Campaign for the Right to Vote Gaining Steam in Rail

This spring, rail Teamsters in the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes (BMWED) publicly launched their campaign to win the right to elect their union leaders in one-member, one-vote elections.

More than 150 BMWED members joined a national organizing call to launch their campaign to win the right to elect union leaders in one-member, one-vote elections and discuss how to organize their co-workers to join the campaign.

Since then, the campaign has steadily gained momentum. Nearly 200 members have signed up to get involved in the campaign and dozens have joined organizing committee calls.

All national BMWED officers, and officers in most systems/federations are elected by the delegates who attend union conventions, not by the membership.

BMWED officials who oppose the right to vote say that convention delegates are the most informed members and the ones who care most about the union, so they deserve the right to vote.

But rank-and-file campaign leaders are finding that members are hungry to be more involved in the union.

“Almost every member we talk to is angry that they have no say in electing the union leaders who negotiate our contracts,” says Deven Mantz, a BNSF member based in Minot, ND.

Starting Local, Going National

Campaign volunteers are organizing to win the right to vote for officers both at the system/federation (local) level and at the national level.

The issue will be settled at upcoming union conventions. Delegates to the system and federation conventions will vote on bylaws changes to establish the right to vote for federation officers. Delegates to the national convention will vote on a reform to establish the right to vote for national officers.

The BMWED Right To Vote campaign helps members run for delegate in their system/federation so they can support one-Member, one-Vote bylaws changes at their system/federation conventions.

The campaign is also organizing to urge union leaders and delegates to support the right to vote.

Already, dozens of members have passed resolutions at their local lodges and been elected delegate

What Comes Next

While the next national convention is in 2026, conventions in the Burnor, Burlington System, and Allied Federation are coming up this summer and fall. Together these systems represent over one-third of all BMWE members.

The Allied Federation is the largest federation in the BMWED, representing over 7,000 members. Incumbent officers have strongly opposed giving members the right to vote. At the national convention in 2022, just 14% of the votes cast by Allied Federation delegates were in favor of the right to vote.

Members are looking to put up a strong fight at the Allied Convention in October. Leaders have identified lodges where delegates needed to change and helped members run for delegate and pass lodge resolutions.

A slate of rank-and-file members is running for officer positions in Allied with the right to vote as a core component of their campaign.

“Members are fed up with the backroom deals in our union. After the national convention, delegates who supported the right to vote started talking and we formed a slate to bring better leadership and give members a real voice in our union,” says Jason Hewitt, a CSX member based in Florida.

BMWED members will have a busy summer and fall fighting to win their right to vote. Members who want to get involved in the campaign can go to

Running for Delegate

“In 2022, my lodge delegate voted against our right to vote. I talked with other members in my lodge, and they voted to send me as delegate this time around.

"We passed a resolution in my lodge so leaders know I’m not just voting my own opinion—I’m voting for everyone in my lodge.”

Will Royston, CSX, Atlanta

Mantz.pngMembers Getting Involved

“Members are excited about the campaign. Almost every member we talk to is angry that they have no say in electing the union leaders who negotiate our contracts.

“We are finding new volunteers every day who are excited to get involved in the campaign and have a voice in our union.”

Deven Mantz, BNSF, Minot, North Dakota

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