SMART-TD, BLET protest outside of BNSF shareholder meeting in Omaha

The five highlighted areas are where protestors were allowed to congregate outside of the CHI Health Center where the BNSF shareholder’s meeting was being held.

While Berkshire Hathaway shareholders sat April 30 in comfort and national cable-news networks live-streamed and deified wealth hoarder Warren Buffett and his executive cronies at the company’s annual meeting, BNSF railroad workers, as always, were out in the elements doing the hard things – this time protesting.

Protesters gathered in the early-morning hours – some as early as 4 a.m. when the parking garages opened – to split up evenly to protest in five different areas outside of the CHI Health Center in Omaha, Neb. Doors opened to the shareholder meeting at 7 a.m., and the picketers wanted to be outside as the shareholders arrived. They were joined by two LED video billboard trucks slamming Buffett and BNSF CEO Katie Farmer for their Hi-Viz attendance policy.

LED video billboard trucks joined in the protest by driving in a loop around the health center to help gain attention for the picketers.

Carrying signs saying “They use us and abuse us,” “Fair wages, fair treatment,” and “Railroaders’ lives matter,” outside of the site of the so-called “Woodstock for Capitalists,” as members of the SMART Transportation Division, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET), their respective auxiliaries and other members of rail labor mobilized in the rain outside CHI Health Center.

SMART-TD Auxiliary President Kathryn Seegmiller holds up signs outside of the meeting.

“We had a great turnout despite the weather. We were able to cross paths with I’d say around 90% of the participants that were walking into the building,” Alternate National Legislative Director Jared Cassity said of the around 60 protestors present.

“The crowd was fired up – it was divide and conquer. A very lively crowd,” said Vice President Chad Adams who joined in the two-hour protest.

Vice President Joe Lopez, Texas State Legislative Director Kamron Saunders, Colorado State Legislative Director Carl Smith, Missouri State Legislative Director Jason Hayden and New Mexico State Legislative Director Don Gallegos joined Adams, Cassity and SMART-TD Auxiliary President Kathryn Seegmiller at the protest.

Mobilizing our members as well were General Chairpersons Mike LaPresta (GO 001); Scott Swiatek (GO 009); and Luke Edington (GO 953).

“It was great seeing spouses and family involved in today’s protest showing their support,” Seegmiller said. “We want change and won’t be going away or backing down.”

Cassity echoed this sentiment saying, “It was great to see labor standing in solidarity, members shoulder-to-shoulder and fighting for what’s right for the membership. We’re taking the fight to the railroads and we’re not going to back down. The shareholders that were present at the meeting were there discussing the progress that they have made off of the backs of our members and it’s important that they understand that we won’t back down and we won’t go away until the right thing has been done.”

According to the Informational Protest – Omaha NE 2022 Facebook page, the picketers were regrouping and being joined by more supporters who could not make the morning session in the afternoon around 2:30 p.m.

Adams said that today’s movement is just the beginning.

“The group was talking about getting back together at the UP shareholders meeting next month – one thing builds another, just keep the pressure on and that’s what we can do,” he said.

According to the Facebook page, the group is in the early stages of planning another protest outside of the North American Rail Shippers Association annual meeting on May 9 – 11 in Kansas City, Mo., where CEOs from CP, BNSF and CSX are featured speakers.

Top left: A large crowd of SMART-TD and BLET members and their supporters gathered in solidarity. Top middle: Missouri SLD Jason Hayden (left) and National Safety Team Assistant Director Dan Bonawitz join in the protest. Top right: SMART-TD members come together in solidarity to picket. Middle left: Rallying speeches were made by leadership. Middle right: Picketers stand in the rain trying to get their message across to BNSF shareholders and the public. Bottom left: The rain did not deter picketers from getting their message across. Bottom middle: SMART-TD Vice President Chad Adams (left) and Texas SLD Kamron Saunders (second left) picket with SMART-TD members. Bottom right: BLET member Megan Lundy, BLET Vice President Rachel Pharris and SMART-TD Auxiliary President Kathryn Seegmiller band together for the first time to protest BNSF’s Hi-Viz attendance policy. Photos courtesy of VP Chad Adams and Auxiliary President Kathryn Seegmiller.