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Train and engine service employees of the Florida Gulf and Atlantic Railroad (FG&A) have voted to join the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET), becoming the newest members of the 160-year-old union. The election was certified on July 12 by the National Mediation Board (NMB), the federal agency responsible for facilitating labor relations within the nation’s railroads and airlines.

In April, roughly 75 percent of the train and engine service employees at the previously non-union FG&A signed authorization cards indicating that they would like to be represented by the BLET. The NMB accepted the cards and scheduled an election where the choice was to designate the BLET as the workers’ representative with the railroad or to remain non-union. Working with its new members, the union will now begin to negotiate a first-ever union contract at the FG&A.

“Railroaders at FG&A wanted union representation so that they can address issues related to safety, working conditions, wages and other compensation with their employer,” said BLET Vice President Randy Fannon, who led the organizing effort. “I’ve spoken to the company’s CEO and let him know that we want the FG&A to be successful. With the railroad successful, our members will be successful.”

The 51,000-member BLET is the nation’s oldest labor union, founded in May of 1863. The union represents locomotive engineers and other railroad workers on all of the nation’s largest railroads (Class I), Amtrak and most commuter railroads, as well as many smaller carriers. In 2004, the BLET affiliated with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

“We recently revamped our organizing department and this win at FG&A is the first of what we hope will be many elections at the nation’s short line railroads,” said BLET National President Eddie Hall. “Across the country, locomotive engineers and train service employees at short lines have seen the gain in wages our members have made in the National Freight Rail Agreement last year and improvements in scheduling this year. They know that we have been a voice for improved safety. They are reaching out and want to join us.”

The Florida Gulf & Atlantic Railroad, operates 430 miles of track, running east/west along the I-10 corridor between Baldwin, Florida., near Jacksonville, to Pensacola with a branch line that runs between Tallahassee and Attapulgus, Georgia.