BLE members rally in support of two-person crew legislation

CLEVELAND, February 14 -- Members of Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers in the state of Nebraska held a Safety Rally on Monday to support a fatigue relief measure and oppose portions of another bill that could open the door to the operation of remote control locomotives.

Over 50 members from Alliance, Lincoln, McCook, Morrill, North Platte, Omaha, Wymore, and other locations in the state gathered on the West Plaza of the State Capitol to crusade for safe, non-oppressive working conditions, and to voice the union's concerns on two bills being heard before the Business and Labor Committee of the Nebraska Legislature.

Also in attendance for the rally and hearing were members from the Sheet Metal Workers, the State Workers, and the Machinist unions.

BLE members carrying informational picket signs heard several speakers, including Nebraska State Legislative Board Chairman Randy Meek, Nebraska State AFL-CIO President Ken Mass, Division 622 Local Chairman Mike Thiellen, Nebraska Legislative Board Vice-Chairman Bill Hunt, and Regional Mobilization Coordinator Kent Confer.

Of primary concern to the BLE was L.B. 185, a two person crew bill. Chairman Meek testified before the committee that the BLE supports provisions that would require two-persons on a train, however; the organization does not support Amendment AM0143 to L.B. 185.

Chairman Meek explained to the Committee that the amendment would allow the use of off-cab remote control locomotives in terminals, and allow the use of one-person crews in terminals. He went on to testify that the bill does not require that both crew members occupy the cab when moving between terminals, and that the bill widely defines terminals so that nearly any track may become a terminal. Vice-Chairman Hunt also testified on L.B. 185.

The BLE also strongly supported L.B. 665, a bill similar to the "7 & 3" bill that won over 200 sponsors in the U.S. House of Representatives last year, but languished in the Transportation & Infrastructure Committee. This bill would allow train employees the option of taking up to 72 hours off after working or being available for seven days.

In testifying on L.B. 665, Chairman Meek said, "Senators, we support the provisions of this bill. If enacted, we believe it would improve railroad safety."

He went on to explain the pressing need for L.B. 665, and asked that the Senators consider an amendment to provide that, should a collective bargaining unit reach an agreement that would be more favorable than the current law, that agreement would override the provisions of the law.

BLE Division 623 Legislative Representative Susan Doak delivered compelling testimony, contrasting the environment that her father, also a former BLE officer, worked under, with the deteriorating conditions that engineers are forced to endure today.

"The Safety Rally was a great success, and along with the excellent testimony of the Nebraska State Legislative Board, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers again proved the intelligence and power of our membership and leaders," said Confer.

At the close of the rally, the members were asked to continue writing, e-mailing, and calling their Senators to further inform them of the BLE's position on these bills.

"With the strong membership involvement in the State of Nebraska, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers will prevail on these issues, and all future struggles, whatever the challenge may be," said Confer.

 

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February 14, 2001
bentley@ble.org

 

2001 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers