BLE, Fire Fighters lead Labor Day parade in Charlotte, N.C.

Members of BLE Division 166 marched in the annual Charlotte, N.C., Labor Day Parade on September 2, marking the fourth year in a row the BLE has represented rail labor in the nation's second-largest labor day parade.

"This year's theme is 'Labor to the Rescue,' spotlighting the union members who served and died on 9-11," said Ben Lee, Local Chairman of Division 166 (Charlotte).

Due to its heritage as North America's oldest labor union, the BLE is normally first in line during the parade. This year, however, the BLE conceded that honor to a group of New York City firefighters, members of the International Association of Fire Fighters, who saved countless lives at the World Trade Center on September 11.

Brother Lee said a small but dedicated group of BLE members marched in the 1.5-mile parade route. He said it's hard for most of his members to participate because many have to work on the holiday.

"It is hard to get many (members) to march because most work on Labor Day morning," Brother Lee said. The ones who do participate, however, "will walk sick, without sleep, in the rain, and then go straight to work. No questions asked," he said. "They are true friends and BLE Brothers."

The parade kicked-off at 11 a.m. on September 2, and began with a professionally choreographed Broadway-style dance number, featuring a "dancing locomotive engineer." The identity of the dancing engineer, a BLE member, was kept secret until the parage began.

"It (was) me," Lee confessed. "(The music promoter) took one look at me - straight from work in the traditional striped overalls and cap - and decided he wanted me in the dance number most of all."

From left: Ike Alexander, President of BLE Division 166 (Charlotte, N.C.) and Don Woods, Vice Local Chairman of Division 166, during the annual Charlotte, N.C. Labor Day Parade. Members of Division 166 also carried an anti-remote control banner in the parade in order to draw attention to potential safety hazards associated with the use of remote control technology.


© 2002 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers