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National Division Convention Day One News and Results

Members of the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes Division (BMWED) convened in Las Vegas today to open their Fifth Regular Convention.

Bylaw amendments and convention rules were amongst the most spirited debates of today’s proceedings, particularly two:  1) A call for a debate between the two candidates for BMWED president, current Vice President Bruce Glover and current Unified System Division General Chairman Tony Cardwell and 2) A reduction of National Division Vice Presidents to three (from its current five) and Executive Board positions from six to five.

During the Rules Committee’s report, a proposal to push back tomorrow’s election to the afternoon in order to hold a debate between the candidates was defeated (roll call vote here), mostly by the Cardwell-backed Membership First contingent. Following the vote that killed the rule proposal, however, the two groups did agree to debate later this evening instead, moderated by a person agreed upon by the two candidates, Delegate Matt Mortensen, and with questions selected from proposals from the delegation.

You can watch the debate between Brothers Glover and Cardwell and the two Secretary-Treasurer candidates, Burlington Northern System Federation General Chairman John Mozinski and American Rail System Federation First Vice Chairman Dale Bogart here.

As for the bylaw proposal to reduce National Division Vice Presidents to three (from its current five) and a decreasing of Executive Board positions from six to five, the Bylaws Committee recommended approval of the amendment, noting that since the 2018 Convention, membership has decreased by close to 7,000 members (sitting around 25,000 today).  The BMWED has had 5 Vice Presidents since 1952, a time when there were approximately 280 railroads and approximately 180,000 Maintenance of Way Employees.  Since then, the freight railroad industry has consolidated from hundreds of railroads to 7 Class I Railroads as well as regional, short-line and terminal railroads.  A reduction in a single Vice President position would result in an annual savings of at least $250,000 annually when salary, health benefits and travel expenses are included.

The motion to reduce the number of VPs and Executive Board members failed. The number will stay the same.

Current Vice President and advisor to the Bylaws Committee Bruce Glover (who is running for President) argued unsuccessfully that through the imminent retirements of two VPs, this reduction could happen through attrition and would help alleviate budgetary pressures on National Division that have accrued during the loss of membership. He said National Division has already cut 20 administrative and appointed positions since 2018 through layoffs and unfilled retirements and a reduction is officers is now necessary.

Proponents of keeping the Vice Presidents at five and Executive Board at six prevailed in their arguments. Delegate Kevin Evanski, the first to stand against the proposal, said a reduction in officers could be far more costly in the expertise that is lost, noting that a mistake in a CBA that was missed due to decreased officer involvement could cost members millions of dollars.

Several other delegates added that cutting officers would be akin to the railroad’s Precision Scheduled Railroading approach, where they cut off jobs to do more with less. They also stated that elected officers are the membership’s voice and that voice should not be reduced while rail management continues to attack.

Others conversely argued that it was time to do more with less, since membership was down and dues increases were completely off the table. They said cutting costly salaries at the top of our Union was responsible shepherding of dues dollars and something the membership expects from those it sent to do their business at this convention.

At the end of the debate, a voice vote was called for and the proposal to reduce officers was defeated.

In other business, U.S. Rep. Dina Titus, Congresswoman representing Nevada’s District 1, which includes Las Vegas, gave a stirring speech where she sang the praises of Organized Labor and celebrated legislation in the House that has strengthened our positions to collectively organize. Rep. Titus noted that several federal projects, including the big bi-partisan infrastructure deal reached last year includes tens of billions of dollars for both passenger and freight railroad construction, with provisions that call for Unionized workers like BMWED to perform the work.

Sara Nelson, the President of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, AFL-CIO sent in a video message of solidarity. Sister Nelson is a fast up-and-comer in the national labor movement and her support is a great boon for our Brotherhood. Her remark of “unionism being the tide that lifts all boats” was impassioned. “Focus on the tide – we together are the tide. We are the ones who through solidarity and strength and a willingness to fight that will be the tide that lifts us all to victory.”

Federal Railroad Administration Director Amit Bose, who has ushered in a great communication and advocacy for Labor within that federal department, also offered a video message to the delegation, thanking BMWED members for the hard work and great dedication to keeping America’s rails safe, reliable and moving.

Day Two of the Convention will resume Tuesday morning, with more Bylaw considerations before moving onto the election of National Division officers later in the proceedings. 

Stay tuned to the BMWED website and Facebook page for up-to-the-minute news and updates.