On May 23, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka released a statement on how President Trump’s FY2018 budget proposal favors the top one percent and hurts working Americans. Trumka described Trump’s proposal as a “blueprint for how to rig the rules of the economy to favor the wealthy and corporations, while taking away our freedoms and protections at work.” Read his statement here.
The Los Angeles Times reported that service-related issues, such as route elimination and ineffective scheduling, may be the main reasons for the steady decrease in bus ridership in Los Angeles. Read the complete article here.
After a prolonged five-year battle against the railroad carriers’ opposition to legislation to ensure the safety of their own employees; ESHB 1105, the number one priority of the SMART TD Washington State Legislative Board, was finally enacted into statute law May 16, when a large group of railroad workers who traveled to Olympia, Wash., witnessed the signing of this bill into law by Governor Jay Inslee (D).
The impetus for passing this law was the horrific crew van accident that occurred March 24, 2011, that resulted in the death of 22-year BNSF engineer Tom Kenny, 58; conductor-in-training Chris Loehr, 22; and Coach America van driver Steven Sebastian, 60; and the critical injuries sustained by conductor Dwight Hauck, 52. Those present for the enactment of this legislation included Laura Kenny and her family, the spouse and children of engineer Tom Kenny, as well as Hauck and his wife Susan.
“We are especially grateful to both the Kenny’s and the Hauck’s for their testimony and strong support of this legislation which was instrumental in our ability to eventually win out over the railroads opposition,” Washington State Legislative Director Herb Krohn said.
The new Washington State statute is the most stringent railroad contract crew transportation safety law in our nation, with most of the provisions taking effect on Jan. 1, 2018. According to Krohn, this law brings all rail contract transportation vehicles regardless of seating capacity, under the strict regulatory authority of the Washington State Utilities and Transportation Commission (WUTC). This agency has a mandate to regulate all aspects of rail contract crew transportation services including driver qualifications, equipment and operational safety, driver’s hours of service, passenger safety, drug testing provisions, as well as mandatory recordkeeping. The WUTC now has been granted the authority to enforce all aspects of this new law including the investigation of passenger complaints and the imposition of penalties. This law increases state insurance requirements from $1.5 million to $5 million of liability coverage, and will require coverage of no less than $1 million in Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist coverage, currently there are no UIM coverage requirements whatsoever.
Additionally this legislation requires state-approved notices be posted prominently in every contract crew vehicle to inform railroad employees of their right to safe transportation; the notices will also explain how to file safety complaints with the state for investigation. Drivers will soon be required to undergo a state-approved safety training program, they will be automatically disqualified from driving railroad employees for three years if their drivers license has been suspended more than once in the past three years for anything other than non-payment of a traffic ticket; as well as upon conviction of any alcohol or drug related traffic offense, using a vehicle to commit a felony, leaving the scene of an accident, prohibited passing of another vehicle, any railroad grade crossing traffic violations as well as driving with a suspended license.
The WUTC now has the authority to inspect all railroad and contractor passenger transportation vehicles; they are required by the new law to develop a periodic state inspection program for all contract transport vehicles. Lastly, to prevent attempts by railroad officers or contract crew transport companies from retaliating against our members, this new law includes a special confidentiality clause that prohibits agency public disclosure of the identity of any employee who submits a crew transportation safety complaint to the WUTC. While passage of this law is a major advancement, according to Krohn the WUTC rule making process to enforce the provisions of this statute is even more critical: “this is where the rubber really meets the road as the regulations the commission finally adopts will determine precisely how this new law will actually be applied and enforced and will impose the specific expectations on these contract operators.” Krohn is already actively engaged in participating in the regulatory development process of the WUTC.
Yvonne Hayes, chairperson of Local 1138 in Miami, Florida, and an assistant general chairperson (GO‐851), was recently selected to serve as a member of the FEMA National Advisory Council (NAC) Railroad Emergency Services Preparedness, Operational Needs and Safety Evaluation (RESPONSE) subcommittee. She is the sole committee member representing rail labor.
Hayes brings nearly 40 years of experience in the labor movement and 25 years in freight rail, to her new role. Her career in transportation and focus on safety was ingrained at a young age, as Hayes’ father was an airline pilot who also served as the safety chairperson for his union. She grew up listening to real-life accident scenarios in the transportation industry—and her father’s focus on safety and “doing the job right” above all else, has stayed with her throughout her career.
In 2008, she earned a Bachelor’s degree in Labor Studies and Occupational Safety & Health from the National Labor College, and later taught industrial safety and instructional systems design courses at the College. Hayes is an authorized OSHA Trainer for 10- and 30-hour courses on industry safety standards.
She also serves as a Staff Peer Trainer for the Rail Workers’ Hazmat Training Program (RWHMTP). The RWHMTP, a consortium of nine rail unions, is designed to educate rail workers beyond the generalized safety training provided by carriers, and empowers rail workers with increased knowledge on the risks associated with rail transport of hazardous materials.
Hayes has worked with her fellow RWHMTP trainers in developing innovative curricula that arms railroaders with the confidence they need to master safety rules and regulations and to understand the science behind them. Her “Railworkers HazMat Toolbox”, developed under a Hazardous Materials Instructor Training (HMIT) grant by the Department of Transportation (DOT), was designed to provide hazmat awareness-level training in short sessions, specifically tailored to the daily safety briefing slots on the railroad. Additionally, Hayes collaborates frequently with members of SMART‐TD around the country—at locals, workshops and regional meetings, conducting Labor, Safety & Health seminars and hazmat courses.
Hayes has been a mentor to new hire conductors at her terminal and was also one of the labor members of CSX’s Labor‐Management Rule Simplification Team, whose mission was to rewrite the CSX Operating Rules manual with the end goal of eliminating “gray areas” that allowed CSX managers to interpret rules differently from one day to the next. In 2014, Hayes had the honor of being selected as one of two labor members to represent this team at the Railroad Safety Leadership Forum of the American Association of Railroads.
In addition to her recent appointment to the FEMA RESPONSE subcommittee, Hayes continues to serve as one of the SMART TD representatives on the Hazardous Materials Working Group of the FRA Rail Safety Advisory Committee.
Hayes’ recent appointment will bring railroad safety issues from a labor perspective to the national forefront, and will allow Hayes to apply her freight rail safety experience and expertise to affect positive change and make the railroad safer for everyone.
“Yvonne has been a longtime leader on hazardous materials transport concerns, and we are very proud that she will now be a strong voice on the federal level regarding these critical issues that have a significant safety impact on our rail membership, said John Previsich, President of the SMART Transportation Division.
Hayes zeroed in on how her appointment will help support rail labor:
“The most important thing is that this is an opportunity for rail labor to assist our brothers and sisters in the field of emergency services to stay safe when they respond to a derailment or other railroad emergency. I am honored to represent SMART Transportation Division and all rail labor in this new role,” she said.
Photo: Yvonne Hayes at Women’s March in Washington, D.C. – January 2017
SMART TD brother Conductor Mike Case was tragically the victim of a shooting by a disgruntled passenger while working Train 4 in Naperville, IL. The father of four suffered injuries to his liver, pancreas and parts of his intestines from the single gunshot wound, according to a hospital spokeperson from Edward Hospital in Naperville.
Brother Case has been part of the Amtrak family for quiet some time. According to a GoFundMe site set up to assist both hime and his family, “Anybody who knows him knows he is a huge jokester and a great guy.”
Those interested in helping him and his family during the very difficult time are encouraged to visit this GoFundMe site that was set up by his co-workers. No amount is too small and everything is greatly appreciated.
Educate—Organize—Mobilize! This is the theme for SMART Transportation Division’s upcoming regional meetings, to be held in San Antonio, Texas, on June 12-14 and New York City, New York, on July 10-12.
This theme was selected in order to continue our renewed emphasis on education and training and also to build awareness of the many tools that are offered to take that training to the next level.
Educate – This year’s workshops will build on the positive feedback received from last year’s meetings, offering improved course studies for members and officers. The courses are offered with multiple tracks to enhance the skills of every member, including full schedules designed for legislative matters, local officer training, bus issues and treasurer workshops.
Reinstating a well-received initiative, this year the meetings will again offer a certification program for those who wish to participate. Members may record attendance by scanning their badge at the conclusion of each workshop. Those who participate at the higher levels will receive a certificate and a lapel pin in recognition of their achievement.
Organize – The meetings this year will offer guidance on strategies and techniques to implement the lessons learned during the workshops. Whether it be organizing to improve the conduct of a local meeting or forming a group to get out the vote come election time, the goal is to assist all attendees in developing the skills necessary to apply at the local level and incorporate the lessons learned during the meetings.
Mobilize! This is a critical part of this year’s theme. Now, more than ever before, we are in a political environment that is unfriendly to organized labor. There are efforts underway at the local, state and federal levels to dismantle many of the protections and benefits that labor has earned during the 150-year history of the American labor movement.
From taxing workers on their employer-provided health care, to implementing right-to-work at the national level, many people not favorable to organized labor view this time as a window of opportunity to advance their anti-labor initiatives.
The threats are real and it will take an educated, organized and mobilized strategy by all of labor to counteract the efforts of those who are attempting to turn back the clock.
Accordingly, this year’s regional meetings will have a special focus on mobilization at the local level. From lobbying first responders in support of our two-person crew bills, to speaking out in Washington through utilization of the SMART TD Legislative Action Center, success in this environment will depend on an informed and mobilized membership.
All members need to be informed and prepared to offer support and assistance when called upon. It is through our collective efforts that we will be able to withstand attacks on the benefits, wages, retirement, regulations and transit funding that provide a safe working environment and a good living for our members and their families.
I look forward to seeing you at the regional meetings in San Antonio and New York!
SMART Transportation Division
After four-plus years of arduous contract negotiations and mediation, SMART TD train and engine service members operating at Birmingham Terminal Railway (BHRR) have ratified their first generation collective bargaining agreement that governs wages and working conditions on that property through calendar year 2019; 96 percent of the voting membership was in favor of the agreement.
SMART TD Vice President John E. Lesniewski, who assisted with negotiations, commended General Chairperson Mark Cook and his negotiating team (consisting of Assistant Chairperson Thomas Gholson, William “Eddie” Carroll, Derek Brown and Bobby McFadden) for their “persistent and systematic attentiveness to the needs of our membership.”
Cook expressed his gratitude to Lesniewski for “bringing a wealth of experience and an enduring commitment to the bargaining table.” Lesniewski, Cook and the entire negotiating team praised the members of Local 1887 for their patience and loyalty throughout the extensive negotiating process.
Birmingham Terminal Railway is a subsidiary of Watco Companies, an operator of several short-line railroad companies. The BHRR operates on 75.9 miles (122.1 km) of track providing switching services in the Birmingham, Alabama area. It began operating in 2012 after acquiring the assets of the Birmingham Southern Railroad.
Train and engine service employees as well as yardmaster employees of Golden Isles Terminal Railroad recently voted yes to SMART TD representation.
On May 12, the National Mediation Board (NMB) certified that SMART TD has been duly designated and authorized to represent train and engine service as well as yardmaster employees of the railroad.
“These employees recognize what the strength and power that being part of the nation’s largest rail labor organization can do for them,” said SMART TD Director of Organizing rich Ross.
“We would like to thank all those involved with the successful campaign on Golden Isles Terminal Railroad, specifically Vice President Jeremy Ferguson, GO 851 General Chairperson Joe Bennett and local officers of Local 1031, Local President James Robertroy, Local Legislative Rep. Isaac Gamble, Local Chairperson Darrin Brown and Local Chairperson Jeremy Sessions,” said Ross and Transportation Organizer Larry Grutzius.
Golden Isles Terminal Railroad operates 33 miles of track in and around the port at Brunswick, Ga. The railroad has interchanges with both CSX and Norfolk Southern. Commodities carried by the short line are automobiles, chemicals, food and feed products, machinery, and pulp and paper. The Golden Isles Terminal Railroad was founded in 1998 by Genesee & Wyoming, Inc.
NPR.org recently reported that Brandon Bostian is facing eight counts of involuntary manslaughter, one count of causing or risking a catastrophe and several counts of reckless endangerment – for the 2015 Amtrak crash near Philadelphia. Bostian, an experienced train engineer, was operating the train when it derailed. Eight people died in the crash, 200 were injured and 11 were critically injured. According to the National Transportation Safety Board, human error was cited as the official cause. Read the entire article here.
Rail and safety experts believe that PTC brake technology may have prevented the deadly crash. Click here to learn more about PTC technology.
Employees of the railroad are no strangers to working long hours and ever-changing shifts. Despite these challenges, rail workers are expected to maintain healthy sleep habits. Click here to learn more about sleep management with RailroadersSleep.org’s, “Smart Sleep Tips A to Zzzz.”
The Union Pacific Museum recently opened the “Women of Steel” exhibit that honors and highlights the history and achievements of the unsung women trailblazers in one of the few industries still dominated by men – the rail industry. The exhibit will run at the UP Museum, Council Bluffs, Iowa, until October 28, 2017, then goes on the road as the first traveling exhibit of its kind. Click here to read the article.
In the March 2017 issue of the Transportation Division News, SMART TD highlighted the accomplishments and history of women in rail, bus and aviation in honor of Women’s History Month. Click here to view “A look back at the women who paved the way for women in rail” (page 9), “Women Trailblazers of the Bus Industry” (page 10) and the “History of women in aviation” (pages 4 & 9).
Photo: Edwina Justus in 1976, UP’s first black female locomotive engineer. Photo courtesy of Union Pacific Railroad Museum.