Pennsylvania BLET launches 'get out the vote' drive

The BLET's Pennsylvania Legislative Board has launched "VOTE Change ''08," a program that encourages its members to register and vote in the upcoming presidential primary and general elections.

In the first stage of the program, which is already in progress, the Pa. Legislative Board will encourage its members to register to vote in the upcoming election. The second stage will encourage friends, family, neighbors and co-workers to also register to vote.

"We expect to have a more organized impact on the 2008 elections," said Ken Kertesz, Chairman of the BLET's Pennsylvania Legislative Board.

Labor unions nationwide have already started demonstrating their potential influence on this year''s presidential race. In the states that have already conducted their primaries, labor unions deployed paid staffers and volunteers to knock on doors and get out the vote for their chosen candidates.

The BLET Pennsylvania Legislative Board plans to organize a similar movement in the weeks leading up to the April 22 Pennsylvania primary and the November 4 general election. The goal for "VOTE Change ''08" is to register transportation workers living in Pennsylvania, their families, friends and co-workers.

The BLET Pennsylvania Legislative Board is organized into 21 Divisions across the Commonwealth. Kertesz said the Pa. Board plans to train division representatives on how to make sure all labor union members are registered to vote. Their webpage,, has a link to the official state voting website so that members can easily register others.

"We plan to work with other Pennsylvania labor unions to make this effort a success," he said. "By deploying new strategies to use their money, unions have regained their position as the single-strongest force in elections."

During the previous two elections, the amount of money that unions spent to increase voter turnout rose by 50 percent, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. A recent story in the Wall Street Journal reported that union officials'' efforts may be paying off by the recent successful endeavors conducted in the primary states.

A get out the vote program is one of the fastest-growing elements of the labor spending. Unions spent $70 million getting members to vote in 2004 and 2006. That''s up 145 percent from $28.8 million in the two previous elections, according to the center''s figures. The money is spent to persuade members to back the union's candidates and then make sure they vote.

Pennsylvania Legislative Board of the BLET represents approximately 1,300 professional locomotive engineers and trainmen who operate trains for Class I freight railroads (including Norfolk Southern, Canadian Pacific, Canadian National and CSXT), and for commuter railroads (Amtrak and SEPTA).

"I applaud Brother Ken's initiative and encourage all other BLET State Legislative Board Chairmen to do the same," said John Tolman, BLET Vice President and National Legislative Representative. "The November elections are extremely important and the House of Labor must make its voice heard."



© 2008 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen