Archive for the ‘National’ Category

President Pierce to testify before Congress on “State of the Rail Workforce”

Wednesday, June 19th, 2019


INDEPENDENCE, Ohio, June 19 – BLET National President Dennis R. Pierce will testify before the House Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials at a hearing titled “The State of the Rail Workforce” at 10:00 a.m. on Thursday, June 20.
The hearing will explore current issues facing railroad workers, including employment cutbacks and safety issues. Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) serves as Chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, and Rep. Daniel Lipinski (D-IL) serves as Chair of the Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials.
Additional witnesses will include: John Previsich, President, SMART Transportation Division; Jerry C. Boles, President, Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen; Andrew W. Sandberg, Assistant to the President, Directing General Chairman, IAM District Lodge 19; William Gonzalez, President, Amtrak Police Fraternal Order of Police Labor Committee; Ronald L. Batory, Administrator, Federal Railroad Administration; and Ian Jefferies, President & CEO, Association of American Railroads.
A live webcast of the hearing will be available on the House T&I website at the following link:–the-state-of-the-rail-workforce

FRA on Thursday announced in a Federal Register posting withdrawn on crew size on freight and passenger rail

Tuesday, May 28th, 2019

Brothers and Sisters,

I know most of you have heard that the FRA on Thursday announced in a Federal Register posting

they have withdrawn the pending proposed rulemaking on crew size on freight and passenger rail.

This afternoon the BLET State Chairman along with the National Legislative Vice President John

Tolman participated in a conference call to address a better understanding of the “withdrawal” and

current status of state laws regarding crew size.

Several people have contacted me with their concerns with this notice from the FRA. I ask that we

all have patience and that we will have more information in the next following weeks regarding the

“withdrawal” notice.

Wisconsin introduced Assembly Bill 35 (Two Person Crew Law) over 20 years ago which resulted

in Wis. Stat. 192.25 going into law December 15, 1997.

I have attached [Docket No. FRA – 2014 – 0033, Notice No.4] for your review, which is posted and

viewable as public record.

Please refer to the following link regarding a BLET News Flash for BLET National President Dennis R.

Pierce and SMART TD President John Previsich


Chuck M. Schulz

Wisconsin State Legislative Board – Chairman
Teamsters – Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers & Trainmen
2768 Oakwood Circle

Oshkosh, WI 54904
Cell /Office (920) 410-2953

FRA just reduced the prospects for a safer railroad industry

Saturday, May 25th, 2019
By Dennis R. Pierce
BLET National President


John Previsich
SMART TD President
On Thursday, May 24, 2019, we were informed that the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) had released a notice, withdrawing a 2016 notice of proposed rulemaking establishing a minimum train crew size for most rail freight operations in the United States. This news was not surprising.
What is shocking, however, is the degree to which FRA has chosen to subordinate the safety of BLET and SMART TD members, other railroad workers, and the American public to the interests of the nation’s major railroads.
FRA’s reference to current crew sizes, which have existed for decades, as mere “crew redundancy” displays an astonishing ignorance of the findings of the agency’s own research studies, which establish-in detail and beyond dispute-the unique and specific duties of each crewmember.
FRA also disappointingly engages in self-serving fact selection in its attempts to negate the importance of the 2013 Lac-Megantic tragedy and the Casselton, North Dakota oil train derailment-and subsequent explosion and fire-to the crew size debate. And it simply ignores several subsequent accidents where a two-person crew saved the public from an even more horrific outcome.
In its rush to diminish the safety impact of common-sense crew size regulations, FRA also points to various regulations requiring risk analyses and the adoption of risk reduction plans by railroads. While our Organizations fully support such plans, we note that Congress mandated regulations governing these subjects more than a decade ago, but they have yet to be promulgated because of industry recalcitrance and obstructionism.
Also, the argument that two-person crews have not been proven safer-because of FRA’s failure to collect crew size data-while the data support a conclusion that single-person crews are not demonstrably less safe is mystifying in its logic, to be charitable.
Moreover, the federal rail safety regulator hints that there is no “specific requirement that would prohibit autonomous technology from operating a locomotive or train” in the absence of any human crewmember whatsoever as a means of “reducing accidents caused by human error.” If the ongoing grounding of the Boeing MAX aircraft has taught nothing else, FRA and the Department of Transportation should be mindful of the danger of transferring the risk of a human factors accident from operator to programmer when autonomous technology is implemented. For this reason, FRA’s declared “support [for] the integration and implementation of new automation technologies” on the Nation’s locomotives should give everyone pause.
Lastly, the Agency’s invocation of the negative preemption doctrine is incredible. Both the industry and the Agency reject prescriptive safety regulations as a philosophical matter, because they supposedly require a “one size fits all” approach; indeed, this was part of the industry’s argument against the proposed rule.
In stark contrast to this philosophy, FRA’s invocation of negative preemption seeks to promulgate a prescriptive prohibition, regardless of the implications of its action on federalism. In so doing, the valid safety concerns expressed by supporters of the proposed rule such as National League of Cities-representing more than 19,000 cities, villages, and towns-and the Western Organization of Resource Councils are dismissed out of hand.
We frankly did not expect this Administration to complete this rulemaking, but we did afford the new Federal Railroad Administrator a fair opportunity to demonstrate that safety was his primary objective. Given the scope of this withdrawal, the Administrator has clearly failed the test, because he has placed corporate profits above public safety. Railroad safety has taken a giant step backward today, but our Organizations do not intend to let this development go unchallenged.
# # #

The SMART Transportation Division is comprised of approximately 125,000 active and retired members of the former United Transportation Union, who work in a variety of crafts in the transportation industry.
The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen represents over 57,500 professional locomotive engineers and trainmen throughout the United States. The BLET is the founding member of the Rail Conference, International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

FRA withdraws proposed train-crew staffing rule

Saturday, May 25th, 2019

FRA withdraws proposed train-crew staffing rule

FRA Administrator Ronald Batory
The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has withdrawn its 2016 proposed rulemaking that called for federal
regulation of train crew staffing.

The FRA determined that such regulation is unnecessary for railroad operations to be conducted safely “at this time,”
agency officials said yesterday in a rulemaking withdrawal notice.

In deciding to withdraw the proposal, the FRA determined:

• There is no direct safety connection between train-crew staffing and two rail incidents that occurred in 2013: the
deadly rail disaster in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, and the oil train derailment and explosion in Casselton, North Dakota;
• Rail safety data doesn’t support a train-crew staffing rulemaking;
• Comments made in response to the proposed rulemaking don’t support such a rule;
• A train-crew size mandated would unnecessarily impede the future of rail innovation and automation; and
• The proposed rule’s “withdrawal is an affirmative decision not to regulate with the intention to preempt state laws.”

The Association of American Railroads (AAR), which has long opposed mandatory train-crew staffing, endorsed the
FRA’s decision to withdraw the proposed rule.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and FRA Administrator Ronald Batory have made it clear that safety is
of “paramount concern,” and that new technology can be applied to achieve that safety, said AAR President and Chief
Executive Officer Ian Jefferies in a prepared statement.

“Positive train control (PTC) — new technologies designed to prevent certain types of human error and a top priority
of the administration – is one game-changer; others not yet imagined may follow. Allowing railroads the flexibility to
adjust their operations to reflect the capabilities of technologies like PTC will help advance railroads’ mission to
achieve an accident-free future,” he said.

Jefferies added that train-crew staffing size has been a matter of collective bargaining between railroads and their
employees for decades.

“Over that time, the safety of train operations has steadily improved even as crew sizes have been reduced, through
the bargaining process, from five or more down to today’s standard of two — and in some cases, one,” said Jefferies.

He added that yesterday’s action by the FRA directs federal and state lawmakers “to stop pushing crew-size legislation
and let the railroads maintain that record of bargaining with their … workforce to continue to modernize rail operations
while enhancing safety.”

Two rail labor unions — the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen(BLET) and the International
Association of Sheet Metal, Air Rail and Transportation Workers-Transportation Division (SMART-TD) — have
called for and supported federal and state legislation that mandates a minimum of two people to staff a train crew.

The FRA’s decision to withdraw its proposed rule and nullify all state laws and regulations that establish minimum
crew standards “flies in the face of so-called conservative values and states’ rights,” wrote John Risch, national
legislative director of SMART-TD, in a published letter to the union’s members.

“The federal government is refusing to protect the public and at the same time is prohibiting states from doing so by
posting this federal notice,” Risch wrote.

“It is now more important than ever that we pass a federal law requiring that every train in America have a
minimum of two crew members,” he added.

From “Progressive Railroading”

When are Lobbying Donations Considered Bribes?

Wednesday, April 10th, 2019

An American lawyer living in Asia last week described to me the ubiquitousness of bribes for most interactions with Asian governments. For example, to get the court clerk in the national capital to forward paperwork to a provincial court he had to bribe the judge, clerk, and provincial court clerk @$100 US each. Prof. Frank Cavico discusses bribes as essential to business in the Middle East and Asia in “Baksheesh or Bribe: Cultural Conventions and Legal Pitfalls.” This renowned litigator said that US government is equivalently corrupt. He illustrated his equivalency comment using campaign donations. But is the US as corrupt as Asia?
A US government official taking a bribe for an official action brings criminal liability to both payer and recipient. In Asia taking bribes is a major and customary perquisite of civil service and constitute part of the civil servant’s compensation package. No equivalency because one goes to jail in the US for doing what is normal in Asia.
For campaign contributions to be bribes there must be a quid pro quo, “this for that” If money is the quidwhat is the quo? The bribe argument would say votes. However, when deciding how to vote, legislators have more important things to think about than your campaign contribution. A few of many include:

1. Lawmakers first satisfy the people putting and keeping them in office, namely their supporters, voters, and to a     lesser degree their constituents. Lawmakers are not going to abandon them for your dollars.
2. Voting contrary to their caucus, party, and instructions from chamber leadership could ruin their careers. They will take your money but won’t change their vote to get it.
3. Next, legislators don’t change their long-held political values for money. Were they to do so, potential opponents would call them “flip-floppers,” and nobody likes a political flip-flopper.
4. Incumbents have earned political interest-group “scores. ” They are not going to endanger these scores for your donation, especially since scores impact support received from entire subsets of donors.

If money doesn’t get votes, then why do some interest groups give so much to campaigns?
They give money because they don’t have anything better to give; money is all they’ve got. They can’t give candidates what they need, and that is votes. “Interest groups with individual members may be able to deliver voters to a candidate but most organized groups-in particular corporations, businesses, and professions-cannot deliver votes. But they can deliver dollars; and they do so to the best of their ability, for a number of reasons.” 1 The fewer the number of votes special interests can deliver, the more money they need to give to purchase any measure of influence with lawmakers.
A significant donation surely makes a lawmaker feel warmer toward the donor. You’ve shown the lawmaker you are on his or her team and presumably not on the opponent’s team. But warmer feelings do not rise to the level of quo. Further, unlike Asia where the civil servant spends the bribe on himself, in the US a campaign donation spent on oneself is also a crime.

Finally, making campaign contributions is a form of free speech. Buckley v. Valeo, 424 U.S. 1 (1976) If one form of free speech is bribery, then other types of support must also be bribery such as friendly letters to the editor, holding campaign signs, even voting for the candidate.
During my lobbying career only once did a state lawmaker ever ask me for a campaign donation. I didn’t make it and my bill still became law. Nor do I recall this lawmaker voting against my bill.
Without a quo a political donation isn’t a bribe. But even accepting this brilliant litigator’s theoretical link, the quidand quo are far removed from each other. Further, my quidis lost among the thousands of other donors that I would have no hope for a unique quo. Our hoped-for collective quo is a lawmaker who will vote the way we want and save us from the candidate we didn’t want.
There is at best a weak equivalence as to theory but no equivalence as to practice.

1. Alan Rosenthal, Engines of Democracy (Washington, D.C.: CQ Press, 2009), 166

August 31, 2018

H.R.1748 2 person crew.

Sunday, April 7th, 2019

1ST SESSION H. R. 1748

To amend title 49, United States Code, to provide for the minimum size of crews of freight trains, and for other purposes.

MARCH 13, 2019

Mr. YOUNG introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure


To amend title 49, United States Code, to provide for the minimum size of crews of freight trains, and for other purposes.

1 Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representa

2 tives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,


4 This Act may be cited as the ‘‘Safe Freight Act of

5 2019’’.


7 (a) AMENDMENT.—Subchapter II of chapter 201 of

8 title 49, United States Code, is amended by adding at the

9 end the following new section:

•HR 1748 IH

1 ‘‘§ 20169. Freight train crew size

2 ‘‘Effective 30 days after the date of enactment of the

3 Safe Freight Act of 2019, no freight train or light engine

4 used in connection with the movement of freight may be

5 operated unless it has a crew consisting of at least 2 indi

6 viduals, one of whom is certified under regulations promul

7 gated by the Federal Railroad Administration as a loco

8 motive engineer pursuant to section 20135, and the other

9 of whom is certified under regulations promulgated by the

10 Federal Railroad Administration as a conductor pursuant

11 to section 20163.’’.

12 (b) CONFORMING AMENDMENT.—The table of sec

13 tions for chapter 201 of title 49, United States Code, is

14 amended by adding at the end the following new item:

‘‘20169. Freight train crew size.’’.

Thanksgiving 2018

Thursday, November 22nd, 2018

Thanksgiving 2018

By Dennis R. Pierce
BLET National President

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio, November 21 — At Thanksgiving, I ask our membership to join me in a moment of reflection for those who are away from their families at this special time of year. Let us remember our service men and women, who are fighting overseas or are stationed at military bases throughout the world. Let us also remember our own BLET Brothers and Sisters, who are sitting in the cab of a locomotive or in a hotel instead of at the Thanksgiving dinner table with their families.

In the toil of our day-to-day lives, we may forget in this season of Thanksgiving that we are truly blessed. We sometimes forget to count our blessings because, as locomotive engineers and trainmen, we work extremely hard to earn our pay and benefits.

While our work at the railroad often prevents us from fully enjoying the fruits of our labor, we are blessed with the knowledge that our hard work and dedication puts food on the table and clothes on the backs of our children and families.

At this time of year, I would also like to express my thanks to all of our elected officers and staff at the national, general committee, state and local levels. I am thankful for your hard work and devotion to the Brotherhood.

Earlier this year, the BLET held its Fourth National Convention in Las Vegas and all BLET members should be proud of the results. Our delegates put in long hours poring over many important changes to strengthen our Bylaws and our Brotherhood. They are part of a long line of delegates who proudly carry the torch of Brotherhood that was first lit by the brave founders who established our great union in 1863. I am thankful for our delegates and am proud of the work they accomplished while in session.

But most of all, I am thankful for our members, both past and present.

We owe a debt of gratitude to the Brothers and Sisters of past generations, whose commitment and sacrifice helped to lay a solid foundation. And I am also proud of today’s generation of locomotive engineers and trainmen for continuing to build upon that foundation so that today, the BLET stands as the leading rail labor union in America.

On behalf of the BLET Advisory Board, I wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

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Wednesday, October 31st, 2018



Brothers and Sisters,

On Election Day, November 6, Wisconsin voters have the opportunity to make a fundamental change in the course of our proud State. Gubernatorial candidate Tony Evers is seeking to reverse the direction of the current Governor and move Wisconsin, as its motto declares, “Forward.”
Since his election Scott Walker has been, by no definition, a friend of the Labor movement. Backed by out-of- state “dark money”, most notably corporate donors such as the billionaire Koch brothers, Governor Walker has rampaged Unions in what was once a proud Labor state.

Labor views notwithstanding, Walker has used ”divide and conquer” as a tactic on Wisconsin residents, leaving a once proud tradition of bi-partisanship laid to waste. A world renowned education system is now in tatters, infrastructure is in disrepair and the Governor’s Foxconn debacle will cost generations of Wisconsin taxpayers over four billion dollars. These are just some examples of the effects of Walkers administration has had.
Tony Evers strong Labor stance is much needed in this time of a declining middle class in Wisconsin. It is assured that a Governor Evers administration would seek to preserve and protect not only the rights of our Union Sisters and Brothers, but specifically Railroaders, as he has pledged to preserve Wisconsin’s “Two Person Crew” law.
The past eight years have proven that Elections have consequences! Use your constitutional right to register and vote. Don’t let your voice be silenced. VOTE this November 6th!

A message from the BLET Mobilization Team


Wednesday, October 24th, 2018


Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The BLET Mobilization Team, in conjunction with the Wisconsin State Legislative Board would like to remind you to take personal action and vote during this mid-term election on November 6th. It is critical that all Members vote to preserve our Union Rights to bargain for wages, health care and safety in the workplace. Additionally, Railroad Retirement, FELA and Whistleblower Protection, amongst others, stand at great risk unless the current administration is not put in check.

Registering to vote can be done at your polling place up to and including Election Day, November 6, 2018. Unfortunately, online registration is now closed.

Wisconsin does not require a citizen to provide a valid excuse to vote absentee, however; your absentee request must be received by your municipal clerk no later than 5:00 p.m. on November 1, 2018. Voters can also request and vote an absentee ballot in-person in their municipal clerk’s office through November 4, 2018.

The link, provides information on requesting an absentee ballot online.
Wisconsin also permits no-excuse early voting. This allows citizens to cast ballots in person at a municipal clerk’s office or polling place prior to an election.

If you are unsure where your polling place is, it can be found at:
Use your constitutional right to register and vote.

Elections have consequences! Don’t let your voice be silenced.

VOTE this November 6th!

A message from the BLET Mobilization Team

Friday, March 9th, 2018

Join us at our annual meeting to celebrate our 25th anniversary!  We will celebrate our accomplishments and look to the future of passenger rail.
Saturday, March 24 9:00a – 3:00p at Maggiano’s Banquets, 111 W Grand Ave., Chicago, IL
Click here to register
Since 1993, we’ve grown from a small group that could fit around a conference table, to tens of thousands of supporters around the Midwest. We are now the nation’s largest high-speed rail advocacy organization, and we’ve brought together lawmakers, businesses and advocates to support and improve passenger rail around our region.
We have a great line up of speakers, including:

Martin Ritter, CEO, Stadler USA
The Stadler FLIRT (pictured above) is the first trainset to use modernized safety regulations that make trains safer, more cost-effective and more attractive to passengers.

Illinois Senator Steve Stadleman, Vice-Chairman, Senate Transportation Committee

Kitty Kurth, President, Kurth Lampe
Flexing your citizenship muscles – Making sure your ideas get heard

Audrey Wennink, Director of Transportation, Metropolitan Planning Council
Show me the Money: The opportunity for sustainable transportation funding in Illinois

Levar Hoard, Managing Director, Urban Development Lab
The hydrogen fuel cell strategy – Hydroline

Chen-Yu Lin, Graduate Student, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Safety considerations on mixed-use lines

Chris Kopp, Transportation Planning Practice Leader, HNTB Corp.
Thoughts on a new Midwest Rail Plan

Dave Winters, Midwest High Speed Rail Association
Legislative update

Rick Harnish, Executive Director, Midwest High Speed Rail Association
Progress and opportunities

Click here to register
Feel free to call the office at 773-334-6758 with any questions.
Sponsored By:


2018 Annual Meeting
March 24, 2018
8:00 am to 3:00 pm
Maggiano’s, 111 W. Grand Ave., Chicago
Engage with industry leaders from rail, transit, construction, engineering, development, planning and architecture during MHSRA’s informative annual event.
Learn more and register now!
High speed rail study tour of Italy
Nov. 3 to 11, 2018
The best way to see how fast, frequent and dependable trains transform communities is to ride them and see the cities they serve.
Our 2018 trip will take us to Italy to see the Phased Network Approach in action, visit great stations and learn about local transit systems. And, of course, we will see the sights along the way.
Learn more, see the full itinerary, and register today.
Midwest High Speed Rail Association
4765 N. Lincoln Ave.
Chicago, Illinois 60625
(773) 334-6758