The Ohio State Legislative Board was founded in 1956 in the manner prescribed
by the Bylaws of the BLE. The first chairman was George Seneft of Division
92, Dennison, Ohio. According to our Bylaws, when a legislative Board is
formed, it must proceed to urge the State to enact Manpower Requirements.
Although George wasn't a full time Chairman, he was one of the key lobbyists
responsible for the passage of the Ohio Full Crew Law.
At the 1st Quadrennial Meeting of the Board, the members had now seen proof
of the value of political lobbying. Ellis Kartch of Columbus was voted in
as the first full time Chairman. Ellis was a very skilled lobbyist and started
what's now become a tradition of networking and being a Statehouse insider.
He personally increased our union's presence in the capital far beyond the
range that our financial or membership numbers could reach.
The next Chairman was Andy Vadas. During his term, State Politicians were
under great pressure from the railroads to remove the Full Crew Law from
the books. Brother Vadas had spent a great deal of time trying to protect
these laws, but unfortunately under Gov. Gilligan (who opposed the laws)
we eventually lost them. To this day, carriers are still trying to block
these types of laws.
In 1978 Charles Yenni became chairman and made the board the most effective
safety advocate this State had ever dealt with. It is possible that he,
more than any other person in the country is responsible for the bottled
water we have on engines today. Railroad officials soon learned that Chuck
Yenni might appear at 3:00am with an FRA inspector in tow to stick up for
an engineer who had refused a defective engine. It was the opinion of many
railroad officials that Chuck "owned" the Ohio PUCO.
The next two chairmen began their service to the Board in 1978 while Chuck
was still Chairman and Chuck spent a lot of time and effort in, "bringing
In 1987 Chairman Yenni resigned and Bill O'Brien became chairman. Like his
predecessor Ellis Kartch, Bill worked to increase the influence the BLE
had not only in Columbus, Ohio, but in Washington, D.C. as well. In Ohio,
Brother O'Brien was pivotal in securing the funding for the Buckeye Crossbuck
implementation. So when you see a buckeye crossbuck think of the OSLB and
In Washington, Bill also became the first BLE member of the Transportation
Research Board of The National Academy of Science. He also served on BLE
President John Sytsma's Committee for the Future.
Finally, our current Chairman of the Ohio State Legislative Board
is Jim Ong. As previously mentioned, Brother Ong started on the board in
1978. At that time, Chairmen Yenni tasked Jim to campaign to save the Panhandle
Line from destruction by Conrail. Jim's involvement led to the preservation
and State ownership of that line. Because of his acts, the Ohio Rail Development
Commission was indirectly formed. Jim has lobbied the introduction of resolutions
in the Ohio Senate to support the funding of Amtrak. Brother Ong has placed
five bills in the Ohio House and Senate for introduction and attends hearings
on a wide range of bills affecting locomotive engineers and their families.
By working with local government in Ohio, Chairman Ong has increased the
Board's presence not only from Columbus to Washington, D.C., but into rural
Ohio as well.
Thus, the Ohio State Legislative Board continues to represent the membership
and looks forward to the challenges of tomorrow. We've consistently proven
that despite our size and resources we do have an impact through careful
networking and keeping close watch on our borders.