SMART-TD states the obvious: BLET now lacks leadership and direction

June 5, 2024

This past weekend, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) President Eddie Hall desperately attempted to attack SMART Transportation Division in two separate incidents to distract from the fact that his union was more willing to partner with corporate greed than to serve the will of their own membership. In a move that looked more like it was copied from a rail carrier’s playbook than that of a labor organization, they chose to portray themselves as the victim rather than the responsible party.

Both attempts were anything but truthful and are, at a minimum, misleading, if not downright false. We hesitated in responding, as we recognize that our members and those of the BLET are not well served by a public battle, but after several inquiries, it is time we set the record straight.  

In one of the attempts, Hall based his logic on grudges he claims to hold against our organization surrounding what is known as “the Halloween Agreement” signed Oct. 31, 1985 — coming up on 40 years past. However, he needs to go back a few years further to 1982 and Presidential Emergency Board 194, which resulted in the Van Wort study commission findings. Maybe the facts will get in the way of his blame game, but nonetheless they are FACTS. Unfortunately, it would seem Eddie believes in the adage, “Never let facts get in the way of a good story.” However, as a labor leader, the things you say and do matter … and facts are FACTS.

Additional misleading statements he made are glaring. First, SMART-TD has NEVER represented Coaster, so his comments that they are not satisfied with us is an interesting twisting of the truth. Furthermore, his hypocrisy apparently knows no bounds as the Louisville and Indiana Railroad A-Card campaign was a direct result of three previous failed attempts by the BLET to raid SMART-TD properties.

There were some limited truthful statements Eddie made, including that we have welcomed new members into the SMART-TD family on the Louisville and Indiana Railroad. While we could share their reasoning for leaving the BLET for SMART-TD, we felt it best to have them explain that themselves in a future article. I think once everyone hears why they left, it will become very apparent as to why they came to SMART, and why others are reaching out as well.

It is also true that we are in the process of gathering A-Cards on the Indiana Harbor Belt Railroad after significant interest from some BLET members to join SMART. They cited recent issues with their general committee, poor agreements and a lack of transparency from officers … but the storyline became more interesting once it became known that Eddie reached out to his BLET group months before we became involved, asking them to A-Card SMART-TD! Again, the hypocrisy overwhelms.  

Prior to the Hall administration, our two unions operated well together. The presidents established a relationship based on integrity and a shared view that achieved improved quality of life for railroaders. This unified front before the carriers was vastly more important than petty differences between our organizations dredged from generations past. Mirroring the collaborative nature of two people working in the train cab, collaboration between SMART-TD and the BLET helped solidify crucial legislation and regulations regarding rail safety and in national negotiations that benefited all railroaders, regardless of union affiliation.

During the administration of past President Dennis Pierce, when a BLET-represented short-line property expressed interest in joining SMART-TD, our Organizing Department would pass on the opportunity as it was in rail labor’s best interest to keep the peace. However, that principle disappeared in an instant when BLET’s leadership changed hands and they began attempting to recruit membership on SMART-TD properties.

In short, there is not a “raiding problem” in rail labor. There is a representation problem. Like the weakest link in a chain, the BLET threatens to fragment the efforts of nearly a dozen other labor organizations with its current behavior. SMART-TD will not and cannot allow that to happen as it is imperative that all rail labor work together for the betterment of our members. My partnership with Pierce and our collective efforts to grow both unions illustrated this. We worked together to benefit all crafts with all unions, not just our own.

As seen with the Ancora debacle, BLET’s subpar representation threatens labor’s strength at the negotiating table. Their willingness to sell out or settle short drags down the standard of negotiations and adversely affects each and every one of you. This is precisely why so many are abandoning their ranks and are seeking our representation. We are not raiding their union — we are heeding the call. Their members see the successes and leadership of SMART and, understandably, they want to be a part of it.

Unfortunately, BLET’s attacks did not stop there as they turned their misguided focus on our Alternate National Legislative Director, Jared Cassity.

Anyone who knows Jared knows where he stands on safety, I assure you. Washington, D.C., knows it. The FRA and NTSB know it. The railroads definitely know it, and the BLET knows it (at least those who actively participate in using our electronic safety forms that Jared created). They have unquestionably benefited from his and this union’s relentless pursuit of achieving safer condition for all railroad workers across all crafts. Clearly, BLET’s fear of his recognition is greater than their desire to obtain the safest course and another sad attempt to distract from their inability to lead on any front.

To the BLET and your feeble effort to change the narrative, we see you for what you are, and we will continue to rise above it. The once-proud organization that has been branded as “the oldest rail labor union in the United States” is being run into the ground by the conduct of its leadership. They are desperate to change the narrative by changing the topic. Blind to the adverse effects it has on railroad workers and oblivious to the power they’re granting the railroads, BLET leadership has made known that they are poor in judgment and willing to abandon unionism in these misguided attempts to protect themselves. Former President Pierce’s leadership and commitment to solidarity are surely missed at this crucial time when we are on the verge of another round of national freight negotiations.

In closing, SMART-TD will remain focused on the 2025 national negotiations with the rest of rail labor and continue the heavy work of advancing safety legislation in the halls of Washington D.C. and in state capitals. We will continue to increase the momentum of our historic winning percentage in arbitration and stand up against the rail carriers. We stand behind the winning record SMART-TD has produced for the people we proudly serve. Hall and his BLET can continue using smoke screens, parlor tricks, and cartoons to gain social media likes while SMART-TD continues our focus on leading the industry and protecting our members.  

To our SMART-TD members and those that wish to join our family, my commitment to you and to rail workers across the country is unwavering. I will fight ignorance – not join it. I will stand with those who are willing to stand with us as I remain relentless in my pursuit of seizing power from corporate greed and giving it back to the members.

I welcome all of those who share this vision and passion to join SMART-TD.


Jeremy R. Ferguson

President, Transportation Division