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.
Photo submissions for the 2018 SMART TD Alumni Association calendar are due by 9 a.m. EST, Monday, Oct. 9, so that the SMART TD PR department may get to work on choosing which photos to feature in the 2018 calendar.
SMART Transportation Division is seeking quality railroad, bus and airline photos, taken by members, for placement in the annual SMART TD Alumni Association calendar and for other uses.
Printed photographs should be mailed to SMART TD News, 24950 Country Club Blvd., Suite 340, North Olmsted, OH 44070.
Be sure to include the photographer’s name and local number, the name(s) of the person(s) in the photograph (left to right) and any other pertinent information, such as the date and location where the photograph was taken.
Due to federal or state regulations, or company restrictions on employees’ use of personal electronic devices, including cameras, on company property or while on duty, all members are advised to never take photos while on duty and to only take photos from a clear point of safety and in compliance with all applicable company rules.
All photographs submitted become property of SMART Transportation Division.
The U.S. Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) is reminding rail employees out of work due to Hurricane Harvey and its aftermath that they may qualify for unemployment benefits. To determine eligibility or file claims for benefits, affected railroaders should call the RRB’s toll-free telephone number (1-877-772-5772) or visit its website at www.rrb.gov. Rail workers who are out of work and without Internet or regular mail service may temporarily claim benefits by calling the RRB’s toll-free number until services are restored.
In order to file an application for benefits online via the website, an individual must have an Internet Services Account with the agency. For security purposes, first-time users must obtain a unique password, which they can do by clicking on the link for requesting a Password Request Code (PRC) in the Benefit Online Services login section of the www.rrb.gov home page.
Individuals who have already established an Internet Services Account and password can go online to file applications and claims for biweekly unemployment benefits, as well as conduct other business with the RRB over the Internet. For rail workers without power or Internet access, the RRB encourages them to call the agency toll-free at 1-877-772-5772.
Claimants can also find the address of the RRB office servicing their area and get information about their claims and benefit payments by calling this toll-free number. Most RRB offices are open to the public from 9:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, and 9 a.m. to noon on Wednesday, except on Federal holidays. Field office locations can also be found online at www.rrb.gov.
Railroad unemployment benefits are normally paid for the number of days of unemployment over four in 14-day registration periods. The maximum daily benefit rate is currently $72. However, as a result of sequestration under the Budget Control Act of 2011, unemployment benefits are reduced by 6.9 percent through September 30, 2017, so the maximum benefit in a two-week period is $670.32. Also, during the first 14-day claim period in a benefit year, benefits are payable for each day of unemployment in excess of seven, rather than four, which basically creates a one-week waiting period.
To qualify for normal railroad unemployment benefits in the benefit year that began July 1, 2017, an employee must have had railroad earnings of at least $3,673.50 in calendar year 2016, counting no more than $1,455 for any month. Those who were first employed in the rail industry in 2016 must also have at least five months of creditable railroad service in that year.
Under certain conditions, employees with at least 10 years of service who do not qualify on the basis of their 2016 earnings may still be able to receive benefits. For example, employees who received normal benefits in the benefit year that ended June 30, 2017, might still be eligible for extended benefits. In addition, 10-year employees may be eligible for accelerated benefits if they had rail earnings of at least $3,637.50 in 2017, not counting earnings of more than $1,455 a month.