Rail Labor Chief Sorrow to Retire

Rail Labor Chief Sorrow to Retire

Paul T. Sorrow is retiring July 1 as national president of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, clearing the way for First Vice President Dennis R. Pierce to take the union’s top job.

Sorrow, 63, cited health concerns in a letter he submitted to the union announcing his intention to resign, and a doctor’s advice that “now is the appropriate time for me to depart.”

That means the 59,000-member union, a unit of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and one of the largest rail labor groups in North America, will have lost three presidents in three years.

In late 2007, Don M. Hahs stepped aside after he was charged with embezzlement. Edward Rodzwicz first replaced him as acting president and later became national president when Hahs officially resigned.

But Rodzwicz was charged with bribery in October 2009, and Sorrow became the BLET acting president for a month, and later appointed national president on Nov. 13, 2009. Pierce, who replaces him at the helm, moved into the second-highest union position on Dec. 17.

Under Sorrow, the union instituted reforms --in expense audits and how the BLET designates attorneys to represent members in health-related cases -- to deal with some of the issues that helped bring down his predecessors

The union will hold its second quadrennial national convention in October. Sorrow told the BLET that “the pace of the past couple of months has taken a significant toll on me physically,” and that upcoming regional union meetings plus the national convention would put greater demands on him in the next few months.

--Contact John Boyd at jboyd@joc.com.