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BLET members lobby Congress over safety, Tex Mex jobs issue

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio, July 25 — BLET Legislative Representatives visited 150 Congressional offices in Washington, D.C. on July 13 as part of a major railroad safety lobbying effort and to make members of Congress aware of the union’s struggle to preserve the jobs of BLET members who work for the Texas Mexican Railway (Tex Mex). On July 9, Tex Mex unilaterally replaced U.S. citizen crewmembers with Mexican train crews — who work under relaxed federal safety standards — between Laredo Yard and the International Bridge, more than 9 miles away.

Twenty-seven BLET Division Legislative Representatives (LRs) and State Legislative Board Chairmen (this number does not include additional BLET officers and staff in attendance) participated. The most pressing issue the group tackled was educating members of Congress about the pending issue of the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) certifying Mexican nationals as locomotive engineers and trainmen in the United States. The group visited 150 House and Senate offices and provided legislators and their staff with a copy of President Pierce’s letter to President Trump, which details the BLET’s safety concerns regarding the certification of engineers who live and work in Mexico to also work in the United States under relaxed federal safety standards.

The BLET representatives also educated legislators regarding the BLET’s two-person crew bills (S. 2360 and H.R. 233), which would mandate a minimum crew size for freight trains in the United States. Other subject included in meetings with elected officials included Positive Train Control (PTC), Amtrak funding, right-to-work issues, rail worker fatigue, and other topics of importance to BLET members.

Prior to the lobby day, the BLET members participated in a two-day classroom training session on July 11 and 12 conducted by the BLET Education & Training Department and the BLET National Legislative Office. Among other items, they learned about BLET and Teamster plans to get involved and activate the membership in advance of the 2018 election in an effort to elect officials who will stand up for hardworking Americans. The attendees also heard presentations on communications, the upcoming election in November and details of the BLET Political Action Committee.

Speakers included: BLET National President Dennis R. Pierce; BLET Vice President and National Legislative Representative John Tolman; FRA Administrator Ron Batory; and U.S. Rep. Mike Capuano (D-MA). President Pierce discussed the importance of the upcoming elections and the difficulties unions face in the current climate in Washington, D.C.

Formal classroom presentations were made by: Vice President Tolman; BLET National Vice President Jim Louis; Director of Regulatory Affairs Vince Verna; Director of Legislative and Political Affairs Bob Hagan; Director of Education & Training Jason Wright; and Teamsters Political Staff Member Sunshine McBride.

Vice President Tolman thanked all those involved in the classroom training and lobby day events. “There is no possible way we could have visited 150 offices in a single day to deliver our message of safety without the class’s help,” he said. “Washington D.C. politicians heard our voice today loud and clear.”

Thursday, July 26, 2018
bentley@ble-t.org

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