Why you should support the BLET-PAC
The last two decades have been an historic gilded age for corporations and big business, and few industries have been rewarded as handsomely by this culture as much as the railroad industry. As the U.S. economy has continued to grow, so has the gap between the richest Americans and the working man and woman. As companies continue to reap record profits often while becoming embroiled in one scandal after another everyday workers, like locomotive engineers and trainmen, who literally make the country move, have rarely shared in this record breaking prosperity.
It comes as little surprise that, during this time, many have become disillusioned, disenchanted, disengaged, or otherwise alienated from a political process that often serves to divide people rather than bring them together. Many participants often turn a blind eye or a deaf ear towards the concerns of workers. Sometimes, for those in organized labor, even the choice between Democrats and Republicans has seemed like a choice between the lesser of two evils. It makes sense to wonder if, at the end of the day, politicians will really address our issues. Will they be there when it really matters? Does what they are doing in Washington or the State Capitol affect me? Is political participation really worth it?
For the BLET to continue to be successful, the answer must be a resounding yes - that political participation is not only worth it, but is critical to that success. Our efforts at protecting workers and negotiating contracts do not exist in a vacuum. Government regulations, or the lack thereof, affect almost every aspect of a railroad worker's job - from work hours, health care and retirement, to safety and security. Politicians and the environment that they shape set the government's agenda. Locomotive engineers and trainmen need to be on that agenda, so that whatever the work of our union, we are heard loudly and clearly.
After years of being taken for granted and left out in the cold, the whole of organized labor has finally begun to turn the corner with a renewed sense of purpose, aimed towards taking back this country and restoring some sense of the American Dream. The BLET, present at the birth of organized labor, and comprised of workers who today transport millions of people and tons of goods daily, must step forward to play its part in this restoration. Having joined "the fight" we must once again rise to help to lead it.
For better or for worse, it is a truism that "money is the mother's milk of politics," and beyond voting and active participation in the process, BLET members also need to lead with their wallets by voluntarily contributing to the BLET PAC. The law prohibits the use of union dues for political purposes, so the contributions of individual members to our PAC is what gives our union leverage in the political battles in Washington, D.C. and the states by enabling us to support politicians who are receptive to our widely held concerns.
Upwards of $2 billion - you read that correctly - will be spent by political candidates and parties leading up to the 2008 elections. And we can count on the railroads to spend millions to try to influence the process as they do every election cycle, even as they pinch every nickel and dime when it comes to giving a fair shake to their workers.
It is both reasonable and fair to wonder how an individual monthly contribution might make a difference. While candidates have come to count on the BLET for limited financial support, the process is already awash in overwhelming amounts of cash, and the bottom line is that we can't purchase a political outcome it is illegal, and if it were not, the railroads would have figured out how do to it a long time ago.
To ease doubts about PAC participation, we need to bear in mind one basic truth in a world where money talks. A strong BLET PAC demonstrates first and foremost that our union is engaged in the process. It demonstrates that our members, by pooling together money within our means, are plugged into the process, and paying attention to what is going on in the political arena. When a politician gets a contribution check for $5000 from a railroad, she gets it from a guy in a suit who represents a corporate logo and a stock price. When the same politician gets a contribution for $1000 from the BLET, they know they are getting it from a few hundred brothers and sisters that are kicking in a few bucks a month to a fund. They know that those members speak for not only their own livelihoods, but those of their families and communities as well. They know that people are paying attention, and they know that people who pay attention vote. That $1000 is worth a hell of a lot more than what the railroad gives.
To date, roughly one third of our membership contributes the BLET PAC. Many members contribute roughly one dollar a month. Others contribute amounts of $5, $10, $20 and $50 or more. Although 100% participation would be ideal, a robust PAC would consist of half of our membership contributing $5 each per month. It would demonstrate that when it comes to politics and government, we mean business, and it won't just be the politicians who take notice. It would demonstrate to our Brothers and Sisters in other unions and crafts that we stand with them and are determined to show leadership and muscle, and it is a very safe bet that the railroads will take notice as well. It is an ambitious but worthy goal.
The bottom line is that the BLET needs your support, along with the support of each and every member of your Division. If you already contribute, the Brotherhood needs you to spread the word. Depending on the amount of your monthly contribution, you might consider contributing a bit more. If you don't already contribute, it is the hope of your leadership, and that of many of your Brothers and Sisters, that you will consider doing so and sign up!
We have come a long way in the past few years towards starting to get this country turned around in the face of overwhelming odds, which have stacked the deck in favor of corporations, including the railroads, for far too long. We are all working together to reshuffle that deck, and if the results from the last election were any sign, we are well on our way. We are being heard in the halls of Congress and in state capitols, but we still have a long way to go. Please, contribute today, and help spread the word to sign up.
Sign up for the BLET-PAC!
To sign up online to support the BLET-PAC, go to:
You can also contact your Division Legislative Representative, your State Legislative Board Chairman, or the National Legislative Office at (202) 624-8776.
© 2007 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen