LAS VEGAS, October 19 — Delegates on October 13 heard farewell addresses from retiring National Division officers Lee Pruitt and Mike Priester as the Fifth National Convention of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) came to a close.
President Pierce recognized three additional members of the Advisory Board who were not in attendance but will also retire effective December 31, 2022: National Secretary-Treasurer Steve Bruno; National Vice President Marcus Ruef; and National Vice President Mike Twombly.
Brother Pruitt has served the BLET as First Vice President for the past 12 years, and he is a 50-year member of the Organization. Brother Pruitt began his railroad career in 1968 with the Southern Pacific Railroad in Bakersfield, Calif., and earned promotion to locomotive engineer in 1972 — the same year he joined BLET Division 126 (Bakersfield, Calif.). In 1979, he was elected Local Chairman of his Division. In 1990, he was elected General Chairman of the Southern Pacific-Western Lines GCA, and was elected National Vice President in 2001. In 2010, he was elected First Vice President, and was reelected by acclamation in 2014 and 2018.
In his remarks, Brother Pruitt thanked President Pierce and all the officers and delegates in attendance for their kind words throughout the week. He also thanked his wife and daughter for their love and support.
“This is really not a goodbye, by any means, but a passing of the baton onto a younger, stronger generation,” Brother Pruitt said. “I wish them the best.”
Like Brother Pruitt, Brother Mike Priester also has 50 consecutive years of BLET membership. His railroad career began when he hired out as a fireman for the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad on June 6, 1968, out of Terre Haute, Ind. He joined BLET Division 751 on February 1, 1972. In 1979, he was elected Local Chairman of his Division, an office he held for 20 years. In 1999, he was elected General Chairman of the CP Rail/U.S. GCA. In 2010, he was elected National Vice President, winning reelection in 2014 and 2018.
Brother Priester reflected on the many changes he has seen throughout his 54 years of railroading: the elimination of jobs such as fireman, flagman, and head brakeman; and the addition of Trainmen to the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers. Brother Priester also suffered tragic personal losses. “Instead of getting bitter and angry, I dedicated myself to make tomorrow a better day for my family and the Brotherhood.”
He thanked his wife and daughter, and said he plans to babysit his 4-year-old triplet grandchildren on New Year’s Day 2023 — his first official day of retirement.
“Thank you for being a passenger on my train,” Brother Priester said. “The train of life.”
To round out the final day of activities, delegates watched a joint video by National President Pierce and SMART-TD President Jeremy Ferguson regarding the tentative national agreement. Delegates also enjoyed a video from United States Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut.
President Pierce thanked the National Division staff for their professionalism and personal sacrifice in putting on the Fifth National Convention. In his closing remarks, President Pierce also thanked the Delegates and members in attendance for being involved in their Union.
His final remarks to the delegates were as follows: “Brothers and Sisters, may you all have a safe trip home. Here’s the thing you can take back to your members: We are strong. We are solid. We are united. Thank you for your service to the greatest Brotherhood in the United States of America, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen.”
A collection of News Flashes and photographs from the Fifth National Convention can be found here: https://bletconvention.org .