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.
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December 4, 2009: Management at United Airlines is violating the contract and the law by harassing Teamster mechanics who take time off when they’re sick.
Is our union doing all it can do protect these new members?
Last May, over 8,000 mechanics at United Airlines voted to leave another union and become Teamsters.
“I supported bringing in the Teamsters because they talked about [how] tough they were with grievances,” said Angel Zamarripa, a mechanic in Local 961 in Denver. “But now management is coming after us harder than ever before on our ‘dependability’.”
The contract at United protects workers who are going to be late for work, or absent because of illness. If workers call in before their shift started, and if they had enough banked sick time, they are protected from discipline.
If the worker doesn’t call in, management can discipline them for “dependability.” That’s how the system worked for decades.
Now management is stretching the meaning of dependability—without re-negotiating the contract.
Management has started to discipline workers even when they’re only one minute late—and management is treating a one-minute late incident like a full missed day, no call, no show.
This isn’t an isolated problem. Mechanics at San Francisco, the largest United station, report that this problem is widespread there.
The “Wellness Center”
Mechanics report that the company’s “Wellness Center” frequently rejects doctor’s notes, and they often delay processing sick time requests. Mechanics have to push to get their sick time paid—and it often does not show up until the next paycheck.
“They want to discourage people from using FMLA and sick time—even though this is protected time off,” says Zamarripa.
It’s clear “wellness” isn’t the company’s real goal.
Officials Back Down
When management started cracking down, members took action. They filed grievances and they circulated a petition.
Unfortunately, union officials didn’t step up to the plate. They backed down.
Officials of Local 961 refused to hear grievances on warnings issued to members because they said the warnings weren’t discipline. And the president of Local 961 refused to look at the petition because of a dues technicality.
Now the company and the new union are implementing a joint union-management board to decide on grievances at the third step.
But all dependability grievances will be held in abeyance until the company and the union both agree to hear them.
That’s a green light for the company to keep violating the contract and harassing members.
This problem is system-wide. Our union needs to take a stand across the board to protect these new members.