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BLET Fourth National Convention begins

LAS VEGAS, October 1 — The Fourth National Convention of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) opened here this morning with energetic presentations from Teamsters General President James P. Hoffa, Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan, and BLET National President Dennis R. Pierce. Over 400 delegates are in session representing more than 57,000 locomotive engineers, trainmen and non-operating craft members on national freight and passenger rail systems across the United States.

National Division Guide Jeff Boatman, retired member of BLET Division 553 (Calwa City, Calif.) introduced National President Pierce. President Pierce then called the meeting to order, introducing the color guard for presentation of the flags. After the playing of the National Anthem, President Pierce then led delegates in saluting the men and women of our armed forces, recognizing those delegates and guests who have family in the military and those who are veterans. President Pierce also led the delegates in a moment of silence for those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in service to our country, and also for the victims and families of the mass shooting in Las Vegas on October 1, 2017.

Brother Matt Parker, Chairman of the Nevada State Legislative Board, served as chaplain for the National Convention. “I am humbled at the dedication of our National officers and their commitment to serve our Brothers and Sisters,” Brother Parker said in his invocation.

James P. Hoffa, General President of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, delivered greetings on behalf of the Teamsters 1.4 million members and its General Executive Board. President Hoffa spoke about political issues that impact railroad workers, such as the ongoing battle against one-person train crews. He also discussed the need to resist apathy and the need to get more union members to the polls. “If we can get our people in office then we can advance the issues that are important to the BLET and the Teamsters,” President Hoffa said. “If we don’t vote it’s not gonna happen. We have to elect people who are going to help us take care of our jobs and our families. We have to back people who don’t choke on the word ‘union.’”

Teamster International Vice President and Rail Conference Director John Murphy, and IBT International Trustee Kevin Moore also were in attendance.

President Pierce then introduced members of the BLET’s Advisory Board: First Vice President E. Lee Pruitt; National Secretary-Treasurer Stephen J. Bruno; Vice President and National Legislative Representative John P. Tolman; Vice Presidents Marcus J. Ruef, Michael D. Twombly, Gil L. Gore, Michael D. Priester, Cole W. Davis, and R. C. (Rick) Gibbons; and Trustees David P. Estes, Mark L. Wallace and William P. Lyons. President Pierce also thanked convention sponsors North American Railway Foundation and Cornerstone Benefits Management.

Representative Tim Ryan of Ohio’s 13th District, who is a relentless advocate for working families, also spoke. He was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2002 and was sworn in on January 3, 2003. Successfully reelected seven times, he is now serving in his eighth term. Congressman Ryan currently serves as a member of the powerful House Appropriations Committee. His comments to BLET delegates reflected those of General President Hoffa regarding the need to vote in the upcoming November elections.

“The greatest force for good in our economic history has been the labor movement, and I won’t apologize for supporting unions,” Rep. Ryan said. “Over the last 30 years, nearly all income growth has gone to the top one percent, and now we want our piece of the pie. They control the agenda. Until we get our people in to control the levers of government, things are not going to change.”

Brother John F. Fink, Division 3 (Cleveland, Ohio), introduced and explained the electronic voting devices that each delegate uses in voting on recommendations and changes to the BLET’s Bylaws. Brother Fink is the BLET National Division Director of Bylaws Administration and is serving as Liaison to the Bylaws Committee.

Brother M. J. Gaab, BLET Division 27 (St. Cloud, Minn.) and Chairman of the Credentials Committee, gave the report and recommendations of his committee. He also introduced Committee Members C. R. Hyde, Division 314 (Rocky Mount, N.C.), B. H. Fransen, Division 207 (Casper, Wyo.), C. J. Wagner, Division 405 (Milwaukee, Wisc.), and thanked Louise Reich, BLET National Division Director of the Record Department, for her hard work in serving as Liaison to the Credentials Committee. Their report was accepted without debate.

Sereena Hogan, National President of the BLET Auxiliary, then gave her report. The BLET Auxiliary is conducting its Third Quadrennial National Convention just down the hall from the BLET convention. “As an Auxiliary, we do all we can to educate our members, our families, elected officials, and everyone we can about the unique issues regarding the railroad industry, our work rules, and our retirement plan,” she said.

Brother R.J. Dumey, BLET Division 595 (Chaffee, Mo.) and Chairman of the Salaries Committee, then gave his committee’s report and recommendations. It was accepted without debate. He also introduced Committee Members C.R. “Rusty” Jones, Division 239 (Knoxville, Tenn.), S.P. Alexander, Division 523 (Chickasha, Okla.), and G.W. Lund, Division 421 (Buffalo, N.Y.). Brother R.C. Bartela, Jr. Division 382 (West Seneca, NY) and BLET National Division Special Represntative, serves as Liaison to the Salaries Committee.

The morning session concluded with Brother Pierce delivering the National President’s Report, which will be reported in more detail this afternoon. Please monitor the BLET’s convention website and the National Division’s Facebook page for additional news, photo and video updates throughout the remainder of the week.

Monday, October 1, 2018
bentley@ble-t.org

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