Posts Tagged ‘crew consist’

President Ferguson: Setting record straight on anti-labor articles

Brothers and Sisters,

It’s time to set the record straight. I am certain many of you have seen the recent anti-labor articles that have been published regarding our recent win in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit. That win has apparently struck a raw nerve with the carriers and the minions who eagerly await their master’s call. Make no mistake, that decision struck a fatal blow to the carriers’ plans to put you on the unemployment line. Rather than accept defeat, their apologists are trying to spin this loss into something that it is not. The long history of crew consist cannot be denied. For decades, we have battled with the carriers over their fevered attempts to cut costs and put your life at risk by down-sizing crews. This current round of negotiations is no different. They sought to eliminate your job and operate trains in perhaps the most dangerous way possible. Standing up for you, that’s what this case was about.

They have severely underestimated the fight in each and every one of us; the sheer grit and determination that we have to defend our families, our jobs, and the overall welfare of our co-workers and the general public alike. The truth that these apologists fear to admit is that in this Union, the dues-paying members are the Union — period. There is no divide between the “Union” and the “dues-paying members.” There is only a “Union.” We stand together now more than ever.

To salve their masters’ wounds, those “commentators” try to spin this as union officers protecting their own jobs. They know not of what they speak and their ignorance is evident in the web that they weave. They used nameless sources in an attempt to add credibility to a tall tale that anyone with true insight would know is far from factual. The fact remains that all officers in this newly elected SMART-TD administration are firmly united.

The Railway Labor Act protects agreements from being changed except through the processes provided for in Section 6 of the Act. The carriers had agreed to crew consist provisions years ago. Not only that, but to end the constant battle over crew consist, the carriers also agreed to moratoria provisions that barred any Section 6 Notice over crew consist until the last protected employee voluntarily left service. That event has not yet happened. These are the facts, but they are nowhere to be found in any recounting in the carriers’ favored publications. Rather, what you are treated to is the old worn song of the anti-unionist. The apologist who says trust the carriers, they only want what was best for you. Right. The carriers want to give you lifetime protections? At what cost? And when they decide they don’t like that deal any more, will they ignore it just like they have tried to ignore our moratoria provisions and put you on the street? These apologists assert that they have some inside scoop, yet I have never witnessed any “commentator” at the bargaining table. They are outsiders.

What else is missing? Acknowledgement of the only thing the carriers care about — their bottom line. Money comes before all else. That is evidenced by the unbelievable lengths they will go to argue that you are paid too much, that your insurance is too expensive, and that they are going broke as a result of the costs of our Agreements. You are the target in their zeal to improve their stock price. That is a sad fact that you will not find in any of those articles.

Another fallacy that is being sold — technology will do everything more safely. That simply is not true. Their technology is fallible. It doesn’t work like they wish it would nor as advertised. In fact, it’s not a matter of if it will break down, but when. We have collected thousands of Failure Reports across all Class Is and the data is terrifying. Never has the human element been more important in railroad operations. Engineers spend more time with their faces in multiple screens trying to manipulate and interpret the ambiguous systems than they do focusing on the territory ahead. Conductors are relied upon now more than ever, as they are the eyes and ears of the train crew, and we have the stories to prove it.

The articles also attempt to scare you by asserting that the carriers will unilaterally reduce crews at the end of the last-person-standing moratorium. That is not how the Act works. The expiration of the moratoria does not sunset crew consist. Rather, moratoria bar either party from serving a Section 6 notice to amend or change the current Crew Consist Agreements until the last protected employee leaves. Once that happens, then a Section 6 Notice can be served and the long and drawn-out process of the RLA engaged to negotiate the next generation of agreements.

Railroad workers have all been lied to long enough by management, and we can smell lies coming from a mile away.

As a word of advice to Railway Age, I would caution them against living in the past and trying to play SMART-TD against the BLET. We are working closely together in the Coordinated Bargaining Coalition (CBC) in national handling and on the various other disputes that the carriers have forced us into.

Brothers and Sisters, do not be discouraged, and do not be swayed by those with ulterior motives. We are in this fight together, and we are moving forward.

 

 

 

 

Jeremy Ferguson
President — Transportation Division

Fifth Circuit vacates injunction in crew-consist case

Today, Aug. 28, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit issued its decision in BNSF et al v. SMART-TD (Case No. 20-10162) concerning crew consist.

This decision is a long-awaited victory for the Union. The appellate court vacated the injunction that forced SMART-TD General Committees to bargain over crew consist, despite the existence of moratoria which bar such negotiation.

SMART-TD has always read those moratoria clauses to bar the service of Section 6 Notices to negotiate over crew consist until the last protected employee voluntarily separated from service. Indeed, that is the very reason for their existence.

But despite the long-standing nature of these clauses, the carriers presented a new and novel theory that the moratoria did not actually bar crew-consist negotiations.

The carriers tested this theory out by filing suit against SMART-TD in October 2019 and moving for a preliminary injunction in December 2019. In their request for an injunction, the carriers asked a district court in Texas to force SMART-TD to bargain now in spite of the moratoria. That court issued its decision on February 11, 2020, finding that even though the dispute over the moratoria was minor, and no arbitral determination had been made, SMART-TD was required to bargain now.

Under the RLA, minor disputes must be resolved through arbitration, not Section 6 bargaining. In the 22-page opinion, the appellate court walked through the various bases on which an injunction can be issued in Railway Labor Act (RLA) disputes. The 5th Circuit Court found that none existed here.

Rather, it concluded that the carriers had failed to exhaust the administrative remedy provided under the the RLA arbitration regarding the moratoria clauses.

President Ferguson: Facing crew challenges, TD and BLET will act in solidarity

Sometimes it takes something major to happen for people to sit up and take notice. A wake-up call, if you will.

From the standpoint of our national contract negotiations, our union got another wake-up call even before our first session that is scheduled for the last week in February.

On February 11th, a U.S district judge, who was appointed by President Donald Trump last year, ruled against our union in a lawsuit over crew-consist moratoriums. We’re now appealing that decision.

The court ignored the Railway Labor Act strictures with regard to the moratorium provisions which have been upheld for decades. We are being pushed down the tracks where the carriers want this to go.

This fight is not over, and we have another that is about to begin.

There’s a lyric that Anne Feeney wrote that gets at the heart of this matter and that unions have embraced: “United, we bargain. Divided, we beg.”

We now have a coalition of 10 rail unions about to begin negotiating together in this upcoming round of bargaining. I have been in close contact with the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) President Dennis Pierce throughout as carriers have tried to attack two-person crews.

Our two unions are linked in the courts. We’re linked in the halls of Congress. We’re linked in the locomotive cabs. We are now linked at the bargaining table.

Our attorneys are working together on behalf of both our organizations to fight the ongoing court cases as carriers try to manipulate the system with their deep pockets by attempting to get long-standing precedents and legislation overturned.

Legislative representatives from both our organizations are meeting with members of Congress and state legislatures to get the word on for two-person crew laws. The carriers, however, are using every means to fight to try to get two-person crew laws of seven states thrown out, which we have opposed.

Members from both organizations are sitting in cabs of freight trains staying alert and keeping one another safe through each and every shift, ready at a moment’s notice to respond when things go wrong. We need to carry this effort on in crew consist.

BLET President Pierce recently stated in a message to his union:

“I share this information to make it clear to BLET’s membership that our proud Union stands with our Brothers and Sisters in SMART’s Transportation Division in the fight to preserve two-person crews,” Pierce wrote. “Be it on the regulatory front, the legislative front, in court or at the bargaining table, BLET is working with SMART-TD to protect the interests of all operating employees.”

I, as President of the SMART-TD, want to make it clear to our union that we stand united with the BLET.

Any attempt to drive a wedge between our organizations in order to get officers and members alike to disregard the goal at hand — preserving two on the operating crew — plays into the carriers’ hands. It gets them closer to what they want: Fewer workers, more money in their pockets, a less-safe (cheaper) work environment and weakens all of rail labor. Two unions with members and with leadership going in opposite directions would make it easier for carriers to accomplish their goal of eradicating jobs in favor of their idea of “innovation.”

I also agree with President Pierce when he stated:

“The bottom line is this: In order to preserve two-person crews, each Union must protect and preserve its member of those crews. With only a few exceptions, BLET cannot bargain nationally for Conductors. The same is true in reverse; with only a few exceptions, SMART-TD cannot bargain nationally for Engineers,” he wrote. “For these reasons, and regardless of the fearmongering going on, BLET cannot ‘sell’ Conductor positions to benefit Engineers in national negotiations, and the same in true in reverse for SMART-TD. Again, each Union must protect its half of our two-person crews for all operating employees to prevail.”

Brothers and sisters, this is an uneasy time for every member of every labor organization involved in these negotiations as the carriers continue to cut personnel. The operating craft unions have the buzzsaw of technological threats from the carriers aimed straight down the middle of the locomotive cab. Don’t be persuaded by the fearmongering that attempts to divide us.

You are going to hear rumors out there. You are going to hear speculation. You are going to have people beating their chests and criticizing decisions made years ago by prior leaders for putting us in what could be a critical — maybe the most critical — moment in rail labor’s history with the in-cab role of the conductor in the balance. Ignore all of that noise. We are moving forward, not backward!

This is not the time for anyone to give in to anxiety or paranoia or “what-if” scenarios. When all SMART-TD members put our names on the dotted line to pledge for membership to this organization, we pledged to fight for each other in solidarity. When elected president of the Transportation Division last August, I took an oath to act in solidarity for the best interest for the organization and for all whom we represent. When I signed our organization on as a member of the 10-union Coordinated Bargaining Coalition, I pledged to bargain in solidarity with those other rail labor organizations in national talks.

All of us need to be focused on the situation that lies ahead and the decisions to be made for the future of rail labor and the crews who operate freight trains. We need to reinforce our lines of defense and prepare to go on the offense by reaching out to the public and to the media. Instead of wondering “what’s the union doing for us?” it’s time to get to the local union meetings and get involved. It’s time for the spouses to join the SMART-TD Auxiliary and get involved. It’s time to up your SMART-TD PAC contributions, then get with your state and U.S. legislators, so they hear your voice this election year. It’s time to get involved in the SMART Army. It’s time to stand strong!

Brothers and sisters, BLET President Pierce and I are united. We will work in solidarity, together, to keep two on the crew as we bargain. We will work together to keep you informed. We know this issue is too important to our memberships and for the public’s and our safety not to.

In solidarity,

 

 

 

 

Jeremy Ferguson
President — Transportation Division

SMART TD, BLET to FRA: Ban one-person freight train crews

Previsich

Previsich

SMART Transportation Division President John Previsich and Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) President Dennis Pierce, issued a joint statement, following their submission of their comments to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) on train crew size.

“Operating freight trains with one-person train crews is unsafe and must be prohibited. That is the message we delivered yesterday in the comments filed with federal rail safety regulators,” Previsich and Pierce said.

“Our comments provide a clear rationale for the FRA to finalize a rule this year and to close loopholes included in the agency’s initial proposed rule that could permit the limited use of one-person crew freight operations.”

Pierce, Dennis

Pierce

Click here to read the official press release from both unions.

Click here to read the comments submitted to the FRA, followed by the polling results of 11 individual states on two-person crews conducted by DFM Research on behalf of SMART TD (see page 18 for polling results).

SMART TD, BLET: Federal regulators must prohibit one-person freight train crews

SMART TD President John Previsich

Previsich

SMART Transportation Division President John Previsich and Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) President Dennis Pierce, issued a joint statement, following their submission of their comments to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) on train crew size. “Operating freight trains with one-person train crews is unsafe and must be prohibited. That is the message we delivered yesterday in the comments filed with federal rail safety regulators,” Previsich and Pierce said. “Our comments provide a clear rationale for the FRA to finalize a rule this year
Dennis Pierce, President, BLET

Dennis Pierce, President, BLET

and to close loopholes included in the agency’s initial proposed rule that could permit the limited use of one-person crew freight operations.” Click here to read the official press release from both unions. Click here to read the comments submitted to the FRA, followed by the polling results of 11 individual states on two-person crews conducted by DFM Research on behalf of SMART TD (see page 18 for polling results).

Members defeat BNSF proposal to cut train crew size

BNSF_Color_LogoA tentative agreement to reduce train crew size on one of the nation’s largest rail carriers has failed, according to the labor union whose members voted on it this week.

The pact would have eliminated on-board conductors on 60 percent of BNSF Railway, which spans the western two-thirds of the country.

Read the complete story at McClatchy D.C. News Service.

Risks of one-man crews debated after disaster

The train hauling millions of gallons of crude oil that slammed into a Canadian town got there with a crew of one – staffing permitted by law though opposed by labor leaders who’ve warned of the risks.

The union representing workers at Montreal Maine & Atlantic Railway Ltd. fought the company policy that allowed a solo operator to drive and park the train for the night and says the disaster points to the dangers of manpower cuts.

Read the complete story at Bloomberg News.

 

To court, again, over crew consist

To court, again, over crew consist

The UTU has asked a federal district court in East St. Louis, Ill., to rule, yet again, that the UTU has no obligation to bargain nationally over crew consist, or what the carriers now are terming, “staffing and consolidation.”

That same federal district court so ruled on March 10, 2006, after the railroads’ bargaining agent, the National Carriers’ Conference Committee (NCCC), demanded that the UTU negotiate, at the national level, that crew size be reduced. The carriers had sought, during the 2005 round of negotiations, to eliminate conductor and brakemen positions on all through-freight trains.

The UTU successfully contended that existing agreements relating to minimum train crew size are negotiated on a railroad-by-railroad basis through UTU general committees of adjustment, and any attempt by the carriers to change those agreements must be handled at the general committee level and not in so-called national handling where the major railroads coordinate their bargaining through the NCCC.

The court agreed in 2006.

But in serving on the UTU their latest intended amendments to agreements affecting rates of pay, rules and working conditions, the NCCC on Nov. 2 said it wants to “Explore opportunities for mutually beneficial alternatives to existing staffing models that enhance safety and productivity, fairly address employee interests and concerns, and recognize the unique opportunities still available to the parties to negotiate meaningful changes.”

Citing the March 10, 2006, decision of the federal district court, as well as similar court decisions dating to 1967, the UTU asked that yet another ruling be made that “crew consist or ‘staffing and consolidation’ is not subject to national handling” and that the court award the UTU its costs and attorney’s fees incurred in this proceeding, as well as “such other and further relief as the court deems just and proper.”

To keep current on this round of national handling, click on the “National Rail Contract” link at www.utu.org, where the so-called Section 6 notices of the UTU and the NCCC — intended amendments to agreements affecting rates of pay, benefits and working conditions — are also posted.