BLE officers receive labor degrees
Three BLE local chairmen recently celebrated milestones in their lives by graduating from the National Labor College in Silver Spring, Md.
On June 24, R.J. Darcy of Division 373 (Trenton, N.J.), Mike Thiellen of Division 622 (Alliance, N.E.) and Bob Shaw of Division 292 (Beach City, Ohio) received Bachelor of Arts degrees from the National Labor College, which is on the campus of the George Meany Center. All three received their degrees in labor studies.
"These three local chairmen are to be commended for their hard work and dedication to their studies," said BLE President Edward Dubroski. "They combined this dedication to their studies with their dedication to their members. This is an admirable feat."
All three Brothers submitted senior projects that were received with honors by the college administration.
"It was an excellent course of study," Brother Shaw said. "The environment was nurturing but intense."
Shaw said there's increasing interest among the administration of the National Labor College in information pertaining to the Railway Labor Act. His senior project highlighted this interest and presented new curriculum material under the Railway Labor Act, which covers both the airline and railroad industries.
Shaw is a Wheeling & Lake Erie locomotive engineer. He began his railroad career in 1971 and earned his promotion to engineer in 1974. The BLE organized the W&LE property in 1992, and Shaw first joined the BLE in 1984.
Richard Darcy has worked for five different railroads over his 26-year career in engine service. He hired on the Central Railroad of New Jersey in 1974 as a fireman, was furloughed, then hired by the Penn Central. He was promoted to engineer in 1976 and has spent the past 15 years running passenger trains for New Jersey Transit.
Darcy was elected to office of local chairman of Division 373 in December 1997. On July 11, of 1998, he attended the BLE Local Chairman's Workshop at the George Meany Center in Silver Springs, MD. Upon returning to his duties as Local Chairman, he enrolled in the National Labor College Bachelors Degree program at the George Meany Center. After two years of working full time, studying nights and weekends, Darcy finally completed all course requirements for a Bachelors Degree in Labor Studies.
"It is a proud moment for my family, my division, and the 93 members of the NLC class of 2000," Brother Darcy said. "With the support of my family and friends and the encouragement of many good union brothers and sisters I hope to spend the remainder of my working days returning something to the craft and organization that made my dreams a reality.
"The BLE officers and the George Meany Center staff who organized the Local Chairman's workshop, created a vision of union success in the 21 participants. I believe that the labor education of our current representatives and their replacements is key to the survival and growth of our organization. For every dollar we invest in labor education there will be a tenfold return to our members.
"No representation campaign has a chance on a property with a strong organizational structure already in place. Our organization's strength lies in the ability of its members and representatives to grasp their roles in today's labor movement. For Division 373, the education began on July 11, 1998."
Mike Thiellen always wanted to earn a college degree. He took a few college courses years ago but never finished after joining the railroad industry.
"The National Labor College is a way to fulfill your dream of completing a college education other than the traditional method," Thiellen said. "It's a program designed for unionists."
"I feel the important message is for our members to know this college degree program is out there and available to them. I'm sure there are some others out there who would utilize it if they knew about it."
While on the campus of the Meany Center, Thiellen said he was proud to be a member of the BLE because the union is so heavily involved in the AFL-CIO.
"The BLE is slowly becoming more than just a voice for railroaders," he said. "Through the AFL-CIO, we're speaking for the betterment of all workers."
In the end, Thiellen says the program was worth it, and suggests all BLE members take advantage of the opportunity.
"There's no question I'm a better local chairman as a result of the education I received," he said. "I can't think of a day that goes by that I don't use something I learned.
"You're so much better prepared to recognized what management is trying to do at the negotiating table. You're better equipped to handle it and fight the fight.
"Education is the key for us to win our battles," he continued. "I wish I could personally take every BLE member to the George Meany Center. I often think how great our union could become. Nothing could stop us."
From left: R.J. Darcy, M.J. Thiellen, BLE Regulatory Affairs Coordinator Bob Harvey and R.G. Shaw
© 2000 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers