Archive for the ‘TD Leadership Messages’ Category

Arbitrator finds that Section 6 bargaining regarding crew consist can begin

On July 28, 2021, a Neutral appointed by the National Mediation Board issued his ruling finding that on certain railroad properties, the current moratoria in those crew consist agreements do not prohibit the railroads from serving a Section 6 Notice regarding crew size. The properties affected or having no current moratorium include certain properties at BNSF, UP, NS and CN Railroads. Other properties not currently affected or involved may also be included in the future as moratoriums naturally expire. Please contact your local chairperson or general chairperson for specific details regarding your terminal or district.

The ruling comes after a nearly two-year battle between SMART-TD and the National Railway Labor Conference over the moratoria provisions and their effect. The arbitration was one of the largest conducted by SMART-TD and its predecessor union, UTU, in decades.

The ruling does not eliminate any current crew consist provision or requirement. The only thing it does is to open the door for bargaining to occur. The moratoria that previously prevented any mandatory bargaining on crew consist were predicated on the last remaining employees having hired on the railroad previous to the 1980’s. Today, less than 100 of these employees remain nationwide, and most are at, or near retirement age. 

Once a Section 6 is served, the Railway Labor Act requires both parties to engage in mandatory bargaining. The Act, however, does not mandate any particular outcome in such negotiations, it merely provides a process. In the event parties reach an impasse, the Act contains methods to avoid disruption to commerce through mandatory mediation and possibly intervention from the President of the United States and the U.S. Congress.

SMART-TD remains committed to protecting the jobs of today, as well as securing the jobs of the future. While only some General Committees will be involved in bargaining, the full support and effort of the International in assisting those Committees will continue.

National Contract Negotiations Ongoing

2017 Agreement Remains in Effect

IIn recent months, some have asked, “Why am I working without a contract?” The simple answer is: “You are not working without a contract.” Under the Railway Labor Act (RLA), a contract never expires, it is only amended or changed. This means all working rules, conditions and pay rates must remain in place (status quo) until such time rail labor ratifies a new, or should I say, an amended agreement.

Sometimes this can be a long process under the Act — if you still have your copy of the January/February TD News (it’s also available as a PDF on our website), there were two pages devoted to explaining the ins-and-outs of the national negotiation process. It is not uncommon for the negotiations to take time, and it should come as no surprise that the carriers are not beating down our doors to ensure you get a well-deserved pay raise as soon as possible.

Some have also asked, why don’t we have a contract yet? COVID-19 has definitely played a role in delays as it made it impossible to put 100-plus people from both our 10-union Coordinated Bargaining Coalition (CBC) and the carriers in one room to negotiate in our traditional methods. Additionally, our coalition previously notified the membership of our respective organizations that thus far, no proposals from the carriers have warranted anything worthy of putting forward to the membership for ratification.

Thus far, no proposals from the carriers have warranted anything worthy of putting forward to the membership for ratification.

As of this date, nothing has changed. As COVID restrictions are now being lifted, your negotiating committee looks forward to being able to once again meet face to face at the bargaining table with the carriers where we hope it will be much more productive than video meetings.

Negotiations are complex and involve a number of consultants and working groups that are reviewing economic data, health and welfare issues, and in some instances impacts and/or costs to either side of the equation.

We must keep in mind that an agreement by its very nature requires both sides to actually agree. How often do you agree with what your railroad does?

Now put all the railroads in one room with most of labor sitting on the other side of the table — it becomes a laborious process, to say the least. But the RLA will serve its purpose, and the parties will eventually hash out a deal. In the meantime, everything in your agreements that are currently in effect must remain fully intact — your contract hasn’t expired. Please note the bold language below from your 2017 National Agreement:

This Agreement shall be construed as a separate agreement by and on behalf of each of said carriers and their employees represented by the organization signatory hereto, and shall remain in effect through December 31, 2019 and thereafter until changed or modified in accordance with the provisions of the Railway Labor Act, as amended.

The “term of this agreement” was defined to run from Jan. 1, 2015, through Dec. 31, 2019. The framers of the agreement were simply establishing the dates and time period for purposes of pay raises, and nothing is construed to leave anyone under the RLA and our agreements “without a contract.”

It is worth noting that negotiations for the 2017 agreement began with the filing of Section 6 notices in December 2014, and it then took 34 months before a tentative agreement was reached in October 2017 — that’s a period of nearly three years and there wasn’t a global pandemic to work through. The process does take time!

Another thing to note — only railroaders and airline employees fall under the Railway Labor Act. Airline pilots and flight attendants feel your frustrations when wanting to exercise a strike action against a carrier, the same as some of you probably do. We are a very specialized group and are governed under a very different set of rules than most other union workers.

The National Rail Contract negotiations are not the only thing on the agenda at this point in time, either. We have two other major national issues that are contract-related going at the same time, with the same railroads with whom we have to negotiate a national agreement.

One is the crew-consist moratorium dispute, which was arbitrated this month in Sacramento, Calif., on June 15th and 16th and was one of the largest groups I have ever seen in one arbitration session. Another major issue is our current health and welfare dispute, scheduled to be arbitrated Aug. 31 in Washington D.C. As I am sure you would agree, it is not easy to negotiate the direction of a new national agreement going forward into the future when we are having serious difficulties even agreeing with the carriers on what is in our previously agreed to contracts.

Your union is pushing ahead in these negotiations with all your best interests in mind, fighting to protect what you have and setting the stage to thrive in the future.

Some have asked why don’t I update them more frequently about the status of negotiations? First of all, we, the 10-union coalition, won’t negotiate via the media and will keep our game plans private within the union negotiating team. Football coaches do not go to the media talking about what plays they are going to run and what their strategies are before a game or as it is being played out. We cannot do that here either. I would also love to notify everybody anytime it looked like something positive was going to happen regarding a contract, but it would wear you out emotionally, especially if those positive possibilities never came to fruition. Furthermore, all the union presidents in this coalition have agreed that we will only update the membership collectively as one voice through joint updates so there is no confusion that we stand together in solidarity.

Your union is pushing ahead in these negotiations with all your best interests in mind, fighting to protect what you now have and setting the stage to thrive in the future. We are proving every day that solidarity is the only way to accomplish our goals in all issues, contractual or safety-related, on behalf of the membership.

We have accomplished a lot in a very short time, battled through a pandemic and an economic downturn, and are poised to set the stage for the future of the nation’s freight rail industry in these negotiations. The updates will come in due time.

Until the CBC releases our next joint report, remain assured that your negotiators and leaders will remain as stong and proud as each and every one of you who has stepped up to the plate to make our union that much stronger in the name of safety, solidarity or both.

Jeremy Ferguson
President, Transportation Division

TD leaders praise House passage of INVEST Act

CLEVELAND, Ohio (July 1, 2021) — SMART Transportation Division leaders expressed their appreciation as the Investing in a New Vision for the Environment and Surface Transportation (INVEST) in America Act (H.R. 3684) successfully passed out of the U.S. House of Representatives, 221-201, on July 1 with two-person crew and other transportation safety provisions important to TD members remaining intact.

“This bill is a great step ahead for the country as it works to repair years of inattention given to the country’s infrastructure,” SMART Transportation Division President Jeremy R. Ferguson said. “The INVEST Act also pays heed to many safety concerns expressed by labor — the essential workers who helped move our nation through the COVID pandemic — bus operators, freight rail workers and transit workers. We thank Peter DeFazio, Donald Payne and all those in the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee who spurred H.R. 3684 to passage in the full House, and we now look ahead to consideration in the Senate and beyond.”

The INVEST Act is a surface transportation reauthorization bill that encompasses substantial investment in the nation’s infrastructure as well as in the safety of the people who keep the country moving. H.R. 3684’s components look to protect bus and transit workers from assault, improve school bus safety and maintain safe freight rail operations. It contains increased funding for Amtrak passenger rail service and protects the environment, the public and rail workers alike by putting into law the Rule of 2 — that, like a pilot and co-pilot in the air — a certified engineer and a certified conductor remain present in the cab of freight trains when operated through the nation’s communities.

“We’re very pleased that the House has wisely moved ahead today on the legislative path to ensuring that rail safety’s Rule of 2 is maintained with the INVEST in America Act, and that the bus safety provisions, Amtrak funding and other rail safety components stay in the bill,” SMART-TD National Legislative Director Greg Hynes said. “Now, similar to last year, the time has come to make it crystal clear to senators who might be on the fence that the safety aspects within this bill are not up for negotiation.”

“We truly thank and appreciate those legislators who supported the INVEST Act in its journey through the House and who listened to what we had to say,” Ferguson said. “There is more work to be done and a path to be cleared for this legislation in the Senate, and the members and officers of our union are ready to put in the time.”

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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 INVEST in America Act and how it protects TD members

A surface transportation reauthorization bill introduced June 4 by chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) has a wide-reaching positive impact for members of the SMART Transportation Division.

Mostly mirroring the identically named INVEST in America Act that passed the U.S. House of Representatives last summer but died in the Republican-held Senate, the 2021 version known as H.R. 3684 is a $547 billion five-year surface transportation bill with a two-person freight crew provision and encompasses other issues important to all TD members.

“Chairman DeFazio, Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton and Rep. Donald Payne once again proved that they are receptive to the safety of and the needs of all SMART Transportation Division members,” SMART Transportation Division President Jeremy R. Ferguson said. “Every one of our members has a stake in this bill and in the protections and actions this legislation puts forth. We are thankful for the representatives’ work, and we support this effort to move the transportation industry ahead.”

The bill directs federal investments in roads, bridges, transit, and rail, re-imagines national transportation policies and helps put President Joe Biden’s American Jobs Plan that invests in American workers and communities into motion.

“The benefits of transformative investments in our infrastructure are far-ranging: we can create and sustain good-paying jobs, many of which don’t require a college degree, restore our global competitiveness, tackle climate change head-on, and improve the lives of all Americans through modern infrastructure that emphasizes mobility and access, and spurs our country’s long-term economic growth,” DeFazio said.

Of particular importance to TD members are the portions of the INVEST in America Act that cover bus, transit and freight rail.

“This bill is all-encompassing — seeking redesigns of bus operator compartments so that drivers are more protected, protecting transit workers from assault and looking into school bus safety. The representatives also heard our voices regarding almost every one of the concerns we have about the current state of the railroad industry — crew size, train length, the utility of Positive Train Control and safety investigations — to name a few,” National Legislative Director Greg Hynes said. “Elections have consequences, and with this legislation, we now have an avenue where many matters that are important to us can be resolved.”

What follows is a recap of some of the provisions within the bill most important to SMART-TD members:

Amtrak

  • The bill triples funding for Amtrak to $32 billion, allowing for enhanced service, ADA upgrades, and investments to renew and support service on the Northeast Corridor and long-distance and state-supported routes.

Bus

  • Creates a Federal Transit Administration (FTA) training center modeled on the successful National Transit Institute, but with a frontline employee mandate to focus on training for new technologies, safety and emergency preparedness.
  • Expands FTA’s safety plan to include a focus on passenger and personnel injuries, assaults, and fatalities; a risk management process to address transit worker assaults; a joint labor/management safety committee empowered to approve the safety plan; and a comprehensive frontline workforce training program on safety and de-escalation.
  • Prevents a transit agency from deploying an automated vehicle that duplicates, eliminates, or reduces the frequency of existing public transportation service or a mobility on demand service. Transit agencies considering transit automated vehicles and mobility on demand service are required to develop a workforce development plan describing how the automated vehicle will affect transit workers. Ensures transit workers are given fair notice if their job is jeopardized by a transit automated vehicle or mobility on demand service.
  • Authorizes FTA research on redesigning bus driver compartments to improve driver visibility, expand driver functionality, and reduce driver assault.
  • Directs the Transportation secretary to review the costs and benefits of requiring lap/shoulder belts in large school buses and to consider requiring seat belts in newly manufactured school buses. Requires newly manufactured school buses to be equipped with automatic emergency braking and electronic stability control systems. Directs the secretary to conduct research and testing on fire prevention and mitigation standards—including firewalls, fire suppression systems, and interior flammability and smoke emissions characteristics—for large school buses and consider issuing updated standards.

Freight rail

  • Requires the federal Department of Transportation (DOT) rescind any special permit or approval for the transport of liquified natural gas (LNG) by rail tank car issued before the date of enactment. Also prohibits DOT regulations on the transport of LNG by rail tank car from taking effect until DOT conducts a further safety evaluation. Directs the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) and Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to initiate an evaluation of the safety, security, and environmental risks of transporting LNG by rail.
  • Improves rail safety by addressing highway-rail grade crossing needs.
  • Requires a study on the effects of long trains.
  • Requires FRA to increase its roster of rail safety inspectors by 20 percent.
  • Requires FRA to collect data on train length and crew size when an accident occurs.
  • Requires the creation of a standardized FRA safety investigation process.
  • Requires FRA to engage in a public process before granting waivers from, or suspensions of, railroad safety standards and regulations.
  • Creates a federal blocked crossing program to collect data and enforce a 10-minute blocked crossing limit.
  • Has a two-person crew freight train mandate that, like the 2020 bill, has some exemptions for short lines and train length. These are:
    • The train operations are not on a main line.
    • The train does not exceed a maximum speed of 25 mph on territory with an average track grade of less than 2% for any segment of track that is at least two continuous miles.
    • The locomotives are performing assistance to a train that has incurred mechanical failure or lacks the power to traverse difficult terrain, including to or from the location where assistance is provided.
    • The locomotives are not attached to any equipment (except a caboose) and do not travel further than 30 miles from a rail yard.
    • A location where one-person operations were being utilized one year prior to the date of enactment of this bill, only if the DOT Secretary determines that the operation achieves an equivalent level of safety.

    Short-line exception
    In addition to the above, a train may be operated with a reduced crew, if the carrier has fewer than 400,000 total employee work hours annually and an annual revenue of less than $20,000,000.

    A train must be operated by a two-person crew (no exception), if:

    • It is transporting one or more loaded cares carrying material toxic by inhalation.
    • It is carrying 20 or more loaded tank cars of a Class 2 material or a Class 3 flammable liquid in a continuous block.
    • It has 35 or more loaded tank cars of a Class 2 material or a Class 3 flammable liquid throughout its consist.
    • It is 7,500 feet in length or longer.
  • Has a cross-border provision for the southern border of the U.S.
  • Makes yardmaster employees subject to FRA’s hours of service protections.
  • Directs the FRA to take such actions as are necessary to ensure that certain older air brake control valves are phased out on rail cars operating in cold regions of the United States, an issue brought to light by SMART-TD leadership in 2019.
  • Directs the DOT to require railroad carriers to regularly report on failures of positive train control (PTC) systems.
  • Directs the Secretary of Transportation to issue a final rule on fatigue management plans within one year.

Transit

  • Establishes a working group to improve the musculoskeletal health of transit and commercial vehicle drivers by developing stronger ergonomic seating standards in transit and commercial vehicles. Requires the working group to compare design standards for women to those for men.
  • Provides funding for corridor planning and development of high-speed rail projects, reducing traffic congestion and shortening travel times.
  • Requires passenger and commuter railroad carriers to implement response plans and employee training in order to address assaults against both passengers and employees. The section also requires railroads to report annual assault data to FRA.

The bill is scheduled to be marked up by the U.S. House on June 9.

Read a section-by-section summary of the 2021 INVEST in America Act. (PDF)
Read the bill. (PDF)
Read a fact sheet about the bill. (PDF)

SMART-TD Leaders Pledge Support to 2021 INVEST in America Act

CLEVELAND, Ohio (June 4, 2021) – Leaders of the SMART Transportation Division today announced their full support of the 2021 version of the Investing in a New Vision for the Environment and Surface Transportation in America (INVEST in America) Act.

DeFazio

The transformational $547 billion surface transportation reauthorization bill introduced today by House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chair Peter DeFazio of Oregon contains critical safety reforms for the bus, transit and freight rail industries. Similar to a 2020 version of the bill, provisions of the legislation mandate two-person freight rail crews and take steps to address the problems of bus operator and transit worker assault as well as other issues faced by SMART-TD’s bus, rail and transit members.

“Chairman DeFazio, Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton and Rep. Donald Payne once again proved that they are receptive to the safety of and the needs of all SMART Transportation Division members,” SMART Transportation Division President Jeremy R. Ferguson said. “Every one of our members has a stake in this bill and in the protections and actions this legislation puts forth. We are thankful for the representatives’ work, and we support this effort to move the transportation industry ahead.”

“This bill is all-encompassing — seeking redesigns of bus operator compartments so that drivers are more protected, protecting transit workers from assault and looking into school bus safety. The representatives also heard our voices regarding almost every one of the concerns we have about the current state of the railroad industry — crew size, train length, the utility of Positive Train Control and safety investigations — to name a few,” National Legislative Director Greg Hynes said. “Elections have consequences, and with this legislation, we now have an avenue where many matters that are important to us can be resolved.”

A markup of the bill is scheduled to take place June 9.

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 crafts in the transportation industry.

SMART-TD National Safety Team gets new director

As the SMART-TD restructures to better serve our membership, the National Safety Team (NST) now has a new director. SMART-TD Alternate National Legislative Director Jared Cassity (Local 1377 in Russell, Ky.) has taken over as director for SMART-TD Chief of Staff Jerry Gibson (Local 313 in Grand Rapids, Mich.).

“I have the utmost faith that Jared has the knowledge, experience and passion to lead this team,” Gibson said.

Jared Cassity

No stranger to the NST, Cassity joined the team in 2014 and served as an alternate director from 2016 to 2019. He has also served on the CSX Safety Model Executive Board.

Cassity started his railroad career with CSX in September 2005 and was promoted to engineer in 2008. He has held numerous positions within the union, including vice local chairperson, secretary and treasurer, legislative representative, local chairperson, assistant general chairperson, Kentucky state legislative director and alternate national legislative director.

“Safety is our priority, as it should be, but unfortunately we work in an industry that prioritizes profit before anything else. So, we must be vigilant to not just watch out for ourselves, but also to protect the backs of our brothers and sisters,” Cassity said. “As a union, we cannot let down our guard, and I pledge to maintain the necessary level of dedication and aggression that this job requires to get the job done.

“Our goal is simple: ‘to get you home the same way you came to work.’ I know that is an old saying, but it’s true. The safety of our brothers and sisters is worth fighting for, and the NST will do just that. Lastly, I would like to thank Brother Jerry for all the years he has dedicated to this team. What a difference for the better he has made.”

Jerry Gibson

Brother Gibson hired out in 1996 as a conductor for CSX. In 1998, he was voted as terminal safety chairperson, serving in that position until 2000. That same year, he assisted with the formation of a new safety process and authored what became the UTU/CSX Safety Program in February 2000. He also led the training of safety coordinators on CSX and was responsible for employee safety, unsafe condition and procedure correction, accident investigation and prevention. He’s also served the union by presenting safety and legislative courses at regional meetings.

A nationally recognized safety expert, Gibson has met with authorities from all federal and state executive and legislative branches and has provided testimony and information in regard to railroad-related issues pertaining to safety and job retention. He has been a co-director of the NST since 2013. Although stepping down as co-director, Gibson will remain acutely engaged to consult on safety matters.

“Safety has always been a passion of mine and something I worked diligently to improve my entire railroad career. I have always believed that, as a fraternal organization, the safety of our fellow brothers and sisters must top all other priorities as one loss or injury is one too many. I know with the leadership and commitment to safety President Ferguson and General President Sellers have, and the skills and ability Jared possesses, this team will receive the support it needs to be successful, therefore, the time was right to hand over the baton. While I am stepping back, I am not walking away and will always be a resource and advocate … willing to assist at any time,” Gibson said.

Click here to visit the SMART-TD National Safety Team webpage.

Memorial Day message from TD President Ferguson

Brothers and sisters:

As we mark a second Memorial Day in what we hope are the waning days of the coronavirus pandemic, let us all take the time to offer a measure of respect to the men and women who sacrificed their lives to defend the freedoms we enjoy in the United States of America.

Our union takes seriously the duty to show appreciation to members of the military, both living and no longer with us. We must remember all they have done for our country and, by extension, all of us in times of conflict and of tranquility. Their fights have preserved the freedoms established at our country’s founding and have enhanced the strength of our nation. The Memorial Day holiday serves as a great reminder to show our gratitude and respect.

At a time where we still battle a virulent enemy, please take some time to pause in remembrance of the debt we owe to our servicemen and -women in the United States Armed Forces who fought and sacrificed in defense of the freedoms of our country that are too easily taken for granted.

Also, as a reminder, our union wants to honor our brothers and sisters who have served in the military. If you are a veteran, please let us know by providing information about your service so we can recognize you in the future.

May God bless our troops, both living and those who have passed.

Please be safe, and thank you.

In solidarity,


 
 
 
 

Jeremy R. Ferguson
President, Transportation Division

Learn more about Memorial Day
Update your veterans’ status
SMART-TD resources for veterans

STB chair to Class Is: You have cut the workforce too deep

On May 27, the chair of the federal Surface Transportation Board (STB) Martin J. Oberman reached out to all Class I CEOs asking them whether the carriers are prepared to reverse the workforce cuts they have made in anticipation of handling an economic rebound as the coronavirus pandemic wanes.

Oberman

“I am specifically requesting that you also address whether you have any long-term plans, including your hiring plans for 2021 and 2022, to reverse any of the diminishing workforce levels which have resulted from your strategies in recent years,” Oberman said in his letter.

Rail employment data collected by the board indicate that since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, that overall Class I rail employment has declined from 127,867 to 115,485, a reduction of 12,382 jobs. Train and engine personnel employment has been reduced by Class Is by nearly 5,000 workers from 51,801 in March 2020, to 46,951 in April 2021, the latest month for which STB data is available.

Oberman expressed concern that recent rail service problems reported by some shippers may relate to that broader trend of rail labor reductions over the last several years in addition to the furloughs and quarantines brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I recognize that these rail service challenges, at least to some extent, have been related to workforce reductions resulting from COVID-19 cases, quarantines, and furloughs based on the temporary decline in demand and the resultant adjustments made by railroads in nearly every facet of their businesses,” he wrote. “But I am also concerned by the extent to which these service issues may be related to or exacerbated by a broader trend of rail labor reductions that has been occurring over the past several years.”

Precision Scheduled Railroading (PSR), adopted by CSX under the helm of the late E. Hunter Harrison, has become an acceptable operating scheme among the largest U.S. railroads focused on reducing operating ratios by lengthening trains and emphasizing cost reductions by slashing employment, reducing the time available for inspections and mothballing equipment, as reported by The Associated Press and VICE Magazine.

From an economic perspective, Oberman said the STB has received some significant reports of flaws in the Class Is’ service model.

“Although many shippers have reported that railroads are providing consistent and dependable service, the Board has also received concerning reports from a meaningful number of rail customers of subpar performance, including missed switches, railcars delayed at intermediate yards or interchanges, extended out-of-route movements, and prolonged dwell at origin for some unit train traffic,” Oberman observed. “Additionally, we have been made aware of instances of significant congestion at various intermodal facilities, which has resulted in delayed train arrivals and disruptions to container availability.”

A review of share prices since Harrison was placed atop CSX by a hedge fund in March 2017, shows that shares for most of the Class I carriers have more than doubled since March 2017, except for Canadian National and BNSF (which is privately owned).

Conversely, STB rail employment data from April 2021, indicate that overall Class I employment has declined by nearly 34,000 jobs from 149,323 in March 2017, while train and engine personnel employment has gone down by 12,240 jobs from 59,191 in March 2017.

SMART Transportation Division President Jeremy Ferguson said he was pleased to see STB Chairman Oberman and the board taking an active role in protecting rail shippers and making sure T&E crews are properly staffed.

“This is a good first step in getting people back to work and getting the rail workforce to an adequate level,” President Ferguson said. “Let’s get our members some relief so they’re able to receive adequate rest and a quality of life they deserve.”

Link to STB article regarding the letters.
Link to STB site with Oberman’s letters to carrier executives.

Nevada gov. honors railroaders with proclamation

Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak has issued a proclamation praising America’s railroaders, declaring Wednesday, April 28, 2021, as “A Day In Honor of Railroad Workers.”

A portion of the proclamation reads: “The safe and efficient movement of the trains transporting… freight and… passengers through Nevada is due foremost to the dedication and professionalism of those employees who are directly involved in train movements, including Train and Crew Dispatchers, Maintenance of Way personnel, Signal Maintainers, Mechanical personnel, and train crews.”

The SMART Transportation Division Nevada Legislative Board and BLET Nevada State Legislative Board worked jointly to lobby Gov. Sisolak regarding the proclamation. The two boards issued a joint statement, which reads in part:

“Every day, front-line railroad workers report for duty as required and perform the tasks of their jobs in a manner which ensures that the movement of freight and passengers by rail which is needed to keep this nation’s economy functioning is accomplished. In spite of various objectives and circumstances which create hurdles to be crossed in providing this vital service, the work which you do continues to deliver for those counting on it… On this special day, we salute and thank you for the work that you do, while encouraging you to stay focused on safety in the course of your work. We also ask that you join us in remembering those workers who have passed on before us, some in the line of duty, while committing to continue fighting for all still among us with whom we share struggles.”

SMART-TD President Jeremy R. Ferguson and BLET National President Dennis R. Pierce said, “Our unions thank Governor Sisolak for honoring railroaders with this proclamation and for recognizing the important role SMART-TD and BLET members play in keeping our economy strong. We also thank Jason Doering, SMART-TD Nevada State Legislative Director, and Matt Parker, BLET Nevada State Legislative Board Chairman, for their efforts in helping to secure this proclamation and for their dedication to railroad safety.”

A copy of Governor Sisolak’s proclamation can be found here (PDF).

# # #

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 crafts 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.

VICE article explains the dangers of PSR

Members and leaders of the SMART Transportation Division as well as the AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department, spelled out why U.S. freight railroads’ obsession with Precision Scheduled Railroading (PSR) increases the danger to the public and railroad workers alike.

Journalist Aaron Gordon spoke with TD President Jeremy Ferguson and AFL-CIO TTD President Greg Regan about degradation in the safety culture of freight railroads because of PSR in an in-depth article published on March 22. “It’s going to end up like Boeing,” President Ferguson warned.

Gordon’s article touched upon many topics that our members are unfortunately already well aware of, including: the severe reduction of rail employees which has greatly impacted safe operations, the increase of fatigue associated with the same demanding work but with a reduced work force, the practice of railroads to have inspectors spend less time inspecting cars, the deferral of needed maintenance and potential safety issues being glossed over so that dwell time is not increased. It paints a very realistic and clear picture of how the railroads’ operating ratios and profits have been placed well ahead of safety and all in the name of PSR.

But by questing for those increased returns on Wall Street, the lessons learned from past operational mistakes could conceivably end up costing railroads in the long run, subjects interviewed in the article say.

This article is essential reading, and it can be found on the VICE website.

VSTD waiver of elimination period extended through June 2021

Dear Member:

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

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

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

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

Mr. Jeremy Ferguson,
President-SMART Transportation Division

Mr. Joseph Powell,
General Secretary-Treasurer SMART

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

View this announcement in PDF form.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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