Archive for the ‘Bus news’ Category

Key bills introduced that intend to boost transportation safety in North Carolina

Legislators in both the North Carolina state House and Senate have introduced bills to keep freight rail operations on the state’s more than 3,300 miles of track running safely and efficiently. A bus safety bill is also in the works in the state.

H.B. 408 and S. 348 require a crew of at least two qualified people in the operating locomotive of trains transporting cargo and hazardous materials in the state for public safety. H.B. 408 has four bipartisan primary sponsors including Rep. Wayne Sasser (R – Dist. 67), Rep. Carolyn Logan (D – Dist. 101), Rep. Charles Graham (D – Dist. 47) and Rep. Verla Insko (D – Dist. 56), and 30 co-sponsors. The Senate version of the bill got a late start due to the Ninth Circuit court ruling and so S. 348 only has two Democratic primary sponsors including Sen. Sarah Crawford (D – Dist. 18) and Sen. Julie Mayfield (D – Dist. 49), and three co-sponsors. Both bills have had their first reading and have been referred to the Transportation Committee and Rules Committee, respectively.

Ron Ingerick, SMART-TD North Carolina state legislative director

“It is vitally important to maintain the presence of two crew members in the locomotive,” said Ron Ingerick, North Carolina state legislative director of the SMART Transportation Division. “Despite any advances in technology, there is a safety factor called ‘the Rule of 2’ in having the engineer and the conductor in the cab, just like how airplanes have pilots and co-pilots. With the size and complexity of the modern freight train, each crew member has responsibilities, and simultaneously performs duties in providing safe and efficient operation. These crew members are the first responders to a grade crossing collision, derailment or other emergency situation.

“The public safety of our communities is non-negotiable, and H.B. 408 and S. 348 will help prevent potential accidents or derailments. The citizens of North Carolina deserve to feel safer with two crew members in the cab in the trains that roll through their communities, day and night.”

Another bill filed in the House looks to curtail railroads’ use of giant trains that block crossings. H.B. 438, filed March 29, has three Republican representatives as primary sponsors: Rep. Howard Penny (R – Dist. 53), Rep. Jerry Carter (R – Dist. 65) and Rep. Mike Clampitt (R – Dist. 119). The bi-partisan bill currently has 21 co-sponsors — two of which are the Chairman and Vice Chairman of the Transportation Committee — and is still accepting more. H.B. 438 intends to place a limitation on train length, which has been growing from an average length of a mile and a half five years ago to now sometimes exceeding four miles. The main culprit is an operating strategy initiated in 2017 by the nation’s biggest railroads called Precision Scheduled Railroading (PSR).

“Since the evolution of PSR, trains in this state have increased in length and weight, with haphazard train builds, fewer safety-critical inspections, and maintenance being deferred —increasing the risk of derailments,” said Ingerick, who is an active railroader, as well as our N.C. state legislative director who brings awareness to legislators in Raleigh. “A train that is longer is harder to operate. Also, concerns have risen from local communities and emergency responders as these longer trains have increased instances of blocked crossings.”

Blocked rail crossings cause an inconvenience for motorists, who must find alternate routes, especially in rural areas. They also pose a safety risk to pedestrians who may attempt to go under or climb over rail cars to continue their travels. A blocked crossing can play a part in delaying or detouring emergency responses when seconds or minutes count, sending responders out of their way when their aid is needed.

“Railroads are looking at returns and how their stocks are doing on Wall Street,” Ingerick said. “PSR puts safety last and profit first and makes a dangerous business even riskier.”

Lastly, Ingerick reports that the Bus Safety Risk Reduction Act has been released from bill drafting and will be filed in the coming week. The bill will include risk analysis, barriers, de-escalation training and data collection.

“Overall, I feel that we’re in a good position right now concerning these bills, but we need continued involvement from the membership in order to get these bills passed,” Ingerick said.

Local 759 president steers bus to transport troops during inauguration

SMART Transportation Division Local 759 President Rafael Becerra and about seven of his local brothers and sisters departed their Coach USA garage in Paramus, N.J., on Jan. 10, and traveled to Joint Base Andrews in Prince George’s County, Md., to transport our nation’s troops and national guardsmen to protect Washington, D.C., for the Jan. 20 inauguration ceremony.

Becerra stayed in the nation’s capital for two weeks, returning home Jan. 24, while others from his garage stayed an extra week before returning Jan. 31.

Dillon’s Bus Service of Hanover, Md., – an affiliate of Coach USA – was in charge of coordinating with different bus companies that sent their buses and operators to help transport the 26,000 troops (according to militarytimes.com) deployed to D.C.

Employees of Rockland Coaches of Bergenfield, N.J., represented by TD Local 1558, also were called upon to transport troops. Coach bus companies from as far away as Pittsburgh also arrived to help.

National Guard soldiers disembark from a bus in January in this photo courtesy of Local 759 President Rafael Becerra and New Jersey State Legislative Director Ron Sabol.

According to Becerra, he picked up troops at Andrews and then brought them over to the armory. He then moved them to different hotels and assignments in the D.C. area.

“I also picked up troops from the Reagan airport. The ones I picked up came in from Alaska. I picked up around 29 people,” Becerra said. “I also picked up people from the Florida National Guard from their hotel, and I dropped them off where they were stationed at the African American Museum (National Museum of African American History and Culture).”

Becerra said the first week there was the roughest because he was required to keep making runs from place-to-place and was on call a lot of the time. The troops were constantly coming in during the first week for their assignments, but then there wasn’t a lot of transporting that needed to be done during his second week.

“We waited around a lot at the Andrews base parking lot, waiting to be called upon,” Becerra said.

New Jersey State Legislative Director Ron Sabol had nothing but praise for the members who stepped up to assist.

“Brother Becerra and his fellow members took time away from their families during a pandemic to serve a greater cause than themselves — the protection and safe transition required by our nation’s democratic process,” Sabol said. “This assignment had health and safety risks involved — just days before our bus operators arrived, armed insurrectionists had threatened members of Congress in the U.S. Capitol itself. Our members had no guarantee that they wouldn’t be attacked by domestic terrorists or be exposed to COVID while assisting those troops at our nation’s capital — yet they did it without complaint.

“I thank them for their exemplary display of duty.”

Although he was in the city during the inauguration, Becerra said he did not get to see the ceremony up close.

“I was watching it on my phone, sitting in the parking lot. I was kinda afraid to take pictures,” he said. “You don’t just go wandering around. You go from check point to check point to check point.”

When asked if he had any concerns about contracting COVID-19 while there, Becerra said that he thought things were pretty safe with almost everyone wearing a mask, but he was still a little concerned.

“I would say that 99% of the guys, the troops, they all had masks on. I was tested before I went there, and I was tested when I came back. Thank God I came back in one piece. But it’s all part of the job,” he said.

Becerra said that by the time that he left, a lot of troops were already clearing out.

When asked what the most memorable thing about the trip was, Becerra replied, “I was amazed that I had never seen D.C. so empty. There was nothing. There was no traffic, there were no people walking. You could walk on the other side of the fence, but that was the closest you got. They kept closing down areas, so you didn’t know what was going to be closed.”

SMART-TD thanks Brother Becerra and the other troop transporters for their dedication and congratulates them on a job well done.

VSTD waiver of elimination period extended through June 2021

Dear Member:

As many of you may recall, the SMART Voluntary Short Term Disability Plan temporarily suspended the Elimination Period for COVID-19 (Coronavirus) disabilities. In an announcement to you dated April 15, 2020, we communicated that the Elimination Period was being waived for any COVID-19 (Coronavirus) disabilities beginning in the months of March, April and May 2020. Further announcements to you advised that the Plan would be extending the waiver through February 2021.

We are pleased to announce that the waiver of the elimination period is extended through June 30, 2021. So, effective with all diagnosed COVID-19 (Coronavirus) disabilities beginning
in the months of March 2020 through June 2021, the Plan’s Elimination Period will be waived. Members must usually be disabled for 21 days before benefits will begin on the 22nd day. This is known as the Elimination Period or Waiting Period. We are waiving this Waiting Period for positive COVID-19 (Coronavirus) disabilities. This change will expedite and
increase benefits for approved applicants so that you will have immediate access to money. The Waiting Period will be reinstated for COVID-19 (Coronavirus) disabilities beginning on and after July 1, 2021.

We are pleased that the Plan can take this action on your behalf. We wish you and your family health and wellness during these trying times.

Sincerely,
Board of Trustees
Mr. Joseph Sellers Jr.,
General President SMART

Mr. Jeremy Ferguson,
President-SMART Transportation Division

Mr. Joseph Powell,
General Secretary-Treasurer SMART

The SMART Voluntary Short Term Disability Plan is administered by:
Southern Benefit Administrators, Incorporated
P.O. Box 1449
Goodlettsville, Tennessee 37070-1449
Toll-Free: (844) 880-1071, Fax: (615) 859-0201

View this announcement in PDF form.

Signing of COVID aid bill enables SMART-TD bus, transit members to get rolling

President Joe Biden today signed his $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan intended to stabilize the nation’s economy as it continues the task of rebounding from the COVID-19 pandemic that has killed more than 525,000 people in the United States.

The plan has $30.5 billion in emergency funding reserved to assist transit in the country rebound after an immense drop in use as a result of the coronavirus outbreak nearly one year ago. That amount is $10.5 billion more than the $20 billion requested by Biden in his initial version of the bill that was unveiled before he took office.

Passenger transit services were hit hard by the virus with ridership declining 95% for some carriers. In the initial stages of the pandemic, only essential workers used public transportation as many people in a number of highly populated areas went into lockdown.

“Our bus and transit members have been on the front lines working to provide for their families and to continue to keep the country running in the year since the coronavirus emerged in the United States,” SMART Transportation Division National Legislative Director Gregory Hynes said after the bill’s signing. “The transit funding provided by this plan will provide security for them going forward.”

Amtrak, the nation’s largest passenger rail carrier, also experienced a massive decline in ridership as a result of COVID-19. The carrier is slated to get $1.7 billion to help restore service that had been reduced last autumn, resulting in furloughs of SMART-TD and other unionized workers.

The carrier already announced that it will resume full long-distance service as a result of receiving the funds from the relief plan.

“‘Amtrak Joe’ and Congress has delivered for us,” Hynes said. “The American Rescue Plan is a much-needed boost that will allow Amtrak to recall all of our furloughed members and restore long-distance service very soon.”

The plan passed along party lines in both the U.S. Senate and in the U.S. House except for Democratic Congressman Jared Goldman of Maine, who voted against it.

The American Rescue Plan provides direct payments of $1,400 to individuals making up to $75,000 annually, $350 billion in aid to state and local governments and $14 billion for vaccine distribution. The bill also provides $130 billion to elementary, middle and high schools to assist with safe reopening.

In addition to providing direct payments to individuals, the plan also expands jobless benefits through September and child tax credits to assist families who are continuing to struggle through the pandemic.

“Elections matter, and never more than the last election,” Hynes said. “It’s time to hold those who were elected to office to the promises they’ve made. This is evidence that that is happening.”

Union Plus program offers help to those affected by winter storm in Texas

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

Additional information about Texas disaster assistance is available here.

Staggered by winter storm, SMART brothers and sisters in Texas need our help

Dear members of the SMART Transportation Division:

Thousands of our brothers and sisters in Texas are struggling with the effects of the winter storm that devastated the state’s infrastructure this month.

Many people throughout the state — from big cities to rural areas — are dealing with displacement or damaged homes as a deadly icy blast made roads impassable, froze pipes and knocked out power. But even where power has been restored, Texans face the challenge of rebuilding and recovering. The silver lining is, and will continue to be, that the generosity of people around the country is helping to uplift people so that they may reclaim their lives.

We are asking our SMART-TD family to rise to the call and give so that the daunting task of starting over and rebuilding can begin for our people in Texas. In cooperation with our Sheet Metal brothers and sisters and thanks to efforts by SMART Army volunteers, our union already has boots on the ground and we are helping to provide necessities to those stricken by the storm.

Of particular need are:
• Drinking water, including five-gallon jugs.
• Residential plumbing materials of all kinds, especially “Shark Bite” or “Gator Bite” brands where soldering is not required that are available at home improvement stores.

Transportation Division Vice President Chad Adams is leading relief/recovery efforts specific to the TD in the state. Contact him at 254-718-2988 or email cadams@smart-union.org to arrange a donation of goods or if you need assistance.

Relief donation sites for goods also have been set up in conjunction with our Sheet Metal brothers and sisters:

SMART Local 54
900 West 34th Street, Suite 54
Houston, TX 77292
Call Business Manager Eddie Gonzalez at 713-245-6784 to let him know a donation is coming.

SMART Local 67
11 Burwood Lane
San Antonio, TX 78216
Call Business Manager James May at 210-867-6748 to let him know a donation is coming.

SMART Local 68
1020 South Industrial Blvd.
Euless, TX 76040
Call Business Manager Calvin Jennings at 817-832-2831 to let him know a donation is coming.

State Legislative Boards, General Committees and Locals, as well as individual members, are encouraged to make a financial donation to the SMART-TD Disaster Relief Fund. Together we can help lessen the struggle, strengthen the recovery and bring hope and relief to our members in Texas. Online pay methods are being explored, but the TD Disaster Relief Fund only accepts monetary donations in the form of checks at this time.

Contributions may be sent to:
SMART-TD Disaster Relief Fund
24950 Country Club Blvd., Suite 340
North Olmsted, OH 44070-5333

Thank you and God bless,

Jeremy R. Ferguson
President, SMART Transportation Division

Questions about TD Safety Condition Report answered

Shortly after the launch of SMART Transportation Division’s online Safety Condition Report, numerous reports have been successfully submitted and passed along to union leadership for handling. This information will help to make our properties safer and bring any conditions that add risk to our members to light.

Keep in mind – if your state or local leadership already has a successfully functioning safety hazard report system in place, please continue to use that reporting system. This report, which has been developed and instituted by the International, is not to supplant those systems. Instead, it is intended to be available as a reporting mechanism for those that do not already have a system in place or as a supplemental reporting mechanism.

As with all new initiatives, there is a period of adjustment and union leadership wanted to answer a few questions that have been raised.

1. Does the Safety Condition Report replace the filing of a report with my employer, carrier or with my State Legislative Director?

No. If your employer or carrier has a reporting process regarding unsafe conditions, you should fill out their report. Similarly, if your State Legislative Director prefers to use a safety reporting system already implemented, then we encourage that reporting system to be utilized.

Note: It is strongly encouraged that the proper carrier officer receives notification of any unsafe hazard, even if they do not have a process for reporting, if at all possible. Equally it is important that your Local Legislative Representative and officers receive a copy of anything reported to the carrier

2. Should I fill out this form if I have already reported a safety concern to my SLD or my Local Legislative Representative?

No. There is no need to duplicate your effort if you have already reached out to them, but also take note that a report via this form is not a substitute for a report filed with a carrier.

3. By using this report form does my information remain confidential from the carrier?

Yes. As this is an internal reporting system, this information is only available to those union officers that receive the form. That being said, the aforementioned officers may request, in certain circumstances, that this information be shared in order to properly address the reported unsafe issue. However, in those situations, the union officer should receive the reporting member’s permission prior to doing so.

4. Does my Local Legislative Representative get a copy of these reports?

The reports currently go directly to State Legislative Directors for proper handling and dissemination. They are also copied to the General Chairpersons for additional assistance. We found that the turnover of local officers might impede the efficiency of the automated portion of the system, so LRs are not contacted directly via this report. State Directors will take the lead and decide how to proceed with your safety concern, including contacting your local officer(s).

5. I have evidence (photos, video) of a potential safety hazard. How can I share it?

Please be sure that you have checked the option that you request an officer to contact you, and you can then share any evidence you have accumulated directly with the officer handling your report. Future versions of this form may allow for the upload of evidence as we continue to enhance it.

6. I’ve scrolled through the selections and can’t find what I want to report…

If you cannot find your specific issue or concern – use the “other” option and fill in the blanks. It would be helpful to select that you want to have an officer reach out so you can be precise in the type of hazard you wish to report as well as the specific location and details.

7. When can I expect a response to a report that I have filed?

If one is requested, timely responses from a union officer will be given in the order the reports are received.

8. How can I suggest refinements to the report?

We will be continually examining the utility of the form and seeking potential improvements. If you have suggestions, please send them to Senior Communications Coordinator Ben Nagy at bnagy@smart-union.org.

Remember — these are in-union reports. Your union exists to protect its members and filing any safety concern through any union-endorsed medium is your right.

“Your union’s leadership wants to raise our safety standards. The carriers will no longer be allowed to dictate our level of personal safety … enough is enough,” SMART-TD Chief of Staff Jerry Gibson said. “Only when we, as a collective group, choose to properly address our issues and concerns can we expect others to comply with those demands. It is the charge of the carrier to provide us with the proper training, security and safe work environment while doing so … and we will hold them accountable.”

Rail members, please note: The Railroad Technology Event report remains as a separate reporting mechanism due to the amount of detail and complexities that topic requires.

CDC order requires masks on all public transportation to slow COVID’s spread

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.

SMART-TD Safety Condition Report is launched for members to submit info about unsafe conditions

To address the growing safety concerns of our membership, we have implemented a universal Safety Condition Report that is now available on the SMART-TD website for all members to use.

This form will become the primary tool to report and collect data concerning unsafe working conditions, including COVID-19 issues, from all members. Organizational information such as Craft, Local, Carrier, State Legislative Director and General Committee are loaded based on a member’s selection using defined database values, ensuring an accurate submission so that the officers responsible for acting on the report are directly and timely informed.

Members are presented a default list of safety hazards (including COVID-19) to choose along with identifying the state and location of the unsafe condition. Additionally, the form will dynamically update based on the members’ input, creating a customized report. After submission, an automated email to the General Chairperson and State Legislative Director with jurisdiction is sent as an initial notification. Full details of the Safety Condition Report are then accessed by these officers via the TD Connect portal along with printing and exporting capabilities for further collaboration with Local officers so that the unsafe conditions can be addressed.

Rail members, please note: The Railroad Technology Event report remains as a separate reporting mechanism due to the amount of detail and complexities that topic requires.

It is important to note that the data collected by this Safety Condition Report and the information within are kept and used solely within our SMART Union computer system and are used by SMART-TD officers to assist in addressing the issues presented by members.

“Membership safety and well-being is a founding principal of this Union, but we cannot assist without being properly informed of the unsafe issues facing our fellow brothers and sisters.” SMART-TD President Jeremy Ferguson stated. “These reports are to enhance our safety efforts as many carriers lack proper and effective reporting mechanisms. Our SMART Constitution lists safety as our local legislative representatives’ primary mission, stating ‘They shall report to their Locals regarding the handling of all alleged unsafe or unsanitary working conditions found to exist, or reported to them, within their jurisdiction. They shall undertake to correct such conditions through appropriate measures consistent with the local and national policies of the Transportation Division.’ Therefore, we ask that you also forward this information as soon as possible to your local legislative representative or other SMART Union officer for proper handling. If you are unsure who they are or how to contact them, please contact our office.

“It is imperative that we all accept the personal responsibility to properly document known unsafe conditions, acts and security concerns. If more people would take the time to do this we could, over time, address most of the long-standing concerns we have. Without documentation, nothing will ever change — the issues and concerns will continue to remain and often grow until a very unfortunate situation such as an injury, accident or fatality brings to light what many knew was a problem long ago but failed to address.”

The union’s chief of staff hopes that the use of this form brings hazards that have been taken for granted or tolerated by workers to light.

“Sadly, we hear one particular scenario too often,” SMART-TD Chief of Staff Jerry Gibson said. “Someone says, ‘That has been an issue for a long time’ or ‘Everyone knows that is a problem’ at a particular property. Yet everyone assumes that someone else has written the unsafe condition up and unfortunately, no one has. The issue remains and the carriers use that against us by stating the very same thing — ‘That has been like that forever, and no one has said anything or taken issue with it.’

“This online reporting process is here to change that. Your union’s leadership wants to raise our safety standards. The carriers will no longer be allowed to dictate our level of personal safety … enough is enough. Only when we, as a collective group, choose to properly address our issues and concerns can we expect others to comply with those demands. It is the charge of the carrier to provide us with the proper training, security and safe work environment while doing so … and we will hold them accountable.”

The Safety Condition Report is accessible directly from the SMART-TD home page as both a banner and as a menu item — look for the blinking yellow caution signal.

“Please assist us with assisting you,” President Ferguson said. “All of our members deserve safe working conditions on the job and to return home safely. If there is an issue you want to report — report it.”

FTA announces 2021 drug and alcohol testing rates

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) posted its 2021 drug and alcohol testing rates in the Federal Register Nov. 24. According to the notice, the minimum random drug testing rate will remain at 50%, while the random alcohol testing rate will remain at 10% for the year. The notice applies to employers subject to 49 CFR part 655. The rates are effective January 1, 2021.

Click here to read the posted notice in the Federal Register.

SMART out at Biden rally in Pennsylvania

SMART-TD retiree Gregg Weaver, left, and his wife Carol wear SMART “Blue Collar Biden” shirts as they watch Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speak Saturday, Oct. 24, in Bristol, Pa.

SMART representatives had a front-row seat as Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden spoke Oct. 24 at Bristol Community College in Bristol, Pa.

SMART-TD New Jersey State Legislative Director Ron Sabol and Gregg Weaver, a retired TD Local 838 member and former Local 1390 officer who served as a conductor for many Amtrak rides taken by Biden, were in the front row at the “drive-in” rally that was broadcast live on CNN from the town outside Philadelphia.

“What we heard from Joe Biden today was a concrete plan,” Sabol said. “He has a strategy to address the virus. He has a plan to repair the economy. He has ideas and has a strategy to make things better going forward with a focus on transportation and infrastructure.”

Weaver, who worked the rails on both the passenger and freight side with Conrail for 42 years, said Biden has proven his concern for the working people. Weaver’s son, Blake, a Local 838 member, followed in his father’s path and has been an Amtrak conductor for more than 16 years.

Gregg Weaver, a retiree from TD Local 838, and his son Blake, a member of TD Local 838 and an Amtrak conductor, attend Joe Biden’s rally on Saturday, Oct. 24.

“Everybody wants to talk to him (Joe Biden) after the speech – there were politicians, the big-money donors who have millions,” Weaver said. “He didn’t go after the big donors. He picked a blue-collar working man to come talk to him. He has time for us.”

Biden addressed the COVID pandemic at the outset, mentioning that the country had set a record for daily cases with more than 80,000. The Biden campaign has observed social-distancing and mask protocols at its rallies to avoid the transmission of COVID-19. Most of the attendees participated in the rally from their cars, honking their horns in unison to show appreciation during the speech.

“I will shut down the virus, not the economy,” Biden said. “We can build back better.”

With just days until Election Day, Biden’s speech touched upon a number of union-related issues, such as infrastructure, the gigantic $1.5 trillion corporate tax cuts in late 2017 that remain the signature legislative accomplishment of the current administration and the worsening COVID-19 pandemic.

“This guy’s not on the level. He thinks Wall Street built thus country,” Biden said. “You and I know who built this country … working people built it — the middle class, and unions built the middle class.”

In the April 2018 SMART Transportation Division News reported how Class I rail carriers reaped great benefits from those Republican tax cuts.

Union Pacific (UP) received a $5.8 billion boost. CSX saved $3.6 billion, Norfolk Southern (NS) about $3.48 billion and Kansas City Southern (KCS) $488 million. BNSF, a Berkshire Hathaway subsidiary, reported in its Form 10-K filing to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission that it received a tax benefit of $7.4 billion. Savings for the two Canadian-based Class I railroads also increased, reported at $1.4 billion (U.S.) for Canadian National (CN) and about $406 million (U.S.) for Canadian Pacific.

“Vice President Biden understands where working people are coming from. He’s been there. He knows what kind of struggle the working people of country are going through,” Sabol said. “With Biden, SMART members, labor and the middle class will absolutely have a seat at the table.”

Today, thousands of SMART members and other unionized essential frontline employees still are waiting for additional assistance and protections that are being blocked by the Republican-controlled Senate. For others, enhanced unemployment and sickness benefits that were in effect and a lifeline early in the pandemic have expired.

“How many [parents] a day can look at their kids and say with confidence, ‘everything’s going to be OK’ and mean it?” Biden asked. “Times are hard. Unemployment is way up. Folks are worried about making their next rent or mortgage payment, whether their health care will be ripped away in the middle of a pandemic. Worried about sending their kids to school … worried about not sending them to school.

“They see folks at the top doing much better while the rest are wondering who’s looking out for me. That’s Donald Trump’s presidency.”

Legislation to help union workers such as the HEROES Act and the Moving Forward Act has been stopped by Trump and his Republican allies, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in the Senate.

Attendees of the Joe Biden rally in Bristol take a group photo before the former vice president’s speech. From left are Mary Kate Weaver; Carol Weaver; TD Local 838 retiree Gregg Weaver; Tyler Hutchinson; SMART-TD New Jersey State Legislative Director Ron Sabol and TD Local 838 member Blake Weaver.

Weaver reminds his SMART-TD brothers and sisters that railroaders especially need to keep in mind that their benefits are vulnerable to the whims of Capitol Hill.

A vote for Trump and for his Republican allies is opening the door for workers’ health care, jobs and pensions to be targeted, he said. Children would be off their parents’ health coverage at age 18 instead of being covered until age 26 under the Affordable Care Act.

Weaver said a vote for Democrats would protect union jobs and railroaders. Biden would not be hostile to Amtrak, whereas Trump and Republicans have habitually tried to cut funding for the national passenger rail network.

“Joe Biden has got their backs. He’s not going to make things worse for them,” Weaver said. “There will be a lot less fighting with the Democrats than with the Republicans.”

Biden gave a brief outline of his economic recovery plan — taxes would not be raised on any family making less than $400,000, while making corporations pay their fair share.

“It’s time for working people and the middle class to get tax relief,” Biden said.

He also said his administration would focused on job creation and education.

“We’re going to create millions of union jobs modifying the infrastructure to modernize it, “ he said.

Biden also emphasized in the speech that he is not banning fracking, an accusation leveled by Trump lately on the campaign trail.

Showing their pride as election approaches

SMART members are sending in their photos showing their support for Joe Biden, the presidential candidate who has been endorsed by your union. To submit your photos in support of candidates endorsed by SMART, email news_TD@smart-union.org.

To get involved, text SMART Army to 21333 and for voting information, text SMART vote to 21333.

From left, local chairperson Edgar Menendez; vice local chairperson Herminio Hernandez; member Emmerett Watson; member Silvena Cazares; and Legislative Representative Latonia Martinez of TD Local 1608 show their support. Photo submitted by SMART-TD California State Legislative Director Louis Costa.

Front row, from left: Rosana Santana, executive secretary; Maria Magallon, operations manager; and Iveth Lopez, administrative assistant. Back row, from left: Local 1608 Chairperson Edgar Menendez; Local 1563 Chairperson Robert Gonzalez; Local 1565 Chairperson Quintin Wormley; Local 1564 Chairperson Andy Carter; GO-875 General Chairperson John M. Ellis; Local 1563 Vice Local Chairperson Jaime Delgadillo; and Local 1564 Vice Local Chairperson Greg Smith. Photo submitted by TD GC Ellis.

Local 72 (Battle Creek, Mich.) Alternate Legislative Representative Ray Sones shows his support for SMART-endorsed presidential candidate Joe Biden.