Last Run: Ken Michel, former New Jersey State Legisltive Board Chairman
Ken G. Michel, former Chairman of the New Jersey State Legislative Board, retired effective January 1, 2007.
Brother Michel hired out as a fireman on the former Penn Central in Weehawken, N.J., in 1974.
"I was reluctant to hire out sooner as I had watched my father, a former New York Central Engineer and BLE member, work many long hours and be subject to call on the extra list," Michel said. "Since there were still firemen on several assignments, after being hired, I was able to hold a position as fireman on a regular run between North Bergen, N.J. and Selkirk, N.Y."
He earned promotion to Locomotive Engineer in 1976 after completing Engineer Training School in New Haven, Conn. For a period of about three years he worked as a hostler in Selkirk before being promoted as needed to Engineer.
Brother Michel became a member of BLE Division 235 (Union City, N.J.) on December 1, 1975. In 1986, he was elected Secretary-Treasurer and Legislative Representative of Division 235. In a special election in 1988, he was elected Local Chairman and held that position until 1999, when he did not seek reelection.
In 2000, as 1st Vice Chairman for the New Jersey State Legislative Board, he assumed the position of State Chairman upon the resignation of James P. Chappelle. Brother Michel was subsequently elected Chairman later in 2000.
"While my commitment was always to my members as Local Chairman, by far, my most satisfying position was that of State Legislative Chairman," Brother Michel said. "I only served the Brothers and Sisters of New Jersey for six years as Chairman, but felt that the Legislative Branch of our Brotherhood would prove to play an important role in the future of our organization.
"The position provided the opportunity to address issues legislatively which were meeting opposition at the negotiating table. I credit our National Division leadership and affiliation with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters for expanding the involvement and activities of our State Legislative Boards. We have achieved many small advances, not the least of which is the recently passed Rail Security Act."
Since the NJ Legislative Chairman's position was a part time position, Brother Michel had to maintain a regular assignment.
"Fortunately, I was able to hold a day yard assignment, the YY-120 in North Bergen, where I began my career," Brother Michel said. "By this time, Penn Central had become Conrail, which was then purchased by CSX."
An unexpected illness in September 2006 forced him to stop work to recover. Subsequently, he was advised that he should consider ending his career and did so effective January 1, 2007.
"I have been a proud active member of the BLET for 32 years," Brother Michel said. "During that time I served as Division Delegate to three Quadrennial Conventions, and as a staff member for a fourth."
He graduated from William Paterson State College in New Jersey with a Bachelor of Arts degree in secondary education. He and his wife Margaret (Mitch) were married in 1974. They have three daughters, Terri Lynn, Janette and Jacqueline (twins) and one son Ken. The couple has been blessed with five grandchildren ranging in age from four to 16.
Brother Michel's father hired out on the New York Central in 1944 as a fireman. He was promoted to Engineer in the late 50's and worked until his retirement in 1980. My son Ken hired out as a trainman with Conrail in 1998 and was promoted to Engineer in 1999. He is currently employed by NJ Transit as an Engineer in training.
"So far, retirement has been very good," Brother Michel said. "We sold our home in Northern New Jersey and moved to a home and a few acres in Cooperstown, N.Y. This is close to Lake Otsego where I spend a lot of time fishing. I have also taken up golf and spend as much non-fishing time as possible on the golf course. We also enjoy traveling to visit our kids and grandchildren on both coasts.
"Membership in the BLET has provided me many friends over the years. Active participation in our Organization provided immense knowledge of our industry and the difficult task of achieving hard fought benefits. I only hope that new Brothers and Sisters will not sit on the sidelines allowing others to do all the work. Participation as an officer in your Division can be a very rewarding job. I also urge all members to participate in the BLET PAC program. Help your Union level the playing field with the carriers by contributing and supporting our battles in Washington D.C. and State Legislatures.
"I wish all as rewarding a career as I have enjoyed," he concluded.
Old friends may write to Brother Michel at: 1803 Margerum Ave., Lake Como, NJ 07719.
© 2008 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen