The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen is about to get its fourth national president in less than three years. Paul Sorrow, head of the Teamsters-affiliated railroad employees union since last November, announced in a letter a few weeks ago that he would be retiring on July 1, making way for current First Vice President Dennis Pierce to take over. Unlike his two predecessors, Sorrow’s departure is unrelated to corruption. Sorrow, 63, cited health problems as the reason for departure.
Late in 2007, then-BLET President Don Hahs stepped aside from the top post of the Cleveland-based labor organization, now with nearly 60,000 members, following charges that during 2004-06 he’d embezzled about $58,000 in union funds to cover personal expenses, especially Cleveland Cavaliers basketball games and family travel. Though not prosecuted, he was removed from office by International Brotherhood of Teamsters President James P. Hoffa in March 2008 after a full review of the charges. His replacement, BLET First Vice President Edward Rodzwicz, fared even worse. Last October he was arrested on federal charges of soliciting and accepting $20,000 in illegal bribes in Las Vegas and Kansas City, Mo. from an unnamed St. Louis lawyer. He stepped down in November and pleaded guilty this March.
Paul Sorrow was a reformer, though in all fairness he didn’t have much of a choice. Under his direction, the union instituted changes in its accounting of expense audits and designation of attorneys in health-related cases. In his letter to the union, he noted the pace of the last couple months was taking a major physical toll on him, a situation likely to become worse given upcoming regional meetings and the national convention in October. Sorrow’s replacement, Dennis Pierce, 51, a Nebraska native, was elected first vice president by the union advisory board in December.