Archive for the ‘Leadership Messages’ Category

URGENT NOTICE AND INSTRUCTIONS TO ALL BNSF EMPLOYEES REPRESENTED BY THE SMART TRANSPORTATION DIVISION

On Tuesday, January 25, 2022, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas issued a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) prohibiting both BLET and SMART-TD from authorizing, encouraging, permitting, calling, or otherwise engaging in any strikes, work stoppages, picketing, slowdowns, sickouts, or other self-help against BNSF or its operating rail subsidiaries over any dispute relating to BNSF’s new Hi Viz attendance policy and the standards in the policy. A copy of the Court’s Order is attached to this Notice.

Pursuant to the Court’s Order, SMART-TD is hereby instructing all of its members employed by BNSF that they must NOT engage in any self-help against the railroad. This means that members must NOT engage in any strikes, work stoppages, picketing, slowdowns, sickouts, or any other activity intended to disrupt the operations of the railroad in response to BNSF’s Hi Viz attendance policy.

Further, pursuant to the Court’s Order, SMART-TD is notifying and instructing all members who are now or who may in the future engage in any strike, work stoppages, picketing, slowdowns, sickouts, or any other activity intended to disrupt the operations of the railroad to immediately cease and desist all such activity and to immediately cease and desist all exhortations or communications encouraging same upon pain of fine, suspension, or other sanction by SMART-TD. This means that any member who continues to encourage other employees on social media, or in any other forum, to engage in a strike, work stoppages, picketing, slowdowns, sickouts, or any other activity intended to disrupt the operations of the railroad MUST immediately stop doing so. Members who continue to do so risk fine, suspension, or other sanction by SMART-TD.

Further, pursuant to the Court’s Order, this Notice and Instructions is being posted on SMART-TD bulletin boards at all BNSF locations where such bulletin boards exist and is also posted on SMART-TD’s website.

Your Union will continue to challenge BNSF’s Hi Viz policy in court and will seek to have the Court’s Order lifted. However, so long as the Order remains in place, all SMART-TD members must comply. We are a nation of laws and will abide by those laws, and we expect each and every one of our members to do the same.

Jan. 25, 2022 notice to BNSF employees and court order. (PDF)

SMART-TD, BLET rail unions initiate steps to strike BNSF properties over new ‘Hi-Viz’ attendance policy punishing sick rail workers during the pandemic

CLEVELAND, Ohio, (January 13, 2022) — Yesterday, members of the Transportation Division of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, and Transportation union (SMART-TD) and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) who work for the BNSF Railway initiated steps to go on strike following the railroad’s announcement of its so-called “Hi-Viz” attendance policy, which SMART-TD President Jeremy Ferguson and BLET National President Dennis Pierce called “the worst and most egregious attendance policy ever adopted by any rail carrier.”

Presidents Ferguson and Pierce said the impending policy, which BNSF plans to implement on February 1, repudiates numerous collectively bargained agreements currently in place throughout the BNSF system. It is so restrictive that employees would be penalized for missing work to attend the funeral of an immediate family member.

“This unprecedented BNSF policy repudiates direct and clear contract language and, in application, will attempt to force our members to report for duty without regard for their medical condition as we struggle to come out of a pandemic,” the presidents said. “It also stands to take away any ability by our members to avoid working fatigued when they are routinely called without warning due to the complete lack of reliable train lineups, thus creating the potential for an even more unsafe railroad operation. So-called ‘forced overtime’ in an industry where safety is so critical not only repudiates our agreements, it stands to enact irreparable harm on hundreds of full-time employees whose non-workplace obligations prevent them from being at work every day of their life.”

BNSF’s new Hi-Viz policy is a points-based system which penalizes employees — who in many cases have no assigned days off — any time they take time off work for practically any reason. In a FAQ that BNSF sent out to its employees, the carrier claimed that they “must improve crew availability to remain competitive in the industry” and that their revised Hi-Viz program helps with this issue “by incentivizing consistent and reliable attendance.” BNSF goes on to claim that a reduction in absenteeism will improve predictability of work assignments. However, the affected employees and their unions have made clear that they view BNSF’s approach to this issue as a juxtaposition. That is: if the carrier instead focused its efforts on predictable scheduling of assignments and competent management of its furloughed employees, there would be no need to impose such draconian attendance policies.

“Our members have simply had enough of the treatment they are enduring from the BNSF Railway,” President Ferguson and President Pierce said. “The Company’s half-baked attempt to characterize this policy as an ‘improvement’ and an ‘incentive’ is nothing short of disingenuous, and outright insulting. Although BNSF will not admit it, it has implemented so-called Precision Scheduled Railroading and is attempting to do more with less by intimidating our members, under threat of discipline and/or termination, into working additional shifts while they continue to furlough junior employees. Our members have worked tirelessly to keep goods moving during a global pandemic, but the railroad is once again placing monetary profits over people to appease shareholders and Wall Street. Our membership is tired, frustrated and fed up with the treatment they continue to receive. As is the growing trend among all major rail carriers, the working conditions at BNSF have deteriorated to the point that there are many tenured employees leaving the railroad industry because they can no longer tolerate the treatment that they must endure on a daily basis. This new attendance policy may be the tipping point for what may be the ‘great railroad resignation.’”

On January 12, President Ferguson and President Pierce gave permission to their organizations’ respective BNSF General Committees of Adjustment to begin polling their membership regarding a withdrawal from service over this major dispute. Under the SMART Constitution, the union’s leadership may authorize a strike after the affected General Chairpersons obtain two-thirds majority approval from the Local Chairpersons under their jurisdiction. Under BLET internal law, a majority of the membership at any given railroad, or their Local Chairmen, must vote in favor of a strike and the National President and the General Chairmen must approve the date for any withdrawal from service.

Collectively, the unions represent more than 17,000 active members at the BNSF.

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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.

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.

TD leadership applauds confirmation of Amit Bose to lead FRA

Amit Bose, who has been serving the Biden administration as acting administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) since February 2021, was confirmed Jan. 12 by the U.S. Senate to become full administrator. This was a bi-partisan vote 68-29.

From left, SMART Transportation Division Minnesota State Legislative Director Nick Katich, Michigan SLD Don Roach, Amtrak employee Stefan Schweitzer, then-FRA Deputy Administrator Amit Bose, TD Local 168 (Chicago, Ill.) member Keisha Hamb-Grover and Illinois State Legislative Director Bob Guy stand at Chicago’s Union Station on Oct. 13. Bose was confirmed Jan. 12 as full administrator of the FRA.

Bose’s nomination by President Joe Biden had been put on hold by Republican U.S. Sen. Rick Scott of Florida after it had cleared the U.S. Senate’s Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee on Oct. 20, 2021.

“We are pleased and excited to continue our collaboration with Administrator Bose and the FRA as we press ahead on important safety issues such as regulating freight crew size,” SMART Transportation Division President Jeremy Ferguson said. “Our National Legislative Department and other members of our legislative team have had numerous conversations with Administrator Bose while serving in an acting capacity. We look to build upon the positive relationship that’s been established and on the progress that has been made already, and we congratulate him on his overdue confirmation.”

During his tenure, Bose already has shown that rail labor’s input will be sought, rather than disregarded by FRA. Under the Biden administration, FRA has publicly announced that it plans to reopen the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) regarding the regulation of a minimum freight crew size.

Bose was a guest during the October call of SMART-TD state legislative directors and made it clear that the agency will prioritize cooperative efforts between labor and the federal government such as the Confidential Close Call Reporting System (C3RS), the newly rechartered Rail Safety Advisory Committee (RSAC) and Fatality Analysis of Maintenance-of-way Employees and Signalmen group.

“The lines of communication between labor and FRA have been open ever since his nomination,” National Legislative Director Gregory Hynes said. “We’ve had productive dialogue from the start with Administrator Bose — rail safety is back on the table.”

Bose has years of experience serving in the public sector. He has served two stints as FRA deputy administrator, and has served as FRA chief counsel, USDOT associate general counsel and USDOT deputy assistant secretary for governmental affairs including with former Federal Railroad Administrator and SMART-TD Illinois State Legislative Director Joe Szabo of Local 1290 (Chicago).

In addition to living along the Northeast Corridor in West Windsor, N.J., and working for New Jersey Transit, Bose helped establish and later served on the Northeast Corridor Commission. He also participated in structuring the commission’s cost allocation policy, helped the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) deliver a $2.5 billion Railroad Rehabilitation and Infrastructure Financing (RRIF) loan to Amtrak for its next generation of Acela rail cars, and worked on the environmental review of a number of projects.

Holiday message from TD President Jeremy Ferguson

Brothers and sisters,

One of our organization’s main goals this past year was to take the lead.

We have done that by making progress on numerous fronts — technologically, organizationally and contractually. While the results have not been rapid or easily gained, our focus on the work at hand and our solidarity are helping us to break through. There’s evidence of this in every member with whom I’ve met this year. We are laying the foundation for greatness, one step at a time. It’s a long process, but we all will be proud of the results in the end.

No doubt, the past two years have tested us, but it’s that core concern for each other — the solidarity that unites this union and the labor movement at large — that can overcome all challenges and setbacks. Whatever the future throws at us, it pales in comparison to our collective strength.

This next year will bring more improvements and chances for us to lead — locally, regionally and nationally. There will be more chances to educate, communicate, organize and protect. With your involvement and your support, what we can accomplish is limitless.

Please be safe this holiday season, and remember that, historically, from the week before Thanksgiving to the week after New Year’s Day is the most-dangerous time of the year regarding transportation accidents, injuries and fatalities. Please stay focused and vigilant at work, and let us continue to take care of each other!

The best gift we can give our loved ones during this holiday season is to return home safe, sound and healthy.

God bless all of you, and I wish you and your families a happy holiday season.

Fraternally,

 

 

 

Jeremy Ferguson
President — Transportation Division

Initial Steps Taken as U.S. Government Works to Invigorate Labor

A recently released report from the Economic Policy Institute finds that decades of attacks on collective bargaining have been a driving factor behind depressed wage growth for working Americans over the last four decades, regardless of their union affiliation. The inability for workers to join or form a union at work, due to roadblocks enacted by a series of conservative courts and hostile Congresses, has only exacerbated this issue.

According to the report, the decades-long erosion in union membership has lowered the median hourly wage by $1.56, a 7.9% decline since 1979. When applied to a year’s wages, this comes to $3,250 annually for a full-time worker. Another study from the same group found that workers would be making $10 more an hour if their wages had kept up with increases in productivity during the same 40-year period.

The truth is that the results of the last presidential election gave labor a seat at the table, where for years working family issues had been sidelined.

The good news is this trend can be reversed, and there are serious efforts now underway by pro-labor elected officials to do exactly this. If you are reading or watching the news, you would imagine that what matters to your financial wellbeing is the last thing anyone on Capitol Hill is thinking about. The truth is that the results of the last Presidential election gave labor a seat at the table, where for years working family issues had been sidelined. With the focus in the media on sensational and divisive topics, one important story missing has been the renewed focus on rebuilding the American middle class.

Americans already saw the passage of the American Rescue Plan back in March. This legislation brought new job opportunities, now and into the future, for our SMART union families. It not only boosted jobs but retirement security as well, with $86 billion in funding for multiemployer pension plans. New child tax credits for working families and elements of the pending infrastructure package will not only increase funding for registered apprenticeship programs, apply labor standards and put members to work building schools and ensuring the quality of the air that our school children breathe, but will also add elements of badly needed labor law reform that will level the playing field for working families. This includes actual sanctions for companies that interfere with their employees’ rights to organize, from $50,000 per offense to $100,000 and punitive penalties for executives that encourage this unlawful behavior. Additionally, via the infrastructure package, Congress would reinstate the tax deduction for union dues with a $250 cap—an important provision for union workers that the Trump administration removed in 2017. These are significant steps forward and why SMART is fighting hard for Congress to pass the infrastructure package.

These important changes will play a big part in turning the tide for workers and collective bargaining. They will strengthen our unionized presence, enforce the fact that it is the workers’ right to organize and close the gap between where America’s wages are and where they should be.

It took decades of attacks from anti-labor legislators and courts to get us to where we are today. It will take some time to improve the state of collective bargaining to where we can rebuild America’s middle class and make sure opportunity is available to all who seek to achieve it. The responsibility continues with each of us.

Fraternally and in unity,

Joseph Sellers, Jr.
General President

SMART Capital: Expanding Work Opportunities in the Sheet Metal Industry

SMART Capital Program was launched in 2018 with the intent to help signatory companies expand into new markets to create more work opportunities for our members. The program creates a partnership between SMART International, Local Unions and signatory companies.

This program is one that allows Local Unions to partner with their signatory contractors to take on larger projects and modernize their operations to stay ahead of the competition as the industry evolves due to technological change. It also assists contractors with resources allocated to the acquisition of union and non-union competitors in order to expand our share of an increasingly diverse market while solidifying our hold on market segments we currently have a presence in.

This unique program partners with the local union and international funds to provide loan guarantees, additional bonding and assistance with equipment purchases.

This unique program partners with the local union and international funds to provide loan guarantees, additional bonding and assistance with equipment purchases. We have also expanded into a program to help start up I Want SMART as a pilot program in two local unions. This leverage secures an overall gain for both members and contractors alike as the expanded market presence strengthens our collective bargaining agreements while tapping into new pools of work opportunities.

The program is already in place across the United States at places such as SM Locals 10, 16, 24, 33, 67, 104, 105.

At Local 105, the SMART Capital program was used to assist a contractor with its acquisition of a non-union firm that saw the company not only establish a presence in the service side of the industry but bring in new positions to fill for current Local 105 members, with staffing levels of up to 80 members — up from 40 prior to when they secured the loan. Another signatory firm utilized a line of credit it secured through the SMART Capital program to establish a solid footing in more complex and larger projects that require the expertise of existing Local 105 sheet metal workers. The growth of the program saw this firm alone expand from six to forty-four Union sheet metal workers.

In the coming months and years ahead, the SMART Capital program is only going to continue to grow as we look to prudently push to expand our reach within the sheet metal industry to create new good paying union jobs. Like all good investments, the relationship does not end with the culmination of the initial transaction. An analysis and review of the company’s financials are made, first ensuring that all trust fund obligations are met. It is only once this step has been achieved that the SMART Capital program begins working with commercial banks to provide underwriting and loan servicing — to ensure the stability of the investment in work hours is made in the best interest of the membership.

This type of innovative thinking is and will continue to be needed as we navigate a transitioning and competitive sheet metal industry while ensuring we continue to set the standard for decades to come.

At the end of the day, all stakeholders in the union side of the industry — the members, contractors and the end users who see their projects secured — come out ahead. This type of innovative thinking is and will continue to be needed as we navigate a transitioning and competitive sheet metal industry while ensuring we continue to set the standard for decades to come.

As my friend and brother Luther Medina, Local 105 Business Manager and SMART GEC member has said: “We told contractors we are here to help. This is a partnership and we have to work together. When a contractor grows, our membership grows.”

I could not agree more.

Fraternally,

Joseph Powell
General Secretary-Treasurer

Your Commitment Pushes Us Forward

Brothers and sisters:

It’s hard to believe that we’re three-quarters of the way through 2021. With the changing of the seasons into autumn, it seems like an opportune time to outline a few of the positive changes we’re making to better serve you.

Responsiveness to members’ safety concerns is something my administration prioritizes as the most important function of our union. We were founded on safety. Both our TD Safety Condition Report and Technology Event Report are fully integrated and go directly from members to officers. If you find that there is a safety risk, COVID-related or otherwise on your property, remember to fill out a confidential Safety Condition Report on our website or through the SMART app. No time is lost when routing these reports directly from members — once it’s submitted, it will be acted upon by the officers of jurisdiction. Truly, there is no time to waste when it comes to serving the membership, especially when it comes to safety.

Responsiveness to members’ safety concerns is something my administration prioritizes as the most important function of our union.

I myself am trying to make up for time lost with the initial COVID lockdowns, travel restrictions and everything else that limited our ability to safely gather. The pandemic was declared in March 2020, about five and a half months into my presidency. All the plans we’d made for local visits, regional meetings and other events got put on hold right then and there. We began to formulate ways to 1) Ensure that our membership was as safe as possible in the evolving situation of the pandemic; and 2) Try to transform the operations of a national labor union in such a way to ensure that we could continue to meet the needs and serve members with minimal disruption.

Much of the union’s focus was drawn to those challenges. But these missions eventually were accomplished thanks to the tremendous efforts and collaboration of our members, our officers and the capable staff at the Cleveland office.

I agree with the statement made by Minnesota SLD Nick Katich regarding the mini regional meeting he recently held, there really is no substitute for getting out and engaging face-to-face (even with masks and social distancing).

My opinion is that the job of being president of a proud national transportation union is not done properly from behind a desk. I enjoy nothing more than getting to meet and know my fellow brothers and sisters of SMART from coast to coast and craft to craft, hearing firsthand their triumphs as well as their issues and concerns so that we can work together on the solutions.

Merriam-Webster defines a labor union as: an organization of workers formed for the purpose of advancing its members’ interests in respect to wages, benefits and working conditions.
SMART is a labor union and the union at its core is you. A union, as defined, is all about banding together for common well-being— united. So as TD President, visiting you where you are is a great priority of mine. COVID slowed that down, but just recently I have made numerous visits in several states attending meetings both big and small to get input from you about the goals and direction that SMART-TD should take in safety, contract and organizational matters all the while providing factual answers and updates to questions asked. I find these discussions energizing and enlightening as we develop new ideas to make SMART-TD the best transportation union it can be for all members now and into the future.

Looking ahead, there will be more member-focused improvements. A long-planned revamp of the union website coming next year will not only offer a new look and added content, but enhanced features so that the information members need can be attained faster. While we recently made another update on the SMART App, we continue to look into additional membership suggestions in our continuing efforts of making it a vital tool for members.
We are also past the design and developmental stages of the new SMART University. We are currently finalizing the educational materials and content that will be available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. SMART U will be an online learning and resource center focused on improving our members’ and officers’ knowledge and skills, bringing information and workshops that in the past have only been accessible by attending an annual in-person meeting.

Member input is the lifeblood of a dynamic, ever-improving union, and I encourage you all to speak out and be the change that you would like to see at every level of the organization.

I’m excited to present these initiatives to you, and your union leadership is always open to hearing about how it can improve. Member input is the lifeblood of a dynamic, ever-improving union, and I encourage you all to speak out and be the change that you would like to see at every level of the organization. The first step can be just as easy as attending your local meeting and encouraging others to use the tools your union provides for the benefit of the whole.
For those of you who want to become more involved, running for an elected local position is a great way to start. Next year, 2022 local committee elections (local chairperson, vice local chairperson and LCA secretary) are held while 2023 brings elections for local officers (president, VP, secretary, treasurer, legislative representative, ALR, trustee and delegate) Both provide members an opportunity to get more involved. If there is a vacancy at your local, perhaps you may wish to step up and fill the position.

Every union officer, including myself, did not step into the job knowing everything. Some of us were lucky enough to have mentors like Herm Boruta, while others learned as they went. While there is not a substitute for experience, it starts with asking for help when it is needed. It’s not a sign of weakness to ask a question, but rather of strength. Someone somewhere in SMART-TD will have an answer as they most likely experienced or dealt with the same thing. Mentoring the next generation of officers is yet another important function that we need to focus on and is something that we are working diligently on improving, starting with the aforementioned initiatives.

The power we can exert when we as a group of fraternal brothers and sisters are united, engaged and all working toward the same goals can be so powerful yet is often underutilized. Let’s tap into that power and energy of unity at all levels. We all must remember, even when in disagreement, there are things that bind us together as SMART-TD that we must work hand-in-hand on: wages, benefits and working conditions for the benefit of us all.

Please stay safe and God bless!

Fraternally,

Jeremy Ferguson
President, Transportation Division

Moving Forward With a Minority — Power to the Workers!

Canada’s unions are calling on all levels of government to provide adequate support for workers and their families as the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic reverberate in communities throughout the nation. As the dust settles on an unnecessary and uncalled-for federal election, the message couldn’t be any clearer. Canadians have sent a concise message to get to work on the issues that matter. As we know, minority governments only last if they have the confidence of the House. This election demonstrated that Canadians want the government to work together.

During this election we asked our members to get involved in the Let’s Build Canada campaign. Your participation in the surveys and letter-writing campaigns enabled our issues to be heard and placed into the party platforms. Issues such as labour mobility tax credit, building green and a stronger workforce were our main focus. As the Canadian Building Trade Unions (CBTU), we were able to get commitments from the parties on issues that matter to our members during this election.

Due to your activism, the CBTU was able to get commitments from the Liberals, Conservatives and the NDP on the workers’ mobility tax credit.

Over 70% of those in the skilled trades identified travelling for work as a common necessity. 75% said there isn’t always work available where they live, and shortages are common. 70% have taken a job outside of their region in the last five years. Due to your activism, the CBTU was able to get commitments from the Liberals, Conservatives and the NDP on the workers’ mobility tax credit. Now it is up to us to make sure that we get this legislation introduced, and by getting members involved we can push the issue over the finish line. The trade mobility tax credit will be beneficial to all members as they travel across their provinces and the country for work.

On the question of building Canada’s green future, two-thirds of respondents have given some thought to what that transition to a green economy means for them. They have some idea of what that will mean and whether they’ll need to be re-skilled. Retraining will be a key concern as job opportunities transition towards those in the green economy and renewables. 47% say that there have been a growing number of opportunities for the current skill sets in renewable green infrastructure and retrofitting industries. Concerns about the financial impact of the transition outweigh the concerns about retraining itself. 76% are concerned that jobs in the renewable green sector will not pay as well, whereas 71% are concerned about the cost they will have to incur regarding retraining. We must ensure that the government prioritizes a “just transition” for workers in affected industries as we move forward.

When it comes to building a stronger workforce, we must push for Employment Insurance (EI) reform and representation on federal EI working groups, boards and committees.

When it comes to building a stronger workforce, we must push for Employment Insurance (EI) reform and representation on federal EI working groups, boards and committees. 93% surveyed agreed that there should be a dedicated skills trade representative or advisor on the federal employment insurance working group when it comes to reforms. 92% agree that EI should have a greater flexibility, for example, removing age limits and being able to receive EI when retraining and upskilling and to permanently remove the clawback on separation monies. A majority demonstrated a desire for more government support on apprenticeships and a transition to a green economy, and 92% preferred to see more government support for oil and gas workers during the transition to a green economy. 84% would like Community Benefit Agreements (CBA’s) to increase the opportunities for unrepresented groups on federal infrastructure and projects.

So, as we move forward with this minority government, it is up to all of us to stay actively involved. We must continue to push this government and our elected representatives on the need to support our initiatives. To see progress, we need to continue these discussions and stay involved. By scanning the QR code on the previous page, you can stay involved and up to date on the issues that affect SMART members across Canada. Your say and vote matters! Workers are the recovery. Power to the Workers!!

In solidarity,

I remain, fraternally yours,

Chris Paswisty
Director of Canadian Affairs

SMART-TD responds to carrier vaccine mandates

Ferguson

Recently, Amtrak, Union Pacific and Norfolk Southern announced that they will require their employees, including those represented by SMART Transportation Division, to be vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus. It is anticipated that many of the remaining, if not all Class I rail carriers, will eventually implement similar policies, citing their status as government contractors and federal mandates as their reasons. In accordance with current guidelines, the deadline for Amtrak employees to be fully vaccinated is November 22, while the deadline for Union Pacific and Norfolk Southern employees is set for December 8. In order to be considered fully vaccinated, a 14-day period must transpire following the administration of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, or the second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.

Under certain circumstances, some carriers are allowing regular testing as an alternative to vaccination, although federal law, guidelines and most collective bargaining agreements do not require them to do so. SMART-TD has taken the position that beyond the applicable deadlines, all carriers should allow unvaccinated employees to provide proof of regular testing as an acceptable alternative.

In every instance to date, the carriers implemented their policies without first meeting with SMART-TD to bargain over the provisions of their mandates. In attempts to correct and address these exclusions, SMART-TD President Jeremy Ferguson advised all SMART-TD general committees of adjustment to schedule meetings with the carriers to discuss the implementation of any new, planned or existing policies. In his letter, he also noted that federal law provides exemptions for certain circumstances where individuals have religious objections or medical conditions that prevent them from being vaccinated. Based on initial conversations, it was determined that additional methods of appeal would be required.

Due to the unilateral actions of Union Pacific, on October 15, 2021, SMART-TD filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, challenging the carrier’s attempt to avoid its obligation under the Railway Labor Act to bargain over terms and conditions of employment. While this action at Union Pacific is likely to set precedent for other carriers, it does not prevent SMART-TD from taking similar action against other like-minded carriers, including Amtrak and Norfolk Southern. While each policy will have nuances that the affected organizations will have to navigate, respond to, and appeal on an individual basis, SMART-TD has made it clear that any attempt by the carriers to circumvent their obligations under the Railway Labor Act will be met with strong resistance.

“While vaccinations are not a collective bargaining issue, as they have not been negotiated into our agreements, we still believe that the carriers must engage with us about these policies prior to any implementation and we, in an effort of good faith, will continue our attempts to do so. We believe this is the best approach,” said President Ferguson. “We are going to let the outcome of those meetings and the advice of our general chairpersons guide our next steps. However, when these conversations with the carriers prove to be unsuccessful, then we must appeal our issues to the courts.”

President Ferguson also stated “SMART-TD is a very diversified union, encompassing members of different ethnicity, age, religion, gender, sexual orientation, political affiliation and viewpoints. We are proud of that diversity and represent all members regardless of these distinctions. We lead from the front, keeping emotions in check while evaluating every issue and concern along the way. We also must research the potential outcome of these actions prior to making any formal decisions. With that being said, I will continue to encourage our members to get vaccinated, however, I respect those who have pointed out that it is a personal choice. Whatever your beliefs or vaccine status is, I want to make it clear to our members that you will be represented to the fullest extent of our authority.”

As additional information becomes available and this situation continues to evolve, SMART-TD will continue to evaluate and assess its position on these issues. Updates will continue to be posted to the SMART-TD website at www.smart-union.org/td.

Unions join to fight Union Pacific on COVID orders

CLEVELAND, October 15, 2021 — The Transportation Division of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, and Transportation Workers (SMART-TD) and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) are jointly taking on Union Pacific Railroad (UP) over a series of unilateral and unlawful actions taken by the carrier recently.

SMART-TD President Jeremy Ferguson and BLET National President Dennis Pierce issued the following joint statement regarding their action:

“Over the past two weeks, the Union Pacific Railroad seems to have forgotten that it is not Walmart. The railroad has unilaterally changed pay provisions for vaccinated employees who experience a breakthrough COVID infection due to workplace exposure. It has ordered all UP employees to report that they are fully vaccinated by December 8th, or risk being medically disqualified from work. And, instead of negotiating with us as the law requires, the Carrier is directly dealing with its employees by offering a ‘financial incentive’ for compliance with its unilateral mandate.

“We generally support our members getting the vaccine. However, we have several objections to UP’s unilateral implementation of their policies mandating them and illegally dealing directly with its represented employees. The members of our Unions — including members who already are vaccinated — are irate over UP’s outrageous conduct.

“We have been in contract negotiations with UP since November of 2019, and federal law absolutely bars railroads from changing rates of pay, rules and working conditions while negotiations are ongoing. Not only is UP in violation of the law, it has explicitly spurned our demands that these matters be bargained. We have filed suit today in the United States District Court for Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, in an effort to stop UP’s lawlessness in its tracks.”

 

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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.

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.

International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers Mourns the passing of Richard Trumka

Statement from SMART on the passing of AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka:

On this hard and difficult day, our thoughts are with the family, friends and colleagues of Richard Trumka. President of the AFL-CIO since 2009, Trumka brought with him his immense reserve of experience, grit and know-how from his time as secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO and as president of the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA).

A third-generation coal miner from western Pennsylvania, he began working in the mines at age 19 and supported himself while studying for his law degree at Villanova University. In 1982, he became president of the UMWA, where he fought tirelessly for mine workers.

He dedicated his life’s work to creating a nation that would leave no worker behind and serve as a society that rewards hard work. Richard Trumka never forgot who he was working for, nor did he forget the working-class principals for which he was fighting.

SMART joins our brothers and sisters across the labor movement and working people across the United States — and around the world — in mourning his loss.  His life’s work will continue, as we all continue the fight to ensure the hard work and sacrifices made by America’s working families are rewarded.

Trumka was a keynote speaker at the 2019 SMART General Convention. Click below to view a highlight from his address to more than 1200 convention delegates.

I Got Your Back: We Support and Look Out for Each Other

At our last convention in 2019, SMART took a hard look at how our fellow brothers and sisters are treated at the worksite and the impact that treatment has on all of us and the industries we work in.

We changed the language of our Constitution to make it more inclusive of all our sisters and brothers. For the first time, we added conduct that is harassing, hazing, bullying or discriminating as chargeable offenses under Article 17 of our Constitution, which shows our determination to ensure our union provides a safe and welcoming environment for each and every member.

We have been mentoring each other for generations, and many of us have had the good fortune to have a mentor help us along the way, whether it be a journeyperson you were assigned to during your apprenticeship, or a seasoned conductor who ensured that you started off at work safe and free from injury.

This month, we launch the “I Got Your Back” campaign, which asks each and every one of us to stand up and look out for our sisters and brothers under the banner of union solidarity. This solidarity strikes at the very core of our roots and was the reason our union and the labor movement came together in the first place. In our early years, we served as a safe haven for generations of workers seeking to be free from exploitation. This union is where our members preserved their sense of dignity, and today we will continue that tradition by reaffirming those values.

This campaign, detailed in the “Special Focus” section of this issue of the Members’ Journal, is based on an awareness that workplace discrimination and harassment happens, and it is up to each of us to prevent it from occurring in all its forms to our sisters and brothers – those whom we joined together with to promote a better life for ourselves and our families.

The idea of mentorship, and one member helping another, harkens back to the earliest days of the labor movement and to the apprenticeship programs that differentiate union trades from all others. This is nothing new. We have been mentoring each other for generations, and many of us have had the good fortune to have a mentor help us along the way, whether it be a journeyperson you were assigned to during your apprenticeship, or a seasoned conductor who ensured that you started off at work safe and free from injury.

Do you have a mentor who has stood up and had your back in the past? Someone who was there for you during tough times or when you were learning on the job? This is an opportunity to recognize them for their support and pay it forward. This is the time to live up to the example they set for us by doing the same for other members. Let’s make and be the difference that keeps our union standing up for the ideals and values we represent.

Fraternally,

Joseph Sellers, Jr.
General President