Archive for the ‘TD Leadership Messages’ Category

Editorial: ‘For rail safety’s sake: ECP brake technology a must’ by John Risch, Natl. Legislative Director, SMART TD

By John Risch
National Legislative Director
SMART Transportation Division

Recently, I was the only labor participant in a technology roundtable before the U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure where we discussed emerging technology in the railroad industry.

The focus of my comments was on Electronically Controlled Pneumatic (ECP) Brakes. I have operated trains with ECP brakes and they are the greatest safety advancement I have seen in my 40 years in the railroad industry. They slow and stop trains up to 70 percent faster than conventional brakes and are the safest most advanced train braking system in the world.

The railroad industry, in arguing against the implementation of ECP brakes, has claimed that dynamic brakes and distributive power are better choices. While they are correct that dynamic braking and distributive power are helpful in braking trains, the truth is – these two features are not nearly as effective as an ECP brake system.

Below is my Top 11 list (which is even better than a Top 10 list) on why ECP brakes are better than conventional air brakes:

1. ECP brakes maintain a train’s brake pipe pressure 100 percent of the time, conventional brakes do not. The colder the weather, the thinner the air, the more crucial maintaining brake pressure is.

2. ECP brakes allow for a”graduated release.” That means the engineer can partially release the train’s brakes without having to fully release them. This is vitally important because once a train’s brakes are released it takes time to recharge the train’s brake pipe pressure in order for the brakes to work again. The graduated release feature allows an engineer to maintain the speed of his/her train down steep grades with a partial application of the brakes, without fully releasing and reapplying the train’s brakes repeatedly. The graduated release feature all but eliminates the possibility of a runaway train.

3. When the engineer makes an emergency application of the brakes, every car with ECP brakes applies 100 percent of the time. This is not always true with conventional brakes.

4. ECP brakes would have prevented the terrible Lac-Megantic oil train tragedy that killed 47 people and destroyed the town, a factor cited in Transport Canada’s report on the accident. These brakes would have prevented the accident, because when air pressure on a car equipped with ECP brakes drops below 50 psi, the car automatically goes into emergency mode. So even an improperly secured train will not roll away.

5. ECP brakes allow the crew to monitor every car in the train in real time to determine if the brakes are applied or released. Conventional brakes do not.

6. ECP brakes record retrievable data associated with brake failures. There is no such review for conventional brakes. Trains are inspected every 1,000-1,800 miles and if the brakes are working during the inspection they continue on. If a car has brakes that fail to apply during that inspection, the car is taken to a repair facility. Often that facility is a heated shop where the car warms up, the brakes are tested and if they work at that point, the car is not repaired, rather, the car is placed back in the train.

7. ECP brakes all but eliminate in-train forces because all the cars apply and release at once. Conventional brakes cause lots of in-train forces, some of which damage merchandise and even cause derailments.

8. ECP brakes cause all cars to brake evenly, which dramatically reduces damage to wheels and brake shoes, saving a great deal of money in maintenance and repair. Conventional brakes do not. The modest cost of installing ECP brakes, about $3,000 per car on a new DOT 117 tank car that costs $144,000 to build, and about $60,000 per locomotive, will be more than paid for in the savings in car repairs, let alone reduced train derailments.

9. ECP brakes can be modified to apply hand brakes to a railcar automatically from the locomotive, allowing the crew to apply a hand brake on every car in the train in seconds. Conventional brakes must be applied by hand and it can take an hour or more to properly secure a train.

10. ECP brakes are required by the AAR for the movement of nuclear waste trains because they are the safest braking system available.

11. ECP brakes can be modified and will evolve to do everything that sophisticated wayside train detectors do now, and will do it constantly in real time, eventually eliminating the need for wayside detectors.

So, for the safety of rail workers, passengers and the residents in the cities and towns that trains run through, it is vital ECP brakes be phased-in in the freight rail industry.

Negotiations update on the National Rail Contract


Dear members,

On December 5, 2016, SMART Transportation Division issued a press release to announce that the unions participating in the Coordinated Bargaining Group (CBG) had requested that the National Mediation Board (NMB) mediate the group’s negotiations with the National Carriers Conference Committee (NCCC).

The decision to move the process forward with a request for mediation was made after our last negotiating session with the NCCC, when it became apparent that the prospect of reaching a voluntary agreement had grown significantly less likely, due in large part to the outcome of November’s elections. During negotiations, the organizations submitted a proposal that would provide the framework of an improved wage, work rule and benefit package that we believe our members have earned.

The carriers responded with an offer that was significantly less in every regard. Your negotiating team found the carriers’ demands for certain work rule changes unacceptable. In our opinion, these changes would compromise safety by creating a negative impact on rest and predictability. In addition, the carrier proposed unsatisfactory wage increases and dramatic cuts to our health care benefits, both of which were also unacceptable.

We have negotiated in good faith because we believe a voluntary agreement is in the best interests of our members and will continue to do so while in mediation. However, we stand firm in our conviction that our members deserve a better outcome than the carrier’s proposal and we will exhaust every avenue available to achieve a contract settlement with equitable compensation and benefit improvements that reflect the employees’ contributions to the carriers’ success. Additionally, we will not accept or propose a contract that adds to the already intolerable levels of unpredictability and rest deprivation that our members currently endure.

What’s next? The parties will engage in mediation as part of the dispute resolution process required by the Railway Labor Act. If a voluntary agreement is not reached in mediation, the process provides for a proffer of arbitration by the NMB, which, if refused by either participant, will then release the parties to engage in self-help (strike/lockout).

Moving through the Railway Labor Act to a strike is a long and arduous process, and requires that the parties exhaust every opportunity for settlement before a work stoppage disrupts the nation’s transportation system. However, the right to strike is a part of the process and the only person who can take away your right to strike is the President of the United States, who may intervene and appoint a Presidential Emergency Board.

In the event that we reach that point, I will be calling on all of our members to reach out to the White House and request that our newly elected President not interfere with our right to exercise self-help in our quest for a fair and equitable contract settlement.

To better explain the process that governs from this point forward, click on to read an abridged version of a more detailed explanation of the Railway Labor Act.


John Previsich
President, Transportation Division


CLEVELAND, Jan. 20—The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) and the Transportation Division of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Rail Air and Transportation Workers (SMART TD) are urging their respective memberships to contact members of the House of Representatives about co-sponsoring The Safe Freight Act of 2017 (H.R. 233), a bill that would mandate two-person train crews on freight trains—one certified locomotive engineer and one certified conductor.

Introduced by Congressman Don Young (R-Alaska) Jan. 3, 2017, The Safe Freight Act states in part: “Effective 30 days after the date of enactment of the Safe Freight Act of 2017, no freight train or light engine used in connection with the movement of freight may be operated unless it has a crew consisting of at least 2 individuals, one of whom is certified under regulations promulgated by the Federal Railroad Administration as a locomotive engineer pursuant to section 20135, and the other of whom is certified under regulations promulgated by the Federal Railroad Administration as a conductor pursuant to section 20163.”

The current two-person crew bill mirrors legislation that was introduced in the 114th Congress, which garnered 69 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives.

Now is the time to speak up and voice your support for two-person train crews! All active and retired members of the BLET and SMART TD, as well as their Auxiliary Representatives, should contact their House Representatives and ask them to Co-Sponsor H.R. 233, the Safe Freight Act of 2017.

SMART TD and BLET members: Please visit the SMART TD Legislative Action Center (LAC) where you can easily find and contact your representative and urge him or her to support H.R. 233. Click here to visit the LAC and let your voice be heard!

Members can also call the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121, and ask to speak with the House of Representative member from your Congressional District. Contact information can also be found online at:

Earlier this month, the BLET secured a significant victory for rail workers from the highest court in the United States to protect two-person train crews. On January 9, the United States Supreme Court denied a petition filed by the Wheeling and Lake Erie Railway asking that the nation’s highest court review and set aside the 2015 finding by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals that the railroad’s use of managers in place of union conductors was a major dispute under the Railway Labor Act.

The issue of two-person train crews has been in the national spotlight since the July 6, 2013, derailment of a Montreal, Maine & Atlantic (MM&A) oil train in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, which killed 47 people and destroyed the center of the town. The MM&A train was crewed by a single person. Since that time, there has also been movement by major freight railroads to seek collective bargaining agreements to allow for widespread use of one-person train operations. SMART TD and BLET have lobbied to protect two-person crews as being paramount to safety.

“The nationwide fight over operating crew size is far from over, and we are urging all BLET and SMART TD Brothers and Sisters to contact their member of Congress on this extremely important issue,” BLET National President Dennis R. Pierce said. “In spite of what the railroads might say, technology has not advanced to the point that it can replace the eyes and ears of railroad professionals. Please do your part as the job you save may be your own.”

“We will continue our tireless and years-long work of supporting a minimum of two crew members on all trains. An overwhelming majority of Americans from both political parties support this measure: the American people have spoken and are in favor of this bill. It is past time for our government to get on track, do the right thing and support H.R. 233. This measure is a matter of domestic safety and security for railroad workers, passengers, our cities, towns and our entire nation,” said SMART TD President John Previsich.

President Pierce and President Previsich both thanked Congressman Young for introducing the bill.

A full copy of H.R. 233 can be viewed at:


# # #

The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen represents nearly 57,000 professional locomotive engineers and trainmen throughout the United States. The BLET is the founding member of the Rail Conference, International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

The SMART Transportation Division (SMART TD) is headquartered in the Cleveland suburb of North Olmsted, Ohio. It is a broad-based, transportation labor union representing more than 125,000 active and retired railroad, bus, mass transit and airline workers in the United States. It is a division of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers based in Washington, D.C.

SMART TD announces introduction of two-person train crew legislation

Rep. Young

Washington, D.C. (Jan. 17, 2017) – SMART Transportation Division announced the re-introduction of the Safe Freight Act (H.R. 233) by Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) and former Chairman of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, which would require two crew members — one certified locomotive engineer and one certified conductor — on all freight trains.

H.R. 233  would require that “no freight train or light engine used in connection with the movement of freight may be operated unless it has a crew consisting of at least two individuals, one of whom is certified under regulations promulgated by the Federal Railroad Administration as a locomotive engineer pursuant to section 20135, and the other of whom is certified under regulations promulgated by the Federal Railroad Administration as a conductor pursuant to section 20163.” The newly-introduced legislation mirrors H.R. 1763, which received 69 bipartisan co-sponsors last year prior to conclusion of the 114th Congress. A copy of H.R. 1763 can be found here.

“SMART Transportation Division has been working tirelessly to promote safety in the railroad industry. There is no doubt that the safest rail operation is a two-person crew operation. After several major train derailments, we must send a clear message to our lawmakers and the general public that multi-person crews are essential to ensuring the safest rail operations possible in their communities. I would like to thank Congressman Young for his leadership on this critical issue as we continue improve safety on our nation’s railroads for both our members and the general public,” said SMART Transportation Division President John Previsich.

Last year, SMART Transportation Division repeatedly urged the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to finalize a rule requiring two-person minimum crews on trains. On June 15, 2016, SMART TD submitted comments in response to the FRA initial proposed rule. On August 5, 2016, SMART TD submitted additional comments expressing concerns about potential loopholes that would allow the operation of certain trains with fewer than two people.

Last July, SMART TD National Legislative Director John Risch testified before the FRA outlining the justification for a minimum two-person crew requirement. A copy of his testimony can be found here.

Visit our Legislative Action Center and ask your representatives to support H.R. 233.

Human Rights Committee update


In an effort to improve efficiencies and provide enhanced, more cost effective service to our members, the SMART Transportation Division has recently conducted a review of its internal operations. One of the areas identified for restructuring is the process for providing assignments to the SMART TD Human Rights Committee (HRC).

As a result, effective January 1, 2017, the point of contact for the Human Rights Committee will be Tracey Neighbors in the SMART TD legal department in Cleveland. Tracey will intake the initial inquiries, and after consultation with the HRC and legal counsel, will assign the assistance deemed appropriate to the request. This change is intended to provide a more uniform method of intake and handling while preserving the excellent service and professionalism provided by our HRC representatives.

SMART TD established the Human Rights Committee in February, 2000, as part of a broad-based effort to educate SMART TD Members and employers, to promote diversity within our union, and ensure that every voice is heard and respected. Our union shares the same dream as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. – that men and women should not be judged by race, religion, gender, age or sexual preference – and only by the content of their character.

To contact Tracey Neighbors, please email:

Rail labor seeks federal mediation in national negotiations

On December 5, 2016, Rail Labor’s Coordinated Bargaining Group (CBG) released the following statement, requesting that a federal mediator assist in negotiations:

“Despite our best efforts, collective bargaining with the major U.S. Class 1 railroads completely stalled late last week. Therefore, pursuant to the terms and conditions of the Railway Labor Act, we have today applied to the National Mediation Board (NMB) for the assignment of a federal mediator to assist in our negotiations.” Read the complete press release here.

Know the facts before you vote

By John Previsich, President, SMART Transportation Division

SMART TD President John Previsich

John Previsich, President, SMART Transportation Division

It is said that two things to never discuss at a family gathering are religion and politics and for the most part that is very good advice. But I’m going to break that rule here–I view my brothers and sisters in the labor movement as family, but I cannot stay silent while the consequences of the upcoming national elections may have such a severe impact on the working men and women of this country.

Let’s look first at our industry – those of us who work in the transportation field are very much affected by decisions made in Washington, D.C. by a number of Federal agencies. Without exception, the people who lead these agencies and have final say over such decisions are appointed by the President of the United States.

For example, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) are entities that have a direct impact on all of us, every day that we go to work. These agencies make the rules that govern our licenses and certifications. They enact the rules and regulations that govern our safety and well-being while working on the job.

Our members in the air and rail industry negotiate their collective bargaining agreements and enforce their contractual rights under the auspices of the National Mediation Board (NMB), while such activities for our bus members are governed by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

The Surface Transportation Board (STB) has jurisdiction over rail mergers and abandonments. This is the board that decides not only when mergers can happen, but also which line consolidations and which abandonments will occur–and whether labor protection will be imposed as a requirement of the transaction. And 13c labor protective conditions are a requirement of Federal law when Federal funds are used to enhance bus or rail operations.

Retirement, occupational disability, unemployment compensation and sickness benefits for rail workers are governed by the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB). If you’re a railroad worker and you get sick, you receive Railroad Retirement sickness benefits. If you get furloughed, you receive Railroad Retirement furlough benefits. When you are old enough to retire and enjoy the hard-fought and hard-earned retirement that you’re due, that’s through the RRB.

If you are a rail worker injured while working, the Federal Employers’ Liability Act governs the recovery of lost wages and pain and suffering for you and your family.

If you are a rail worker with 20 years of service and are disabled from working in your regular occupation, the RRB will grant you an occupational disability with full retirement benefits. This occupational disability benefit is something unique to the railroad industry. It exists nowhere else and there are people in Congress today, each and every session, that try to take those benefits away from us – including the Republican candidate for Vice President, Mike Pence.

It’s a fact – Mike Pence, governor of Indiana and former Congressman (R-Ind.), voted against labor’s interests 95 percent of the time while in congress. He voted in 2001 against the railroad retirement revisions that gave us full retirement at age 60 with 30 years of service. During his tenure from 2001 to 2013, there was not a single person in congress with a worse labor record than Pence. The Republican nominee for President has stated that he wants to freeze and roll back regulations, including ones that may affect our safety. Mike Pence has a well-documented history of trying to do just that.

It’s a fact – The Republican nominee for President is Donald Trump, a man without any experience in elective office. Some believe that may not be a bad thing, but it forces us to look at the actual record of Trump’s statements and accomplishments to ascertain his fitness for the highest office in the land.

First, let’s look at Trump’s position on coal, an issue that’s very important to our members. Anyone who watched the Republican convention may have noticed the signs in the audience, “Trump digs coal.” But a review of the facts shows that Trump has no credible plan to return the coal business to profitability, a requirement for increased production. The downturn in coal comes from a number of factors connected to global economics and cheaper alternative fuels such as natural gas. While Trump makes empty promises, Democratic Nominee Hillary Clinton is actually meeting with workers and labor leaders in the coal industry to develop strategies to support and assist the impacted workers.

It’s a fact – Now, what about Mr. Trump’s promise to bring manufacturing back to America? Another simple statement without any credible plan for actually accomplishing that objective, so once again we are compelled to look at the record. Here we find that Mr. Trump says that he will bring the jobs back but in the next breath he declared that the reason we’re not competitive in the global market is because America’s wages are too high. And the record also shows that every product with Trump’s name on it is currently manufactured in a low wage foreign country.

It’s a fact – Trump supports a national right-to-work rule. We all know what that means. Workers can freeload. They can have a union represent them, and they don’t have to contribute a nickel. They don’t have to support the union, they don’t have to support the effort, they don’t have to support the cause. They can even work against the union and their fellow workers and still get the benefit of your leadership and your activities in the day-to-day ensuring of agreement compliance and a safe workplace.

In an interview with the Washington Examiner, Trump said he favors states with right-to-work laws because, “it is better for the people to not have to pay union dues if they don’t want to…It gives great flexibility to the companies.”

It’s national right-to-work for less, and nothing more than a Republican-led tactic to take away worker’s rights and bust the unions, because that is exactly what will happen. Unions will weaken, and fade away—the exact intent and design behind right-to-work laws that, if implemented, will result in reduced wages for all workers.

It’s a fact – Trump’s companies have been investigated numerous times by the National Labor Relations Board for unfair labor practices. His companies have been sued by government agencies and his own employees after refusing to pay overtime and benefits rightfully due the employees. He has bankrupted companies to avoid paying contractors who in turn could not afford to pay their employees. He takes pride in not living up to the contracts he signs and has even suggested that is a good tactic for use when he is elected President.

It’s a fact – Presidential appointments impact union workers.
Earlier in this column we discussed the importance of federal agencies to workers in the transportation industry. One need only review the recent history of this labor union and Presidential Emergency Boards to see an example of how Presidential appointees directly impact our members.

On both Long Island Railroad and New Jersey Transit, management came into the most recent rounds of negotiations firm in their positions that there would be zero percent wage increase over many years while imposing draconian changes to health benefits that would force our members to pay more and receive less. Your union refused to entertain such offers and after negotiation and mediation the carriers still refused to budge from their opening positions. The National Mediation Board released the parties, and President Obama appointed a Presidential Emergency Board for each railroad. Those two Boards ruled overwhelmingly in favor of the employees. Both railroads requested a second PEB, with new members appointed by the President. The two new Boards again ruled in favor of the employees and as a result our members are currently enjoying new contracts with industry-standard wage increases and health care benefits.

We are currently in negotiations on a national rail contract with the freight carriers and a system-wide contract with Amtrak, where the carriers have taken a similar position–insignificant wage increases coupled with draconian cuts to our health care benefits. Who would you rather see appoint the next Presidential Emergency Board to decide these contracts–a Democratic President who supports labor or a Republican President who has stated for the record that he believes American workers are overpaid, supports right to work for less and refuses to pay his own employees the compensation to which they are entitled?

This election: A critical moment in history

This Presidential election is a watershed moment in the labor movement and in the history of our country. Make no mistake – the anti-labor Republican agenda is intended to reduce workers’ pay and benefits while improving the “flexibility” of the companies for whom we work. The so-called “flexibility” that Trump admires is just a euphemism for the reduction if not outright elimination of worker’s rights. While “Make America Great Again” means different things to different people, it is clear that Trump’s version is not good for our members.

The facts matter – and we’re going to do everything we can to educate our members, and we want your help. We want you to communicate these facts to your union brothers and sisters, your friends, family, neighbors and acquaintances. Let them know that this is a big deal. Let them know that Trump and Pence will work to take away from our families the hard-fought benefits, protections and securities that our predecessors worked so hard to secure.

Let’s work together to protect our jobs and our families.

Back to basics

By John Lesniewski, Vice President, SMART Transportation Division

j e lesniewski_for web

John Lesniewski

In the July/August edition of the SMART Transportation Division News, both SMART General President Joseph Sellers and SMART Transportation Division President John Previsich wrote extensively about the importance of this election cycle. General President Sellers detailed why Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton was the obvious choice for any working man or woman, while illustrating why Republican candidate Donald Trump is not our friend, as his legacy is one of divisiveness, reneging on contractual commitments, bankruptcies that leave workers holding the bag, and producing his own brand-name products overseas.

President Previsich’s column elaborated on the importance of a Democratic president, pointing out that the numerous federal agency appointments made by the president directly affects your employment and working conditions on a daily basis. His article also illustrated numerous facts regarding the candidates and their agendas, leaving no doubt that we desperately need to elect a United States president who is labor-friendly. That candidate is Hillary Clinton.

While I certainly concur and echo the sentiments raised by both President Sellers and President Previsich from an employment standpoint, my concerns with the 2016 presidential election are much more elemental. I, too, am convinced that former Senator and Secretary of State Clinton is by far the most experienced and qualified candidate, a fact which seems to have been lost in the Trump smokescreen of outrageous comments and allegations, but the most compelling reason I support Secretary Clinton is my fear of Donald Trump’s narcissism, thin skin and toxic personality.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I have been a Democrat my entire life, although I have voted otherwise when circumstances truly warranted it. I am praying now that my Republican friends, Independents and disenfranchised Democrats recognize the current presidential election as just one of those unique circumstances. My trepidation over Donald Trump goes far beyond his narcissism or his penchant to insult every group, race and religion that doesn’t look like him or share his beliefs. It goes to the ease with which he can be manipulated through compliments and to his irresistible impulse to retaliate with full force against anyone who disagrees with him, threatens his authority or disparages him in any manner. While I have not shared common political views with past Republican presidential candidates and presidents, I have never feared their impulsive temperament and lack of sound judgment would put my country, my loved ones and my friends in harm’s way. I have that fear now.

You see, I was a living witness to the terror of the Cuban Missile Crisis. I remember the terror that gripped the nation during that time and I never want to see that again. Although I was a child, and my parents did their best to shield me from the looming possibility of a nuclear holocaust, they couldn’t fully conceal the distressed look on their faces or the anxiety that permeated the air during those horrible 13 days in October of 1962. They couldn’t hide the 13 days we were glued to our black and white televisions watching for updates; or the ID bracelets parents placed on their children so they or their bodies could be identified if the worst occurred; or the emergency drills we practiced in school. They also could not conceal their relief when President Kennedy defused that crisis.

What does this have to do with the 2016 presidential race? Only that the Cuban Missile Crisis, along with President Kennedy’s assassination just 13 months later, prompted me to become a student of presidential history. Among the books I read on the subject was Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr.’s “A Thousand Days: John F. Kennedy in the White House,” where I was awestruck by the realm of knowledge a president must possess about every conceivable issue and contingency, and just as important, understanding the personalities and temperaments of leaders from nations around the world, both small and large. Every decision made by our president affects each nation’s leader in a different way, and their potential reaction must be considered before any and all foreign policy decisions are rendered. No decision can be made on impulse or out of emotional distress.

I thank God that during those precarious days in October 1962 President Kennedy took full measure of the consequences of his actions before ordering a full scale invasion, despite the fact he was being encouraged by many in the military to engage immediately. Had the president overreacted, and he was given ample cause to do so, the results would have been catastrophic. Post-crises revelations verified that the Russians in Cuba already had tactical nuclear warheads for their artillery rockets and bombers, and Castro was prepared to recommend their use if the U.S. invaded, regardless of the devastation it may have caused his own country.

Donald Trump has demonstrated time and time again throughout this campaign that he would not have exercised the same self-control as President Kennedy did in 1962. He lashes out immediately in response to every threat, real or perceived, and tries to justify his reaction later through subordinates. Recently he threatened, “I’ll blow them out of the water” if Iranian boats circled our destroyers and made inappropriate gestures. Really? Does the U.S. really want to trigger a war costing thousands of U.S. lives over inappropriate gestures? Apparently a President Trump would. It’s sincerely scary.

Also, forget about your guns. There have been several Democratic presidents and not one has taken away your hunting rifles. Forget about abortion, Roe vs. Wade has been here since 1973 and is not likely to change during this president’s term, nor is the president likely to change anyone’s feelings on the subject. When you strip away all of the peripheral political pundit buzz, the bottom line is Donald Trump is unstable, dangerous, and clearly governed by his own ego. If there’s even a slight chance that his irrational and impulsive decisions can trigger an unnecessary war or, God forbid, a nuclear conflict, are you willing to take that chance? Are you willing to bet your life on it? Or the life of your loved ones? You need to be, because a vote for Trump is tantamount to placing just such a bet.

Let us not forsake the most qualified and experienced candidate for president in our lifetime, in favor of the least qualified candidate who has never held so much as a city council seat. Even if you bought into the recent Republican rhetoric about emails or audiences granted to donors from the Clinton Foundation, I would much rather have a president who had been careless with emails in the past, but has our back, than a president who is so unstable he could put our country and its citizens in harms way.

Also, don’t forget that a vote for a third party candidate is a wasted vote, and equivalent to a one-half vote for Trump. There can be no doubt that Hillary Clinton is the only logical choice for president.


John Lesniewski
Vice President
SMART Transportation Division

Candidate Pence: Anti-union, anti-worker, anti-American

Watching the Vice Presidential candidate’s debate tonight? Keep in mind that VP candidate Mike Pence built his legacy on supporting initiatives that sent jobs overseas, weakened unions, halted worker safety regulations, threatened retirements, and supported tax codes that burden the middle class, while providing windfalls and loopholes for his millionaire corporate cronies. Pence caters to corporate monsters, not middle class, hard-working Americans. Whose backs does he have?  Not ours. Read this article by Ed Wytkind, president of Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

Vote for those who support us

Sisters and Brothers,

My most recent post generated some lively feedback and I spent quite a bit of time speaking to members on the phone and answering all the emails I received about our endorsement Of Hillary Clinton for president. To be clear, my role and our union’s role is to protect you and your job, which is what we do. Our constitution requires that our leadership evaluate candidates and make endorsements of those that we believe will best support our jobs and safety in our industry and that’s what we do. Our union’s only reason for existence is to fight for our members, and that’s what we do. We are your union and we do the best we can on issues that are directly related to you job.

Click here to read a good piece by John Nichols on what the Republican platform says about workers and unions. I attended the Republican convention and spoke to moderate Republicans who tried in vain to remove this anti-worker garbage from the Republican platform. We are up against forces that want to deunionize America so that they can drive down wages and eliminate defined benefit pension plans. We are fighting every day to try to make sure that doesn’t happen.

In solidarity,

John Risch
National Legislative Director
SMART Transportation

The outcome of this election will affect your job

By John Risch, SMART TD National Legislative Director

RischFor those of you who don’t know me, I’m honored to serve as your elected National Legislative Director. I came from the ranks, starting in the track department on the Burlington Northern and went into train service, spending more than 30 years in freight and passenger service in North Dakota.

My father was a truck driver and my mother was a stay-at-home parent who raised three children and a cousin of mine. We grew up poor, which gave me a real appreciation for the pay and benefits that a good union job provided. My 30-plus years working on the railroad has given me a real perspective of the issues we face, and drives me to protect what we already have and work to make our jobs better.

The outcome of the Presidential Election will determine whether we make progress on improving our jobs or whether we lose ground.

The next president of the United States will set the tone, and will make important appointments to positions that directly affect you.

The head of the Federal Railroad Administration will decide:

  • Whether the two-person crew regulation is finalized or discarded
  • Whether we enact regulations requiring uniform speed signs on railroads
  • Whether there will be limitations on the use of inward facing cameras
  • What to do about fatigue in the freight rail industry

Appointees to the National Mediation Board will intervene in our contract negotiations and influence things like wages and work rules. They will also appoint arbitrators who decide if an unjustly fired member returns to work with or without back pay.

The head of the Motor Carrier Administration will decide how, or if, we will deal with the terrible problem of driver assault.

The next Chairman of the Railroad Retirement Board will determine not only how our pension is administered, but how our unemployment, sickness and disability benefits are administered as well.

I’m very concerned about Donald Trump, should he be elected as our next President. He has repeatedly said he will discard regulations and get rid of government bureaucracy. These are good sound bites and none of us want more government rules than are necessary, but when you look at the pending regulations affecting us, like two-person crews, fatigue and locomotive cameras, this rhetoric takes on a different meaning.

I have a note on my desk that says: “My most important job is to make sure that bad things don’t happen to our members.” I’m charged with the responsibility of protecting and improving the jobs of our members – an assignment I don’t take lightly. That job may be nearly impossible under a Trump administration.

Here is a book review of a recent book by Pulitzer Prize winning journalist David Cay Johnston. The book explains many of Donald Trump’s human failings. I know the hardcore Trump supporters in our ranks have by and large ignored these failings, but I cannot. I care about our hardworking members and our country, and quite simply put, Donald Trump is unqualified to serve as President of the United States.

If he is elected I’m afraid that he will appoint people to government that are equally unqualified, causing significant damage to the progress we have already made.

While I pledge to do the best I can to improve things for our members, I can’t do it on my own. I need your help at the ballot box. We’ve endorsed Hillary Clinton, she will support our union, our issues and the progress that unions have made. This is serious stuff and we all need to do our part in making our jobs better not just for us, but for those who follow. And that work starts with this election.

Anyone who wants to call and talk about this can call me at 202-543-7714. I work for you: What every one of you has to say matters to me.


Members make all the difference!

Dear  Member:

Recently, Republican Congressman Louie Gohmert of Texas – one of the most conservative members of the U.S. House of Representatives – cosponsored our two-person crew legislation, H.R. 1763, the Safe Freight Act. This show of support follows cosponsorship from Congressman Trent Franks of Arizona, a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus. Both are considered among the most conservative members of Congress.

Why did Rep. Gohmert sign onto the bill? The simple answer is that one of our members asked him to. General Chairperson Steve Simpson’s office is located near Rep. Gohmert’s, and Steve decided to set up a meeting to engage the Congressman on our issues, including the need for two-person crews on all trains. Steve didn’t shy away because Rep. Gohmert is a conservative Republican; no, Steve’s attitude was that “this is my Congressman, and I will request a meeting.” They talked for more than an hour and Steve convinced this very conservative Republican that the only safe way to operate a train is with a crew of at least two people.

Arizona State Legislative Director Scott Jones lives in Congressman Franks’ district and decided to set up a meeting with his Congressman. Scott brought along a retired engineer who attends the same church as Congressman Franks and whose children attend bible study taught by the Congressman. Hearing from a trusted friend proved extremely effective as Congressman Franks came out of the meeting understanding the importance of two-person crews and became a cosponsor of H.R. 1763.

Last year, one of our bus members, Socorro Cisneros-Hernandez, had an upcoming meeting with Republican Congressman Paul Cook of California and contacted our office looking for talking points on our legislative priorities. Ms. Cisneros used the information we provided and had a very productive meeting with Congressman Cook, after which he agreed to cosponsor the Safe Freight Act.

Most recently, Greg Hynes and I met with another conservative Republican, Ryan Zinke of Montana. After a robust discussion about the two-person crew legislation, Congressman Zinke agreed to sign on as a cosponsor.

The lesson from all of these cases is that every member of Congress, regardless of party or ideology, should be viewed as a potential cosponsor of H.R. 1763. Our Washington team will continue to do our part, but when it comes to issues that some members of Congress may not be naturally inclined to support, our members – their constituents – are the ones who can make the most effective case.

To do your part, work with your state legislative director to set up a meeting with your Representative to ask that they cosponsor H.R. 1763. We can provide you with handouts and other materials to help. Our recent comments on the FRA’s crew size rule are a good source of information on this issue. If you do not know who your state legislative director is, a list can be found here.

If we are going to succeed in passing this bill, we need to be engaged at the local level. Special thanks to Brothers Steve Simpson, Scott Jones and Sister Socorro Cisneros-Hernandez for stepping up to the plate and taking the initiative in getting these new cosponsors.

Lastly, please visit the Legislative Action Center to contact your Representative about the Safe Freight Act and ask your coworkers to do the same.

In Solidarity,

John Risch
National Legislative Director
SMART Transportation Division