More Shake-Ups at the BLET

July 1, 2010: The third BLET president in a row has resigned. The initiative to take away the Right to Vote is headed to a vote.

The power to shape the future of the BLET is in the members’ hands.

Last month, Teamster Voice predicted that Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) president Paul Sorrow was headed for a showdown this fall against rank-and-file challenger Tom Brennan in the union’s first ever one-member, one-vote election.

We were wrong.

On June 3, Sorrow suddenly announced his resignation—surprising BLET officers and members.

Since 2006, no BLET president has served a full term.

In 2007, President Don Hahs was kicked out of the union for spending tens of thousands of union funds on basketball tickets and trips for his wife. In 2009, police arrested President Ed Rodzwicz for soliciting a $20,000 bribe from a lawyer looking for union business.

Now Sorrow has resigned after serving for less than eight months, for health reasons.

BLET First Vice President Dennis Pierce has taken Sorrow’s place, and announced he is running for the top spot in the union in the election this November.

Will Members Get to Vote?

That election may not happen, if some officials get their way.

An initiative to take away the Right to Vote has passed its first hurdle. Now it is going out to a vote of every BLET member.

“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, in a letter that will be sent to every BLET member along with their ballots to vote on the initiative.

“Why should the members ever give up that right?” Sawyer asked.

Division 316 is the division that originally proposed the Right to Vote for BLET officers.

The Candidates Weigh In

In 2006, BLET members voted almost two-to-one for the Right to Vote. But the new president Dennis Pierce opposed it.

Now, in a cryptic statement on his campaign website, Pierce seems to say that he will go along with the Right to Vote. But he doesn’t come out saying he supports the Right to Vote or opposes the initiative to take it away.

In fact, the initiative to take away members’ Right to Vote was put forward by Pierce’s home division, as well as the home division of his running mate Lee Pruitt.

Pierce did not return our phone call to clarify his position.

Tom Brennan, his challenger, has come out strongly in favor of the Right to Vote, and demanded that Pierce do the same.

Now more than ever, the power to shape the future of the BLET is in the hands of its members. They will decide if they keep the Right to Vote, or throw it away.

BLET Unity Slate here.

Tom Brennan New Leadership Team here.

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