President Hahs optimistic on Labor Day 2002

(Editor's Note: The following Labor Day 2002 statement by BLE President Don Hahs was issued on August 30.)

The American labor movement is coming off one of the most challenging years to date as we mark our first post-September 11 Labor Day weekend. Thousands of everyday workers were killed on that fateful day, while thousands more are out of work (and out of luck regarding their 401(k)s) in the aftermath of the Enron and Worldcom debacles.

These corporate scandals have shown the American public how a handful of powerful executives could enrich themselves at the expense of hard working Americans. Abraham Lincoln said it best when he wrote, "All that harms labor is treason to America. No line can be drawn between these two. If any man tells you he loves America, yet he hates labor, he is a liar. If a man tells you he trusts America, yet fears labor, he is a fool."

Clearly, the American worker has seen better days, but Labor is fighting back. AFL-CIO President John Sweeney made the following statement during his Labor Day address:

"(U)nions are escalating our work to hold corporations accountable - holding town hall meetings; pushing new laws, regulations and shareholder proposals; working to rein in CEO pay; providing direct help to workers hurt by corporate scandals; monitoring elected officials who prop up malfeasance - and most of all, helping workers organize together to gain a voice at work."

Speaking of organizing, the BLE won an organizing victory on the Texas-Mexican Railway on July 15. A majority of workers selected the BLE as their collective bargaining representative because they believed in solidarity with the House Labor. Most on the Tex Mex believed that joining a rail labor union affiliated with the AFL-CIO was the right thing to do. They made the right choice.

As Frederick Douglass said, "It is a great mistake for any class of laborers to isolate itself and thus weaken the bond of brotherhood between those on whom the burdens and hardship of labor fall."

On the subject of major victories, the BLE won a hard-fought ruling before the National Mediation Board on August 14. The Board ruled in favor of the BLE position to preserve historic operating craft lines on the Kansas City Southern. This marks the second time that the NMB has ruled in the BLE's favor on a Class 1 railroad, emphasizing the fact that distinct and separate operating crafts do indeed exist on the nation's railroads. This was a major victory not only for the BLE, but for all unions.

The BLE had a lot of help from our friends in the Labor movement in making the NMB victory a reality. More than 20 different labor organizations wrote the NMB on BLE's behalf, including the BLE's Passenger Rail Department, the AFL-CIO, and International Brotherhood of Teamsters, who filed an amicus brief with the NMB. Solidarity was the key.

And even greater solidarity is what we seek with the Teamsters. In pursuing a merger or affiliation with the Teamsters, the BLE is seeking solidarity on the highways and on the railroads of North America.

As the BLE and Teamsters move closer together, I will leave you with this statement on solidarity from Eugene V. Debs:

"Solidarity is not a matter of sentiment but a fact, cold and impassive as the granite foundations of a skyscraper. If the basic elements, identity of interest, clarity of vision, honesty of intent, and oneness of purpose, or any of these is lacking, all sentimental please for solidarity, and all other efforts to achieve it will be barren of results."

I wish you a happy and safe Labor Day weekend.


© 2002 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers