Archive for the ‘Leadership’ Category

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.


Joseph Sellers, Jr.
General President

Growing Support for Unions Offers New Opportunities to Grow Our Movement

Now is the time to capitalize on growth in the union sector. For the first time in my lifetime, we have a true champion in the White House who is pushing for the labor movement. In only his first 100 days in office, President Biden mentioned unions in his speeches 62 times. This compares to President Obama talking about unions 89 times in his first full term.

In only his first 100 days in office, President Biden mentioned unions in his speeches 62 times. This compares to President Obama talking about unions 89 times in his first full term.

I make this comparison because now is the time to step up efforts to build and expand the union movement. We are seeing the rebirth of the middle class, which was built on union wages. This can’t be done with politics alone. We need to take advantage of the current public sentiment that is in favor of unions. Not since the 1930’s have unions had an approval rating this high. In 1936, the approval rating for unions was 72% and now we are at 68%. Today, we have prime-time television showcasing construction workers. America is fascinated with real people with real jobs and that is what we do. From freight and passenger rail workers, to bus drivers, to production shops, to construction — we build and run America.

So, how do we capitalize on this sentiment?

The current infrastructure bill would be a good start. This legislation would create thousands of jobs for union members. As stated in my last Journal article, these jobs are not just roads and bridges. The infrastructure bill would also fund retrofitting of public buildings, including schools and colleges. It would include modernizing our nation’s rail systems for both freight and passenger rail. We have already seen new funding for public schools to upgrade HVAC systems and modernize old and outdated buildings.

Now is the time to regain the rightful place that unions — and the priorities of working families — should and will have in our countries.

We need to take action now at the local level to make sure that we have the needed skilled crafts-people to fill these jobs. We have seen an increasing number of job bank calls across the country. These are the areas that we need to focus on to gain membership. We need to organize in these areas, not only so we can fill the call for workers on these large projects, but also for all the other contractors and ancillary work that will come with each large project.

We need to open up our apprenticeship programs to train more workers. We need to get out in the public and advertise who we are and what we do. We need to work with our schools to get high school kids interested in the trades. We need to work with our contractors to make sure they have the skilled workforce to go into new markets.

Now is the time to regain the rightful place that unions — and the priorities of working families — should and will have in our countries.

The future is bright, but only if we continue to work to make it so. I look forward to what we will forge together for our children and future generations of workers.


Joseph Powell
General Secretary-Treasurer

National Contract Negotiations Ongoing

2017 Agreement Remains in Effect

IIn recent months, some have asked, “Why am I working without a contract?” The simple answer is: “You are not working without a contract.” Under the Railway Labor Act (RLA), a contract never expires, it is only amended or changed. This means all working rules, conditions and pay rates must remain in place (status quo) until such time rail labor ratifies a new, or should I say, an amended agreement.

Sometimes this can be a long process under the Act — if you still have your copy of the January/February TD News (it’s also available as a PDF on our website), there were two pages devoted to explaining the ins-and-outs of the national negotiation process. It is not uncommon for the negotiations to take time, and it should come as no surprise that the carriers are not beating down our doors to ensure you get a well-deserved pay raise as soon as possible.

Some have also asked, why don’t we have a contract yet? COVID-19 has definitely played a role in delays as it made it impossible to put 100-plus people from both our 10-union Coordinated Bargaining Coalition (CBC) and the carriers in one room to negotiate in our traditional methods. Additionally, our coalition previously notified the membership of our respective organizations that thus far, no proposals from the carriers have warranted anything worthy of putting forward to the membership for ratification.

Thus far, no proposals from the carriers have warranted anything worthy of putting forward to the membership for ratification.

As of this date, nothing has changed. As COVID restrictions are now being lifted, your negotiating committee looks forward to being able to once again meet face to face at the bargaining table with the carriers where we hope it will be much more productive than video meetings.

Negotiations are complex and involve a number of consultants and working groups that are reviewing economic data, health and welfare issues, and in some instances impacts and/or costs to either side of the equation.

We must keep in mind that an agreement by its very nature requires both sides to actually agree. How often do you agree with what your railroad does?

Now put all the railroads in one room with most of labor sitting on the other side of the table — it becomes a laborious process, to say the least. But the RLA will serve its purpose, and the parties will eventually hash out a deal. In the meantime, everything in your agreements that are currently in effect must remain fully intact — your contract hasn’t expired. Please note the bold language below from your 2017 National Agreement:

This Agreement shall be construed as a separate agreement by and on behalf of each of said carriers and their employees represented by the organization signatory hereto, and shall remain in effect through December 31, 2019 and thereafter until changed or modified in accordance with the provisions of the Railway Labor Act, as amended.

The “term of this agreement” was defined to run from Jan. 1, 2015, through Dec. 31, 2019. The framers of the agreement were simply establishing the dates and time period for purposes of pay raises, and nothing is construed to leave anyone under the RLA and our agreements “without a contract.”

It is worth noting that negotiations for the 2017 agreement began with the filing of Section 6 notices in December 2014, and it then took 34 months before a tentative agreement was reached in October 2017 — that’s a period of nearly three years and there wasn’t a global pandemic to work through. The process does take time!

Another thing to note — only railroaders and airline employees fall under the Railway Labor Act. Airline pilots and flight attendants feel your frustrations when wanting to exercise a strike action against a carrier, the same as some of you probably do. We are a very specialized group and are governed under a very different set of rules than most other union workers.

The National Rail Contract negotiations are not the only thing on the agenda at this point in time, either. We have two other major national issues that are contract-related going at the same time, with the same railroads with whom we have to negotiate a national agreement.

One is the crew-consist moratorium dispute, which was arbitrated this month in Sacramento, Calif., on June 15th and 16th and was one of the largest groups I have ever seen in one arbitration session. Another major issue is our current health and welfare dispute, scheduled to be arbitrated Aug. 31 in Washington D.C. As I am sure you would agree, it is not easy to negotiate the direction of a new national agreement going forward into the future when we are having serious difficulties even agreeing with the carriers on what is in our previously agreed to contracts.

Your union is pushing ahead in these negotiations with all your best interests in mind, fighting to protect what you have and setting the stage to thrive in the future.

Some have asked why don’t I update them more frequently about the status of negotiations? First of all, we, the 10-union coalition, won’t negotiate via the media and will keep our game plans private within the union negotiating team. Football coaches do not go to the media talking about what plays they are going to run and what their strategies are before a game or as it is being played out. We cannot do that here either. I would also love to notify everybody anytime it looked like something positive was going to happen regarding a contract, but it would wear you out emotionally, especially if those positive possibilities never came to fruition. Furthermore, all the union presidents in this coalition have agreed that we will only update the membership collectively as one voice through joint updates so there is no confusion that we stand together in solidarity.

Your union is pushing ahead in these negotiations with all your best interests in mind, fighting to protect what you now have and setting the stage to thrive in the future. We are proving every day that solidarity is the only way to accomplish our goals in all issues, contractual or safety-related, on behalf of the membership.

We have accomplished a lot in a very short time, battled through a pandemic and an economic downturn, and are poised to set the stage for the future of the nation’s freight rail industry in these negotiations. The updates will come in due time.

Until the CBC releases our next joint report, remain assured that your negotiators and leaders will remain as stong and proud as each and every one of you who has stepped up to the plate to make our union that much stronger in the name of safety, solidarity or both.

Jeremy Ferguson
President, Transportation Division

Moving Forward Together

Brothers and sisters,

As lockdowns are lifted and pandemic restrictions are eased across Canada, we must continue to remain vigilant. With this in mind, Canada’s Building Trades Unions (CBTU) have joined together with the broader labour movement and businesses to launch “Faster Together,” a campaign to encourage Canadians to get vaccinated. The goal is to work together to promote COVID-19 vaccine acceptance and help accelerate the recovery from this pandemic.

The recent discoveries of human remains at or near Indigenous residential schools for children in British Columbia and Saskatchewan have shaken the country. These horrific discoveries call out for a full reckoning with Canada’s colonial history.

We are closer to the end than we are to the beginning. The faster we get vaccinated, the faster we can get back together. As vaccines are distributed across the country, we will be encouraging our members to get whatever vaccine may be available in their areas. We all want to resume the gatherings we took for granted prior to the pandemic. The resumption of some semblance of normalcy cannot come too soon.

We need to move forward in other ways as well. The recent discoveries of human remains at or near Indigenous residential schools for children in British Columbia and Saskatchewan have shaken the country. These horrific discoveries call out for a full reckoning with Canada’s colonial history. The residential schools and the crimes that were committed there are a stain on our collective conscience.

We must come to terms with our past in an honest and compassionate way, and we must seek justice for those who have suffered. We must call on our federal, provincial and territorial governments to prioritize their commitment to truth and reconciliation for Indigenous peoples and to complete a full investigation into all Indigenous residential schools in Canada. Committing to reconciliation means confronting the atrocities of the past so that they are never allowed to happen again.

The CBTU has taken its own first steps down the path to reconciliation. As part of the CBTU’s “Building Together” program, Virtual Indigenous Training has been developed to help increase awareness of Indigenous peoples and their culture. Since its launch, hundreds of union leaders across the country have taken the training. SMART’s leadership is committed to promoting this training, as well as honouring the findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission reports. We remain steadfast in our commitment to building a better Canada with our Indigenous brothers and sisters.

The truth about our nation’s history needs to be fully acknowledged and addressed. The time for action is now. We must move forward together!

If you or someone you know needs help, contact the Indian Residential School Survivors Society for counselling support available at 1-800-721-0066, or the National Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line available 24/7 at 1-866-925-4419.

In solidarity, I remain, fraternally yours,

Chris Paswisty
Director of Canadian Affairs

Now is the time to build back union

The Biden-Harris Administration’s new infrastructure proposal may be the most significant investment in new American jobs since FDR’s New Deal in the 1930s. The nation’s infrastructure has been left in shambles for far too long due to years of gridlock in Washington, D.C. With a new administration and Congress turning its focus to rebuilding America, now is the time for real action that addresses these needs and helps working families.

The Biden-Harris infrastructure proposal, called the American Jobs Plan, focuses on more than roads and bridges, which may be the first words that come to mind when the term “infrastructure” is mentioned. It also includes modernizing the nation’s rail system to meet passenger rail capacity taken for granted by nations in Europe, and to better compete with China’s ultramodern freight rail system. In addition, the plan would fund the retrofitting of public buildings, including schools and colleges, so that air systems are up-to-date, efficient and safe for occupants in a world where the next pandemic could be right around the corner.

The American Jobs Plan will provide critical investments needed to modernize the nation’s energy delivery systems, including power generation facilities that will employ thousands of sheet metal workers working to ensure the availability of affordable energy for all Americans.

The energy sector is another area that has significant infrastructure needs, as well as pent-up and growing demand for the safe delivery of energy to cities, businesses and homes. America’s current energy infrastructure — including the generation, storage, transmission and distribution of energy — is inadequate to meet our current needs, let alone future demands. The American Jobs Plan will provide critical investments needed to modernize the nation’s energy delivery systems, including power generation facilities that will employ thousands of sheet metal workers working to ensure the availability of affordable energy for all Americans.

Overall, our infrastructure needs are vast and will only continue to grow without decisive action from Washington,D.C.

Due to the Biden-Harris Administration’s support for high labor standards, the American Jobs Plan will also secure a broad pathway to the middle class for hundreds of thousands of Americans, through new union jobs in all sectors of the trades, and by putting existing members to work. It will also ensure that the next generation of American construction workers remain among the best-trained, safest and well-equipped in the world.

This support for strong labor standards shows the Biden-Harris Administration understands that the labor movement is the best avenue to easing pandemic-related job and financial insecurity that has placed a heavy burden on so many working families. For union members, this will be a major employment shot in the arm, with a plethora of new work opportunities in the immediate future — and the kind of jobs that keep members busy for years to come.

The time is now to take action. Contact your Senators and Congresspersons about this important pending infrastructure legislation. What we do today will lay the groundwork for future generations of Americans to compete in a rapidly changing world.


Joseph Powell
General Secretary-Treasurer

Fifth Circuit vacates injunction in crew-consist case

Today, Aug. 28, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit issued its decision in BNSF et al v. SMART-TD (Case No. 20-10162) concerning crew consist.

This decision is a long-awaited victory for the Union. The appellate court vacated the injunction that forced SMART-TD General Committees to bargain over crew consist, despite the existence of moratoria which bar such negotiation.

SMART-TD has always read those moratoria clauses to bar the service of Section 6 Notices to negotiate over crew consist until the last protected employee voluntarily separated from service. Indeed, that is the very reason for their existence.

But despite the long-standing nature of these clauses, the carriers presented a new and novel theory that the moratoria did not actually bar crew-consist negotiations.

The carriers tested this theory out by filing suit against SMART-TD in October 2019 and moving for a preliminary injunction in December 2019. In their request for an injunction, the carriers asked a district court in Texas to force SMART-TD to bargain now in spite of the moratoria. That court issued its decision on February 11, 2020, finding that even though the dispute over the moratoria was minor, and no arbitral determination had been made, SMART-TD was required to bargain now.

Under the RLA, minor disputes must be resolved through arbitration, not Section 6 bargaining. In the 22-page opinion, the appellate court walked through the various bases on which an injunction can be issued in Railway Labor Act (RLA) disputes. The 5th Circuit Court found that none existed here.

Rather, it concluded that the carriers had failed to exhaust the administrative remedy provided under the the RLA arbitration regarding the moratoria clauses.

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.


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.

SMART leadership statement on George Floyd, protests

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

Protests in both the United States and Canada have been used to focus upon racial justice in our communities. SMART stands united with those who are committed to peacefully work towards a racially just society that provides the freedom of opportunity to all.

Many of our fellow citizens are hurting. We cannot be silent in the quest to achieve much-needed social change. We equally stand against those who uphold racism, bigotry and violence. Make no mistake, fighting racism is a labor issue. Bigotry and racism have been used to prevent working people from securing a voice in the workplace for the course of our existence. It is used to divide and conquer by pitting workers against each other. This cannot continue and we must focus on real change and for reforms that address issues of racial and economic inequality.

Over the course of this pandemic, there has been a shift toward caring and empathy. Together, we protect each other. We want you to know that you are my sisters and brothers, that you are my community, that you matter to me! We were moved by our brother, Pastor Paul, “The only reason to look down on someone is to give them a hand up.”

Through our strategic plan we continue our enhanced commitment for systematic change for women and people of color within the industries we represent through our actions and dedicated resources across the United States, Canada and our Labor Movement. We will continue this path and focus to bring about real change. We encourage all members, our industry partners and our communities to join in these efforts.

One life lost is one life too many. Our deepest sympathies and heartbreak lie with the family of George Floyd as well as the many others whose lives were tragically cut short before him. We urge all to remember them through a peaceful struggle towards racial equality for all and we condemn those engaging in violence, the destruction of property and the loss of jobs.

Early this week, the headquarters of the AFL-CIO was damaged during clashes in Washington, D.C. As AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka noted, “We will clean up the glass, sweep away the ashes and keep doing our part to bring a better day out of this hour of darkness and despair.”

“Our work and dedication to the prosperity and freedom for all working families will continue.”


SMART leaders urge full initiation of Defense Production Act

The Defense Production Act (DPA) was invoked April 2 by President Donald Trump to expedite the manufacture and eventual distribution of supplies, especially ventilators, necessary to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

The first step in getting the products — including surgical masks, disinfecting agents and medical devices — to those who need them is to create and package them.

Right now. Sheet metal workers across the United States are fabricating new equipment and supplies to support our nation’s response to this pandemic. Volunteers have even stepped up to supply groups with vital parts in the production of new protective gear while union sheet metal workers from New York to Detroit and Wisconsin and everywhere in between are on the front lines constructing new medical facilities to handle the surge of new COVID-19 patients.

While members are busy producing supplies as fast as they can, these supplies also need to be transported to the places that are most in need.

This is where the United States freight railroad network comes in. The full scope of the DPA must be employed to strongly and decisively react in the quickest way possible, including the engagement of railroads’ nationwide reach. The greatest volume of goods and material needed to help the country recover in the least amount of time will be delivered by the men and women operating the trains that travel America’s railroad network.

Thousands of rail workers have been furloughed by the country’s largest rail carriers in recent years. These people must be put to work to deliver life-saving equipment to major metropolitan areas struggling to contend with the coronavirus. Any half-measure will result in more lives being lost.

Sheet metal and transportation workers stand at the ready to assist. All that is needed is full invocation of the DPA and a wave of labor will help to first fight the pandemic and then to wipe out the economic devastation it has created.


Joseph Sellers, Jr. Jeremy R. Ferguson
General President, SMART President, SMART Transportation Division

As holidays approach, a note from President Ferguson

Dear Brothers & Sisters:

We are approaching the close of another year, and my thoughts grow stronger about each of you during this forthcoming holiday period.

Your daily lifestyles, both personally and professionally, are demanding and sometimes conflictive. Giving them respect and balance can be a challenge.

In that regard, do not compromise the importance of adequate rest. Exercising sound judgment when it comes to rest will minimize the risk of failure when fulfilling your chosen responsibilities as a transportation worker.

I’ve walked in your shoes and understand the lifestyle of being a professional railroader. Fatigue can lead to a loss of situational awareness, and a loss of situational awareness can often lead to tragedy. The holidays are a dangerous time of year for our industry.

In that regard take care of yourself, be safe and do what is right.

Happy Thanksgiving!




Jeremy R. Ferguson,
President, Transportation Division

SMART TD General Chairpersons resolve to act in solidarity in face of negotiations, lawsuit

SMART Transportation Division officers and attendees of the Association of General Chairpersons — District 1 conference stand together at the conclusion of the meeting on Oct. 3.

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio — Hours after a lawsuit by rail carriers targeting our union over crew consist was announced Oct. 3, the Association of General Chairpersons — District 1 unanimously resolved to act in solidarity.

The resolution states:

“In response to the Carriers’ attempts to undermine bargaining and divide us, we, the members of District 1, resolve to act in solidarity in every effort to protect our members and our rights under the Railway Labor Act.”

Every general chairperson in attendance signed the resolution as the meeting concluded.

Transportation Division President Jeremy Ferguson praised the leadership of the General Committees for a quick and unified response at the conclusion of the District 1 conference in the Cleveland area that also finalized the Section 6 notices that will trigger the beginning of the next round of National Rail Contract negotiations.

“As we progress forward into this negotiating period and beyond, solidarity among our membership at all levels everywhere will drive us as we overcome the challenges ahead,” Ferguson said. “This unanimous resolution shows at the outset that we stand together and will speak with one loud, clear voice.”

On Oct. 3, the National Railway Labor Conference (NRLC) filed a lawsuit in federal district court in the Northern District of Texas.

President Ferguson stated that this attempt to undermine our collective bargaining agreements was not unexpected.

“It is not the first time that carriers have attempted this tactic,” he said. “We are well prepared to respond.”