April 2018 Legislative Report

April 2018 Legislative Report

By Kathleen Bisbikis, National 2nd Vice President, National Legislative Rep, BLET Auxiliary

Below are some of the most recent news items that affect all of us. Please feel free to share these with your local auxiliary. If you have information you would like to share with me for future updates, please send it to me at bletauxilliarylr@gmail.com.


BLET Ratifies Amtrak Contract

By better than a 9-to-1 margin, members of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) ratified a new collective bargaining agreement with Amtrak on April 2, 2018. The final tally was 90.5% in favor and 9.5% against, with nearly 65% of eligible members casting a ballot.

The five-year deal protects all existing work rules and provides members with general wage increases of 18.84% compounded over the life of the contract. It runs through December 31, 2021, with full retroactive pay dating to July 1, 2015. Employee health care contributions are frozen at $228.00 per month over the life of the deal. The new contract provides much needed improvements for employees entitled to paid time off for active duty in a branch of the U.S. Armed Forces.

The agreement governs more than 1,400 locomotive engineers who operate Amtrak’s passenger and commuter trains over its 21,000-mile, 46-state route system.

BLET National President Dennis R. Pierce thanked BLET members for participating in the balloting and ratification process. He also thanked Amtrak General Chairman Mark Kenny and his negotiating team for their diligent work at the bargaining table.

“Coming on the heels of our National Freight Agreement, this contract protects the work rules that our Amtrak members work under while also capping their health care contributions and providing real wage increases,” President Pierce said. “I want to thank Brother Kenny and his negotiating team for bringing this round of bargaining to a successful conclusion.”

General Chairman Kenny said: “Given the stalemated status of our previous collective bargaining efforts with Amtrak prior to the settlement of the 2017 National Freight Agreement, and the exorbitant health care costs proposed by the Carrier at that time, it stands plainly evident that this agreement represents a significant improvement in both general wage increases and employee health care contributions over the life of the agreement, and without forfeiture of any existing work rules.”

(BLET Newsflash dated April 3, 2018)


Potential Fraud Alert – Telephone SCAM United Healthcare

Members Receiving Scam Calls SCAM ALERT – Don’t respond to any calls from phone numbers you don’t recognize.

It has been brought to our attention that some members have received unsolicited phone calls from Tennessee and Georgia area codes from individuals posing as United Healthcare representatives. These calls have been identified as a SCAM. The caller from the Georgia area code used the number 678-384-4965 to make the call, and left a message to call back on 888-315-7524 and ask for United HealthCare options. The caller also asked for personal information, such as the member’s social security number.

Members could receive calls from other area codes claiming to be United Healthcare. They should not answer/respond to any of these calls or provide any personal information.

United Healthcare does not place calls to members asking them for their social security number. Do not provide any information to these callers. It is important to be diligent about any phone call that seems suspicious • If you receive an unexpected call or text from any area code/phone number you don’t recognize, never answer it. If it’s someone with a legitimate inquiry, they will call back or leave a message. • If you do answer it and you believe the call is suspicious, call the Member Services number on the back of your medical ID card to speak with a Customer Service Representative. • Always be sure to review your phone bill carefully and contact your carrier about any suspicious charges. • If you or someone you know becomes a victim of a phone scam, you can file a complaint online with the Federal Trade Commission (https://www.ftc.gov/) and the Federal Communications Commission https://www.fcc.gov/ under the For Consumers tab.

(United Healthcare Press Release – Dated March 14, 2018)


Monterey, California, and Washington, DC Regional Meeting Registration

Just as a reminder to anyone planning to attend the regional meetings this summer in Monterey, California, or Washington, D.C., the online registration is now open for both.

You can find the link at www.bletregionals.org.  Monterey registration will begin at the Hyatt Monterey Hotel and Spa on Monday, June 18, and opening ceremonies will take place Tuesday, June 19, 2018. A golf tournament will be held on Wednesday, June 20, at the Del Monte Golf Course for an additional cost. Classes will be held on Thursday, June 21, with a banquet to follow that evening.

Monterey is the home to many sightseeing opportunities, whale watching, the famous Monterey Bay Aquarium, daily fishing excursions, tons of shopping on Cannery Row, and day trips in any direction to nearby scenic beaches and towns.

Washington D.C. registration is now open as well and will be held at the Capital Hilton on August 13-17, 2018. Don’t miss this opportunity to visit our nation’s capital.


Operaton Lifesaver Offers Online Safety Training for First Responders

Every day, 80,000 emergency response vehicles travel the nation’s roads; there are 200,000 railroad crossings on those roads. National rail safety nonprofit Operation Lifesaver, Inc. (OLI) wants to help first responders safely travel to emergencies and stay safe when responding to rail-related incidents with its interactive e-Learning program.

“Our free online Rail Safety for First Responders program brings attention to the choices first responders often make around tracks and trains and is intended to help them safely traverse highway-rail intersections,” said OLI Interim President Wende Corcoran.

While it can take extra caution to navigate a railroad crossing while heading to an emergency, ambulance drivers, law enforcement officers, firefighters, EMTs, and dispatchers can mitigate the risk by knowing what to do, Corcoran said. Operation Lifesaver’s e-Learning Program, developed with input from fellow first responders, has four interactive sections:

  • Railroad Basics – identify train cars, signs and signals
  • Crossing Challenge – puts the user behind the wheel for a ‘virtual’ trip to an incident
  • Safety Search – respond effectively to railroad safety risks
  • Incident Response – manage an emergency on railroad tracks

“First responders and emergency vehicle drivers are an extremely important target audience because of the high consequences of an emergency vehicle-train collision. We are grateful to our safety partners at the Federal Highway Administration and Federal Railroad Administration for funding development of this important safety tool for emergency response personnel,” Corcoran concluded.

More information about the e-Learning program and other safety resources for first responders is available on the OLI website.

(Operation Lifesaver April 2, 2018)


Teamsters Encourage Members to Register Now to Vote in November Elections

It may still seem like it’s just the beginning of 2018, but the Teamsters are already on the ground registering members to vote in advance of the November election to ensure workers’ voices are heard at the ballot box.

As part of March’s Voter Registration Month of Action, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters encouraged locals to use “lost timers” to register members all across the country. Twenty-five locals in 15 states joined in to register members, including Teamsters in Arizona, California, Georgia, Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and Washington.

Even before the union got involved with registering voters, members were hard at work getting Teamster-endorsed candidates elected who will stick up for the rights of workers and ensure hardworking Americans can support their families.

As previously reported, Joint Council 25-endorsed candidates in Illinois emerged as winners in 12 congressional primaries and the gubernatorial primary. Meanwhile, in a western Pennsylvania special election, Conor Lamb (D), an ex-federal prosecutor and Marine with strong family ties to the area, prevailed by the thinnest of margins because Teamsters put in the time going workplace to workplace to make sure he did.

Of course, there is still much more work to do. With so many important federal and state elections set for the fall, the Teamsters will be ramping up efforts in the coming months because increased turnout at the ballot box will mean increased sway in the corridors of power.

Workers deserve a better life that allows them to earn a fair living. But it won’t happen without electing lawmakers who put working families first.

(International Brotherhood of Teamsters press release –  March 29, 2018