Longtime Amtrak conductor Carol Jones, a local chairperson with SMART-TD Local 1361 out of New Haven, Conn., and a member of our union for 23 years, was featured in a “Sister Stories” video during SMART Women’s Week in early March. See the embedded video above to watch her story of coming up in the transportation industry and working as a pioneering woman in the passenger rail sector.
Archive for the ‘Amtrak/Commuter’ Category
Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) implemented planned service cuts the morning of Monday, March 8, in spite of objections made weeks ago by union leadership and echoed by New York state senators just before the cuts went into effect.
The result?Crowded cars and the potential for the early morning commute from places like New Hyde Park or Jamaica Station to become a COVID spreader event with no opportunity for social distancing, as shown by photos provided to SMART-TD Alternate Vice President Anthony Simon by frontline workers, thousands of whom he represents as general chairperson of GCA-505.
“These reductions have now made Long Island Rail Road service unsafe as far as allowing for social distancing is concerned,” Simon said.
In response to LIRR leadership’s implementation of the cuts, which reduced weekday service to the equivalent of what the system offers on the weekend, more than 3,000 unionized workers from SMART, SMART-TD and six other labor unions submitted the following message via email on March 8:
“WE THE UNDERSIGNED; ARE LIRR WORKERS WHO ARE OUTRAGED BY THE DECISION TO REDUCE SERVICE FOR LIRR RIDERS AT A TIME WHEN OPENING THE ECONOMY, CONTINUED DISTANCING, INCENTIVIZING CUSTOMERS TO RETURN AND PRIORITIZING THE USE OF FEDERAL DOLLARS IS CRUCIAL TO A FULL AND SAFE RECOVERY. WE ARE DISGUSTED THAT THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THESE CUTS AND THE INSENSITIVITY TO OUR QUALITY OF LIFE FOR OUR FRONT-LINE CRAFTS HAS DESTROYED OUR MORALE AND TRUST IN THE AGENCY. WE DEMAND YOU LISTEN TO YOUR “HEROES” AND RESTORE SERVICE FOR THE BETTERMENT OF OUR SYSTEM.”
In addition to Simon, SMART-Mechanical Division General Chairperson John McCloskey and TD yardmaster General Chairperson Michael Miele signed the letter addressed to New York Metropolitan Transit Agency Chairman and CEO Patrick Foye and LIRR President Phillip Eng.
“The MTA’s desire to outsource our work, disregard our membership’s quality of life and forget about what we have delivered throughout a global pandemic is inexcusable,” the union leaders stated. “We certainly hope you can get on the right track in winning us back for the good of this great railroad that we have built and have always been proud to serve. Until then, we will continue to work hard for our customers with the understanding that there is a lack of good faith and insufficient appreciation toward our members from leadership.”
Other unions that signed on to the letter included the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen; Transportation Communications Union; International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers; National Conference of Firemen & Oilers, SEIU 32BJ; Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen; and Independent Railway Supervisors Association.
Read the letter. (PDF)
SMART Transportation Division Alternate Vice President and General Chairperson Anthony Simon and eight New York state senators took the CEO and chairman of the New York Metropolitan Transit Agency to task for planned service reductions for the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR).
The carrier plans to reduce weekday service to the equivalent of a weekend schedule beginning March 8, a move described by state Sen. James Gaughran and seven colleagues as operating LIRR as a “skeleton service.”
“We urge you to reconsider this decision and withhold implementation of the planned service reduction,” the senators wrote in their letter, dated March 3. “These ridership cuts will negatively impact countless essential workers, like the workers of the MTA, who rely on public transportation to earn a living, support their families, and contribute to our economy.”
In his letter dated Feb. 24, Simon communicated to MTA Chairman and CEO Patrick Foye that this course of action also did not seem to be a sound strategy as a potential spring economic awakening for New York City appears to be approaching.“While the MTA should be incentivizing customers back to the system, why would we choose now to reduce service further?” wrote GC Simon of GCA-505, which represents SMART-TD members employed by LIRR. “It makes no sense that riders should now have to return to a system with limited service opportunities and potential concerns for safe distancing capabilities when vaccine availability is improving and both federal and state leaders are attempting to stimulate the economy.”
The service reductions were supposed to last only until particular projects were completed by LIRR but could now be extended past the May 23 date that LIRR had given, according to Simon.
Both Simon and the senators made special note that SMART-TD members have worked through the pandemic, risking infection by COVID-19 as they continued to serve on the front lines of public transport. Simon argued in his letter that federal funds provided by the Biden administration should be used to maintain service to LIRR riders to ensure they have substantial service and a safe environment.
“Our members have weathered the effects of this pandemic as the heroes you’ve gratefully declared them to be time and time again. They have delivered to the riding public through some of the most difficult times in the history of our railroad,” Simon wrote. “Now is the time for them to continue delivering by leaving the adjusted weekday schedule as is and not seek a limited savings opportunity by creating a disincentive for our customers to come back.”
If you are a union member who participates in certain Union Plus programs and have been affected by the severe storms in Texas, you may be eligible for financial assistance through the Union Plus Disaster Relief Grant program.
Union Plus Disaster Relief Grants of $500 are available to eligible participants of one of the following programs:
- Union Plus Credit Card Program
- Union Plus Mortgage Program
- Union Plus Personal Loan Program
- Union Plus Life Insurance
- Union Plus Accidental Death Insurance
- Union Plus Auto Insurance
- Union Plus Retiree Health Program
To qualify for a Union Plus Disaster Relief Grant:
- Your residence must be in a county qualifying for individual assistance money from FEMA. To check if your county has been designated as an area eligible for individual assistance, visit FEMA’s disaster declarations page.
- You must have had a Union Plus Credit Card for at least three months, Union Plus Personal Loan for at least six months, Union Plus Mortgage, Union Plus Retiree Health Insurance, Union Plus Life or Accidental Death Insurance or Union Plus Auto Insurance for at least 12 months with that account or policy in good standing (be up to date on payments).
If you participate in the Union Plus Credit Card Program and want to apply for a disaster relief grant, call 1-800-622-2580.
If you participate in any other of the designated programs and want to apply for a disaster relief grant, call 1-800-472-2005. The Union Plus Disaster Relief Fund has provided nearly $1 million in assistance to union members facing hardships following Hurricanes Michael and Florence, floods and other natural disasters. Head to the Union Plus Disaster Relief Fund page to learn more about the benefits and eligibility requirements.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued an order Jan. 29 imposing a mask requirement applicable to public transportation systems, rail, and van, bus and motorcoach service providers to mitigate the risk of the spread of COVID-19.
The order implements President Joe Biden’s Executive Order 13998, Promoting COVID-19 Safety in Domestic and International Travel, “to save lives and allow all Americans, including the millions of people employed in the transportation industry, to travel and work safely.”
In an announcement of the order sent to Federal Railroad Administration stakeholders and partners on Jan. 31, an agency representative wrote the following: “Science-based measures are critical to preventing the spread of COVID-19. Mask-wearing is one of several proven life-saving measures including physical distancing, appropriate ventilation and timely testing that can reduce the transmission of COVID-19. Requiring masks will protect America’s transportation workers and passengers, help control the transmission of COVID-19, and aid in re-opening America’s economy.”
In addition to the CDC order, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) anticipates issuing additional information and guidance.
The U.S. Department of Transportation has posted a web page answering Frequently Asked Questions regarding COVID safety.
DOT will continue to add additional information to the site in the coming days and will be scheduling stakeholder calls beginning this week.
Questions regarding the mask mandate can be sent to the Federal Railroad Administration at RailroadsMaskUp@dot.gov.
Amit Bose, who served as deputy administrator for the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) during the Obama administration, was appointed to the same post last week by President Biden.
“We’re excited to be working with Amit Bose,” said SMART Transportation Division National Legislative Director Gregory Hynes. “We’ve had several conversations and he understands and supports our issues. It’s a welcomed new day for rail labor.”
Bose has years of experience serving in the public sector including as FRA deputy administrator, FRA chief counsel, USDOT associate general counsel and USDOT deputy assistant secretary for governmental affairs. While in the Obama administration, Bose worked on High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail grants for projects on the Northeast Corridor and has a longtime association with the Corridor.
In addition to living along the 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.
Amtrak Board Chairman Tony Coscia released a statement on Jan. 21 supporting Bose’s appointment.
“Amit Bose will be a great addition to the Federal Railroad Administration. His extensive experience in transportation policy, law and management will be an asset to the Biden Administration,” Coscia said. “Mr. Bose understands the importance of investing in infrastructure to support economic recovery and keeping America’s railroad system reliable and safe. We look forward to working with Secretary designee Pete Buttigieg, Deputy Secretary designee Polly Trottenberg and Mr. Bose to improve and expand passenger rail service across the country.”
Before his return to FRA, Bose served as vice president for HNTB Corporation and as board chairman for the Coalition for the Northeast Corridor.