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BLET kicks off St. Louis regional meeting

ST. LOUIS, Mo., June 27 — More than 300 members of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) and their families convened here on the morning of June 25 for opening ceremonies of the BLET’s first regional meeting of 2019.

BLET National President Dennis R. Pierce called the meeting to order. After presentation of the flags by members of the First Marine Division Association (St. Louis Chapter), Brother Gary R. Pedigo, Chairman of the BLET’s Texas State Legislative Board, delivered the invocation. Brother Pedigo is a member of BLET Division 177 (Denison, Texas).

President Pierce then welcomed all members, families and guests to St. Louis. He introduced members of the BLET Advisory Board who were in attendance, and thanked National Vice President Jim Louis, Special Representative Matt Kronyak and Special Representative Jason Wright for their work in managing and organizing the regional meeting. President Pierce also recognized and thanked the regional meeting arrangements committee members: Brother Mike Gurley, Local Chairman of BLET Division 42 (St. Louis, Mo.); Brother Mike McGill, Legislative Representative and Second Vice Local Chairman of Division 42 (St. Louis, Mo.); and Brother Steve Tuck, a retired member of Division 17 (Kansas City, Mo.), and his wife Chris.

Guest speakers included: St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson; International Brotherhood of Teamsters Vice President and Rail Conference Director John Murphy; Railroad Retirement Board Labor Member John Bragg; International Brotherhood of Teamsters Trustee Jim Kabell; and BLET Auxiliary National President Kathleen Bisbikis.

A Teamster member since 1972, Brother Kabell is the Principal Officer and Secretary-Treasurer of Local 245 and is the former President of the Missouri-Kansas-Nebraska Conference of Teamsters. With assistance from BLET Missouri State Legislative Board Chairman Calvin Groose and retired MoSLB Chairman Brian Kelly, National President Pierce presented Brother Kabell with a handsomely engraved brass bell in recognition of his distinguished career and pending retirement.

President Pierce delivered remarks regarding the state of the union and the state of the rail industry. He also discussed the upcoming national election and the need to elect union-friendly politicians to help safeguard what the BLET has accomplished over the past 156 years.

“We know all too well that there are very few workforces subjected to as much oversight and control by the Federal Government as those of us who toil in the nation’s rail industry,” President Pierce said. “Whether it be the Federal Railroad Administration’s oversight of rail regulations, the Surface Transportation Board’s oversight of rail mergers, or the National Mediation Board’s oversight of our grievance and contract mediation and arbitration, we are continually affected by the power of the Executive Branch to appoint these government overseers. I need your help to spread the word, and the help of every BLET member who is willing to pitch in and do their part. To stop the anti-worker movement in the legislative halls across the country, we must seek out and elect politicians who will work for working class Americans. We must support politicians who know that a vibrant working middle class is what makes America great.”

Midway through the morning session, President Pierce led BLET members in a moment of silence for all BLET members who have been killed in the line of duty since 1989. All their names were shown in a solemn video presentation.

Also during the morning session, a delegation of members from BLET Division 42 (St. Louis, Mo.), led by Local Chairman Mike Gurley and Secretary-Treasurer Mike McGill, presented their Division’s original charter to President Pierce on loan to display at National Division headquarters. The charter is dated January 1, 1865, and represents an important piece of the Brotherhood’s rich history. Members of the Division recently spent a considerable sum of money to restore and preserve the historic charter, but they do not have a permanent meeting location to display it. Division 42’s members maintain ownership of the charter, and it it will be displayed at the BLET National Division’s history museum.

The June 25 afternoon session included a closed meeting for BLET members and an open meeting hosted by the BLET Auxiliary. During the closed meeting, BLET members heard reports from various National Division officers. Also, members heard from an expert in the field of workplace distraction during the closed meeting. Randy Jamieson, a managing principal of Atticus Consulting Group, spoke to BLET members about the science of human attention and how to identify underlying causes on internal cognitive distractions as well as external workplace distractions. He has 35 years of experience in safety and operating practices, and recently led a team of experts in conducting comprehensive assessments of workplace distractions in locomotive cabs in the Northeast Corridor as well as Amtrak’s Chicago and St. Louis operations.

Members will take advantage of educational opportunities throughout the remainder of the week. Workshops will feature specialized training for BLET Legislative Representatives, Secretary-Treasurers and Local Chairmen.

The 2019 St. Louis regional meeting will conclude with a banquet on the evening of Thursday, June 27. The BLET’s second regional meeting of 2019 will be held July 22-26 in Clearwater, Fla. More specific information about the Clearwater regional meeting is available at: http://bletregionals.org .

Thursday, June 27, 2019

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