By Dennis R. Pierce
BLET National President
(BLET Editorís Note: The following is an excerpt from the Summer 2013 Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen Journal.)
CLEVELAND, September 19 ó This edition of the Locomotive Engineers and Trainmenís Journal goes to press as our Organization concludes its annual regional meetings. I would like to offer my personal thanks to the elected standing officers of each of the four regions, and also give my special thanks to the arrangements chairmen and their committees from each region for their efforts to provide a meaningful and educational experience for all members who attended.
The Southeastern Meeting Association (SMA) was the first regional meeting this year, with Brother Troy Bryant serving as the Arrangements Chairman in Richmond, Va. The event was well attended, but perhaps my favorite portion of the meeting was the presentation made by Virginia State Senator Donald McEachin during the opening ceremonies. Senator McEachin (D-9) was talking about our nationís political gridlock when he expressed that just saying ďnoĒ to all efforts to make change comes at its own price. No truer words have been spoken and they also apply in the workplace and within our union. The only way to change the status quo is to make some change towards improvement, even if it is incremental and does not address every issue all at once.
We next traveled to the International Western Convention (IWC), where Co-Chairmen Oscar Burrola and Luis Chavez Jr. welcomed us to San Francisco, Calif. Attendance was up this year and the IWC was truly a family event. We all know that the life of a BLET member and railroad operating employee is not an easy one, and itís even more difficult without the support of oneís family. It was obvious in San Francisco that those members in attendance have the support of their families, and that is what makes our BLET family even stronger.
Within a few weeks of the IWC, we were welcomed to the Eastern Union Meeting Association (EUMA) in Baltimore by Arrangements Chairman Fred Cox. One of the most memorable moments of the EUMA came during the opening ceremony, when representatives of UNITE HERE Local 7 addressed our open meeting and thanked the BLET membership present for supporting their efforts to represent the hotelís workers. Solidarity is what makes the union movement strong, and that solidarity was evident at the EUMA this year. Baltimore is also a city steeped in history, especially railroad history, and the opening reception at the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum gave all BLET members present a chance to learn more about the history of the industry in which we work.
The Southwestern Convention Meeting (SWCM) was the final regional meeting this year, with Arrangements Chairman Arlin Todd welcoming us to New Orleans, La. This yearís SWCM was one of the largest in recent history, with over 375 members in attendance. Those numbers included many senior members who have been attending the SWCM for years, if not decades. But there was also something new at this yearís SWCM, and that was the attendance of many members who took the time to attend their first regional meeting. Many traveled along with a senior member of their Division, showing the true strength of members mentoring members. I was honored to personally visit with many of them and to get their thoughts and input about the issue that confront us today.
The direct one-on-one exchanges that our regional meetings provide are just one of the benefits afforded to all who attend. Equally important is the opportunity to meet and share fellowship with Brothers and Sisters from across each region, who all have common goals and interests. The friendships that members ó young and old ó strike up at our regional meetings are friendships built on common ground, and they are friendships that will last a lifetime.
All in all, it was truly rewarding to see the participation and involvement common to all of this yearís regional meetings. The regional meetings all came on the heels of our 150th Anniversary, which also drew members from all across the country to Detroit. Our goal at the 150th celebration was to honor and recognize those that came before us, but it was also part of an overall effort to increase the participation of all members of our great union. This union is your union, and it is in large part what you and the other members who choose to participate make of it.
Whether it be at a regional meeting, or at a meeting of your Local Division, General Committee of Adjustment or State Legislative Board, there is a part for all members. Although my travel schedule can be grueling, I will continue to make every effort to be out in the field meeting with the membership at these meetings, and will attend as many of our Education and Training Classes as my schedule allows. As I have said time and time again, participation is the key to a strong union, and together we can make a difference.
I invite each and every one of you to join me at one of these meetings. Our Regional Meeting Associations have selected their locations for 2014 and I look forward to seeing you there. The SMA will meet in Savannah, Ga., the IWC will meet in Minneapolis, Minn., the EUMA will meet at the home of our National Division offices in Cleveland, Ohio, and the SWCM will meet in St. Louis, Mo. Next year also is an important year for the BLET National Division as our Third Quadrennial Convention will convene in Las Vegas on Monday September 29, 2014. Our delegates will assemble to set the course for the coming years, and I invite any and all of you who can join us to travel to Las Vegas to see our democracy in action.
Thursday, September 19, 2013