Rail labor sticks to members' agenda

On February 26, the Association of American Railroads and the United Transportation Union held the fifth annual Railroad Day on the Hill, a lobbying effort for the railroad industry on Capitol Hill.

The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and other AFL-CIO affiliates chose not to participate because the agenda for the day focused only on issues of importance to rail management - not to the workers whom rail labor represents.

Issues of importance to rail workers such as increased funding for Amtrak and railroad safety were not on the agenda.

On the other hand, the AAR and UTU lobbied for issues such as: increased funding for shortline railroads; the pending reauthorization of the Transportation Efficiency Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21); opposition to railroad re-regulation; and repeal of the 4.3 cents per gallon diesel fuel deficit reduction tax.

Over the past several months, the BLE and other AFL-CIO affiliated rail unions have concentrated their lobbying efforts through the Transportation Trades Department of the AFL-CIO. These efforts included increasing funding for Amtrak and keeping transportation employees safe with the specter of terror increasing - issues that directly affect the welfare of railroad workers.

"The BLE is concerned with issues that affect the lives of the employees that it represents," said BLE International President Don M. Hahs.

"The railroad industry has been crying poor for years in our negotiations, while enjoying great profits. However, our members have been asked to give concessions on wages and health and welfare benefits. This is why we chose not to support the AAR and UTU's efforts on Capitol Hill.

"We would actively support a repeal of the 4.3 cents per gallon diesel fuel deficit reduction tax if the carriers would be willing to use some of the savings to offset increases in health and welfare costs. To date, our conditional offer of support has been rejected by the carriers.

"If the AAR would like to tailor a lobbying day to focus on security and safety for railroad workers, increased funding for Amtrak and a host of other issues that would affect the lives of my members, the BLE would be more than happy to participate. Until then, we will stick to working on our own and with the TTD."



© 2003 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers