August 30, 2010: By an overwhelming vote of 6,305 to 2,452, members of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) in the Teamsters have saved the Right to Vote for their top officers.
BLET members won the Right to Vote in 2006, by a smaller margin and lower turnout.
That was before three of the union’s top officers left in disgrace for misusing tens of thousands of dollars of union funds, double-dipping on expenses, and soliciting a $20,000 bribe from an attorney.
In December, officials from Divisions 13, 98, 155, and 236 started circulating petitions to take away the Right to Vote, and the issue was put to a referendum vote. Behind the scenes, top BLET officers campaigned hard to take away members’ democratic rights.
Right away, rank-and-file members and local officers mobilized to protect their rights.
“The Right to Vote gives us the tools to hold our leaders accountable, punish officers who violate our trust, and root out corruption from our union,” said Hugh Sawyer, President of BLET Division 316 and a member of TDU’s Steering Committee, in a letter that was mailed to all BLET members.
“Why should the members ever give up that right?”
First Direct Election in Full Swing
Now the BLET’s first-ever one-member, one-vote election for top officers is moving ahead in full swing.
Tom Brennan, a local chairman and candidate for BLET President, supported the Right to Vote vocally from the beginning.
The incumbent candidate for president, Dennis Pierce, refused to come out publicly for or against the Right to Vote. Privately he worked to pass the initiative and take away members’ Right to Vote.
Sore Losers Prepare for Round Three?
The members have spoken—they want the Right to Vote.
But the officials of Division 98 have already submitted a resolution to the union convention that would strip members of the Right to Vote. Their resolution could be heading to the convention floor for a vote in October.
Keeping the Right to Vote should be a no-brainer for delegates at the Convention. The members have spoken loud and clear on this issue—twice.
We hope Division 98 officials will do the right thing and withdraw their resolution before the convention even begins.