The Disaster Response Recovery course is training for workers and community members who live and work in areas that are likely to be impacted by a hurricane. The course satisfies the requirements to assist workers and communities in recovery from natural and man-made disasters. The class will be conducted April 7, 2021, and April 9, 2021, at noon ET on both days.
The COVID-19 and Infectious Disease Response Awareness Training course is designed to increase workers’ knowledge of hazards they may encounter on a job site related to potential occupational exposures to SARS CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19. During this 90-minute course, attendees will learn what SARS-CoV-2 is, how it is spread, symptoms, how to protect workers, how to properly clean and disinfect your work area and about vaccinations for COVID-19. The online virtual training will include breakout groups, exercises and demonstrations. This course will be April 16 and April 23, 2021, at 2 p.m. ET on both days.
The DOT Hazardous Materials Awareness course, also called the Hazardous Materials Transportation Safety and Security Course, provides safety and security awareness training that is required by the Department of Transportation (DOT) for hazmat transportation workers. This course also provides OSHA first responder – awareness-level training. The course is intended for railroad workers who are involved in the transportation of hazmat and who may be the first on the scene or the first to witness a release of hazardous materials or be aware of a security threat. Various topics will be addressed during the 8-hour (4 hours per day) course held over two days such as the role of the first responder, federal regulatory agencies, DOT’s regulations on hazmat, recognizing and identifying hazmat in transportation and more (see flyer). The class is being offered April 19 – 20, 2021, and April 28 – 29, 2021, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. ET. An incentive of $175 is available to participants who complete this course.
The goal of this training initiative is to provide rail workers with the skills and knowledge necessary to protect themselves, the community, and the environment in a hazardous materials transportation emergency. To achieve this goal, the Rail Workers Hazardous Materials Training Program provides rail workers, through quality hazardous materials training courses, the confidence in their knowledge and problem-solving skills to enable them to make change for safer work conditions.
Much of the training is provided by peer instructors who are full-time rail workers — members and/or local officers of affiliated rail unions.
On Wednesday, Sept. 30, members of SMART Transportation Division led the way, along with members of the BLET and TCU/IAM,uniting in cities across America to spread awareness about cuts coming to Amtrak if the Senate fails to act now.
On Sept. 9, Amtrak President and CEO William Flynn appeared before a U.S. House committee saying that the carrier needs approximately $5 billion in emergency funding to deal with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
If no additional funding is provided by the federal government, the carrier has announced cuts, effective Oct. 1, of approximately 2,000 unionized employees and a planned reduction of service that would hit long-distance and state-run routes that serve rural areas especially hard.
Rallies were scheduled by SMART-TD and other unions to take place a day before the planned cuts in four major cities: Washington, D.C., New York City, Chicago and Los Angeles.
In a show of supportfor Amtrak funding and in an effort to raise awareness, Wisconsin State Legislative Director Andy Hauck and Michigan State Legislative Director Donald Roach, with the help of Local 168 member Nate Hatton (Dearborn, Mich.),also led the members in conductingpop-up rallies in Milwaukee and Dearborn, Mich., respectively.
SMART-TD President Jeremy Ferguson accused Amtrak management of setting up the nation’s major passenger carrier to fail at the rally in Chicago, “They [Amtrak’s Flynn and his board] want to take Amtrak and reduce it to a three-day-a-week service for a long-haul with a two-day layover here in Chicago when you’re trying to go from New York to L.A. How is that fair to the ridership? There’s no way that’s going to survive. That’s set up to fail. The couplets aren’t there. They can’t keep people moving. They’re setting us up to fail.”
Ferguson continued to address the assembled crowd, “We bust our butts, day in and day out, to give our country this service, and this is what the board wants to do. Now you guys have gone one step further, you Amtrak employees. You voted to waive off your pay increase this past July. You did what was best for this country and for Amtrak, didn’t you? How did you get repaid? With the threat of furlough tomorrow, right? Twothousand people could be in the streets tomorrow!”
Ferguson also pointed out that Amtrak management is restarting their salaries and 401(k) contributions coinciding with the Oct. 1 scheduled implementation date of furloughs of 2,000 union members. He also stated that Amtrak management has restructured their bonus program to better benefit themselves.
“We’re not going to take that! We’re not going to stand for that! Not when you gave up your pay raises to protect this country and this service! Unheard of! So, let’s get busy out there! Let’s get fired up!”
Meanwhile, at a rally outside the U.S. Capitol building, SMART General President Joe Sellers gave a rousing speech to the crowd featuring many members employed by Amtrak who might lose their jobs.
“You are our essential workers. You are moving our essential workers. Every day, to the hospitals, to the first responders, to the police. You are moving America! We need to continue to make sure that you have the funding, to continue to make sure that you continue to move America through this pandemic! We need you! And we need Congress to make sure that they pass the HEROES Act.”
Sellers pointed out that the HEROES Act, or H.R. 6800, was relaunched on May 15, 2020, and has yet to be voted on by the U.S. Senate. “We need to make sure that the new relaunched HEROES Act is passed. To protect you. To protect essential workers. To protect the job that you do, day in and day out,” Sellers said.
Sellers concluded his fiery speech by thanking our essential Amtrak members, “I want to thank you for the work that you do, and Congress should be thanking you for the work that you do day in and day out! We need the Senate to make sure that they take this seriously. The White House is dragging their feet. The Senate is dragging their feet. That is unacceptable! Thank you, brothers and sisters. We are going to make a difference and we are going to effect change. We are going to effect change in November, and we are going to carry this through.”
SMART-TD Alternate National Legislative Director Jared Cassity was also featured in a report that aired on Fox 5 News in D.C. at the rallyand U.S. Reps. Tim Ryan of Ohio and Stephen Lynch of Massachusetts also spoke at the rally.
New York City and Los Angeles, Calif.
General Chairperson Anthony Simon (Long Island Railroad) and Scott Carey, legislative representative of Local 95 (Albany, N.Y.), took part in a rally with BLET and TCU members outside Penn Station, while California State Legislative Director Louis Costa led a morning demonstration in front of L.A.’s Union Station.
In Dearborn, Hatton told the Arab American News, “This is a slap in the face to all the essential workers who have been serving the public throughout the pandemic — sacrificing their health and time with their families and loved ones. In 2019, we moved a total of 1,540,972 passengers on the Michigan Corridor. In Dearborn alone, we boarded and deboarded 73,589 passengers. When this pandemic first began, we were told not to wear masks or gloves as it would frighten passengers, while management was told to work from home. As a union, in good faith, we decided to give up pay to help the company only now to be furloughed.”
SLD Donald Roach also pointed out to the news outlet that H.R. 2, the Moving Forward Act,which included funding for Amtrak, passed the House on July 1 and has stalled on U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s desk.
“This cut from Amtrak is not just employees being furloughed, it’s reducing service from three trains a day in both directions, east and west, to one train a day to Chicago and the shutdown of the Grand Rapids–to–Chicago line,” Roach said.
Local 168 member Joel Myers was there rallying along with one of his two children. Myers stands to lose a lot if furloughed with one of his sons currently going through chemotherapy treatments.
“If we are all furloughed, we will need to figure out how to keep food on the table for our families,” Hattontold the Arab American News. “We will be losing a great public utility. This will greatly impact Dearborn and the Metro Detroit area as this is a mode of transportation that people rely on.”
In Wisconsin, SMART members along with All Aboard Wisconsin boarded the Amtrak Empire Builder and rode to Wisconsin Dells, SLD Andy Hauck told SMART-TD. “We had press coverage at both locations and an event in Wisconsin Dells. The train crew was excellent. [The riders] included six legislators and prospective legislators that SMART-TD has supported.”
The rallies caught the notice of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, who embarked on a whistle-stop tour aboard an Amtrak train that departed from Cleveland the day after the first presidential debate and later went into Pennsylvania.
“It’s safe to say I’ve gotten to know the hardworking men and women of @Amtrakover the years — I’m proud to stand with them as they face furloughs due to funding cuts. These essential workers have kept us moving during this pandemic –– now it’s time we have their backs,” Biden’s tweet the evening of Sept. 30 read.
SMART-TD is urging members to contact Congress about passing emergency funding for Amtrak. Not only are the livelihoods of SMART and other union members at stake, but Railroad Retirement will also take a huge hit to its funding if these layoffs stick.
WASHINGTON, D.C. (Sept. 28, 2020) — Unionized Amtrak workers, led by members of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers – Transportation Division (SMART-TD), Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) and Transportation Communications International Union (TCU), will rally Sept. 30 in four major U.S. cities to urge members of Congress to provide emergency funding on the day prior to planned cuts by the nation’s major passenger rail carrier to its service and workforce.
On Sept. 9, Amtrak President and CEO William Flynn appeared before a U.S. House committee saying that the carrier needs approximately $5 billion in emergency funding to deal with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
If no additional funding is provided by the federal government, the carrier has announced impending cuts, effective Oct. 1, of approximately 2,000 unionized employees and a planned reduction of service that would hit long-distance and state-run routes that serve rural areas especially hard.
Members of the SMART-TD, BLET and TCU as well as members of other labor unions whose jobs are jeopardized by these cuts will demonstrate in the nation’s capital, New York City, Chicago and Los Angeles.
“We recognize that the coronavirus has profoundly affected the national rail network with a major reduction in ridership, which is especially unfortunate when considering that Amtrak had set passenger service records in recent years,” said union presidents Jeremy Ferguson (SMART-TD), Dennis Pierce (BLET) and Arthur Maratea (TCU). “However, placing the burden of the pandemic’s effects on all of these essential workers who faithfully kept the service running during this ongoing national emergency is absolutely wrong. Job cuts are not the cure.”
The schedule for the four Fight for Service events Sept. 30 is as follows:
• Washington D.C.: 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. (Eastern), in front of the U.S. Capitol Building’s east side.
• New York City: 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. (Eastern), in front of Penn Station at Eighth Avenue (Farley Post Office).
• Chicago, Ill.: 10 a.m. – noon (Central), in front of Union Station on South Canal Street.
• Los Angeles, Calif.: 9 a.m. – 11 a.m. (Pacific) in front of Union Station.
SMART-TD, BLET and TCU members in the Washington D.C., New York City, Chicago and Los Angeles areas are encouraged to participate in this showing of solidarity. The events will be socially distanced and participants will be wearing masks.
“Congress has the ability to make a difference by providing the emergency funding that Amtrak needs,” the presidents said. “Unionized workers and their supporters are uniting to call attention to that simple fact.”
According to Amtrak internal documents, 1,950 unionized workers are targeted by the cuts. Of those, 1,225 are members of the SMART-TD, BLET or the TCU.
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 different crafts, including as bus and commuter rail operators, in the transportation industry.
The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen represents nearly 58,000 professional locomotive engineers and trainmen throughout the United States. The BLET is the founding member of the Rail Conference, International Brotherhood of Teamsters.
The Transportation Communications International Union (TCU/IAM) represents approximately 46,000 members who work in every state in the U.S., mostly employed in the railroad industry. In 2012, TCU merged with the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM), who represent 600,000 active and retired members in North America.
SMART Transportation Division members are reminded that elections are scheduled to be held this autumn to fill the three-year Local officer positions described by the SMART Constitution’s Article 21B, Section 56.
Positions include President, Vice President, Secretary and Treasurer, Collector (where applicable) and the three-member Board of Trustees. In addition, any existing vacancies (except for those in the positions of Delegate or Alternate Delegate) should be addressed during these elections.
As per the Constitution’s Article 21B, Section 57, nomination meetings are held in October, with election tabulations conducted in November. Special instructions are provided below for Locals unable to hold a nomination meeting due to COVID-19 related restrictions.
Winning candidates assume their offices on January 1, 2021. If they are filling a vacancy, however, they take office immediately.
Candidates must garner a simple majority of valid votes cast to win election to any elective Transportation Division office. (A simple majority can be thought of as 50 percent of votes, plus at least one more vote.)
The process begins
For the Local’s Secretary or Secretary-Treasurer, the election process begins with an effort to update the membership roster, ensuring accurate addresses are on file for each member. Our Constitution’s Article 21B, Section 49, requires each member to keep the Local Secretary and Treasurer advised of his or her current home address. At the same time, U.S. Department of Labor regulations and the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA) require the Local to take steps to update addresses in advance of an election.
Even if your Local conducts a floor election, where voting takes place at a physical location rather than by mail, it’s important that your address is up to date. Your Local Secretary (or Secretary-Treasurer, as the case may be) needs to mail a notice to all active members of the local to advise them, at least 15 days in advance of tabulation, that an election is to take place. The notice will indicate when and where voting will take place. (Postcards for this purpose are available for purchase from the Transportation Division’s Supply Department.)
If the Local is conducting its election by mail, the ballot itself must be mailed out at least 15 days in advance of the date of tabulation, as the ballot serves as the notice of the election.
The Secretary must post a notice at least 10 days in advance of the October nomination meeting indicating when and where nominations for affected positions will take place. They need not mail this notice directly to members.
Nominations may be made by any member in good standing from the floor at the nomination meeting. Nominations do not require being seconded. Any member eligible to vote may self-nominate. If a member wishes to self-nominate or nominate someone else, but can’t attend the meeting, nominations can be entered through a petition. A nomination petition must state the name of the nominee, the position for which the member is being nominated, and must carry at least five signatures of members in good standing. No nominations can be accepted following the close of the nomination meeting.
When a nomination meeting cannot be held due to COVID-19-related restrictions, a notice of nominations must still be posted at all locations where the Local’s members report for duty a minimum of ten (10) days prior to the deadline for nominating petitions to be submitted. Instead of including information pertaining to the time and location of a nomination meeting, the notice should set a specific date and time whereby nominations will be closed, and must include the Local Secretary’s pertinent contact information along with instructions for submitting written nominations. In situations where nomination meetings cannot be held, it is permissible for the Secretary to accept nominations submitted in writing, via hand delivery, text, email, and/or USPS mail.
With respect to choosing a deadline for nominations, typically, this would be determined by the members present at a regular or special meeting of the Local. Where it is not feasible to hold such a meeting, the Local President, Secretary, and Treasurer should all agree on a nomination deadline that works best. As noted, the minimum mandatory notice for nominations is ten (10) days. However, given the circumstances, we recommend giving more notice. Most Locals choose a time period that is closer to thirty (30) days in advance.
If only one member is nominated for a position, that member can be declared elected by acclamation.
The scheduled elections held this autumn offer an opportunity to fill other vacancies which may exist. If the vacant position is a Local Committee of Adjustment (LCA) position, only members of that LCA are eligible to make nominations for the position and to vote in that election. In locals having more than one LCA for different crafts, the secretary will provide a separate ballot for all eligible voters of each craft working under the jurisdiction of the committee involved. Any member in good standing with seniority in one of the crafts represented by the LCA may be a candidate for an office in that LCA.
To be eligible to vote, all dues and assessments must be paid within the time frame specified by the constitution. Article 21B, Section 49, indicates dues are to be paid in advance, before the first day of the month in which they are due. Eligibility to make nominations or to be nominated is similar. This means, for example, if the nomination meeting is in October, the nominator and the nominee must have paid all dues obligations prior to October 1. To vote in November, the voter must have paid all dues obligations prior to November 1.
Those in so-called E-49 status are eligible to run for office, but they cannot make nominations and they cannot vote. If elected, acceptance of pay from the company or the union creates a dues obligation.
As previously noted, candidates must garner a simple majority of valid votes cast to win election.
When it comes to handling elections for the Board of Trustees, instructions on the ballot should be included above the candidates’ names telling the voter: “Vote for three candidates.” Each member of the three-member Board of Trustees must be elected by a majority of votes cast, a requirement which frequently results in the need for runoff elections. The rule of thumb in such runoffs is that for each open position, which must be filled, two candidates will compete.
For example, if nine candidates run for a position on the Board of Trustees, and 200 valid ballots have been cast and counted in the first round of the election, each successful candidate must receive at least 101 votes. If no candidate receives at least 101 votes, a runoff must be held.
The runoff would include two candidates for each open position. In the above example, this means the three candidates with the lowest vote totals are dropped from the ballot, and the names of six candidates appear on the runoff ballot. In the runoff, if only one candidate attains a majority of votes that means one of the three positions was filled, and there remain two Trustee positions to fill, with five remaining candidates. Of those five remaining candidates, the candidate with the lowest vote total would be dropped from the ballot, and another ballot would be issued with four candidate’s names (because there are two positions to be filled).”
Members are encouraged to consult Article 21B of the SMART Constitution for information regarding elections. Unless an item within Article 21B directs you to a further stipulation outside of Article 21B, only the provisions found within Article 21B are applicable to Transportation Division elections. The Local election process is addressed directly by Article 21B, Section 57.
Election information and guidelines have been distributed to all Transportation Division Local Presidents and Local Secretaries, as well as to General Chairpersons, State and District Legislative Directors and Transportation Division International Officers.
The following is a brief description of the duties of the various Local officer positions.
The Local President presides at all meetings of the Local, enforces the provisions of the Constitution and bylaws of the Local and exercises general supervision over the Local’s affairs. The President ensures that Local officers respond to inquiries from the International, and with the Secretary and/or Treasurer, files all reports required by federal, state or local laws. The President may speak on any subject before the Local, but may not vote except, in case of a tie vote, casts the deciding ballot.
The Local Vice President succeeds the Local President and fulfills the remainder of the three-year term if the Local President resigns, retires, becomes incapacitated, dies, or for some reason cannot fulfill the requirements of the position. Also, if the Local President cannot attend a Local meeting, the Vice President presides at regular Local meetings.
In most Locals, the offices of Secretary and Treasurer have been combined. The Local Secretary keeps an accurate record of all Local proceedings, receives all communications, conducts correspondence and is in charge of the Local seal and Local records. The Secretary performs the duties of the Local Treasurer in Locals that do not provide for the separation of the offices of Secretary and Treasurer.
The Treasurer receives all monies due to be collected by the Local and provides receipts, except in cases where the Local maintains the office of collector. The treasurer holds and keeps secure all Local funds and is bonded. The Treasurer also keeps an accurate account of all receipts and expenditures of the Local on forms provided for that purpose. The Treasurer shall also remit all monies due the International to the General Secretary-Treasurer each month.
In a few instances, Locals of 50 or more members maintain the office of Collector. The Local Collector receives all money due the Local and provides receipts. Prior to the first day of each month, the Collector reports to the Local Treasurer all the money received during the current month and gives the amount collected to the Local Treasurer.
The Local Board of Trustees supervises the financial affairs of the Local. Upon approval by the Local, the Board has authority to rent, lease, or purchase property, office equipment or other necessary supplies. The Board meets in January of each year for the purpose of auditing the annual report of the Treasurer and verifying bank balances and cash on hand.
There are many provisions not covered by this article, including those that address candidates’ rights and permitted means of campaigning. Those with election questions are urged to call the Transportation Division President’s Department at 216-228-9400. It’s always easier to address issues in advance than after the fact.
Locals not holding their meetings in June may continue to pay authorized expenses via the process outlined by this office in the March 17, 2020, circular. This advised officers and members seeking membership approval of expense submissions to utilize a version of a procedure that was previously available only to Local Chairpersons. For exact details and procedures, please reference the March circular. A copy of the claim form to be used can be obtained via TD Connect or by contacting this office.
Reimbursement for expenses via the five-signature claim form is only to be sought after fulfilling a legitimate duty of office, pursuing a matter as adopted and directed by the membership, or in fulfilling an assignment at the direction of an officer with authority over
the matter in question. It is not for members or officers to unilaterally assign themselves duties or make purchases and then seek a disbursement from the Local or the LCA.
As a reminder, there is no mechanism available for “official” meetings to be held via video conference. Among other concerns, such meetings pose a challenge to the constitutional requirement to keep the union’s business private, and some members might not have the equipment or skills to “attend” such meetings.
Further guidance will be circulated as the situation develops.
CLEVELAND, Ohio (April 21, 2020) – Unfortunately, due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, including the state of Ohio’s orders regarding distancing and banning meetings, we have had to cancel the 2020 SMART Transportation Division Regional Meeting.
Accordingly, please disregard the registration information printed in the February/March SMART Transportation Division News. That particular edition of the News was published prior to the decision to cancel.
For anyone who has already registered, you will be receiving a refund of the registration fees. Those who had registered electronically will have a full refund automatically returned to the card that was used to make their registration. If you paid for the registration by a method other than credit card, you will also receive a refund in the near future.
As a reminder, please note that members are responsible for the cancellation of their personal travel and hotel reservations.
SMART Transportation Division (TD) State Legislative Boards that have not yet conducted their quadrennial reorganization meetings are directed to cancel their meetings and conduct elections by mail ballot.
Taking these steps will assist in meeting the recommendations of the White House and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to stem the transmission of the COVID-19 virus by avoiding unnecessary travel and exposure to gatherings of people.
According to SMART Constitution Article 21B, Section 93, lines 18-22:
“Beginning in 1972 the Chairperson of each State and District Legislative Board shall convene the full Legislative Board not later than May 31st following the completion of the quadrennial elections for Local Legislative Representatives for reorganizational purposes which shall include the election of officers and adoption of bylaws and procedures.”
As a result of the growing adverse impact of the COVID-19 virus, the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Labor Management Standards (OLMS), on March 17, 2020, issued guidance that provides this organization with latitude regarding the deadline for accomplishing the quadrennial reorganization, but still requires making “a good faith effort to conduct officer elections within LMRDA [Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act] timeframes.”
Accordingly, the quadrennial elections of your board should be conducted as soon as possible, and completed before the constitutionally mandated May 31, 2020, deadline.
The DOL has advised that nominations can be taken by email, but elections must be conducted by secret ballot. The elections should be conducted pursuant to the procedures found in SMART Constitution Article 21B, Section 57, which calls for the use of “A” envelopes and the employment of three Tellers to retrieve the ballots from a P.O. box and tabulate the results. A notice soliciting nominations must be distributed to all Legislative Representatives no less than 10 days prior to the deadline for receipt of nominations. Ballots must be mailed at least 15 days prior to the date of tabulation.
Questions should be directed to the office of the Transportation Division President.
In line with White House recommendations that gatherings of more than 10 people be avoided to counter the transmission of the COVID-19 virus, SMART Transportation Division Locals are advised they may cancel monthly meetings in March and April 2020.
During this period only, officers and members seeking membership approval of expense submissions will be able to utilize a relaxed version of a procedure that was previously available only to Local Chairpersons.
In addition, a form is being made available for use by those seeking expense reimbursement. Any officer or member abusing the form and/or submitting fraudulent claims may be subject to removal from office, reprimand, penalties and fines in accordance with the SMART Constitution.
Questions regarding this procedure should be directed to the office of the Transportation Division President.
The generosity of citizens around the country has risen up as people give what they can to help those affected by the disaster to reclaim their lives.
We are asking the SMART-TD family to heed the call and give what you can so that the difficult task of starting over and rebuilding can begin for any members who have been affected by the fury of the storm.
Any donations will help lessen the struggle and bring real hope and relief to SMART-TD members who are suffering after this great loss. SMART-TD will administer donations sent to the SMART TD Disaster Relief Fund.
Contributions may be sent and made payable to:
SMART TD Disaster Relief Fund
24950 Country Club Blvd.
North Olmsted, OH 44070-5333
Please call the Transportation Division office at 216-228-9400 referencing the SMART TD Disaster Relief Fund.
Union Plus also has disaster relief grants of $500 available to help participants in the Union Plus credit card, insurance or mortgage programs who are facing financial hardship due to severe weather. The money does not have to be repaid.
Union Plus mortgage holders may also be eligible to receive payment extensions or other special help.
To qualify for a Union Plus disaster relief grant, the union member must:
Have been a victim of the severe weather in counties designated by FEMA as qualifying for individual assistance.
Have experienced a significant loss of income or property due to the disaster.
Have had a Union Plus credit card, Union Plus insurance policy or Union Plus mortgage for at least 12 months, with the account or policy up to date in payments.
Describe his or her circumstances and document the income or property loss.
To apply for a disaster relief grant, eligible union members should call:
Sometimes it takes something major to happen for people to sit up and take notice. A wake-up call, if you will.
From the standpoint of our national contract negotiations, our union got another wake-up call even before our first session that is scheduled for the last week in February.
On February 11th, a U.S district judge, who was appointed by President Donald Trump last year, ruled against our union in a lawsuit over crew-consist moratoriums. We’re now appealing that decision.
The court ignored the Railway Labor Act strictures with regard to the moratorium provisions which have been upheld for decades. We are being pushed down the tracks where the carriers want this to go.
This fight is not over, and we have another that is about to begin.
There’s a lyric that Anne Feeney wrote that gets at the heart of this matter and that unions have embraced: “United, we bargain. Divided, we beg.”
We now have a coalition of 10 rail unions about to begin negotiating together in this upcoming round of bargaining. I have been in close contact with the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) President Dennis Pierce throughout as carriers have tried to attack two-person crews.
Our two unions are linked in the courts. We’re linked in the halls of Congress. We’re linked in the locomotive cabs. We are now linked at the bargaining table.
Our attorneys are working together on behalf of both our organizations to fight the ongoing court cases as carriers try to manipulate the system with their deep pockets by attempting to get long-standing precedents and legislation overturned.
Legislative representatives from both our organizations are meeting with members of Congress and state legislatures to get the word on for two-person crew laws. The carriers, however, are using every means to fight to try to get two-person crew laws of seven states thrown out, which we have opposed.
Members from both organizations are sitting in cabs of freight trains staying alert and keeping one another safe through each and every shift, ready at a moment’s notice to respond when things go wrong. We need to carry this effort on in crew consist.
BLET President Pierce recently stated in a message to his union:
“I share this information to make it clear to BLET’s membership that our proud Union stands with our Brothers and Sisters in SMART’s Transportation Division in the fight to preserve two-person crews,” Pierce wrote. “Be it on the regulatory front, the legislative front, in court or at the bargaining table, BLET is working with SMART-TD to protect the interests of all operating employees.”
I, as President of the SMART-TD, want to make it clear to our union that we stand united with the BLET.
Any attempt to drive a wedge between our organizations in order to get officers and members alike to disregard the goal at hand — preserving two on the operating crew — plays into the carriers’ hands. It gets them closer to what they want: Fewer workers, more money in their pockets, a less-safe (cheaper) work environment and weakens all of rail labor. Two unions with members and with leadership going in opposite directions would make it easier for carriers to accomplish their goal of eradicating jobs in favor of their idea of “innovation.”
I also agree with President Pierce when he stated:
“The bottom line is this: In order to preserve two-person crews, each Union must protect and preserve its member of those crews. With only a few exceptions, BLET cannot bargain nationally for Conductors. The same is true in reverse; with only a few exceptions, SMART-TD cannot bargain nationally for Engineers,” he wrote. “For these reasons, and regardless of the fearmongering going on, BLET cannot ‘sell’ Conductor positions to benefit Engineers in national negotiations, and the same in true in reverse for SMART-TD. Again, each Union must protect its half of our two-person crews for all operating employees to prevail.”
Brothers and sisters, this is an uneasy time for every member of every labor organization involved in these negotiations as the carriers continue to cut personnel. The operating craft unions have the buzzsaw of technological threats from the carriers aimed straight down the middle of the locomotive cab. Don’t be persuaded by the fearmongering that attempts to divide us.
You are going to hear rumors out there. You are going to hear speculation. You are going to have people beating their chests and criticizing decisions made years ago by prior leaders for putting us in what could be a critical — maybe the most critical — moment in rail labor’s history with the in-cab role of the conductor in the balance. Ignore all of that noise. We are moving forward, not backward!
This is not the time for anyone to give in to anxiety or paranoia or “what-if” scenarios. When all SMART-TD members put our names on the dotted line to pledge for membership to this organization, we pledged to fight for each other in solidarity. When elected president of the Transportation Division last August, I took an oath to act in solidarity for the best interest for the organization and for all whom we represent. When I signed our organization on as a member of the 10-union Coordinated Bargaining Coalition, I pledged to bargain in solidarity with those other rail labor organizations in national talks.
All of us need to be focused on the situation that lies ahead and the decisions to be made for the future of rail labor and the crews who operate freight trains. We need to reinforce our lines of defense and prepare to go on the offense by reaching out to the public and to the media. Instead of wondering “what’s the union doing for us?” it’s time to get to the local union meetings and get involved. It’s time for the spouses to join the SMART-TD Auxiliary and get involved. It’s time to up your SMART-TD PAC contributions, then get with your state and U.S. legislators, so they hear your voice this election year. It’s time to get involved in the SMART Army. It’s time to stand strong!
Brothers and sisters, BLET President Pierce and I are united. We will work in solidarity, together, to keep two on the crew as we bargain. We will work together to keep you informed. We know this issue is too important to our memberships and for the public’s and our safety not to.
President — Transportation Division
Virginia State Legislative Director Ronnie Hobbs reports that H.B. 440, the two-person freight crew bill that has passed the state House, is scheduled for a hearing Monday, February 17, at the state Capitol.
“We’re asking all of our Virginia members and their families to spend the day to get the word out,” Hobbs said. “Now is the time for us to show our state senators the importance of this public safety matter.”
A two-person crew bill is headed to the Virginia House of Delegates’ Commerce and Labor Committee and SMART-TD members in the region are asked to come show their support for the legislation.
H.B. 440 is scheduled for a first hearing in the House Committee Room in the afternoon of Thursday, Jan. 16, in the state Capitol Building, 1000 Bank St., in Richmond, Va. The time that the bill will be discussed is undetermined as the committee meeting begins a half-hour after the adjournment of the House of Delegates’ regular session that day.
The bill has been introduced by Delegate Steve E. Heretick of District 79 and establishes fines for freight carriers who do not operate with two crew members in the cab with exceptions for hostler or yard service.
“We’d never gotten it out of the subcommittee before,” Virginia State Legislative Director Ronnie Hobbs said. “Now it has gone straight to committee.”
A great show of support from union members in the state will help to show the legislators that this legislation matters for the safety of both rail workers and for the public.
“I’d love to fill the room with railroad folks,” Hobbs said.
For more details on how to meet and show support, contact Hobbs at email@example.com.