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Rail News: Labor

BLE members bless Teamsters merger


Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers members have spoken, and the message — loud and clear — is that the union should merge with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

On Dec. 5, BLE announced 81 percent of eligible U.S. and 62.4 percent of eligible Canadian members approved the merger, based on ballots certified by the American Arbitration Association. Fourty-seven percent of eligible U.S. and 56 percent of eligible Canadian members submitted votes.

After the merger becomes effective Jan. 1, BLE will become the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET), a division of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Rail Conference. Canadian BLE members will become members of Teamsters Canada and part of the Canadian Rail Conference.

"Throughout negotiations, it was our intent and the Teamsters' intent to allow the new organization to represent trainmen under the umbrella of the IBT Rail Conference," said BLE International President Don Hahs in a prepared statement. "We welcome trainmen with open arms."

BLE's current structure basically will remain intact, but the unions expect to make some changes as BLET expands to incorporate additional trainmen members.

"The merger will strengthen our efforts to ensure that our members maintain a strong political voice at the national and international levels, and continued aggressive representation at the local level," said Hahs and IBT General President James Hoffa in a joint statement. "We will share knowledge, expertise and resources to give all of our members the necessary support they need to negotiate contracts, organize new members and expand political action on their behalf."

Founded in May 1863 and considered North America's oldest rail-labor union, BLE would be the first rail-labor union under the new IBT Rail Conference, but others might soon follow. Other AFL-CIO affiliated rail unions have contacted the Teamsters about potential mergers and Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes officials currently are negotiating a merger agreement with IBT.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 12/8/2003