BLET billboards highlighting NJT’s spending “millions for penthouse views, but not a dime for train crews” are being placed around the state
This week, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) launched an advertising and voter outreach campaign designed to educate both NJ Transit’s passengers and New Jersey’s voters about the status of contract talks and the transit agency’s decision to appropriate millions of dollars for lavish new executive office space rather than wages for the people who keep the trains moving.“We’re fed up with NJT’s misplaced priorities,” said BLET President Eddie Hall. “NJ Transit is off track. We’re willing to bet that passengers and New Jersey’s taxpayers believe as we do that it’s more important to pay the people who keep the trains moving than for NJT’s higher-ups to have a swanky, unnecessary and expensive new office building.”
The transit agency recently announced that they would spend more than $440 million to lease luxury office space.
NJT’s locomotive engineers have been seeking a new contract since October 2019. The contract dispute has been in mediation with the National Mediation Board, the federal labor agency charged with facilitating labor-management relations for the nation’s railroads, for nearly three years.
The first digital billboards in the union’s advertising campaign appeared this week in Newark near Penn Station. A photo of one of the union’s vinyl billboards can be seen here. During September billboards will be placed at locations near other train stations, as well as near the state capitol in Trenton.
The union, which is affiliated with both the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and the AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department, plans to reach out to labor households across the state with information about NJT’s mismanagement and short-sighted decisions as well as inaction by state elected leaders. “We intend to make this an election issue,” said Hall. “Voters should know if their elected leaders back NJT prioritizing penthouse views over train crews.”
The union also intends to leaflet train platforms. All 120 Assembly and Senate seats will be on the ballot in New Jersey this fall.
“We will keep up the fight and use every lawful tool to reach a contract settlement,” said Hall.
Prior to Labor Day, BLET members at NJ Transit voted unanimously to authorize a strike as soon as it becomes lawful to walk out – if a voluntary settlement isn’t reached.
The union maintains that NJT should have wages closer to engineers’ wages at other commuter railroads. With the exception of one other transit agency, NJT’s engineers are the lowest paid engineers working in commuter service in the nation.
Currently, certified locomotive engineers are in high demand at both freight and passenger railroads and can’t be easily replaced. Shortages of engineers leading to train delays and cancellations in New Jersey are not without precedent. NJT was forced to routinely cancel trains due to shortages of engineers during Gov. Christie’s years in office.