Legislative Update February 2014

BLET Proclaims Support of High Speed Rail Funding Provisions in California

In a January 13 News Release, the BLET praised California Governor Jerry Brown’s budget proposal to help fund bullet train construction with $300 million in revenue from the state’s cap-and-trade program. BLET National President Dennis Pierce expressed his support of the proposal, stating: “High-speed rail is an integral part of California’s transportation future. Without it, California’s overcrowded highways cannot meet the future transportation needs of the state’s ever-growing population. Building high-speed rail and its successful operation will boost the state’s economy and will provide much needed middle class jobs for years to come.”

“Cap-and-trade,” also called “emissions trading,” is a market-based approach to control pollution by providing economic incentives for reducing greenhouse gases, emissions, and other pollutants. A limit, or cap, is set on the amount of a pollutant that may be emitted and that cap is allocated to firms in the form of permits. Firms are required to hold a number of permits equivalent to their emissions. If a firm needs to increase its number of permits, it must purchase permits from other firms that require less. The transfer of permits is referred to as trade, thus the term “cap and trade.”

Using California’s cap-and-trade funds to construct high-speed rail makes sense. The high speed rail project that will connect the Bay Area with Los Angeles and other cities will improve travel options and reduce the time needed to cross the state, thereby resulting in less pollution and carbon emissions. In addition, it will provide good paying jobs. The governor’s budget plan would also provide investment in rail modernization, including upgrades to urban, commuter, and intercity rail systems.

The International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees Division, and the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen have also expressed their support of Governor Brown’s budget proposal.

Call to Action: Please Join the Teamsters’ Effort to Oppose Fast-Track Legislation

On January 31, Teamsters members across the nation took action in an effort to get their members of Congress to join in opposition to the fast track negotiating authority for trade agreements. Congress is currently debating a bill to reauthorize a procedure called the trade promotion authority (TPA), also known as Fast Track. Fast Track is a formal legal authority granted to the President by Congress, which allows the White House to fast-track international treaty negotiations with foreign partners, sign the completed agreement, and write the implementing legislation. Congressional committees have only 30 days to review the text, and then it goes directly to Congress. Congress then has only 60 days to consider the legislation and then vote on it. They are limited to 20 hours of debate, and no amendments or filibusters are permitted. So, although our Constitution provides that Congress has the sole authority to “regulate commerce with foreign nations,” fast track legislation gives this authority, almost unchecked, to the executive branch.

Fast Track would make it easier for job-killing trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) to become law. TPP is a giant free trade agreement among the U.S. and Canada and 10 countries in the Asia-Pacific region. The nations involved in the talks account for nearly 40 percent of the world’s gross domestic product (GDP) and 26 percent of the world’s trade. The treaty deals with everything from financial services to telecommunications to sanitary standards for food. The impact of this treaty is far reaching, yet weekday evening television news programs have largely ignored the topic.

BLET and auxiliary members are being asked to join alongside Teamster Local Unions and Joint Councils to stand up against Fast Track by:

  1. Contacting your area members of Congress and tell them to vote NO on Fast Track (H.R. 3830). You may use the Teamster Fast Track Hotline (1-888-979-9806) to make these calls. For talking points on this topic, go tohttp://teamster.org/ftcampaign
  2. Visiting the Teamsters “Fast Track is the Wrong Track” website athttp://teamster.org/fast-track-wrong-track-teamstersand signing the petition against Fast Track. You can also send an e-mail to your member of Congress on this site and sign up for text message updates.