Members make all the difference!
Recently, Republican Congressman Louie Gohmert of Texas – one of the most conservative members of the U.S. House of Representatives – cosponsored our two-person crew legislation, H.R. 1763, the Safe Freight Act. This show of support follows cosponsorship from Congressman Trent Franks of Arizona, a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus. Both are considered among the most conservative members of Congress.
Why did Rep. Gohmert sign onto the bill? The simple answer is that one of our members asked him to. General Chairperson Steve Simpson’s office is located near Rep. Gohmert’s, and Steve decided to set up a meeting to engage the Congressman on our issues, including the need for two-person crews on all trains. Steve didn’t shy away because Rep. Gohmert is a conservative Republican; no, Steve’s attitude was that “this is my Congressman, and I will request a meeting.” They talked for more than an hour and Steve convinced this very conservative Republican that the only safe way to operate a train is with a crew of at least two people.
Arizona State Legislative Director Scott Jones lives in Congressman Franks’ district and decided to set up a meeting with his Congressman. Scott brought along a retired engineer who attends the same church as Congressman Franks and whose children attend bible study taught by the Congressman. Hearing from a trusted friend proved extremely effective as Congressman Franks came out of the meeting understanding the importance of two-person crews and became a cosponsor of H.R. 1763.
Last year, one of our bus members, Socorro Cisneros-Hernandez, had an upcoming meeting with Republican Congressman Paul Cook of California and contacted our office looking for talking points on our legislative priorities. Ms. Cisneros used the information we provided and had a very productive meeting with Congressman Cook, after which he agreed to cosponsor the Safe Freight Act.
Most recently, Greg Hynes and I met with another conservative Republican, Ryan Zinke of Montana. After a robust discussion about the two-person crew legislation, Congressman Zinke agreed to sign on as a cosponsor.
The lesson from all of these cases is that every member of Congress, regardless of party or ideology, should be viewed as a potential cosponsor of H.R. 1763. Our Washington team will continue to do our part, but when it comes to issues that some members of Congress may not be naturally inclined to support, our members – their constituents – are the ones who can make the most effective case.
To do your part, work with your state legislative director to set up a meeting with your Representative to ask that they cosponsor H.R. 1763. We can provide you with handouts and other materials to help. Our recent comments on the FRA’s crew size rule are a good source of information on this issue. If you do not know who your state legislative director is, a list can be found here.
If we are going to succeed in passing this bill, we need to be engaged at the local level. Special thanks to Brothers Steve Simpson, Scott Jones and Sister Socorro Cisneros-Hernandez for stepping up to the plate and taking the initiative in getting these new cosponsors.
Lastly, please visit the Legislative Action Center to contact your Representative about the Safe Freight Act and ask your coworkers to do the same.
National Legislative Director
SMART Transportation Division