Protests in both the United States and Canada have been used to focus upon racial justice in our communities. SMART stands united with those who are committed to peacefully work towards a racially just society that provides the freedom of opportunity to all.
Many of our fellow citizens are hurting. We cannot be silent in the quest to achieve much-needed social change. We equally stand against those who uphold racism, bigotry and violence. Make no mistake, fighting racism is a labor issue. Bigotry and racism have been used to prevent working people from securing a voice in the workplace for the course of our existence. It is used to divide and conquer by pitting workers against each other. This cannot continue and we must focus on real change and for reforms that address issues of racial and economic inequality.
Over the course of this pandemic, there has been a shift toward caring and empathy. Together, we protect each other. We want you to know that you are my sisters and brothers, that you are my community, that you matter to me! We were moved by our brother, Pastor Paul, “The only reason to look down on someone is to give them a hand up.”
Through our strategic plan we continue our enhanced commitment for systematic change for women and people of color within the industries we represent through our actions and dedicated resources across the United States, Canada and our Labor Movement. We will continue this path and focus to bring about real change. We encourage all members, our industry partners and our communities to join in these efforts.
One life lost is one life too many. Our deepest sympathies and heartbreak lie with the family of George Floyd as well as the many others whose lives were tragically cut short before him. We urge all to remember them through a peaceful struggle towards racial equality for all and we condemn those engaging in violence, the destruction of property and the loss of jobs.
Early this week, the headquarters of the AFL-CIO was damaged during clashes in Washington, D.C. As AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka noted, “We will clean up the glass, sweep away the ashes and keep doing our part to bring a better day out of this hour of darkness and despair.”
“Our work and dedication to the prosperity and freedom for all working families will continue.”
A workers summit for union members from all over Nebraska is scheduled to take place on Monday, May 6 in North Platte, Nebraska.
Jim “Doc” Moore, a retired associate professor of labor history at Cornell University’s School for Industrial and Labor Relations, will moderate the meetings at 1 and 5 p.m. at the Ramada Inn and Suites, 2102 S. Jeffers St., North Platte, NE 69101.
Among scheduled presenters at the summit, which is open to all union members and their spouses, are Sue Martin, president of the Nebraska AFL-CIO; John Kretzschmar, director of the William Brennan Institute for Labor Studies at the University of Nebraska at Omaha; and SMART TD Nebraska State Legislative Director Bob Borgeson.
The summit is again being organized by Terry Sigler, a retired legislative representative of SMART TD Local 286 in North Platte who remains active in union matters, especially when it comes to safety. Among topics discussed at the successful inaugural meeting in April 2018 were the state’s two-person crew bills and OSHA funding.
“The purpose of the Workers Summit is to unite all the unions to better inform the membership of the issues that are important for their safety and welfare,” Sigler said.
With Workers’ Memorial Day (April 28) almost upon us, the AFL-CIO today released their annual report on deaths on the job. This year’s focus of the report was workplace violence.
According to the AFL-CIO, “Workplace violence is the third-leading cause of death on the job, resulting in more than 29,000 serious, lost-time injuries for workers each year.”
According to the report, in 2017, 5,147 workers lost their lives on the job as a result of traumatic injuries and each day, an average of 14 workers die due to on-the-job injuries. An estimated, 95,000 people die each year from occupational diseases.
The report also states that nearly 3.5 million workers in the public sector had work-related injuries and illnesses, with an additional 2.8 million injuries reported in the private sector. Due to limitations to the current injury reporting system and widespread under-reporting of injuries in the workplace, the AFL-CIO estimates that the true numbers are two to three times greater than these at about 7.0 million to 10.5 million work-related injuries and illnesses per year.
In a win for labor, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed House Bill 85 into law, prohibiting counties and other local entities from enacting their own right-to-work laws.
Sponsored by Democratic Reps. Daymon Ely and Andrea Romero, the bill-turned-law invalidates right-to-work resolutions passed in 10 counties and one village.
“The passage of HB 85 Union Security Agreements is a victory for all working families in New Mexico,” the New Mexico Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO said in a press release. “Deceptive and divisive ‘right to work’ laws have no place in our state.
“With HB 85 now signed into law, we hope county and municipal officials will focus on actually creating good jobs, promoting healthy communities, and making our state a better place to live for all working families.”
In a memo dated May 31, AFL-CIO President Richard L. Trumka issued a statement to unions on President Trump’s proposed budget.
“This budget is the most significant betrayal yet of the working people President Trump claims to support. It is a blueprint for how to rig the rules of the economy to favor the wealthy and corporations, while taking away our freedoms and protections at work,” Trumka said.
The Transportation Trades Department of the AFL-CIO, highlights the stark difference in how Clinton and Trump stand on transportation issues, underscoring how the outcome of this election may profoundly impact the health and future of transportation unions and all working families in America. Read the entire article here.
Proposed rule: “Competitive Passenger Rail Service Pilot Program”
The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) in the Federal Register August 22. This proposed rulemaking from the FRA is a direct result of Section 11307 of the FAST Act which requires FRA to implement a pilot program for competitive selection of petitioners other than Amtrak to operate up to three long-distance routes currently operated by Amtrak. The final rule will establish the procedures for interested parties to submit bids and the information that petitioners must submit to FRA. It will also establish the procedures for the Secretary to evaluate bids, and select and notify selected petitioners, should there be any.
SMART TD, TTD and all of rail labor opposed this concept and other privatization mandates as the bill was going through the legislative process and fought to remove it or include conditions that would protect workers and create a level playing field if it ever went into effect. In the end, while the pilot provision stayed in the final bill, a number of conditions were attached to it at our request and it was limited to three long-distance routes. Given the political realities we face on the Hill and the opposition to Amtrak that exists, this was not an easy task.
National Legislative Director John Risch on TTD’s comments:
“The comments filed by TTD urge FRA to ensure that labor, service and Buy America rules that attach to this program are fully implemented. Specifically, TTD’s comments call on FRA to ensure that so-called 4R rail employee protections cover workers impacted by this program. As TTD notes in their comments, we think the law requires this result, but we need to make sure the FRA implements this in the right way. I should note that Rich Edelman, on behalf of the BMWE (which was not included in TTD’s comments since they are not members) also filed comments. Edelman, who has a strong background in this area of the law, goes into more detail on the legal background on the protections which should be helpful. It is important to note that both TTD and Edelman’s comments are on the same page. (Click here to read Edelman’s comments.) They demand 4R act protections and our comments have a whole section that talks about why they are legally needed to be applied and specifically ask that the proposed regulations be amended to require any winning bidder be responsible for those protections. We also are asking FRA to issue guidance to adopt them to this situation.
“TTD’s comments also urge FRA to adopt hiring preferences and procedures for Amtrak employees and to ensure that any new entity is covered by rail laws just like Amtrak is today.
“We all need to keep this in perspective. Amtrak receives preferential pricing from the Class 1’s to operate over their track, something the Class 1’s have for years decried as inadequate. A new entrant will not likely receive nearly as good an operating rate as Amtrak currently does. If there is a winning competitive bidder on any of these three routes they will only receive 90 percent of the funding that Amtrak currently receives to provide the service making the bidding process even harder.”
SMART TD Testifies before FRA
Today, September 7, the FRA held a public hearing on the proposed rule. SMART Transportation Division National Legislative Director John Risch was at the hearing and testified on behalf of SMART TD. Click here to read his comments.
“Donald Trump says he’ll make America great by being tough on trade, building things and creating jobs. Sure, it sounds good, but Trump is forgetting one thing: actions really do speak louder than words.
Not only has Trump failed to share any semblance of a plan for how he’ll do the things he so arrogantly brags about, but the GOP platform — which he now owns — is nothing more than a how-to manual for the destruction of the American middle class and our country’s transportation system. You’d think it can’t get worse, but it does” – Ed Wytkind, President, Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO. Read his complete column here.
By Larry I. Willis, AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department Secretary-Treasurer
Unfortunately, the anti-growth, anti-government movement is alive and well. Heck, we have extremists in the GOP who think House Speaker Paul Ryan is too moderate.I had the honor last week of speaking to IBEW members at their Railroad Department and Government Employees Conference. I had a chance to talk about what is at stake in this election and the challenges we face as a country.
We need a president and a Congress who embrace what we know: that a strong, safe, vibrant transportation system will be the backbone of any economic expansion and the fuel to rebuild our shrinking middle-class.
Turning directly to who is now the presumptive Republican nominee, I pulled no punches:
“Donald Trump has tapped into an electorate that is frustrated, scared and sick and tired of Washington politics. His ability to register and connect with voters, even if limited to parts of the Republican base, shouldn’t be ignored. I can assure you we won’t ignore it. We know there are millions of voters who have been harmed by policies and economic conditions that are responsible for plant closures, reckless outsourcing and declining wages, and who might pull the lever for a candidate who promises to make our country “great again.” Our job is to explain that supporting working people is about more than making empty speeches. Supporting working families is about actually advancing a vision and prescribing solutions.
“At many levels, it really isn’t hard to understand the initial, visceral appeal Trump may have with people struggling in this economy. He talks a good game on trade but manages to sidestep the fact that his billionaire class is responsible for dotting the globe with sweatshops whose employees replaced workers here in America. He promises to build a wall on the southern border, a podium line that speaks to the feelings, maybe buried in the subconscious of some people, that it will prevent someone else, not from here, from taking their jobs and lowering wages. It is the classic blame game and Trump is all in with this strategy.
“Once you get past the bluster, Donald Trump is absolutely no friend of working families. While pretending to embrace an economic populist message, the billionaire told a national debate audience that wages in this country are “too high.”
“He claims that he has worked with unions, but he embraces completely the right-to-work agenda that we know would gut the labor movement and hollow out our ability to represent our members and secure good contracts. But I guess if you think wages are too high, it makes sense to destroy the only institution that can actually raise wages and bring collective strength to the bargaining table.
“He tells voters that when he is elected president, he will force Apple and Ford and Nabisco, among others, to bring their production back to the U.S. At the same time his own line of suits and ties are made in China and Mexico. I wonder if he’ll force the Trump Empire to produce those suits and ties in America.
“When workers at the Trump International Hotel in Las Vegas wanted a union voice, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) alleged that the hotel fired or threatened union supporters, suspended employees and maintained illegal rules that prohibited workers from talking to each other. So much for democracy.
“His anti-worker plank is bad enough, but it is his reliance on hatred, racism, chauvinism and xenophobia to support his agenda and to guide his vision for this country that should scare the hell out of us.
“We must reject bigotry and divisiveness from any candidate for any office, but especially from those auditioning to lead our nation. Making America great should be about rebuilding the country – its infrastructure, transportation system and public institutions – giving millions the chance at the middle class through strong unions, and embracing the diversity of this nation, not exploiting it to advance a dangerous agenda that would turn the clock back on decades of progress.
“Simply put, Donald Trump is not only unfit to be president, he represents a danger to our democracy that we cannot allow to stand.”
I also noted that it might be easy – given recent polling – to underestimate Donald Trump in a general election. Sixteen defeated Republican candidates made that mistake. The stakes are too high and the voters are too angry to take any election outcome for granted. We must do everything we can to make sure union members know the facts come November.
Prince Rogers Nelson: musical genius, champion of the working class, lifelong union member and champion for workers’ rights and social justice. The AFL-CIO paid tribute to Prince in an online article written by Kenneth Quinnell, posted on April 22. Read the complete article here.
In a letter to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD), endorsed better oversight of curbside bus operators. In there letter, the TTD says “the passenger bus sector must be held to one standard of safety and curbside operators should not be allowed to operate unsafe vehicles, violate hours of service rule or avoid compliance with driver screening regulation simply because of where they pick up passengers.” Their letter to the FMCSA is on behalf of 32 affiliated unions, of which SMART is a part. Click here to read the letter.
Ed Wytkind, President of TTD, AFL-CIO, John Previsich, President of SMART Transportation Division and other union leaders have released a joint letter to Anthony Foxx, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), urging the DOT to issue a rule “to protect bus drivers and other transit operators from the physical assaults that are plaguing this industry.”