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BLET Honors Hoffa At Austin Meeting

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AUSTIN, Texas, July 14 — Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) National President Dennis R. Pierce honored Jim Hoffa, General President of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, with an engraved brass bell yesterday during opening ceremonies of the BLET’s regional meeting in Austin, Texas.

President Pierce presented the bell on behalf of the 57,500 men and women of the BLET in recognition of General President Hoffa’s pending retirement, which will become effective at the start of 2022. Hoffa has spent the past 23 years leading the world’s most powerful labor union.

“Thank you, Brother Jim, for your leadership and congratulations on a remarkable career,” President Pierce said. “On behalf of all BLET members, I want to also thank you for your vision of uniting all transportation workers in the strongest Union in America, which led directly to the creation of the Teamsters Rail Conference.”

President Pierce began the day by calling the meeting to order with more than 315 members and families in attendance. After presentation of the flags by the Austin Fire Department Honor Guard, Brother Gary Pedigo, Chairman of the Texas State Legislative Board, delivered the invocation. Brother Pedigo has been a member of the BLET for over 42 years and also serves the Brotherhood as the Legislative Representative of BLET Division 177 (Denison, Texas).

President Pierce then welcomed all members, families and guests to Austin. He introduced members of the BLET Advisory Board who were in attendance, and thanked National Vice President Jim Louis, Special Representative Matt Kronyak and Special Representative Jason Wright for their work in managing and organizing the regional meeting. President Pierce also recognized and thanked the regional meeting arrangements committee members: Brother Tim Wild, Local Chairman of BLET Division 62 (Houston, Texas); Brother Eddie Perez, Secretary-Treasurer of the Tex-Mex General Committee of Adjustment and of Division 244 (Laredo, Texas); Brother Greg Lund, a retired member of Division 421 (Buffalo, New York); and Brother Carl Fields, a retired member of BLET Division 682 (Hammond, Indiana) and former Coordinator of the BLET Safety Task Force.

Guest speakers included Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa; Teamsters International Vice President and Rail Conference Director John F. Murphy; Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes Division (BMWED) Vice President Roger Sanchez; Railroad Retirement Board Labor Member John Bragg; IBT Joint Council 58 President and Local 988 President Robert Mele; Candidate for Lieutenant Governor in Texas Mike Collier; and BLET Auxiliary National President Kat Bisbikis.

As part of the morning session, President Pierce led BLET members in a moment of silence in memory of Brother Shahraim C. Allen, late Chairman of the BLET Washington State Legislative Board, who died unexpectedly on June 24, 2021. Members in attendance also observed a moment of silence in honor of all BLET members who have been killed in the line of duty since 1989, whose names were shown in a solemn video presentation. 

Members will take advantage of educational opportunities throughout the remainder of the week. Workshops will feature specialized training for BLET Legislative Representatives, Secretary-Treasurers and Local Chairmen. The 2021 Austin regional meeting will conclude with a banquet on the evening of Thursday, July 15.