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BLET marks 160 years, was first union to contract with railroads

Today, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) celebrates its 160th anniversary.

The oldest labor union in North America was founded as the Brotherhood of the Footboard on May 8, 1863, in Marshall, Michigan.

A year later, the union changed its name to Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers (BLE), the name it retained for 140 years until merging with the Teamsters on Jan. 1, 2004, when it became BLET, union officials said in a press release.

BLET was the first labor organization to obtain contracts with railroads. Among the earliest was an agreement with the former New York Central Railroad in 1875. Today, the BLET has hundreds of contracts with railroads and represents nearly all locomotive engineers throughout the United States.