Legislative Issues Should Matter To Us All by Becky Schneider, 1st Vice President/US National Legislative Rep. Grand International Auxiliary

National and state legislative developments have a profound effect on the policies and operation of every industry in today’s modern world. Staying in touch with legislation that impacts the Railroad industry is one of the most important things that we can do as spouses of railroad employees. We make a real difference.

The Legislative Department is relatively new in relation to how long the GIA has been around. It began in 1981, when Ruth Windham introduced a resolution for the position of National Legislative Representative (NLR) to be tied to the office of 2nd Vice President. She was the first member elected to the position. Since that time, the department has grown exponentially as more and more members understand and realize the importance and impact of laws passed by Congress. Because almost all railroad activities are governed by Federal laws and regulations, the only way to truly effectuate change is at the national level.

In 1996, Mabel Grotzinger was elected 2nd Vice President and NLR. Because her home is located close to the BLET’s Washington, D.C. office, and because of the working relationship already developed with key players there, she became an integral part of that department, and was unofficially appointed to monitor hearings and developments concerning Amtrak. She jump-started the process of in depth education of GIA members as to the “goings on” in Washington, and how developments there affect our spouses and families. She also began the practice of setting a GIA Legislative Agenda.

The push to reform Railroad Retirement began under her watch, until she moved up to the position of Vice President in 2001 due to a vacancy. I was appointed to assume her duties as NLR, and vowed to make sure that what she had accomplished would not be lost. With her help and mentoring, I have been able to further expand the number and variety of GIA issues.

We continue to strive to keep our members abreast of areas of concern, including issues such as: remote control, positive train control, Amtrak, rail security, rail safety (including fatigue and hours of service), cross-border operations, as well as those areas which affect our member retirees, such as Medicare and Railroad Retirement. In addition, when issues arise that affect our whole country, not just our members, such as Campaign FinanceReform, we do our best to keep our members aware of what is happening in the ivory towers of the beltway.

As Sereena Hogan, 3rd Vice President pointed out in her article that appeared in the February issue of this publication, our best tool when addressing issues affecting railroaders and their families is grass roots mobilization. The GIA Legislative Department depends on our members to respond to calls for action in contacting elected representatives on specific issues as they arise. We rely on a timely and serious response in order to make a difference. Of course, the more voices that join together, the more noise we can make, and the more our legislators take notice. While the call for action goes out to our members, we also spread the word among interested BLET members, as well as retiree’s organizations, and other rail labor unions. A number of issues outside of the contractual ones are dictated by legislation, so we all have a stake in what happens in Washington, whether or not we are members of the GIA or another organization. That being said I encourage BLET and GIA members to talk to your co-workers and spouses and get involved. It only takes a couple of minutes to make a call that could make a big difference in your lives.

In recent years, our Legislative Department has expanded to include GIA State Legislative Representatives. The state program is still growing as more State Representatives are appointed. We are committed to making a difference at the state level as well as the national level.

As I near the end of my term as the GIA NLR, I believe we have accomplished a great deal and indeed have made a difference. I encourage each of you to add your voice to ours. When our voices come together with a united message for a common cause, we are powerful and we are heard.

Feel free to contact me at beckygia1@earthlink.net or (915) 581-1373, or any International Officer to learn more about the GIA and how you can help to make a difference.