Ohio State Legislative Director Stu Gardner requests that members from his state show their support for H.B. 186, a comprehensive rail safety bill that is receiving its first hearing in the Ohio Legislature on Tuesday, June 18.
Ohio Reps. Brent Hillyer and Michael Sheehy, who is a retired SMART TD member and a member of the TD Alumni Association, will introduce the bill at 11 a.m. to the House Transportation Committee in Room 114 at the statehouse in Columbus.
The bill covers:
Two-person freight train crews
Common-sense safe walkways within rail yards
Common-sense illumination of rail yards
Blocked crossings that obstruct and delays emergency vehicles
“An overwhelming show of support is our goal,” Gardner said. “Show those members of the Transportation Committee that we care and are serious about our safety, and the safety of the communities the we work in and pass through.”
Here’s a quick update on where legislation important to SMART Transportation Division members stands on a national level:
The Safe Freight Act in the U.S. House (H.R. 1748), national two-person crew legislation introduced by U.S. Rep. Don Young in March, has 60 co-sponsors consisting of 56 Democrats and 4 Republicans. It has been referred to the House’s Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials.
The Transit Worker and Pedestrian Protection Act has versions in both the U.S. House (H.R. 1139) and in the U.S. Senate (S. 436). It is intended to protect bus and transit operators from assault through various strategies and requires that both rail and bus transit agencies (those not covered by the FRA) create risk-reduction plans to protect operators and that the agencies submit those plans to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) for approval. The Senate version has 13 co-sponsors since its introduction in February, while the House version has 145 co-sponsors since its February introduction. The Senate version has been referred to the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, while the House version has been referred to the Subcommittee on Highways and Transit.
The Railroad Yardmaster Protection Act of 2019 (H.R. 2449), which covers yardmaster hours of service, was introduced in early May and has two co-sponsors. It has been referred to the House Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials.
SMART Transportation Division has a grand slam of a time planned at San Diego’s Petco Park for registered attendees of the 2019 Regional Meeting on the evening of Tuesday, July 2.
Food, fun and baseball will be the name of the game as registered meeting attendees watch the Padres take on the National League West rival San Francisco Giants at the Padres’ home field, a short walk from the host Hilton Bayfront Hotel.
Attendees can feast on summer favorites and ballpark classics from the grill, including barbecue chicken, hot dogs and more on the historic Western Metal Building rooftop (pictured above) in left field. Food and beverage service will begin one hour prior to first pitch at 7:10 p.m. Food service will be available for two hours, and beverages will be available through the seventh inning.
The game can be enjoyed from the Western Metal rooftop, the terrace-level sports bar “The Loft,” or from adjoining seats at “The Rail.” Traditional seats are also available in Sections 226 and 228.
Members will have a chance to mingle and make memories with their guests, families and union brothers and sisters during this exciting night at Petco.
In the carrier’s quarterly earnings call April 18, Union Pacific Chief Operating Officer Jim Vena said that more cuts are being weighed as UP quests for a 61% operating ratio and continues its move toward Precision Scheduled Railroading (PSR).
During the call, the carrier also announced a “pause” in the construction of its $550 million Brazos Yard project in Robertson County, Texas, as UP reallocated funds to improve its El Paso, Texas-to-Loa Angeles line.
Vena said there would be more “rationalization” of the carrier’s network and terminals in order to increase train speed and that future hump yard closures are in the planning stages, according to the Supply Chain Dive news website.
UP is a third of the way through its “Unified 2020” plan to implement PSR, Supply Chain Dive’s Emma Cosgrove reported.
The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) announced Tuesday, April 9, that the Rail Safety Advisory Committee (RSAC) will meet later this month for the first time since its reinstatement last autumn.
According to a notice published in the Federal Register, RSAC is scheduled to meet 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, April 24 and 25, 2019, at the National Association of Home Builders, National Housing Center, 1201 15th Street NW, Washington, DC 20005.
RSAC is composed of 40 voting representatives from 29 member organizations, including SMART Transportation Division and other rail labor groups, representing various rail industry perspectives.
The meeting’s agenda is scheduled to include opening remarks from FRA Administrator Ron Batory, updates on the industry’s implementation of Positive Train Control and FRA presentations from its Passenger Safety and Tourist and Historic Railroads working groups, the Federal Register notice stated.
Planning and procedures of future RSAC activities also will be on the agenda, which is subject to change.
The meeting is open to the public on a first-come, first-served basis, and is accessible to individuals with disabilities. Persons who wish to submit written comments for RSAC’s consideration during the meeting must submit them no later than Friday, April 19, to ensure transmission to RSAC members prior to the meeting. Comments received after that date and time will be distributed to the members but may not be reviewed prior to the meeting.
Those seeking additional information should contact Kenton Kilgore, RSAC designated federal officer/RSAC coordinator at the FRA Office of Railroad Safety at 202-493-6286; or Larry Woolverton, executive officer of the FRA Office of Railroad Safety at 202-493-6212.
RSAC was rechartered for two years in September 2018 after a period of dormancy. The committee, in existence since 1996, advises the FRA administrator and makes recommendations on matters relating to railroad safety, resulting in a process that allows stakeholders, including labor and industry representatives, to collaborate before proposed rules are submitted. It last met in May 2017.
The disastrous flooding in the Midwest has affected thousands of people, including SMART Transportation Division members.
To help assist those who have had their lives affected by the floods, Your Track to Health has compiled a list of services and information for behavioral health, prescription providers, vision, dental and health insurance resources and counseling.
The AFL-CIO’s Transportation Trades Department (TTD) on March 11 announced the railroad industry issues that the coalition of transportation unions, of which SMART Transportation Division is a member, will prioritize in the coming months.
Of the highest importance, the policy statement identified continuing the progression of safety measures, including national legislation.
“More can and must be done to further improve safety, minimize risk on railroads, and ensure frontline workers and the communities they operate in are fully protected,” the TTD said in its policy statement. “By reauthorizing the now-expired Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (RSIA), closing perilous loopholes in existing regulations, and advancing common sense safety regulations that prioritize a vibrant and healthy rail workforce, Congress and the administration have an opportunity and obligation to ensure that the future of rail is safer than ever before.”
The policy statement also identified five key points of focus:
Addressing Fatigue with Common Sense Solutions
Single Crew Member Trains are Unsafe
Protecting Rail Workers from Assault
Ensure Cross Border Safety and Security
Working Together for a Safe and Risk Free Rail Industry
“Rail workers cannot be expected to do more with a reduced workforce, fewer resources, and less sleep while simultaneously improving safety and minimizing risks,” the TTD concluded. “Rail labor will work vigorously with Congress to ensure adequate safety measures are implemented through the reauthorization process and will challenge any attempts that are made at the expense of safety, workers’ rights and their jobs.”
The policy statement was released in conjunction with the TTD’s Executive Committee meeting in New Orleans.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has posted new frequently asked questions (FAQs) on the agency’s standard for respirable crystalline silica in general industry.
OSHA developed the FAQs in consultation with industry and union stakeholders to provide guidance to employers and employees on the standard’s requirements, such as exposure assessments, regulated areas, methods of compliance and communicating silica hazards to employees. The questions and answers are organized by topic and include an introductory paragraph that provides background information about the regulatory requirements.
Silica dust, when inhaled, affects the lungs and can be a contributor to the development of lung cancer, silicosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and kidney disease in workers. It is of potential concern to rail workers as the dust created from the passage of trains over track ballast containing silica could become airborne and be inhaled.
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to help ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit www.osha.gov.
Two assistant state legislative directors were elevated to lead their respective states’ legislative boards after a pair of retirements at the end of 2018.
Glenn Carey, SMART TD’s new state legislative director in Oregon, poses for a photo with his 10-year-old granddaughter, Shealeigh.
In Oregon, Glenn Carey, a member of Local 1841 and the state’s assistant SLD since March 2016, took over with the Jan. 1 retirement of Randy Russ.
Russ, of Local 1574, joined the union in 1999 and served just short of seven years as Oregon’s SLD.
“When Randy talked, people listened,” Carey said. “That’s Randy…not a lot of banter, but when he talked, we hung on every word. We listened. Most staunch union man I’d ever seen and (he) was a big brother to me.
“I am hoping to do a good job for SMART TD and keep the level of professionalism just like Randy did.”
Carey says two-person crew legislation similar to what was passed in California will be a priority in Oregon.
“We will get it,” he said. “The timing is right.”
In Wisconsin, William “Andy” Hauck succeeds Craig Peachy, who also retired effective Jan. 1. Hauck began as assistant SLD in April 2016 and is a member of Local 583.
Hauck said he’s taking over the state legislative board at a good time.
William “Andy” Hauck is Wisconsin’s new state legislative director.
“We have a new governor in Wisconsin — we’re ‘Scott free’,” he quipped, referring to the anti-union former Gov. Scott Walker, who enacted right-to-work-for-less and other anti-union initiatives during his terms.
Wisconsin is among four states that have passed state two-person crew legislation, so Hauck’s focus will be on bringing legislation forward on issues including taxi-cab legislation covering rail worker transportation; rail inspection reforms through the state Commissioner of Railroads Office; legislation covering safety lighting in rail yards and ensuring that full Positive Train Control (PTC) interface access is available to conductors.
“The regulation states that ALL crew members will be trained and have the capability to interact with the safety overlay system of PTC,” Hauck said.
Hauck’s predecessor, Peachy, hired out with the Soo Line railroad in 1974 and had his rail career disrupted a number of times because of layoffs. He returned for good in 1990 with the Wisconsin Central Ltd., a subsidiary of Canadian National that was successfully organized by the United Transportation Union in 1997.
Peachy, of Local 583 (Fond du Lac, Wis.), got involved as a local legislative representative, eventually being elected state legislative director in 2012 and then re-elected in 2016.
“It has been an honor and privilege to have leaders like Brothers John Risch and James Stem, who were always there to guide and direct me to be the best state legislative director that I could be,” Peachy said in a letter announcing his retirement. “The SMART TD Legislative Department is second to none due to our past and present elected leadership.”
SMART TD wishes Peachy and Russ the best in their retirements and Carey and Hauck success in their work to serve our brothers and sisters.
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.
The standard basic daily and mileage rates of pay negotiated under the new National Rail Agreement are now available on the SMART TD website.
The rate tables pertain to employees in the crafts of conductor, yardman, yardmaster, brakeman and engineer who are covered by the national contract and are retroactive to July 1, 2016.
The ratified contract covers more than 35,000 SMART Transportation Division members employed by BNSF, CSX, Kansas City Southern, Norfolk Southern, Soo Line, Union Pacific and numerous smaller carriers – all represented in national handling by the rail industry’s National Carriers’ Conference Committee.
To view the rates, select “Documents” in the blue-line menu bar near the top of the SMART TD homepage, then select “Rates of Pay.” For a direct link to the rate tables, follow this link.