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.”
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.
President — Transportation Division
Earlier this year, Union Pacific instituted a revised attendance policy for transportation employees. This new policy contained the following provision which allowed them to discipline employees who utilized their collectively bargained compensated leave days (personal leave, vacation, etc.):
Q: 7. Are personal leave or single vacation day(s) subject to review under the Attendance Policy?
A: Personal leave and/or single vacation days may be subject to review if the use of these days indicates a frequency or pattern of avoiding work and failing to protect one’s employment on a full time basis.
Such compensated time is part of the collective bargaining/agreement bedrock guaranteed to operating employees. Unilateral changes to how such compensated time is utilized is highly improper under the Railway Labor Act.
In response, SMART TD General Chairpersons Brent Leonard representing GO 953, Al Nowlin representing GO 569, Jerry Kalbfell representing GO 225, Roy Davis representing GO 577, Steve Simpson representing GO 927, and Gary Crest representing GO 887, worked together in solidarity, serving a single notice of SMART Transportation Division’s intent to initiate a strike unless Union Pacific removed this egregious new provision from its attendance policy.
Upon reviewing the Organization’s position, Union Pacific removed the policy provision restricting the use of compensated leave, and SMART Transportation Division members will not lose time over a work stoppage due to this issue. This is a precedent-setting victory in the protection of member’s use of their compensated vacation and leave days.
Tire builder Jesse Isbell outlines in his recent blog post how the Right-to-Work bill is nothing more than a pack of lies intended to break unions and make the rich richer.
Isbell and thousands of his co-workers lost their jobs when the Oklahoma City Bridgestone Tire plant that was the core of an entire community, closed – a casualty of the passage of Right to Work legislation in his home state of Oklahoma.
Read how the so-called Right-to-Work measure devastates working families across our country and has a detrimental economic impact on everyone – union or not, from medium.com, here.
Throughout America Monday, UTU members joined with brothers and sisters across craft and industrial lines in We Are One rallies reinforcing labor solidarity and raising public awareness of mean-spirited attacks on collective bargaining rights by right-wing extremists.
The word went forth that labor will not stand passive as anti-union zealots elected to state legislatures seek to dismantle public-employee unions through laws revoking collective bargaining rights, curtailing dues check-off and forcing costly annual representation elections.
There is an end-game: Reminding elected officials that organized labor remains a potent political force able to mobilize millions of voters, and to set the stage for recall elections of anti-union lawmakers and voter referendums to nullify the legislative assault on collective bargaining rights.
“The immense activity this week is a direct result of the backlash provoked by overreaching governors and legislators,” said AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka.
Labor leaders nationwide recognize that the assault on public-employee collective bargaining rights is part of a right-wing effort to extend the anti-union assault to private sector unions. Anti-union extremists already have urged an assault on Railroad Retirement Tier II and the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA).
The UTU Collective Bargaining Defense Fund, established to help support public awareness of anti-union actions by right-wing extremists is just one example of union solidarity, being duplicated by dozens of other labor organizations in the public and private sectors.
Thousands of dollars already have been contributed to the UTU Collective Bargaining Defense Fund for this purpose, and UTU members and retirees are urged to add to the contributions already received from locals, general committees and state legislative boards.
In Ohio, where Gov. John Kasich signed into law a bill curtailing public-employee collective bargaining rights, the effort to nullify that law in a November voter referendum already has begun.
Over the next 90 days, union members and their supporters in Ohio will collect the necessary 231,000 signatures to put the Ohio legislation to a voter referendum in November.
Efforts also have begun in Wisconsin to recall legislators who voted in favor of curtailing public-employee collective bargaining rights in that state.
“If you believe in something strong enough, you fight for it,” said UTU International President Mike Futhey in urging donations to the UTU Collective Bargaining Defense Fund. “Together, in solidarity, we can and will win this fight and emerge stronger than ever.”
Checks to the UTU Collective Bargaining Defense Fund should be sent to:
UTU Collective Bargaining Defense Fund United Transportation Union Suite 340 24950 Country Club Blvd. North Olmsted, OH 44070-5333