Archive for the ‘Bus news’ Category

H.R. 2 passes U.S. House and moves to Senate

H.R. 2, the Moving Forward Act, a massive $1.5 trillion infrastructure bill that contains provisions important to members of all crafts in the SMART Transportation Division and to sheet metal workers, passed through the U.S. House of Representatives by a 233-188 vote on July 1.

A major component of this bill is the INVEST in America Act that passed the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee in late June.

H.R. 2 contains:

  • a two-person freight crew requirement
  • bus and transit operator safety measures
  • blocked-rail-crossing enforcement
  • a cross-border solution
  • yardmaster hours of service
  • additional funding for Amtrak
  • requirements for carriers to meet CDC guidelines and to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) to transportation workers

“This is an unprecedented step ahead for many of our union’s major issues through the legislative process,” SMART Transportation Division President Jeremy R. Ferguson said. “Our concerns were heard and addressed by the writers of this bill — safety for workers and communities alike in the bus and transit operator safety measures and in the crew-size provision, funding for Amtrak, and a number of other provisions intended to rebuild and transform the nation’s roads and rails.

“Federal agencies and big-pocketed lobbyists have tried to obstruct the essential protections that this bill provides to our members and to the people who work on, live near and use our nation’s transportation network. These representatives all had the foresight and initiative to move them forward.”

Ian Jefferies, CEO of the Association of American Railroads (AAR), earlier in the week had an op-ed published that was highly critical of the legislation, targeting the two-person crew portion and one that dealt with study of potential rail transport of Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) specifically, saying the bill “woefully missed the mark.”

In the column, Jefferies also argued that legislators were “putting their collective thumbs on the scale” regarding railroad safety in regulating the crew-size safety issue.

The INVEST in America component of the Moving Forward Act was shepherded by House T&I Chairperson Peter DeFazio, an Oregon Democrat, through the committee June 18. He commented on July 1 after the bill’s passage:

“Passage of this bold, forward-thinking infrastructure bill is proof that finally, there is a majority of us in Congress who won’t accept the status quo and instead are willing to fight for a new vision that invests in our communities, addresses the climate crisis, and creates better opportunities for all. And we get there by putting millions of people to work in jobs that cannot be exported, while harnessing American-made materials, ingenuity, and innovation,” he said. “With the Moving Forward Act, we make it clear that our infrastructure does not have to be a product of the past, with crumbling roads and bridges, unreliable transit and rail networks, inequitable outcomes, and little regard to our changing climate and our changing economy. I challenge my Senate colleagues to join the House in thinking big and being bold on long-overdue investments not only in our infrastructure, but also in the communities and the people we all represent.”

Leaders in the SMART-TD National Legislative Department thanked DeFazio and the bipartisan group of Democrats and a trio of Republicans who supported H.R. 2.

“As if we need any additional evidence that elections matter, this result shows that the 2018 change of party control in the House made a difference,” National Legislative Director Greg Hynes said. “We appreciate those legislators who supported this legislation in its journey through the House. There is more work to be done and a path to be cleared for this legislation, and our membership is more than willing to put in the time to make legislators understand why the bill provisions are necessary.”

The Moving Forward Act now moves to the United States Senate, where, according to Politico.com, Republican U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, called the bill “nonsense,” “absurd,” “pure fantasy” and vowed that it will die before getting to the White House, where the president has threatened to veto the bill.

TD General Chairperson Crawford’s op-ed in Tennessean supports Biden

General Chairperson Adren Crawford of GO-433 (Canadian National — Illinois Central) had the following op-ed column published in the Tennessean on June 26.

To anyone who thinks America’s labor unions aren’t relevant, think again.

In what has become both a sad and challenging time in our history, unions are more important than ever — and with Joe Biden as president, they’ll be stronger.

Crawford

Across the U.S., working men and women — union members — are responding to the COVID pandemic with the same courage and work ethic that built the middle class and made our country the most productive nation in the world.

For example, the United Auto Workers are now part of the healthcare system, with members building life-saving ventilators at Ford and General Motors.

United Food and Commercial Workers are keeping the shelves stocked, ensuring that we can put food on our tables and enjoy meals with our families.

Members of the Service Employees International Union are standing on the front lines in hospitals and clinics.

Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, and Transportation (SMART) union members have worked tirelessly running freight trains to maintain the flow of goods — such as delivering chlorine-based disinfectants for water, enabling e-commerce, transporting food, and other essential products.

The list goes on.

Let’s take stock of this historic moment — and, as we march toward the other side of the COVID crisis, let’s recommit to organized labor.

Simply put: Union workers are our heroes right now.

The fact that they’re well-organized at this critical time allows them to push for the necessary personal protective equipment, safe working conditions, and overtime wages that they need in order to support all of us.

Union workers’ courage stands in stark contrast to the behavior of corporations and anti-labor politicians who have spent decades waging war on organizing and collective bargaining.

The predictable results: Stagnant wages, loss of pensions, and exploitation of workers.

As president, Joe Biden intends to correct these inequities.

He will:

• Check the abuse of corporate power and hold executives accountable.

This means penalizing employers who pretend to bargain with employee unions while sidestepping meaningful agreements with their workers and also ensuring that federal dollars don’t flow to employers who engage in union-busting activities.

• Encourage and incentivize unionization and collective bargaining.

This means extending the right to organize to independent contractors in a fast-growing segment of the economy, enforcing workplace rights for federal employees, and making sure that the National Labor Relations Board does its job in supporting workers.

• Ensure that employees receive the pay, benefits, and protections they deserve.

This means making the minimum wage an actual living wage, directing the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to expand its enforcement of workplace-safety laws, and protecting undocumented immigrants who report labor violations.

Most importantly, Joe Biden knows that labor rights are civil rights and that the strength of unions is their diversity.

In the days, weeks, months, and years ahead, we owe it to all of our brothers and sisters of color to listen, reflect on our own actions, and recommit ourselves to the fight for economic and social justice.

When we emerge stronger after the multiple crises facing our nation, let’s remember the critical role that the American labor movement played in both our economy and our society.

Finally, let’s support Joe Biden for president and renew our commitment to labor — and let us never forget the individual workers who pulled us through this crisis and led the fight for economic and social justice.

Adren Crawford is a general chairperson and proud member of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, and Transportation Workers.

SMART endorses Joe Biden for president

Statement from SMART General President Joseph Sellers, Jr. July 1, 2020

The International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART) is pleased to endorse Vice President Joe Biden for President of the United States, following a unanimous vote of its General Executive Council.

Biden

The endorsement was informed by discussions with and feedback from SMART members and leaders from across the United States who met to discuss SMART issues and which candidate best supports them. Over the past four years, SMART leadership has also met with all the major presidential candidates from both parties, including the incumbent president, and had meaningful dialogue with them regarding issues impacting SMART members.

SMART has engaged with and listened to our members from coast to coast about their views and opinions regarding our union, their jobs and current events that affect their future. This effort was launched to ensure members have a say in shaping the course of our union as it proceeds to advance the needs and viewpoints of the membership.

Biden has a long history of engaging with SMART members and working families in both the sheet metal and transportation industries. The endorsement decision was based on Biden’s strong support of the concerns most important to our members, including the need for two-person railroad crews, retirement and pension security, protection of prevailing wages, and a prioritization of workplace safety. He also is dedicated to acting on a plan for real infrastructure work to enhance employment opportunities for current and future members in the industries SMART represents. SMART members have made it clear they can no longer wait after four years of empty promises for new infrastructure initiatives from the current administration.

From his early years working with local sheet metal workers as a County Commissioner in Delaware, to his frequent meetings with SMART Amtrak conductors during his commute back and forth to Washington, D.C., Joe Biden has been acutely aware of and engaged with the issues on the minds of our members.

After a series of discussions with Biden’s campaign staff, where members’ feedback and concerns were shared with the candidate, Vice President Biden took the time to respond with a video outlining his positions on the issues. His impassioned message in this video proves that Biden is the clear choice for our union and the membership.

SMART is highly engaged in the political process to ensure our issues are advanced and our members’ livelihoods are protected. We also strive to ensure union leadership is transparent and clear with our members when it comes to decisions in the electoral arena. We work to advance our members’ issues by advocating and educating on their behalf while supporting candidates, regardless of party, who stand with SMART members and for issues important to all working families.

House Committee sends INVEST Act to full House for consideration

The Investing in a New Vision for the Environment and Surface Transportation (INVEST) in America Act passed through the U.S. House of Representatives’ Transportation and Infrastructure Committee late June 18 by a party-line vote of 35-25.

The legislation, which contains provisions that affect the safety and well-being of all members of the SMART Transportation Division, now moves to consideration by the entire U.S. House of Representatives.

“This is another step in what has been a years-long journey,” National Legislative Director Gregory Hynes said. “We are now farther than we have ever been in regard to having national two-person freight crew protections made into law thanks to our members’ action and advocacy.”

“But we will need to keep the pressure on members of Congress in both the Senate and in the House so that this and other parts of this regulation are not casually tossed out in accordance with the carriers’ will as the scheduled July 1 floor vote approaches.”

The union has rolled out contact forms on its Legislative Action Center for members and concerned parties to reach out to their U.S. representatives as the INVEST Act is considered by House members. These links will be accessible through the main SMART-TD web page as well.

A coordinated informational campaign also has been launched to educate members on what the act provides. While not perfect, this legislation represents a step to shoring up a craft that has been under siege for years, SMART-TD leaders say.

“There are some people in our union who misunderstand the intent of the bill because they might support the Republican Party or the president. They degrade the union on social media or say that this attempt at legislation is a giveaway or too weak in protecting conductors because there are some exceptions in it,” SMART-TD President Jeremy Ferguson said. “It establishes protections where there are NONE. Your union is not the enemy — the carriers want to eliminate even more jobs and lay waste to the people and families who kept the freight industry going through a pandemic. The battlefield is in the halls of Congress and passage of the INVEST Act, with the protections intact, would be a victory.”

The INVEST in America Act contains provisions on:

  • Two-Person Crews;
  • Operator Assault;
  • Blocked Crossings;
  • Sleep Apnea for Commercial Drivers;
  • Yardmaster Hours of Service;
  • a “Cross Border” fix.

During the two days and more than 24 hours of committee consideration in the House on June 17 and 18, four Republican representatives proposed amendments attempting to remove the portions of the INVEST Act covering freight rail: two-person crews, yardmaster hours of service, blocked crossings and the “cross border” fix, making President Ferguson’s prediction about the legislation become true.

“There are only two parties at the table. The Democrats wrote it into the bill, only the Republicans will take it out,” he wrote June 3.

For example:

Democratic Rep. Alan Lowenthal of California proposed Amendment 43, which requires the federal DOT to study, establish standards and come up with a final rule regarding untreated obstructive sleep apnea, which affects many transportation workers. The amendment succeeded and was passed by voice vote.

In contrast, four Republican representatives attempted to attack provisions important to our members.

  • Republican U.S. Rep. Scott Perry of Pennsylvania proposed Amendment 125, which attempted to remove two-person crew protections. That amendment was defeated by a voice vote after Perry in his argument parroted talking points rolled out by rail industry groups including the Association of American Railroads (AAR).
  • Republican U.S. Rep. Brian Babin of Texas proposed Amendment 41, which attempted to remove the cross border fix proposed in the act, but later withdrew his amendment before it could be voted upon.
  • Republican U.S. Rep. Bob Gibbs of Ohio proposed Amendment 25, which attempted to remove the yardmaster hours of service rules proposed in the act, but later withdrew his amendment before it could be voted upon.
  • Republican U.S. Rep. Troy Balderson of Ohio proposed Amendment 23, which attempted to remove the blocked-crossing rule proposed in the act. That amendment was rejected by voice vote as part of an en bloc package of amendments.

The actions of these legislators will be remembered in November, but we have bigger concerns as we approach a scheduled July vote on the bill. Use the Legislative Action Center to contact your members of Congress and let them know that the INVEST in American Act deserves their support, keeps communities safe and protects American workers and their jobs!

Local 1607 member Wilfredo Corsino passes from COVID-19

General Chairperson John Ellis (Los Angeles County MTA) reports that Brother Wilfredo Corsino, a member out of Local 1607 (Los Angeles, Calif.), passed away on June 11 from COVID-19 complications.

Corsino

Brother Corsino was 65 years old.

“Brother Corsino has been a part of our Union UTU/SMART since 1996,” Ellis said. “He was a 23-year veteran and a consistent supporter of the Union cause.”

Corsino began his career with LACMTA and worked out of Divisions 7, 10, and 13.

“On a personal level, many operators remember Brother Corsino’s infectious laugh and his love for Metro,” Ellis said. “Many of his co-workers stated that he was a great ping-pong and pool player.”

Brother Corsino is the eighth active member of the SMART Transportation Division reported to the union as having passed away from the novel coronavirus.

The union offers its sincere condolences to Brother Corsino’s family and friends and his union brothers and sisters at Local 1607.

VSTD COVID-19 Elimination Period Waiver is Extended

June 17, 2020

Dear Member:

As many of you may recall, the SMART Voluntary Short Term Disability Plan temporarily suspended the Elimination Period for COVID-19 (Coronavirus) disabilities. In an announcement to you dated April 15, 2020, we communicated that the Elimination Period was being waived for any COVID-19 (Coronavirus) disabilities beginning in the months of March, April and May 2020.

We are pleased to announce that the Plan will be extending this waiver for three (3) more months through August 2020. So, effective with all diagnosed COVID-19 (Coronavirus) disabilities beginning in the months of March through August 2020, the Plan’s Elimination Period will be waived. Members must usually be disabled for 21 days before benefits will begin on the 22nd day. This is known as the Elimination Period or Waiting Period. We are waiving this Waiting Period for positive COVID-19 (Coronavirus) disabilities. This change will expedite and increase benefits for approved applicants so that you will have immediate access to money. The Waiting Period will be reinstated for COVID-19 (Coronavirus) disabilities beginning on and after September 1, 2020.

We are pleased that the Plan can take this action on your behalf. We wish you and your family health and wellness during these trying times.

Sincerely,
Board of Trustees
Mr. Joseph Sellers Jr., General President SMART
Mr. Jeremy Ferguson, President-SMART Transportation Division
Mr. Joseph Powell, General Secretary-Treasurer SMART

The SMART Voluntary Short Term Disability Plan is administered by:
Southern Benefit Administrators, Incorporated
P.O. Box 1449
Goodlettsville, Tennessee 37070-1449
Toll-Free: (844) 880-1071, Fax: (615) 859-0201

View this announcement in PDF form.

INVEST in America Act officially introduced by DeFazio

Washington, D.C. – Chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) last week officially introduced the Investing in a New Vision for the Environment and Surface Transportation in America (INVEST in America) Act during a pro forma session in the House. The INVEST in America Act, a 5-year, nearly $500 billion investment in our nation’s infrastructure, is a key component of the Moving Forward Framework that House Democrats released earlier this year. After Committee leaders unveiled the bill text Wednesday, June 3rd, support started pouring in from a diverse array of transportation, environmental, worker, and safety advocates.

DeFazio

What advocates from around the country are saying about the INVEST in America Act:

“We applaud Chairman Peter DeFazio for listening to the needs of workers represented by SMART Transportation Division, and responding accordingly. By providing robust funding for infrastructure, passenger rail, and transit, as well as the inclusion of smart transportation policy, the Invest in America Act represents a bold step forward for our members,” said Jeremy Ferguson, president of SMART-TD.

“Title V of the INVEST in America Act is the most significant piece of railroad legislation since the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008,” BLET (Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen) National President Dennis R. Pierce said.

“Past reauthorizations have been an exercise in spending more money and magically wishing for better outcomes with outdated policy, which was always foolish,” said Beth Osborne, director of Transportation for America. “With this new proposal from Chairman DeFazio, the INVEST in America Act, the House is charting a welcome course toward updating our country’s 1950’s approach to transportation.”

The American Public Transportation Association (APTA), on behalf of the entire public transportation industry, would like to thank House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Chair Peter A. DeFazio (D-OR), Chair of the Subcommittee on Highways and Transit Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), and Chair of the Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials Dan Lipinski (D-IL) for their extraordinary leadership in crafting the INVEST in America Act. We strongly support the bill and its critical investments for surface transportation infrastructure, including $105 billion for public transportation and $60 billion for commuter rail, Amtrak, and other high-performance rail.”

“For too long, the needs of professional drivers and others who work in the transportation sector have been ignored by lawmakers,” Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa said. “This legislation will set the nation on the right path by making badly needed infrastructure improvements while also ensuring that workers are protected on the job.”

“On behalf of ATA members helping move 71 percent of our nation’s freight, we applaud Chairman DeFazio for fulfilling his commitment to produce a comprehensive infrastructure bill, and we look forward to working with House Ways & Means Chairman Neal to fund it—with real money,” American Trucking Association President and CEO Chris Spear.

“The National League of Cities thanks Rep. Peter DeFazio, Chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, for proposing legislation that eases the impacts of COVID-19 on critical transportation projects in our cities, towns, and villages. The INVEST Act would provide increased federal support for next year’s transportation projects, grow strategic transit and rail investments over the next five years and improve intergovernmental collaboration.”

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) applauds House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Peter DeFazio for today’s introduction of the INVEST in America Act. Chairman DeFazio is a traffic safety champion and has made saving lives a priority in this legislation.”

Stephanie Gidigbi, director of policy and partnerships for NRDC’s (Natural Resources Defense Council) Healthy People & Thriving Communities Program: “For too many years, funding from Washington has built roads and highways that divided low-income communities and communities of color without offering the transportation alternatives all of us can use. The INVEST Act offers a different path, one that leads to a more just, equitable, and climate-resilient future. Crucially, this bill ensures all communities have access to pedestrian, biking and transit options. It also will help us slash carbon pollution by investing in electric-vehicle charging stations, while ensuring that roads, bridges and transit lines are able to withstand the stronger storms and floods we must prepare for because of climate change.”

“The National Safety Council applauds House lawmakers for the INVEST in America Act, the reauthorization of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act. For too long, the United States has consistently avoided the hard choices needed to save lives on the roadways. This proposal is an opportunity for us to start making the right choices so we can save lives, because we know that all traffic deaths are preventable.”

“The Coalition for America’s Gateways & Trade Corridors (CAGTC) applauds the INVEST in America Act’s continuation of dedicated investment in our nation’s freight assets, first through the Nationally Significant Freight and Highway Program (INFRA) in Fiscal Year 2021, then through the Projects of National and Regional Significance Program (PNRS) through the remaining years of the proposal. Competitive grant programs are essential to funding large-scale goods movement infrastructure projects, which are difficult to fund through traditional distribution methods such as formula programs.”

“Unfortunately, we do not yet have a cure for COVID-19. But, we do have proven and available safety solutions to address the preventable fatalities and injuries occurring on our Nation’s roadways year after year,” said Cathy Chase, President of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates). “We commend Chairman DeFazio, Highways and Transit Subcommittee Chairman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) and Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Subcommittee Chairman Dan Lipinski (D-IL) for sponsoring the INVEST in America Act and advancing important safety countermeasures.”  Advocates looks forward to working with the Committee as our review of this legislation continues.

ITS America President and CEO Shailen Bhatt: “As the association that promotes technology to reduce fatalities, congestion and emissions, ITS America is gratified to see so many positive aspects in the bill that will lead to more research in and deployment of technology, including increasing access to mobility services by making Mobility on Demand an eligible activity under transit programs.”

 “We commend Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) for leading the effort to address our nation’s transportation needs, including the costly backlog of transportation projects in our parks,” said Emily Douce of the National Parks Conservation Association. “Together we want to ensure park visitors can continue to experience and enjoy these places now, and for years to come.”

“The INVEST Act reflects more than a year of advocacy by the League, our partners, and our members to push for a future where our transportation system works better for all people, especially people biking and walking,” said Bill Nesper, executive director of the League of American Bicyclists.

“We know that the INVEST Act can make a difference in transportation equity across the country and the Safe Routes Partnership looks forward to supporting its passage and implementation for Safe Routes to Schools, to parks, to healthy food, and so many other essential parts of our lives,” said Cassandra Isidro, executive director of Safe Routes Partnership.

Railway Supply Institute (RSI) President Mike O’Malley: “This legislation will provide over $60 billion in much-needed funding to support substantive improvements to rail infrastructure across the country, including $29 billion for Amtrak and $19 billion for passenger rail improvement, modernization, and expansion projects. We also commend inclusion of strong funding levels for federal transit and grade crossing safety programs.  These investments will enhance safety for millions of passengers, preserve thousands of jobs, and support our domestic supply chain at this critical time.”

“On behalf of The Bus Coalition (TBC) and its members, I applaud the historic level of bus transit funding included in Chairman DeFazio’s reauthorization proposal. Buses are the backbone of transit service across America providing more than one-half of all trips on public transportation. Our customers rely on buses daily to access jobs, health care, education, and other critical destinations. The level of investment included in the bill will go a long way toward upgrading and replacing our aging and shrinking bus fleets, boost economic growth and help enhance bus service in all communities across the country,” said The Bus Coalition President Bill Carpenter.

CTAA [Community Transportation Association of America] members provide critical trips and support their vulnerable populations by acting as a lifeline. The record level of investment proposed in this bill would not only allow our rural, tribal, specialized and small-urban transit providers to continue meeting demand, but explore new and innovative ways to better serve their communities, said Scott Bogren, Executive Director of CTAA. “We applaud this bill’s important emphasis on improved bus operations and capital investment, the incorporation of meaningful improvements to procurement and vehicle disposition, and the focus on transit services for low-income and persistent poverty communities.”

“Through the INVEST in America Act, the House T&I Committee tackles many of the most critical issues facing America’s transportation system—including safety, climate and maintenance,” said Kevin Mills, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy’s vice president of policy. “The bill recognizes and advances policies to address the tragic and growing number of pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities that occur on our roads and it creates incentives to cut carbon emissions.  It makes active transportation eligible for many programs and increases dedicated investment in trails, walking and biking programs to more than $1.5 billion a year—allocating resources to the nation’s fundamental active transportation funding programs like Transportation Alternatives and the Recreational Trails Program, while ensuring that Transportation Alternatives funding remains dedicated to its intended purpose in all states. Especially exciting is a new investment to connect walking and biking facilities within our communities and between regions.”

For a running list of supporters and more information about the INVEST in America Act, click here.

A message from President Ferguson on the INVEST in America Act

March 20, 2020

All Members — SMART Transportation Division

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

Today, House Democrats released the text of a $500 billion five-year funding authorization bill that defines their vision for the future of transportation in America, as well as outlines their plans to refresh and renew the infrastructure of the nation’s surface transportation network.

The Investing in a New Vision for the Environment and Surface Transportation in America (INVEST in America) Act is the result of countless hours of work by this Union on the Hill and in the halls of Congress. The INVEST in America Act reauthorizes funding set to expire Sept. 30, but more so, sets standards for safety, training, and transportation reform that have long been sought by the members of SMART Transportation Division including:

  • Two-Person Crews;
  • Operator Assault;
  • Yardmaster Hours of Service
  • a “Cross Border” fix.

Additionally, Amtrak would see its funding triple to $29 billion over the five-year period of the bill, allowing for expansion of national, state and regional routes and facility modernization. Funding for the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) grant program also would be increased to $7 billion to fund passenger and freight rail projects. Provisions for/or against the transportation of liquid natural gas (LNG) via rail tank cars, blocked railroad crossings, and excessive freight train length, among others, also have been included.

Our National Legislative Office has been hard at work in Washington, D.C., to convey our issues to both sides of the aisle in the U.S. House and Senate, and the provisions within this bill are the fruits of that labor.

Undoubtedly, House Democrats have heard our cries and have answered the call. By including our issues within the context of this bill, they have let America know that the only safe operation of a Class I freight train is with a two-person crew; that our bus drivers and operators have the right to a safe work environment; and that the public should be shielded from the risks that rail carriers will take in the name of greed.

But make no mistake, this bill still has a long road to travel and a lot of heavy-handed opposition standing before it in the Republican-controlled Senate. We will need all hands on deck to protect the provisions we have all fought so hard for to survive that journey.

I am asking you to please watch this bill as it moves through the legislative process and see who and what hurdles it faces. I’m asking you to please pay attention to the party affiliations of the individuals as the yeas and nays are registered when the bill is voted upon. And I am asking you to listen to the rhetoric and testimony that will affect its final appearance. Once the dust has settled, I will call on you to please support those who support you and your family’s well-being, and I firmly believe that picture will be crystal clear.

There are only two parties at the table. The Democrats wrote it into the bill, only the Republicans will take it out.

Fraternally yours,

 

 

 

 

Jeremy Ferguson
President — Transportation Division

ABOUT THE INVEST IN AMERICA ACT

NOTICE: SMART-TD Locals may meet in June with adherence to health protocols

From the SMART Transportation Division President’s Department:

As some state and local governments have begun to relax COVID-19 related precautions, Transportation Division (TD) Locals are advised they may choose to hold regular monthly meetings in June if conditions safely allow, and if permitted in accordance with state/local
guidelines. Locals choosing to resume meetings in June are reminded to observe the Centers for Disease Control’s illness prevention guidelines, which can be found at cdc.gov.

Locals not holding their meetings in June may continue to pay authorized expenses via the process outlined by this office in the March 17, 2020, circular. This advised officers and members seeking membership approval of expense submissions to utilize a version of a procedure that was previously available only to Local Chairpersons. For exact details and procedures, please reference the March circular. A copy of the claim form to be used can be obtained via TD Connect or by contacting this office.

Reimbursement for expenses via the five-signature claim form is only to be sought after fulfilling a legitimate duty of office, pursuing a matter as adopted and directed by the membership, or in fulfilling an assignment at the direction of an officer with authority over
the matter in question. It is not for members or officers to unilaterally assign themselves duties or make purchases and then seek a disbursement from the Local or the LCA.

As a reminder, there is no mechanism available for “official” meetings to be held via video conference. Among other concerns, such meetings pose a challenge to the constitutional requirement to keep the union’s business private, and some members might not have the equipment or skills to “attend” such meetings.

Further guidance will be circulated as the situation develops.

Three House leaders reject removal of acting DOT inspector general

U.S. Reps Carolyn B. Maloney, chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, Peter A. DeFazio, chair of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, and Gerald E. Connolly, chair of the Oversight and Reform Subcommittee on Government Operations, sent a letter to Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao opposing President Donald Trump’s removal of former Acting Inspector General Mitch Behm and demanding he be reinstated immediately.

“We oppose President Trump’s removal of long-time public servant Mitch Behm from his position as Acting Inspector General of the Department of Transportation (DOT) and urge that he be immediately reinstated,” the Chairs wrote to Chao. “Mr. Behm’s removal is the latest in a series of politically motivated firings of Inspectors General by President Trump. This assault on the integrity and independence of Inspectors General appears to be an intentional campaign to undermine their ability to expose corruption and protect taxpayer dollars from waste, fraud, and abuse.”

Eliott

On May 15, 2020, President Trump designated Howard R. Elliott, administrator of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), to replace Mr. Behm while Mr. Elliott keeps his political post at PHMSA at the same time. Mr. Elliott appears to have no investigatory or law enforcement experience. He is a former executive for CSX Transportation. In contrast, Mr. Behm has served in the office since 2003 and has received numerous awards for his contributions to audits and reviews.

Maloney, DeFazio, and Connolly also sent a letter to Mr. Elliott raising concerns about the conflicts of interest created by his simultaneous roles as PHMSA administrator and acting inspector general.

“This inherent conflict of interest would prohibit you from having the independence necessary to conduct fair and rigorous oversight of the Department and the Secretary,” the chairs wrote to Elliott. “Your dual appointment could severely chill whistleblower disclosures to the Office of Inspector General because whistleblowers might fear that their identities could become known to an official still serving in the Department. It also may chill communication within the Office of Inspector General if auditors or investigators are concerned that you will share information with Secretary Chao before it is appropriate.”

In their letters, the chairs requested information regarding ongoing audits, inspections, investigations, evaluations, reviews, or other engagements, as well as any communications regarding the removal of Mr. Behm and Mr. Elliott’s qualifications for Inspector General by June 1, 2020.

SMART-TD 2020 Regional Meeting Called Off

CLEVELAND, Ohio (April 21, 2020) – Unfortunately, due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, including the state of Ohio’s orders regarding distancing and banning meetings, we have had to cancel the 2020 SMART Transportation Division Regional Meeting.

Accordingly, please disregard the registration information printed in the February/March SMART Transportation Division News. That particular edition of the News was published prior to the decision to cancel.

For anyone who has already registered, you will be receiving a refund of the registration fees. Those who had registered electronically will have a full refund automatically returned to the card that was used to make their registration. If you paid for the registration by a method other than credit card, you will also receive a refund in the near future.

As a reminder, please note that members are responsible for the cancellation of their personal travel and hotel reservations.

Presidential Assistant Horvath retiring

After nearly four decades of service to members and numerous administrations in various roles in both SMART Transportation Division’s Public Relations and President’s Department, Senior Administrative Assistant to the President John Horvath is calling it a career.

Horvath

Starting May 1, the office won’t echo with his impassioned readings of Article 21B of the SMART Constitution as he provides guidance to those in need, and his gregarious conversations throughout the office will be missed.

“John has certainly left an enduring mark on how this union has been run,” said SMART Transportation Division President Jeremy R. Ferguson. “His experience as a communicator and his constitutional expertise provided a great depth of institutional knowledge. He’s going to be missed tremendously.”

Horvath started out with the then-United Transportation Union on Jan. 5, 1981, in the Public Relations Department after getting a journalism degree from The Ohio State University. For 14 years in the department his special focus was on the alumni program, including multiple rebrandings. He also helped produce communication vehicles for the union, including the UTU News and UTU calendars, through five presidents’ administrations — from Fred Hardin to Paul C. Thompson, always focusing on members’ stories and what mattered most to them.

“In my own past, I had some difficult jobs – I saw the need for dignity and a fair shake for the worker,” Horvath said. “I felt it was the ideal job for me. I wasn’t looking for a job, I was looking for a career, and that’s what I got.”

In 2007, he moved on to the President’s Department where his primary focus became the union’s constitution. His communications role already had allowed Horvath to acquire in-depth knowledge about union operations, and it was easy for him to adjust to the new role.

On the cutting edge of organizational functions in the President’s Department, Horvath was able to provide steady guidance to his co-workers across multiple departments. When confronted with a question regarding Local governance, Horvath always was able to provide the evidence to resolve the situation with his trusty copy of the constitution at hand, occasionally with the flair of an orator.

“John is a brilliant person and working with him was a valuable experience. I was truly fortunate to have someone so knowledgeable to learn from,” said Ralph Leichliter, an administrative assistant in the President’s Department, who worked alongside him. “He truly cares about our members and set high standards for the support we provide. I look forward to continuing our friendship and I wish him a retirement that’s as gratifying as his years here at SMART.”

“I am very fortunate to have had the opportunity to learn from John, and I am honored to have worked alongside him for the last five years” said Administrative Assistant Jeff Brandow. “His passion for the union labor movement and his dedication to our members is absolute, and I am certain that many of our members will agree when I say we owe John a debt of gratitude for imparting some of his knowledge to us. It’s going to be quite an adjustment not having him in the office every day.”

In retirement, Horvath said he has no immediate plans other than to spend time with his wife of 37 years, Cheryl, and to continue to play guitar as long as his health allows — he’s been known to gig around the Cleveland area on occasion.

The SMART Transportation Division wishes John the very best and a long, happy and healthy retirement.