1883: The Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen was organized. Rail workers’ wages averaged a little more than $1 a day. One-third of the nation’s railroad brakemen were killed or maimed that year. An estimated 70 percent of all train crews could expect injury within five years of service. Insurance was not available to the individual railroad man, because of the hazards of his occupation. The brotherhood offered members insurance – death coverage to $300.
1885: The Insurance Department of BRT came into existence. Death benefits were increased to $600. Membership of the Brotherhood reached 4,500. S.E. Wilkinson became the first Grand Master of the Trainmen. First Canadian lodge of the Brotherhood was established in Moncton, N. B.
1886: Membership was 8,000; local lodges numbered 244. Insurance benefits moved up to $800.
1887: Main objectives of the trainmen were stated in these words in the union publication: “Railway managers and superintendents recognize in the brotherhood a school for the mental, moral and physical improvement of its members, and consequently a better and more desirable class of men, who can be depended upon at all times, and into whose care and watchfulness thousands of lives and millions of dollars worth of property can be safely entrusted.”
1889: The BRT, in conjunction with the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen, enlisted the support of the Hon. L. S. Coffin, a former railroad commissioner of Iowa, to take its struggle for better working conditions before Washington lawmakers. Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen acquired its present name, changing it from Brotherhood of Railroad Brakemen, and the membership base was expanded to include railroad workers in more than 14 different trade classifications.
1933: Interstate bus operators were first organized by BRT.
1956: The Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen reached its all-time membership peak of 217,176. A decline since then reflects declining employment on the nation’s railroads.
1957: BRT affiliated with the AFL-CIO after 74 years of operating as an independent union. It also affiliated with the Canadian Labour Congress.
1962: The Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen paid out $10 million in insurance benefits to its members in 1962 alone. Total benefits paid to members through 1963 exceed $350 million.
1963: Charles Luna became president of the brotherhood.