The BLET exists to promote and protect the rights, interests, and safety of its members through solidarity, aggressive representation, and education.


May 3, 2024

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Pennsylvania Rep. Scott Perry turns his back on railroad workers, co-sponsors legislation to nullify new two-person crew regulation

Pennsylvania’s 10th Congressional District has been rated as one of the most competitive in the nation during this election year, but the incumbent seeking reelection, U.S. Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.), must not care about the votes of union railroaders. Perry, along with Rep. Eric Burlison (R-Mo.), is co-sponsoring legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives to “nullify” the Federal Railroad Administration’s recent safety mandate that requires a minimum of two-person train crews.
The 10th District is a railroad hub, home to major railroad towns such as Harrisburg and York, as well as Norfolk Southern’s massive Enola Yard in East Pennsboro Township. Perry’s constituents include an especially large number of railroad workers. BLET Local Division 74 in Harrisburg-Enola is the largest in Pennsylvania.
“Our members will remember Rep. Perry’s sell-out in November,” said BLET Pennsylvania State Legislative Board Chairman Tim Laveing. “Long trains are causing an epidemic of blocked railroad crossings for residents throughout Pennsylvania’s 10th District. Two-person train crews work in tandem to cut trains apart to open up crossings for emergency responders, or if trains will be stopped for long periods of time. Reducing train crews to a single locomotive engineer will only exacerbate the blocked crossing problem.”
Apparently if the railroad companies don’t succeed at blocking safety rules the first time their philosophy must be to try, try and try again. The FRA’s two-person crew regulation was announced on April 2 over opposition from the Association of American Railroads, the Class I railroads, and short lines. Following the announcement, the new rule has already come under attack twice. On April 11, the rail industry filed legal challenges in federal court to throw out the new rule. Then on April 19, Rep. Perry co-sponsored legislation on behalf of rail industry lobbyists seeking to nullify the safety regulation.

Calling all Colorado and Minnesota members to Take Action!
BLET members in Colorado and Minnesota are urged to get involved and help advance rail safety legislation in their respective states.
In Colorado, members should immediately contact their State Senators to request their support of railroad safety bill HB24-1030. The bill would create an Office of Rail Safety at the state level and would also address first responder training and wayside detector implementation, along with other key issues. Colorado members can use the Take Action legislative outreach tool on the BLET National Division website to make your voices heard:
In Minnesota, members should immediately contact their State Senators to request their support of the railroad safety provisions in SF 5284, Sections. 95, 96, 97 and 98. Class I railroads are struggling with numerous safety and service issues, and the Minnesota rail safety bill seeks to address those issues. Minnesota members can Take Action here:
Union membership is not a spectator sport. Thank you for taking part in these important legislative efforts.
BLET Divisions unanimously vote yes on new quality of life agreement
Nine Canadian National/Wisconsin Central (CN/WC) divisions that comprise the GCA voted unanimously April 24 that in favor of a new quality of life agreement that covers roughly 600 locomotive engineers. 
General Chairman Eric Hau said the goal was “to attract, retain, and offer a better overall quality of life to CN/WC locomotive engineers.” Now that the quality of life agreement has been ratified, the union will begin working with CN to make sure that there is a smooth rollout of the changes, Hau said.
Some highlights of the new agreement include:
  • Improvements to the traditional seniority system;
  • Engineers will no longer be forced to locations more than 100 miles away to protect their engineer seniority;
  • All extra board positions will become a standard 5 days on and 2 days off, with a 9.2 basic day biweekly guarantee, bid by seniority; and
  • Increased pay for extra board engineers to time and one half (over and above guarantee payments) for working on their rest days.
Locomotive photo courtesy of Cory Rusch, BLET Division 659
Scott Bunten reelected NS Eastern Lines General Chairman
Brother Scott Bunten (fourth from right) with members, both in-person and virtual, of the NS Eastern Lines GCA at their quadrennial meeting in late April.
General Chairman Scott R. Bunten was reelected at the quadrennial meeting of the NS Eastern Lines General Committee of Adjustment, which was held in hybrid format in Roanoke, Virginia, on April 29, 2024. Brother Bunten began serving as General Chairman on January 1, 2023, following the election of L. Randy Fannon to the office of National Vice President.
The NS Eastern Lines General Committee of Adjustment represents more than 750 active and retired members from 12 different BLET Divisions.
Also elected were: First Vice General Chairman Patrick J. Jennings, Division 301 (Roanoke, Va.); Second Vice General Chairman Michael S. Necessary, Division 37 (Norton/Andover, Va.); Third Vice General Chairman Lonnie J. Swigert, Division 292 (Beach City, Ohio); Fourth Vice General Chairman Jeremy R. Peacock, Division 279 (Columbus, Ind.); Secretary-Treasurer Donald L. Young, Division 301 (Roanoke Va.); and Alternate Secretary-Treasurer Joshua A. Wickline, Division 301 (Roanoke Va.). Brothers S.J. Poe, Division 79 (Columbus, Ohio), George D. Moore Jr., Division 301 (Roanoke, Va.), and Kevin J. Helton, Division 292 (Beach City, Ohio), were elected to serve as Trustees.
Brother Bunten is a fourth-generation railroader who hired out with NS in 2004. He earned promotion to locomotive engineer in 2012 and joined BLET Division 301 (Roanoke, Va.) in 2011. He was Local Chairman of the Roanoke District of Division 301 from 2014 until the end of 2022.
BLET mourns passing of Rep. Payne
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.
Ballots mailed in tentative implementing agreement
Ballots were mailed this week to BLET members to vote on a tentative implementing agreement regarding Canadian National-Illinois Central Railway’s (CN-IC) acquisition of the Iowa Northern Railway. Ballots were mailed to about 550 members.
The tentative implementing agreement addresses changes in operations and the merging of workforces if the acquisition is approved by the federal Surface Transportation Board. Under the proposed implementing agreement, the BLET’s CN-IC contract would become the applicable collective bargaining agreement for about 20 locomotive engineers currently employed by Iowa Northern. Additional proposed changes are detailed in the ratification packet that was mailed this week.
Ballots are due on Thursday, May 30, 2024. Members who have not received a ballot by May 13, 2024, should request a replacement by calling the BLET National Division at (216) 241-2630, ext. 222. When connected with the extension, please leave the following information:
  • Your name, address and phone number;
  • The division to which you belong;
  • The railroad you work for;
  • Your date of birth; and
  • The last four digits of your Social Security number. 
The above information is needed in order to verify membership and eligibility before a ratification packet can be sent.
In December 2023, CN announced plans to purchase the Class III railroad for $230 million. The Iowa Northern operates about 275 miles of track and is based in Waterloo, Iowa. CN said it expects the STB to rule on the merger this fall.
If the tentative implementing agreement is approved, collective bargaining rights for the Iowa Northern locomotive engineers would fall under the jurisdiction of the BLET’s CN-IC General Committee of Adjustment. General Chairman Billy Evans described the situation as a “win-win,” with Iowa Northern engineers gaining more protection and better wages under the BLET contract, and with the CN-IC gaining more business by adding the Iowa Northern and its customers to its portfolio.

Photo courtesy of Cory Rusch, BLET Division 659
BLET safety bill targets crossing violators
Mike G. Walker, Chairman of the BLET’s Iowa State Legislative Board, reports that Governor Kim Reynolds signed a railroad crossing safety bill into law on April 19. The bill received unanimous support the Iowa legislature — passing by a vote of 99-0 in the House and 50-0 in the Senate. Brother Walker said the bill doubles the monetary fine (from $260 to $520) against motorists who run the gates at a grade crossing located in a quiet zone.

BLET was founded on May 8, 1863

1896 BLE Convention in Ottawa, Ontario
On May 8, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) marks its 161st anniversary. The BLET and its members are proud of our heritage as the oldest labor union in North America. Our union was founded as the Brotherhood of the Footboard on May 8, 1863, in Marshall, Mich. A year later; the union changed its name to Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers (BLE), the name it retained for 140 years until merging with the Teamsters on January 1, 2004, when it became the BLET. Through the name changes and the passage of 161 years our Brotherhood’s Mission has remained the same — to promote and protect the rights, interest, and safety of its members through solidarity, aggressive representation, and education.
Last year, the BLET published a series of articles to honor the union’s 160th anniversary. Click here to read more.

Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers & Trainmen
7061 East Pleasant Valley Road, Independence, Ohio 44131

PH (216) 241-2630   |

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