Archive for the ‘TD Leadership Messages’ Category

COVID-19: Form launched for reports of CDC protocols not being followed

CDC guidelines state that employers should do the following to prevent the spread of COVID-19:

  1. reduce transmission among employees,
  2. maintain healthy business operations, and
  3. maintain a healthy work environment.

As transportation workers are considered to be essential workers, even in a time of national emergency, making them exempt from stay-at-home orders issued by local, state and federal officials, it is paramount that these guidelines be followed so that the health of workers, co-workers, their families and the general public is not jeopardized by employers’ failure to follow CDC protocols.

If CDC measures are not being followed, workers are encouraged to report what they consider to be violations of CDC protocols.

Your union needs reports of what is actually happening in the field. If you are aware of an employee who has tested positive with coronavirus, or if a carrier is refusing to provide a clean and sanitized workplace as well as supplies for sanitation, please let us know by using this form.

Submissions via this form will go to union leadership and be used as evidence to support emergency measures sought by the SMART Transportation Division in petitions to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), Federal Transit Administration (FTA) and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). Your identity will remain anonymous.

Union leaders demand clarification from FRA on waivers

SMART Transportation Division President Jeremy R. Ferguson and Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) President Dennis Pierce sought clarification today from the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) after the agency granted 60-day emergency waiver requests to railroads on March 25, ostensibly to maintain their operations during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“As you are already aware, SMART Transportation Division, Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, and other rail labor Organizations take strong exception to certain aspects of FRA’s seemingly absolute and unconditional approval of such requests,” the presidents wrote in a letter to Administrator Ron Batory. “We find the sweeping nature of these approvals alarming, especially in view of the fact that the rules waived are written with the safety of our members, and the general public, in mind.

“Notwithstanding the unfounded nature of some of the carriers’ claims in their applications, our immediate concerns are founded in our firm belief that if the carriers understand and apply FRA’s waiver to be carte blanche invitation to ignore rules, it will have a substantial chilling effect on safety.”

The waivers, granted by Batory and signed by Karl Alexy, associate administrator for railroad safety for FRA, were held for a number of days by the agency, which limited the ability of labor organizations to comment and seek a public hearing.

Meanwhile, an emergency order request sought by SMART-TD and the BLET seeking sanitation of areas frequented by frontline rail workers through the course of performing their “essential” duties remains under consideration on the desks of FRA officials.

The waivers grant the Association of American Railroads (AAR), American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association (ASLRRA) and American Public Transportation Association (APTA) as well as other railroad entities the ability to temporarily circumvent established federally mandated requirements for:

  • Track inspection
  • Operational tests and inspections
  • Restrictions on utility employees
  • Locomotive and conductor certifications
  • Territorial qualifications

The reason cited by carriers in their petition was to cope with potential workforce shortages the railroads may experience during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Petitioners assert that a reduction in availability of employees due to the COVID-19 pandemic will affect railroads’ ability to keep freight trains carrying critical goods and materials necessary for the country’s welfare operating during this emergency, and that compliance with all Federal railroad safety regulations, with the expected workforce shortage, would significantly hinder railroads’ ability to operate,” the FRA said in its response granting the waivers.

But thanks in part to their adoption of Precision Scheduled Railroading (PSR) practices since 2017, the total employee headcount for Class I freight carriers – including administration/management, maintenance and transportation crew, as reported by the federal Surface Transportation Board (STB), has been axed by roughly 14,000 people in 2019 and by 33,000 since 2000.

STB says that in February 2020 that Class Is had 56,767 transportation crew employees, down from a three-year peak of 68,980 in November 2018.

“There is also a concern that the carriers would use the excuse of a ‘downturn in business’ to artificially create a shortage of manpower to exploit the use of the waivers,” Ferguson and Pierce wrote.

Numbers provided to the union show that approximately 15 percent of T&E personnel are furloughed at the time. SMART-TD leader also have knowledge that carriers recently contacted the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) in anticipation of offering voluntary furloughs to employees during the pandemic, which incidentally would make the employee ineligible for RRB unemployment benefits.

Among the most-dangerous aspects of this set of waivers is carriers being permitted to allow employees who are unqualified in the territory and uncertified to operate trains as long as Positive Train Control (PTC) technology is present and engaged.

The federally mandated deadline for full PTC implementation is Jan. 1, 2021, and full interoperability among railroads has not been achieved, yet these waivers make the assumption that PTC functionality is sufficient to allow for unqualified crew members to operate over America’s railroads.

The union has received numerous reports of the technology not working as intended and top FRA leadership has indicated in a conversation that PTC was in a “shakedown” phase.

Information provided by the railroads in December 2019 to FRA reported Class I PTC system interoperability at 48 percent.

The FRA waivers of regulations also allow for:

  • Verbal quick tie-ups
  • Shortened time intervals for required locomotive maintenance and inspections
  • The movement of defective equipment to the “nearest available” repair location
  • 95% operative brakes to be permissible for trains leaving their initial terminal
  • Trains can travel 1,200 miles without an intermediate Class IA brake inspection
  • Extended haul trains can travel 2,000 miles without an intermediate Class IA brake test
  • The four-hour off-air time is extended to 24 hours and 48 hours with FRA permission
  • Transfer test requirements are relaxed
  • The ability to combine two operating trains without additional inspections other than a Class III brake test
  • Relaxation of yard air source testing and calibration requirements and of requirements for single-care air brake tests
  • Relaxation of required testing and calibration of telemetry equipment

“These regulations were written with the public’s safety in mind,” SMART-TD President Jeremy Ferguson said. “A number of these waivers are not in the interest of safety and could be creating a recipe for disaster to rail workers and for the public.”

If particular properties do not have a demonstrated reduction of personnel directly related to the COVID-19 pandemic, for instance, illness or self-quarantine, and these waivers are being employed, members are asked to report it to union leadership immediately.

Read the unions’ letter to FRA.

Read FRA’s letter that grant the waivers to the railroads.

What the COVID-19 bill means for our railroad members

On March 27, Congress passed and President Donald Trump signed into law a bill that provides provisions favorable to SMART Transportation Division members as the nation continues to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

The bill provides a $2 trillion relief package to the nation as it copes with COVID-19, the novel coronavirus that has killed hundreds and infected thousands of Americans.

“This bill helps to provide some short-term relief to the transportation industry that has been staggered by the coronavirus,” National Legislative Director Greg Hynes said. “In the event that carriers continue to cut workers or that employees get sick, those workers, including our members, will have extended financial protection. It also gives a financial lifeline to Amtrak as the passenger carrier’s operations have been severely curtailed by the pandemic.”

This relief bill:

  • waives the seven-day waiting period for benefits provided under the Railroad Unemployment Insurance Act (RUIA).
  • provides an enhanced RUIA benefit of $1,200 per two-week period in addition to regular RUIA benefits.
  • extends Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) sickness and unemployment benefits by 13 weeks.
  • provides RRB $5 million in additional grant funds to administer the RUIA.
  • provides $1 billion in funding to keep Amtrak operational to prevent, prepare and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, including $492 million to the Northeast Corridor and $508 million to support its long-distance service.
  • tasks Amtrak with providing congressional reports regarding employee furloughs, if they occur.
  • provides relief checks up to $1,200 per person, $500 per child. Click here to calculate your amount.

The economic uncertainty and long-term health risks posed by the COVID-19 pandemic present a challenge nationally, and the RRB is advising all railroaders to set up a RRB account. Click here to establish your account.

Due to the IT restraints and volume of contacts to the RRB, members are advised to access the RRB site from a computer, not a phone or tablet. Establishing an account gives workers a head start in the event that RRB unemployment or sick benefits are needed by RR workers in the case of carrier furloughs or illness.

Additional RRB funding and the removal of RRB benefits from the budget sequester implemented by congressional Republicans during the Obama administration may be considered in subsequent relief packages.

Ferguson discusses emergency request regarding COVID-19

The following article by Dan Zukowski has been reproduced from Trains Magazine’s website with permission.

Ferguson

Labor unions representing rail and transit workers have asked the Federal Railroad Administration for two emergency orders to address the dangers in their work environments amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The orders, requested March 20, are requested for Class I railroads and for Amtrak and passenger operators.

“Currently, the railroads have made very little effort to assure that our members have clean and sanitized environments to work in,” says Jeremy Ferguson, president of SMART Transportation Division, in an email interview with Trains News Wire. SMART is the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers.

The latest request follows a joint letter, dated March 6, to the Federal Railroad Administration from Ferguson and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, asking that crews be provided with personal protective equipment and hand sanitizers and that locomotive cabs, computers, remote control boxes and communal areas be regularly disinfected.

The FRA’s terse reply came in a brief letter that referred the unions instead to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The CDC website provides specific guidance for airlines, cruise, and cargo ships, but not for railroads or transit operators; nor does the website of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

“As of right now, the railroads are not doing anything proactive to see that surfaces or the cab itself is clean and sanitary for the next crew coming on duty,” Ferguson says. Crew vans and yard offices are another area of concern.

The latest findings, published March 17 in the New England Journal of Medicine, shows that the coronavirus can remain airborne for up to three hours at room temperature, and remain infectious on plastic and stainless steel surfaces up to three days. Infected individuals without symptoms can also spread the disease, known as COVID-19.

The FRA has not issued an action plan to mitigate the spread of the disease among rail workers, say the unions, and onerous absentee rules further risk transmission.

According to Ferguson, members who have shown symptoms of COVID-19 “have been refused the ability to self-quarantine without discipline for absenteeism” until they have tested positive. However, due to the scarcity of test kits in many states, testing is slow or unavailable.

Both Ferguson and BLET President Dennis Pierce are calling the railroads, urging them to relax attendance rules. “I think this approach is quickly being addressed,” Ferguson says.

BNSF, CSX, Norfolk Southern, Union Pacific and Canadian National have all established coronavirus information pages on their websites. CSX is restricting visits to its facilities, increasing cleaning and distributing disinfecting supplies across its system.

In a March 21 letter, Norfolk Southern says it is following CDC guidelines and is “monitoring and proactively taking steps to mitigate risks in our company’s operations.” Sourcing and crew management teams maintain daily contact with taxi operators and hotels, monitoring for potential or confirmed COVID-19 exposure.

BNSF says it is following the recommendations of the CDC while Union Pacific offers information via its website and that of its health plan, Iron Road Healthcare. As of March 20, Union Pacific advises its employees, “If you suspect you have been exposed to COVID-19, do not report to work.”

CN has established a dedicated team for employees and managers to report any symptoms or to ask questions, and has dispersed its rail traffic control functions to five separate, secured sites to better protect employees from contamination.

Amtrak says it is increasing cleaning of trains and stations, making sanitizers and disinfectant wipes available to passengers and employees and communicating good hygiene practices. Transit agencies have also stepped up cleaning and sanitizing procedures.

The Federal Transit Administration now allows transit operators, hit hard by declining rider revenue, to use federal formula funds for emergency-related capital and operating expenses. The FTA also increased the federal government’s share of those expenses. The American Public Transportation Association is asking for $16 billion to help transit agencies through this crisis.

SMART-TD has launched a form for all members, regardless of the carrier they are employed by, to report situations where they feel employers have not adhered to the CDC recommendations to stop the spread of COVID-19).

Unions write to congressional leaders seeking emergency transportation funding

Dear Leader McConnell, Speaker Pelosi, Leader Schumer, and Leader McCarthy:

On behalf of America’s public transportation industry and its frontline employees who operate and maintain public transit and commuter rail systems across the country every day, we urge you to provide $16.0 billion in immediate, desperately needed supplemental funding to keep our transit and commuter rail systems safe and operational in the months to come, and to prioritize that funding in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.

Across the country, public transportation systems and their employees are going to extraordinary measures and are placing themselves at great personal risk to protect the health and safety of their riders, while continuing to ensure that the public’s access to jobs, food, and other critical services are not brought to a halt. However, the extraordinary direct costs and revenue losses resulting from the impacts of COVID-19 are placing an incredible strain on our ability to continue providing this critical public service to Americans.

As highlighted by the American Public Transportation Association, these emergency funds are absolutely vital to maintain essential services such as paratransit services for individuals with disabilities; public transportation for health care workers, law enforcement, first responder, and other safety personnel; and Medicaid recipients who receive medical transportation for kidney dialysis, cancer treatments, and other critical care. Without these funds, the overwhelming majority of public transit agencies will be required to suspend or drastically curtail services. They simply cannot wait for a fourth or fifth round of emergency funding.

Please know that labor and management stand together during this difficult time. We respectfully urge you to provide not only the emergency financial assistance that this national crisis demands, but to do it now to ensure that one of the most important lifelines for essential services in our communities is not stripped away in this national crisis.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,
Amalgamated Transit Union
American Public Transportation Association
Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen
International Brotherhood of Teamsters
SMART-Transportation Division
Transportation Communications Union (TCU-IAM)
Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO
Transport Workers Union of America

A message to all TD members and retirees from President Ferguson

March 20, 2020

All Members — SMART Transportation Division

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

I would like to begin by recognizing those of you who, in the face of this global COVID-19 pandemic, are continuing to serve the millions of Americans who depend on us and the services we provide every day.

If not for our bus operators, passenger and transit workers, families without alternate means of transportation might not have access to basic necessities such as food, cleaning supplies and medical attention, while essential staff in urban areas might not be able to report to work. If not for our freight rail crews operating around the clock, many of the vital goods and supplies our communities and healthcare professionals so desperately need and depend on would arrive late, or perhaps not at all.

It is impossible to overstate the fact that your dedication, professionalism, and skills support the very backbone of our country during this moment of crisis. Not only do we feel a duty to provide for ourselves and our loved ones through this difficult and uncertain time, but we are bound by our moral obligation to provide essential goods and services that our nation must have to endure, and later recover, from this ordeal.

Unfortunately, we have already received confirmed reports that some of our members have tested positive for COVID-19. Our thoughts and prayers are with those members, and their loved ones, who have either tested positive or are in quarantine. If you or someone you know is having difficulty dealing with the stress or anxiety brought on by this virus, we want you to know that Optum has established a no-cost, 24/7, emotional support help line at 1-866-342-6892. Please share this information accordingly.

It is unconscionable that in the wake of a national emergency, some of our carriers have refused to suspend draconian attendance policies that compel us to report for duty when we, or members of our household, are symptomatic. Many of those same carriers are neglecting to provide the proper cleaning supplies, personal protective equipment, and workplace sterilization that would undoubtedly save lives. Their actions, or lack thereof, are reminiscent of the railroad companies’ safety policies of more than a century ago, where they viewed such matters as the workers’ responsibility to fend for themselves, and they made the bare minimum effort by issuing stern, authoritarian warnings. We firmly believe history will not look kindly on these carriers. The good news is a few carriers are actually leading the way and setting the bar at “unbelievable levels,” as reported by Long Island Railroad General Chairperson Anthony Simon. We hope others will soon follow.

As a result of the above, and as you can see in links to correspondence provided below, we have turned to our lawmakers and regulatory agencies with authority to mandate the workplace protections we so desperately expect and deserve. In his letter dated March 11, 2020, Ronald Batory, Administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration, claims that, “FRA has been monitoring this issue closely and confers regularly on its impacts with railroad service providers….” [emphasis added]. Further, Mr. Batory advised that… “[t]he Administration has taken a whole-of-government approach which has paved the way for a whole-of-America response….” If you find this response as abhorrent as we do, then perhaps you may join us in seeking further clarification from Mr. Batory by calling his office at (202) 493-6014.

On March 18, 2020, we made similar demands on behalf of our bus members in a letter addressed to Raymond P. Martinez, Administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. While we have yet to receive a response from Mr. Martinez, it may help if we call his office at (202) 366-4000 and voice our concerns.

Our National Legislative Department, in conjunction with the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO and other rail labor Organizations, have been on Capitol Hill relentlessly demanding many of these same protections. Through this conduit, we are doing everything we can to ensure that Congress will not overlook the rail industry and its employees when legislation is introduced to provide relief to those affected by COVID-19. Likewise, our General Committees of Adjustment and State Legislative Boards have been working tirelessly to apply similar pressure to individual carriers, state and local lawmakers, and regulatory agencies.

To assist our Legislative Department and General Committees in their efforts, we strongly encourage you to reach out to your representatives. It is more important than ever to draw their attention to the fact that our employers and policymakers are relinquishing their duties to act as responsible corporate citizens and government agencies. If you are not already aware, you may find your representatives’ contact information by simply entering your address and zip code in the “Find Your Elected Officials” field at the bottom of the following webpage:

https://www.congressweb.com/SMART_Transportation/takeaction/#

In addition to the above efforts, we have participated in numerous conference calls and meetings to directly address and escalate these matters with members of management, Congress, and regulatory authorities. As you might imagine, the discourse in some of these conversations would not be appropriate for sharing verbatim. Nonetheless, you should rest assured they know exactly where we stand, and what we expect.

Now more than ever, I am honored and humbled to serve as your President. I have an immense sense of pride and respect for all of you who continue to place yourselves in harm’s way, doing what many are not capable of doing. Please accept this letter as my personal commitment that your union will not cease or slow its efforts until we procure the workplace safety and security we deserve.

As things develop, we will be posting updates to our website and social media pages, and sending email communications directly to those of you who subscribe.

With optimism that our collective perseverance and courage will guide us through this trying time, and with my sincerest gratitude for your continued support, I remain

Fraternally yours,

 

 

 

 

Jeremy Ferguson
President — Transportation Division

COVID-19 RESOURCES

SMART-TD petitions federal agencies for worker COVID-19 protections

CLEVELAND, Ohio. (March 20, 2020) — SMART Transportation Division filed a request to both the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) urging them to issue Emergency Orders (EO) to address employee safety conditions in response to the national COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak.

“The employees we represent are essential to the health, safety, security, and transport of the nation’s citizens,” wrote SMART-TD President Jeremy R. Ferguson in his filing to the agencies. “Therefore, it is necessary that the carriers take immediate and appropriate precautions to mitigate against the spread of the virus amongst their workforces and passengers, to minimize the exposure of their employees to the virus during the performance of their duties, and to maintain sufficient staffing levels to compensate for reduced headcounts caused by sick employees and family members until the virus begins to subside.”

Although President Donald Trump declared a national emergency regarding the COVID-19 viral outbreak on March 13, many transit agencies have been slow to adopt, or in some cases have neglected to adopt, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) measures to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus.

SMART-TD’s emergency order request includes, among other provisions, that transit agencies under the purview of both FTA and FMCSA adhere to CDC guidelines in the following areas:

• Sanitation of operators’ stations

• Sanitation of vehicles

• Sanitation of employee common rooms

• Personal protective equipment (PPE) for employees monitoring fare boxes

• Monitoring of employee temperatures

• Sanitation at lodging facilities for away-from-home employees

Procedures requested by the SMART-TD on the handling of employees and passengers who are symptomatic of the coronavirus reflect CDC guidelines, which include isolation, PPE, transport, and self-quarantine.

Finally, President Ferguson wrote, 25% of furloughed transit personnel should immediately be recalled to service to deal with anticipated shortages and staffing needs, in accordance with President Trump’s invocation of the Defense Production Act.

“To standardize and define the best protocols across the industry for the mitigation of the spread of the virus and the protection of employees, these safety precautions need to be immediately ordered by the FTA and FMCSA,” President Ferguson stated.

Read the petition to the FMCSA.
Read the petition to the FTA.

###

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.

SMART-TD, BLET petition FRA for emergency protocols regarding COVID-19

CLEVELAND, Ohio (March 20) — The SMART Transportation Division (SMART-TD) and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) today filed a joint request urging the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to issue an Emergency Order (EO) to address employee safety conditions in response to the national COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak.

“The employees we represent are essential to the health, safety, and security of the nation. Therefore, it is necessary that the railroads take immediate and appropriate precautions to mitigate against the spread of the virus amongst their workforces, to minimize the exposure of their employees to the virus during the performance of their duties, and that Class I railroads maintain sufficient staffing levels to compensate for reduced headcounts caused by sick employees and family members, as well as to seamlessly handle predicted increases in volume once the virus begins to subside,” SMART-TD President Jeremy R. Ferguson and BLET President Dennis R. Pierce wrote in their petition.

Although emergency relief procedures were activated by FRA Administrator Ron Batory on March 13, many rail carriers have been slow to adopt, or in some cases have neglected to adopt, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) measures to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. An action plan to help address the potential spread of the coronavirus among rail workers has not been issued by FRA and reports that Class I employees, both administrative and over-the-road personnel, have confirmed or suspected COVID-19 illnesses have been received.

The emergency request from the unions follows a letter their presidents sent on March 6 that requested, among other emergency remedial measures, thorough sanitation efforts in railroad facilities and on locomotives to prevent the infection of workers.

The unions’ request includes that railroads adhere to CDC guidelines in the following areas:

• Locomotive sanitation
• Sanitation of common areas used by employees
• Monitoring of employee temperatures
• Sanitation of crew transportation vehicles

The unions also seek that accommodations for meals, including long waits for food, be made in the documentation of hours of service reports for away-from-terminal personnel, including an additional 30 minutes to report in response to a call to work.

Procedures on how to handle employees who develop symptoms of the coronavirus requested by the unions reflect CDC guidelines, which include isolation, personal protective equipment, transport, and self-quarantine.

Finally, the presidents wrote, 25% of furloughed rail personnel should immediately be recalled to service to deal with anticipated shortages and staffing needs, in accordance with President Trump’s invocation of the Defense Production Act.

“To standardize and define the best protocols across the industry for the mitigation of the spread of the virus and the protection of employees, these safety precautions need to be immediately ordered by FRA,” Presidents Ferguson and Pierce stated.

Read the petition (PDF)

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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 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.

SMART-TD State Legislative Boards directed to cancel meetings, conduct mail elections

SMART Transportation Division (TD) State Legislative Boards that have not yet conducted their quadrennial reorganization meetings are directed to cancel their meetings and conduct elections by mail ballot.

Taking these steps will assist in meeting the recommendations of the White House and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to stem the transmission of the COVID-19 virus by avoiding unnecessary travel and exposure to gatherings of people.

According to SMART Constitution Article 21B, Section 93, lines 18-22:

“Beginning in 1972 the Chairperson of each State and District Legislative Board shall convene the full Legislative Board not later than May 31st following the completion of the quadrennial elections for Local Legislative Representatives for reorganizational purposes which shall include the election of officers and adoption of bylaws and procedures.”

As a result of the growing adverse impact of the COVID-19 virus, the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Labor Management Standards (OLMS), on March 17, 2020, issued guidance that provides this organization with latitude regarding the deadline for accomplishing the quadrennial reorganization, but still requires making “a good faith effort to conduct officer elections within LMRDA [Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act] timeframes.”

Accordingly, the quadrennial elections of your board should be conducted as soon as possible, and completed before the constitutionally mandated May 31, 2020, deadline.

The DOL has advised that nominations can be taken by email, but elections must be conducted by secret ballot. The elections should be conducted pursuant to the procedures found in SMART Constitution Article 21B, Section 57, which calls for the use of “A” envelopes and the employment of three Tellers to retrieve the ballots from a P.O. box and tabulate the results. A notice soliciting nominations must be distributed to all Legislative Representatives no less than 10 days prior to the deadline for receipt of nominations. Ballots must be mailed at least 15 days prior to the date of tabulation.

Questions should be directed to the office of the Transportation Division President.

SMART-TD leaders urge action from FMCSA administrator

CLEVELAND, Ohio (March 18) — SMART Transportation Division (SMART-TD) President Jeremy R. Ferguson and TD Bus Department Vice Presidents Calvin Studivant and Alvy Hughes sent a letter to Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administrator Raymond Martinez urging the head of the FMCSA to thoroughly respond to the rapidly spreading national threat of COVID-19 (coronavirus).

“While it is noted FMCSA recently issued a national emergency declaration and guidelines for commercial vehicles delivering relief in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, to our knowledge, it has not released information or guidelines pertinent to our members,” Ferguson, Studivant and Hughes wrote, noting that agencies such as the Federal Transit Administration, the Federal Aviation Administration, the Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation and Maritime Administration have submitted guidelines to employers on how to handle COVID-19.

The SMART Transportation Division represents about 8,000 bus members, many of whom work in densely populated urban areas susceptible to the virus’s spread.

“We are urging you to issue emergency regulations directed towards metropolitan transportation authorities (and similar carriers), employees and passengers,” TD leadership wrote.

The mandates urged by SMART-TD to protect its membership and the public were that:

  • buses be sanitized after every route or tour of duty, prior to it being occupied by a subsequent operator or passengers. Require the use of CDC recommended chemicals to kill germs on surfaces, including wiping down all operator controls, seating, windows, steering wheels, door handles, switches, etc. (anywhere that an employee is likely to touch). Likewise, a disinfectant spray should be used at the end of cleaning to broadly disinfect the operators’ work area;
  • passenger areas and other equipment such as (but not limited to) computers, time clocks, restrooms, and communal areas such as offices, crew staging areas and garages be sanitized at least once every 8 hours, ideally within the range of normal shift changes and on/off duty times, if they exist;
  • the above sanitization tasks be performed by individuals designated and educated on proper procedures, who are equipped with the necessary personal protective equipment, and include the removal of trash from buses and communal areas (this should not be considered incidental work performed by operators);
  • operators and passengers be provided with personal protective equipment, alcohol-based hand sanitizer strong enough to kill viruses, and other cleaning supplies as deemed appropriate;
  • the number of passengers and/or employees in a confined area (including buses) be limited to comply with the applicable Local, State, and/or federal guidelines;
  • employees be encouraged to stay home if they have respiratory symptoms (coughing, sneezing, shortness of breath, and/or fever) and to leave work if they develop such symptoms while at the workplace;
  • prohibition of attendance policies and availability standards which could result in discipline or penalties for employees who miss work due to COVID-19 related symptoms and/or illness;
  • all employees (including supervisory staff) must be educated on the appropriate guidelines for self-monitoring of their health condition, as well as monitoring and addressing others who appear to be symptomatic;
  • all employees reporting to work must be scanned for fever prior to the beginning of each route or tour of duty, with employees identified as having an elevated temperature immediately isolated and sent home for treatment or self-quarantine in accordance with CDC guidelines;
  • carriers must report to the appropriate health departments where employees have shown aforementioned symptoms that prevent them from carrying out their assigned duties;
  • carriers must develop plans for employees who reside with, and/or come into direct contact with, individuals who are symptomatic, and
  • carriers must comply with other such guidelines issued by the CDC and the federal government.

President Ferguson and Vice Presidents Studivant and Hughes also urged Martinez to provide timely  updates as FMCSA engages in its response to COVID-19.

“Further, we ask that you provide continual updates to these guidelines/mandates, as other departments have done,” they wrote. “Please advise of your plans pertaining to this very serious situation.”

Read the entire letter to FMCSA Administrator Martinez.

TTD unions release principles for combating the COVID-19 health crisis

The AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department, of which SMART Transportation Division is a member, released the following on March 18, 2020:

The people who build, operate and maintain our nation’s transportation systems are struggling, as are most Americans, with the scope and effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The spread of the disease does not appear to be slowing down, and it is clear that this is not only a public health crisis, but also an economic one. As the elected leaders of transportation unions we are calling on federal policymakers to take decisive action to address both the immediate and long-term health and economic effects caused by COVID-19. Critically, any solutions must focus on helping front line workers who are bearing the brunt of the outbreak from both a health and economic perspective.

There are three separate, but inextricably related challenges:

  1. Addressing the immediate public health crisis by preventing the spread of the disease and keeping workers safe on the job.
  2. Providing immediate economic relief for those whose livelihood is threatened during this crisis.
  3. Providing long-term economic stability for transportation workers and the systems they support.

Confronting the Public Health Crisis

Although many employers are telling employees to work from home, front line transportation and hospitality workers cannot just log into a computer to do their jobs. Bus drivers, port workers and longshoremen, mariners on board ships, train operators, airline pilots, flight attendants, mechanics, passenger service agents and others must be physically present to perform their duties. It is therefore incumbent on government agencies and employers to ensure that workers are given the guidance, training, resources and equipment to both keep themselves healthy and to prevent further spread of the virus.

This starts with strict and sector-specific guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for all front line transportation workers. These guidelines must recognize all modes of viral transmission, including the inhalation of infectious aerosols, and stress employer responsibility for providing and maintaining a safe work environment. Further, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) must issue an Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) to protect working people, including those covered under the Railway Labor Act (RLA), from occupational exposure to infectious diseases, including COVID-19. Workers must also be provided with and allowed to use protective equipment such as N95 respirators and protective gloves while on the job. Finally, COVID-19 tests must be free and available to everyone to ensure prompt diagnosis and treatment. The lack of adequate testing allows public health officials to understate the true scope of the virus and prevents individuals from making informed, intelligent decisions when deciding whether to go to work or remain on the job.

Immediate Economic Assistance

There are several commonsense policies to address the immediate economic concerns of working people that must be central to any immediate economic relief package. The fact that this country does not have mandatory paid sick and family medical leave for all workers is a national embarrassment. The spread of COVID-19 is demonstrating the public health and economic consequences for such callous, shortsighted policies that routinely require working people to choose between giving up pay and reporting to work sick. In this time of crisis, paid sick leave should be mandatory. We call on Congress to step in and designate COVID-19 as a serious health condition for the purposes of the Family and Medical Leave Act.

Congress must also strengthen and expand Unemployment Insurance (UI) and Railroad Unemployment Insurance (RUI) eligibility and benefits, including increasing the maximum benefit and broadening eligibility. For those who are laid off, furloughed, or take voluntary leave due to an economic slowdown, UI and RUI are critical resources. It is also an effective economic stimulus because it gets money directly into the hands of those who need it most and are most likely to spend it. Congress should also take action to eliminate bureaucratic barriers to providing adequate benefits.

Long-Term Economic Stimulus

The transportation sector is already being particularly hard hit by the economic slowdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Passenger volume has dropped precipitously for air carriers, Amtrak, commuter rail and public transit, and the volume is not expected to improve for weeks, if not months. Freight operations have also been hit hard as production has dropped across the globe.  These are the same transport options that will be critical to getting our economy up and running again once the virus crisis passes. Transportation workers and the industries they support are going to need help from the federal government. The same is true of the United States Postal Service, which currently does not receive taxpayer funds, but will need financial relief and flexibility to further utilize its vast network as Americans increase their demand for e-commerce, vote by mail, and prescription drug delivery during this crisis and into a recovery.

First, if we are serious about mitigating the long-term economic effects this pandemic is going to cause, Congress and the administration must prioritize direct spending on transportation infrastructure and services across all modes. As borrowing rates remain historically low, there is no better time to make major investments in our transportation systems, which will keep Americans working and support the economic well-being of communities across this nation.

We must also consider that the effectiveness of any government response will depend on getting the policy right. Any effort to stimulate the economy and protect critical industries must not be an exercise in corporate welfare that benefits only the wealthiest among us. We saw this done poorly in the aftermath of 9/11. While Congress acted quickly to stabilize the airline industry, thousands of workers who lost their jobs had to wait a year and a half for expanded unemployment insurance benefits. For many, this was too little, too late.

Additionally, aviation workers made steep concessions after 9/11 to help keep the industry afloat. Yet, as the airlines rebounded and eventually reached record profits, the employees’ share of those profits remained stagnant. For many front line work groups it took as long as 20 years to get wages and benefits back to pre-9/11 levels. Others, like food catering workers, are still waiting to get back to 2001 levels.

Therefore, there must be protections built in to any stimulus legislation to ensure that companies that receive public funds cannot use this money to undermine workers’ livelihoods by offshoring or outsourcing jobs, or by handing the money over to shareholders in the form of increased dividends and stock buybacks. Catering contractors and subcontractors of the airlines that seek public assistance from any stimulus package must be required to provide health care coverage to their employees that meets or exceeds the standards set by the Service Contract Act. There must also be provisions to prevent employers from abrogating their collective bargaining commitments, even in a bankruptcy process.

Similar protections should be imposed on public transit agencies, Amtrak and commuter rail providers that receive federal money to compensate for losses in fare box dollars or state tax revenue. Public funds must be prioritized to maintain service, employment levels, wages and benefits. Further, no public funds should be used to prop up the foreign flag cruise ship industry that utilizes foreign labor and flags-of-convenience laws to avoid hiring American crews and adhering to American labor laws and standards, as well as environmental codes.

The policies need to be clear. This will not only keep people employed and participating in the broader economy, it will keep these sectors prepared to meet the surge in demand that will occur once this crisis is over.

Transportation labor is ready and eager to do our part to steer our country through this crisis. Every day, workers are continuing to go to work, perform their duties, and do their best to ensure that our passenger and freight transportation networks continue to operate in a safe and efficient manner. It is these workers who will suffer the most as this pandemic stretches on. Half-measures, jumbled guidance and corporate welfare will not contain this pandemic, and will certainly not provide the economic stimulus that we desperately need. We need policies that put workers first and position our country to flourish once this crisis is over.

Sincerely,

Marshall Ainley, President, MEBA
Levi Allen, Secretary-Treasurer, UMWA
Tim Barnes, Asst. to the President/Legislative Rep., UNITEHERE
Jerry Boles, President, BRS
Dave Connolly, President, SUP
John Costa, President, ATU
Harold Daggett, President, ILA
Joe DePete, President, ALPA
Jeremy Ferguson, President, SMART-TD
Lorretta Johnson, Secretary-Treasurer, AFT
Everett Kelley, National President, AFGE
John Mansker, Director, Railroad Division, IBB
Donald Marcus, President, MM&P
F. L. McCann, President, ATDA
Sara Nelson, International President, AFA-CWA
Sito Pantoja, General Vice President, IAM
Michael Perrone, National President, PASS
Paul Rinaldi, President, NATCA
Fredric Rolando, National President, NALC
Al Russo, Director – Railroad Division, IBEW
John Samuelsen, International President, TWU
Robert Scardelletti, National President, TCU
Christopher M. Shelton, President, CWA
John Thacker, Conference President, NCF&O, SEIU
Larry I. Willis, President, TTD

NOTICE: SMART-TD locals may cancel meetings for March and April 2020

March 17, 2020

In line with White House recommendations that gatherings of more than 10 people be avoided to counter the transmission of the COVID-19 virus, SMART Transportation Division Locals are advised they may cancel monthly meetings in March and April 2020.

During this period only, officers and members seeking membership approval of expense submissions will be able to utilize a relaxed version of a procedure that was previously available only to Local Chairpersons.

In addition, a form is being made available for use by those seeking expense reimbursement. Any officer or member abusing the form and/or submitting fraudulent claims may be subject to removal from office, reprimand, penalties and fines in accordance with the SMART Constitution.

Questions regarding this procedure should be directed to the office of the Transportation Division President.