Thomas Wall

Switchman Thomas A. Wall, 22, of Local 206 (Peru, Ind.) died suddenly on Oct. 19 after experiencing a flare-up of an autoimmune liver disease while at work. His family said that he was responding well to treatment and was looking forward to returning to work after undergoing a few more procedures.

A 2018 graduate of Speedway High School, Brother Wall enjoyed computer gaming and model railroading. After high school, he attended Michigan Tech University where he was a member of the Railroad Engineering & Activities Club. His dream job was to work for the railroad, a dream which came true when he hired on with Norfolk Southern earlier this year.

Brother Wall is survived by his parents Dennis (a retired railroader) and Crystal Wall; sister, Melanie Wall; grandparents, Russell and Janet Beery; many aunts, uncles, cousins and his newly-adopted cat, Nubbs. He was preceded in death by his mother, Terri L. (Glidewell) Wall; grandparents Carl and Jeanne Wall, Hubert Jr. and Gloria Ann Glidewell; as well as an uncle, Edward G. Wall.

Brother Wall enjoyed model railroading.

Donations for funeral costs may be sent directly to the family: Dennis & Crystal Wall, 2726 Patton Dr., Indianapolis, IN 46224.

SMART-TD offers our heartfelt condolences to the Wall family, Local 206 and to all who knew and worked with Brother Wall.

Follow this link to view Brother Wall’s official obituary or to leave condolences.

Several changes regarding the SMART Voluntary Short-Term Disability (VSTD) Plan for bus and rail members will take effect Jan. 1, 2023.

The temporary reduction of premiums for Plan participants announced Oct. 21, 2020, will expire Dec. 31, 2022. VSTD premiums will be reset to the standard rates of bus members paying $26.00 and rail members paying $34.50. 

The maximum weekly benefit available to bus members participating in the plan will be reduced from $240 to $210. For rail members, the maximum weekly benefit will be reduced from $450 to $402.  

Additional details, including notifications from the VSTD Board of Trustees and the full Summary of Material Modifications (SMM), are available in the respective pages in the SMART Member Portal:

For bus members

For rail members

Plan participants with questions or who need more information should contact VSTD plan administrator Southern Benefit Administrators directly at (844) 880-1071.

Good labor relations with elected officials can be summed up by knowing that the people who represent us in our state legislatures and Washington D.C. are familiar with our needs and concerns, and that they keep us informed on what is going on in their committee meetings and about legislation that might affect our membership.

Great labor relationships are when elected officials value our opinion and actively seek it out to help decide their votes and what legislation they write to bend the actions of government to the best interests of our membership. The latter is what is happening in Kansas under the leadership of State Legislative Director Ty Dragoo (Local 1503, Marysville, Kan).

In February of this year, Brother Dragoo was chosen to introduce Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Congresswoman Sharice Davids (D-Kans., Dist.-3) at an event discussing the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (previously known as the IIJA — the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act). This was a great showcase of the role that SMART plays in the labor community of the state. What’s more important is that on October 19, Secretary Buttigieg came back to the state to hold a series of events and round table discussions about how to move forward and Brother Dragoo was brought into the thinktank to be consulted. 

Labor Secretary Marty Walsh meets Kansas State Legislative Director Ty Dragoo on Oct. 19 in Kansas.

Along with Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh, Secretary Buttigieg and Rep. Davids, SLD Dragoo helped form discussions surrounding the implementation of federal dollars in both Kansas and nationwide. In one of the multiple events of the day, SLD Dragoo was the only representative of the labor community at the table with the White House contingent along with a handful of contractors. Brother Dragoo’s role in these important discussions is indicative of the expanding role SMART-TD is playing in recent days when it comes to forming public policy.

When asked about the day’s events, Brother Dragoo described how refreshing it is to be treated as a contributing player of the team rather than being viewed as an opponent. He went on to say that the access that our union has been given to the Biden team is unprecedented in his 12 years as the SLD of Kansas. 

In his words, “With past administrations, labor was considered and given a spot at the table on some issues, but with the Biden administration, the meeting doesn’t happen unless labor is represented.” 

Kansas State Legislative Director Ty Dragoo, left, meets with federal Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg on Oct. 19 in Kansas.

The emphasis the administration has placed on labor has given SMART added clout with Congress as well. SLD Dragoo receives calls weekly from Davids to discuss upcoming votes she has and how to best represent SMART members in Kansas.

“It’s this kind of a productive relationship that allows us to create a better future for our members,” Dragoo said. 

In the past year, Kansas has seen the fruits of these relationships in the form of 26 newly funded projects for the Kansas Department of Transportation. These projects are beneficial to Transportation Division and Sheet Metal members alike.

It’s said that change is inevitable, and it’s up to you whether you merely react to that change or if you become the agent of it. SLD Dragoo and SMART-TD’s National Legislative Department have positioned themselves well to have a big hand in what is to come in Kansas as well as in the rest of the country. 

“SMART really has become the leader of labor in Kansas,” Dragoo emphasized. “With continued support from SMART members, we can create better careers and a better country for all of us.”

The hotel booking deadline has been extended for the SMART Transportation Division’s Regional Training Seminar (RTS) to take place Nov. 14 through 17, 2022, at the Hilton Branson Convention Center in Branson, Mo.

Single- and double-occupancy rooms can now be booked at the event through Oct. 28.

Attending an RTS is an exciting opportunity for local leadership and members to engage one on one with union experts to help fulfill the need for local training closer to home.

The cost for TD members to register to attend the seminar is $50.

Registration for the event is open and available online via the SMART website.

The RTS includes classes on local governance, the roles of local legislative representatives and local chairpersons in protecting members and on the SMART Constitution.

The classes are taught by national officers and other subject matter experts associated with SMART-TD.

President Jeremy Ferguson also is scheduled to appear to answer membership questions.

To register for the seminar, visit https://register.smart-union.org/.

Please note: Attendees are responsible for making their own hotel reservations.

Room blocks have been reserved at both the Hilton Branson Convention Center and the Hilton Promenade at Branson Landing.

The SMART TD event rate is $189 per night (single/double occupancy), as mentioned, the deadline for hotel reservations is October 28 for the event rate.

This special rate is available for members beginning Nov. 14, which is the registration day for the RTS.

Classes will begin on the 15th and run through the 17th.

For more information, contact Gerald Sale at 870-761-0643 or by email at smartarslb@yahoo.com.

Go here for a printable flyer about the event.

SMART-TD Local 653 (Chicago) is proud to announce the recognition of Legislative Representative Orlando Rojas as the winner of the 2022 Charlie Hayes Award for his work in the greater Chicago labor community.

On Sept. 30, Legislative Representative Orlando Rojas of Local 653 (Chicago) was honored with the Charlie Hayes Award for his labor work. Pictured, from left, are Illinois State Legislative Chairperson Jeff Votteler (Local 1597 – Chicago); Illinois Assistant State Legislative Director Joe Ciemny (Local 1534 – Chicago); Brother Rojas and Illinois State Legislative Director Bob Guy (Local 234 – Bloomington, Ill.).

This award is given by an organization known as Chicago Jobs With Justice (JWJ), which has a mission of training and developing activists in the community by building a permanent coalition of organizations to support ongoing worker outreach and workplace oversight.

The award Brother Rojas received is named after Hayes, a late congressman who served the state’s 1st District. Congressman Hayes was a labor leader in Chicago from 1938 to 1983. In addition to the 45 years he dedicated himself to organized labor, Congressman Hayes was also a leader in the civil rights movement, working alongside Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. to register voters in the South and was arrested in the 1980’s anti-apartheid demonstrations that were instrumental in the freeing of Nelson Mandela.

“I’m very happy for him and his family for the recognition,” said SMART-TD Illinois State Legislative Director Bob Guy, who was responsible for Rojas’s successful nomination. “Orlando epitomizes the essential work our commuter members performed during the pandemic and was gracious when accepting the award, in recognizing his fellow members in both passenger and freight service for the dedicated work they do during these still-challenging times.”

Brother Rojas is a conductor in passenger service for Metra, which provides commuter rail services in Chicago and the surrounding area. A member of SMART-TD for over 18 years, he has served in leadership roles in Local 653 for 15 of them, and both his interest in labor and in railroading have roots in his family history.

In the 1960s, his family immigrated to the United States from Mexico, and his grandfather settled in California. While in California, Rojas’ family worked in agriculture and were members of the movement led by Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta that organized farm workers. His family was on the front lines of United Farm Workers Union (UFW) and were part of the famous series of work actions known as the Salad Bowl Strike.

Following that movement, Brother Rojas’ family moved to the Chicago area. His father worked for the B&O railroad as a maintenance of way employee and was a member of the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes union.

When asked to comment on his achievement, brother Rojas had a reaction that typifies the selflessness that he was recognized for:

“I want to use this moment to recognize the accomplishments and work of all the unsung heroes in labor today,” he said. “There are so many men and women in our community carrying the torch of past leaders like Charlie Hayes. This community is standing on the shoulders of a wonderful history of the labor movement, and I want to acknowledge and thank everyone involved in building on their accomplishments.”

Rojas also mentioned that he intended to nominate SLD Guy for the award when he found out that Bob had beaten him to the punch and had already nominated him. 

Brother Rojas’ hard work and dedication to his job, family, union and community are a testament to his rich family history and is a point of pride for his family here at the SMART Transportation Division.

SMART-TD joins the Chicago Jobs With Justice campaign in congratulating Brother Rojas. We would also like to join them in thanking brothers Rojas and Guy for all they do.

The deadline for the booking discount for the SMART Transportation Division Tacoma Regional Training Seminar (RTS) has been extended one final time to 5 p.m. Pacific, Wednesday Oct. 19.

For SMART-TD members and officers planning to attend the event Oct. 24 to 27 at the Murano Hotel in Tacoma and stay over, that is your last chance to book a room and receive the $169 discount rate. Attendees should follow this link to get the hotel discount.

The SMART TD event rate is $169 per night (single/double occupancy), the last deadline for hotel reservations is 5 p.m. Pacific Time Wednesday, Oct. 19 for the event rate.

This special rate is available for members who wish to arrive as early as Sunday Oct. 23 or stay through Saturday Oct. 29. Overnight hotel parking is $22 per vehicle and includes unlimited in-and-out privileges.

Attendees are responsible for making their own hotel reservations on the Hotel Murano website.

The cost to attend all three days of the RTS is $65. Registration is done through the SMART website at register.smart-union.org.

Special single-day registration added

Washington State Legislative Director Herb Krohn has announced that a special one-day admission registration has been created for TD members in the immediate area who want to attend the Tentative Agreement, FRA NPRM and crew-consist presentations and the Q&A with President Jeremy Ferguson at the RTS on Oct. 27.

Registration is available through the SMART website and includes breakfast and lunch.

Cost for the single day registration is $35.

Local leadership and members can engage one on one with union experts to help fulfill the need for local training closer to home.

For more information, contact Krohn at hskrohn55@hotmail.com.

View a printable flier for the RTS

SMART Transportation Division members now have the ability to update important information including their addresses, email addresses and emergency points of contact thanks to a feature that has been introduced in the SMART Member Portal.

Keeping contact information up to date with your union, be it through your SMART Member Portal account or through your local secretary, is very important. Doing so will ensure that you receive timely and key updates from your union such as ballots, dues receipts, the Transportation Division News or notices concerning other union business.

To establish your Member Portal account, follow these steps:

1. Visit the Members’ Portal page, and if it is your first time visiting, follow the New to SMART Portal link.

2. Select that you are a Transportation Division member.

3. Enter your preferred email address, the number of your TD local (if the local number is below 1000, the lead zeroes should be used) and the last four digits of your Social Security number to verify your membership. (Please note: If your Social Security number is not on file with the union, you will not be able to log in. To get that information placed on file, contact either your local secretary or the Updating or Public Relations Departments in the Transportation Division office in Cleveland at 216-228-9400 or via email.)

4. After following the “Verify my account” link, you will then be prompted to create, then confirm a personal password of at least 12 characters to log into the Portal.

IMPORTANT NOTICE TO TD CONNECT USERS: If you find out that you cannot log in to TD Connect with a password you’ve saved on your browser after creating your Portal account, you may have overwritten it. Just go through the “Forgot Password” process in TD Connect and normal access should be restored.

5. Once the steps above are complete, you will receive an email from SMART member accounts confirming your registration with a link in the body of the message. (Please check your spam/junk email folder if you do not receive it in your regular inbox — especially Gmail, Yahoo! and Hotmail users!) After visiting that link, your account will be activated and verified, and you will be able to explore and customize those union resources that are most important for you.

If you do not activate your Member Portal account by clicking the email link within 24 hours, you will need to re-start the account creation process at Step 1 by re-entering your personal data.

William “Bill” Laver

SMART Local 556 (Tacoma, Wash.) recognized a moment of silence for their fallen brother this week.

BNSF Brakeman William “Bill” Laver, 51, of Grapeview, Wash., had his life of dedicated service cut short Friday, Sept. 16 by an alleged drunken driver while he was on his way to work.

Laver had answered his call to work and was riding his motorcycle to the yard when police said a driver going the wrong way on Route 16 struck him head on Sept. 16. The driver then allegedly fled the scene of the accident and has since been arrested by police. He is now facing charges of fleeing the scene and driving while under the influence in relation to the accident.

Brother Laver hired on with BNSF in 2011 and prior to that served our country honorably, retiring with 20 years of service in the United States Navy. At the time of his retirement, he was a Senior Chief.

Bill Price, local chairperson of Local 556, said, “I worked with Bill many times, and he was a great guy. He’s going to be missed by all of us.”

Price said Laver left behind his wife, six children, and two grandchildren along with both his mother and father.

There will be a celebration of life Sunday, October 2 at 1 p.m. at the Shelton Civic Center, 525 W. Cota St., Shelton, WA 98584. This opportunity to pay respects to the Laver family is open to the public.

Follow this link to donate to Brother Laver’s GoFundMe page.

SMART-TD extends our deepest condolences to the Laver family, Local 556 and to all who knew Brother Laver.

Local 1846 in West Colton, Calif., tragically lost a brother on Sept. 8, and a fundraiser has been established to help his family in this inexplicably difficult time. 

Zachery Lara

Conductor Zachery “Zach” Lara, 25, and his engineer Steven Brown were in helper service assisting a train up a grade. When they made a reverse move into Bertram siding to put their engine away, the crew had a head-on collision with cars that were in the siding. 

This heartbreaking accident has taken a friend and co-worker away from many of us, but the loss is being especially felt by his father Jeff Lara (Local 1422, Los Angeles), and his brother, Kevin Lara (Local 1813, West Colton, Calif.), who, like Zach, work for Union Pacific Railroad. 

The Lara family has given much to the railroad, and now it is our turn to give back. Please consider donating in honor of Zach and read the tribute to him written by brother Kevin Lara.

SMART-TD extends our deepest condolences to the Lara family, the Brown family, local 1846 and to all who knew both men.

Follow the link to view Brother Lara’s official obituary and to leave condolences for the family.

Follow this link to donate to Brother Lara’s GoFundMe page.

Members in Local 1263 (Valdosta, Ga.) are in mourning after their Local Chairperson Richard G. Keen Jr., 36, was killed in a car accident caused by a drunk driver Saturday, Sept. 10 while on his way home from work as an engineer at Norfolk Southern.

A member of SMART-TD since 2007, Keen became active in his union when he was elected local chairperson in 2015, a position he still held. He also served his local as local alt. legislative rep. (2016 – present), S&T (2018 – 2020) and as alternate delegate for the 2019 convention.

“Richard was a valued member of our union and a strong leader,” wrote Georgia State Legislative Director Matt Campbell. “He believed in doing what was right and holding the railroad accountable for their actions. But more than all that, Richard was a good man, he was funny, and he was a loyal friend. I am so thankful that I knew this man. He will be so missed by all of us.”

GCA-898 General Chairperson Tom Gholson wrote in an email: “As many of you may not have known him, I can assure each of you that didn’t, when you met him you would like him and find something in common. While he was local chairman of Local 1263 he helped rebuild many of the past relationships that were tarnished by old union politics. He placed the membership foremost in priority and was selfless with his work as secretary and treasurer and local chairman. While his body will no longer be with us, the memories we shared together will live on in the meetings to come.”

In his spare time, Keen loved spending time with his children, fishing and working on cars. He loved to help people and could always make them laugh.

Keen is survived by his wife, Mechelle Keen; children Kaleb, Emerson and Harper Keen; father Richard Keen Sr.; mother Bernice Moore; sisters Heather Campbell and Brooke Rowan; Brothers Amy Brad Rowan and Josh Rowan; grandmother Gail Reed; and his in-laws. He also leaves behind his best friends and mentors Patrick Folsom (1st GCA vice chairperson for NS GO 898), Richard Parry and James Warren. He was predeceased by his paternal grandparents Carolyn Cowart and George Keen; and his maternal grandfather Robert Reed.

A visitation will be held Thursday, September 15 from 12 – 2 p.m. at the Warren Funeral Services of Quitman Chapel, 100 S. Second St., Quitman, GA 31643. A funeral service will immediately follow at 2 p.m., followed by interment at Riverview Memorial Gardens Cemetery, Valdosta, Ga.

A GoFundMe has been established by Patrick Folsom to support the family. Folsom is also accepting checks or money orders and will deliver them to Keen’s wife. Please mail checks to Patrick Folsom, 3330 Empress Road, Quitman, GA 31643.

Follow this link to leave condolences for the family or to read the official obituary.

Follow this link to make an online donation.

SMART-TD offers our heartfelt condolences to Keen’s family, friends, Local 1263 and all who knew him.