I don’t believe that changing our name from the GIA to the BLETA is really that big of a change. We are basically the same organization, the same people, we just changed our name.
The GIA has served the BLE since 1887. Our founders wanted to be of service to the BLE. The founding principles were to educate members, serve the BLE in social events, and to help and protect our members in times of distress.
Our Auxiliary while moving into the 21st century has not lost sight of these principles. Education is a very important function of the BLET Auxiliary and we serve this principle in many ways. Through our scholarship program, funded only through donations, we are helping to educate our children.
The second part of education is in the form of educating our spouses and family members on their benefits and rights under Railroad Retirement Reform, health care issues, and more importantly on FELA laws. We want all spouses to be able to protect you in the event you are hurt on the job and cannot speak for yourself. There are so many spouses out there that don’t have the faintest idea what they would do if something happened to their husbands or wives on the railroad. I believe with the help of designated council the BLETA can help them have some understanding of what they may be up against. We can also just be there to support the family.
The third part of education is legislation. Becky and myself both served the Auxiliary as National Legislative Representatives (NLR). I was the first NLR to mold this position into a more active one. Sometimes I feel like I might have created a monster; especially when it comes time to train the new NLR. The delegate elected two very capable women to hold this position. Kathie Bailey is the NLR, and Sereena Hogan is her assistant. Becky and I have a great passion for this work so you can only guess what the number one focus of this administration is.
The fourth part of education is to lobby. As a lobbyist you are an educator. You educate the membership and most of all the elected officials. It may surprise you to learn most of these officials whether they are National or local do not understand what the issues of the Engineers and Trainmen are, and in most cases they haven’t a clue, so a lobbyist job is to educate the officials.
We still serve in social functions for the BLET. We put on Christmas parties, picnics and various other events.
The last founding principle was to help and protect our members when they are in distress. In that capacity we have a Care and Assistance Program. This program gives a stipend to our members in need on monthly basis. We are also there in case of tragedy and help families who have suffered after rail accidents. Unfortunately there have been too many of those lately.
So that is what we are working for in this new administration our name may have changed but we are still following our founding mothers’ principles. We are here to support and assist the BLET.
I was proud to be a member of the GIA and I am still proud to be a member of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainman Auxiliary. I believe the name change has done one thing – it makes us tied closer to the BLET and it will help people to understand who we are.