Amtrak General Chairperson (GO 663) and Connecticut State Legislative Director William A. “Bill” Beebe, 86, died June 29, 2015.
Beebe served more than 60 years as a union representative to the Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen (BRT), the United Transportation Union (UTU) and the SMART Transportation Division.
In June 2014, at the first convention of the SMART Transportation Division in San Diego, SMART Transportation Division President John Previsich called attention to Beebe’s accomplishments, noting he had served as general chairperson for 38 years, attended his first convention as a delegate for the BRT in 1964 and was attending his 14th convention as a delegate. He was a delegate to every convention since the formation of the UTU.
A member of Local 1361 in New Haven, Conn., and an active participant in the unification movement that led to the establishment of the UTU, Beebe was born Jan. 15, 1929. He joined the U.S. Army in 1946, and later attended college at the University of South Florida and at Southern Connecticut State University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree and a teaching certificate. He was an avid handball player at the New Haven YMCA, and played tennis into his seventies. He was also a minor league pitcher in the Drummond Baseball League during the early 1950s.
Beebe hired out in 1951 with the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad in the mail and baggage department. On May 29, 1953, he transferred into operations as a brakeman, joining BRT Lodge 937 (now SMART Transportation Division Local 1361) on Aug. 1, 1953.
Beebe first took union office Jan. 1, 1954, as local committee of adjustment secretary for BRT Lodge 937. He was elected vice local chairperson in 1957, and became local chairperson in 1962. Serving 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 groundbreaking agreement that became the benchmark for commuter rail contracts, an agreement that SMART Transportation Division members benefit from to this day. In addition to serving as general chairperson and Local 1361 delegate and trustee, Beebe was elected as Connecticut state legislative director in 2005, a position he held until his death.
Beebe was known to keep the most current union contract with him at all times, in the event that someone asked about contractual provisions.
Beebe’s wife, Felicia, died in 2001. He was predeceased by his brothers, Phillip, Earl and Norman; a sister, Eila Talbot; and parents Earl and Margaret (Lewis) Beebe. He’s survived by his daughter, Suzanne Griffiths; her husband Owen; two granddaughters, Celeste and Carys Griffiths and many nieces and nephews.
Calling hours for Beebe are set for Sunday, July 5 at Beecher and Bennett Funeral Home, 2300 Whitney Ave., Hamden, CT 06518 from 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. A Mass of Christian Burial will be held Monday, July 6 at 10:00 a.m. at Holy Infant Parish, 450 Race Brook Rd., Orange, CT 06477. Memorial contributions can be made to Connecticut Food Bank, P.O. Box 8686, New Haven, CT 06531.
Click here to leave condolences or view Beebe’s official obituary.
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.
Amtrak General Chairperson Dirk Sampson (GO 769), issued the following update on wage, benefits and work rules negotiations with Amtrak:
“In continuing contract talks with Amtrak, we are striving to obtain an equitable agreement for our members.
“We recently sent a letter to Amtrak President Joseph Boardman and Amtrak Vice President of Labor Relations Charles Woodcock outlining our position.
“Certification pay and the interpretation of single days continue to be the obstacles holding us up. I remain confident that with the efforts of our UTU negotiating team, we will be able to obtain an agreement that will be beneficial to the Amtrak members.”
Negotiating with Sampson is Amtrak General Chairperson Bill Beebe (GO 663), assisted by International Vice President John Previsich.
Dirk Sampson, now acting general chairperson for Amtrak GO 769, issued the following update on wage, benefits and work rules negotiations with Amtrak following the death of General Chairperson Roger Lenfest.
Sampson will join with Amtrak General Chairperson Bill Beebe (GO 663) to lead those negotiations, with International Vice President John Previsich continuing to provide assistance.
Said Sampson: “We are continuing negotiations with Amtrak with a goal of obtaining an equitable agreement for our members. Certification and the interpretation of single days are important issues to Amtrak conductors and assistant conductors.
“With the continued efforts of both the general committees, and the assistance of International Vice President John Previsich, we will obain an equitable agreement.”
Sampson said the next negotiating session with Amtrak is tentatively scheduled for July 22.
General Chairperson Roger Lenfest (Amtrak, GO 769), age 65, died July 10 following a short illness.
Lenfest, of Sicklerville, N.J., succeeded Al Suozzo as general chairperson following Suozzo’s death in March 2010.
Assistant General Chairperson Dirk Sampson becomes acting general chairperson for GO 769. Suozzo had held the post almost 18 years.
A member of UTU Local 898 (Boston), and a native of Vermont, Lenfest held UTU membership since March 1971. Earlier in his UTU officer career, Lenfest was a general chairperson on Boston & Maine (now part of Pan Am Railways).
GO 769 represents UTU conductors and assistant conductors on Amtrak (New York City south to Washington, D.C., and on non-Northeast Corridor Amtrak passenger trains nationwide), as well as on Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad, Virginia Railway Express, South Florida Tri-Rail and Los Angeles MetroLink.
In March, Lenfest and Sampson led negotiations with MBCR that resulted in a ratified agreement, and in May Lenfest led successful negotiations toward a new ratified agreement with South Florida Tri-Rail.
Most recently, Lenfest has been negotiating with Amtrak for a new agreement on wages, benefits and work rules. Sampson will succeed Lenfest at the negotiating table, joining General Chairperson Bill Beebe (Amtrak, GO 663) to lead those talks with Amtrak. UTU International Vice President John Previsich will continue to assist in those Amtrak negotiations.
Lenfest is survived by his wife, Debra, two sons, six brothers, a sister and three grandchildren.
Prayer service at noon Tuesday, July 19, with a calling time from 10 a.m. to noon at the Ingersoll-Greenwood Funeral Home, 1201 Central Ave., North Wildwood, N.J. In lieu of flowers the family requests memorials in his name to the Our Lady of Angels Church, 35 E. Mechanic Street, Cape May Court House, NJ 08210.