BLET delegations meets with Congressman Oberstar

Several BLET legislative officials met with Congressman James Oberstar on August 24 in Minneapolis, Minn. Rep. Oberstar will be the Chairman of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee in the 100th Congress.

The BLET representatives included: North Dakota State Legislative Chairman Mike Muscha; Minnesota State Legislative Chairman Tom Perkovich; Division 333 Legislative Representative Mark Anderson; and Division 517 Legislative Representative David Brown.

Congressman Oberstar recognized the importance of the BLET in providing information to his and other Congressional offices on important safety and regulatory issues. He conveyed to the BLET delegation his personal greetings and congratulations to all BLET Advisory Board officers elected at the union's recent First Quadrennial Convention in Las Vegas, including President Don Hahs, First Vice President Ed Rodzwicz, National Secretary-Treasurer Bill Walpert and Vice President & National Legislative Representative John Tolman.

Chairmen Muscha and Perkovich told Oberstar about the need to protect the Railroad Retirement Trust Fund. Brother Brown inquired about funding for training programs, such as the one BLET State Legislative Chairman Scott Palmer of Oregon runs on nuclear waste and hazardous material transportation. Oberstar echoed the need for comprehensive training in such areas and adamantly supports the need to protect the RRB trust fund.

Congressman Oberstar restated his strong support for FELA and for rail safety. He noted that a number of years ago the Association of American Railroads (AAR) had fought safety initiatives that he had sponsored, even to the point of the AAR spending a $1 million budget to defeat those safety initiatives.

AAR and Rail Carrier organizations continue to fight against the rights of rail workers. Oberstar spoke of his family experience with unionism and company harassment. His own father became a union member in 1932 after a company official harassed him for voting Democrat in the national elections.

Oberstar said that one only need look at the cruise line industry to see what happens without good laws and union protection. Cruise ship employees often work 70-hour weeks with no overtime. If they get hurt, the ship tries to put them off at the next port to get rid of them.

He also discussed the appalling situation of those impacted by the Minot train disaster where a federal judge in North Dakota ruled they can not recover damages due to federal law pre-emption. He noted that airline mechanics can stop an airplane in its tracks due to defects, but that railroad employees cannot always stop defective equipment from moving.

Oberstar reiterated that when the labor friendly legislators regain control of the House of Representatives that he would become the Chairman of the Transportation Committee controlling legislation, debates, and hearings on all transportation issues. "The power of the Gavel" is what union members and the public need on that committee to best protect their rights and move good legislation forward.

The BLET representatives thanked Bill Jungbauer, Designated Legal Counsel, for his assistance in organizing and attending the meeting.

From left: Mike Muscha, North Dakota State Legislative Board Chairman; Tom Perkovich, Minnesota State Legislative Board Chairman; Congressman Jim Oberstar (D-Minn.); Division 333 Legislative Representative Mark Anderson; Division 517 Legislative Representative David Brown; and Bill Jungbauer of the BLET-designated firm Yaeger, Jungbauer & Barczak, PLC.



© 2006 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen