Brothers and sisters,
SMART Transportation Division has seen historic successes in 2023 and at the same time, we face some unprecedented struggles.
Since our last publication, many of our freight rail members have won major victories with new contracts including paid sick leave, increased schedule predictability, and pay increases. Two-person crew and other rail-safety legislations have been passed in statehouses around the country, and the United States Congress maintains its focus in the face of carriers’ intense opposition to take overdue action that gives our members’ safety and quality of life the credence that they deserve.
As the SMART-TD President I am also very excited to have Brother Mike Coleman as the new General President of SMART. We wished General President Sellers a very happy retirement at our board of directors meeting this past April, and I was proud to see Mike sworn in as General President at our General Executive Council meeting on May 23rd. Mike and I have had a longstanding working relationship and I am also proud to call him a friend.
On the flip side of all the positive we are experiencing, I am very troubled with the fact our bus members’ safety has never been more at risk. On May 18, a SMART-TD bus operator from Local 1715 (Charlotte, NC) was involved in a shoot-out with a disgruntled bus passenger, an incident that sent both men to the hospital with what were described as life-threatening injuries.
Less than a week later, on May 24, another SMART-TD bus operator out of Local 1608 (Chatsworth, Calif.) was stabbed multiple times in the neck and back while working his assigned route in Los Angeles.
There have been news reports of gunfire on buses, angry parents going after school bus drivers, road rage incidents. The list is extensive.
You cannot tell me that it is acceptable that on two out of every three days in this country one of our transit workers is violently assaulted.
The United States Federal Transit Administration put out a study in December 2022 entitled “Update on Transit Worker Assault Prevention and Mitigation.” This report looked at data from 2008 through 2011. In those 13 years, the FTA reports that there was an average of 241 assaults per year on transit workers throughout the country. This study itself points out that, “This data includes only the most serious events, and may significantly underestimate the total number of assaults.”
You cannot tell me that it is acceptable that on two out of every three days in this country one of our transit workers is violently assaulted. These men and women are the lifeblood of our economy, getting Americans to work and improving their quality-of-life day in and day out. They deserve to be heard and protected like the essential workers that we know they are. We’ve had two members on both sides of the country in the hospital fighting for their lives as a result of violent incidents. Last year, also in Charlotte, one of our members was killed by gunfire while on the job.
It’s no time for a government study. It’s not time to discuss increasing next year’s safety budget. Our men and women deserve and demand immediate and definitive actions to ensure their physical safety. The FTA has requested public comments on what needs to be done to shore up safety in public transportation, and SMART-TD members can rest assured that our call to action will be heard.
On another positive note, our general chairpersons on multiple rail carriers have a lot of momentum going into the summer. New agreements, including crew-consist guarantees, paid sick leave for multiple crafts including some yardmasters, and more firmed-up scheduling for time off have been making their way into rail crew rooms all over the country. To the GCs who have been on the front lines negotiating these quality-of-life improvements for our rail members, you have both my gratitude and support.
SMART-TD has also spent the spring and early summer delivering on the legislative front. Our skilled group of State Legislative Directors and our National Legislative Department have been producing great results in state legislatures and on the hill in Washington D.C. We are moving the needle nationally on issues of rail safety, 2PC, and others. Credit for these pivotal victories does not belong exclusively to me, or our office holders. You, the SMART-TD members, have done a remarkable job of advocating on your own behalf. We asked you to be part of this process, and we continue to be excited by your response.
To that end, I would like to personally thank each and every one of you, your friends and family members who have answered the bell and sent your messages to legislators, written letters to the editor, and have reached out to our office this year to add your voices to SMART-TD’s efforts to mold the public policy surrounding railway safety. Please continue to use the tools your union provides you to continue this push. Your continued use of the new hours-of-service reports, the safety conditions reports, and tech event reports is a key ingredient to keeping our union’s momentum and countering the carriers’ attempts to sow misinformation.
And, as a reminder, please update your personal information via the website and app so that we can keep you informed of what’s happening in your industry and your union.
As an organization SMART-TD is only growing stronger each day with all of your dedication and we are without a doubt the best bus, rail and air union in the country. I appreciate your hard work and want you to know that your union is in the fight with you. There will always be much more that needs to be accomplished by this organization, but you can rest assured that we are doing everything that can be done to advocate for you and your family.
Jeremy R. Ferguson
President, Transportation Division
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