Goodbye GIA, Hello BLET Auxiliary by Becky Schneider, President BLET Auxiliary

“So if you’re tired of the same old story, turn some pages, (we) will be here when you are ready, to roll with the changes.”  – REO Speedwagon circa 1978

While I was growing up, REO Speedwagon released a song entitled “Roll with the Changes,” which seemed to fit well with the continued, new direction of our organization. We have morphed over the years from our rich and historic roots, and our Auxiliary is looking forward to a bright future – playing an even greater role to bring about positive change for our railroad spouses and an improved quality of life for our families.

Our most recent Past Presidents, Ruth Windham and Onita Wayland, succeeded a long list of visionary pioneers of the GIA. Ruth backed initiatives that established innovative programs, including the Scholarship, Legislative, and Mobilization Programs. Onita brought to our organization a different way of governing, instituting governance by committee to allow for as much input as possible in making important decisions. Now, for the first time in a very long time, none of our National Officers is of retirement age, which means we have a closer “current connection” to the working railroader, the issues, and the organization we support. We hope that connection will give us even greater ability to recognize areas where we can do the most good.

A number of changes were made at our recently concluded International Auxiliary Convention, not the least of which was our name. The delegates and officers voted to change the name of the “GIA to BLE” to the “BLET Auxiliary.” While the new name may not elicit a catchy tune, it does speak directly to who we are – the Auxiliary to Brotherhood’s locomotive engineers and trainmen.

A significant change affected the make-up of our organization, as we are now two national auxiliaries rather than one international auxiliary. We will still operate as sister organizations, continuing to help one another when needed, but will focus our support on the unions within our respective countries. The Canadian Auxiliary will be known as the TCRC Auxiliary. We have also expanded our membership to include Associate Members for those who do not meet our membership requirements, but have expressed a desire to be a part of the Auxiliary and its work. We welcome all who are interested in making a difference in the lives of our spouses, families, and communities when it comes to rail safety, security, and the quality of life of railroad employees.

On the always unpleasant topic of finances, the delegates made tough decisions that we believe will move our organization toward a more solid financial basis. Our strategy to meet that goal will include fundraisers, with our cookbook being the first in these efforts. We will continue to look for new and innovative ways to finance our auxiliary, allowing us the means to help the BLET in every area we are able.

The mission and purpose of our organization has not changed over the years, only expanded. Our involvement in the lives of our spouses is greater; our understanding of working for the railroad, including its risks and dangers, has grown through education efforts. While our membership may not be as high was it once was, our members are tenacious in their concern and support of the BLET. We now take greater roles in staying abreast of legislative issues that affect our lives, and keep the phone numbers of our elected officials handy to make sure they too understand our issues. We have also increased our efforts in the communities across the nation to ensure our neighbors and city officials are aware of the dangers railroads silently subject them to. We have done so much, but there is still so much left to do.

On behalf of the Auxiliary, Executive Council, and all of our newly elected National Officers, we thank you for your past and continued support for the work we do. In the future, we will strive to be even more involved in an effort to make all of our lives better. Anyone interested in joining our ranks and making a difference, please feel free to contact either myself, or any one of our new officers. We hope we can continue to count on you in our efforts to “help us, help you.”

All officers, delegates and proxies attending the Eighth Quinquennial Convention of the Grand International Auxiliary. It was the final meeting for the GIA, which voted to change its name to the "BLET Auxiliary.

All officers, delegates and proxies attending the Eighth Quinquennial Convention of the Grand International Auxiliary. It was the final meeting for the GIA, which voted to change its name to the “BLET Auxiliary.