BMWED member responds to UTU distortions
(BLET Editor's Note: The following is a copy of a letter written by a rank-and-file member of the BMWED to UTU National Legislative Director James Brunkenhoefer.)
Dear Mr. Brunkenhoefer:
I have read your missive posted on the UTU web page titled, "Teamsters Threaten Rail Retirement, FELA." I am dismayed that you and the former carrier official acting as a "spin doctor" at UTU would so misrepresent the facts simply to take a cheap shot at other unions representing over 70,000 rail workers. Your unprovoked attack against the BMWED is little more than the desperate act of a desperate union leader who has lost his way and his focus.
First of all, to set the record straight, BMWED was not "absorbed" into the Teamsters, and neither was the BLET. BMWED members nationwide voted by an overwhelming 76% to merge with the Teamsters and join the Rail Conference. The vote of the membership of BLET was even higher, with 81% voting in favor of merging with the Teamsters. Yes, this is the same BLE membership that twice voted overwhelmingly to reject a merger with the United Transportation Union. With the kind of anti-union propaganda coming out of your office, I can fully understand why the membership of BLE twice voted against a merger with the UTU.
You also misrepresent the BMWE position on Railroad Retirement reform. Yes, I and other members of BMWE directed our leadership to oppose the framework of Railroad Retirement reform because the membership of BMWE could not support a proposal that gave away $450 million of our pension money to the railroad carriers. I believed then, and still believe, that there was a better deal to be had that could have included full retirement at age 58 or 59. My personal viewpoint remains that we could have gotten more for our $450 million, but UTU evidently thinks differently about the value of the memberships' pension money.
Additionally, if you took the time to actually read General President James Hoffa's position on Social Security reform, it would have been clear to you, as it was to me, that the General President praised the fact that Social Security solvency is finally being debated. Mr. Hoffa said that retirement for working Americans is in jeopardy, and that the nation must preserve and strengthen Social Security and institute meaningful pension law reform to protect the retirement of millions of American workers. Of course, you and your handlers could not let these facts interfere with your diatribe against the Teamster's leadership and its Rail Conference affiliates, BMWED and BLET.
You Sir are out of touch with the needs of your members. UTU led the give away of over $450 million of members' pension funds to the railroads. UTU recently offered the National Mediation Board a 50/50 split in proposed arbitration fees while the rest of Rail Labor testified in favor of the continuation of government funded arbitration. UTU also proposed a deal with the carriers to "eliminate frivolous lawsuits" under FELA, again indicating a willingness to give away the store and undercut the rights of rail workers. And UTU's grab for remote control has led to more UTU members being put out of work as displaced Locomotive Engineers leave the locomotive cab and take over the remote control boxes on the ground. So much for the legacy of the "voice" of transportation labor.
I am a proud member of the Teamsters and a proud member of the BMWE Division. We are now part of the strongest and most politically influential transportation union in North America, the 1.4 million members strong International Brotherhood of Teamsters. Together with our merger partners, we are making Rail Labor history while UTU is slowly fading away.
Our President, and the President of BLET, sacrificed their personal positions and titles in order to strengthen their respective memberships through merger with the IBT. All the while, your Presidents were standing in some back alley extorting bags of cash from UTU-designated law firms, jeopardizing FELA for injured and deceased rail workers nationwide. Thus, while UTU's leadership remains shamed and indicted, our leadership remains strong and united.
With over 25 years remaining in my railroad career, I am disappointed that the UTU has fallen victim to the carriers' "Divide and Conquer" strategy of turning our focus away from them! Instead of concentrating on our solidarity you've chosen to waste your time and resources on the divisive issues raised in your June 5 attack on our growing partnership. As I've been in the midst of organizing a local chairmen's association in Northwest Ohio and Southeast Michigan for all railroad crafts I realize that your letter goes against all that I've learned about Unionism!
I am optimistic about my future and the future of my union. Given the current state of affairs, can the UTU make the same claim?
© 2005 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen