As prescribed by the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution, the SMART Transportation Division acknowledges the ability of Congress to legally impose the Tentative National Rail Agreement upon the operating-craft employees represented by the SMART-TD. While it is unfortunate that our members were not able to approve the agreement in which they work under, we thank the President, House Speaker, Senate leadership, and Cabinet members for their support at the negotiating table and on the floor of Congress in an attempt to achieve more for our members.

It is extremely disappointing that 43 Senators voted to prioritize the corporate greed of rail carriers and CEOs over the needs and quality-of-life improvements that our members so desperately deserve. Because of Precision Scheduled Railroading, our members are forced to work more hours, have less stability, suffer more stress and receive less rest. The ask for sick leave was not out of preference, but rather out of necessity. No American worker should ever have to face the decision of going to work sick, fatigued or mentally unwell versus getting disciplined or being fired by their employer, yet that is exactly what is happening every single day on this nation’s largest freight railroads.

The Senators who opposed the measure all have paid sick days, as do their staff. Apparently, they believe the nation’s rail workers are “essential” to the American economy and supply chain, but not essential enough to deserve the same protection as them when becoming ill. By voting against that measure, these Senators made no illusions that they side with the decision that is most economically beneficial to their deep-pocketed corporate donors.

Our efforts to improve the lives of our membership will continue during future negotiations, as well as in the regulatory and legislative process. The American rail worker has spoken, as have the American rail shippers. The national freight rail network is broken, and the need for long-term rail reform is clear. Labor and shippers are united on this front. More must be done to reverse the harmful effects of Precision Scheduled Railroading and to right the ship for this nation’s economy and the hard-working members of SMART-TD.

As the largest freight rail operating union in the United States, the SMART Transportation Division rejects the notion that any extension of the status quo cooling-off period would have a benefit to alleviating the current contract impasse.

The intransigence of the railroad carriers over the span of the more than three years of negotiations with all unions involved and to our union in the days since SMART-TD’s announcement of its voting results will not change with an extension.

Any consideration by Congress to the contrary would only further exacerbate the harm that has been done to our members, rail shippers, and the American economy.

The SMART Transportation Division does not support the notion of Congress intervening in our collective bargaining negotiations to prevent a strike. We firmly believe in the workers’ right to fight for their own best interests, as well as the best interests of their families. Unfortunately, threats to the economy have caused this Congress to believe that a strike aversion is the best course for this nation.

We implore them to not allow political pursuits or efforts to result in a scenario where we are forced to accept less than what is currently on the table, which includes the enforcement of the limited PEB recommendations and/or an extension of the cooling-off period.

Our members want and need sick leave, but even more so, they need relief from the damning effects of operational changes made by the railroads over the last five years. If Congress truly wants to take action to improve the industry for our members, then we recommend legislation that will work to reverse the devastation of Precision Scheduled Railroading.

As for this moment, we ask these elected leaders to stand with our essential workers and urge the House and the Senate to vote in favor of guaranteeing seven days of paid sick leave to rail workers.

Action today is a start, but the fight for rail workers continues.

The lifetime maximum benefit for the Railroad Employees National Early Retirement Major Medical Benefit (ERMA or GA-46000) Plan will increase from $182,700 to $188,000 beginning Jan. 1, 2023.

At the end of 2001, labor and management had agreed on various procedures to administer the annual changes in the amount of the lifetime maximum benefit under the ERMA Plan.

In conjunction with the formula established in 2001, a new lifetime maximum was calculated by utilizing the October 2022 consumer price index (CPI) data for Hospital and Related Services and Physician Services. The result is a lifetime maximum for 2023 of $188,000.

For individuals who have reached the lifetime maximum, the incremental maximum available is applied to eligible expenses submitted for dates of service on or after the effective date of the new maximum. For 2023, this amount will be $5,300.

This change will apply to all railroads and crafts participating in ERMA.

Many railroad employees have served in the Armed Forces of the United States. Under certain conditions, their military service may be creditable as railroad service under the Railroad Retirement Act (RRA).

The following questions and answers provide information on how military service may be credited toward Railroad Retirement benefits.

1. Under what conditions can military service be credited as railroad service?

The intent behind the crediting of military service under the RRA is to prevent career railroad employees from losing retirement credits while performing active-duty military service during a war or national emergency period. Therefore, to be creditable as compensation under the RRA, service in the U.S. Armed Forces must be preceded by railroad service in the same or preceding calendar year. With the exceptions noted later, the employee must also have entered military service when the United States was at war or in a state of national emergency, or have served in the armed forces involuntarily. Military service is involuntary when an employee is required by law, such as Selective Service System conscription or troop call-up from a reserve unit, to leave railroad service to perform active duty military service.

Only active-duty military service is creditable under the RRA. A person is considered to have been on active duty while commissioned, or enrolled, in the active service of the Armed Forces of the United States (including the U.S. Coast Guard), or while ordered to federal active duty from any reserve component of the uniformed armed forces.

2. What are some examples of creditable service performed by a member of a reserve component, such as the Army Reserve?

Any military service a reservist is required to perform as a result of a call-up to active duty, such as during a partial mobilization, is creditable under the RRA, so long as the military service is preceded by railroad service in the same or preceding year.

Annual training duty as a member of a reserve component of a uniformed service is also considered active duty and may be creditable, provided the railroad employee service requirement is met. The period of active duty for training also includes authorized travel time to and from any such training duty. However, weekend alone or evening reserve duty is not creditable.

Active duty in a state National Guard or state Air National Guard unit may be creditable only while the reservist was called to federal active duty by Congress or the president of the United States. Emergency call-up of the National Guard by a governor for riot or flood control would not be creditable.

3. What are the dates of the war or national emergency periods?

The war or national emergency periods are:

  • August 2, 1990, to date as yet undetermined.
  • December 16, 1950, through September 14, 1978.
  • September 8, 1939, through June 14, 1948.

If military service began during a war or national emergency period, any active duty service the employee was required to continue in beyond the end of the war or national emergency is creditable, except that voluntary service extending beyond September 14, 1978, is not creditable.

Railroad workers who voluntarily served in the armed forces between June 15, 1948, and December 15, 1950, when there was no declared national state of emergency, can be given Railroad Retirement credit for their military service if they:

  • performed railroad service in the year they entered or the year before they entered military serviceand;
  • returned to rail service in the year their military service ended, or in the following year, and;
  • had no intervening nonrailroad employment.

4. How can military service be used to increase benefits paid by the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB)?

Railroad Retirement annuities are based on length of service and earnings. If military service is creditable as railroad service, a person will receive additional compensation credits for each month of creditable military service and railroad service credit for each active military service month not already credited by actual railroad service.

Creditable military service may be used in addition to regular railroad service to meet certain service requirements, such as the basic 10-year or 5-year service requirements for a regular annuity, the 20-year requirement for an occupational disability annuity before age 60, the 25-year requirement for a supplemental annuity, or the 30-year requirement for early retirement benefits.

5. Can United States Merchant Marine service be creditable for Railroad Retirement purposes?

No. Service with the Merchant Marine or civilian employment with the Department of Defense is not creditable, even if performed in wartime.

6. Are Railroad Retirement annuities based in part on military service credits reduced if other benefits, such as military service pensions or payments from the Department of Veterans Affairs, are also payable on the basis of the same military service?

No. While Railroad Retirement employee annuities are subject to reductions for dual entitlement to Social Security benefits and, under certain conditions, federal, state or local government pensions, as well as certain other payments, Railroad Retirement employee annuities are always exempt from reduction for military service pensions or payments by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

7. Are the unemployment and sickness benefits payable by the RRB affected if an employee is also receiving a military service pension?

Yes. The unemployment and sickness benefits payable by the RRB are affected if a claimant is also receiving a military service pension. However, payments made by the Department of Veterans Affairs will not affect railroad unemployment or sickness benefits.

When a claimant is receiving a military service pension or benefits under any social insurance law for days in which he or she is entitled to benefits under the Railroad Unemployment Insurance Act, railroad unemployment or sickness benefits are payable only to the extent to which they exceed the other payments for those days. In many cases, the amount of a military service pension precludes the payment of unemployment or sickness benefits by the RRB. Examples of other such social insurance payments are firefighters’ and police pensions, or certain workers’ compensation payments. Claimants should report all such payments promptly to avoid having to refund benefits later.

8. Can proof of military service be filed in advance of retirement?

Yes. Railroad employees are encouraged to file their military service proofs well before retirement to expedite the annuity application process and avoid delays caused by inadequate proofs. Proofs can be mailed to an employee’s local RRB field office, or placed in the secure lockboxes/door slots outside of an RRB field office’s doors. (Lockboxes and door slots are checked daily.) Employee information will be recorded and stored electronically until an employee retires. All evidence brought or mailed to an RRB office will be handled carefully and returned promptly. 

If employees do not have an official record of their military service, their local RRB office will explain how to get acceptable evidence. 

9. How can an employee get more information about the crediting of his or her military service by the RRB?

More information is available by visiting the RRB’s website, RRB.gov, or by calling an RRB office toll-free at 1-877-772-5772. Persons can find the address of the RRB office servicing their area by calling the agency’s toll-free number or by clicking on the Field Office Locator tab at RRB.gov. RRB field offices currently offer limited in-person service by appointment. To schedule an appointment, call 1-877-772-5772. Individuals should bring a photo ID when visiting a field office, and, depending on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the county in which the field office is located, may be required to wear an appropriate face mask. In such circumstances, if visitors do not have a mask, one will be provided for them. 

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

As you are undoubtedly aware, voting on the 2022 Tentative Agreement concluded yesterday evening at 11:59 p.m. Eastern time. I would like to sincerely thank each and every member who exercised their right to participate in this ratification, regardless of how you voted. While the final outcome is somewhat disheartening, I am proud to say that SMART-TD members turned out in record numbers, and your voices have been heard.

Before addressing the ratification vote results and our next steps, it is important to note that Article 21B, Section 91, of the SMART Constitution pertaining to national contract ratifications states, in pertinent part:

“A majority of the members voting of each of the crafts to be covered or affected by the terms of the proposed agreement shall be required to ratify the offer of settlement.”

This requires that each historic craft we represent (e.g., Conductors, Engine Service, Brakemen, Yardmen) must ratify for an agreement to ratify. 

It is also important to note that there are two separate agreements covering the affected SMART-TD members. Document “A” applies to members working in the crafts of Conductor, Engine Service, Brakemen, and Yardmen (collectively referred to as the “operating crafts”), while Document “B” applies specifically to Yardmasters. With that being said, the final results of SMART-TD’s ratification vote are as follows:

CraftIn FavorOpposedResult
Conductor50.8%49.2%Pass
Engine Service50%50%Tie
Brakemen50.2%49.8%Pass
Yardmen39.8%60.2%Fail
Yardmaster62.5%37.5%Pass

As a majority of the members voting of each of the operating crafts did not approve the 2022 Tentative Agreement, Document “A” has failed ratification. As a majority of Yardmasters approved the 2022 Tentative Agreement, Document “B” is ratified, effective November 21, 2022.

With respect to the operating craft members outlined above, SMART-TD has entered a cooling-off period that extends through December 8, 2022. The National Carriers’ Conference Committee (NCCC) has already indicated to us that they do not intend to engage in further bargaining over these issues. This has been their behavior to the other unions that have failed to ratify during this round of bargaining. Nonetheless, SMART-TD’s negotiating team will return to the table and invite the NCCC to reopen good-faith negotiations during this period.

If the cooling-off period expires and an improved Tentative Agreement cannot be reached, self-help will be available commencing at 12:01 a.m. Eastern time, Friday, December 9, 2022. There will be no need for this office to conduct another vote seeking strike authorization, as the results of our July 2022 polling and the unanimous approval of the affected General Committees of Adjustment still apply.

Please note that this letter does not automatically constitute authorization to engage in self-help. Final authorization will come in a separate notice from this office. The earliest such notice could be issued would be on or after 12:01 a.m. on Friday, December 9, 2022. However, there is a distinct possibility that Congress may pass legislation to resolve this dispute and/or impose an agreement prior to the expiration of our current cooling-off period. In that event, no self-help authorization can be issued.

As additional information becomes available, updates will be shared with all SMART-TD members via email, the SMART Union website and Transportation Division social media pages.

With best wishes and sincere gratitude for your continued support, I remain

Fraternally yours,

Jeremy R. Ferguson
President – Transportation Division


Follow this link for a printable version of this letter.

BLET members vote to ratify national rail agreement with the nation’s Class I railroads; operating craft (Train & Engine service) members of SMART-TD have voted to reject it, while TD yardmasters have voted to ratify their national agreement.

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio — Voting concluded midnight Sunday for members of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) as well as the Transportation Division of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, and Transportation Workers (SMART-TD) on proposed new five-year collective bargaining agreements with the nation’s Class I railroads. BLET members voted to accept a tentative agreement reached on September 15; SMART-TD train and engine service members have voted to reject their proposed contract, while SMART-TD yardmaster members voted to accept. BLET and SMART-TD are the two largest rail unions, accounting for half of the unionized workforce on the nation’s largest freight railroads.

The five-year agreement ratified by BLET members and SMART TD yardmaster members addresses rates of pay, health & welfare, and other fringe benefits for approximately 24,000 locomotive engineers and other rail workers represented by the union who are employed by the nation’s Class I railroads.

A record number of eligible BLET members participated in the ratification vote with 53.5% voting in favor and 46.5% voting against.

Turnout among the more than 28,000 eligible SMART-TD members was also a record high. 50.87% of train and engine service members represented by SMART-TD voted to reject the TA, while 62.48% of SMART-TD-represented Yardmasters voted to ratify.  Representatives from SMART-TD will now head back to the bargaining table with the National Carriers Conference Committee (NCCC), which represents railroad management, to negotiate new terms for the affected train and engine service members.

“BLET is a membership-driven union.  In September, our National Wage Committee and our General Chairmen who represent freight rail workers unanimously agreed that the time had come for the membership to have a say on their contract,” said BLET President Dennis Pierce.  “Since then, we have worked to ensure that all of our members fully understand the wins and losses in the Presidential Emergency Board recommendations and how those recommendations were improved upon leading to the tentative agreement sent out for their consideration. In every communication we stressed that we were there to explain the tentative agreement, not to tell any member how to vote. Our goal was to get all involved members to cast a ballot — no matter how they voted.  With over two-thirds of eligible BLET members returning a ballot, a true majority of the membership has spoken and I want to thank them all for participating.  Rank and file member ratification of contracts is one of the core democratic principles of our Union.”

Under the provisions of the Railway Labor Act, the labor law for workers employed by railroads and airlines, contracts don’t generally expire, they become amendable. After the unions filed their Section 6 notices with the NCCC in November 2019, talks began in January 2020.

 “SMART-TD members with their votes have spoken, it’s now back to the bargaining table for our operating craft members,” said SMART-TD President Jeremy Ferguson. “This can all be settled through negotiations and without a strike. A settlement would be in the best interests of the workers, the railroads, shippers and the American people.”

A status quo agreement between SMART TD and management is in effect until December 8. Beginning on December 9, SMART-TD would be allowed to go on strike or the rail carriers would be permitted to lock out workers — unless Congress intervenes.

“The ball is now in the railroads’ court. Let’s see what they do. They can settle this at the bargaining table,” said Ferguson. “But, the railroad executives who constantly complain about government interference and regularly bad-mouth regulators and Congress now want Congress to do the bargaining for them.”

If there is a strike by SMART-TD or any of the other three rail unions that have rejected proposed contracts with the carriers, BLET and the other eight rail unions that have ratified agreements have pledged to lawfully honor their picket lines.

“We stood shoulder to shoulder with our brothers and sisters in SMART-TD and others in rail labor throughout this process, and we will continue to stand in solidarity with them as we approach the finish line in this round of negotiations,” said Pierce.

# # #

The SMART Transportation Division is comprised of approximately 125,000 active and retired members of the former United Transportation Union, who work in a variety of crafts in the transportation industry. Find out more at the SMART-TD site: https://smart-union.org.

The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen represents nearly 57,000 professional locomotive engineers and trainmen throughout the United States. The BLET is the founding member of the Rail Conference, International Brotherhood of Teamsters. More information can be found on the BLET website: https://ble-t.org/

Balloting to have your voice heard on the tentative National Rail Agreement (TA) closes 11:59 p.m. Eastern TONIGHT, Nov. 20, 2022.

We thank all of the members who have participated thus far by casting your vote. For those who have not yet voted, we wanted to provide a one-stop source of information that can be referred to prior to the close of balloting at 11:59 p.m. (Eastern) Sunday, Nov. 20, 2022.

Video of the Nov. 9 town hall meeting in Ohio.

BE INFORMED BEFORE DECIDING: Transportation Division President Jeremy Ferguson and Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen President Dennis Pierce engaged in a candid, in-depth town-hall meeting with members of both unions Nov. 9 and fielded questions regarding all aspects of the TA. Please see above to watch.

IF YOU HAVE NOT RECEIVED A BALLOT: Ballots were mailed to the addresses that the union had on file for eligible members via USPS first class mail two weeks ago. If you have not received your ballot and you believe that you are eligible to vote, please contact the SMART-TD office and submit your request for a replacement ballot. For the quickest response, requests may be submitted by emailing ContractQuestions@smart-union.org. Replacement ballot requests may also be submitted by calling (216) 227-5424. When submitting your request, please provide your full name, home address, last 4 digits of your Social Security number and date of birth. Once your identity and eligibility are confirmed, you will be provided with the pertinent materials and instructions to cast your vote.

REGARDING H&W: Payment rates for the plans have been announced, pending ratification.

PLEASE REMEMBER THAT YOUR VOTE COUNTS! To have a say on this TA, all eligible members are encouraged to exercise their democratic rights as a member of our union.

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio, November 11 — At a November 9 Town Hall meeting, SMART Transportation Division President Jeremy Ferguson and Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen President Dennis Pierce discussed the tentative National Rail Agreement with dozens of members from both unions.

A video recording of the Town Hall (approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes) is available on the BLET and SMART TD websites.

2023 payment rates confirmed for H&W plans

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio (Nov. 8, 2022) — Late last week, members of the Cooperating Railway Labor Organizations (CRLO) and the National Carriers’ Conference Committee (NCCC) convened to review and renew the payment rates for the nationally negotiated health & welfare plans including medical, dental, vision, and life/accidental death & dismemberment (AD&D) benefits.

Prior to last week’s meetings, SMART-TD and BLET mailed ratification ballots to eligible members who are covered under the above plans. If ratified, the agreement would restore the 15% monthly employee cost-sharing contribution (based on the monthly payment rates set annually) that was included in the past three National Agreements. The Tentative Agreement also would provide additional benefits for hearing, speech therapy, and autism-related therapies that are not currently covered by the plans. There are no other H&W cost increases in the Tentative Agreement.

Accordingly, SMART-TD and BLET members are advised that the following payment rates (and monthly employee cost-sharing contribution rate, if ratified) will become effective January 1, 2023:

BenefitMonthly Payment Rate
Medical + Rx (non-hospital association rate)$1,972.43
Dental$68.50
Vision$8.16
Life/AD&D Coverage$12.30
Total$2,061.39
15% Cost-Sharing Contribution (proposed)$309.21
Note that the above payment rates do not include costs for on-duty coverage or other administrative costs that are paid 100% by the carriers

The above confirmed payment rates, and therefore the proposed monthly employee cost-sharing contribution rate, came in lower than the previously provided estimates, which projected the 2023 monthly employee cost-sharing contribution rate to be $319.00. As further information, as part of the last National Agreement, the monthly employee cost-sharing contribution rate has been frozen at $228.89 since July of 2016. Had that freeze not been in effect, the 15% monthly employee cost-sharing contribution rates would have been as follows;

2016: $228.89

2017: $261.37

2018: $245.07

2019: $248.59

2020: $248.59

2021: $262.10

2022: $287.46

The 2023 15% monthly employee cost-sharing contribution rate of $309.21 represents a $21.75 increase over 15% of the 2022 premium rate, had the 15% monthly cost sharing not been capped in the last National Agreement. The Tentative Agreement under consideration now includes a similar cap that takes effect at end of 2024 and that cap is an improvement over the recommendations of the Presidential Emergency Board.

Voting on the 2022 Tentative Agreement will remain open until 11:59 p.m. on Nov. 20, 2022. Tabulation is set to occur and results will be announced on November 21.