BLET responds to UTU President

(BLET Editor's Note: The following is the text of a letter from BLET National President Don M. Hahs to UTU President Paul Thompson.)


July 16, 2004

Paul C. Thompson
President - UTU
14600 Detroit Ave
Cleveland, OH 44107-4250

Dear Mr. Thompson:

This will acknowledge your letter dated July 13, 2004, wherein you stated that since being elevated to International President of the UTU you have repeatedly done all you could to make peace with BLET. You suggested a review of the BLE/UTU Merger document to determine if the concerns of the BLE membership could somehow be addressed. You further state that my response to your proposal was that peace is impossible unless the UTU joins the BLE in an affiliation with the Teamsters.

In actual fact, my reply to your suggestion was that the BLE has now merged into IBT by a favorable vote of 81% of the BLE membership. The BLET is a member of the IBT Rail Conference and that any discussion would now have to include the IBT. I offered to set up a meeting between UTU and IBT representatives to determine if any common ground for additional discussions could be found. BLET did not request to be a part of the proposed meeting. You refused to meet.

In the same discussion, you related several concerns about IBT, to which I said that a meeting may allay what appeared to be personal concerns you have with IBT. I also suggested you survey the UTU membership to determine if they are interested in UTU opening discussions with IBT. A suggestion you also refused. At that time, while you were not receptive to a meeting with IBT, I did not believe you had drawn a line in the sand on the issue.

Now I find at the end of your July 14, 2004, web page post titled "UTU responds to unprovoked BLE&T raid," a quote attributed to you at the UTU regional meeting in Boston which does appear to draw a line in the sand. The quote is "Not in my administration will we ever become a member of the Teamsters organization."

Given your stated position on an affiliation with IBT of which the BLET is now a part, you leave the UTU membership without hope of being represented by the strongest transportation union in North America, unless they join the BLET. Your members know that the UTU's failure to join together with other rail unions has seriously undercut the collective strength of all rail labor at the bargaining table. Your members know that the Teamsters Union has a well deserved reputation for getting good contracts for its members in the transportation sector, from United Parcel Service to the major freight companies, to air freight, to carhaul, and elsewhere. And your members know that the Teamsters Union is committed to re-establishing strength and solidarity in rail labor through the recent merger with the BLE, the pending merger with the BMWE and IBT's overtures to other rail unions. IBT has guaranteed to preserve the autonomy of these proud organizations while supporting them in their fight to regain strong contracts for their members

BLE members overwhelmingly approved the merger with the Teamsters. A recent poll shows the vast majority of BMWE members support a similar merger. When you tried to raid the Teamsters/BLET General Committee at Canadian Pacific, your own members turned against you and voted for Teamsters/BLET representation. Again, I challenge you to conduct an impartial poll of your members to ascertain if they want to be part of the new Rail Conference within the Teamsters.

Your letter is a fabric of misrepresentations and half-truths, which was obviously written in a spirit of desperation on your part, accusing the BLET of raiding the membership of the UTU. We do not consider offering trainmen the opportunity to join the BLET as an act of raiding. While the BLET is not raiding the membership of the UTU, I assume that your desperation may be fueled by the fact that in the last several months more than 1,500 former UTU members have seen the wisdom in joining the BLET and recognizing the strength that the Teamsters bring to rail labor.

Mr. Thompson, it's easy to throw stones and spread disinformation to mislead, but that will not help rebuild Rail Labor. The reality is that everyone knows that Rail Labor is in crisis and that unity and solidarity are the only way forward. We call on you to put aside the rancor and look at what is best for the members of UTU and Rail Labor as a whole.


Very truly yours,




Don M. Hahs




© 2004 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen