|ONLINE VERSION||SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER 2001|
|While I highly respect all the BMWE members
who took responsibility and voted, I am deeply disappointed with the
vote disapproving the merger. As president of the BMWE, I fought for
this merger because I believed it would mean that we could provide the
membership with substantially more than we could standing alone. That
was my sole reason in fighting for this merger.
I would like nothing more than for BMWE to remain an independent union, living off of its proud heritage while effectively providing our members the best possible benefits. Unfortunately, however, that is not possible. If we don’t aggressively move to cast our lot with others in our position who are subject to the same economic forces we are, our numbers will continue to shrink and we will become less effective politically and at the bargaining table. It’s just that simple.
The horror of September 11, 2001, the declining economy, the anti-labor actions of the Administration all require a level of unity, intelligence and solidarity the likes of which we have never seen before. It is critical that we do not simply react to the monumental events which are taking place. We must be active in the planning and implementation of the changes which will occur globally, nationally, regionally, locally and within the BMWE, so that those who have a different vision and different objectives from the Labor Movement in general and the BMWE do not simply make their agenda America’s agenda – at the expense of our membership.
Bob Dylan once wrote a song entitled The Times They Are A Changing. That song was designed to boldly inform our parents’ generation that our generation was coming of age and would not accept the old way of doing things. It dealt with some of the major issues of our times – Civil Rights and Peace. Unfortunately or fortunately, however you want to view it, the times are a changing for us in the railroad industry also.
We have seen our forces dwindle on Class 1 railroads from millions in the 1930s to under 200,000 today. We have seen a series of never-ending rail mergers which have left only five major Class 1 railroads, while Rail Labor has remained broken into numerous craft unions, some combined into larger unions, some remaining independent. We have seen the growth of rival modes of transportation in trucking with the creation of the interstate highway system and the revolution in the aviation industry.
In the late 1800s and early 1900s Eugene Debs called for the creation of one rail union representing all crafts. If he were alive today, he would be calling for the creation of one transportation union, as rail no longer moves the vast bulk of intercity freight. For us in the rail industry, the times are not only a changing, they have been a changing and have changed – and not for the better.
Add to this the development of technology and globalization and we see the U.S. economy has changed from one based in manufacturing to a service economy – an economy in which more and more production occurs outside of our borders. This trend has caused a shrinkage in the "smokestack" industries and a resultant decline in the Labor Movement, as the "smokestack" industries were highly organized. At the same time, there is growth in the Labor Movement in the service industries, because the service industries are a growth sector of the economy.
I heard Bob Dylan’s message in the 1960s and I hear it today. If the times are a changing in the railroad industry, the transportation industry and the national economy, I believed and believe we must change too.
BMWE members recognize this also and at the 1998 Grand Lodge Convention they directed Grand Lodge to aggressively seek out merger partners. I formed a committee to do this and included many on that committee, or as advisors to that committee, who opposed the SEIU merger. That committee, after meeting with many unions, negotiated the Merger Agreement with the IBB. The Grand Lodge officers voted to put that agreement to our members to ratify or reject and that is what I did.
I realize many view my actions differently, but I had and have no desire to roll over anyone – to allow a "takeover" of the BMWE by the IBB – or to in any way either hurt our membership for my own personal advantage or to demean any officer or member in the merger process. I simply wanted a democratic process for our members to decide whether we should merge with the IBB, once the Committee negotiated the agreement and made its recommendations and two-thirds of the Grand Lodge Officers voted to put that agreement to the membership.
This has been a spirited internal debate to say the least and many on both sides of the issue are angry about what the other side said and did. But after all is said and done, we as a union must come together and make certain that our members obtain all to which they are entitled and not allow the railroads or politicians to play upon internal divisions at the expense of those whom we represent.
Grand Lodge will continue to provide the services we have provided to the system divisions and federations, local lodges and members to the best of our ability and will leave no stone unturned to do this as economically as possible, striving to see that despite the vote on the IBB merger we do not become less effective. This will require the commitment and active assistance of every member, every local lodge officer, every system officer, every Grand Lodge officer, every appointee and every employee, as there is no blueprint given the times.
If I, or any of those who support the IBB merger took any action or said anything which any opposed to the merger found insulting, I apologize for those actions and/or words and ask those who opposed the merger who might have taken actions or said things which those who favor the merger found insulting to apologize for their actions and/or words also.
For at the end of the day, we who favored the merger and those who opposed the merger are all in this together – and our enemies are not each other. Not if we are truly unionists. Together we must work to get the most and best we can for the membership.