BLET refutes 'ludicrous' UTU rhetoric
Avalanche of membership lost to BLET results in UTU mudslinging
On July 22, BLET National President Don M. Hahs responded to the latest rhetoric from the United Transportation Union.
President Hahs characterized the UTU's July 20 and July 21 website releases as a "Last gasp efforts by a desperate union that may very well be bankrupt by 2005 if it stays on its current course."
The question of the UTU's shaky finances was first raised in the mid-1990s, when the former BLE pulled out of merger talks with the UTU because of unanswered questions regarding UTU finances. Recent financial information reveals their financial condition has not improved and may even be worse than in the mid-1990s.
President Hahs also reiterated portions of his letter he mailed to UTU President Paul Thompson on July 16.
"Mr. Thompson, it's easy to throw stones and spread disinformation to mislead, but that will not help rebuild Rail Labor," President Hahs wrote. "The reality is 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."
President Hahs also suggested that - as with the recent Canadian Pacific Railway situation - UTU members may not be supportive of the direction taken by its International Office in Cleveland.
Earlier this year on the Canadian Pacific, the UTU attempted to force their single craft agenda on BLET/Teamster membership and their own members. In a clear display of disgust for the UTU's misguided agenda, a majority of its own membership voted to join the BLET/Teamsters.
President Hahs also noted that there were several misleading and ludicrous statements in the UTU's July 20 release. For example, the UTU charged that the Teamsters real interest in rail employees is "aimed at grabbing funds from the solvent Railroad Retirement system."
As ludicrous as this claim might be, the BLET National Division contacted the office of Butch Speakman, Labor Member at the Railroad Retirement Board. A spokesman for Brother Speakman explained that Railroad Retirement funds are withheld from rail employee paychecks as a tax and placed in the National Railroad Investment Trust, which is equivalent to a private fund. He said it would be impossible to have this money diverted without the passage of federal legislation.
"There's no way this money could be diverted from the Railroad Retirement Trust to Teamster funds without legislation," the spokesman said. "It just couldn't happen."
President Hahs encouraged BLET and UTU members to visit the RRB website (http://.www.rrb.gov) to educate themselves regarding the National Railroad Investment Trust.
President Hahs concluded by pointing out the hypocrisy of the UTU accusing the Teamsters of corruption.
On July 21, the UTU posted a 19-page release on its website regarding IBT history, based on articles from Traffic World (dated May 2004) and the National Institute for Labor Relations Research (dated 1999) titled "Roots of Corruption."
"This history is a matter of public record and has been the subject of several television shows and movies in the past," he said. "Some 81 percent of the BLE membership voted to be part of a strong union that has a history of not letting people shove them around. IBT does not hide from its past and it continues to provide its membership with strong representation.
"In light of what has transpired in the UTU recently it is rank hypocrisy for UTU to accuse anyone of corruption," President Hahs continued. "It is a sad indication of how desperate the leaders of UTU have become. But your desperation will not help rebuild Rail Labor. The reality is that Rail Labor is in crisis and solidarity is the only way forward."
In spite of the UTU's mudslinging, scare tactics and wild accusations, President Hahs again encouraged the UTU leadership to conduct an impartial poll of its membership on the issue of the Teamsters Rail Conference.
"The only real winners in this situation are the rail carriers,"
President Hahs said. "They know it will be easier to employ their divide-and-conquer
strategy, and rail employees will pay the price through substandard contracts.
As I have said before, I call on you once again to put aside the rhetoric
and look at what's best for the members of UTU and Rail Labor as a whole."
© 2004 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen