BLE questions remote control safety at rally


BLE International President Don Hahs, far right, discusses safety concerns relating to the use of remote control locomotives at an informational rally in Kennewick, Wash., during the BLE's International Western Convention on July 23. More than 200 people attended the rally. Other speakers pictured here include, from left: Mike Roswell, Rail Safety Manager of the Washington Utilities Transportation Co.; Al Hobart, Vice President of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters; Jim Beaver, Mayor of Kennewick, Wash.; and Raymond Holmes, BLE International Vice-President & U.S. National Legislative Representative. Other speakers not pictured here were Bill Walpert, BLE General Secretary-Treasurer, and George Hucker, BLE Vice-President & National Legislative Representative-Canada.


In temperatures over 100 degrees, several hundred people attending the BLE's International Western Convention in Kennewick, Wash., rallied against the unsafe use of remote control technology in the railroad industry.

BLE and GIA members, their families, members of the Teamsters, members of other labor unions and concerned citizens participated in the informational protest, held to educate the public about the potential dangers and job losses associated with the use of remote control locomotives.

BLE International President Don Hahs told the crowd that the BLE International Division was fighting a legal battle in the courts and through arbitration to support the union's position that the most trained and qualified member of the train crew should operate the new technology.

President Hahs was joined by several high-ranking Teamster officers, lead by Teamster International Vice President Al Hobart. Vice President Hobart led a delegation of members from Teamster Local 174 (Seattle, Wash.), who offered a tractor-trailer that served as the backdrop for the speakers. Local 174 Business Agent Manny Loya drove the rig from Seattle to Kennewick.

Other speakers included General Secretary-Treasurer William C. Walpert, International Vice-President & U.S. National Legislative Representative Raymond Holmes, International Vice-President and National Legislative Representative-Canada George Hucker, Kennewick Mayor Jim Beaver, and Mike Roswell, Rail Safety Manager of the Washington Utilities Transportation Company.

The rally organizers were led by Kent Confer of the BLE's National Mobilization Team. Jeff Cheney, a member of BLE Division 236 (Portland, Ore.). Confer and Cheney thanked Brother Will Amaya, IWC 2002 Chairman, for helping coordinate the event with the IWC and the hotel.

U.S. railroads could avoid potential safety hazards and improve operating efficiency by using federally-certified locomotive engineers in Remote Control Operations. Locomotive engineers are the most highly-trained, skilled and experienced employees in the railroad industry. However, the railroads insist on using employees with limited training and experience in remote control operations, while eliminating the jobs of many locomotive engineers. ·

© 2002 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers