What we always knew: Engineers and Trainmen are Essential to the American Economy
By Dennis R. Pierce
BLET National President
(BLET Editor’s Note: The following message from BLET National President Dennis R. Pierce has been excerpted from the February/March 2020 issue of the Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen News. A copy of this statement is available for download and print as a PDF.
INDEPENDENCE, Ohio, March 30 — Over the last month or so, lives have been turned upside down for millions of Americans due to the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19). From work-at-home orders and shelter-in-place directives … to the closing of schools, restaurants and businesses … the work lives and home lives of growing numbers of Americans have changed drastically. In ways seen and unseen, the spread of this virus has affected us all.
Many American workers have seen their jobs vanish, but as with all railroad workers, BLET members have seen their jobs become increasingly more important to the nation. We move the products that power our nation and the food that feeds our citizens. We play an integral role in our nation’s economy, and without us, our nation would collapse. In many ways, BLET members are the nation’s ultimate essential workers.
But then, engineers and trainmen already knew that. For well over a century and half, they have labored in relative anonymity, operating the nation’s freight and passenger trains at all hours in all conditions. Their 24/7, 365 day a year jobs are what move the grain that feeds the nation, the coal that powers our homes, the vehicles American’s drive, and the products that stock the shelves of the stores in our great nation.
It is unfortunate, however, that in many cases, certain of the nation’s rail carriers still don’t seem to understand just how important their employees are to our nation’s survival and recovery from the coronavirus pandemic. While some rail carriers have made significant strides in providing a safe and healthy workplace for Engineers and Trainmen, others continue to ignore the concerns of their employees, and their unions.
That’s why we have focused our Union’s efforts in recent weeks to demand that the railroad industry provide a clean, safe and sanitized workplace inside all crew rooms, in all locomotive cabs, and at all layover facilities throughout the country. BLET’s General Chairmen continue to meet with their respective rail carriers on an almost daily basis in an effort to improve workplace conditions. BLET’s State Legislative Board Chairmen continue to work with Government agencies to ensure that the regulatory protective net is preserved.
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