GC Beebe reaches 60-year membership milestone
To be described as a “classic” means that one is considered to be of the highest quality with lasting value; an authoritative standard; fashionable, with simplicity and restraint in style; one of a kind. Like the classic ‘57 Chevy or the fashionable Elvis Presley, SMART General Chairperson William A. Beebe is a classic in his own right.
Amtrak GO 663 General Chairperson Beebe is a classic railroad union man who has withstood the test of time. On Jan. 1, he will have completed 60 years of service as a union representative to the Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen, the former UTU, and now the SMART Transportation Division. More amazingly, Beebe will turn 86 years young in January and shows no signs of slowing down. Throughout those 60 years, the membership has been his top priority.
GO 663 Vice General Chairperson Gary J. Hopson offered highlights of Beebe’s union career. Beebe has been a delegate to every national convention since the creation of the UTU. He has witnessed, firsthand, the evolution of this union and has often been described as the union’s resident historian. Hopson said Beebe was an active participant in the formation of the UTU.
According to Local 227 (Hartford, Conn.) Chairperson Francis L. Ariola, Beebe proudly served in the U.S. Army, beginning in 1946. He later attended college at the University of South Florida and Southern Connecticut State University, where he earned both a bachelor’s degree and teaching certificate.
He hired out in 1951 with the New Haven Railroad (New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad) in the mail and baggage department, and on May 29, 1953, he transferred into operations as a brakeman, joining the BRT on Aug. 1, 1953. On Jan. 1, 1954, Beebe assumed the office of secretary of the local committee of adjustment for BRT Lodge 937 (now Local 1361). He was elected vice local chairperson in 1957 and became local chairperson in 1962. While serving simultaneously as local chairperson and Connecticut state legislative director from 1964 to 1976, he was elected general chairperson on the former New Haven and Hartford Railroad in 1976.
In 1983, Beebe led UTU-represented Metro North Railroad employees through a six-week strike that resulted in a ground-breaking agreement that has become the benchmark for commuter rail contracts. SMART TD members still benefit from that agreement today, Hopson said. “Now, our committee handles our own contract negotiations with Amtrak with minimal national involvement by the International. Beebe’s 1983 agreement opened the door to this.”
In addition to serving as general chairperson, Local 1361 delegate and trustee, Beebe is again the Connecticut state legislative director. He maintains a rigorous caseload and there are no indications that retirement will ever even be a consideration of his, Ariola said.
So how does Beebe keep it all going? According to Ariola, Beebe makes a concerted effort to stay healthy through physical fitness, diet and rest. “He is very health-conscious and works out every day, and has even been known to beat racquetball opponents 30 years his junior.”
Hopson provides more evidence, explaining that, “Beebe was a renowned handball player at the New Haven YMCA, and played masterful tennis even into his seventies.” According to Ariola, Beebe was a successful minor league pitcher in the Drummond Baseball League during the early 1950s. He is also a family man and ensures that he is involved in his two granddaughters’ lives by frequently visiting his daughter Susan’s family in Oregon. “He just loves his grandkids and they love their grandpa,” Ariola said.
“As the union’s ‘resident historian,’ Bill has accumulated a lot of stuff over the years. He keeps the most current union contract with him at all times, in the very likely event that someone asks his opinion about some vague, but pertinent, contractual provision. Members are always asking for his thoughts on various provisions because they trust him as highly competent, knowledgeable and wise. The funny thing is that, he really doesn’t need it since he practically has it memorized.”
“As a union representative and as a man, Bill is fearless. The carriers know that he is a fighter and that he is never intimidated.”
As SMART embarks on another year, members can rest assured that Bill Beebe will continue to take care of business by representing them with the highest quality. Bill Beebe truly is a one-of-a-kind classic.