A message from Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa
Teamsters are proving again and again that teamwork among unions works. When we left the AFL-CIO last year and joined the Change to Win Federation we did so because our need to organize was not being taken seriously by the AFL-CIO. Now we, and you, are part of a dynamic new labor federation composed of six other like-minded unions: Laborers, SEIU, Unite-HERE, Farmworkers, Carpenters and UFCW. In March, we will participate in an organizing conference with our Change to Win brothers and sisters. And, in June, we will host a Teamsters organizing conference prior to our International Convention. Both of these are opportunities for you to join together with progressive union brothers and sisters who have taken the call for organizing to heart.
Even though some technical jobs have been shipped overseas, the core American jobs such as locomotive engineers, warehouse workers, and truck drivers are in need of unionization. Companies are expanding, and in some cases, becoming multi-national. We, too, are expanding our alliances and partnerships so that we can compare strategies with other union negotiators.
That's why the Rail Labor Bargaining Coalition (RLBC) has been so effective. Instead of bargaining separately with rail carriers, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) joined with the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes, Sheet Metal Workers, Boilermakers, Firemen and Oilers, Train Dispatchers and Railroad Signalmen for the best bargaining strength. This year the RLBC showed the carriers that they were completely united against the rail corporations scheme to reduce the required crew size. The RLBC asserted that having at two crew members on board was the right and safe thing to do. I commend the RLBC for standing up and staying united. There will be more bargaining to come as part of these national negotiations, but we are confident that we will succeed.
Rail Safety Legislation
We were proud to support Rep. Steve Lynch's (D-MA) legislation for rail safety that required rail employee training that he introduced last year. For too long, the rail corporations have kept silent on their safety and security plans. They wouldn't even give the plans to Congress. Rep. Lynch's proposal was one of the first to recognize the integral part our members perform with safety on the job. No one knows better than you that what you see daily on the rails is valuable information. And, that in order to better perform your jobs, you need the training to compliment them. As defacto first-responders to all rail accidents, you need to know how to evacuate a train, what types of suspicious packages to watch out for and how to handle accidents that may include toxic chemicals.
In Nebraska, which boasts some of the largest freight shipments in the United States, State Sen. Matt Conneally (D-NE) just introduced legislation that calls for increased communications between the rail corporations and the police and fire officials. This is an example of local government leaders taking seriously the threat of accidents and terrorism that our rail system is open to.
We will keep fighting to bring workplace safety and public safety on the rails to the forefront of America's security agenda.
© 2006 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen