Archive for the ‘TD Leadership Messages’ Category

SMART-TD announces national bargaining team and dates

NORTH OLMSTED, Ohio — The team negotiating the next National Rail Contract which will affect more than 40,000 SMART Transportation Division members has been finalized by the union’s leadership.

The team will be led by TD President Jeremy Ferguson with the assistance of Vice Presidents Brent Leonard; John J. Whitaker III; Chadrick Adams; Jamie C. Modesitt; Joe M. Lopez and David B. Wier Jr.

Also part of the team are five General Chairpersons, Mike LaPresta (BNSF); Gary Crest (Union Pacific); Roger Crawford (Illinois Central); Thomas Gholson (Norfolk Southern) and Christopher Bartz (yardmasters).

“We are prepared to do whatever it takes to get the most out of this round of national contract talks,” President Ferguson said. “It will be a challenging process and it could be quite contentious at times. However, we on the negotiating team are confident that as we work through the process we can achieve a positive result.”

The opening meeting of negotiations is scheduled for February 26 and 27 in Washington, D.C., with talks occurring in Cleveland, Omaha, Washington, D.C. and Chicago, as the year progresses.

SMART-TD is part of a Coordinated Bargaining Coalition that consists of it and nine other unions representing rail labor. Carriers BNSF, CSX, Kansas City Southern, Canadian National, Norfolk Southern, Soo Line, Union Pacific and numerous smaller railroads are represented by the National Carriers’ Conference Committee (NCCC) during negotiations.

In related news, CSXT will not be part of national bargaining, except for health and welfare issues. For the wages and rules portion, SMART-TD and CSX have agreed to begin bargaining locally on behalf of trainmen starting Jan. 21, 2020.

A joint meeting for the negotiating parties regarding facilitated bargaining is scheduled in Jacksonville, Fla., on January 22 and 23.

Additional meeting dates for these negotiations are currently under discussion, and a tentative schedule will be set in the near future. Neither the SMART-TD nor CSX have exchanged any proposals, and an agenda for the subjects to be discussed during these contract talks, which are separate from the National Rail Contract negotiations, has yet to be finalized.

SMART 2nd Constitution & Ritual Now Available





The SMART Constitution and Ritual was passed by delegates at the 2nd SMART General Convention in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Please click on the image to the left or here to view a copy of the document.

TD legislative representatives take oaths, assume roles

Beginning January 1st, 2020, more than 500 duly elected Legislative Representatives will take their oath of office to serve our great Organization. They have chosen to faithfully serve their membership as SMART-TD officers in the areas of workplace safety, legislation, public representation and retirement issues.

Kenny Edwards

K.O. Edwards is chair of the Association of State Legislative Directors and Indiana State Legislative Director.

Many will be first time LRs with little or no knowledge of what the position entails. That’s perfectly OK. Every experienced and effective LR began with little or no idea as to how he or she should execute the duties of the job. Know this: The LR is a very important position. All active and retired members depend upon his/her LR to serve them.

Nearly every issue an LR discovers or engages has its origins at the local level. As an LR identifies and progresses through finding remedies to local problems, they will find that these issues are not exclusive to just one location. Most issues that an LR must tackle exist across our industry and nationwide. This is why working as a team and becoming a teammate locally and within the SMART-TD hierarchy is vital as we render service to the membership.

How does an LR begin performing the job?

First and foremost: Have a positive mindset. Do not be scared or intimidated. I promise: YOU GOT THIS. There are many successful styles and approaches. Find one that fits you and your skill set. Identify your strengths and weaknesses and make it a point to improve upon both.

It is imperative that an LR contact his or her State Legislative Director as soon as possible after taking office. It is the LR’s responsibility to have a functioning relationship with the State Legislative Director. Conversely, it is the responsibility of every State Legislative Director to have a functioning relationship with every LR in their state. If an LR fails to establish a working relationship with their State Legislative Director, there are two persons at fault.

Newly elected LRs are encouraged to be proactive and find a mentor to help. Experienced LRs coming back to serve another term absolutely need to become a mentor and make it a point to help others. Learning is a two-way street that educates both the student and the teacher.

Patience is a vital part of the job. Learning the basics of the role will not come overnight. It’s no different than learning how to safely and effectively perform our duties out on our work properties — we can’t possibly acquire everything we are going to need to know all at once. It takes time to perfect the basics and build our skill sets out from there. Practice doesn’t make perfect — practice makes permanent. This is why it is so important to learn how to perform the job of LR the right way from the beginning.

Local officers are the backbone of this Organization. There is an expectation for LRs to take their oath, take it with pride and take the responsibilities that come with the position seriously.

Every word is the foundation of the position. Never forget that the LR is an integral part of the SMART-TD. We are our brother’s and sister’s keeper, and I speak for every SMART-TD officer at every level when I say we want every LR to grow and succeed.

Please enjoy every minute of service the next four years!

K.O. Edwards
Chairman — Association of State Legislative Directors and Indiana State Legislative Director

SAFETY: The gift we give our families that should never be compromised

As president of the SMART Transportation Division and on behalf of General President Joseph Sellers, I want to wish every member happy holidays. We are all one family, and this season is a time when we have our loved ones in our thoughts and on our minds. As your president, your well-being, safety and job security are always on my mind, and I take those responsibilities seriously. Please know that I strive daily to make a difference in protecting you both on and off the job.

With the holiday season upon us, we owe it to ourselves and our families to keep the season joyous and free from needless sorrow. Safety is a gift we give our families each and every day, and nothing should be more important.

The twenty-four days between Dec. 22 and Jan. 14 have historically proven to be the deadliest for railroad workers. More fatalities and career-ending injuries occur during this calendar period than any other. Unfortunately, this rang true in 2018, when member Jeffery Hague of Local 495 lost his life on Dec. 30, 2018.

Regrettably, we have had a sixty-six (66%) percent increase in switching fatalities in 2019 compared to 2018. These include members Travis “Bowie” Andrepont of Local 1947, Chris Seidl of Local 1227 and most recently Curtis C. “C.C.” McConihay of Local 1386. All lost during rail switching operations. Sadly, all of our fallen members families will never feel the same joy of this season again.

Making a difference in your safety as a bus operator or a railroader has to start with both you and I, as it will take all of us actively working together in this union to succeed. We are already moving forward with plans to change how we all work together on safety-related issues, including the reporting of unsafe conditions, training, and the prevention of injuries.

However, it is imperative that we hear from members in the field about unsafe conditions, be it bus or rail, so we know where to deploy our own investigators and experts to help.

The SMART-TD website will be going through a series of updates in the near future. We will be updating our successful technology failure report and deploying an online unsafe condition and close-call report along with a few others to get you and our office connected on these issues. This will be explained in more detail in a forthcoming announcement.

As a reminder, I have listed the five life-saving tips that the Switching Operations Fatalities Analysis (SOFA) working group — comprised of representatives from labor, management and the FRA — have promoted in efforts to bring railroaders home safely to their families. With the recent rollout of Precision Scheduled Railroading, and productivity and profits placed directly ahead of employee safety, it is my belief that the focus on these life-saving rules and practices has been lost from a management standpoint. Therefore, I would ask that you take time to review them now and incorporate them into your daily work routine, especially in this most-dangerous season.

SOFA’s five life-saving tips can save yours, as they have saved countless other railroaders from death and career-ending injuries:

  1. Secure all equipment before action is taken.
  2. Protect employees against moving equipment.
  3. Discuss safety at the beginning of a job or when work changes.
  4. Communicate before action is taken.
  5. Mentor less experienced employees to perform service safely.

The SOFA working group also warned of special switching hazards:

  • Close clearances
  • Shoving movements
  • Unsecured cars
  • Free rolling rail cars
  • Exposure to mainline trains
  • Tripping, slipping or falling
  • Unexpected movement of cars
  • Adverse environmental conditions
  • Equipment defects
  • Motor vehicles or loading devices
  • Drugs and alcohol

On behalf of all your international officers, I once again wish you a blessed, safe and happy holiday season.



President, Transportation Division

President Ferguson requests FRA emergency order over air brake valves

SMART Transportation Division President Jeremy Ferguson has requested that the Federal Railroad Administration issue an emergency order to carriers that train car valves prone to leakage during cold temperatures be replaced and/or repaired immediately.

“The FRA and the AAR have known about this issue for too long and have done too little to address it in a timely fashion. The safety of the public and all railroaders should never be compromised for the sake of productivity,” he said. “Our organization will not tolerate such behavior, nor will it go unchecked.”

The DB-60 II control valve manufactured by New York Air Brake is shown in this image from the manufacturer’s website. This model uses the DB-10 as one of its components.

The malfunctioning main air brake control valves on cars prevent trains from going into emergency braking mode during cold weather.

The Association of American Railroads (AAR) has been aware of cold-weather operation issues for New York Air Brake valve model DB-10 since at least October 2013. It sent out a maintenance advisory to all members of an inspection and repair procedure at that time.

In a letter to FRA Administrator Ron Batory sent Dec. 20, President Ferguson expressed his strong disappointment that a known safety issue has not been addressed by the agency or the carriers for more than six years.

“It is unacceptable that the malfunctioning valves remain in service after the better part of a decade without proper oversight and enforcement,” Ferguson wrote. “It is equally unacceptable that the carriers, rather than fix the problem, issue stopgap remedies to solve what we have been informed is a basic issue of preventive maintenance that costs approximately $200 and as little as two hours to repair.

“It is our opinion that your agency has not done enough to ensure that the safety of rail workers and the public is protected by enforcing its own regulations.”

SMART-TD informed FRA of suspected valve failures in a letter that was sent to FRA’s Region 8 in February 2019 by Dakotas State Legislative Director Jim Chase. Former National Legislative Director John Risch followed up with a series of communications on the issue as well.

FRA advised SMART-TD that it is examining the issue and has made recommendations to carriers as to how to rectify the situation.

“I’m not real satisfied with what’s been done here,” Chase said, saying that a pair of FRA rules appear to not have been stringently enforced for six years.

It should be noted that the FRA rule §232.103(i) states:

“(i) All trains shall be equipped with an emergency application feature that produces an irretrievable stop, using a brake rate consistent with prevailing adhesion, train safety, and brake system thermal capacity. An emergency application shall be available at all times, and shall be initiated by an unintentional parting of the train line or loss of train brake communication.”

Also not being enforced, Chase said, is:

§232.105 General requirements for locomotives.
(a) The air brake equipment on a locomotive shall be in safe and suitable condition for service.

(g) When taking charge of a locomotive or locomotive consist, an engineer must know that the brakes are in operative condition.

New York Airbrake valve DB-10 was initially approved for a finite useful life by FRA. At the behest of carriers, who raised concerns about the cost of replacing these valves on thousands to tens of thousands of private cars, the valve’s use has been extended, with a number of the valves in service having components being used beyond their useful period.

Each affected train car has a single valve on it that consists of two chambers, one that supplies air for service brake application for the train and one that supplies air for an emergency brake application. Any failure of this valve could conceivably affect a train’s stopping power while it is in motion.

“There is an expected life span on these valves which is being exceeded, and this has led to valves not going into emergency,” Chase wrote in a memo to members last month, describing the suspected source of the malfunction.

Swapping out of the valves used to be a regular occurrence, according to a representative from the SMART Mechanical Department (SMART-MD).

“They used to change these valves along with all air components every eight years,” said Larry Holbert, a SMART-MD international representative.

Changing the service or emergency portion of the valve involves the removal of three bolts and replacing gaskets, Holbert said. But now, according to reports Holbert’s been getting from the field, this maintenance is done on a catch-as-catch-can basis, rather than as a preventive measure, and a leaky valve is a tricky malfunction to track down, he said. The lubricants used for the pistons in the valves dry up over time, and the gaskets also can become brittle, leading to air escaping.

“One of the main concerns is the valve will fail in the winter months. The car will be brought into the shop and pass an air test as the O-rings and seats have warmed up,” Holbert said.

SMART-TD members, who operate trains in cold-weather states, indicate that weather below 40 degrees F brings increased instances where these valves possibly fail. As a result, trains in an incident where cars have separated may not go into emergency. And, an emergency brake application by the crew during such an incident may fail because of insufficient air pressure.

In one instance, Chase said, a coal train broke in two near Dengate, N.D., and the detached cars rolled backward for miles because the rear of the train did not go into emergency mode. He said another incident in Hettinger, N.D., also involved a train splitting and cars rolling backward for a substantial distance after emergency mode failed.

Chase said he has experienced two occasions just this month in North Dakota where emergency capability has been lost on trains he has operated.

“The public and employees have the right to be safe,” Chase said. “I can think of nothing more important than having emergency capability.”

A local chairperson from the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen recently reported Dec. 9 that a locomotive failed to go into emergency as well.

The malfunctioning valves, when discovered, are trucked out by carriers and taken to be rebuilt by Wabtec, a Pittsburgh, Pa.-based company, at an estimated cost of just over $180, Holbert said. Holbert estimates that if the necessary parts were in hand once a failing valve was identified, a properly equipped shop could service the valves in a half-hour or less with “minimal” time spent for carriers to swap the bad valves out.

“It’s frustrating to see this occurring. They used to do the preventative maintenance,” Holbert said.

To SMART-TD leadership’s knowledge, carriers operating in cold weather have not issued any warnings about potential valve failures. With the coming onset of winter, the potential for failures could become more prevalent.

Chase said that carriers have been reluctant to allow valves to be tested, because of potential delays to their ability to serve customers, given that there are possibly tens of thousands of private cars equipped with the DB-10 valves that could fail.

In-cab personnel are advised:

  • Evidence of the symptom begins with increased brake pipe air flow from the controlling (lead) locomotive after a brake application has been initiated. Increased head-end air flow is caused by leakage from the bottom cover exhaust port of the DB-10 service portion on the brake control valve.
  • When the air is set during an air test, if air is heard leaking out of the bottom of the valve, it is defective. If the person at the controls of the locomotive notes excessive air flow during application of the train brake, pay particular attention to an audible blow of air coming from the vent of any DB-10 service portion that may be in the consist.

A workaround that has been advocated by carriers is not safe, Chase tells SMART-TD members.

“We have been instructed now to draw the train down to zero brake pipe pressure before we separate the train to set out a bad ordered car, thus circumventing the process by which we are able to determine if the train will make an emergency application should we actually need to do so after we leave the terminal,” he said in his alert memo.

“I cannot overstate how dangerous this new procedure is. The ability of the train to go into emergency is paramount.

“We didn’t initially realize the scope of this issue. We need to start documenting emergency brake failure incidents. It’s important that somebody other than the carrier is notified. Please contact your local SMART-TD safety leadership so that we can develop a database to document this issue,” Chase said.

Members should reach out to their state legislative directors, local legislative representative, or to the SMART-TD National Rail Safety Team to report safety concerns surrounding this issue and any others that may come up. These representatives are here to work for you and to help protect you on the job.

Rally Sunday in Iowa in support of Safe Freight Act

Legislative Representative Jordan Boone of Local 445 (Niota, Ill.) reports that National Legislative Director Greg Hynes will be speaking Sunday at a rally in support of the Safe Freight Act (H.R. 1748/S.1979) national two-person crew legislation.

The rally is scheduled to begin at 10:30 a.m. local time at the Keokuk Labor Temple at 301 Blondeau St. in Keokuk, IA 52636. Members from the region are invited to attend to show their support for the legislation.

Representatives of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen also are expected to be in attendance to speak as are politicians including Democratic presidential candidate U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, Iowa. Rep. Jeff Kurtz and Iowa House candidate Emiliano Vera.

Sanders is expected to publicly endorse S.1979 during an event at the Keokuk school complex, 2001 Orleans Ave., Keokuk, 52636, to take place at 12:30 p.m. local time.

H.R. 1748 currently has 133 co-sponsors while the Senate version of the bill has 15.

Members ratify agreement with Louisiana and North West RR

SMART Transportation Division-represented members who work on the Louisiana and North West (LNW) Railroad recently ratified a new contract to run through 2023.

The agreement allows for a 3% raise, effective June 2019; a 3% raise in June 2020; and a 3% raise in June 2021. These will be followed by raises of 2.5% in June 2022 and 2.5% in June 2023.

Employees covered by the agreement also receive a $300 ratification bonus and back pay to be paid by the end of December.

The contract protects the status of certain employees, establishes Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday as a paid holiday starting next year and awards an additional week of vacation to employees who have served the carrier more than 20 years.

TD Vice President Chadrick Adams assisted General Chairperson Jess Kilgore of Local 781 (Shreveport, La.) in negotiating the successful agreement for GCA-LNW.

“This was a challenging process for our union,” Adams said. “But in the end we were able to get a contract that our members found to be to their satisfaction.”

A prior agreement failed in the ratification process earlier this year.

LNW, based in Homer, La., operates 62.6 miles from McNeil, Ark., to Gibsland, La., and is owned by Patriot Rail Corp.

As holidays approach, a note from President Ferguson

Dear Brothers & Sisters:

We are approaching the close of another year, and my thoughts grow stronger about each of you during this forthcoming holiday period.

Your daily lifestyles, both personally and professionally, are demanding and sometimes conflictive. Giving them respect and balance can be a challenge.

In that regard, do not compromise the importance of adequate rest. Exercising sound judgment when it comes to rest will minimize the risk of failure when fulfilling your chosen responsibilities as a transportation worker.

I’ve walked in your shoes and understand the lifestyle of being a professional railroader. Fatigue can lead to a loss of situational awareness, and a loss of situational awareness can often lead to tragedy. The holidays are a dangerous time of year for our industry.

In that regard take care of yourself, be safe and do what is right.

Happy Thanksgiving!




Jeremy R. Ferguson,
President, Transportation Division

Furloughed TD workers: Contact for trade opportunities

With carriers cutting positions and furloughing members, your union wants to alert displaced Transportation Division workers to SMART Union opportunities available through the Sheet Metal side.

If you send an email to, your union can begin a process that can link workers who have the appropriate skills with potential jobs in the building trades. Please include all your contact information along with what level of skills you may have in the construction or fabrication fields. We will then set up phone interviews to evaluate your skill levels and readiness to work as such opportunities arise.

Labor opportunities previously identified in the commercial roofing sector are no longer available, but additional jobs in the future will be publicized as identified.

After an initial email to, is received you’ll be contacted by SMART-TD, and we’ll identify what would be the next steps in the process.

If you are furloughed – YOUR UNION is here to help!

New leadership chosen for Association of General Chairpersons — District 3

General chairpersons comprising the Association of General Chairpersons — District 3, convened Nov. 12 at the TD office in North Olmsted, Ohio.

The Association of General Chairpersons — District 3, consisting of the general chairpersons in the SMART Transportation Division Bus Department, chose new leadership Nov. 12 and discussed initiatives put forth over the summer at the SMART General Convention by the SMART Transit/Bus Committee.

Elected to lead District 3 at the conclusion of the meeting were Chairperson Tonette Nixon-Pray (Local 172, Darby, Pa.); Vice Chairperson Erskins Robinson (Local 1785, Santa Monica, Calif.); and Secretary Tom Pate (Local 1081, Glendale, Ariz.).

New officers of the Association of General Chairpersons — District 3 elected on Nov. 12 are, from left, Secretary Tom Pate, Chairperson Tonette Nixon-Pray and Vice Chairperson Erskins Robinson.

TD President Jeremy Ferguson took questions from the 16 GCs in attendance and laid out some of the initiatives that the union will be focusing on in the coming months under his administration. Among those discussed by President Ferguson were intensified efforts at organizing, the establishment of a Bus Safety Team and improving accessibility to educational offerings.

“We need more boots on the ground,” he said, and changes to the Organizing Department to enhance its power will be made after the first of the year. “We’ll have more organizers out there that can work not only on getting new properties but helping existing properties where they need help.”

Chief of Staff Jerry Gibson said that the TD office will collect as much information as it can of incidences that put members working in bus and transit service to document at risk in the run-up to the establishment of a Bus Safety Team, and that nominations of safety-oriented TD members will be sought to serve on that team.

“If you’re going to talk the talk, then walk the walk. I expect you to be active, and those are the type of people we’re looking for to be involved,” Gibson said.

President Ferguson also pledged increased responsiveness and support to the general chairpersons’ concerns as the organization defends its membership and the SMART Constitution.

“We want to give you every tools — all the support you can get. You have my support, all my vice presidents and the staff,” Ferguson said. “You also have the state and national legislative department. You also have the Legal Department … Reach out. We’re here.”

Some of the support will come in increased educational efforts, he said. In addition to the annual regional meeting that the union puts together, more “mini-regionals” involving multiple locals will provide guidance on how to run local meetings, represent members and maintain local financial records will be held around the country.

“We’re going to start branching out and doing more of that,” Ferguson said.

Legislative directors from the states with bus general committees also attended the meeting in a show of solidarity.

Additional details about steps to be taken by the Bus Department going forward will be discussed by Vice President — Bus Calvin Studivant in a future edition of the Transportation Division News.

Members out in force in Kansas City

From left, Local 1409 Legislative Representative Dan Bonawitz Jr., TD Vice President Brent Leonard, Washington State Legislative Director Herb Krohn, TD President Jeremy Ferguson and Kansas State Legislative Director Ty Dragoo participate in an informational picket on Tuesday, Nov. 5, in Kansas City.

General President Joseph Sellers Jr. and TD President Jeremy Ferguson both participated in a town hall meeting and informational rally in Kansas City on Nov. 4 and 5 to draw attention to Union Pacific’s closure of the Neff Yard that resulted in about 200 lost jobs.

The event received local media coverage and was a success, said Kansas State Legislative Director Ty Dragoo.

“it was a great event,” Dragoo said. “We had over 170 members there. We’re definitely moving forward.”

More coverage of the event will be forthcoming.

TD President Ferguson announces receipt of carriers’ Section 6 notice

To SMART TD members whose carriers are in national handling:

Pursuant to the moratorium provision in the last national agreement, today was the first day the carriers were permitted to serve notice to open the next round of National Bargaining and negotiate a new agreement, and they have accordingly served us this morning.

As TD President, I wanted to let you know that we will be reviewing the carriers’ notice over the weekend. We will be responding to the carriers with our own Section 6 notice early next week. Our notice has been crafted and refined by our District 1 Rail General Chairpersons and the Section 6 committee awaiting the time to serve.

The carriers’ notice is linked for your review. The contents of their notice should not come as a surprise given the recent lawsuit filed regarding our crew-consist moratoriums. As usual, their notice contains unrealistic expectations of the outcome that they hope to achieve.

We will proudly be going into this national round of negotiations in solidarity not only with the BLET once again, but with an unprecedented group that includes the American Train Dispatchers Association, Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen, International Association of Machinists, International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, National Conference of Firemen & Oilers/SEIU, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Transport Workers Union of America, and the Transportation Communications Union. I look forward to standing shoulder to shoulder with BLET National President Dennis Pierce and the leadership of the other unions in our Coordinated Bargaining Coalition as we move ahead in this process.


In solidarity,




Jeremy R. Ferguson
President — Transportation Division