BLE delivers safety message at Detroit's LaborFest

Members of the BLE participated in Detroit's LaborFest, a celebration of labor's heritage, on September 13.

The event was organized by the AFL-CIO in lieu of a Labor Day parade and was held at Detroit's Ford Field, the union-built home of the Detroit Lions football team.

"(LaborFest) is a new approach, and exciting new way for working families to celebrate our heritage, show our strength, and protect our future," said Mark Gaffney, president of the Michigan State AFL-CIO.

Representing the BLE at LaborFest 2003 was Michigan State Legislative Chairman Greg Powell, who set up a booth to educate members of the community about the railroads' use of unmanned locomotives.

Brother Powell stumped relentlessly on this issue. After listening to his presentation, more than 1,000 attendees signed a petition favoring regulation of the controversial practice of operating locomotives by remote control. Many were flat out stunned that a locomotive would be operated by anyone other than an engineer in the cab.

"This is a terrific venue for educating the public," Powell said. "We are trying to get comprehensive legislation and regulation enacted by Congress regarding unmanned locomotive operation. Our goal here was to educate the public and bring about this legislation.

"There is obvious public support out there on this issue. In just a few short hours we collected over 1,200 signatures supporting this cause. This is truly a safety issue with the carriers acting in a reckless manner by implementing their measures without a comprehensive training and certification process in place. Every citizen in this state, all states, is entitled to safety when it comes to railroad operations."

Community members who visited the BLE booth also heard a pitch for continued support of Amtrak. Members of TCU volunteered their time and effort to show solidarity in the issues of unmanned locomotive operations and Amtrak support.

"I want to thank everyone who participated and helped at our booth at Laborfest 2003," Powell said." "Brother Dan Cook III (BLE Div. 1) and his fiancé, Adrienne Davis, worked hard to inform LaborFest attendees and gather signatures, as did Brothers Frank Bataglia (BLE Div. 1), Dave Fernald (BLE Div. 2) and his wife Sue, Charlie Allen (BLE Div 19), TCU members Cliff Neumann and Terry Seska. We also had a real strong effort for Operation Lifesaver thanks to Sister Eileen Devine (BLE Div 286). I also want to give a very special thank you to my wife Kristy who helped not only at LaborFest but also for her untiring support and dedication.

"We look forward to participating in LaborFest 2004 and working on issues to bring about a safe and fair workplace and community."

Many other issues were trumpeted at LaborFest, including the right of workers to organize, health care and Free Trade Agreements that affect workers in North America.

"We're going to take advantage of this great gathering of working families in downtown Detroit to educate and agitate on the issues we care about, including the right to organize," Gaffney said. "Millions of workers in this country want to join unions and bargain for a better standard of living, but they are being denied their fundamental rights by illegal and unfair employer tactics. We intend to put the right to organize at the top of our nation's agenda."

Universal access to quality, affordable health care was also a major theme of LaborFest '03. "It's a disgrace that 41 million people in this country have no health insurance," said Michigan AFL-CIO Secretary Treasurer Tina Abbott. "Many of our members work in the health care field, and we see first hand the human tragedy caused by our nation's health care crisis." ·

(Article submitted by C.H. Allen of BLE Division 19.)

Front, from left: Greg and Kristy Powell. Back, from left: TCU member Cliff Neumann; BLE member Dan Cook III and fiancé Adrienne Davis.

From left: Michigan Lt. Governor John Cherry visits with Brother Powell at the BLE booth.



© 2003 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers