Hahs takes reins of BLE
CLEVELAND, October 3 -- Newly-elected International President Don M. Hahs arrived in Cleveland today for his first day in office as head of North America's senior rail labor union.
Bringing a new level of energy and vitality to the organization's top spot, President Hahs began to implement several changes to the BLE's Constitution & Bylaws that were approved by delegates at the BLE's Seventh Quinquennial International Convention.
Of significant note is a change to Section 1(e) of the Constitution & Bylaws, which governs mergers of the BLE with other labor organizations. The amended Section 1(e) details specific balloting procedures and timelines the International President must follow when considering a merger and/or affiliation.
The impact this amendment will have on the BLE's proposed merger with the United Transportation Union is not yet known, President Hahs said.
"With the ballots currently impounded, we are in limbo with respect to the UTU merger," he said. "However, if the judge orders that the ballots be destroyed and the merger process has to start again from scratch, then we will be obligated to abide by the new requirements of the BLE Constitution & Bylaws."
President Hahs also said he will schedule a meeting with UTU President Byron Boyd as soon as possible to discuss current and future relations between the two unions.
In other business, delegates approved a dues increase of $6 per month. It is the first increase in International dues since 1992, and will keep the BLE in the black while improving the level of service it provides to its members.
Among other items, the new income generated by the dues increase will be used to raise the number of local chairman and secretary-treasurer training programs offered by the BLE, said newly-elected General Secretary-Treasurer Bill Walpert, the union's top financial officer.
A third major revision to the BLE Constitution & Bylaws calls on the BLE's National Legislative Office to provide up to $25,000 annually to the Grand International Auxiliary for assistance in Congressional lobbying efforts. The money will be used in a variety of ways, such as letter-writing campaigns and covering expenses of GIA officers who lobby Congress to support key issues of importance to BLE members and their families.
In his acceptance speech on September 27, President Hahs pledged an ever-stronger relationship between the BLE and GIA as he recognized Immediate Past President Ruth E. Pillman-Windham and newly-elected GIA International President Onita Wayland.
President Hahs also announced that income generated from the dues increase will assist in the formation of a new Passenger Rail Department at the International Division. The new department would be responsible for lending assistance to all passenger and commuter rail General Committees of Adjustment on a variety of issues, such as contract negotiations and enforcement of existing contracts. President Hahs will soon announce who will head the new department and how it will be structured.
In addition to making several changes to the Constitution & Bylaws, delegates also made significant changes in the ranks of BLE officers. Delegates made a clean-sweep of the BLE's Executive Committee and elected three new officers to fill the Brotherhood's three highest ranking offices.
Brother Hahs is the 20th president in the 138-year history of the BLE, which was founded on May 8, 1863. He is from Kingwood, Texas, and has been a BLE member since 1975. He was elected to the office of International Vice-President in 1996 and spent 16 years as General Chairman of the Southern Pacific-Eastern Lines General Committee of Adjustment. He is a member of BLE Division 566 (Del Rio, Texas).
The BLE's new First Vice-President & Alternate President is Edward Rodzwicz. He was elected to the office of International Vice-President in 1996, and immediately prior to that, he served the Brotherhood in the position of Special Representative since 1988 and Alternate Vice-President since 1991. As First Vice-President & Alternate President, Brother Rodzwicz assumes command of the Brotherhood's second-highest office. He comes from the Eastern region of the BLE, having served on the Conrail General Committee of Adjustment in a variety of offices throughout the years. He is from Pittsburgh, Pa., and he joined the BLE in 1977. He belongs to Division 325 (Wilkinsburg, Pa.).
GST Walpert was elected to the office of International Vice-President in 1996, and now serves as the Brotherhood's chief financial officer. Immediately prior to becoming Vice-President in 1996, he was elected to the office of First Alternate Vice-President. Brother Walpert will continue to be in charge of a number of BLE departments, including the BLE Safety Task Force, the Department of Internal Mobilizing, Organizing & Strategic Planning, and the Education & Training Department. He joined the BLE in 1973 and is off the Burlington Northern-Santa Fe's St. Louis & San Francisco line, having served as its General Chairman from 1984-1992. He is a member of BLE Division 604 (Sherman, Texas).
© 2001 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers