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The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) will establish a short-line department at the national division level, union officials announced last week.The new department will expand the union's ability to organize new members in the United States. The department also will better serve current members from "very small divisions" that work for short lines by providing assistance from the national division during contract negotiations and with other matters. Additionally, division members will have the freedom to form their own local grievance committees for contract enforcement and grievance handling at the local level, BLET officials said in a press release.In creating the new department, BLET National President Dennis Pierce chartered a single Local Division 16 as the home for new and future short-line members. Division 16 is structured to allow for the creation of multiple sub-charters for individual short lines, they said.Pierce appointed BLET National Vice President Mike Twombly head of the BLET Short Line Department and Special Representative Paul Aird, director. "Vice President Twombly has been assigned to assist numerous short-line railroads over his past 11 years on the BLET Advisory Board, negotiating many contracts that have benefitted countless members," Pierce said. "He is a natural fit for the job, and I have every confidence that he will do an excellent job as head of the BLET Short Line Department."Aird, who also is the National Division's director of organization, "is the ideal candidate" to serve as the short-line department's director, he added.Thousands of short-line workers are employed on non-union properties in the United States, Pierce estimated."The new Short Line Division structure is expected to give the National Division added flexibility to organize new members and to grow our organization," he said.To begin the process, BLET is merging short line members of five divisions into Division 16. They are Division 394, Belt Railway of Chicago; the portion of Division 421 that represents locomotive engineers and train service employees on the Western New York & Pennsylvania Railroad; the portion of Division 520 that represents locomotive engineer employees on the Gary Railroad; Division 700, Union Railroad; and Division 895, South Buffalo Railway.The mergers will become effective Nov. 1."The structure of the Short Line Department ensures that collective bargaining, claim and grievance handling, and the discipline process are protected during day-to-day operations on behalf of the membership, while protecting local representation through and in coordination with each subdivision's grievance committee," Twombly said.The department is working with the National Division to elect local officers from each railroad to an executive board.