A few weeks ago, I wrote a post called “Oh WTF.. you deserve what you get..”, now that some time has passed I can tell the story.
My father is probably the most honorable man that I have ever known. One of the middle children of his parents, he grew up in a small town in Indiana with two older half brothers, an older brother, a younger brother, and a younger sister. To say that this family was a bit dysfunctional is an understatement. Although overtime all have reconciled, my father was the only one of his full siblings to lead a straight and narrow life. An Eagle Scout, he was never arrested, never served time in jail, no drugs, and doesn’t abuse alcohol. His siblings are a different story, but that’s for another time.
My father joined the Navy during Vietnam shortly after high school – during that time he lost friends, his father died from a heart attack at a young age, and became a man. After getting out of the Navy, he married my mother, began working on the railroad, and shortly thereafter had me.. then my brother, and life was good.
The railroad is a heavily unionized work environment. My father, as a member of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, went out on strike a few times while I was growing up. And that was the nature of the labor environment at his place of employment.
Men of honor are often natural leaders – and thus it is that over time my father became President of the local park board, the founding scoutmaster of my Boy Scout Troop, and eventually Local Chairman (the same as Local President in most unions) of Division 100 of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, a position he held for well over a decade. As time went on, he began to run for and win election to higher office within the union – eventually serving on several committees at a regional (or general committee) level.
It’s important to note here that the BLE is the oldest labor union in the United States – they are well into their second century and predate every other labor organization in the United States – even the Teamsters. The BLE merged with the Teamsters a few years back but remain a semi-autonomous group under the Teamsters umbrella…..
In 1997, with my brother out of high school and on his own, and me established in Baltimore in my first major move away from home after college – my father ran for Vice General Chairman & Secretary Treasurer and won. This office represents the entire Midwest and my father would be responsible for the finances for all of the offices and men in that area – a huge responsibility.
The responsibility was even greater at the time because the union was rocked by scandal. While I won’t go too far into the details here, suffice to say that there was a large sum of money missing, and after a federal and a union investigation, the International President asked the officeholders in the General Committee office to resign. They did, and we all thought that was the last we had seen of them.
A few weeks ago, my father ran for re-election for the third time. This last term would have taken him past his retirement date, and his intent was to serve out of term and retire.
His tenure through two terms has been nothing short of a great success. The union has significant cash resources – rebuilt after the scandal. Their bookkeeping and records have been immaculate and without error – and more important my father represented the interests of his men in fulfillment of the measure of trust that men place in those that represent and lead them.
And then, at the election, the man that had been at the helm during the scandal ran for the top job in the office and won. And then his crony won the number two slot. And then the election for my father’s job deadlocked twice.
The next morning he lost.
And so my parents, after nine years in Florida, are headed back to our family home in Indiana – my father to return to running an engine until his retirement in a few years. And thus our lives go on.
After the other two were elected, we all acknowledge now that it is best that he lost – because a person of my father’s integrity simply can’t work with those who long ago lost the trust of the men that they represent. But it still stings for him to go out this way.
I think about the times that I’ve seen my father upset to the point of tears. At my uncle’s funeral.. at the funerals of my mother’s parents and that’s it.. until this election.
So at this point they turn their backs on this whole union experience – and let the corrupt idiots have their way. But if I was a member represented by that office, I’d be watching the money.