Head to Head in the BLET

June 1, 2010: BLET National President Paul Sorrow and rank-and-file engineer Tom Brennan are running for the union’s top job in the BLET’s first ever one-member, one-vote direct election.

Everything is in place now for the BLET national election: rules, a nominating convention, and now candidates.

Tom Brennan, a rank-and-file engineer, became the first official candidate when he announced his bid for the top spot in the union back in April.

Paul Sorrow, the current president of the union, is expected to run for the top spot. But he has not announced his candidacy yet.

This will be Sorrow’s first time to run for president. He succeeded Ed Rodzwicz, who was removed from union office for accepting a $20,000 bribe.

Tom Brennan has run for top office before, at the 2006 BLET convention, where he got 42 percent of the delegate vote against Don Hahs. Hahs left office for embezzling union funds, and was succeeded by Rodzwicz.

“Can’t Sit Back”

“There’s no way I can sit back and allow the people who are running our organization to disgrace us and make us the laughing stock of rail labor,” Brennan said in an interview. “When you don’t have any respect walking in the door, you don’t have any way to get things done for your membership.”

Brennan says his top issue is pay: “I think our leaders have short-changed us at the negotiating table. I’m not of the belief that we’re paid enough. Most people in Cleveland at BLET headquarters don’t understand the difficult nature of our job, because they haven’t been out there for years. They just don’t get it.”

Even though he is running against an incumbent in a national union that is spread out all across the country, Brennan said he thinks he can win: “It’s a David versus Goliath battle. But I really like our chances.”

Paul Sorrow did not respond to our request for comments. He, and any other candidates who emerge, can be interviewed for a future issue.

Will the Election Happen?

As Teamster Voice goes to press, some BLET officials are still trying to stop the election from happening. But their time is running out.

They have until June 1 to get divisions representing 25 membership of the membership to approve an initiative taking away the Right to Vote.

BLET members won the Right to Vote in 2006, through a referendum. But this fall will be the first time they get to use it.

The Right to Vote is the best way for members to protect their union and to hold their officials accountable.

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