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Rail News: Labor

IAM, BLET mark milestone anniversaries


On May 5, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) marked its 125th anniversary.

The union was launched in 1888 when 19 machinists met secretly in a locomotive pit in Atlanta and declared themselves "The Order of United Machinist and Mechanical Engineers."

Within a year, 40 local lodges had been established. In 1889, the union held its first convention at the state capital in Atlanta with 34 locals present, and in 1890, the first Canadian local lodge was established.

The IAM now has more than 700,000 members and is one of the oldest and largest unions in the United States and Canada.

"As we cross this 125-year threshold in the history of our great union, we reflect back on the heroic efforts of the people who got us to this point," said IAM International President Tom Buffenbarger in a press release. "If we continue to emphasize the lessons they taught us, we can ensure that the IAM will have many more anniversaries to come."

The IAM has railroad roots similar to the Transportation Communications Union (TCU), and those roots have proved to be a continued strength of the two unions' merger, said TCU President Bob Scardelletti. TCU — which represents about 46,000 U.S. workers, most of whom are employed in the rail industry — completed its merger with IAM in January 2012.

"We celebrate the 125th anniversary of the IAM and extend our congratulations. Everyone at TCU/IAM is proud to be called a 'Fighting Machinist,'" said Scardelletti.

Meanwhile, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) today marks its 150th anniversary.

The first unit was founded on May 8, 1863, in Detroit as Division 1, which later was named the Brotherhood of the Footboard.

The name Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers (BLE) was adopted in August 1864 at the union's first national convention held in Indianapolis. In 2004, the BLE merged with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters as the founding member of the Teamsters Rail Conference and changed its name to Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen.

Considered the oldest transportation labor organization in North America, the BLET represents more than 55,000 active and retired locomotive engineers and trainmen throughout the United States. Headquartered in Cleveland, the union has more than 500 U.S. divisions.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 5/8/2013