Archive for the ‘Washington’ Category

William Doak, an officer of predecessor union BRT, served as U.S. labor secretary

The confirmation by the U.S. Senate of Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, a member of the Laborers’ Union, to be President Joe Biden’s labor secretary ends a nearly 45-year absence of having a union member serve as the head of the U.S. Department of Labor.

The last unionist to serve as U.S. labor secretary was W.J. Usery Jr., an appointee of President Gerald Ford who was a member of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. He led Ford’s DOL for about a year starting in 1976.

There had been a time when a nearly five-decade gap of having a union member be the top labor official in a president’s Cabinet would have been unusual.

When the DOL was established in the early 20th century, it was normal practice that an organized labor leader would be tapped to lead the agency overseeing labor relations. The first two U.S. secretaries of labor were union members, and in 1930, one of SMART-Transportation Division’s predecessor unions saw one of its leaders ascend to the top of the DOL during one of the darkest economic times our nation has known. As the third secretary of labor, the Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen’s William N. Doak helped establish a lasting legacy.

W.H. Doak

Doak was born Dec. 12, 1882, in Wythe County, Va., and began a railroad career as a switchman with Norfolk and Western near the turn of the century. According to a biography published on the Library of Virginia’s website, he joined BRT in 1904 and was elected a general chairperson in 1908.

In 1916, Doak was elected BRT vice president and became the organization’s national legislative representative in Washington, D.C. He continued to work on railroad labor relations matters including serving on adjustment boards, arguing before congressional committees and adjusting how rail negotiations were handled on a regional level. The National Mediation Board (NMB) was established in the 1920s while Doak had an active presence on Capitol Hill for the BRT, and he no doubt had a hand in establishing how the NMB operated.

In 1922, he was elected first vice president and was elected assistant to BRT President William Granville Lee in 1927. Doak served as acting BRT president for a time while Lee traveled abroad and also unsuccessfully ran for political office on three occasions, including for Virginia State Senate, the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate.

In 1928, Doak was elected to a combined post of national legislative representative and editor of the Brotherhood of Trainmen’s publication, The Railroad Trainman. A personal friend of Herbert Hoover, Doak worked on Hoover’s successful presidential campaign and served as a labor committee advisor for the Republican National Committee. Upon taking office in 1929, President Hoover eyed Doak as a possible labor secretary nominee, but opposition rose from the American Federation of Labor that scuttled that nomination.

However, after the Great Depression struck, Hoover changed course and nominated Doak to lead the DOL in 1930. In collaboration with his immediate predecessor, James J. Davis, who became a U.S. senator representing Pennsylvania after leaving as labor secretary, Doak’s crowning achievement was helping the Davis-Bacon Act — legislation that established prevailing wage laws that benefit our Sheet Metal brothers and sisters and other union laborers — to become federal law in 1931. That law remains in effect 90 years later.

“Doak was sensitive to unemployment matters and supported studies of public works programs and unemployment insurance to offset the effects of the Great Depression,” historian Jonathan Grossman wrote in an article marking the 75th anniversary of the Department of Labor that was published in the February 1988 issue of the Monthly Labor Review. “But economic conditions worsened during his relatively brief tenure, and he was overwhelmed by the worldwide economic disaster.”

After serving as DOL head for the majority of Hoover’s Depression-ravaged term, Doak left the post in March 1933 after Franklin Delano Roosevelt took office and returned from a leave he had taken from his BRT leadership position as national legislative representative.

Just months later, on Oct. 23, 1933, Doak passed away at age 50 from cardiovascular disease. However, the work that he did as a labor leader continues to reverberate through our organization to this day.

Signing of COVID aid bill enables SMART-TD bus, transit members to get rolling

President Joe Biden today signed his $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan intended to stabilize the nation’s economy as it continues the task of rebounding from the COVID-19 pandemic that has killed more than 525,000 people in the United States.

The plan has $30.5 billion in emergency funding reserved to assist transit in the country rebound after an immense drop in use as a result of the coronavirus outbreak nearly one year ago. That amount is $10.5 billion more than the $20 billion requested by Biden in his initial version of the bill that was unveiled before he took office.

Passenger transit services were hit hard by the virus with ridership declining 95% for some carriers. In the initial stages of the pandemic, only essential workers used public transportation as many people in a number of highly populated areas went into lockdown.

“Our bus and transit members have been on the front lines working to provide for their families and to continue to keep the country running in the year since the coronavirus emerged in the United States,” SMART Transportation Division National Legislative Director Gregory Hynes said after the bill’s signing. “The transit funding provided by this plan will provide security for them going forward.”

Amtrak, the nation’s largest passenger rail carrier, also experienced a massive decline in ridership as a result of COVID-19. The carrier is slated to get $1.7 billion to help restore service that had been reduced last autumn, resulting in furloughs of SMART-TD and other unionized workers.

The carrier already announced that it will resume full long-distance service as a result of receiving the funds from the relief plan.

“‘Amtrak Joe’ and Congress has delivered for us,” Hynes said. “The American Rescue Plan is a much-needed boost that will allow Amtrak to recall all of our furloughed members and restore long-distance service very soon.”

The plan passed along party lines in both the U.S. Senate and in the U.S. House except for Democratic Congressman Jared Goldman of Maine, who voted against it.

The American Rescue Plan provides direct payments of $1,400 to individuals making up to $75,000 annually, $350 billion in aid to state and local governments and $14 billion for vaccine distribution. The bill also provides $130 billion to elementary, middle and high schools to assist with safe reopening.

In addition to providing direct payments to individuals, the plan also expands jobless benefits through September and child tax credits to assist families who are continuing to struggle through the pandemic.

“Elections matter, and never more than the last election,” Hynes said. “It’s time to hold those who were elected to office to the promises they’ve made. This is evidence that that is happening.”

Ryan shows why he is the right choice for workers and Ohio

Tim Ryan

The SMART Transportation Division already has made public its full support of U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan if he decides to run for the U.S. Senate for his home state of Ohio in 2022.

He’s already proven himself to us by showing up to support Amtrak workers during demonstrations against furloughs last autumn. But he did it again just days ago on the House floor, rebuking politicians who would rather talk about children’s book publishers who choose to stop publishing their own books rather than doing their duty to have a serious discussion about the PRO Act and fighting for hard-working Americans.

Through 10 terms as a representative of Ohio’s 17th and 13th Districts representing the working cities of Akron and Youngstown and as a former presidential candidate, he’s had plenty to say about helping American workers. March 9’s speech was no different.

“If there’s one thing you can always count on from me, it’s giving a damn about America’s working families,” Ryan tweeted out with a link accompanying the video below.

We appreciate his passion. We applaud Rep. Ryan’s focus, drive and fire when it comes to the working class. We thank him, and, once again, we support him.

RRB reports performance under customer service plan

The Railroad Retirement Board’s Customer Service Plan promotes the following principles of quality public service: openness, accessibility, accountability, feedback and timeliness standards. An important part of the Customer Service Plan is its pledge to inform beneficiaries about how well the RRB meets those timeliness standards, which detail the number of calendar days within which the agency must decide to pay or deny an application for benefits.

The following questions and answers provide information about the RRB’s performance in meeting its standards in the key areas of retirement applications, survivor applications, disability applications and payments, and railroad unemployment and sickness benefit applications and claims during fiscal year 2020 (October 1, 2019 – September 30, 2020). Information on the agency’s overall performance, as measured by the timeliness index developed by the agency, and the RRB’s customer service timeliness goals for fiscal year 2020 are also provided. These goals may be revised annually based on such factors as projected workloads and available resources.

1. How does the RRB measure overall timeliness for customer service?

The RRB developed an index to measure the overall timeliness of its customer service in the following benefit areas: retirement applications, survivor applications, disability applications and payments, and railroad unemployment and sickness benefit applications and claims. This composite indicator, based on a weighted average, allows for a more concise and meaningful presentation of the RRB’s customer service efforts in these benefit areas.

2. What was the overall timeliness of the RRB’s customer service in fiscal year 2020?

During fiscal year 2020, the overall benefit timeliness index was 99%. This means that the RRB provided benefit services within the Customer Service Plan’s standards 99% of the time. The timeliness index for retirement applications, survivor applications, and disability applications and payments, the processing of which includes considerable manual intervention, was 90.9%. The timeliness index for railroad unemployment and sickness benefit applications and claims, a highly automated process, was 99.7%.

3. What standards did the RRB use in fiscal year 2020 for processing applications for Railroad Retirement annuities, and how well did it meet those standards?

In fiscal year 2020, the RRB had two timeliness standards for processing Railroad Retirement annuities. For Railroad Retirement annuity applications filed in advance of an applicant’s eligibility date, the RRB’s standard was that it would make a decision to pay or deny the application within 35 days of the requested annuity beginning date. For applications filed after the eligibility date, the RRB’s standard was that it would make a decision within 60 days of the filing date. The RRB’s timeliness goals in fiscal year 2020 were 94% for both advance filing and non-advance filing applications.

Of the cases processed during fiscal year 2020, the RRB made a decision within 35 days of the annuity beginning dates on 96.4% of applicants who filed in advance, with an average processing time for these cases of 13.4 days. Of the cases processed during fiscal year 2020, the RRB made a decision within 60 days of the filing dates on 97.5% of applicants who had not filed in advance, with an average processing time of 17 days.

4. What standards did the RRB use for processing applications for survivor benefits in fiscal year 2020, and how well did it meet those standards?

The timeliness standard in fiscal year 2020 within which the RRB would make a decision to pay, deny or transfer the application to the Social Security Administration for a Railroad Retirement survivor annuity applicant not already receiving benefits as a spouse, was within 60 days of the applicant’s annuity beginning date, or the date the application was filed, whichever was later. For an applicant that was already receiving a spouse annuity, the RRB’s standard in fiscal year 2020 was within 30 days of the first notice of the employee’s death. For an applicant who filed for a lump-sum death benefit, the RRB’s standard in fiscal year 2020 was to make a decision to pay or deny the application within 60 days of the date the application was filed. The timeliness goal for fiscal year 2020 was 94% for processing both initial survivor applications and spouse-to-survivor conversions. For processing applications for lump-sum death benefits, the goal was 97%.

Of the cases processed during fiscal year 2020, the RRB made a decision within 60 days of the later of the annuity beginning date or the date the application was filed in 95% of the applications for an initial survivor annuity. In cases where the survivor was already receiving a spouse annuity, a decision was made within 30 days of the first notice of the employee’s death in 95.2% of the cases. In addition, a decision was made within 60 days of the date the application was filed in 97.3% of the applications for a lump-sum death benefit. The combined average processing time for all initial survivor applications and spouse-to-survivor conversions was 15.95 days. The average processing time for lump-sum death benefit applications was 11.1 days.

5. What standards did the RRB use for processing applications for disability annuities in fiscal year 2020, and how well did it meet those standards?

For applications filed for a disability annuity in fiscal year 2020, the RRB’s standard was to make a decision to pay or deny a benefit within 100 days of the date the application was filed. If it was determined that the applicant was entitled to disability benefits, the applicant would receive his or her first payment within 25 days of the date of the RRB’s decision, or the earliest payment date, whichever was later. The agency’s timeliness goals were 70% and 94%, respectively, for disability decisions and disability payments.

During fiscal year 2020, the RRB made a decision on 13.5% of those filing for a disability annuity within 100 days of the date the application was filed. The average processing time was 330.8 days. Of those whose applications for a disability annuity were approved, 88.5% received their first payment within the Customer Service Plan’s time standard. The average processing time was 15.3 days.

6. What were the standards in fiscal year 2020 for the handling of applications and claims for railroad unemployment and sickness benefits, and how well did the RRB meet these standards?

For fiscal year 2020, the RRB’s standard for processing an application for unemployment or sickness benefits was that the RRB would release a claim form or a denial letter within 10 days of receiving an application. If an applicant filed a claim for subsequent biweekly unemployment or sickness benefits, the RRB’s standard was to certify a payment or release a denial letter within 10 days of the date the RRB received the claim form. The agency’s goals for processing unemployment and sickness applications in fiscal year 2020 were, respectively, 99.5% and 99.3%. The payment or decision goal for subsequent claims was 98.5%.

During fiscal year 2020, 99.3% of unemployment benefit applications and 97.4% of sickness benefit applications processed met the RRB’s standard. Average processing times for unemployment and sickness benefit applications were 1.2 and 3.1 days, respectively. In addition, in fiscal year 2020, 99.9% of subsequent claims processed for unemployment and sickness benefits met the RRB’s standard. The average processing time for claims was 4.5 days.

7. How well did the RRB meet its standards in fiscal year 2020 compared to fiscal year 2019?

Fiscal year 2020 performance met or exceeded fiscal year 2019 performance in the areas of retirement benefits, whether filed in advance or not, disability decisions and payments, lump-sum death benefits, and unemployment and sickness benefit claims.

Average processing times in fiscal year 2020 equaled or improved fiscal year 2019 processing times in the areas of Railroad Retirement applications, whether filed in advance or not, disability decisions and payments, and sickness applications. For fiscal year 2020, the agency met or exceeded all of the customer service performance goals it had set for the year, except in the areas of unemployment and sickness applications and disability decisions and payments.

Ninth Circuit Ruling Favors Unions and States, Rejects FRA’s Attempt to Preempt State Crew Law

CLEVELAND, Ohio (Feb. 23, 2021) — Two of the country’s largest freight railroad unions achieved a favorable decision in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday regarding an attempt by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to preempt legislation passed by a number of states that established a minimum of two-person operating crews on freight trains.

The case, brought by the states of California, Washington and Nevada and by the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers — Transportation Division (SMART-TD) and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET), challenged former FRA Administrator Ron Batory’s attempt to cancel the laws of those and other states while at the same time attempting to authorize nationwide one-person crews. The unions and states argued that Batory’s May 2019 order violated the comment-and-notice procedures of Administrative Procedures Act (APA) and that his agency could not implicitly preempt the state safety rules.

The Court of Appeals ruled that FRA’s order was “arbitrary and capricious,” taking particular note that the assertions by FRA and the rail carriers that reducing the number of crew members in the cab to one person could improve safety “did not withstand scrutiny” and “was lacking.” The court also criticized the order as not being a “logical outgrowth” of the two-person crew proposal, because “[t]here was nothing in the [proposed regulation] to put a person on notice that the FRA might adopt a national one-person crew limit.”

The court chided FRA for basing its negative preemption decision on “an economic rationale” instead of what is its main obligation — safety.

The court also found the order’s “real and intended effect is to authorize nationwide one-person train crews and to bar any contrary state regulations.” In that it utterly failed to address the safety concerns raised by nearly 1,550 commenters who support two-person crews, the court found the order’s rationale was arbitrary and capricious, thus violating the APA.

Likewise, the court eviscerated the lack of a sound factual basis in the order, which merely cited a study funded by the Association of American Railroads, holding that “a single study suggesting that one-person crew operations ‘appear as safe’ as two-person crews seems a thin reed on which to base a national rule.”

“First, we thank the more than 1,500 BLET and SMART–TD members who took the time to comment on the need for two-person crews, because you have made a difference,” said SMART-TD President Jeremy R. Ferguson and BLET President Dennis R. Pierce. “We also congratulate the judges in this case for recognizing the former Administrator overstepped his bounds, and we look ahead to working with the FRA when crew size is again considered on a national level by the agency as a matter of public and operational safety.”

“We assert, and will continue to assert, that having two sets of eyes and two people working in concert together with any improvements in technology, will be the best way to serve public safety and to continue the effective and efficient movement of our nation’s railroads,” the union presidents said.

The court ruling, in vacating and remanding the FRA order, sends the matter of a potential rulemaking for freight railroad crew size back to FRA for the agency’s consideration. It also means that two-person crew legislation in the states that had been targeted by FRA’s order remain in effect.

A copy of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling is available here (PDF).

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The SMART Transportation Division is comprised of approximately 125,000 active and retired members of the former United Transportation Union, who work in a variety of crafts in the transportation industry.

The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen represents nearly 58,000 professional locomotive engineers and trainmen throughout the United States. The BLET is the founding member of the Rail Conference, International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

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 supports potential run by Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan for Rob Portman’s Senate seat

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Feb. 3, 2021) — The nation’s largest freight railroad worker union pledges its full support to U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio as he considers a potential bid for the United States Senate.

Tim Ryan

“Rep. Ryan, throughout his 10 terms as a representative of Ohio’s 17th and 13th Districts, has proven time and time again that he is willing to fight and win for this nation’s transportation workers,” said Jeremy R. Ferguson, president of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers — Transportation Division (SMART-TD). “With a solid record as a voice for labor in his district that spans Akron to Youngstown, it stands clear that Tim Ryan would have the strength and political experience to protect and support all working Ohioans on Capitol Hill as a senator.”

Rep. Ryan has stood up to bad corporate policy and has co-sponsored national legislation that would require two certified people to operate freight trains, even as rail companies continue to place profit over safety via precision scheduled railroading. Last year, he voted in favor of both the HEROES Act, which would have protected transportation workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, and in favor of the comprehensive Moving Forward Act (H.R. 2), a measure that included provisions to protect bus and transit operators, as well as many other rail safety priorities.

On Sept. 30, Ryan appeared alongside SMART-TD members outside the U.S. Capitol as members of the Cleveland-based union rallied to support Amtrak workers who faced furloughs.

“Ryan is a champion for labor and working families. He has stood beside the members of our union for many years and he has been steadfast in his commitment to the unionized worker,” Ferguson said. “There is no doubt that he has our backs, so if he seeks a seat in the U.S. Senate, there is no doubt that we will have his.”

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The SMART Transportation Division is comprised of approximately 125,000 active and retired members of the former United Transportation Union, who work in a variety of different crafts, including as bus and commuter rail operators, in the transportation industry.

Keystone XL would have cost rail jobs

Misinformation has been circulating regarding an executive order signed by President Joe Biden that revoked the permit of the Keystone XL pipeline and supposedly “eliminated 11,000 union jobs.”

The 11,000-job number came from a press release issued in October 2019 by TC Energy – the main contractor on the Keystone XL project and was then used on social media posts attacking the decision to revoke the permit.

However, a PolitiFact.org report says that TC Energy’s president announced that somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,000 of those union jobs were laid off. The remainder of the “11,000” positions widely quoted on social media were not filled, and the jobs never existed anywhere but on paper.

PolitiFact reporter Daniel Funke also said the release may have had an inflated number to begin with. According to the State Department’s initial review of the pipeline project back in 2014, the jobs number was about 10,400 temporary, seasonal jobs.

More importantly, and something not widely reported, is that, once the project was done, it would have sustained just 35 to 50 or so full-time positions to maintain the pipeline.

Had it gone through, Keystone XL was projected to carry a capacity of about 830,000 barrels of oil per day. At least 500 SMART-TD members per day are needed to haul the 27,000 rail cars carrying oil that would have been displaced by the pipeline.

Keystone would have also displaced refinery capacity at locations across the East and West coasts, costing approximately another 100 SMART sheet metal jobs. Those 600 jobs that would have been lost by SMART members also do not include the thousands of jobs lost by union members in the trucking industry who would have seen their jobs displaced by the pipeline.

While the loss of 1,000 current temporary jobs in trades outside SMART is not a positive, Keystone XL also would have resulted in a permanent job loss for those SMART-TD and SMART brothers and sisters.

This is not the first time our union has had to defend our rail jobs from a pipeline and echoes the coal slurry fight that happened in the 1970s during the Gulf Energy Crisis.

Rail labor organizations and carriers joined forces to oppose the plans for coal companies to transport the fossil fuel from the Upper Plains and Powder River Basin as a slurry in pipelines instead of transporting it by rail. Our objections were heard. That project was stopped in its tracks and a drastic reduction in rail carloads was avoided, saving many railroad jobs.

Allowing this Keystone pipeline project to go ahead would have taken thousands of carloads off the rails, would have resulted in further rail traffic declines, and would have cost at least 600 of our fellow members of SMART their jobs. This is not even taking into account all the other rail crafts that would have been affected.

To the contrary, one railroad has begun the procedure to recall 40 to 50 furloughed employees to return to service immediately, and two others have posted job openings for at least 200 additional new conductors because of an anticipated increase in oil traffic. Likewise, additional hiring sessions are being planned to account for a forecasted increase in oil traffic, which, according to them, could begin by the the third quarter of this year.

“While we are always supportive of all unionized labor, as Transportation Division President of SMART, I am tasked with having our primary focus on what is in the best interests of our membership,” said SMART-TD President Jeremy R. Ferguson. “When viewed in that capacity, I think it is clearly a positive decision for our members that the Keystone XL pipeline project has been shut down.”

CDC order requires masks on all public transportation to slow COVID’s spread

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued an order Jan. 29 imposing a mask requirement applicable to public transportation systems, rail, and van, bus and motorcoach service providers to mitigate the risk of the spread of COVID-19.

The order implements President Joe Biden’s Executive Order 13998, Promoting COVID-19 Safety in Domestic and International Travel, “to save lives and allow all Americans, including the millions of people employed in the transportation industry, to travel and work safely.”

In an announcement of the order sent to Federal Railroad Administration stakeholders and partners on Jan. 31, an agency representative wrote the following: “Science-based measures are critical to preventing the spread of COVID-19. Mask-wearing is one of several proven life-saving measures including physical distancing, appropriate ventilation and timely testing that can reduce the transmission of COVID-19. Requiring masks will protect America’s transportation workers and passengers, help control the transmission of COVID-19, and aid in re-opening America’s economy.”

In addition to the CDC order, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) anticipates issuing additional information and guidance.

The U.S. Department of Transportation has posted a web page answering Frequently Asked Questions regarding COVID safety.

DOT will continue to add additional information to the site in the coming days and will be scheduling stakeholder calls beginning this week.

Questions regarding the mask mandate can be sent to the Federal Railroad Administration at RailroadsMaskUp@dot.gov.

SMART, 18 other unions endorse two for NMB

SMART and 18 other unions sent a letter to President Joe Biden and Democratic U.S. Senate leaders Chuck Schumer and Patty Murray reminding the president that appointing new members to the National Mediation Board (NMB) should be prioritized and endorsed the appointment of Deirdre Hamilton and reappointment of Linda Puchala to the board.

President Biden
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue N.W.
Washington, DC 20500

Via US Mail and Electronic Transmission

Dear President Biden:

We, the undersigned unions representing hundreds of thousands of Americans working in the airline and rail industries, take pleasure in expressing our strong support of Deirdre Hamilton to serve as a Member on the National Mediation Board (NMB), and for sitting NMB member Linda Puchala’s reappointment to the board. We also urge you to make these appointments immediately. Unlike other federal agencies, the Trump-appointed NMB will remain in control until new board members are nominated and confirmed by the Senate. With each passing day, the Trump NMB is allowed more opportunity to suppress the voices of aviation and rail workers, stifle collective bargaining rights, and undermine the Biden-Harris pro-worker agenda.

Created by Congress through the Railway Labor Act (RLA), the NMB plays an essential role in the facilitation of labor-management relations in the aviation and rail industries. Collectively, our unions represent mechanics, pilots, flight attendants, engineers, conductors, and maintenance of way employees, among other critical roles. These workers are best served when the NMB is reliably staffed with public servants who understand the importance of collective bargaining and who, when disputes arise, will seek fair and timely resolutions. Both Ms. Hamilton and Ms. Puchala have impeccable qualifications for positions on the board, and have proven throughout their careers to be steadfast allies of workers.

With over 20 years of experience, Ms. Hamilton has represented workers before federal courts and with the NMB on a wide range of legal issues, including union elections, mediation, contract enforcement, and major and minor dispute claims, and has amassed an in-depth knowledge of the RLA and how it functions. For the past 6 years, Ms. Hamilton has served as the Staff Attorney to the Airline Division at the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. She has held similar positions as a Senior Staff Attorney at the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, AFL-CIO, and Legal Fellow at the International Association of Machinists. With her experience and command of the RLA, Ms. Hamilton would be in an excellent position to foster strong labor-management relations, protect the right of workers to form and join unions, and ensure that the mediation and arbitration duties of the Board are deployed to serve all stakeholders.

Ms. Puchala has served as a member of the NMB since her confirmation by the U.S. Senate in 2009. Prior to her service as a Board Member, Ms. Puchala worked as a Mediator, Sr. Mediator (ADR) and the Associate Director of Alternative Dispute Resolution Services over a 10-year career at the NMB. During her tenure, Ms. Puchala has demonstrated leadership and professionalism that has earned her the respect of both parties across the mediation table. Ms. Puchala has also pursued innovative strategies to resolve pending arbitration cases, sought to modernize the NMB’s management practices and has fought for policies that will protect the rights of workers to have a union voice. Ms. Puchala also obtained important labor relations experience as a former International President of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, and a Staff Director, Michigan State Employees Association, AFSCME.

The rail and aviation industries support good middle-class jobs that are critical to the economy and are even more important as the country seeks to recover from COVID-19 in the coming months and years. NMB members have an important role to play in protecting these jobs and expanding workforce opportunities in sectors covered by the RLA.

Sincerely,

Air Line Pilots Association, International

Allied Pilots Association

American Train Dispatchers Association

Association of Flight Attendants, CWA

Association of Professional Flight Attendants

Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen

Communications Workers of America

International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers

International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers

International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers

International Brotherhood of Teamsters

National Conference of Firemen & Oilers, SEIU

NetJets Association of Shared Aircraft Pilots

Service Employees International Union

Southwest Airlines Pilots Association

Transportation Communications Union/IAM

Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO

Transport Workers Union of America

UNITE HERE International Union

CC: Senator Charles Schumer

Senator Patty Murray

NTSB reports failed braking system caused the death of two members

In a press release issued Jan. 25, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) determined that an airbrake failure caused a fatal collision between two Union Pacific trains in Granite Canyon, Wyo. on Oct. 4, 2018.

Local 446 members Benjamin Brozovich and Jason V. Martinez were killed in the collision. According to the NTSB, the collision occurred when the air brakes on their eastbound freight train failed while going down a hill. An air flow restriction in the brake pipe caused the air brake system to fail, and the end-of-train device failed to respond to an emergency brake command, the NTSB reported. As a result, the runaway train collided with the rear of a stopped UP train while going approximately 55 mph.

Click here to read more from the NTSB.

Former FRA deputy administrator Bose appointed to again fill post

Amit Bose, who served as deputy administrator for the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) during the Obama administration, was appointed to the same post last week by President Biden.

Amit Bose, new FRA deputy administrator, served as chairman for the Coalition for the Northeast Corridor.

“We’re excited to be working with Amit Bose,” said SMART Transportation Division National Legislative Director Gregory Hynes. “We’ve had several conversations and he understands and supports our issues. It’s a welcomed new day for rail labor.”

Bose has years of experience serving in the public sector including as FRA deputy administrator, FRA chief counsel, USDOT associate general counsel and USDOT deputy assistant secretary for governmental affairs. While in the Obama administration, Bose worked on High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail grants for projects on the Northeast Corridor and has a longtime association with the Corridor.

In addition to living along the corridor in West Windsor, N.J., and working for New Jersey Transit, Bose helped establish and later served on the Northeast Corridor Commission. He also participated in structuring the commission’s cost allocation policy, helped the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) deliver a $2.5 billion Railroad Rehabilitation and Infrastructure Financing (RRIF) loan to Amtrak for its next generation of Acela rail cars, and worked on the environmental review of a number of projects.

Amtrak Board Chairman Tony Coscia released a statement on Jan. 21 supporting Bose’s appointment.

“Amit Bose will be a great addition to the Federal Railroad Administration. His extensive experience in transportation policy, law and management will be an asset to the Biden Administration,” Coscia said. “Mr. Bose understands the importance of investing in infrastructure to support economic recovery and keeping America’s railroad system reliable and safe. We look forward to working with Secretary designee Pete Buttigieg, Deputy Secretary designee Polly Trottenberg and Mr. Bose to improve and expand passenger rail service across the country.”

Before his return to FRA, Bose served as vice president for HNTB Corporation and as board chairman for the Coalition for the Northeast Corridor.