Archive for the ‘Yardmasters’ Category

Buddy Strieker, S&T of Local 219, dies in at-work accident

Buddy Lee Strieker, an officer of Local 219 (Hannibal, Mo.) for the vast majority of his 24-plus years with our union, died as a result of a switching accident on April 7 in Louisiana, Mo. He was 56 years old.

Brother Strieker was vice local chairperson of LCA-001A and the secretary/treasurer of his local for more than two decades. A trainman/brakeman for BNSF, he also served as an LCA secretary and as a delegate for his local at the Second SMART Transportation Division Convention in 2019.

An investigation has been launched by the National Transportation Safety Board into Brother Strieker’s death with a member of the TD National Safety Team participating.

Brother Strieker was a veteran of the U.S. Army. He is survived by his wife of 34 years, Lisa; his son, Matthew; a granddaughter; two step-grandchildren; three brothers; two sisters and other relatives.

“Away from work, Buddy loved being outside and visiting the family farm,” his family wrote in Brother Strieker’s obituary. “Buddy had a green thumb and enjoyed working in his garden where he grew tomatoes, cucumbers, jalapeños, and banana peppers. A wonderful cook, Buddy made the most delicious cheesecakes, birthday cakes, and soups.”

Tony Wyman, a union brother out of Local 445 (Niota, Ill.) remembered on an online memorial page how he was mentored by Brother Strieker after hiring on as a BNSF conductor.

“Buddy … told me ‘as long as you’re with me you’ll be OK,’ ” Wyman wrote. “I’m heartbroken that he is gone! Buddy had a story or a joke every time he went to work! People of the BNSF family in Quincy lost a legend …and I mean a serious legend!”

The SMART Transportation Division offers its deep condolences to Brother Strieker’s family, friends and to his Local 219 brothers and sisters for the loss of this stalwart and dedicated member of our union.

VSTD waiver of elimination period extended through June 2021

Dear Member:

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

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

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

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

Mr. Jeremy Ferguson,
President-SMART Transportation Division

Mr. Joseph Powell,
General Secretary-Treasurer SMART

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

View this announcement in PDF form.

Unions: With service cuts, LIRR leaders risk COVID spread and exhibit ‘lack of good faith’

Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) implemented planned service cuts the morning of Monday, March 8, in spite of objections made weeks ago by union leadership and echoed by New York state senators just before the cuts went into effect.

The result?

This photo, provided by a LIRR worker to Alternate Vice President/General Chairperson Anthony Simon, shows a crowded Long Island Rail Road car early March 8, the day LIRR implemented service cuts.

Crowded cars and the potential for the early morning commute from places like New Hyde Park or Jamaica Station to become a COVID spreader event with no opportunity for social distancing, as shown by photos provided to SMART-TD Alternate Vice President Anthony Simon by frontline workers, thousands of whom he represents as general chairperson of GCA-505.

“These reductions have now made Long Island Rail Road service unsafe as far as allowing for social distancing is concerned,” Simon said.

In response to LIRR leadership’s implementation of the cuts, which reduced weekday service to the equivalent of what the system offers on the weekend, more than 3,000 unionized workers from SMART, SMART-TD and six other labor unions submitted the following message via email on March 8:

“WE THE UNDERSIGNED; ARE LIRR WORKERS WHO ARE OUTRAGED BY THE DECISION TO REDUCE SERVICE FOR LIRR RIDERS AT A TIME WHEN OPENING THE ECONOMY, CONTINUED DISTANCING, INCENTIVIZING CUSTOMERS TO RETURN AND PRIORITIZING THE USE OF FEDERAL DOLLARS IS CRUCIAL TO A FULL AND SAFE RECOVERY. WE ARE DISGUSTED THAT THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THESE CUTS AND THE INSENSITIVITY TO OUR QUALITY OF LIFE FOR OUR FRONT-LINE CRAFTS HAS DESTROYED OUR MORALE AND TRUST IN THE AGENCY. WE DEMAND YOU LISTEN TO YOUR “HEROES” AND RESTORE SERVICE FOR THE BETTERMENT OF OUR SYSTEM.”

In addition to Simon, SMART-Mechanical Division General Chairperson John McCloskey and TD yardmaster General Chairperson Michael Miele signed the letter addressed to New York Metropolitan Transit Agency Chairman and CEO Patrick Foye and LIRR President Phillip Eng.

“The MTA’s desire to outsource our work, disregard our membership’s quality of life and forget about what we have delivered throughout a global pandemic is inexcusable,” the union leaders stated. “We certainly hope you can get on the right track in winning us back for the good of this great railroad that we have built and have always been proud to serve. Until then, we will continue to work hard for our customers with the understanding that there is a lack of good faith and insufficient appreciation toward our members from leadership.”

Other unions that signed on to the letter included the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen; Transportation Communications Union; International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers; National Conference of Firemen & Oilers, SEIU 32BJ; Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen; and Independent Railway Supervisors Association.

Read the letter. (PDF)

Questions about TD Safety Condition Report answered

Shortly after the launch of SMART Transportation Division’s online Safety Condition Report, numerous reports have been successfully submitted and passed along to union leadership for handling. This information will help to make our properties safer and bring any conditions that add risk to our members to light.

Keep in mind – if your state or local leadership already has a successfully functioning safety hazard report system in place, please continue to use that reporting system. This report, which has been developed and instituted by the International, is not to supplant those systems. Instead, it is intended to be available as a reporting mechanism for those that do not already have a system in place or as a supplemental reporting mechanism.

As with all new initiatives, there is a period of adjustment and union leadership wanted to answer a few questions that have been raised.

1. Does the Safety Condition Report replace the filing of a report with my employer, carrier or with my State Legislative Director?

No. If your employer or carrier has a reporting process regarding unsafe conditions, you should fill out their report. Similarly, if your State Legislative Director prefers to use a safety reporting system already implemented, then we encourage that reporting system to be utilized.

Note: It is strongly encouraged that the proper carrier officer receives notification of any unsafe hazard, even if they do not have a process for reporting, if at all possible. Equally it is important that your Local Legislative Representative and officers receive a copy of anything reported to the carrier

2. Should I fill out this form if I have already reported a safety concern to my SLD or my Local Legislative Representative?

No. There is no need to duplicate your effort if you have already reached out to them, but also take note that a report via this form is not a substitute for a report filed with a carrier.

3. By using this report form does my information remain confidential from the carrier?

Yes. As this is an internal reporting system, this information is only available to those union officers that receive the form. That being said, the aforementioned officers may request, in certain circumstances, that this information be shared in order to properly address the reported unsafe issue. However, in those situations, the union officer should receive the reporting member’s permission prior to doing so.

4. Does my Local Legislative Representative get a copy of these reports?

The reports currently go directly to State Legislative Directors for proper handling and dissemination. They are also copied to the General Chairpersons for additional assistance. We found that the turnover of local officers might impede the efficiency of the automated portion of the system, so LRs are not contacted directly via this report. State Directors will take the lead and decide how to proceed with your safety concern, including contacting your local officer(s).

5. I have evidence (photos, video) of a potential safety hazard. How can I share it?

Please be sure that you have checked the option that you request an officer to contact you, and you can then share any evidence you have accumulated directly with the officer handling your report. Future versions of this form may allow for the upload of evidence as we continue to enhance it.

6. I’ve scrolled through the selections and can’t find what I want to report…

If you cannot find your specific issue or concern – use the “other” option and fill in the blanks. It would be helpful to select that you want to have an officer reach out so you can be precise in the type of hazard you wish to report as well as the specific location and details.

7. When can I expect a response to a report that I have filed?

If one is requested, timely responses from a union officer will be given in the order the reports are received.

8. How can I suggest refinements to the report?

We will be continually examining the utility of the form and seeking potential improvements. If you have suggestions, please send them to Senior Communications Coordinator Ben Nagy at bnagy@smart-union.org.

Remember — these are in-union reports. Your union exists to protect its members and filing any safety concern through any union-endorsed medium is your right.

“Your union’s leadership wants to raise our safety standards. The carriers will no longer be allowed to dictate our level of personal safety … enough is enough,” SMART-TD Chief of Staff Jerry Gibson said. “Only when we, as a collective group, choose to properly address our issues and concerns can we expect others to comply with those demands. It is the charge of the carrier to provide us with the proper training, security and safe work environment while doing so … and we will hold them accountable.”

Rail members, please note: The Railroad Technology Event report remains as a separate reporting mechanism due to the amount of detail and complexities that topic requires.

SMART-TD Safety Condition Report is launched for members to submit info about unsafe conditions

To address the growing safety concerns of our membership, we have implemented a universal Safety Condition Report that is now available on the SMART-TD website for all members to use.

This form will become the primary tool to report and collect data concerning unsafe working conditions, including COVID-19 issues, from all members. Organizational information such as Craft, Local, Carrier, State Legislative Director and General Committee are loaded based on a member’s selection using defined database values, ensuring an accurate submission so that the officers responsible for acting on the report are directly and timely informed.

Members are presented a default list of safety hazards (including COVID-19) to choose along with identifying the state and location of the unsafe condition. Additionally, the form will dynamically update based on the members’ input, creating a customized report. After submission, an automated email to the General Chairperson and State Legislative Director with jurisdiction is sent as an initial notification. Full details of the Safety Condition Report are then accessed by these officers via the TD Connect portal along with printing and exporting capabilities for further collaboration with Local officers so that the unsafe conditions can be addressed.

Rail members, please note: The Railroad Technology Event report remains as a separate reporting mechanism due to the amount of detail and complexities that topic requires.

It is important to note that the data collected by this Safety Condition Report and the information within are kept and used solely within our SMART Union computer system and are used by SMART-TD officers to assist in addressing the issues presented by members.

“Membership safety and well-being is a founding principal of this Union, but we cannot assist without being properly informed of the unsafe issues facing our fellow brothers and sisters.” SMART-TD President Jeremy Ferguson stated. “These reports are to enhance our safety efforts as many carriers lack proper and effective reporting mechanisms. Our SMART Constitution lists safety as our local legislative representatives’ primary mission, stating ‘They shall report to their Locals regarding the handling of all alleged unsafe or unsanitary working conditions found to exist, or reported to them, within their jurisdiction. They shall undertake to correct such conditions through appropriate measures consistent with the local and national policies of the Transportation Division.’ Therefore, we ask that you also forward this information as soon as possible to your local legislative representative or other SMART Union officer for proper handling. If you are unsure who they are or how to contact them, please contact our office.

“It is imperative that we all accept the personal responsibility to properly document known unsafe conditions, acts and security concerns. If more people would take the time to do this we could, over time, address most of the long-standing concerns we have. Without documentation, nothing will ever change — the issues and concerns will continue to remain and often grow until a very unfortunate situation such as an injury, accident or fatality brings to light what many knew was a problem long ago but failed to address.”

The union’s chief of staff hopes that the use of this form brings hazards that have been taken for granted or tolerated by workers to light.

“Sadly, we hear one particular scenario too often,” SMART-TD Chief of Staff Jerry Gibson said. “Someone says, ‘That has been an issue for a long time’ or ‘Everyone knows that is a problem’ at a particular property. Yet everyone assumes that someone else has written the unsafe condition up and unfortunately, no one has. The issue remains and the carriers use that against us by stating the very same thing — ‘That has been like that forever, and no one has said anything or taken issue with it.’

“This online reporting process is here to change that. Your union’s leadership wants to raise our safety standards. The carriers will no longer be allowed to dictate our level of personal safety … enough is enough. Only when we, as a collective group, choose to properly address our issues and concerns can we expect others to comply with those demands. It is the charge of the carrier to provide us with the proper training, security and safe work environment while doing so … and we will hold them accountable.”

The Safety Condition Report is accessible directly from the SMART-TD home page as both a banner and as a menu item — look for the blinking yellow caution signal.

“Please assist us with assisting you,” President Ferguson said. “All of our members deserve safe working conditions on the job and to return home safely. If there is an issue you want to report — report it.”

President Ferguson: This election is pivotal

The following article appeared in the August/September 2020 edition of the SMART Transportation Division News and is referred to by President Ferguson in the video above.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

With the 2020 general election right around the corner, we are dedicating a large portion of this edition of the SMART-TD News to what may be the most-critical question we’ve ever been faced with: Who should serve as President of the United States for the next term?

Divided and contentious as this subject can be, I am asking that you take the time to read through with an open mind, and think critically about what we have riding on the outcome of this election as unionized essential transportation workers.

In determining who SMART and its Transportation Division should endorse, first and foremost we listened to what our members had to say. I want to sincerely thank each and every one of you who responded to our surveys and emails, called our office, and wrote to us to express your viewpoints. Your opinion matters to us above all else. With that being said, we also considered external sources and blocked out those that misrepresented the candidates and their intentions, or were biased towards one end of the political spectrum or the other.

Problem is, there is an abundance of misinformation coming from all directions. In a world where it’s difficult to trust virtually every source of information, where should we turn?

Fortunately, in this election we have a race where both candidates have set precedent in the White House; President Trump as the incumbent with nearly four years of experience under his belt, and Joe Biden with eight years of experience as our former Vice President. We also examined the promises that each candidate has made on the campaign trail, and compared those to their actions while holding elective office. As the saying goes, actions speak louder than words.

Below are some examples that you can trust, because they are based on objective fact – no conjecture, no spin, no bias, and no BS:

Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) appointments

In March 2009, the Obama/Biden administration nominated Joseph C. Szabo for the position of FRA administrator; a career railroader, SMART-TD member and Illinois State Legislative Director. Brother Szabo was the first FRA administrator to come from a rail labor background, and he served until 2015 when the Obama/Biden administration appointed Sarah Feinberg to the position.

Under Szabo’s tenure, accidents, injuries, and fatalities dropped to record-low levels, and the FRA improved its rules pertaining to fatigue mitigation and training requirements. Under Feinberg’s tenure, the FRA issued notice of a proposed rulemaking which would have required two-person train crews.

In July 2017, the Trump/Pence administration nominated Ronald Batory, the former CEO of Consolidated Rail Corporation, for the position of FRA administrator. Within one year of Batory’s nomination, the FRA had begun allowing Kansas City Southern to utilize Mexican train crews to cross our southern border and operate trains into Laredo, Texas.

SMART-TD and other rail labor unions had to sue the FRA to rectify this issue – a process which took more than two years to resolve.

During that time, the Trump administration ignored rail labor’s pleas to secure our southern border and prevent American jobs from being lost to foreign countries; both of which were campaign promises of his.

In May 2019, the FRA withdrew its proposed two-person crew rulemaking, claiming that research didn’t support implementing such a rule, and that two-person crews would unnecessarily impede the future of rail innovation and automation.

More on two-person train crews, and National Mediation Board (NMB) appointments

With Mr. Batory leading the FRA and its withdrawal of the proposed two-person crew rule, the nation’s rail carriers saw opportunity and in October 2019, eight (8) railroads filed a lawsuit against SMART-TD, attempting to force us to bargain over crew consist on a national level. To better their chances, the railroads filed their lawsuit in the Northern District of Texas, which is notoriously one of the least labor-friendly courts in the country.

The case was assigned to a Trump-appointed judge who in February 2020 ruled in favor of the rail carriers and ordered us to negotiate over crew consist, despite the fact that moratoriums are in place barring such negotiations.

At the same time they filed the above lawsuit, the railroads turned to the NMB, requesting that they begin the process of forcing SMART-TD into binding arbitration over the same crew-consist issues. The NMB is controlled by a 2/3 majority of Trump-appointed members, as follows:

■ Mr. Gerald W. Fauth III, a former consultant and president of a company that railroads hire for mergers, acquisitions, time studies, cost analyses and traffic analyses.
■ Ms. Kyle Fortson, a former labor policy director for Republicans on the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee.

Despite SMART-TD’s objections, in January 2020, the NMB granted the railroads’ requests and voted by a 2/3 majority in favor of moving forward with the binding arbitration process.

In stark contrast to the above, Joe Biden has met with SMART’s leadership and committed to defending two-person crews. For more than 30 years, Biden commuted for several hours per day on Amtrak. To this day, he remains on a first-name basis with some of our members.

With respect to the NMB, the lone Obama/Biden appointee, Linda Puchala, is the former president of the Association of Flight Attendants. In the crew-consist binding arbitration
decision, Ms. Puchala wrote nearly three pages in dissent objecting to the NMB’s decision.

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) appointments

Similar to the other regulatory agencies mentioned in this article, the FMCSA’s stated purpose is to establish policies governing carriers and ensure their compliance, thereby reducing accidents and protecting our bus members and the passengers we carry.

Under the Trump administration, the post of FMCSA administrator was vacant until February 2018, when Raymond P. Martinez was nominated and confirmed by the U.S. Senate. Martinez’s nomination was lauded by carrier-sponsored lobbying groups such as the American Trucking Associations, the American Bus Association and the United Motor Coach Association.

In October 2019, Martinez resigned as FMCSA administrator and Jim Mullen assumed the position of acting administrator. Mullen served in that capacity until his resignation in August 2020, which left Wiley Deck to act as FMCSA administrator.

This frequency in turnover has largely resulted in an agency without clear direction or leadership.

However, there has been one consistent theme over the last few years; the FMCSA has lent a sympathetic ear to the carrier-sponsored lobbying groups that endorse President Trump, while largely ignoring organized labor and the general public. This is evidenced by the FMCSA’s waiving of hours-of-service requirements for Mexican carriers, which already have inadequate regulations when compared to their U.S.-based counterparts. FMCSA has also turned a blind eye to carriers’ efforts to eliminate drivers’ breaks, including meal and restroom breaks, and they have allowed outsourcing of school bus drivers to third-party rideshare companies with questionable practices for conducting the requisite, thorough background checks for drivers.

National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) appointments

Similar to the NMB’s structure, the NLRB is required to have five members with a simple majority appointed by the president. To clarify the importance of these positions, these are the individuals who are in charge of investigating and remedying unfair labor practices with the carriers, as nominated by the Trump/Pence administration:

■ John F. Ring (chairman), a former management and labor relations attorney, appointed in 2018.
■ Marvin E. Kaplan, former chief counsel of the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission, whose 2017 appointment was supported by a number of business special-interest groups.
■ William Emanuel, a former labor law attorney for transportation, logistics, and manufacturing companies, who was appointed in 2017.

With respect to the other two NLRB seats normally held by minority party appointees, President Trump has stated his intention to re-appoint Lauren McFerran, although he has yet to follow through. It is also apparent that he intends to leave vacant the seat that had been occupied by Democratic appointee Mark Gaston Pearce, resulting in a board with three Republican members and no or perhaps eventually a
single minority party member.

Since the law requires only three NLRB members for a quorum to conduct its business, the agency has pressed forward with its two vacant seats and issued a series of decisions, rulemakings and initiatives that
heavily favor corporations and repeal myriad existing worker protections. Under President Trump’s direction, the NLRB has acted on every single item on a top-10 corporate interest “wish list” that was published by the Chamber of Commerce in early 2017.

Department of Labor (DOL) appointments

President Donald Trump’s decision to nominate Eugene Scalia as the new labor secretary is driving wide rifts among HR and benefits professionals, with some praising his industry knowledge as a boon to businesses. Others decried the choice, saying he’d hurt the American worker. Scalia has spent his career fighting for the interests of financial firms, corporate executives and shareholders rather than the interests of working people.

In another example of stark contrast, in 2009 the Obama/Biden administration nominated Hilda Solis for the position of labor secretary. At the same time, Solis joined Vice President Biden’s Middle Class Task Force, and pressed ahead with a clear and unapologetic agenda to aggressively enforce workplace protection laws, and enact new rules and regulations intended to grant more power to unions and workers. Corporate interest groups, antiunion organizations, and Republican Congress members adamantly opposed Solis’s nomination. Following Solis’s resignation in 2013, the Obama/Biden administration praised her accomplishments and chose Tom Perez, a former civil rights attorney who dedicated much of his efforts to increased protections for the elderly, war veterans, and labor unions, as her successor. Perez was known for regularly making house calls and onsite trips to obtain personal feedback from workers.

Legislation affecting all TD members

In July 2020, SMART-TD and other rail labor unions were successful in getting the U.S. House of Representatives to pass H.R. 2, which contains:

■ Two-person freight crew requirements;
■ Bus and transit operator safety measures;
■ Blocked rail crossing enforcement measures;
■ Cross-border solutions;
■ Hours of service requirements for rail yardmasters;
■ Additional funding for Amtrak;
■ Requirements for carriers to meet CDC guidelines for providing personal protective equipment and cleanliness standards for essential employees.

When passed to the U.S. Senate as a part of the Moving Forward Act, President Trump threatened to veto the bill. Following suit, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell called the bill “nonsense,” “absurd,” “pure fantasy,” and vowed that it will die before ever getting to the White House.

As previously noted, Joe Biden has met with SMART leadership and pledged his support for these issues.

Handling of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic

Beginning in February 2020, before it was known that the virus had reached this country, we began making myriad preparations for a worst-case scenario, including modifications to our Health & Welfare Plans and a legislative agenda that make sure our members are protected. As a part of those efforts, in early March when there were fewer than 200 confirmed cases in the U.S., we wrote to the railroads, the FRA, the FMCSA, OSHA, and the Department of Transportation demanding that mandates be issued requiring essential employers to comply with basic CDC guidelines for COVID-19 cleanliness, including providing essential employees with the proper protective equipment and social-distancing measures.

As you can probably surmise by now (if you are not already aware) the response from the rail carriers, bus carriers and transit agencies was that the responsibility of adhering to CDC guidelines was entirely up to the employee. In the instances where a few regulatory agencies, such as the FRA, bothered to respond, we were told that they essentially trust the carriers to do the right thing, and in their
view, it isn’t necessary or appropriate to issue mandates.

Instead, we had to take matters into our own hands by cataloging the carriers’ violations and shortcomings via an online reporting tool, which continues to serve its purpose to this day.

What about the booming economy and increased rail traffic?

As is usually the case, over the last decade the number of carloads originated by U.S. Class I railroads has fluctuated with the economy, usually varying by single-digit percentages from year to year. Despite this relative consistency, the railroads’ operating ratios and revenues have gone up by double-digit percentages, while at the same time tens of thousands of rail labor employees have been furloughed.

This is mostly due to the fact that Wall Street investors have taken an interest in our nation’s railroads, and they are obsessed with so-called “Precision Scheduled Railroading” practices, which have resulted in (among other detrimental effects) the doubling and tripling of train length and tonnage, and thus, the reduction of crews.

Under the Trump administration, the White House, FRA, Department of Transportation and other regulatory authorities have refused our requests to mandate the train length limitations and issue safety regulations that we, and the general public, deserve.

It’s also worth noting that, according to the Association of American Railroads, there has been no significant increase in coal shipments from 2016 to today. President Trump’s promises to revive this business would have been hugely beneficial to our brothers and sisters whose livelihoods depend on these shipments, and it was a part of Trump’s policy that had our full support.

Instead, we’ve been handed broken promises.

But my 401(k) is at an alltime high, doesn’t that count for anything?

Of course it does. However, more important than the inevitable ebb and flow of the stock markets is the very real threat of bus and rail automation, train crew consist changes, reduction of federal subsidies for certain carriers such as Amtrak, and the funding and administration of the Railroad Retirement Board and Social Security Administration.

Every single budget from the Trump administration proposed the reduction or elimination of funding that not only employs our members, but protects their retirement and health & welfare benefits. If not for the hard work of our Legislative Department and the support of certain members of Congress, Amtrak would have gone bankrupt under the Trump administration. This single event would deal a devastating blow to the solvency of our Railroad Retirement benefits.

In addition to the above, automation of trains and buses, and the elimination of crew members and operators alike would have compounding effects that reach far beyond the obvious unemployment issues and the solvency of our retirement funds. As we all know, furloughs tend to hit our youngest members (not just in seniority, but also in age) the hardest. From a healthcare and benefits perspective, these are our healthiest members with the lowest frequency of major medical, dental, vision, short-term disability and long-term disability claims. There is a direct correlation between extensive furloughs and the already difficult-to-manage rising cost of our benefits.

The downstream consequences of Trump’s policies can easily extend to our higher seniority members who are immune to furlough.

We’re all in this together!

In conclusion

While this edition of SMART-TD News might not change your mind about who you’re going to vote for this November, we certainly hope it will help to shed some additional light on the importance of this election and what we all have at stake. When casting our ballots, we’re making the choice between better protections and job security for our members, or leaving our regulatory agencies in control of the very Wall Street investors, CEOs and corporations that they are intended to protect us from.

We’re making the choice between tough bargaining with the nation’s rail carriers that leads to the best possible deal in our next contract, or risking letting President Trump make carrier-friendly appointments to a Presidential Emergency Board that will determine our fate.

We’re making the choice between protecting our working class or continuing on our path of worshipping the almighty dollar, while throwing caution and safety to the wayside.

One thing is certain — on our current trajectory the rich will continue to get richer, while unionized labor and other hard-working citizens are left behind to pick up the scraps.

So, I ask all of you today: Are you ready to stand up to the abuse we’ve been dealt for these last several years? Are you prepared to cast a vote that will help to ensure that your family and future generations have the ability to earn a living wage, with choice health-care and retirement benefits? Are you ready to begin rebuilding an America that works for all of us, and not just our most wealthy and elite citizens?

Regardless of the outcome, I pledge that we will continue to fight for the protections, pay, benefits and retirement that we deserve. Without your support, however, this becomes exponentially more difficult, if not impossible. It’s going to take ALL of us to make this happen.

Thank you, and God bless.

Fraternally,
 

 

 

 

Jeremy Ferguson
President — Transportation Division

Nomination rules, election procedures for fall local elections have been released

SMART Transportation Division members are reminded that elections are scheduled to be held this autumn to fill the three-year Local officer positions described by the SMART Constitution’s Article 21B, Section 56.

Positions include President, Vice President, Secretary and Treasurer, Collector (where applicable) and the three-member Board of Trustees. In addition, any existing vacancies (except for those in the positions of Delegate or Alternate Delegate) should be addressed during these elections.

As per the Constitution’s Article 21B, Section 57, nomination meetings are held in October, with election tabulations conducted in November. Special instructions are provided below for Locals unable to hold a nomination meeting due to COVID-19 related restrictions.

Winning candidates assume their offices on January 1, 2021. If they are filling a vacancy, however, they take office immediately.

Candidates must garner a simple majority of valid votes cast to win election to any elective Transportation Division office. (A simple majority can be thought of as 50 percent of votes, plus at least one more vote.)

The process begins

For the Local’s Secretary or Secretary-Treasurer, the election process begins with an effort to update the membership roster, ensuring accurate addresses are on file for each member. Our Constitution’s Article 21B, Section 49, requires each member to keep the Local Secretary and Treasurer advised of his or her current home address. At the same time, U.S. Department of Labor regulations and the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA) require the Local to take steps to update addresses in advance of an election.

Members can update their address by contacting their Local Secretary, or can do so on the Transportation Division’s website.

Even if your Local conducts a floor election, where voting takes place at a physical location rather than by mail, it’s important that your address is up to date. Your Local Secretary (or Secretary-Treasurer, as the case may be) needs to mail a notice to all active members of the local to advise them, at least 15 days in advance of tabulation, that an election is to take place. The notice will indicate when and where voting will take place. (Postcards for this purpose are available for purchase from the Transportation Division’s Supply Department.)

If the Local is conducting its election by mail, the ballot itself must be mailed out at least 15 days in advance of the date of tabulation, as the ballot serves as the notice of the election.

Nominations

The Secretary must post a notice at least 10 days in advance of the October nomination meeting indicating when and where nominations for affected positions will take place. They need not mail this notice directly to members.

Nominations may be made by any member in good standing from the floor at the nomination meeting. Nominations do not require being seconded. Any member eligible to vote may self-nominate. If a member wishes to self-nominate or nominate someone else, but can’t attend the meeting, nominations can be entered through a petition. A nomination petition must state the name of the nominee, the position for which the member is being nominated, and must carry at least five signatures of members in good standing. No nominations can be accepted following the close of the nomination meeting.

When a nomination meeting cannot be held due to COVID-19-related restrictions, a notice of nominations must still be posted at all locations where the Local’s members report for duty a minimum of ten (10) days prior to the deadline for nominating petitions to be submitted. Instead of including information pertaining to the time and location of a nomination meeting, the notice should set a specific date and time whereby nominations will be closed, and must include the Local Secretary’s pertinent contact information along with instructions for submitting written nominations. In situations where nomination meetings cannot be held, it is permissible for the Secretary to accept nominations submitted in writing, via hand delivery, text, email, and/or USPS mail.

With respect to choosing a deadline for nominations, typically, this would be determined by the members present at a regular or special meeting of the Local. Where it is not feasible to hold such a meeting, the Local President, Secretary, and Treasurer should all agree on a nomination deadline that works best. As noted, the minimum mandatory notice for nominations is ten (10) days. However, given the circumstances, we recommend giving more notice. Most Locals choose a time period that is closer to thirty (30) days in advance.

If only one member is nominated for a position, that member can be declared elected by acclamation.

The scheduled elections held this autumn offer an opportunity to fill other vacancies which may exist. If the vacant position is a Local Committee of Adjustment (LCA) position, only members of that LCA are eligible to make nominations for the position and to vote in that election. In locals having more than one LCA for different crafts, the secretary will provide a separate ballot for all eligible voters of each craft working under the jurisdiction of the committee involved. Any member in good standing with seniority in one of the crafts represented by the LCA may be a candidate for an office in that LCA.

Eligibility

To be eligible to vote, all dues and assessments must be paid within the time frame specified by the constitution. Article 21B, Section 49, indicates dues are to be paid in advance, before the first day of the month in which they are due. Eligibility to make nominations or to be nominated is similar. This means, for example, if the nomination meeting is in October, the nominator and the nominee must have paid all dues obligations prior to October 1. To vote in November, the voter must have paid all dues obligations prior to November 1.

Those in so-called E-49 status are eligible to run for office, but they cannot make nominations and they cannot vote. If elected, acceptance of pay from the company or the union creates a dues obligation.

Elections

As previously noted, candidates must garner a simple majority of valid votes cast to win election.

When it comes to handling elections for the Board of Trustees, instructions on the ballot should be included above the candidates’ names telling the voter: “Vote for three candidates.” Each member of the three-member Board of Trustees must be elected by a majority of votes cast, a requirement which frequently results in the need for runoff elections. The rule of thumb in such runoffs is that for each open position, which must be filled, two candidates will compete.

For example, if nine candidates run for a position on the Board of Trustees, and 200 valid ballots have been cast and counted in the first round of the election, each successful candidate must receive at least 101 votes. If no candidate receives at least 101 votes, a runoff must be held.

The runoff would include two candidates for each open position. In the above example, this means the three candidates with the lowest vote totals are dropped from the ballot, and the names of six candidates appear on the runoff ballot. In the runoff, if only one candidate attains a majority of votes that means one of the three positions was filled, and there remain two Trustee positions to fill, with five remaining candidates. Of those five remaining candidates, the candidate with the lowest vote total would be dropped from the ballot, and another ballot would be issued with four candidate’s names (because there are two positions to be filled).”

More information

Members are encouraged to consult Article 21B of the SMART Constitution for information regarding elections. Unless an item within Article 21B directs you to a further stipulation outside of Article 21B, only the provisions found within Article 21B are applicable to Transportation Division elections. The Local election process is addressed directly by Article 21B, Section 57.

Election information and guidelines have been distributed to all Transportation Division Local Presidents and Local Secretaries, as well as to General Chairpersons, State and District Legislative Directors and Transportation Division International Officers.

Members can consult their Local officers to examine this information, or they can visit the Transportation Division’s Local Toolbox and click on “Elections.”

Special Circular No. 35 describes the constitutional provisions involved in the local elections this autumn, and the pamphlet entitled “How to Hold Elections for Local Officers” gives practical, hands-on election guidance and includes samples of nomination and election notices that can be posted. The leaflet entitled “Special Instructions Related to COVID-19” provides guidance when gathering restrictions are in place.

Local officer positions

The following is a brief description of the duties of the various Local officer positions.

The Local President presides at all meetings of the Local, enforces the provisions of the Constitution and bylaws of the Local and exercises general supervision over the Local’s affairs. The President ensures that Local officers respond to inquiries from the International, and with the Secretary and/or Treasurer, files all reports required by federal, state or local laws. The President may speak on any subject before the Local, but may not vote except, in case of a tie vote, casts the deciding ballot.

The Local Vice President succeeds the Local President and fulfills the remainder of the three-year term if the Local President resigns, retires, becomes incapacitated, dies, or for some reason cannot fulfill the requirements of the position. Also, if the Local President cannot attend a Local meeting, the Vice President presides at regular Local meetings.

In most Locals, the offices of Secretary and Treasurer have been combined. The Local Secretary keeps an accurate record of all Local proceedings, receives all communications, conducts correspondence and is in charge of the Local seal and Local records. The Secretary performs the duties of the Local Treasurer in Locals that do not provide for the separation of the offices of Secretary and Treasurer.

The Treasurer receives all monies due to be collected by the Local and provides receipts, except in cases where the Local maintains the office of collector. The treasurer holds and keeps secure all Local funds and is bonded. The Treasurer also keeps an accurate account of all receipts and expenditures of the Local on forms provided for that purpose. The Treasurer shall also remit all monies due the International to the General Secretary-Treasurer each month.

In a few instances, Locals of 50 or more members maintain the office of Collector. The Local Collector receives all money due the Local and provides receipts. Prior to the first day of each month, the Collector reports to the Local Treasurer all the money received during the current month and gives the amount collected to the Local Treasurer.

The Local Board of Trustees supervises the financial affairs of the Local. Upon approval by the Local, the Board has authority to rent, lease, or purchase property, office equipment or other necessary supplies. The Board meets in January of each year for the purpose of auditing the annual report of the Treasurer and verifying bank balances and cash on hand.

Questions?

There are many provisions not covered by this article, including those that address candidates’ rights and permitted means of campaigning. Those with election questions are urged to call the Transportation Division President’s Department at 216-228-9400. It’s always easier to address issues in advance than after the fact.

Feedback sought for revisions/refinements to time books

To Local Treasurers, Local Presidents and Local Chairpersons,

As you are aware, we are presently accepting orders for the 2021 time books and while these orders are being processed we are also reviewing the materials contained in the current booklet.

This booklet is utilized by you, the membership. As such, we are soliciting your ideas and feedback on how this office may update the booklet to greater serve the membership’s needs/requirements.

Due to publishing requisites, you must submit any feedback by Sept. 4, 2020, to be reviewed by the committee.

Please send your submissions to Dora Wolf via email: dwolf@smart-union.org for consideration prior to the deadline stated above.

SMART – Transportation Division

Coordinated Bargaining Coalition National Negotiations Update: July 31, 2020

Bargaining teams from 10 unions that make up the Coordinated Bargaining Coalition (CBC) for this round of national freight rail negotiations participated in a Zoom conference with National Railway Labor Conference (NRLC) Chairman Brendan Branon and participating Carrier representatives on July 28th. This meeting was held for the sole purpose of reviewing PowerPoint presentations relative to each side’s respective positions on issues contained within their Section 6 Notices. While there were no negotiations during the Zoom conference, the meeting was beneficial to both sides in an effort to keep the process moving forward in a good-faith effort to achieve a voluntary agreement.

The first formal negotiating session took place, in person, earlier this year on February 26th and 27th and a second meeting had been scheduled for March 31st. This meeting was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and all subsequent scheduled meetings were also canceled. Tuesday’s conference was the first time the parties had convened in any manner since February.

Members of the unions participating in the CBC will be kept apprised of further developments on your contract negotiations as developments warrant.

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The unions comprising the Coordinated Bargaining Coalition are: the American Train Dispatchers Association (ATDA); the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen / Teamsters Rail Conference (BLET); the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen (BRS); the International Association of Machinists (IAM); the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers (IBB); the National Conference of Firemen & Oilers/SEIU (NCFO); the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW); the Transport Workers Union of America (TWU); the Transportation Communications Union / IAM (TCU), including TCU’s Brotherhood Railway Carmen Division (BRC); and the Transportation Division of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, and Transportation Workers (SMART–TD).

Collectively, the CBC unions represent more than 105,000 railroad workers covered by the various organizations’ national agreements, and comprise over 80% of the workforce who will be impacted by this round of negotiations.

Read this update in PDF form.

H.R. 2 passes U.S. House and moves to Senate

H.R. 2, the Moving Forward Act, a massive $1.5 trillion infrastructure bill that contains provisions important to members of all crafts in the SMART Transportation Division and to sheet metal workers, passed through the U.S. House of Representatives by a 233-188 vote on July 1.

A major component of this bill is the INVEST in America Act that passed the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee in late June.

H.R. 2 contains:

  • a two-person freight crew requirement
  • bus and transit operator safety measures
  • blocked-rail-crossing enforcement
  • a cross-border solution
  • yardmaster hours of service
  • additional funding for Amtrak
  • requirements for carriers to meet CDC guidelines and to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) to transportation workers

“This is an unprecedented step ahead for many of our union’s major issues through the legislative process,” SMART Transportation Division President Jeremy R. Ferguson said. “Our concerns were heard and addressed by the writers of this bill — safety for workers and communities alike in the bus and transit operator safety measures and in the crew-size provision, funding for Amtrak, and a number of other provisions intended to rebuild and transform the nation’s roads and rails.

“Federal agencies and big-pocketed lobbyists have tried to obstruct the essential protections that this bill provides to our members and to the people who work on, live near and use our nation’s transportation network. These representatives all had the foresight and initiative to move them forward.”

Ian Jefferies, CEO of the Association of American Railroads (AAR), earlier in the week had an op-ed published that was highly critical of the legislation, targeting the two-person crew portion and one that dealt with study of potential rail transport of Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) specifically, saying the bill “woefully missed the mark.”

In the column, Jefferies also argued that legislators were “putting their collective thumbs on the scale” regarding railroad safety in regulating the crew-size safety issue.

The INVEST in America component of the Moving Forward Act was shepherded by House T&I Chairperson Peter DeFazio, an Oregon Democrat, through the committee June 18. He commented on July 1 after the bill’s passage:

“Passage of this bold, forward-thinking infrastructure bill is proof that finally, there is a majority of us in Congress who won’t accept the status quo and instead are willing to fight for a new vision that invests in our communities, addresses the climate crisis, and creates better opportunities for all. And we get there by putting millions of people to work in jobs that cannot be exported, while harnessing American-made materials, ingenuity, and innovation,” he said. “With the Moving Forward Act, we make it clear that our infrastructure does not have to be a product of the past, with crumbling roads and bridges, unreliable transit and rail networks, inequitable outcomes, and little regard to our changing climate and our changing economy. I challenge my Senate colleagues to join the House in thinking big and being bold on long-overdue investments not only in our infrastructure, but also in the communities and the people we all represent.”

Leaders in the SMART-TD National Legislative Department thanked DeFazio and the bipartisan group of Democrats and a trio of Republicans who supported H.R. 2.

“As if we need any additional evidence that elections matter, this result shows that the 2018 change of party control in the House made a difference,” National Legislative Director Greg Hynes said. “We appreciate those legislators who supported this legislation in its journey through the House. There is more work to be done and a path to be cleared for this legislation, and our membership is more than willing to put in the time to make legislators understand why the bill provisions are necessary.”

The Moving Forward Act now moves to the United States Senate, where, according to Politico.com, Republican U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, called the bill “nonsense,” “absurd,” “pure fantasy” and vowed that it will die before getting to the White House, where the president has threatened to veto the bill.

House Committee sends INVEST Act to full House for consideration

The Investing in a New Vision for the Environment and Surface Transportation (INVEST) in America Act passed through the U.S. House of Representatives’ Transportation and Infrastructure Committee late June 18 by a party-line vote of 35-25.

The legislation, which contains provisions that affect the safety and well-being of all members of the SMART Transportation Division, now moves to consideration by the entire U.S. House of Representatives.

“This is another step in what has been a years-long journey,” National Legislative Director Gregory Hynes said. “We are now farther than we have ever been in regard to having national two-person freight crew protections made into law thanks to our members’ action and advocacy.”

“But we will need to keep the pressure on members of Congress in both the Senate and in the House so that this and other parts of this regulation are not casually tossed out in accordance with the carriers’ will as the scheduled July 1 floor vote approaches.”

The union has rolled out contact forms on its Legislative Action Center for members and concerned parties to reach out to their U.S. representatives as the INVEST Act is considered by House members. These links will be accessible through the main SMART-TD web page as well.

A coordinated informational campaign also has been launched to educate members on what the act provides. While not perfect, this legislation represents a step to shoring up a craft that has been under siege for years, SMART-TD leaders say.

“There are some people in our union who misunderstand the intent of the bill because they might support the Republican Party or the president. They degrade the union on social media or say that this attempt at legislation is a giveaway or too weak in protecting conductors because there are some exceptions in it,” SMART-TD President Jeremy Ferguson said. “It establishes protections where there are NONE. Your union is not the enemy — the carriers want to eliminate even more jobs and lay waste to the people and families who kept the freight industry going through a pandemic. The battlefield is in the halls of Congress and passage of the INVEST Act, with the protections intact, would be a victory.”

The INVEST in America Act contains provisions on:

  • Two-Person Crews;
  • Operator Assault;
  • Blocked Crossings;
  • Sleep Apnea for Commercial Drivers;
  • Yardmaster Hours of Service;
  • a “Cross Border” fix.

During the two days and more than 24 hours of committee consideration in the House on June 17 and 18, four Republican representatives proposed amendments attempting to remove the portions of the INVEST Act covering freight rail: two-person crews, yardmaster hours of service, blocked crossings and the “cross border” fix, making President Ferguson’s prediction about the legislation become true.

“There are only two parties at the table. The Democrats wrote it into the bill, only the Republicans will take it out,” he wrote June 3.

For example:

Democratic Rep. Alan Lowenthal of California proposed Amendment 43, which requires the federal DOT to study, establish standards and come up with a final rule regarding untreated obstructive sleep apnea, which affects many transportation workers. The amendment succeeded and was passed by voice vote.

In contrast, four Republican representatives attempted to attack provisions important to our members.

  • Republican U.S. Rep. Scott Perry of Pennsylvania proposed Amendment 125, which attempted to remove two-person crew protections. That amendment was defeated by a voice vote after Perry in his argument parroted talking points rolled out by rail industry groups including the Association of American Railroads (AAR).
  • Republican U.S. Rep. Brian Babin of Texas proposed Amendment 41, which attempted to remove the cross border fix proposed in the act, but later withdrew his amendment before it could be voted upon.
  • Republican U.S. Rep. Bob Gibbs of Ohio proposed Amendment 25, which attempted to remove the yardmaster hours of service rules proposed in the act, but later withdrew his amendment before it could be voted upon.
  • Republican U.S. Rep. Troy Balderson of Ohio proposed Amendment 23, which attempted to remove the blocked-crossing rule proposed in the act. That amendment was rejected by voice vote as part of an en bloc package of amendments.

The actions of these legislators will be remembered in November, but we have bigger concerns as we approach a scheduled July vote on the bill. Use the Legislative Action Center to contact your members of Congress and let them know that the INVEST in American Act deserves their support, keeps communities safe and protects American workers and their jobs!

A message from President Ferguson on the INVEST in America Act

March 20, 2020

All Members — SMART Transportation Division

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

Today, House Democrats released the text of a $500 billion five-year funding authorization bill that defines their vision for the future of transportation in America, as well as outlines their plans to refresh and renew the infrastructure of the nation’s surface transportation network.

The Investing in a New Vision for the Environment and Surface Transportation in America (INVEST in America) Act is the result of countless hours of work by this Union on the Hill and in the halls of Congress. The INVEST in America Act reauthorizes funding set to expire Sept. 30, but more so, sets standards for safety, training, and transportation reform that have long been sought by the members of SMART Transportation Division including:

  • Two-Person Crews;
  • Operator Assault;
  • Yardmaster Hours of Service
  • a “Cross Border” fix.

Additionally, Amtrak would see its funding triple to $29 billion over the five-year period of the bill, allowing for expansion of national, state and regional routes and facility modernization. Funding for the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) grant program also would be increased to $7 billion to fund passenger and freight rail projects. Provisions for/or against the transportation of liquid natural gas (LNG) via rail tank cars, blocked railroad crossings, and excessive freight train length, among others, also have been included.

Our National Legislative Office has been hard at work in Washington, D.C., to convey our issues to both sides of the aisle in the U.S. House and Senate, and the provisions within this bill are the fruits of that labor.

Undoubtedly, House Democrats have heard our cries and have answered the call. By including our issues within the context of this bill, they have let America know that the only safe operation of a Class I freight train is with a two-person crew; that our bus drivers and operators have the right to a safe work environment; and that the public should be shielded from the risks that rail carriers will take in the name of greed.

But make no mistake, this bill still has a long road to travel and a lot of heavy-handed opposition standing before it in the Republican-controlled Senate. We will need all hands on deck to protect the provisions we have all fought so hard for to survive that journey.

I am asking you to please watch this bill as it moves through the legislative process and see who and what hurdles it faces. I’m asking you to please pay attention to the party affiliations of the individuals as the yeas and nays are registered when the bill is voted upon. And I am asking you to listen to the rhetoric and testimony that will affect its final appearance. Once the dust has settled, I will call on you to please support those who support you and your family’s well-being, and I firmly believe that picture will be crystal clear.

There are only two parties at the table. The Democrats wrote it into the bill, only the Republicans will take it out.

Fraternally yours,

 

 

 

 

Jeremy Ferguson
President — Transportation Division

ABOUT THE INVEST IN AMERICA ACT