Why I belong to the BLE

By John R. Koonce, General Chairman

(BLE Editor's Note: The following was written by BLE General Chairman John Koonce in response to an editorial published on the UTU website on May 1, and also published in the May 2002 issue of the UTU newsletter.)

I received a copy of typical UTU-E rhetoric yesterday from a Vice Local Chairperson trying to justify his existence in the UTU conductors' local ("Why don't I join the BLE? I'll tell you," by David Currence Vice Local Chairperson, Local 1011, Hamlet, N.C.).

Since I neither have nor want to have any connection with the UTU-E or its International Officers, I thought I would address this misguided soul's statements through the BLE.

The first thing I noticed was that Brother Currence doesn't have years behind him to know or even understand the $1.50 that he expounds upon. I have 36 years of service on the Illinois Central and even I didn't see the $1.50 "so called sell out."

I do know one thing that I believe Brother Currence has conveniently left out of his story and that is the zero-dollar sell-out of the firemen on October 31, 1985. This UTU sell out attrited the fireman's positions forever - assigning the work to the trainmen. This also included forced promotion to Locomotive Engineer. Another UTU sell-out, although not zero-dollar, was the flagman - whoops! Guess his "wiser, more experienced leadership" forgot to tell him about that one! What about the head brakemen and switchmen? More UTU sell outs!

Now, in the name of "progress," it is the Engineer that is being sold out by the UTU, this time through remote control.

I found it interesting, but hard to digest, this great UTU logic Brother Currence refers to regarding historic precedence, as well as his "guidance and support of the wiser, more experienced, leadership" in his organization. If you think remote control is only here to fail and will be a memory in the past as your DWORS on the CSX, you better wake up and smell the roses pal!

As I said, I hired out on the Illinois Central 36 years ago; I've been through furloughs (over three years), two mergers, spin-off of two-thirds of the IC to short line railways, loss of the caboose, loss of the flagman, loss of the firemen and hostlers, loss of the switchmen, loss of the operators, loss of most of the clerks, loss of most of the carmen, and loss of nearly all the roundhouse employees. My experience tells me:

I could go on and on but I am sure Brother Currence was advised of all this by the much "wiser and more experienced leadership" in his organization - or maybe all they told him was something about $1.50. These are this same leaders that he thinks are working for him and his family when the time comes to make concessions. (I thought leaders were supposed to gain increases in contracts, not concessions.) Does Brother Currence want someone like them - who have historically "protected" jobs - to now "protect" everyone's jobs? (Hello, wake up and smell the roses again!)

In closing I am asking Brother Currence to go back and look at the facts himself; it might be a wiser choice than relying on all those "wiser, more experienced" leaders.

That is why I belong to the BLE!



© 2002 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers