Hoffa, Hall Inspire Delegates
The power of membership in the Teamsters Rail Conference was a common theme in the quadrennial conventions held by both divisions of the Rail Conference: the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes Division (BMWED) and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET). In all, nearly 1,200 rail delegates from lodges, divisions, general committees of adjustment and system federations from across the country attended in what were the largest gatherings of rail union members.
BLET National President Dennis R. Pierce delivered his state of the union speech during the opening session of the BLET's Third National Convention. “We are a much stronger brotherhood today than we were four years ago,” he said. “Since January of 2011, we have added over 1,800 dues-paying members—which represents a 6-percent increase—and the number of dues-paying members has increased in 32 of the past 45 months.”
James Hoffa, General President of the Teamsters Union, delivered video greetings on behalf of the Teamsters 1.4 million members and its General Executive Board.
“Our union is truly a worldwide transportation union,” Hoffa said. “Today we all benefit from our affiliation and solidarity.”
The Director of the Teamsters Human Rights Commission (HRC), Antonio Christian, Recording Secretary of Local 853 in San Leandro, Calif., asked the BLET convention attendees in his speech to embrace the different physical and personal qualities that make individuals unique. “Diversity makes us strong. And we need strength in order to fight back against the corporate interests that want working people to be left behind.”
Christian thanked Margo Storsteen, a BLET engineer in Boston, for her past service as a member of the HRC, and welcomed Stephen Bruno as a new member. He also outlined the services provided by the Disaster Relief Fund and the Community Services department, which he also leads, in providing assistance to members and their families.
"You are the union. Our members are the union. We are all in this together and we have to make sure that we do not let the anti-union, fat cats control our country. If you are a nonunion worker, you don't have the strength to take on this fight. It’s our responsibility as the strongest union in America,” said General Secretary-Treasurer Ken Hall to the delegates. “Let's go fight back against corporate America."
“Corporate billionaires are bound and determined to see the extinction of unionized labor in this nation,” said John Murphy, Teamsters Rail Conference Director and International Vice President.
More than 400 delegates representing the members of the BMWED attended their Third Regular Convention. The delegates and guests filled the convention hall to hear keynote speeches by Hoffa, Pierce and Murphy.
"It's been 10 years since the merger and it has made us both stronger,” Hoffa said. “My father, James R. Hoffa, had a vision that the Teamsters would be the largest transportation union in the United States. And when you joined as part of the Rail Conference, we accomplished that goal. We now represent hardworking employees at the ports, on the rails, on the highways and in the air."
On the final day of the BMWED convention, delegates elected the first female member of the union's Executive Board, Staci Moody Gilbert. Gilbert has been a member of the BMWED for more than 20 years and is currently the chairwoman of the Burlington System Division. This is the first time in the union's 127-year history that a woman has been elected to the board.
"Our delegates, who come from all over the country, gave Sister Gilbert a strong vote and we are proud to have her join the board," said Fred Simpson, the President of the BMWED. Simpson was re-elected to a four-year term as President of the BMWED. Simpson, who has served as BMWED President since 2004, is also an International Vice President of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.
Rail Leadership Continuity
In addition to Simpson and his board being re-elected, delegates to the BLET’s Third National Convention also re-elected Pierce as their National President. Pierce was elected, along with an entire slate of advisory board members, vice presidents, trustees and alternates to serve as the head officials of the union for the next four years. Due to election procedures, the beginning of their terms will begin Jan. 1, 2015.
“It is an honor to lead you,” Pierce said. “We came in here a strong organization and we will leave here stronger. In our dealings with railroads and the government we have to be united and strong. Let’s make our union the strongest it can be.”