Archive for the ‘Amtrak/Commuter News’ Category

FTA transit safety training registration open

U.S. DOT’s Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has announced that registration is open for National Transit Institute (NTI) and Transportation Safety Institute (TSI) safety training courses for transit personnel.

See the table below for some of the courses being offered by NTI.

FTA courseFTA course descriptionCourse dates & times offered
Assault Awareness and Prevention for Transit Operators (direct delivery)The goal of this course is to give bus operators in the transit industry the knowledge and skills needed to reduce the likelihood of assault incidents from occurring.
Prevention methods covered include defining assault, discussing the types of incidents that could be considered assault and recognizing key vulnerability factors. Prevention strategies focus on communication and response skills, and the value of reporting incidents. In addition, the training includes information on the importance of seeking assistance to recover from assault incidents.
02/17/2022

1:00 p.m. & 4:30 p.m.
Assault Awareness and Prevention for Transit Operators (Train-the-Trainer)This course will provide transit agency instructional staff with the support necessary to deliver the Assault Awareness and Prevention course within their agencies. Train-the-Trainer course participants review the direct delivery course curriculum and discuss strategies to utilize NTI course materials and activities to deliver in-house training. When delivered to staff at your agency, the goal of Assault Awareness and Prevention for Transit Operators is to provide transit bus operators the knowledge and skills needed to reduce the likelihood of assault incidents during revenue service. Prevention methods covered include: defining assault, discussing the types of incidents that could be considered assault, and recognizing key vulnerability factors. Prevention strategies focus on communication and response skills, and the value of reporting incidents. The training also includes information on the importance of seeking assistance to recover from assault incidents.03/09/2022

1:00 p.m. & 4:30 p.m.
Violence in the Transit Workplace – Prevention, Response and Recovery (Train-the-Trainer)The goal of this course is to provide participants with knowledge and skills to deliver training to transit agency personnel on how to prevent, respond to and recover from workplace violence. Prevention methods covered include implementing system and personal security measures, recognizing and reporting the warning signs of potentially violent behavior and using effective interpersonal skills for dealing with different, difficult and dangerous people. Response strategies focus on self-preservation and the importance of accurate reporting. The recovery module addresses the stress associated workplace violence and what employees can do to address the impact of it on themselves and co-workers.02/10/2022

1:00 p.m. & 4:30 p.m.
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03/10/22

1:00 p.m. & 4:30 p.m.

The mission of the NTI is to provide training, education and clearinghouse services in support of public transportation and quality of life in the U.S. The classes listed above are currently only offered in a virtual learning setting and are free to attend. Each course lasts 3.5 hours. Click here for a listing of all courses being offered by NTI and to register (register by clicking on the course link).


TSI supports FTA’s mission by providing economical, timely, state-of-the-art training and educational opportunities to the transit industry. TSI assists FTA in meeting its federal training mandate by developing, managing and delivering innovative instruction through instructor-led course offerings and e-learning technologies. All training is designed specifically to meet the needs of today’s changing transit industry, its regulations and safety best practices.

Some TSI courses are multi-day, while others may be less than an hour long. The cost of attendance varies and ranges from $0 to $145. Courses are offered at different locations throughout the United States and some virtually. Click here and then click on “Public Transportation Safety (FTA) in the gray box to view a list of courses being offered.

SMART-TD member loses home in fire

On January 9, 2022, tragedy struck in the form of a fire for Alaska Railroad conductor and SMART-TD Local 1626 (Anchorage, Alaska) member Danielle Gallagher. Gallagher and her two children lost their home near Palmer, Alaska, that night, reports Local 1626 Secretary & Treasurer Justin Voss.

Gallagher family

The local has rallied around Gallagher and Alaska SLD and Local Legislative Representative Darren Toppin has set up a GoFundMe account to help her with expenses as the family works to recover from the fire.

“Danielle is a conductor for the Alaska Railroad and a very dedicated employee. She loves her job! Not only is Danielle a great coworker, she is also [a] great friend. She is always willing to reach out and lend a hand and helps anyone in need. No matter the situation,” Toppin said on the GoFundMe page. “This is now our chance to help her and her awesome kids and say, thank you for always having our backs.”

In addition to the loss of their home, some of the family dogs were lost in the fire. The farm animals, including horses and cattle and other livestock, were not harmed.

Click here to make a donation to the fund to help Gallagher and her kids.

 

Dates set for 2022 TD Annual Meeting

Save the date for the TD annual meeting!

SMART Transportation Division is pleased to announce that plans are underway to resume the TD Annual Meetings after a two-year pandemic disruption.

The meeting is scheduled to take place Aug. 8 through 10, 2022, at the San Francisco Hilton Union Square, 333 O’Farrell St., San Francisco, CA 94102. It’s a great opportunity to take part in informative in-person workshops and build camaraderie with fellow union brothers and sisters over the three-day meeting.

Details regarding costs, registration and schedule will be communicated as they are finalized and will be posted on the union website.

Remembering Martin Luther King’s legacy

SMART-TD shares with the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. the dream that men and women should be judged not by the color of their skin, their nationality or religious beliefs, but by the content of their hearts.

King’s brilliance, vision, leadership and ultimate personal sacrifice shifted the course of American history by shedding light and bringing hope to a nation marred by racism, ignorance and inequality.

King’s work and his words brought the promise of justice, hope and freedom to people of color and to the oppressed everywhere. His words still ring as powerfully, relevant and true today as they did more than 50 years ago:

“And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

–- From Martin Luther King’s historic speech delivered Aug. 28, 1963, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C.

Read King’s “I Have a Dream” speech in its entirety here.

Watch highlights of King’s speech.

Read an article about King and his connections with labor.

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.

Union officers’ efforts yield better protections for N.J. transportation workers

SMART Transportation Division Bus Department Vice President Calvin Studivant and New Jersey State Legislative Director Ron Sabol spent a significant time brainstorming ways to protect members in Sabol’s state last year.

The ongoing coronavirus pandemic had added even more potential risk to our members working on New Jersey Transit (NJT) and other carriers. Beyond their daily duties of keeping things moving, the need for workers to enforce COVID safety measures increased the potential for conflict and violent incidents with dangerous outcomes for workers, riders and even the public.

Two assaults on NJT workers drew headlines through the autumn. A union tracking violence against NJT workers reported more than 130 instances of workers being attacked. Something needed to be done.

In response, Studivant and Sabol, in conjunction with SMART-TD legislative and legal leadership, developed and presented what became the Motorbus and Passenger Rail Service Employee Violence Prevention Act.

On Jan. 10, that legislation was signed into law by Gov. Phil Murphy.

“I’m very proud of what this law accomplishes in protecting transportation workers in our state,” Sabol said. “It took the help of many people on both our side, including National Legislative Director Greg Hynes and TD Designated Legal Counsel Safety Coordinator Larry Mann, the persistence of other labor organizations, and a receptive, bipartisan group of legislators to get this done.”

Assemblyman Daniel R. Benson (D-Dist. 14) and state Sen. Patrick J. Diegnan Jr. (D-Dist. 18) were the driving forces behind the versions of the Motorbus and Passenger Rail Service Employee Violence Prevention Act that ran concurrently in rapid fashion through both chambers of the New Jersey Legislature. On the Republican side, State Sen. Robert R. Singer (R-Dist. 30) also championed the bill that gained massive support from both parties in the Senate.

The Senate version, S-4071, passed unanimously Dec. 20 on a 39-0 vote. The Assembly version, A-6013, passed unanimously with a 76-0 vote the same day.

“We cannot thank Assemblyman Benson enough for his diligence and his amazing effort in putting in the time to make this legislation succeed,” Sabol said after the bill’s signing. “He spent hours engaging fellow legislators with in-depth discussions as he proposed and helped to advance the legislation. The same goes again with state Sens. Diegnan and Singer, who were instrumental in initiating and retaining the overwhelming bipartisan support the law gained, and, of course, Gov. Murphy.”

The Motorbus and Passenger Rail Service Employee Violence Prevention Act upgrades the penalty for all assaults on a motorbus or autobus operator, the operator’s supervisor and a rail passenger employee. It also empowers NJT, motorbus companies and all rail passenger service providers to ban riders from their transportation services for up to one year if the person commits an assault on a motorbus operator, the operator’s supervisor or a rail passenger employee.

If a deadly weapon was used during the assault, the rider may be banned for life.

“Transportation workers are far too often subjected to vicious attacks by irate passengers for simply doing their jobs,” said Benson, who serves as chairperson of the Assembly Transportation and Independent Authorities Committee. “Our bus and rail employees must be protected as they fulfill their critical duties on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of commuters in our state.”

“This bill, while long overdue, is right on time,” Vice President Studivant said. “The collaborative efforts to secure this piece of legislation is a testament to the men and women who face adverse conditions on a daily basis for simply doing their jobs of moving the people of N.J.”

“Congratulations to Vice President Studivant, SLD Sabol and the New Jersey State Legislative Board for their outstanding work, and thanks to Larry Mann for his guidance in this victory,” National Legislative Director Greg Hynes said. “This legislation could be a great blueprint for other states to follow suit.”

Of note, Gov. Murphy also signed S.771, a second piece of legislation expanding workers’ compensation coverage to include injuries that occurs in employer parking lots. Both SMART-TD and the New Jersey Council of Safety and Health (COSH) supported the bill.

District court denies SMART-TD, BLET bid to halt Metra vaccine mandate

CLEVELAND, Ohio (January 7) — On January 6, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, ruled against 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), denying the unions’ preliminary injunction motions to stop Metra’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

The unions took the position that Metra had no authority to unilaterally implement and enforce a COVID vaccination mandate among its employees without the required bargaining pursuant to the Railway Labor Act (RLA). The unions contended that by failing to negotiate the terms of implementation, Metra violated the status quo requirement and, in turn, engaged in a major dispute. The court ruled in favor of Metra, finding the matter to be a minor dispute. The court also rejected the unions’ alternative argument that the mandate should be put on hold while the Adjustment Board decided the dispute.

SMART-TD and BLET are engaged in similar lawsuits to halt vaccination mandates on other rail carriers, including BNSF Railway (BNSF), Norfolk Southern (NS), and Union Pacific (UP).

“Needless to say we are disappointed in the outcome of this lawsuit, especially considering other federal judges blocked vaccine mandates,” SMART-TD President Jeremy Ferguson and BLET President Dennis Pierce said. “We will continue to fight to protect the rights of our members during these historically difficult times.”

Read the ruling.

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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 active and retired locomotive engineers and trainmen throughout the United States. The BLET is the founding member of the Rail Conference, International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

Bill enhancing punishment for assaulting transit workers on desk of N.J. gov.

Legislation championed by the SMART Transportation Division that toughens penalties on passengers who do harm to transportation workers has passed both chambers of the New Jersey Legislature and has been sent to Gov. Phil Murphy’s (D) desk for his signature.

Assemblyman Daniel R. Benson (D-Dist. 14) and state Sen. Patrick J. Diegnan Jr. (D-Dist. 18) were the driving forces behind the versions of the Motorbus and Passenger Rail Service Employee Violence Prevention Act that ran concurrently in rapid fashion through both chambers of the New Jersey Legislature.

“Transportation workers are far too often subjected to vicious attacks by irate passengers for simply doing their jobs,” said Benson, who serves as chairperson of the Assembly Transportation and Independent Authorities Committee. “Our bus and rail employees must be protected as they fulfill their critical duties on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of commuters in our state.”

On the Republican side, State Sen. Robert R. Singer (R-Dist. 30) also championed the bill in the Senate.

“Unfortunately, there have been many instances where bus and train operators are assaulted by unruly passengers. People who engage in such abhorrent behavior are not only putting the lives of the operators at risk, but also the lives of all the passengers,” he said. “This legislation will significantly increase the penalty for such assaults, and act as a deterrent for future altercations.”

The legislation was crafted in response to incidents when two New Jersey Transit (NJT) employees were assaulted this past year. The Senate version, S-4071, passed unanimously Dec. 20 on a 39-0 vote. The Assembly version, A-6013, passed unanimously with a 76-0 vote on the same day.

While testifying as a proponent of the bills in both chambers, N.J. State Legislative Director Ron Sabol made it clear that it’s past time to toughen enforcement, especially after the on-the-job assaults by passengers on NJT employees.

“We thank legislators for their overwhelming support of this legislation,” Sabol said. “They’ve seen those heinous attacks on our members doing their jobs, stepped up and have done the right thing to protect transportation workers and the public.”

The bill upgrades the penalty for all assaults on a motorbus or autobus operator, the operator’s supervisor and a rail passenger employee. It also empowers NJT, motorbus companies and all rail passenger service providers to ban riders from their transportation services for up to one year if the person commits an assault on a motorbus operator, the operator’s supervisor or a rail passenger employee.

If a deadly weapon was used during the assault, the rider may be banned for life.

“It’s a great bill and could be a blueprint for other states,” National Legislative Director Greg Hynes said. “Congratulations to SLD Sabol and the New Jersey State Legislative Board for their outstanding work.”

SMART-TD, BLET suits seek immediate halt to Amtrak vaccine mandate

CLEVELAND, Ohio, (Dec. 9, 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) yesterday filed motions for a preliminary injunction, seeking to immediately halt a unilaterally implemented vaccine mandate imposed by Amtrak, and require the carrier to negotiate over the issue.

Through the motions, SMART-TD and BLET seek to restore and preserve the status quo that was in place prior to the implementation of the mandate.

This action is a follow-up to two November 23rd complaints filed by SMART-TD and BLET against Amtrak. In those suits, the unions allege, among other things, that the carrier’s unilaterally implemented vaccine mandate is a direct violation of the Railway Labor Act. The carrier made no effort to bargain with the unions over their vaccine mandate, or the effects of the mandate, despite the fact that the parties have long been engaged in negotiations for successor agreements, and that all parties have a duty to maintain the status quo regarding working conditions during such negotiations.

The SMART-TD and the BLET are actively embroiled in similar lawsuits with four other rail carriers: BNSF, Metra, Norfolk Southern (NS), and Union Pacific (UP). The litigation is pending in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.

In related news, two district courts have recently blocked enforcement of vaccine mandates for federal contractors. Most recently, on December 7, U.S. District Judge Stan Baker in Savannah, Ga., issued a nationwide injunction which temporarily halts the vaccine mandate issued by the Biden administration through an Executive Order.

SMART-TD and BLET will continue to monitor this case and other related legal challenges to determine if there is any impact on rail carriers.

President Ferguson and President Pierce issued the following joint statement: “The language contained in the Railway Labor Act is clear cut, and the carriers’ unilateral implementation of their vaccine mandates without negotiating with the union is a direct violation of the Railway Labor Act. We will continue to stand up for the rights of our members.”

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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.

Railroad Retirement tax rates stable; compensation level subject to taxes increases

The amounts of compensation subject to Railroad Retirement Tier I and Tier II payroll taxes will increase in 2022, while the tax rates on employers and employees will stay the same. In addition, unemployment insurance contribution rates paid by railroad employers will include a surcharge of 3.5 percent, reflecting increased unemployment claims due to the pandemic.

Tier I and Medicare tax — The Railroad Retirement Tier I payroll tax rate on covered rail employers and employees for 2022 remains at 7.65 percent. The Railroad Retirement Tier I tax rate is the same as the Social Security tax, and for withholding and reporting purposes is divided into 6.2 percent for retirement and 1.45 percent for Medicare hospital insurance. The maximum amount of an employee’s earnings subject to the 6.2 percent rate increases from $142,800 to $147,000 in 2022, with no maximum on earnings subject to the 1.45 percent Medicare rate.

An additional Medicare payroll tax of 0.9 percent applies to an individual’s income exceeding $200,000, or $250,000 for a married couple filing a joint tax return. While employers will begin withholding the additional Medicare tax as soon as an individual’s wages exceed the $200,000 threshold, the final amount owed or refunded will be calculated as part of the individual’s federal income tax return.

Tier II tax — The Railroad Retirement Tier II tax rates in 2022 will remain at 4.9 percent for employees and 13.1 percent for employers. The maximum amount of earnings subject to Railroad Retirement Tier II taxes in 2022 will increase from $106,200 to $109,200. Tier II tax rates are based on an average account benefits ratio reflecting Railroad Retirement fund levels. Depending on this ratio, the Tier II tax rate for employees can be between 0 and 4.9 percent, while the Tier II rate for employers can range between 8.2 percent and 22.1 percent.

Unemployment insurance contributions — Employers, but not employees, pay railroad unemployment insurance contributions, which are experience-rated by employer. The Railroad Unemployment Insurance Act also provides for a surcharge in the event the Railroad Unemployment Insurance account balance falls below an indexed threshold amount. The accrual balance of the Railroad Unemployment Insurance Account was negative $46.2 million on June 30, 2021. Since the balance was below zero, this triggered the 3.5 percent surcharge in 2022. There was a surcharge of 2.5 percent in 2021, with no surcharge imposed in 2020.

As a result, the unemployment insurance contribution rates on railroad employers in 2022 will range from the minimum rate of 4.15 percent to the maximum of 12.5 percent on monthly compensation up to $1,755, an increase from $1,710 in 2021.

In 2022, the minimum rate of 4.15 percent will apply to 79 percent of covered employers, with 7 percent paying the maximum rate of 12.5 percent. New employers will pay an unemployment insurance contribution rate of 2.62 percent, which represents the average rate paid by all employers in the period 2018-2020.

Unions counter Metra COVID vaccine mandate

CLEVELAND, Ohio (Nov. 24, 2021) — The Transportation Division of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, and Transportation Workers (SMART-TD) and Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) have responded to the suit Metra filed against them on Nov. 8, 2021, in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Chicago Division. The two organizations not only answered Metra’s allegations, they also filed counterclaims challenging Metra’s actions in implementing their vaccine policy without the bargaining mandated by the Railway Labor Act.

The suit is similar to claims filed by the SMART-TD and BLET against Union Pacific (UP), Norfolk Southern (NS), the BNSF Railway (BNSF), and Amtrak regarding their vaccine policies. Metra has taken the position that it has the right to implement and enforce a COVID vaccination mandate among its employees and requests the court to issue a declaratory judgment holding that the dispute between the railroad and the unions is a “minor” dispute, which must be arbitrated if the parties cannot come to a satisfactory settlement.

The unions have countered that Metra has no such authority, and their actions in failing to negotiate terms of implementation violate the status quo requirement of the Railway Labor Act, thus engendering a major dispute.

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

“Under threat of discipline, up to and including termination of employment, Metra has ordered all its employees to report their vaccination status by December 7, 2021, with a deadline of January 21, 2022, to either submit proof that they are fully vaccinated or obtain a religious or medical accommodation. Instead of negotiating with us as the law requires, the Carrier is directly dealing with its employees.

“We have several objections to Metra’s unilateral implementation of its policies mandating them and illegally dealing directly with its represented employees. We will continue to fight on behalf of all BLET and SMART–TD members in an effort to stop Metra’s lawlessness in its tracks.”

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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.

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.

AFL-CIO TTD responds to FTA’s NPRM on Transit Worker Safety

The Transportation Trades Department of the AFL-CIO, of which the SMART Transportation Division division is a member, filed a response to the Federal Transit Administration’s request for information regarding transit worker assaults. Its filing is reproduced below.

On behalf of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD) and our 33 affiliated unions, we thank you for taking this important step to begin examining the serious safety issues facing transit workers across this country every single day.

TTD’s affiliated unions collectively represent most transit workers in this country, including rail transit, bus, roadway, construction, and maintenance workers. Most of these workers interface directly with the public, and all are exposed to the risks of assault. We have long-called for both legislative and regulatory solutions to increase worker safety, including putting a stop to the scourge of assaults on transit workers.

Background

In 2015 TTD and our affiliated unions successfully fought for the inclusion of assault prevention language in the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act. This language required the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) to publish a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that established safety standards, practices, or protocols for protecting transit operators from the risk of assault. Unfortunately, despite our calls for the FTA to expedite the NPRM soon after passage of the FAST Act, the Obama administration did not act on this issue, leaving us in the hands of the Trump administration for four years.

Correctly anticipating that the Trump administration was unlikely to take action on transit assault, despite statutory requirements to do so, our executive committee called on Congress to take further steps to solve this crisis in 2018, including passage of the Transit Worker and Pedestrian Protection Act. Critically, elements of the Transit Worker and Pedestrian Protection Act, in combination with the Public Transit Safety Improvement Act, both supported by transportation labor, were included first in the INVEST in America Act, and in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), which was ultimately signed into law on November 15, 2021.

While this is a historic step for transit worker safety, it comes more than seven years after the FAST Act mandated real action to solve this crisis. Tragically, during these intervening years thousands more transit workers have been needlessly attacked – particularly because of COVID safety enforcement – and many more have been killed while performing their duties.

The token action taken by the FTA under the Trump administration fell far short of both what was required in statute and what was needed to help protect these workers. Rather than issuing a rule protecting transit operators from the risk of assault, as required by the FAST Act, the FTA — more than four years after the passage of the law — instead issued a toothless suggestion that transit agencies merely examine the problem if they felt so inclined. Specifically, the notice required local transit agencies to study the problem, but stopped short of requiring any meaningful action. A problem as widespread and important as worker assaults should not be left to a piecemeal approach where workers’ safety is left up to local jurisdictions without resources or meaningful guidance from FTA. Despite TTD’s calls to offer real mitigation strategies that may have included the increased use of driver shields or de-escalation training, the FTA willfully ignored the health and safety of hundreds of thousands of frontline workers.

As mentioned above, the IIJA includes key priorities from the Transit Worker and Pedestrian Protection Act and the Public Transportation Safety Improvement Act, which together, will significantly improve safety for transit workers. It is important to note that these safety improvements will only be realized if the provisions required by the IIJA are implanted in such a way that transit agencies are held accountable in the transparent reporting of safety data as well as in their partnership with frontline workers to develop safety plans.

While the applicability of these provisions to this RFI are discussed in greater detail below, specifically they will:

1.      For recipients of 5307 assistance in urbanized areas with a population over 200,000, the recipient must:

a.       Establish a safety committee that is made up of an equal number of frontline employee representatives and management representatives, which has responsibility for:

                        i.      identifying and recommending risk-based mitigations or strategies necessary to reduce the likelihood and severity of consequences identified through the agency’s safety risk assessment;

                     ii.      identifying mitigations or strategies that may be ineffective, inappropriate, or were not implemented as intended; and

                          iii.      identifying safety deficiencies for purposes of continuous improvement.

                iv.      Not less than 0.75 percent of a recipient’s funds must go to safety-related projects eligible under section 5307.

2.      For recipients of 5307 assistance in urbanized areas with a population fewer than 200,000, the agency safety plan must be developed in cooperation with frontline employee representatives. The above-described performance targets and set aside do not apply to those recipients.

3.      Changes to National Transit Database (NTD) reporting: Transit agencies must now report all assaults on transit workers to the NTD, defined as: “a circumstance in which an individual knowingly, without lawful authority or permission, and with intent to endanger the safety of any individual, or with a reckless disregard for the safety of human life, interferes with, disables, or incapacitates a transit worker while the transit worker is performing the duties of the transit worker.”

TTD cannot overemphasize the need to expeditiously implement these new requirements as, particularly given the increase in assaults faced by transit workers as a result of COVID safety enforcement and in light of the historical circumstances that necessitated seven years of further advocacy to protect our workers, even after Congress recognized the need for additional protections and mandated FTA to uphold its responsibilities to transit workers.

What types of FTA actions might be beneficial to support roadway worker safety?

Roadway workers can be particularly vulnerable to injury due to the nature of their jobs, and we strongly believe that FTA has a duty to provide regulation to ensure that these workers are protected. Too many tragic incidents have occurred leading to serious injuries and deaths that could have been avoided with adequate protections in place. We support the comments of NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy regarding the need to end the use of Train Approach Warning (TAW) and similar protocols. The safety of workers’ lives deserves many more redundancies than TAW can provide, as demonstrated by the many tragic incidents cited in NTSB’s letter.

One important redundancy that should be utilized is Positive Train Control systems (PTC), which provide crucial information to locomotives. We encourage the use and expansion of PTC and view it as an important safety tool. However, the PTC systems are only part of a solution that should include multiple redundancies and fail-safes. PTC systems can only notify operating engineers of messages sent by dispatchers or readings picked up on installed sensors. There are no sensors on locomotives or tracks that specifically check for the presence of workers. Additionally, dispatchers do not always have accurate reports of which tracks are occupied by roadway workers, and even small errors can have deadly consequences. Occasional human error is an unavoidable fact of life, and the only way to ensure safety is to have layered mechanisms designed to work even if other mechanisms fail.

Robust safety protocols are necessary to ensure that all redundancies are leveraged to keep roadway workers safe. These redundancies include ongoing communication with dispatchers, shunts, blue flags, signage, and locked derails to indicate that tracks are occupied. Labor representatives must have input in identifying needed redundancies and protocols. There is no excuse for failing to use simple, tried and tested methods such as flags, signage, and derails, even as we adopt new technologies.

What types of interactions typically lead to transit worker assaults, including operator assaults?

Historically, our ability to examine aggregate data about trends in assaults has been limited to information collected in the National Transit Database. Unfortunately, data collected into the NTD has long failed to accurately represent national trends in workplace violence. That is because the only data that is collected in the NTD are injuries which result in an arrest, serious injury, or death. Shockingly, based on the definition of serious injury in statute, it is our understanding that a transit operator could have their nose broken, be hospitalized for 24 hours, and suffer first-degree burns without triggering any reporting requirements.

Furthermore, the limited information that is collected is exceedingly difficult to view and examine. A request for recent assault data from the NTD made by the Transportation Trades Department in 2018 was rejected, and we were told that we should instead submit a FOIA request.

We are therefore left to rely primarily on news stories or information reported by union locals representing workers at transit agencies to better understand both the circumstances that lead to assault as well as the nature of the assaults themselves. To that end, we are hesitant to speculate on “typical” interactions that lead to worker assaults. The enforcement of mask and other COVD safety mandates and farebox collection are undoubtedly a significant factor in many of these interactions. However, the seemingly arbitrary nature of many incidents reviewed by TTD and our affiliated unions necessitates the collection and analysis of accurate data.

Importantly, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act redefines assault for the purpose of data collection in the NTD. Per Division C, Section 30001 of the IIJA, assault on a transit worker is now defined as:

“Assault on a transit worker — The term ‘assault on a transit worker’ means a circumstance in which an individual knowingly, without lawful authority or permission, and with intent to endanger the safety of any individual, or with a reckless disregard for the safety of human life, interferes with, disables, or incapacitates a transit worker while the transit worker is performing the duties of the transit worker.”

While this is a critical step in better understanding the national trends in workplace safety for transit workers, it is equally critical that this data be transparent and easily accessible not just to the safety committees created under the IIJA but to researchers, labor unions, and other individuals who may use that information in the pursuit of improving safety for working people.

What actions could address and limit these types of interactions?

First, TTD strongly supports the creation of joint labor-management safety committees as required under the IIJA to solve this problem and encourages expeditious implementation of this portion of the IIJA by the FTA. This approach is not a one-size-fits all solution but instead recognizes that local problems require local solutions.

What approaches could prevent transit worker assaults?

Again, we support the process for arriving at solutions as laid forth in the IIJA. Transit workers should work directly with management to examine data, under the new reporting requirements of the IIJA, and determine local solutions best suited to meet their needs. That may include a full redesign of the operator workstation, driver shields, de-escalation training, changes to routes or route intervals, the presence of law enforcement, along with other interventions or combinations of certain interventions.

What differences, if any, are there in approaches to preventing transit worker assaults across different types of transit systems or modes?

Currently, the response is piecemeal. Some transit agencies have responded to safety threats by including shields for drivers. However, there is no consistency across agencies in the implementation or design of shields. Passengers have still been able to reach around and throw objects at workers or make contact with them. While we reiterate our support eschewing a one-size-fits all solution, we strongly urge the FTA to provide transit agencies with best practices when implementing solutions. Minimum standards for shield designs or workstation redesign, for example, may help to avoid solutions that are well intentioned but ultimately ineffective.

If FTA pursues requirements to address transit worker assaults, what minimum requirements should be included?

It is critical to note that this RFI was issued on 9/24/21, prior to the passage of the IIJA. TTD firmly supports the implementation of transit worker safety improvement required under that act. Moreover, we believe that NTD data on transit assaults must be available and transparent, and that the FTA should partner with transit agencies to ensure consistency in the implementation of interventions across the nation.

Further, TTD strongly supports additional actions, like the Competitive Research Funding Opportunity: Redesign of Transit Bus Operator Compartment to Improve Safety, Operational Efficiency, and Passenger Accessibility NOFO issued by the FTA on 02/11/2020. Ultimately, retrofits like shields are helpful but are often imperfect. A wholesale reimagining of the operator’s workstation including the inclusion of worker safety standards for procurements are necessary to ensure the wellbeing of operators, both from assaults and ergonomically, as well as for the reduction of blind spots and the safety of those sharing the road with transit vehicles.

We would also like to note that the FTA does not have a choice in implementing strategies to prevent worker assaults, as this question implies. The FAST Act mandated such action from the agency, and we are glad to see the agency stepping up to meet its statutory obligations.

How should the requirements apply to different transit system types or modes?

This question recognizes a unique challenge. Rail station managers, rail workers, bus operators, maintenance yard workers, and all other transit employees face unique circumstances and safety challenges that require solutions tailored to their environment.

We believe this challenge is largely addressed by the IIJA, through the creation of safety committees made up of workers and management, who, together can identify their unique challenges and the solutions necessary to solve them.

The FTA must be an active partner in this process, and these committees must not be a box-checking exercise for transit agencies, however. Providing true oversite, making newly collected data in the NTD transparent and accessible to researchers and representatives of labor, and holding listening sessions at a national level to provide oversight of this program as its implemented will all be critical in the coming three years.

What other types of FTA actions might be beneficial to support transit worker assault prevention?

In its role as the federal authority on transit and transit safety, FTA should be continually engaged to identify actions that would benefit the safety of everyone who uses our nation’s transit systems. If transit workers are unsafe, they are not able to do their jobs and ensure a safe and comfortable experience for riders. Because of the complexity of transit systems, increased coordination will be needed to ensure that transit worker assaults do not continue to skyrocket. Data-sharing, transparency, and collaboration with frontline workers and labor groups should be prioritized as new ideas are considered.

What information is collected on transit worker assaults that is not reportable to the NTD?

Prior to the passage of the IIJA, the NTD only collected data on assaults leading to “serious injury” as then defined in 49 CFR 830.2, “(1) Requires hospitalization for more than 48 hours, commencing within 7 days from the date of the injury was received; (2) results in a fracture of any bone (except simple fractures of fingers, toes, or nose); (3) causes severe hemorrhages, nerve, muscle, or tendon damage; (4) involves any internal organ; or (5) involves second- or third-degree burns, or any burns affecting more than 5 percent of the body surface.” Obviously, this definition leaves out many possible injuries that need to be captured to have an accurate understanding of transit worker assaults. We believe that the passage of the IIJA will be a major improvement to this issue; however, the FTA must also renew its commitment to transparency and ensure that such data is made available for review.

What internal threshold do RTAs use for tracking transit worker assaults other than those reportable to the NTD?

It is impossible to know what threshold every RTA uses across the country, and we believe that this demonstrates a piecemeal and haphazard approach to transit worker safety. With the passage of the IIJA, we hope that reporting of assaults will be brought into harmony across jurisdictions and allow for more robust leadership from FTA to ensure that our nation’s transit workers are adequately protected. The definition of assault and the data that is collected regarding it should not vary across RTAs. Further, this kind of tracking should not be limited to only those RTAs that have Public Transportation Agency Safety Plans, as this can exclude rural transit agencies.

On average, how many additional transit worker assaults occur per year that do not meet a current NTD reporting requirement?

While the answer to this question would undoubtedly be useful in addressing the scourge of transit worker assaults, the lack of an adequate answer is part of the problem. Transit agencies are not often forthcoming with information, which not only means that responsibility is neglected and left to representatives of the frontline workers to try their best to collect that data, but also that transit agencies have no way of responding to national trends because of a significant lack of awareness.

What are or would be the costs associated with tracking these additional assaults?

TTD believes that any additional costs associated with collecting and reporting this data are trivial relative to the incurred costs of workers compensation, lost hours from workers, and the high turnover at transit agencies as a result of deteriorating workplace conditions. Whatever trivial costs may exist should not be a criterion in determining how or whether or not they should live up to their statutory requirements under the IIJA to do so. Moreover, we believe they should go beyond the basic requirements of the IIJA and report this information annually, with analysis, and tools for transit agencies to implement interventions that may alleviate the impacts of national trends in assault.

What technology is available to address transit worker assaults, including operator assaults?

TTD supports the research and implementation of technologies that improve worker safety. In the case of worker assaults, however, there are a number of solutions that could be implemented easily and without the need for additional research and testing time that would be needed for new technologies. Simple workstation redesigns that provide secure barriers between workers and the public would deter many assaults. De-escalation training, route planning, and procedural and schedule planning can mitigate many assaults. We do not believe that FTA should wait for possible technologies to be developed to implement these known solutions.

How can FTA better support the development and implementation of these technologies?

For the reason noted above, FTA needs to be actively involved in the implementation of new technologies and strategies to increase transit worker safety. As part of these efforts, the agency should consult directly with frontline workers and representatives of frontline workers, including safety experts and law enforcement professionals, to share lessons learned in the field, and specific thoughts on how to correctly implement the statutory requirements of the IIJA.

In closing, TTD urges FTA to act expeditiously in the implementation of new transit safety requirements in the IIJA, and reminds the agency of its statutory obligations to protect transit workers from assault. We appreciate the opportunity to comment and look forward to working with the agency moving forward.