BLETís John Tolman retires; Vince Verna is new Vice President & National Legislative Representative

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio, October 30 ó After a distinguished railroad career that began nearly 50 years ago, BLET Vice President & National Legislative Representative John P. Tolman will retire on November 4, 2020. His alternate, Vincent G. Verna, will succeed to his place on the BLET Advisory Board effective November 5, 2020.

ďIt would be trite to merely state that John Tolmanís retirement will leave big shoes to fill,Ē BLET National President Dennis R. Pierce said. ďI think it is much more accurate to say that his unique style cannot be duplicated. However, Brother Vince Verna has had many years to learn the territory under Brother Tolmanís mentorship, and I am confident that Brother Verna will continue the BLETís high level of legislative leadership that has been established during John Tolmanís remarkable tenure as Vice President and National Legislative Representative.Ē

The BLET Bylaws dictate the order of succession in filling vacancies on the Advisory Board, including when a National Division Officer retires. Having won election by acclamation to the office of First Alternate Vice President & National Legislative Representative at the BLETís Fourth National Convention in 2018, Brother Verna will automatically fill the office vacated by Brother Tolmanís retirement. Verna has worked out of the BLETís National Legislative office for the past nine years, having served as Director of Regulatory Affairs since August 1, 2011.

Vice President Tolman

Vice President Tolmanís railroad career began in 1971 shortly after he graduated from high school. He hired out as a hostler at Beacon Yard in Boston and earned promotion to locomotive engineer in 1974. Brother Tolman is a second generation railroader and union leader, following in the footsteps of his father, who was a General Chairman with the United Transportation Union for many years. Brother Tolman operated passenger and freight trains during the first 25 years of his railroad career, working for the Penn Central Railroad, Conrail, Boston and Maine Railroad, MBCR, ] and Amtrak. Brother Tolman also made time to earn both a Bachelorís degree in Marketing and a Mastersí degree in Business Administration while working full-time for the railroad.

Brother Tolman joined the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers on March 1, 1980. He served in several Division offices, and in 1992 helped to create the BLEís Massachusetts State Legislative Board, subsequently being elected as its first Chairman. It was as Chairman of the Massachusetts SLB that he began fighting for the humane treatment of train crew members who were involved in critical incidents, a legacy that helped to forge national standards for railroad worker critical incident stress relief.

In 1996, Brother Tolman was hired by the BLE International Division as a Special Representative. Brother John, his wife Chris and their three children, Caroline, Jeff and Johanna, moved from Boston to the Cleveland area. Just prior to being hired by the BLE, he also was the Chairman of the Democratic City Committee in Melrose, Mass., and was elected to serve on the Board of Aldermen for the city.

During his 10 years with the BLE International and BLET National Division Office (1996-2006), Tolman managed many different roles, including: Organizing, Education & Training Coordinator, Coordinator of the Safety Task Force, Chief of Staff, and Political Director. In 2006, Brother Tolman was elected to the office of Vice President and National Legislative Representative. He was subsequently reelected by acclamation at BLET National Conventions in 2010, 2014 and 2018.

In the past 14 years as Vice President & National Legislative Representative, Vice President Tolman has accomplished many things to improve the quality of life and working conditions for BLET members and all railroaders throughout the United States. During his tenure, he logged more than a thousand visits to Congressional offices, lobbying alongside BLET National Division officers, General Chairmen, State Legislative Board Chairmen, Division officers, and rank-and-file members. Vice President Tolman also has testified before the U.S. House and Senate more than a dozen times regarding rail worker safety, Amtrak funding, Positive Train Control, and other issues of importance to BLET members.

Working to assist various State Legislative Board Chairmen, Brother Tolmanís office has helped introduce various legislation across the country at the state and local level, including the recent passage of two-person crew bills in numerous states. He has consistently worked in the successful effort to stall national right-to-work laws that have been proposed in the House and Senate, and has lobbied for steady Amtrak funding, which has been successful but challenging at times. He has met with each President and Vice President of the United States since 2007, except for the current administration, having met with only Vice President Pence. Among the major pieces of legislation passed during his tenure include whistleblower protections for railroad workers in 2007 and the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008.

ďFor the past 14 years, Brother John Tolmanís service as Vice President and National Legislative Representative has placed the BLET at the forefront of Rail Laborís legislative efforts in our nationís capital,Ē Pierce said. ďHis leadership in the fight against workplace harassment and intimidation by the carriers led to a revolutionary change in statutory whistleblower protections for railroad workers in 2007 that continues to protect and benefit BLET members. He coordinated the efforts of our Brotherhoodís legislative and protective officers in support of the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008, which was the most significant piece of rail safety legislation in more than two decades.Ē

President Pierce gave his personal thanks to Brother Tolman for his efforts on behalf of the Brotherhood over these many years, and extended best wishes for a long, happy and healthy retirement.

Vice President Verna

Brother Vincent G. Verna elevates to office of BLET Vice President and National Legislative Representative (VP&NLR) upon the retirement of long-serving VP&NLR John P. Tolman. Brother Verna was elected by acclamation to the office of First Alternate VP&NLR at the BLETís Fourth National Convention in Las Vegas on October 4, 2018.

Brother Vernaís railroad career began in 1994 when he hired out as a brakeman for the Southern Pacific Railroad in Los Angeles, Calif. He transferred to engine service in March of 1995 in Tucson, Ariz., and joined BLET Division 28 (Tucson, Ariz.) on November 17, 1995. Verna became actively involved in the Brotherhood almost immediately, serving as Alternate Legislative Representative of Division 28 in 1995, and as Vice Local Chairman in 1999. Brother Vince continued in both positions until becoming Division 28ís Legislative Representative in 2006 and full-time Local Chairman in 2008. He was reelected Local Chairman in 2009. Brother Verna also began serving as Chairman of the Arizona State Legislative Board in 2008, a position he was reelected to in 2009. He was elected by acclamation to the office of First Alternate VP&NLR at the BLETís Third National Convention in Las Vegas on October 1, 2014.

Brother Verna began working full time for the BLET National Division on August 1, 2011, when he was appointed to the position of Director of Regulatory Affairs by President Pierce.

In his role as Director of Regulatory Affairs, Verna represented the BLET on numerous rail safety and human factors endeavors, such as the Rail Safety Advisory Committee (RSAC) of the Federal Railroad Administration. He also represented the interests of BLET members in regulatory matters before the Department of Transportation, the National Transportation Safety Board the Transportation Security Administration, and the Transportation Research Board, among others agencies and organizations. He also prepared the unionís responses to various agenciesí proposals for rulemakings and proposed rules, and prepared responses to petitions for waiver from compliance with FRA regulations.

Brother Verna is proud to be a third generation railroader. His father Fred retired as a conductor from UP in 2010 after 48 years of service. Also, his great uncle was a conductor for the Penn Central and the Southern Pacific, and his brother Tony is a BLET member and locomotive engineer working at Union Pacific

Incoming Vice President and National Legislative Representative Verna holds a Bachelorís Degree in History from California State University at San Bernardino (1994) and a Masterís Degree in Legal and Ethical Studies from The University of Baltimore (2003). He and his wife, Julie, reside in the Washington D.C. area. When he has spare time, Brother Verna enjoys reading, art, exercising, writing and recording music, and traveling.

Friday, October 30, 2020

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