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Former BLET Vice President Stephen D. Speagle, 1946-2021

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio, May 28 — Stephen D. Speagle, former National Vice President of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, passed away on May 26, 2021. He was 74 years old.

Brother Speagle began his railroad career in 1964 as a switchman on the Norfolk & Western Railroad out of Decatur, Illinois. He went firing for the Norfolk & Western in 1968 and was promoted to locomotive engineer in 1972. He joined the Brotherhood as a member of Division 155 in Decatur effective January 1, 1972.

Brother Speagle was elected to the office of International Vice President of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers in September of 2001, and was reelected at the BLET’s First National Convention in 2006. He announced his retirement at the BLET’s Second National Convention in 2010. During his retirement speech at the 2010 National Convention, Brother Speagle told the assembled delegates why he became involved in the labor movement.

“I hope each and every one of you are proud to be a union member, and even more proud to be a BLET member,” Speagle said. “I went into this work because I felt that the engineers that I worked with at the local level needed a voice. And if not me, who? I felt this was a calling, and that calling has never left me, for I believe this is some of the most important work I could be doing.”

During his years as a BLET member, Brother Speagle held a number of elected offices, beginning in 1975, when he served as Secretary-Treasurer of Division 155. He also held the position of Legislative Representative for his Division from 1979-1982. He twice held the position of Local Chairman for Division 155, between 1978-1979 and 1982-1995. From 1991-1996, he was a member of the BLE’s Board of Appeals. In 1983, he was elected to the position of Vice General Chairman and he was in this position until 1995, when he became Chairman of the Norfolk Southern-Northern Lines General Committee of Adjustment. Speagle served as General Chairman from 1995 until his election to the Advisory Board in 2001.

Brother Speagle helped to negotiate many contracts during his tenure as a union officer, including agreements with Norfolk Southern while serving as General Chairman, and with BNSF while assigned as a National Vice President. He also helped negotiate a contract for BLET members with the Pacific Harbor Line in 2005. These agreements helped boost the rates of pay and working conditions for BLET members.

Brother Speagle knew the importance of negotiating good union contracts. He was a fierce supporter of union rights and was proud to be a part of the labor movement.

“No nation has ever been home to a middle-class majority without a sizeable labor movement,” Brother Speagle said in his 2010 retirement speech. “So, when you hear anyone bad-mouthing unions, you just stand tall and be proud of the accomplishments of you and your Union Brothers and Sisters.”

In the early 2000s, Brother Speagle was one of the Advisory Board members who helped to negotiate the BLE’s merger with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. Initial merger documents called for the word “Brotherhood” to be dropped from the name, so that the merged organization would have been known as simply the Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen Department, or LETD. Brother Speagle was one of the driving forces to keep “Brotherhood” as a part of the merged organization’s name, and the name Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen was adopted when the organizations merged in 2004.

Brother Speagle was predeceased by his parents, Kenneth Speagle and Wanda Speagle (Shepherd); and his sisters, Sharon and Diane. Brother Speagle and his loving wife, Sue, were married in 1966. He is survived by Sue; his sons, Stephen Jr. (Rie) and Aaron; his daughter-in-law Julia; his grandchildren, David (Melissa), Ariel (Dillon), Alyssa, Ariana, Sierra and Emma; his great grandchildren, Brett, Hudson, Ryker and Holden; his brothers, Edward (Kathy) and Gordon (Pam); and his pet dog Misty. He is also survived by many nieces and nephews.

Visitation will be held on Sunday, May 30, 2021, from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. at the Graceland Fairlawn Funeral Home (2091 N Oakland Ave, Decatur, IL 62526). Funeral service will follow the visitation at the same location on Sunday, May 30, 2021 at 3:00 p.m.

“We are all saddened by the passing of our dear friend and Brother Steve Speagle,” BLET National President Dennis R. Pierce said. “There are many of us who serve, or served, as officers and employees of our great Union who benefited from knowing and working with Steve, myself included. Steve was more than just a mentor to me, he was a true friend. One of the only things that Steve was more passionate about than our Union was his family, and my heart goes out to Sue and the entire Speagle family.”

Friday, May 28, 2021
bentley@ble-t.org

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