BLE gains 1,300 new members in just four months

Directing a Town Hall Meeting in North Platte, Neb., is Vice-President Ed Rodzwicz. As a result of these meetings, the BLE has gained over 1,300 new members from September through December.

The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers has gained over 1,300 new members in four months by holding a string of successful "Town Hall" meetings across the Union Pacific property.

The purpose of these meetings is to educate BLE and UTU members regarding the UTU's application before the National Mediation Board and the resulting negative ramifications it would have on the industry.

"Once UTU members in the field hear the truth and understand how their international has put their futures in jeopardy, they come over to the BLE's side of the fence," said International Vice-President Ed Rodzwicz, who is the lead organizer of the BLE's UP campaign.

In North Platte, Neb., the BLE gained 17 new members as a result of a Town Hall meeting. International Vice-President William C. Walpert reports that more than 125 BLE and UTU members attended the meetings. The BLE has had other successful Town Hall meetings in Cheyenne, Wyo.; Salt Lake City; Pocatello, Idaho; Green River, Wyo.; St. Louis, Mo.; Houston, Texas; and Little Rock, Ark.

In addition, BLE Special Reps and members of the National Mobilization Team have held dozens of other organizational meetings across the UP system.

The 17 new members in North Platte is nothing new to the BLE, which has seen an increase in overall membership in 33 of the past 35 months. In fact, the BLE gained over 1,300 new, active members from September through December alone.

Organizers of the BLE Town Hall meetings have come to expect negative input from "spies," hired by the UTU International and paid to attend the meetings for the sole purpose of generating hostility.

This plan has backfired on the UTU, however, as many UTU members who attended the BLE Town Hall Meetings ended up joining the BLE after hearing both sides of the story.

The UTU has held its own version of the BLE's Town Hall Meetings. However, BLE members who have attended these meetings report that the UTU clouds the truth surrounding the real issues and only focuses on hype and mudslinging. In fact, the UTU does not even distribute copies of its January 12, 1998 petition to the National Mediation Board at its meetings, which is the cause of the current dispute between the BLE and UTU.

BLE and UTU members alike attended a Town Hall Meeting on December 17 in North Platte, Neb., to hear the truth regardin the UTU's application to combine all operating crafts on the Union Pacific Railroad.

In an attempt to thwart the success of BLE's meetings, the UTU International has used its resources to paint them in a negative light, using its news media to report only partial statements and half-truths.

"The UTU accuses us of using scare tactics," Walpert said. "If they consider the truth a scare tactic, then that's what we're doing."

Walpert said a main topic of discussion at the Town Hall meetings is the possibility of the entire UP property turning non-union. This would happen if the NMB orders a representation election and less than 50 percent of eligible voters cast ballots.

UTU has also quoted BLE Vice-Presidents Rodzwicz and Walpert as calling this scheme "absolutely brilliant." Again, UTU has purposely misled workers through its media outlet and only reported half of the truth.

"We said the plan was brilliant, but brilliant in a diabolical way," Rodzwicz said. "Diabolically brilliant like the Kamikaze pilots of Japan during World War II, or diabolically brilliant in the way a terrorist drives a car bomb into a building. Yet the UTU has taken this as a compliment by only reporting half of what I said."

On the Quebec North Shore & Labrador Railway in Canada, the UTU signed an engineer-only agreement that compromised safety of rail workers and eliminated close to 100 jobs. In a recent report filed by the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB), which is the Canadian equivalent of the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board, the UTU was criticized for compromising safety with its contract agreement.

"Several agreed-upon contractual provisions actually work against... reducing the amount of rest a locomotive engineer can take at his 'away-from-home terminal' from nine hours to seven hours, and restricting locomotive engineers from obtaining relief en route until they have been on duty for 12 hours as opposed to 10 hours," the TSB wrote in its analysis of a recent QNS&L derailment.

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2000 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers