SMART Transportation President Previsich: Common Interests

November 15, 2013

SMART Transportation President John Previsich

Employment for our members in the transportation industry is unique in many respects. Regardless of mode—air, bus or rail—transportation is primarily an industry that operates 24 hours per day, seven days per week, 365 days per year. Employees often work unscheduled hours and are subject to call at a moment’s notice. It is not unusual for transportation employees to have no scheduled days off, no advance knowledge of whether they will be working or at home on a holiday, birthday, or other special event, and no way of knowing the answer when asked by friends or relatives what they are doing next week, this weekend, or even tomorrow.
While such conditions are very different from those of our members in other, more scheduled work environments, one need only look at the commonalities between the industries to see that our members in the Transportation Division have much more in common with our Sheet Metal brothers and sisters than may be evident at first look. To begin, nearly all members of SMART are professionals who work highly skilled positions in a safety-sensitive environment.
Whether working on a job site in the construction industry, operating machinery in a production environment, or moving passengers or freight on trains, planes, or buses, our members hold responsible positions that require a great deal of training and education. All of the craft work is safety-sensitive and unforgiving. From a misstep on a jobsite to a lapse of concentration while operating a locomotive or landing a plane, to a momentary diversion of attention while operating a bus or a production machine, the results of an error can be catastrophic. This is why adequate training is such an important part of what we strive for, from the union-operated training facilities to the continual and rigorous oversight of our training agreements on the transportation properties that we represent.
But training by itself isn’t enough. In addition to our members mastering their crafts and showing up for duty adequately trained and prepared to work, safety also depends on proper workplace management, a responsibility that rests squarely on the shoulders of the companies and owners for whom we work. Far too often we hear of incidents where management blames the worker instead of the faulty worksite. Far too often the union has to step in and remind the regulatory agencies of their oversight responsibilities; and far too often our members suffer for the unsafe work environments handed to us by our employers and for the lax regulation that allows such environments to persist. It is the responsibility of management to provide us with a safe place to work, and your union is second to none in advocating for improved safety on behalf of its membership.
This advocacy to improve safety well illustrates the benefits that can be derived from the synergy of the merged organizations. Each of our predecessor unions possesses expertise in training, safety, and regulatory affairs. That expertise, when coupled together, is expected to be more effective working as an integrated unit. We hope to learn from each other, taking advantage of the skills that both unions bring to the table to be stronger than ever in ensuring the safe workplace to which our members are entitled. This process has already commenced, with our legislative departments collaborating on safety issues at the federal, state, and local level, and it is anticipated that these synergies will provide even more positive results as the integration progresses.
John Previsich
SMART Transportation President