BLET Officials Move to Take Away the Right to Vote

December 4, 2009. Just two months after the national president of the BLET was arrested for taking a $20,000 bribe, some officials have proposed taking away members’ right to vote for their top officers.

On Dec. 1, Div. 98 President Roy Helm wrote to all local divisions, asking them to approve an initiative that would take away the right to vote for the top officers of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) in the IBT. Click here to read Helm’s letter.

BLET members won the Right to Vote in a referendum vote in 2006.

The first direct election of BLET officers is scheduled for Fall 2010.

On Oct. 12, BLET President Ed Rodzwicz was arrested at his home for taking a $20,000 bribe in October.

Rodzwicz allegedly solicited the bribe from an attorney in exchange for letting the attorney remain on the union’s list of designated legal counsel for injury cases.

Rodzwicz resigned on Nov. 20. Paul Sorrow is the new president of the union.

Rodzwicz is the second BLET president in a row to leave in disgrace. In 2007, President Don Hahs was caught embezzling tens of thousands of dollars from the union, and was removed from office.

Earlier this year, the Independent Review Board (IRB) charged BLET Vice President Rick Radek with embezzlement, too. Radek resigned and agreed to pay the money back.

Taking Away Your Rights

Rodzwicz, Hahs, and Radek were all elected to high office in 2006 by a vote of the convention delegates—not a direct election.

That’s the system Helm and other officials want to bring back.

In his letter to other officers, Helm says: “Since the vast majority of people in most societies don’t have the time or the inclination to become and remain informed and involved, those societies have developed representative democracy, like our federal, state, and local governments, and like the BLET and the labor movement, as a whole.”

Newsflash to Helms: in the United States, we get to vote for our representatives and the president.

Members will have a chance to stop this proposal. First, it must be approved by division meetings representing 25 percent of the BLET membership.

If it makes it past that hurdle, every member of the BLET will be mailed a ballot to vote on the proposal.

The Cure for Corruption

Rodzwicz and Hahs always opposed the Right to Vote. No wonder.

We believe the Right to Vote is the best protection against corruption in our union.

The vast majority of BLET officers are honest and hard-working. But some corrupt officers at the national level have disgraced our union by stealing the members’ money.

“Do some officials think we’re too stupid to vote?” asked Hugh Sawyer from Division 316 in Atlanta. “One-person, one-vote works for every other election in the United States. Why not for the BLET?”

Now it’s up to members to mobilize to protect this hard-earned right—and to rid their union of corruption.

Click here to download the letter from Helm.

What do you think? Click here to contact TDU’s network in rail and sign-up for email updates.

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