The BRS represents over 10,000 members working for railroads across the United States and into Canada. Signalmen install, repair and maintain the signal systems which railroads utilize to direct train movements. Automatic signals and switches installed and maintained by Signalmen allow railroads to move large numbers of freight and passenger trains at higher speeds and with greater safety. Signalmen also install and maintain the warning systems used at railroad-highway crossings, which play a vital role in ensuring the safety of highway travelers.
Some Signalmen work constructing, installing or upgrading signal systems or making major repairs. After signal systems are installed, other Signalmen perform maintenance and inspection of the equipment. Many signal employees are assigned to a particular section of railroad and are responsible for keeping the signals, switches and crossing devices in their section in safe operating condition.
Signalmen inspect and maintain the equipment on a regular schedule, using special test equipment to check mechanical devices and the sophisticated electrical and electronic devices used in modern signal systems. If there is a problem with the signal system, trains can be delayed and safety of the railroad operation will be affected. When that happens, Signalmen are called on to make repairs and restore safe operation of the railroad. Railroads operate 24 hours every day, so Signalmen are called on to work at all hours of the day and night, in all kinds of weather.
Signalmen learn their craft through on-the-job experience and formal apprentice training programs. They are schooled in the stringent federal regulations which govern railroad signal systems, and in railroad operations, electricity, electronics, and mechanics. After serving an apprenticeship of up to four years, employees attain journeyman status. Many employees also receive advanced training in computer technology and the increasingly sophisticated electronic circuitry used in today's signal systems.
The Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen represents most of the signal employees on both the freight railroads and the passenger and commuter railroads. The Brotherhood's national headquarters is located in Front Royal, Virginia. The Brotherhood has local offices in every section of the country.
The BRS is structured like many unions, with local lodges made up of members who work for a particular railroad, or in the case of large railroads, on a particular division of the railroad. Local lodges elect officers and representatives, establish bylaws and meet regularly to consider grievances, initiate new members and conduct other local business.
Local lodges also elect delegates to represent them at the Brotherhood's conventions. While in session, conventions are the union's supreme authority and determine the direction of the union. Delegates set Brotherhood policy, review the general condition of the union, and establish collective bargaining goals. Delegates also elect Grand Lodge officers, who direct the operation of the Brotherhood between conventions.
W.D. Pickett currently serves as President of the Brotherhood. He was elected to that position in 1992. J.C. Boles serves as Secretary-Treasurer.
The Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen is affiliated with the AFL-CIO and the Transportation Trades Department.