BLE gets support from AFL-CIO affiliates

The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers continues to receive support from AFL-CIO affiliated unions in its crusade to protect historic rail operating crafts.

In recent weeks, BLE President Don M. Hahs has received letters from the Presidents of six AFL-CIO affiliated unions, pledging to support the BLE and condemning the UTU's attempted raid of BLE membership. Some of the union presidents also promised to contact the National Mediation Board and express their opposition to a single-craft ruling.

These six organizations represent nearly two million union members in the U.S. and Canada.

"I am very familiar with the UTU raids on the BLE," wrote Morton Bahr, president of the Communications Workers of America (CWA). "You can count on us to use our influence with the NMB in opposition to a single craft."

The CWA represents more than 740,000 workers and is the largest communications and media union in North America.

Leo W. Gerard, International President of the United Steelworkers of America (USWA), characterized the UTU's attempt to raid the BLE as a "discredit to all of labor."

"We stand proudly beside (BLE) and unite with you in the fight to protect your union from raiding by the United Transportation Union," President Gerard wrote. "We will immediately contact the National Mediation Board and express our desire that their long-term definition of rail operating crafts not be changed to a single craft."

The USWA has more than 700,000 members in every manufacturing industry, including the steel and aluminum industries.

Delegates at the BLE's Seventh Quinquennial Convention in Miami will remember the inspiring speech delivered by Cecil E. Roberts, International President of the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA). President Roberts also sent a letter of support to the BLE.

"The UMWA does not like to see any affiliated union injured and we therefore will be supportive of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers' efforts in dealing with your dispute with the UTU," Brother Roberts wrote.

The UMWA represents more than 125,000 members, including coal miners, clean coal technicians, health care workers, truck drivers, and school board employees.

The Professional Airways Systems Specialists (PASS) represents nearly 12,000 employees of the Federal Aviation Administration and the Department of Defense.

"If there is specific legislation pending or key congressional members needing to be influenced, again, PASS would be happy to help," wrote PASS National President Michael D. Fanfalone. "PASS has supported the BLE in the past and I look forward to our being able to do so again now."

Perhaps the strongest support of all came from Sonny Hall, International President of the Transport Workers Union of America. Like BLE, TWU is a member of the Rail Labor Division of the AFL-CIO's Transportation Trades Department, and is intimately familiar with the history of the BLE-UTU conflict.

President Hall wrote a letter directly to AFL-CIO President John Sweeney, urging the AFL-CIO to take action on behalf of the BLE.

"You know the situation," President Hall wrote. "Our responsibility is clear. As I am sure you agree, a union that withdrew from affiliation [with] the AFL-CIO (for the second time) for the sole purpose to raid another AFL-CIO affiliate must be challenged by the full collective force of the AFL-CIO. It simply cannot be acceptable that a former affiliate of the AFL-CIO can gain by leaving the united family of the AFL-CIO. We must deny the UTU the ability to win their raiding efforts against BLE.

"At this point, I look to the leadership of the AFL-CIO to establish an active committee (task force) to assist the BLE, who are under attack by the independent UTU."

The BLE also received strong support from another railroad union, the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen.

"The BRS supports you in your efforts at the NMB; and will do anything we can in stopping this illegal raid upon the BLE membership by the UTU," BRS President W. Dan Pickett wrote.

President Pickett also wrote a letter to the NMB on behalf of the BLE, urging it to continue its long-standing definition of rail operating crafts.

"The operating crafts continue to operate as separate crafts today just as they have in the past decades," Brother Pickett wrote in his letter to the NMB. "Nothing has changed in the rail industry to create a single craft in the operating craft."

In essence, the UTU is seeking to take over the BLE by eliminating the historic operating crafts of locomotive engineer, conductor, brakeman, switchman, fireman, hostler, and hostler helper, and combining them into a single craft of "train and engine service employees." If the NMB votes to create a single craft, it will force a representation election to determine which union will represent the new craft, thereby allowing UTU to use its greater numbers as leverage in an attempt to raid the BLE - and to ultimately destroy it.

Copies of all these letters are available on the BLE website.

Letter from CWA President Bahr:
Letter from PASS President Fanfalone:
Letter from UMWA President Roberts:
Letter from TWU President Hall:
Letter from BRS President Pickett:
Letter from USWA President Gerard:

2002 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers