BLET Auxiliary Update
Yes we can! It takes hard work, but BLET Auxiliary members get results
I was asked to write an article for the newsletter about my experiences while pushing for a resolution relating to the expansion of remote control operations (RCOs) into my hometown, Shifflett, Va. I am writing to share my experience so that other Auxiliary members might have a better understanding of what was involved, and perhaps use the information to improve quality of life and safety in their spouse's workplace.
I first became more involved when my husband, Danny, was involved in an accident on the railroad. He had been forced to work in unfamiliar, dark territory, and was refused a pilot. Dark territory does not have any kind of centralized signal system, but operates on track warrants. His track warrant was incorrect, and he ran into the back of another train stopped on the main line. He was lucky in that he was only seriously injured and not killed, but he was out of work for over a year. That was my wakeup call - I learned how relentless railroads are and how they treat their employees. Danny had told me what to do if he was ever in an accident, so I was prepared and able to contradict their false claims at his investigations.
I began my research into the RCO issue about a year and half ago when the Norfolk Southern announced that RCOs were coming to our part of the country. I live in a small town in Virginia where schools and community activities are very close to the railroad switching yard. It was slow going at first until I was given Becky Schneider's name. At the time, she was the National Legislative Representative for the Auxiliary. She was very helpful and pointed me in the right direction, giving me the information I needed so that I could educate the elected officials in my county.
I then contacted Carol Lee Fischer-Strickler, my representative on the Page County, Va., Board of Supervisors, and talked to her about the RCO issue. She had already been contacted by other constituents about the coming remote controls, and believed that this issue was something that needed to be addressed because of the fact that there were no regulations governing operations, and because of its potential safety hazards.
With Mrs. Strickler's help in arranging meetings with various board members, and making sure the issue was put on the agenda, on January 16, 2007, we were finally able to get a resolution from Page County requesting the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to issue enforceable regulations to replace the unenforceable "guidelines" that are currently in place. The following week, the Township of Shenandoah followed suit, passing a similar resolution, once again thanks to the help of Mrs. Strickler. In talking to the FRA, I was told that having these resolutions helps to make their case as well to implement enforceable rules governing the RCOs.
We are not done yet. We have been placed on other County agendas and we hope to attain our goal of having a resolution calling for regulations from the State of Virginia. If anyone would like our help, feel free to contact me.
Since joining the Auxiliary in 2005, I have discovered that there is a lot that can be done, even as a member-at-large. When you join, you become part of a network of spouses who care about safety in the workplace. Not that those who are not members don't care, but as a member, there seems to be more information and guidance when it is needed.
Life has gotten pretty crazy for everyone these days, and I am just as busy as the rest. Even though it took some time away from my family to do these things, I am lucky to have my husband, Danny, who supports me completely.
Again, the purpose for writing my story is not for recognition, but to let others know how much we can do as Auxiliary members. I only regret that I waited until something bad happened to get involved. With just a little time out of our busy schedules, we can do things, big or little, that can make a difference in our railroader's life. The true satisfaction comes in knowing that they appreciate everything we do for them.
(Editor's Note: Diane Shifflett, 29, is the wife of Danny Shifflett, a 10-year BLET member and the newly elected Legislative Representative of Division 217 (Shenandoah, Va.). A mother of three children, ranging in ages from 7 to 10 years old, she also rescues English bulldogs and sheepdogs, placing them in loving homes, and provides free dog grooming for elderly residents in her community.)
© 2007 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen