SMART TD, TTD ask nation’s trade representative to protect U.S. rail jobs

Published: October 28, 2019

A letter co-signed by SMART Transportation Division President Jeremy R. Ferguson and AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department (TTD) President Larry Willis asked the United States’ chief trade representative to re-examine policies that leave American rail workers at a disadvantage.

The United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement (USMCA), planned to be a trade pact to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), does not address certain issues covering cross-border traffic between Mexico and the U.S., the union leaders wrote.

Since 1931, Mexican railway companies have had a policy that they only employ Mexican rail workers. This policy has endured through the decades and was “enshrined” through NAFTA in the mid 1990s.

In the summer of 2018, Kansas City Southern began to allow Mexican crews to cross the U.S. border and operate within the country’s borders, drawing strong objections from both SMART TD and the TTD.

“Allowing workers from Mexico to operate in the United States while U.S. workers are prohibited from operating in Mexico is a direct and existential threat to the jobs of thousands of conductors and locomotive engineers represented by SMART TD,” the letter stated.

A reciprocal measure requiring U.S. crews to operate the trains was not included in the USMCA amid objections from the Mexican government, Ferguson and Willis stated.

“Without its inclusion, the agreement fails domestic rail workers and their sector, and further fails to uphold principles of parity between the U.S. and Mexico on the issue of rail service,” they wrote, calling upon Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to fix the disparity.

“SMART TD and TTD strongly agree with the Administration that NAFTA has failed working people and that the impacts of a trade agreement that was not written for their benefit are still being felt,” they stated. “We call on you to not abandon freight rail workers.”

Read the letter in its entirety (PDF).