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Rail News: Labor

BLET celebrates 155th anniversary

The union was founded on May 8, 1863, in Marshall, Michigan, as the Brotherhood of the Footboard.
Photo – Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen


The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) marked its 155th anniversary yesterday.

The union was founded on May 8, 1863, in Marshall, Michigan, as the Brotherhood of the Footboard. In 1864, the group changed its name to the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers (BLE), the name it retained for 140 years until merging with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters on Jan. 1, 2004, when it became the BLET.

The BLET is the oldest labor union in the Western Hemisphere, BLET officials said in a press release.

Locomotive engineers formed the organization in the 1860s after they became discouraged with pay cuts and the dismissal of their firemen. At the time, locomotive engineers at the Michigan Central were paid at the rate of $60 a month on the condition that they ran at least 2,500 miles each month, regardless of the time consumed.

The BLET was the first labor organization to obtain contracts with railroads. Among the earliest was an agreement with the former New York Central in 1875. Today, the BLET has hundreds of contracts with railroads large and small, and represents locomotive engineers on 98 percent of rail trackage in the United States.

The BLET also was a pioneer in the field of labor journalism. It began a monthly journal in 1867. Current official publications include a quarterly magazine, Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen Journal, and a monthly newsletter, Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen News.

The National Division of the BLET has maintained a website since 1996,, posting daily news stories and periodic News Flash updates that are emailed to thousands of members.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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