Vice President & National Legislative Representative John P. Tolman was reelected by acclamation to this fourth consecutive term of office at the BLET's Fourth National Convention in Las Vegas on October 3, 2018. He was first elected VP & NLR at the BLET's First National Convention in 2006, winning reelection by acclamation at the Second National Convention in 2010 and Third National Convention in 2014.
Vice President Tolman joined the BLET on March 1, 1980. He began his railroad career as a hostler in 1971 shortly after graduating from Watertown High School in Watertown, Mass. He advanced to the position of fireman and earned promotion to locomotive engineer in 1974. During the course of his railroad career, he worked for New York Central Railroad, Penn Central Railroad, Conrail, the Boston and Maine Railroad and Amtrak. Vice President Tolman earned both Bachelor's and Masters' degrees while working on the railroad. Just prior to being hired by the BLE/BLET, he was the Chairman of the Melrose, Mass., Democratic City Committee and was elected to the Melrose, Mass., at-large, Board of Alderman.
In September of 1996, he was hired by the BLE International Division to work as a Special Representative, and moved to Cleveland, Ohio, in order to work on special projects under the direction of the International President. In September 2001, he was promoted to the Chief of Staff to the President. In July 2004, he was asked to serve as the Legislative and Political Director and Chief of Staff.
As Vice President and National Legislative Representative, Brother Tolman led the BLET's significant efforts to secure passage of sweeping legislation that contains important safety improvements for all rail workers -- the Federal Railroad Safety Act of 2007 and the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008. Brother Tolman lobbied members of Congress in favor of these laws and delivered key testimony before Congressional committees that helped secure passage of these major pieces of legislation.
The laws contain whistleblower provisions that protect railroad workers from retaliation when they report violations or work-related personal injuries and protect their right to prompt medical treatment. Between August of 2007 and September of 2012, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) received more than 1,200 whistleblower complaints from railroad workers, and over 60 percent involved an allegation that a worker was retaliated against for reporting an on-the-job injury. The law also called for the certification of train conductors and mandated the implementation of Positive Train Control, a life-saving technology designed to save lives by preventing train collisions.
During his tenure, Vice President Tolman has testified before the U.S. House and Senate more than a dozen times regarding rail worker safety, Amtrak funding, Positive Train Control, and other issues of importance to BLET members. Working to assist various State Legislative Board Chairmen, Brother Tolman's office has helped introduce various legislation across the country at the state and local level. He has consistently worked in the successful effort to stall national right-to-work laws that have been proposed in the House and Senate, and has lobbied for steady Amtrak funding, which has been successful but challenging at times. He has met with each President and Vice President of the United States since 2007, except for the current administration, having met with only Vice President Pence.
Vice President Tolman followed in his father's footsteps both in the railroad and in union work. His father was a conductor and served as a United Transportation Union (UTU) Local and General Chairman. His oldest brother was a yardmaster for Amtrak, and Local Chairman for the UTU Yardmasters. His oldest sister worked for the Superintendent in a public-school system in Massachusetts. His younger brothers were deeply involved in Massachusetts politics. Steven worked as a railroad clerk for 25 years, served as a State Representative and State Senator for several years; prior to that he had been a Local Chairman for TCU, and a regional system Chairman for TCU. He now is a third-term President of Massachusetts AFL-CIO. Warren served two terms as a State Representative, and two terms as a State Senator. In 2000, he was the Lt. Governor nominee for the Democratic Party. In 2004, he ran for Massachusetts governor. His youngest sister was the chairwoman of her bargaining unit for the Massachusetts Nurses' Association where she previously served as president.
Vice President Tolman and his wife Chris have three children, Caroline, Jeff and Johanna.