BLET kicks off 77th annual Southwestern Convention Meeting
GALVESTON, Texas, September 11 — Protecting Railroad Retirement and the upcoming November elections were key themes throughout the opening ceremonies of the BLET’s 77th annual Southwestern Convention Meeting (SWCM) here today.
The meeting opened on the 11th anniversary of 9-11, with SWCM Arrangements Chairman Jack Sweeny (Local Chairman, Division 776) calling for a moment of silence for the families and victims of terrorist attacks. Keith Slone, Chaplain of Division 776, presided over the “empty chair” ceremony where the Organization recognized BLET members and all other railroaders who lost their lives in the line of duty over the past 12 months.
BLET National President Dennis R. Pierce stressed the importance of the upcoming November elections and the need for middle class and union Americans to make their voices heard at the ballot box.
“Brothers and Sisters, if we want to avoid a race to the bottom in America, where we’re left fighting over scraps like animals, then it’s an absolute necessity that we take control of the national government back from Corporate America and the super-rich in November. And history is on our side if we’re willing to engage in the fight.”
President Pierce also discussed the campaign-trail promises made by Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney to privatize Amtrak and eliminate funding for the National Passenger Railroad Corporation, which would have catastrophic effects on Railroad Retirement. He also warned members of the Ryan Budget attack on Railroad Retirement, which would eliminate the 60/30 retirement and the Occupational Disability provisions of Tier 1.
BLET members also heard from State Representative Craig Eiland (D-23), who welcomed everyone to Galveston and discussed the importance of railroads to his community and to America’s economy as a whole.
Anita Caruso, President of the BLET Auxiliary, addressed BLET members about the importance of the Auxiliary and the vital role it plays in supporting the Brotherhood and its members.
Walt Barrows, Labor Member of the Railroad Retirement Board, spoke about the importance of union involvement in protecting Railroad Retirement. Barrows said the Railroad Retirement fund is solvent and properly funded well into the future. However, it remains a target for conservative politicians and members must remain vigilant to protect their pensions.
The meeting began yesterday with workshops on mobilization, hazardous materials handling, and conductor certification. Tomorrow, members will participate in training classes for Secretary-Treasurers, Legislative Representatives and Local Chairmen. The meeting concludes tomorrow evening with the annual SWCM banquet, which will feature guest speaker and political activist Jim Hightower.
Next year’s SWCM will be held in New Orleans, La., August 25-29, 2013.
Tuesday, September 11, 2012