Psota elected to General Chairman- July 2019

Kent J. Psota was elected to the office of General Chairman at the Burlington Northern Santa Fe/Montana Rail Link (BNSF/MRL) General Committee of Adjustment’s 15th triennial meeting in Las Vegas, Nevada, July 8-11, 2019.

A member of BLET Division 623 (McCook, Neb.), Brother Psota served for several years as Vice Local Chairman and then Local Chairman of Division 623. He was elected 1st Alternate Chairman at the GCA’s 2007 meeting and was elevated to a full time VGC in Fort Worth, Texas, in 2008. He was reelected by acclamation to VGC spots in 2010, 2013, and 2016, prior to his election as General Chairman in 2019.

Also elected were: 1st Vice Chairman Matt Brandt, Division 727 (Sterling, Colo.); 2nd Vice Chairman Jess Nelson, Division 842 (Klamath Falls, Ore.); 3rd Vice Chairman Vern Gordon, Division 98 (Lincoln, Neb.); 4th Vice Chairman Brian Fransen, Division 207 (Casper, Wyo.); and Secretary-Treasurer Luke Myers, Division 727 (Sterling, Colo.).

Elected to serve as alternate officers were: 1st Alternate Vice Chairman, Jason Scanlan, Division 107 (St. Joseph Mo.); 2nd Alternate Vice Chairman Rick Lear, Division 290 (Superior, Wisc.); 3rd Alternate Vice Chairman Neal Schipper, Division 940 (Denver, Colo.); 4th Alternate Vice Chairman Jeff Grimes, Division 402 (Pasco, Wash.); and Alternate Secretary-Treasurer Cordell Booke, Division 746 (Mandan, N.D.).

Elected to serve as Trustees were: Brandon Folsom, Division 665 (Centralia, Ill.); Lance Thomas, Division 622 (Alliance, Neb.); and Tyler Simard, Division 195 (Forsyth, Mont.).

Representing the National Division at the meeting were: National President Dennis R. Pierce and National Vice President Michael D. Priester.

“I would like to congratulate Brother Kent and all officers of the BNSF/MRL General Committee of Adjustment,” President Pierce said. “I am proud to thank these Brothers for their hard work in serving our great Brotherhood.”

President Pierce served as General Chairman of the BNSF/MRL GCA from 2001-2008. He recognized outgoing General Chairman E. G. “Jerry” LaPrath and GCA Secretary-Treasurer Kevin Foley, who did not seek reelection due to their upcoming retirements. “I wish both Brothers a happy and healthy retirement,” President Pierce said.

In addition to the election of officers, the delegates in attendance heard reports from their cab committee as well as their safety coordinators. The delegates also addressed Bylaws issues, including the decision to hold future meetings on a quadrennial basis (once every four years) instead of triennially.

The BNSF/MRL GCA is the largest GCA in the BLET in terms of the number of members represented and the number of Divisions. The GCA represents nearly 6,800 active and retired members from 44 different Divisions.

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BLET General Committees sue to halt BNSF abrogation of contracts

INPEDENDENCE, Ohio, March 20 — Three BLET General Committees of Adjustment (GCAs) on BNSF Railway filed suit yesterday in the United States District Court for the District of Colorado to stop BNSF’s unilateral consolidation of road freight service between Denver and Cheyenne, La Junta, Pueblo, Sterling, and Trinidad; and between Trinidad and Denver/Texline.


As part of this consolidation, BNSF has placed all locomotive engineers under a single collective bargaining agreement of the railroad’s choosing, which it had no legal or contractual authority to do. This has resulted in significant changes to wages and working conditions for many of the engineers working in the territory.  The GCAs’ lawsuit seeks restoration of the status quo until statutorily-mandated bargaining is completed.


The legal action comes as serious safety concerns have arisen regarding BNSF’s actions. The railroad’s local managers are harassing and intimidating locomotive engineers to force them into making runs over territories they are not familiar with, a dangerous practice that puts lives at risk.


Training trips are necessary for locomotive engineers who have relocated from other areas and are not familiar with the territory. With the Denver area consolidations, many BLET engineers and trainmen are being required to qualify and/or familiarize on new runs and new routes. In fact, many of these engineers and trainmen have never been over portions of the new territory. In many cases, however, they are being told that a single trip will adequately qualify/familiarize them. A similar problem is being investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board as a possible contributing factor in the fatal Amtrak derailment that occurred near Tacoma, Washington late last year.


The BNSF trains affected by these consolidations carry millions of tons of freight and deadly cargo such as chlorine, poisonous-by-inhalation chemicals, and toxic-by-inhalation chemicals. Forcing engineers and trainmen onto unfamiliar territory is risky and potentially deadly.


“Denying locomotive engineers and trainmen sufficient training trips over rail lines on which they have little or no operating experience has the potential to cause a major accident and/or fatality,” BLET National President Dennis R. Pierce said. “Once again railroad worker and public safety have been forced to take a back seat to railroad profitability.”


“Some folks learn faster than others,” BLET General Chairman J. Alan Holdcraft wrote in a January 30 letter to BNSF management, which was also signed by BLET General Chairmen Jerry LaPrath, Jeff Thurman and Bobby Brown. “While one engineer may need 2 or 3 trips to become familiar enough with the run to operate without a pilot, others may need significantly more training to reach the same level of proficiency.”


As of mid-March, BNSF still had not responded to the letter. This type of management indifference to safety helped trigger the BLET lawsuit.


At the same time, local BNSF managers have repeatedly threatened engineers and trainmen who have requested additional familiarization trips. “We have written reports of employees being called in ‘on the carpet’ and being told that they ‘don’t want to be one of those folks’ who requests more training,” Holdcraft wrote in the January 30 letter. “We will not, and we cannot, tolerate threats made against our members.”

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Steve Snyder elevated to 4th Vice-Chairman

Due to a recent retirement at the GCA, the following changes to Vice Chairman positions are in effect.  1st Vice Chairman Kent J. Psota, Division 623 (McCook, Neb.); 2nd Vice Chairman Matt E. Brandt, Division 727 (Sterling, Colo.); 3rd Vice Chairman Steven V. Halbrook, Division 94 (Gillette, Wyo.); 4th Vice Chairman Steven E. Snyder, Division 104 (Spokane, Wash.)

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