BLET continues fight for remote control safety
Leadership of the United Transportation Union reinforced their reputation as a "company union" by jointly lobbying with rail carriers to block the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen's (BLET) efforts to improve the safety and security of remote control train operations.
Using false and misleading information, the UTU leaders also employed "scare tactics" in an effort to portray the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen in a negative light.
The BLET worked with Teamster and TTD lobbyists to craft language for an amendment that would boost the safety of remote control train operations. Currently, the operation of remote control trains in the United States is unregulated, creating a safety and security gap in a time of increased terrorist threats.
The industry has also been plagued by a number of very serious remote control train accidents in recent months, including one accident where a UTU member's foot was amputated and another where a UTU member was killed.
The BLET amendment would have provided a safety net for workers by legislating improved training for remote control operators in the absence of enforceable federal safety regulations.
The UTU leadership, in an attempt to portray the BLET and its safety efforts in a negative light, issued a news release claiming that the amendment would cause UTU members to lose their jobs.
In reality, there is a dangerous shortage of rail workers throughout the United States, particularly locomotive engineers, trainmen and conductors. The Union Pacific Railroad just announced plans to hire nearly 4,000 new workers this year alone.
Intelligent rail workers were able to see through the UTU leadership's false claim that jobs were at risk as a result of the BLET amendment. It was just another case of the UTU leaders using scare tactics that insult the intelligence of their own members.
Before the BLET amendment was even introduced, BLET leaders knew it would be withdrawn. The original intent was to introduce the amendment and attach it to a transit spending bill in the U.S. House of Representatives. Leaders of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure asked all legislators on the Committee to refrain from trying to attach any amendments to the bill because of its importance and the need to pass it quickly. As a result, more than 25 amendments were withdrawn, including the BLET amendment.
In other words, withdrawing the amendment had nothing to do with the efforts of the UTU.
Even though the amendment was never introduced, Congressman Mike Capuano (D-MA) agreed to read a statement into the record supporting the BLET's position on remote control. He criticized the Federal Railroad Administration for inaction, failure to enact enforceable safety regulations, and the threat this oversight poses to rail safety and national security.
The UTU leadership's efforts revealed something else that each and every railroad employee should know. For years, many have referred to the UTU as the "company union." A few years ago, for example, when the railroad carriers wanted to implement remote control technology without enforceable safety regulations, they turned to the UTU - their old friend who comfortably resides in management's hip pocket.
So when word of the BLET amendment leaked, the UTU once again played the role of company lap dog. The UTU signed a joint letter with the Association of American Railroads opposing the BLET amendment. The joint UTU-AAR letter supported the status quo on remote control and was sent to leaders of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.
A copy of the letter is available at right so members can see how the AAR and its lap dog union, the UTU, work together so comfortably. A portion of the letter reads, "Experience has shown that remote control is safer than conventional operations." It's unbelievable that UTU leaders would agree to this statement when their own members are being maimed and killed by remote control operations, but sadly, they did.
In conclusion, the facts are clear: The UTU leadership claimed the BLET amendment would cause loss of jobs in an industry that needs to hire thousands of new workers, which is untrue. The UTU leadership claimed that the BLET amendment was withdrawn due to the UTU's political influence, which is untrue. And in the end, the UTU's leadership showed their true colors and provided clear evidence that they are in bed with the rail carriers. Instead of fighting for improved remote control safety, they are working jointly with the rail carriers against it. They do not appeare to have the best interests of their members at heart.
The BLET had hoped to take the high road, but the UTU leadership has chosen to make political hay out of this issue in an attempt to portray the BLET in a negative light. We cannot and will not allow their misleading statements and distortions go unchallenged.
A copy of the letter with signatures reproduced is available on the BLET website as a PDF at:
© 2004 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen