Archive for the ‘TD Leadership Messages’ Category

TD members: Help to preserve SMART’s pension!

Dear members of SMART Transportation Division:

Your help is needed to get the word out to certain members of Congress who want to take pension money from our Sheet Metal brothers and sisters and other union workers covered by multi-employer pension plans.

A decade ago, in the midst of the Great Recession, SMART and other multi-employer pension plans had the foresight to take steps to make sure they could meet their necessary obligations even during a period of financial collapse. These steps involved sacrifice on the part of these plan participants and resulted in solvent and stable pension plans able to meet their obligations for years to come.

However, there is a minority of pension plans covering about 1 million participants that did not make these changes, and these pensions could run out of money in the future. In addition, the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation (PBGC), which serves as a safety net for financially troubled pensions, is having money troubles of its own. It could be insolvent within a decade.

To address these shortfalls, Congress has convened a Joint Select Committee to consider ways to resolve the potential insolvencies. But the draft plan being considered by this Congressional committee could punish healthy and solvent pensions, like the one covering SMART members, for the sake of solving the financial shortfalls of the failing pensions and the PBGC.

Politicians need to know that this plan is not acceptable, and we ask that you make it clear that another solution, one that does not take money away from solvent plans, must be found.

Our SMART brothers and sisters need our help, please call. You also can text PENSION to 21233 and to be connected directly to your congressional office. Message and data rates apply for that service.

Members of the Joint Select Committee:

  • Congressman Vern Buchanan – Florida 16th 202-225-5015
  • Congresswoman Virginia Foxx – North Carolina 5th 202-225-2071
  • Congressman Phil Roe – Tennessee 1st 202-225-6356
  • Congressman David Schweikert – Arizona 6th 202-225-2190
  • Congresswoman Debbie Dingell – Michigan 12th 202-225-4071
  • Congressman Richard E. Neal – Massachusetts 1st 202-225-5601
  • Congressman Donald Norcross – New Jersey 1st 202-225-6501
  • Congressman Bobby Scott – Virginia 3rd 202-225-8351
  • Senator Orrin Hatch – Utah (Co-Chair) 202-224-5251
  • Senator Lamar Alexander – Tennessee 202-224-4494
  • Senator Michael Crapo – Idaho 202-224-6142
  • Senator Rob Portman – Ohio 202-224-3353
  • Senator Sherrod Brown – Ohio (Co-Chair) 202-224-2315
  • Senator Heidi Heitkamp – North Dakota 202-224-2043
  • Senator Joe Manchin – West Virginia 202-224-3954
  • Senator Tina Smith – Minnesota 202-224-5641

A suggested script for your call to Congress:

My name is ___________ and I am a member of SMART Transportation Division Local ____. My union brothers and sisters in the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers participate in a multi-employer defined benefit pension fund.

I am calling today to voice my strong opposition to the current proposal of the Joint Select Committee. This proposal attempts to infuse money into the broken PBGC on the backs of healthy pension plans and forces the funding status of well-performing funds to go backward.

My union does not endorse this proposal, nor do I. We expect any friend of labor to stand with us on this position.

UPDATED: The Passing of General President Emeritus Joseph Nigro

The General President, General Secretary Treasurer, General Executive Council, Staff of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers and the members and officers of SMART affiliates across the U.S. and Canada mourn the death of our esteemed brother and a legendary crusader for working people everywhere, SMART General President Emeritus Joseph J. Nigro.

Joe was a proud member of Local Union 17 in Boston and served as General President from July 2011 until April 1, 2015. In a letter to the locals and membership upon his retirement, he stated, “I have committed my heart and mind to accomplishing the goals we have set, but my health has taken me in a direction I did not anticipate. Unfortunately, I have been unable to recover to a level I expect of myself as your General President—the level of effort the members deserve”. A fitting response from Joe, who always gave the membership 100% of what he believed they deserved.

Nigro was the first General President of SMART and the leader of our more than 200,000 members. At the first SMART Convention Joe, who was very proud of SMART leadership at all levels stated, “we have had some successes and have laid the groundwork for moving forward, I have every confidence we have collectively built a team of International and Local Union leaders who can get the job done for the membership.”

Joe Nigro’s vision, guidance, kindness and sense of humor will live on to inspire not only those whose lives he touched, but also future generations of members who will benefit from his leadership. We will forever miss his friendship and unwavering support.

He will always be remembered as the “Members General President”. A title he richly deserved and cherished.

A viewing is scheduled 2 to 7 p.m. Monday, October 29th, 2018, at Sweeney Funeral Home, 74 Elm St., Quincy, MA 02169. The funeral home can be contacted at (617) 773-2728.

A funeral Mass will be 11 a.m. Tuesday, October 30th, 2018, in Most Holy Sacrament Church (Houghs Neck Section of Quincy), 40 Darrow St. (at Sea Street) in Quincy, MA 02169.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to:

“SMWI Scholarship Foundation/Joey Nigro Jr.”

c/o Christy Foley

1750 New York Avenue N.W. Suite 600

Washington, DC 20006


Cards can be sent to Pat Nigro and family at 5296 N. Princewood Drive, Beverly Hills, FL 34465.

Our hearts and prayers go out to Pat, Tina and the entire Nigro family on their irreplaceable loss.



Joseph Sellers, Jr.                                                               Richard L. McClees

General President                                                               General Secretary-Treasurer


D.C. legislative update: More support for legislative priorities

Two legislative priorities gained support in early October.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson of Texas (Dist. 30) is the latest legislator to sign up to support H.R. 6016 — the Bus Operator and Pedestrian Protection Act, which was introduced over the summer.

The bill requires transit agencies to develop Bus Operations Safety Risk Reduction Programs by implementing physical barriers to prevent operator assaults, de-escalation training for bus drivers, driver-assisted technology to reduce accidents, and modified bus specifications or retrofits to reduce visibility impairments.

It has gained 50 Democratic and three Republican co-sponsors since its June introduction by U.S. Rep. Grace Napolitano (Dist. 32 – Calif.) in the U.S. House. A companion bill in the U.S. Senate (S. 3215) has two Democratic co-sponsors.

S. 2360 — The Safe Freight Act requiring a minimum of two-person crews on freight trains in the United States — also gained a new co-sponsor in early October in Democratic U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon.

The addition of Merkley brings the total number of co-sponsors of the bill, which was introduced by U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota early this year, to 13. All of the co-sponsors are Democrats with the exception of independent U.S. Sen. Angus King of Maine.

The House version of the Safe Freight Act (H.R. 233), which was introduced by Republican U.S. Rep. Don Young of Alaska, has 119 bipartisan co-sponsors at last count.

The Railroad Yardmaster Protection Act (H.R. 3148), introduced by U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan (D) of Minnesota, gained a pair of new co-sponsors in late September, with Republican U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis (Ill. – Dist. 13) and Democratic U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson (Minn. – Dist. 7) signing on to sponsor the bill. That bill now has 23 bipartisan cosponsors.

As the November election approaches, the SMART TD Legislative Action Center allows you to find out who represents you and what their voting records are for the issues that are important to our membership to help you make an informed decision.

Candidate endorsements will appear in the October edition of the SMART Transportation Division News.

Our SMART TD brothers and sisters in the Carolinas need your help!

Dear members of SMART Transportation Division:

Hurricane Florence and its resulting floods have left behind substantial destruction in North and South Carolina, leading to the loss of life and millions, if not billions, of dollars in damage to property in the Mid-Atlantic region and inland.

Some of those affected by the devastation include our Brothers and Sisters of SMART Transportation Division (SMART TD) who live in the region. This disaster adds a tremendous burden to their lives and the amount of loss that they now must cope with is unimaginable. The silver lining is, and will continue to be, the generosity of citizens around the country who are giving what they can to help those affected to help overcome the effects of this disaster and to reclaim their lives.

We are asking the SMART TD family to rise to the call and give what you can so that the daunting task of starting over and rebuilding can begin. Your generous donation will help lessen the struggle and bring real hope and relief to our SMART TD members who are suffering through this disaster.

Please make your donation to the SMART TD Disaster Relief Fund. All donations to the fund are used solely for the benefit of TD members who are impacted by natural disasters, and are tax deductible to the extent permitted by law.

Contributions may be sent to:

SMART TD Disaster Relief Fund

Suite 340

24950 Country Club Blvd.

North Olmsted, OH 44070-5333


John Previsich

President, SMART Transportation Division

Transportation Division leaders in attendance at TTD executives’ meeting

SMART Transportation Division President John Previsich and Vice President John England were in attendance Sept. 12 as the AFL-CIO’s Transportation Trades Department (TTD) Executive Committee convened in Washington, D.C., and helped to set the agenda for the 32-union coalition’s future efforts.

Atop the committee’s list of goals is creating and sustaining good jobs that working families want and need by strengthening America’s transportation network and improving workplace safety at a time when stagnating wages, a changing economy, and coordinated, sustained attacks on the rights of working people have fueled a new wave of activism among workers.

SMART Transportation Division President John Previsich and Vice President John England pose for a group picture of the AFL-CIO TTD Executive Committee after its meeting Sept. 12.

SMART Transportation Division President John Previsich and Vice President John England pose for a group picture of the AFL-CIO TTD Executive Committee after its meeting Sept. 12.

“Transportation workers belong to unions and are organizing today because working people know collective bargaining is the best path to good jobs and a fair economy,” said TTD President Larry I. Willis. “The policies we fight for today and every day are focused on improving quality of life for frontline transportation workers and creating an economy that enables those who work hard to lead dignified lives.”

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Rep. John Katko (R-NY), a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, were in attendance at the meeting and participated in the discussion among union leaders.

“The dedicated men and women who power our transportation network and enable our economy to thrive deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, and know they are safe at work, receiving fair pay and benefits,” Schumer said. “Fixing our transportation infrastructure, revitalizing the middle class, and enhancing the rights and working conditions of those who work in the transportation trades should be a priority for Congress.”

“Making sure our transportation system is safe, secure, and a creator of good jobs is one of my top priorities,” Katko said. “I look forward to working with TTD unions and all stakeholders to develop comprehensive, commonsense solutions to our most pressing transportation challenges.”

Union leaders committed themselves to shaping FAA legislation that will cement America’s aviation industry as a hub of good, middle-class jobs by prioritizing pro-safety, pro-worker initiatives. Key issues transportation labor leaders will push for include securing minimum rest requirements for flight attendants, prohibiting dangerous flag-of-convenience business models, mitigating assaults against customer service agents, upholding strict pilot training requirements, and barring the operation of single-pilot cargo planes.

Taking aim at changes made by Amtrak that threaten the carrier’s long-distance routes and the good jobs those routes provide, Executive Committee members pledged to fight for a national passenger rail system that serves the entire country. They also called on the Trump administration and lawmakers to halt dangerous efforts by the freight carrier Kansas City Southern to move rail operations, brake inspections and jobs to Mexico.

“Strict freight rail regulations exist for a reason,” Willis said. “By seeking to write their own rules and undermine longtime standards, Kansas City Southern is jeopardizing good jobs and safety. Transportation labor will not stand for it.”

Labor leaders also vowed to work with members of Congress to pass legislation designed to mitigate the epidemic of assault facing America’s transit operators. Bipartisan legislation in the House and Senate requiring transit agencies to work with frontline employees to develop risk-reduction plans and implement proven safeguards is a priority for transportation labor leaders.

TTD’s Executive Committee also pledged to fight for regulations that would ensure the temperatures in commercial aircraft cabins remain at healthy, safe levels.

Unions file petition against FRA over cross-border crews

CLEVELAND, Ohio (Sept. 5, 2018) – The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) and the International Association of Sheet Metal Air, Rail and Transportation Workers Transportation Division (SMART TD) have filed a joint petition challenging actions of the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) that allow crews comprised of Mexican nationals employed by a Mexican rail company to operate trains across the United States border and into the U.S. instead of American crews employed by American railroads.

Since July 9, the FRA has allowed foreign crews from Kansas City Southern de Mexico (KCSM), a railroad based in Mexico and subsidiary of Kansas City Southern (KCS), to cross into the U.S. and run trains on the Texas Mexican Railway Company (“Tex-Mex”) line in Laredo, Texas. BLET and SMART TD maintain that this violates long-established federal laws and regulations regarding safety, training, crew qualifications and conduct of locomotive engineers and conductors operating freight trains in the U.S. The FRA is an agency of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), which also is named as a respondent in the petition.

“The Petitioners challenge this conduct as arbitrary and capricious, an abuse of discretion, in excess of the Respondents’ statutory authority and otherwise contrary to law,” the petition states.

There has been no order, waiver, public notice or documentation published by the FRA regarding the actions being challenged. The unions seek to set aside the agencies’ actions and to require that they divulge all internal records detailing the authorization of the practice, including the vetting of the non-U.S. crewmembers by FRA, and the decision to allow KCSM, a foreign company not incorporated in the United States, to operate across the border into this country.

“FRA’s conduct has generated significant safety concerns,” BLET National President Dennis R. Pierce said. “U.S. crews are held to the highest safety standards while crews coming in from Mexico are held to much lower standards in terms of certification, testing and operating experience. This degradation in safety is unacceptable. Beyond that, while American companies outsourcing jobs to foreign countries is nothing new, all Americans should be angered by this job giveaway on our own soil.”

“We deem it to be unsafe, we deem it to be a threat to American jobs. FRA has not been able to answer simple questions regarding certification and qualification of the foreign crews. Nor have they explained in any way how they plan to enforce American safety rules to hold the foreign crews to the same high safety standards that govern all American railroad workers,” SMART Transportation Division President John Previsich said. “We are not going to let FRA stand aside and ignore their responsibilities while a Class I carrier allows foreign crews to cross the border and jeopardize the safety of our members and the American public.”

The petition was filed in U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

Follow this link to view this release in PDF form.

TD Hollywood, Fla., Regional Meeting, Day 3: Previsich talks contract, cross-border crews at final session

HOLLYWOOD, Fla. — SMART Transportation Division President John Previsich foresees a very different scenario when the next round of national rail negotiations starts in 2019, he told the audience at the closing session of the TD Regional Meeting on Wednesday, Aug. 8.

“When we entered into the last round, you’ll recall that the railroad business was down … the railroads were claiming they were losing money” Previsich said. “That situation is now entirely different.”

SMART Transportation Division President John Previsich responds to members' submitted questions during the closing session of the third and final day of the TD Regional Meeting at the Hilton Diplomat Resort in Hollywood, Fla., on Aug. 8.

SMART Transportation Division President John Previsich responds to members' submitted questions during the closing session of the third and final day of the TD Regional Meeting at the Hilton Diplomat Resort in Hollywood, Fla., on Aug. 8.

Carriers have been reaping record profits and increased revenue and received the gift of a corporate tax reduction from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act passed last year. But instead of reinvesting their gains in their infrastructure or rewarding their workforce, rail carriers have used it to buy back stocks to boost their share prices.

That means with the national rail agreement open for negotiations in late 2019, the carriers will not get to recycle the economic argument, Previsich said.

“We will not tolerate in negotiations any claim for lack of revenue, or for lack of available money to provide a decent increase to our membership in the face of record stock buybacks that enrich a select few,” Previsich said. “We won’t stand for it. It’s an important time, given the political climate, given the economic climate, that we now reap what we’ve earned.”

Previsich also touched upon the situation in Texas, where Kansas City Southern (KCS) started early last month the practice of allowing foreign rail crews to cross into the United States at the Laredo border crossing and travel nine miles into our country before replacing them with American workers.

“The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) thus far has taken absolutely no action to stop this practice,” Previsich said. “FRA has an obligation to ensure the safety of American workers and the American public. Their refusal to live up to that obligation is not acceptable. On this matter, FRA is allowing the railroads to self-regulate and self-certify without oversight.” He told attendees at the meeting that the union will do “anything and everything” to attack FRA’s lack of responsibility on the issue.

“We deem it to be unsafe, we deem it to be a threat to our jobs,” Previsich said. “We are not going to let them (FRA) stand aside while a Class I carrier allows foreign crews to cross the border and steal our jobs while jeopardizing the safety of our members and the general public.” He called for members to prepare to act to put the pressure on when and where it is needed.

“When that time comes, we’re going to let you know,” he said. “We want you to do everything you can to ensure that each and every member delivers a strong and powerful message to Washington.”

Guidelines set for distribution of campaign literature

The SMART Transportation Division elections set for this autumn have generated questions concerning the distribution of campaign material. The following information addresses questions posed by those considering running for office who wish to obtain membership lists for use in campaigning.

Under U.S. Department of Labor rules, all candidates for union office have a right under the law to have campaign literature distributed to the membership by the union at the candidate’s expense. The union must honor requests for distribution of literature to all members in good standing.

A member need not be formally nominated to be entitled to distribute campaign literature.

Campaign material must be mailed out by the Local Secretary, Treasurer or Secretary-Treasurer upon request but must be furnished in envelopes which are already stuffed, sealed and with proper postage affixed.

Each candidate must be treated equally with respect to the cost of distributing campaign literature. There is no requirement that the union distribute literature free of charge. However, if a union distributes any candidate’s literature without charge, all other candidates should be notified that they are also entitled to have their literature distributed without charge.

If it is discovered that a candidate has used a “personal” mailing list which was created or obtained as a result of the candidate (or a supporter) serving as an officer or in a union job, the list should be made available to all other candidates.

A union may not limit the number of mailings which a candidate is permitted to make.

A union may require candidates to pay in advance for campaign literature distributions, if such requirement is applied uniformly to all candidates.

A union may not regulate the contents of campaign literature it is asked to distribute and may not require that it be permitted to read the literature before distribution. The union may not censor campaign literature in any way, even if the literature includes derogatory remarks about other candidates.

Bona fide candidates (i.e., those who have been nominated for office) can contact the office of the SMART Transportation Division president to receive mailing lists of their local’s or LCA’s voters. We do not provide email addresses or telephone numbers and, as a courtesy to our membership, it is our policy that phone numbers and email addresses should not be distributed or used in campaigning.

This office can provide by email to duly nominated candidates a requested postal mailing list suitable for producing mailing labels. The minimum charge to obtain printed mailing labels is $66.40, with an extra charge of $0.0332 per label in excess of 2,000. A hard-copy printout of the list costs $50, with an additional $0.50 per 500 in excess of 2,000. The above covers time, material and use of equipment, plus postage where applicable.

Requests for mailing lists should be addressed to SMART Transportation Division President John Previsich and can be emailed to, or candidates can call (216) 228-9400, and ask to speak to a representative in the President’s Department. This office will reach out to ensure the member requesting the information is a bona fide candidate.

In addition, all candidates, upon request, must be granted access by the local secretary, treasurer or secretary-treasurer to inspect the voter eligibility list once within 30 days of the date of tabulation. No copies of the eligibility list are to be provided or carried away by the candidate.

Additional questions should be directed to the office of the President of the Transportation Division.

TD Hollywood, Fla. Regional Meeting, Day 3: Risch encouraged by Missouri labor victory, close race in Ohio

HOLLYWOOD, Fla. — The results of Tuesday’s elections, while not the absolute best-case scenario for labor, indicated that voters might be ready to end the one-party majority in the federal government in three months’ time, said SMART Transportation Division National Legislative Director John Risch at the opening session of the last day of the 2018 Regional Meeting at the Hilton Diplomat Resort.

A special election campaign in Ohio saw both President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence appear in support of Troy Balderson, who was running to finish out the remaining months of a term in Ohio’s 12th Congressional District. The seat was left vacated by fellow-Republican Pat Tiberia.

Yet even with the top two Republicans in the nation trying to give Balderson some momentum, he defeated Danny O’Connor, a relatively unknown Democrat, by 1 percent, according to unofficial results Tuesday. The 12th District, which includes Ohio’s capital Columbus, was carried by Trump by more than 11 points in the 2016 presidential election, according to The Associated Press.

Balderson and O’Connor will square off again in November for a full term to represent the district in Congress, and the result could be different with such a narrow margin.

Missouri’s special election Tuesday brought better news for labor, in what has been “a solidly red” state, Risch said.

Proposition A, a labor-led referral effort to repeal right-to-work legislation, was successful with 67 percent of voters voting to repeal a right-to-work law in place. Thirty-three percent of voters voted to keep the law, according to unofficial results. Labor faced much opposition with the Koch brothers leading an underground deceptive ‘yes vote’ effort that would have kept the right-to-work law in place. Missouri would’ve been the 28th state with such legislation in place had the referral not been successful.

“Even with all the deceptiveness, even with all the ways in which they tried to tilt the playing field in their favor – all of that, we won in Missouri,” Risch said.

He said a majority of voters in Missouri understood and recognized that Proposition A’s backers were trying to undermine the ability of unions to get better wages, fringe benefits and improve safety through deceptive direct mailings and other tactics.

“When they understand this, they vote the right way,” Risch said. “They vote for themselves, they vote for their unions, they vote for the ability to do something in the workplace.”

Risch feels that this victory, as well as victories by teachers in West Virginia, Arizona and Colorado this year, could signal a turning point for workers in the fight against income inequality.

“I see a trend, I see a movement across this country,” he said. “I think the tide is turning. I hope the tide is turning because we can’t go the other direction much longer.”

SMART Transportation Division National Legislative Director John Risch addresses attendees Wednesday at the opening session of the final day of the Hollywood, Fla., Regional Meeting.

SMART Transportation Division National Legislative Director John Risch addresses attendees Wednesday, Aug. 8 at the opening session of the final day of the Hollywood, Fla., Regional Meeting.

TD Hollywood, Fla., Regional Meeting, Day 2: General Counsel Brodar talks about Janus’ blatant attack on unions

HOLLYWOOD, Fla. — SMART Transportation Division General Counsel Kevin Brodar minced no words Tuesday, Aug. 7, when describing the 5-4 Janus v. AFSCME decision written by United States Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito that was released this summer.

“His hate and loathing — and that’s being kind — for unions and working people drips from every page of this opinion, if that’s what you want to call it — an opinion,” Brodar said. “It’s less an opinion but more a right-wing manifesto as to how to eliminate unions.”

The 45-page Janus ruling taking away the ability of unions in the public sector to collect agency fees from “free-riders” has been an important topic at SMART TD’s Hollywood, Fla., regional meeting. In Monday’s combined opening session with Sheet Metal and TD sides in attendance, SMART General President Joseph Sellers Jr., General Secretary-Treasurer Rich McClees and TD President John Previsich all mentioned the precedent-destroying case.

Brodar, during the opening session of the second day, went into even more detail on the ruling.

“What Justice Alito tries to sell here is the two-century-old idea that unionism is just an excuse for legalized extortion,” Brodar said, holding up a printed copy of Alito’s opinion. “This case is an attack on working people. It’s an attack on all unions, not just public-sector unions. It’s an attack on this union.

“This is an attack on every one of you who goes out and does the hard work of defending the members, who goes out and does the hard work of standing against the tide of the carriers, who goes out and does the hard work of the long and tedious hours.”

Big-moneyed interests and industries have exacted a toll on workers throughout history – in injuries, blood and in some cases, human lives, Brodar said. In the early days of the labor movement, workers’ efforts to organize sometimes were met with armed responses intended to put down their resistance.

“No matter how many people were killed, however, the industrialists and the right-wingers and the conservatives and the business interests could not kill the idea of unions,” Brodar said. “They could not kill the cause because the cause is a righteous cause … You are the heirs to that fight.”

Those same forces that tried to suppress unions in the past exist today in the form of union foes such as Alito, the Koch brothers, the Federalist Society and other billionaire backers, Brodar said. This time, those enemies of labor are playing a long game with the Janus ruling being one step in their attempts to kill unions.

“Their new tactic is death from strangulation. They hope to dry up the union funds until the unions can no longer function and they just disappear and go away,” Brodar said.

The Janus decision “is essentially a green light for people to freeload” from public-sector unions, he said, and private sector unions likely will be next to be targeted.

“Look at the people sitting next to you. This affects your brothers and sisters in this room, in this union today, tomorrow,” Brodar said. “If you don’t think they are coming for the private sector, wake up and smell the coffee. That’s the next thing that is going to happen.”

Members will have to make a choice to fight back to preserve that which gives them a middle-class lifestyle, Brodar said. They can do that by educating their fellow members, their friends, neighbors and anyone else they can about what these anti-union forces are trying to accomplish through stacking the courts, trying to get right-to-work-for-less laws and other means.

“It’s up to us to respond. We can’t sit back, because if we do, we will disappear,” Brodar said. “We need to go out and educate every member every day, every way.”

SMART Transportation Division General Counsel Kevin Brodar holds up a printout of the Janus v. AFSCME decision on Tuesday, Aug. 7, at the second day of the SMART TD regional meeting in Hollywood, Fla., as TD President John Previsich, left, listens.

TD Hollywood, Fla. Regional Meeting, Day 1: Previsich says U.S. labor movement at critical juncture

HOLLYWOOD, Fla. — Transportation Division President John Previsich looked to the recent past to point the way to the future on Monday, Aug. 6, at a critical point in United States labor history.

In opening remarks to the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers’ first combined educational meeting at the Hilton Diplomat Resort in Hollywood, Florida, Previsich reflected on the status of the coordinated bargaining unit’s national rail agreement talks that appeared to be at a standstill last summer and an appearance at the Sheet Metal Business Agents Conference in Vancouver last year that he said might have changed the tide.

At the time, a declaration of an impasse was likely at the next meeting between the rail labor unions and the carriers and a Presidential Emergency Board would convene, Previsich said.

But the potential impasse was broken at the next meeting with the carriers willing to negotiate, and Previsich has an inkling of what played a big part: unity.

“I told the Sheet Metal brothers and sisters in the room that when the time came, and that we had to look at a Presidential Emergency Board, I said I didn’t want 65,000 Transportation Division members calling the White House, I wanted 200,000 SMART members calling the White House,” Previsich said. “Every brother and sister stood up and pledged their support. I would like to think that support, that word, that message, got – maybe to the White House. It got somewhere good, because at the very next session immediately after that meeting in Vancouver, the railroads came into the room and started negotiating.”

Within a month, a contract offer was on the table that was ratified Dec. 1, 2017, by four out of five TD members, Previsich said.

“It was the support of everyone in that room that made that happen,” he said.

Establishing that unity not only within SMART but among all labor organizations nationwide and education efforts will be key in the aftermath of the attack on labor in the form of this summer’s Janus decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, Previsich said.

“There are forces out there that want to reset the entire playing field. They want to move the goalposts to a place that we can’t get to. They started with Janus,” he said.

The Janus decision nullifies the ability of public-sector unions to collect what are known as maintenance fees from “free-riders” — those people who take advantage of union membership benefits but do not pay for those benefits.

“It’s not going to be fatal to our organization, but it will be close to fatal to other organizations,” Previsich said.

Teachers unions, the SEIU and unions that protect government employees will be most affected, but that doesn’t mean that those anti-union forces will stop at just that single victory to crush labor in the U.S., he said.

“The next step is to private employers and there are already efforts to start that happening,” Previsich said. “They create a dispute here, a dispute there, get some conflicting court decisions and boom, it bubbles up to the Supreme Court.”

With a second Supreme Court vacancy to be filled by the Trump administration, 150 years of labor history that workers fought and died for is under attack and in jeopardy in the United States, Previsich said.

Union members need to act.

“We can no longer sit back and let somebody else take care of our business. We have to take care of it,” Previsich said. “We have to stand united, not only within, but with every other labor organization in the country. We need to talk to our friends, our relatives, our neighbors and everybody we encounter in the grocery store and let them know the labor movement is an honorable movement.

“It’s the foundation of America, and if they start beating back the unions, they’re going to beat back every employee in any form whether they’re unionized or not … we can’t let it happen.”

The key to stopping the attack will be individual action and spreading the word, member-to-member, about the importance of the November mid-term elections, Previsich said.

“This is really the cliff-side point in labor history. I can’t stress strongly enough how important it is that we get out there and motivate our members to get out there to preserve the labor movement,” he said. “We can’t forget our paychecks. We can’t forget our pensions, our benefits and our families.

“We need to make sure our members are educated on everything that is important to the cause, the movement, the preservation of the labor lifestyle that comes about as the result of unions and the hard work that they’ve been doing for 150 years.”

Earlier in the opening session, SMART General President Joseph Sellers Jr. and General Secretary-Treasurer Rich McClees also encouraged the further development of solidarity by increasing cooperation between the Sheet Metal and Transportation Division membership.

The Hollywood, Fla., combined educational meeting itself marks the first time since the Sheet Metal and Transportation Division’s merger that both a TD regional meeting and a Sheet Metal business agents conference have taken place at the same location.

SMART Transportation Division President John Previsich addresses the opening session of the Transportation Department Regional Meeting at the Hilton Diplomat Resort on Monday, Aug. 6, in Hollywood, Fla.

SMART Transportation Division President John Previsich addresses the opening session of the Transportation Division regional meeting at the Hilton Diplomat Resort on Monday, Aug. 6, in Hollywood, Fla.

VP Lesniewski retires; Leonard elevated to vice president position

John Lesniewski, vice president and successor president of the Transportation Division of the International Association of Sheet Metal Air, Rail and Transportation Workers, has retired, effective July 1, 2018.

John Lesniewski

Lesniewski, a member of Chicago Local 1534, started his railroad career on the Baltimore and Ohio Chicago Terminal Railroad (CSXT) on Oct. 29, 1972. After holding local offices with the then-United Transportation Union (UTU), Lesniewski was elected local chairperson in 1982 and was re-elected by acclamation in 1986, 1990, 1994 and 1998, serving for more than 16 years. He also served as the local’s delegate at UTU conventions in 1987, 1991, 1995, 1999 and 2003.

“It has been my privilege and pleasure to serve the membership as an officer of our great Union for almost 36 of my 46 years of railroad service. My sincere thanks to all of the Union members, officers and staff who have supported me along the way,” Lesniewski said. “I will never forget you.”

In 1995, Lesniewski was elected part-time secretary of the CSXT/B&O General Committee (GO-049) after 26 years as a trainman and 16 years as a part-time representative. He was elected by acclamation to a full-time position as first vice general chairperson in 1999 and re-elected to that position in 2003. Upon the retirement of former General Chairperson J. T. Reed on July 1, 2004, Lesniewski was elected by acclamation as general chairperson on the former B&O CSXT property and then re-elected for successive terms by acclamation in 2007 and 2011.

On Feb. 28, 2011, Lesniewski was elected as second alternate vice president-East by the UTU board of directors and was subsequently elected, overwhelmingly, as a full vice president by delegates at the 2011 UTU Convention and re-elected to the position at the SMART TD convention in 2014. At the 2014 convention, he was also elected “successor president” by the delegates. He also served as general vice president on the General Executive Council of SMART.

Lesniewski served on the National Negotiating Committee for the July 1, 2008, National Mediation Agreement under both former-Presidents P. C. Thompson and M. B. Futhey Jr. He also served on the 2011 National Negotiating Committee, having been appointed by Futhey in December 2009. He served on his third National Negotiating Committee starting in 2015, having been appointed by Transportation Division President John Previsich, which resulted in the National Rail Agreement that was ratified Dec. 1, 2017.

“As I step aside, I encourage younger members to get involved in the labor movement to protect their own future as well as the future of their co-workers,” Lesniewski said. “Being a Union representative, in any capacity, is a prodigious source of personal satisfaction if it is undertaken for the correct purpose of making a difference by helping and protecting our membership.

“As an added bonus, within our Union, you end up working with a dedicated group of consummate professionals as I have.”

President Previsich commented: “I have had the pleasure of working with Brother Lesniewski during my entire career as a nationally elected officer. His professionalism and expertise are at the highest level and his integrity and commitment are confirmed by all who know him. John has been a tremendous asset to our union in all respects and a close and dear friend to me personally. It is my distinct honor to wish John and his wife, Gail, a long, healthy and prosperous retirement.”

John and Gail have been married for 45 years and reside in Noblesville, Ind. They have four children, three of whom are married, and eight grandchildren.

The vacancy created by Lesniewski’s retirement will be filled by the elevation of Alternate Vice President Brent Leonard, effective July 1.

Leonard, 45, has served as SMART TD alternate vice president since Jan. 1, 2013. He was elevated to the position by the Board of Directors on Dec. 28, 2012, and was re-elected to the position in 2014.

Brent Leonard

A member of Local 202 in Denver, Leonard started railroading in 1997 on Union Pacific as a conductor/switchman. He was promoted to engineer in 1998 and was elected local chairperson in 2001. He was elected vice general chairperson of his general committee, GO-953, in 2003; senior vice general chairperson in 2007 and general chairperson in 2011. GO-953 represents about 4,000 members and is one of the largest general committees in SMART TD. 

As general chairperson, Leonard represented Union Pacific employees encompassing 10 states as well as four regional short-line railroads representing both operating and non-operating crafts. Leonard negotiated several first-of-their-kind agreements providing significant pay increases, improvements to his members’ quality of life and predictive time off.

Leonard has filled past roles of chairman of Union Pacific Railroad Employee Health Systems (UPREHS), chairman of the District 1 General Chairpersons’ Association and has served in various leadership positions for the Union Pacific General Chairpersons’ Association.

Leonard and his wife live in Topeka, Kan., and have two daughters.