conrail) on February 27, 1977. He was promoted to Locomotive engineer in August of 1979, and became a BLE member on March 1, 1981, when he joined Division 501 (now Division 11) in New York City. When passenger and commuter service was spun off Conrail in 1983 Kenny went to work for SEPTA, before returning to Conrail in 1984 and later flowed to Amtrak in 1985.

In the early morning hours of January 29, 1988, Brother Kenny’s life was forever changed. While passing through Chester, Pennsylvania, Amtrak Train 66, which Kenny was operating, was mistakenly routed into an out-of-service track. Running at 87 mph on a clear signal, he realized that a piece of track equipment was in his path 900 feet ahead, and immediately put the train into emergency. That piece of track equipment was a 17-ton non-shunting ballast regulator.

The ballast regulator raised up at impact and struck both sides of the windshield of the lead locomotive. As the train continued to move forward, it carried the ballast regulator on its front end until the ballast regulator struck a bridge girder and derailed the train. Train 66 then passed through several bridges and the lead locomotive unit turned 180° and fell over an embankment. Brother Kenny suffered serious injuries when he was ejected through the open windshield of the lead locomotive and came to rest approximately 25 feet in front of it at the bottom of the embankment.

But out of that near tragedy an aggressive union representative and a staunch safety advocate emerged. Brother Kenny ran for, and was elected, Local Chairman for Division 11 in 1988, and held that office until he became General Chairman a decade later. He also served as the Division’s Delegate to the BLE’s International Division and the BLET’s National Division for nearly 20 years.

While attending Brotherhood Conventions in 1996, 2001, 2006, 2010, 2014, and 2018, Brother Kenny was tapped four times for Standing Committee assignments. He was a Member of the Bylaws Committee at the 2006 BLET Convention and was appointed Chairman of the Committee for the 2010 Convention. Unfortunately, a back injury in the run-up to that Convention made his attendance impossible, forcing him to turn the Chair over to Brother J. L. Dayton. However, Kenny subsequently served as Chairman of the Work Committee for the 2014 and the 2018 Conventions.

Because of his talent and abilities, Brother Kenny was held in the highest esteem by his peers and top Brotherhood leadership spanning several administrations. In 2002, then-BLE International President Don Hahs appointed Kenny to the Constitution & Bylaws Committee for the BLE/IBT Merger. He was elected Vice Chairman of the BLET’s Eastern General Chairmen’s Association in 2006 and ascended to Chairman in 2009. Brother Kenny held that office until 2021, when he became the Founding Chairman of National General Chairmen’s Association, a position he held until his retirement. Kenny also several elected positions in the Eastern Union Meeting Association and was its final Chairman from 1998 to 2015.

Commenting on his career, Brother Kenny said, “That wreck opened my eyes, and made me realize that the Brotherhood’s ability to protect my family’s economic security required a lot more from me than just the payment of dues. I have witnessed and participated in hundreds and hundreds of situations where Brothers and Sisters banding together have improved outcomes. I have been very fortunate to be surrounded by sharp and dedicated members and officers at every level of the Organization, each of whom supported me whenever I asked. There is also my small band of brothers who have been with me through the good and bad times and whose treasured friendships will endure for my lifetime. And it is most satisfying that my final fight produced the richest contract governing Amtrak working conditions in my entire railroad career.”

As for his plans in retirement, Brother Mark said, “I have been blessed with a wonderful wife, two terrific daughters, and the best 8 grandkids in the world. I look forward to providing them my undivided time and attention.” Tragically, Brother Kenny’s son Daniel passed away in 2019 at the age of 39.

BLET National Secretary-Treasurer David Estes, who served as the Amtrak GCA Vice General Chairman from 2014 to 2022 and Secretary-Treasurer from 2007 to 2022, said of Brother Kenny’s career, “My good friend and Brother Mark is, and always will be, the epitome of a great General Chairman. His intellect, tenacity, and unwavering commitment for the betterment of BLET members provided decades of union leadership that will likely never be matched. My deepest and sincere congratulations on a well-deserved retirement.”