EDMONTON, Alberta — Some 165 delegates and a gallery of almost 150 guests and invited international visitors opened the second quadrennial national convention of the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference (TCRC) here on September 21 under the banner of "Building the Future.”

"The convention delegates here today represent the interests of almost 93 percent of all rail workers in Canada," TCRC National President Dan Shewchuk said. “This is surely a significant event, which has been in the planning process for a year and a half.

“It pleases me to see the many new first-time delegates here in attendance at our convention," he continued. “With only 45 returning delegates out of the 160-plus registered, there are many new faces at the convention, and I welcome their energy and enthusiasm. They will be able to form lasting friendships and bonds that will strengthen our great Union.”

Two members of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen were on hand to address the TCRC delegates. BLET National Vice President Merle Geiger received a standing ovation for his address to the delegates. In addition, BLET Member Chuck Anderson, who serves the National Division as Director of Communications, delivered the opening session invocation.

Dan Delacherois, a first-time delegate from Vancouver, B.C. said, "This is a well organized convention, I was amazed by how it was put together. The amount of thought and insight was very impressive,” he said. "I was very impressed with the unity of the Organization I have seen here, and how we are all working together, which makes us a stronger union. I want to bring this feeling back to my Division."

President Shewchuk said the theme for the TCRC’s 2006 convention was “Moving Forward Together,” something he said the organization has certainly fulfilled. “Over the past four years, the Rail Conference has increased in size from approximately 7,000 members to over 10,000 members fulfilling the true multi-craft Union envisioned by our delegates in 2006," he said.

"We have a great deal of business to conduct and there will be little idle time, "he said, "in that delegates will nominate and elect some officer positions and consider over 100 resolutions while there are here in session."

In his report to the delegates, he reminded them that, "In 2004, we merged with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and became the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference which has proven over and over again that it was the right thing to do. The support and unity shown by all segments of Teamsters Canada, the local Unions, the Joint Councils as well as the International has been a very positive influence for our members and this organization. Many of you attended our inaugural convention in 2006 and you will recall, the delegates embraced changes to our Bylaws by providing full craft autonomy and setting the foundation for the true multi-craft Union we are today."

In keeping with that theme, first-time delegate Tony Wentzell (Division 910) representing a 55-member Division of Ontario Northland Motor Coach employees said: "This is truly a multi-craft convention, I think we are one of the few rubber-wheel people here, everybody else is steel-wheel, but we have been welcomed with open arms in the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference from the beginning."

He further explained: "We signed on with the Teamsters on a Wednesday and started a seventy-day strike four days later, and it''''s been a roller coaster ride but we have been fully supported by the TCRC. While we may be a small Division, there is no difference in the way we have been treated from the groups in the TCRC that represent thousands, we are treated the same."

"Our delegates have traveled some distance to be here today, with Canada being the second largest country in land area in the world," TCRC Vice President Doug Finnson said. “We appreciate the keen interest in the work of the convention that I see in our delegates."

TCRC Secretary-Treasurer Jim Flegel is the principal planner for the meeting. "In view of the fact that we will be spending over a million dollars to fund this event, it was my goal to maximize the time the delegates are spending here to get the greatest return for the expenditure of the member''''s funds,” he said. “The convention has a truly international flavor in that we have both French and English speaking delegates and we are providing simultaneous translation in both languages for delegates."

"We are using various technologies to maximize the efforts of the delegates," he continued, "including the use of an electronic audience response system using keypads for voting, and keeping attendance records, a large screen projection system to display resolutions and their amendments to all in the meeting hall, and we will have several television cameras to similarly present images of the delegates as they speak, as well as local networking our office equipment in the convention office, and a structured Arrangements Committee with specific daily assignments to answer the needs of the delegates and provide for any contingencies."

Teamsters Canada President Robert Bouvier brought greetings to the delegates from the 125,000 Brothers and Sisters who are members of Teamsters Canada. He congratulated the Organization for the large gains in membership that were made in the four years since their last convention. "When I last addressed you, your membership here in Canada stood at some 4,000 and today it is over 10,000. We are here to serve you, our national office at Teamsters Canada exists for that primary reason, and to do our part to give you and your officers every advantage in improving your standard of living and safety in the workplace."

Delegates also heard from numerous other speakers during their meetings.

BLET Vice President Merle Geiger, who is currently the senior BLET Vice President on the Advisory Board, represented the BLET on behalf of all Brothers and Sisters in the United States. He presented greetings from National President Dennis Pierce, who could not attend due to ongoing preparations for the BLET Second Quadrennial National Convention in Reno in two weeks. Brother Geiger referred to the long-standing relationship between rail trade unionists in Canada and the United States.

"Even though we have moved forward as separate entities, our history, our common interests, our good communications and an excellent relationship will keep our Organizations forever bonded,” he said. “We will always be special Brothers amongst Brothers."

To further illustrate his point he said, "I happened to receive a copy of our Locomotive Engineer and Trainmen newsletter in the mail last week. In the history section was a picture of the earliest Brotherhood convention photo available from our vaults and it just so happened to be a picture of our 1896 convention held in Ottawa, Ontario, which was the Organization''''s first ever large-scale convention held outside the United States. The meeting in Ottawa was in honor of our Canadian Brothers and Sisters."

The delegates rewarded his remarks with a standing ovation, and he received numerous congratulations afterwards, which was a further expression of the friendship that exits between members in Canada and the U.S.

The meetings will conclude on September 23.