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Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton addresses BLET members at 74th annual IWC in Minneapolis

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn., July 1 — Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton (D) discussed the safety of transporting crude oil by rail as he addressed approximately 150 members of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) and their families during opening ceremonies of the union’s 74th annual International Western Convention (IWC) here in Minneapolis this morning.

The Governor discussed several oil train issues impacting the state, including grade crossing problems and potential risks involved in transporting the volatile Bakken crude. Governor Dayton said state legislators have recently passed measures to upgrade crossing, increase the number of safety inspectors, and to boost training for emergency responders.

Ken Martin, Minnesota State Democratic-Farmer-Labor (DFL) Party Chairman, introduced the Governor and also delivered brief remarks to the audience.

IWC Arrangements Chairman Dave Brown, who also serves as Chairman of the BLET’s Minnesota State Legislative Board, called the meeting to order and presided over the opening ceremony. He thanked his wife Cheri for her help in hosting the event, along with Arrangements Committee members Mark Anderson and Kevin Foley.

Brother Anderson, Secretary-Treasurer of the Minnesota State Legislative Board, delivered the invocation and led a ceremony to remember BLET members killed in the line of duty. An empty chair was left at the front of the meeting hall to honor the Organization’s departed Brothers and Sisters. Also, Brother Anderson’s daughter Alison sang beautiful renditions of the U.S. and Canadian national anthems as part of the opening ceremony.

Brother Brown then called BLET National President Dennis R. Pierce to the podium. President Pierce introduced members of the BLET Advisory Board and National Division staff who were in attendance at this year’s IWC. President Pierce delivered brief remarks regarding America’s changing political atmosphere over the past 30 years. A pro-corporate atmosphere has altered the political landscape to make it much harder for union members and working families to earn a decent living, he said. The anti-union forces have instituted a “divide and conquer” strategy that plays on the basic human emotions of greed and selfishness, pitting worker against worker in a race to the bottom.

“Instead of ‘Keeping Up With The Joneses,’ now it’s ‘If I Can’t Have It, You Can’t Have It.’ And ‘If I Can’t Be In a Union, You Can’t Be In a Union.’ That’s not the America that I grew up in. Working class Americans must join together to work on issue of common interest, and to elect politicians who will work to protect the working class of our great country,” President Pierce said.

Also addressing the membership during the 2014 IWC morning session were Anita Caruso, National President of the BLET Auxiliary, and Sereena Hogan, Auxiliary Vice President and National Legislative Representative.

BLET members and families were also honored to hear from Tom Dwyer, National President of the National Association of Retired and Veteran Railroad Employees (NARVRE). Brother Dwyer is a long time legislative activist and member of the Transportation Communications Union (TCU).

The afternoon will conclude with a closed meeting for BLET members and open meetings for the BLET Auxiliary. Members will attend various education and training workshops tomorrow. Classes will feature specialized training for BLET Legislative Representatives, Secretary-Treasurers, Local Chairmen and Division Trustees. Additional workshops will focus on the BLET national mobilization network, United Healthcare, Railroad Retirement benefits, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s whistleblower and safety programs.

The 74th annual IWC will conclude on July 2 with a dinner banquet.

Tuesday, July 01, 2014
bentley@ble-t.org

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