On April 15, employees of Denver Transit Operators (DTO) voted to join SMART TD Local 202 at Denver. This vote adds 51 engineers to the local, with growth to a possible 75.
Local 202 Secretary Jeff Maxfield said, “We are proud to represent the operators at DTO and look forward to signing an agreement that not only protects health and welfare, but provides job protection and livable wages.”
Maxfield said that unfair treatment and labor practices led engineers of DTO to organize. Safety concerns also led the new members to look for representation.
Currently, DTO engineers are paid roughly 50 percent of the national average, an issue that SMART TD hopes to rectify.
The addition of these members to the local is thanks to a collaborative effort by Maxfield, Director of Organizing Rich Ross, Colorado State Legislative Director Carl Smith and SMART Sheet Metal Local 9 Organizer Tim Moran.
“This would not have been accomplished without the help of our sheet metal brother Moran,” Maxfield said. “This is a great example of every side working together in unison. This is also a great example of thinking outside the box for organizing opportunities.
DTO is a private company with a 29-year contract to operate and maintain the new commuter rail system currently under construction in and around Denver for the Regional Transportation District (RTD).
They are part of the Eagle P3 Project, which will provide service to over 36 miles of track with electric rail cars.
In a heroic show of foresight and bravery, SMART Transportation Division Vice Local Chairperson Rob Forrest (Local 202 at Denver) saved the life of a pedestrian Wednesday, July 20.
Forrest, who – according to SMART TD Colorado State Legislative Director Carl Smith – carries a tourniquet for his personal belief of being prepared, used the tourniquet to save a 22-year-old man’s life after being hit and dragged by a BNSF train that Forrest was on.
First responders credited Forrest’s application of the tourniquet to saving the man’s life.
Funding to save the Southwest Chief did not make it into the budget proposed by the Colorado legislature this week, Colorado State Legislative Director Carl Smith reports.
“We must now seek support from Gov. Hickenlooper and the Joint Budget Committee, which will review appropriation requests beyond the current proposed budget,” Smith said. “We need to get their attention and approval as soon as possible. Please call the governor and the following legislators and ask them to fund the Southwest Chief Commission.
“This train is essential to Colorado’s transportation system,” Smith said. “You might also remind Gov. Hickenlooper that he committed to finding funding for the train at the bill signing last year.”
Hickenlooper’s office phone number is (303) 866-2471.
For funding to pass, the bill needs the support of the following members from the state’s Joint Budget Committee:
Colorado State Legislative Director Carl Smith asks that all members from the state call or email key legislators to pass the bill funding Amtrak’s Southwest Chief.
“A bill to save the Southwest Chief will be heading to the Colorado Legislature’s Senate Appropriations Committee very soon. We need you to contact key legislators today to help save Amtrak service in Colorado,” Smith said.
“As you may know, SMART Transportation Division and our partners have been working over the past several years to save passenger rail in Kansas, Colorado and New Mexico. After a lot of hard work, we now have a bill that gets the fight to preserve Amtrak’s Southwest Chief over the line in Colorado. State Sens. Leroy Garcia (D-Pueblo) and Larry Crowder (R-Alamosa) have introduced Senate Bill 176, a bill that will fund the remaining portion of Colorado’s share of capital costs to save Amtrak for Colorado’s passengers. The bill was endorsed by the Transportation Committee last month, but now it needs to pass the Senate Appropriations Committee before it can reach the full State Senate.
“Your voice will make the difference! Following negotiations, advocates for rail service have managed to cut Colorado’s total share of costs to rehabilitate the Southwest Chief’s tracks from $40 million to $8.9 million. This is a huge victory for passengers, and it only happened because of the federal grant that Southeastern Colorado communities successfully applied for in 2014 in collaboration with Kansas, Amtrak, and BNSF Railway.
“Please take a moment today and contact the following senators via email and phone (it’s fine to leave a message):
SMART Transportation Division National Legislative Director John Risch has sent a message to every member of the U.S. House of Representatives seeking their support of a “clean” Passenger Rail Reform and Investment Act of 2015 (PRRIA) bill, which would authorize and fund Amtrak.
The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee unanimously approved this bipartisan legislation (H.R. 749) Feb. 12.
The Transportation Division is asking all SMART members to contact their representative today and ask them to support a “clean” PRRIA bill when it is called this week.
A webpage created by Transportation Division Colorado State Legislative Director Carl Smith enables SMART members, using their nine-digit ZIP code, to find their U.S. representative and email them a request for their support of a “clean” PRRIA bill. It is also provides their representative’s telephone number to contact their office by telephone.
“On behalf of the SMART Transportation Division – our nation’s largest railroad labor union – I urge you to support a clean version of H.R. 749, the Passenger Rail Reform and Investment Act of 2015 (PRRIA), when it is considered on the House floor this week.
“This important legislation funds and sustains a key component of our national transportation system and we commend Chairman Shuster, Ranking Member DeFazio, Subcommittee Chairman Denham and Subcommittee Ranking Member Capuano for their leadership in crafting this bipartisan, compromise legislation.
“We fully support this legislation despite having concerns that the bill does not provide Amtrak with the funding levels it needs to make needed repairs and upgrades to an aging system. As Amtrak’s annual budget requests have established, its aging fleet needs replacing as the system faces significant and disruptive renovations to tracks, bridges, tunnels and other infrastructure in the coming years.
“We also urge you to oppose any amendments that would undermine this bipartisan compromise. In particular, we strongly oppose any amendments that would seek to privatize parts of the Amtrak system, eliminate long distance routes, contract out important work, including food and beverage services, or otherwise harm Amtrak’s ability to operate effectively.
“This bill is an important step in bringing long-term stability and investment to America’s passenger rail operations. Once again, we urge you to support a clean PRRIA bill and look forward to working with you to create the transportation network that Americans want and deserve.”
DENVER – A bipartisan bill designed to help grow economic opportunity and expand transportation options in southern Colorado cleared its first hurdle Feb. 24, passing the Senate Local Government Committee by a vote of 5-2. The bill, S.B. 15-176, would continue to provide needed transportation options so vital to southeastern Colorado in places like Lamar, La Junta, and Trinidad, but will also explore the economic benefits of adding a regular stop in Pueblo, Colo.
The bill has the support of the Transportation Division’s Colorado State Legislative Board, Legislative Director Carl Smith reports.
Smith said that SMART members will be at the state capitol March 2 to ask legislators to support the measure and other important labor legislation affecting working families in Colorado. He encourages all SMART members to participate. They will meet in the basement cafe of the capitol, located at 200 E. Colfax in Denver, at 9 a.m. Lunch will be provided by the state legislative board.
“The Southwest Chief is a lifeline for southern Colorado’s economy and I’m looking forward to possibilities of expanding service in the future,” said Sen. Leroy Garcia (D-Pueblo), co-prime sponsor of the bill. “I was pleased to see bipartisan support for this important rail line; it will be good for tourism and provide needed help to our rural economies in this region of Colorado.”
Sen. Garcia was a member of the House of Representatives from 2013 to 2014 and was the prime House sponsor of a bill – H.B. 14-1161 – establishing the Southwest Chief Rail Line Commission. The commission was tasked with ensuring rail line service would continue in Colorado.
The bill as written would appropriate $8.91 million in state General Fund money to the commission’s fund and modify some of the commission’s expenditure requirements from last year’s bill. Under this year’s bill, Amtrak would be required to explore the economic benefits of adding a stop in Pueblo to the services this vital line provides to Southeastern Colorado. Amtrak is already expected to explore the benefits of adding regular stops in Walsenburg.
Supporters of the bill include Pueblo County, ColoRail Association and Amtrak.
The bill will now move to the Senate Appropriations Committee for its next hearing.
DENVER – Gov. John Hickenlooper May 6 announced that he plans to sign H.B. 1161 on May 14 at the Pueblo Union Depot. The bill establishes a commission and fund to preserve the current Amtrak passenger train service in southern Colorado and potentially expand that service to include the city of Pueblo and a possible stop in Walsenburg.
The current Amtrak passenger service in southern Colorado is funded by the federal government under the Rail Passenger Service Act, which gives Amtrak the right to run passenger rail train over freight routes. Due to Amtrak funding cuts by Congress, Amtrak is unable to fully pay for track maintenance on the long distance passenger routes like the Southwest Chief. Without an alternate source of funding for maintenance, this vital passenger service could be discontinued on Jan. 1, 2015.
“H.B. 1161 is not a jobs bill, but a careers bill for southern Colorado. SMART Union members don’t have jobs on the railroad, they have long term careers on the railroad in rural communities of Southern Colorado,” said Carl Smith, SMART Transportation Division Colorado Legislative Director. “We are very proud to have the governor on board with such an important bill.
State Sen. Larry Crowder (R-Alamosa) and state Rep. Leroy Garcia (D-Pueblo) were prime sponsors of the bill.
The estimated cost of maintaining the line is $200 million. There is a proposal of a possibly five-way split between the states of Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Amtrak and BNSF Railway to pay for the upkeep, requiring $4 million a year for 10 years from each party. There are no state funds committed unless all the parties are on board.
Armed with polling data obtained by SMART?Transportation Division?political consultant Dean Mitchell of DFM?Research, Colorado State Legislative Director Carl Smith and Assistant Legislative Director Charlie Skidmore Sept. 14 presented community leaders from Colorado, Kansas and New Mexico, convened in Pueblo, with data showing large support for funding of Amtrak’s Southwest Chief service.
“With the knowledge that state and local politicians from Kansas, Colorado and New Mexico would be attending this event, Kansas State Legislative Director Ty Dragoo and myself had discussions with Dean Mitchell at the Anaheim regional meeting about doing a survey to show the politicians from our respective states the support the public has for Amtrak, even in the most conservative districts,” Smith said.
The surveys were conducted in Colorado’s 4th District and Kansas’ 1st and 2nd Districts, home to traditionally conservative voters between September 3 and September 10. About 800 adults responded to the survey, 400 in Colorado and 200 in each of the Kansas districts polled.
The survey found that people had a favorable view of Amtrak and high speed rail, with 44 percent of people polled stating that passenger service should increase and 40 percent stating that it should remain the same. Only four percent of those polled stated that the service should be eliminated, while 12 percent were unsure of what should happen.
Seventy-one percent of those interviewed said they would support additional service in the cities of Denver and Kansas City.
Forty-five percent of those polled said that their state governments should provide some funding for Amtrak and 49 percent were in favor of keeping the current levels of government funding. Of the 45 percent that said their state should contribute to the funding of Amtrak, 83 percent stated that they supported their states providing up to one third of one percent of the state transportation budget to keep daily Amtrak service.
“The survey was well worth the expense and will be a valuable tool for the state directors of Kansas, Colorado and New Mexico to present to state legislatures and governors when discussing funding for Southwest Chief service,”?Smith said.
Smith also presented the findings to attendees at the Labor Initiative of the Colorado Democratic Party event held Sept. 18.