A bill called the Transportation Funding Fairness Act (TFFA), introduced by first-term U.S. Rep. Tom Malinowski (D) of New Jersey, would give more latitude for states to use federal funds to help pay for projects, such as the Gateway Tunnel between New York and New Jersey.
“The TFFA will clear one of the obstacles the administration has placed in the path of building Gateway, and other similar projects around the country,” Malinowski said in a press release. “Funding for infrastructure is one issue on which I think the Congress can make progress this year, and this bill can be an important part of that effort.”
The bill (H.R.731), introduced Jan. 23, had seven co-sponsors as of Jan. 28 and the endorsement of SMART Transportation Division and the Amalgamated Transit Union.
“SMART Transportation Division supports The Transportation Funding Fairness Act,” New Jersey State Legislative Director Ron Sabol said in the release. “It’s about time we get funding fairness for our much needed infrastructure projects.”
CLEVELAND, Jan. 20—The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) and the Transportation Division of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Rail Air and Transportation Workers (SMART TD) are urging their respective memberships to contact members of the House of Representatives about co-sponsoring The Safe Freight Act of 2017 (H.R. 233), a bill that would mandate two-person train crews on freight trains—one certified locomotive engineer and one certified conductor.
Introduced by Congressman Don Young (R-Alaska) Jan. 3, 2017, The Safe Freight Act states in part: “Effective 30 days after the date of enactment of the Safe Freight Act of 2017, no freight train or light engine used in connection with the movement of freight may be operated unless it has a crew consisting of at least 2 individuals, one of whom is certified under regulations promulgated by the Federal Railroad Administration as a locomotive engineer pursuant to section 20135, and the other of whom is certified under regulations promulgated by the Federal Railroad Administration as a conductor pursuant to section 20163.”
The current two-person crew bill mirrors legislation that was introduced in the 114th Congress, which garnered 69 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives.
Now is the time to speak up and voice your support for two-person train crews! All active and retired members of the BLET and SMART TD, as well as their Auxiliary Representatives, should contact their House Representatives and ask them to Co-Sponsor H.R. 233, the Safe Freight Act of 2017.
SMART TD and BLET members: Please visit the SMART TD Legislative Action Center (LAC) where you can easily find and contact your representative and urge him or her to support H.R. 233. Click here to visit the LAC and let your voice be heard!
Members can also call the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121, and ask to speak with the House of Representative member from your Congressional District. Contact information can also be found online at: http://www.house.gov/htbin/findrep.
Earlier this month, the BLET secured a significant victory for rail workers from the highest court in the United States to protect two-person train crews. On January 9, the United States Supreme Court denied a petition filed by the Wheeling and Lake Erie Railway asking that the nation’s highest court review and set aside the 2015 finding by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals that the railroad’s use of managers in place of union conductors was a major dispute under the Railway Labor Act.
The issue of two-person train crews has been in the national spotlight since the July 6, 2013, derailment of a Montreal, Maine & Atlantic (MM&A) oil train in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, which killed 47 people and destroyed the center of the town. The MM&A train was crewed by a single person. Since that time, there has also been movement by major freight railroads to seek collective bargaining agreements to allow for widespread use of one-person train operations. SMART TD and BLET have lobbied to protect two-person crews as being paramount to safety.
“The nationwide fight over operating crew size is far from over, and we are urging all BLET and SMART TD Brothers and Sisters to contact their member of Congress on this extremely important issue,” BLET National President Dennis R. Pierce said. “In spite of what the railroads might say, technology has not advanced to the point that it can replace the eyes and ears of railroad professionals. Please do your part as the job you save may be your own.”
“We will continue our tireless and years-long work of supporting a minimum of two crew members on all trains. An overwhelming majority of Americans from both political parties support this measure: the American people have spoken and are in favor of this bill. It is past time for our government to get on track, do the right thing and support H.R. 233. This measure is a matter of domestic safety and security for railroad workers, passengers, our cities, towns and our entire nation,” said SMART TD President John Previsich.
President Pierce and President Previsich both thanked Congressman Young for introducing the bill.
The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen represents nearly 57,000 professional locomotive engineers and trainmen throughout the United States. The BLET is the founding member of the Rail Conference, International Brotherhood of Teamsters.
The SMART Transportation Division (SMART TD) is headquartered in the Cleveland suburb of North Olmsted, Ohio. It is a broad-based, transportation labor union representing more than 125,000 active and retired railroad, bus, mass transit and airline workers in the United States. It is a division of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers based in Washington, D.C.
Progressive Railroading reported that a bill passed by the Senate last week includes provisions requiring Amtrak to spend its profits from Acela and Northeast Regional service on projects in the Northeast Corridor (NEC). Read the entire story here.
Yet another packet of right-to-work bills has made an appearance, this time in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania legislators drafted House Bills 50, 51, 52 and 53 to become a “Right-to-Work” state.
Ten different unions marched in downtown Chambersburg, Pa., in protest of the bill over the weekend. If passed, the bills would allow non-union members the same benefits that dues-paying members receive, such as higher wages and benefits and union representation.
House Bill 50, sponsored by Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, seeks to end union membership or dues payment by non-members as a condition of employment.
House Bill 51, sponsored by Rep. Kathy Rapp, seeks to prohibit unions from collecting dues from non-union public school employees.
House Bill 52, sponsored by Rep. Fred Keller, would prohibit unions from collecting dues from non-union state employees.
House Bill 53, sponsored by Rep. Jim Cox, seeks to prohibit unions from collecting dues from non-union local government employees. Rep. Stephen Bloom is also proposing House Bill 250, that would repeal a state law known as “maintenance of membership.” The bill would essentially allow dissatisfied union members to quit their union at any time, as opposed to a current 15-day window toward the end of contracts. Rep. Jerry Knowles also seeks to pass an umbrella bill that would prevent union membership from being a condition of employment in the private sector.
Metcalfe has introduced this union-busting legislation in every session over the past 14 years. This year is viewed as different, because Republicans control both the House and Senate of the Pennsylvania Legislature, as well as the governor’s seat.
Legislators in favor of the bill hope to introduce it to the House speaker soon.
Whether we like it or not, union busting is a part of our world history. Unions have always fought against big business, government and those that would trample the everyday union worker.
The union busting that occurred last year in Wisconsin, Ohio, Arizona and other states continues today, with local and state governments trying to push through right-to-work (for less) legislation.
The death of the “Iron Lady” Margaret Thatcher makes us remember that union-busting is not just here in the United States, but is a world-wide issue. During her time in office from May 1979 to November 1990, Thatcher’s legacy of union busting was world renown. She was able to pass legislation to take away the rights of the union worker like none other was able to do before her.
Last year, Gov. Scott Walker tried to take a page out of Thatcher’s notebook when he tried to put through union-busting legislation in Wisconsin. Many were shocked when they heard about the legislation that Walker was trying to pass. Other states were quick to follow Walker’s example and tried to push through their own right-to-work and union-busting laws. This was our wake up call to come together in solidarity and fight like the unions fought in the days of Thatcher’s reign.
We must not allow ourselves to become complacent. For it is when we become complacent and stop keeping watch over our rights that we open ourselves up to our enemies’ strikes against us.
We must be diligent in our watch and stay informed about those who want to take away our rights as workers. One way to do this is to contribute to the UTU’s PAC fund. This fund enables us to stay alert and fight the legislation that would harm the middle-class worker and take away our hard-won rights.
Let Thatcher and Walker be reminders to us that we need to band together as unions in solidarity and continue to stay alert to fight against union-busting legislation.
WASHINGTON — Although 16 Republicans refused to be cowed by their conservative leadership, the House of Representatives last week succeeded in another attack on collective bargaining by voting to nullify a National Mediation Board ruling making representation elections for airline and railroad workers more democratic.
All Democrats in the House stood with the NMB and labor, and 16 Republicans crossed over to do the same; but it was not enough given the Republican majority.
The House action, nullifying the NMB ruling in favor of more democratic representation elections, is contained in a Federal Aviation Administration authorizing bill.
The 220-206 vote to nullify the NMB ruling through legislation is not the end. The anti-union provision does not appear in a companion bill previously passed by the Senate, which means a House-Senate conference committee will have an opportunity to remove the anti-union provision from the bill before it goes back to the two chambers for a final vote.
President Obama said he will veto the FAA authorization bill if the anti-labor provision appears in the final bill.
The provision in the bill, inserted at the request of airlines, is to overturn an NMB ruling last year that scrapped the undemocratic means by which airline and railroad representation votes, under the Railway Labor Act, are counted.
Prior to the NMB ruling, those not voting in representation elections were considered to have cast a “no” vote for representation. The NMB changed the rule to provide that a simple majority of those actually voting determine the outcome of representation elections.
Were Congress to succeed in overturning the new NMB representation election rule, the NMB procedure would be counter to all other elections.
Neither elections for Congress, the White House or even the PTA count as “no” votes those not voting. In fact, as documented by the Communications Workers of America, had the Republican-desired provision been in effect for 2010 congressional elections, not a single member of Congress would have been elected.
Rep. Steven LaTourette (R-Ohio) and Rep. Jerry Costello (D-Ill.) introduced an amendment to remove the anti-union provision from the FAA reauthorization bill, and it was that amendment that was defeated by the 220-206 vote. The FAA reauthorization bill then passed the House by a 223-196 vote.
In threatening a veto of the FAA reauthorization bill if the anti-union provision remains, President Obama said the provision “would undermine a fundamental principle of fairness in union representation elections — that outcomes should be determined by a majority of the valid ballots cast.”
Earlier, airlines were turned back by a federal court in an effort to invalidate the NMB ruling, with the court giving deference to the experts at the NMB.
Republican members of the House, who refused to cast an anti-labor vote and joined with House Democrats were:
January brings a new session of Congress and the start of state legislative sessions across the country. Our UTU legislative team in Washington and our state legislative directors will be on guard protecting the interests of our members.
Two old UTU friends are in charge of key transportation committees in the House and Senate. Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.) now chairs the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee; and Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W. Va.) continues as chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee.
Among UTU legislative priorities:
Growing passenger and freight rail transportation, including Amtrak, public transit and commuter airline service. America has become too dependent on foreign oil and expanded railroad and public transit service can help reduce that dependency and provide not just jobs, but excellent careers.
Growing funding for transit. While demand is growing, many transit systems have buses and commuter rail cars stored because of a shortage of operating funds. We will work to secure more flexible funding so service can be maintained and expanded.
Work to prevent the weakening or privatization of Social Security and Railroad Retirement.
Work with our aviation partners for reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration to include new safety provisions.
Work to pass improvements to the Railroad Safety Improvement Act of 2008. Our members know the solution to fatigue: “Just tell me when I must report for work and I will show up rested.”
Among improvements sought will be: A 10-hour call for all unassigned road service; a provision to allow regular yard jobs only eight hours off-duty between shifts; require yardmaster assignments to be covered by hours-of-service provisions; require advance notice of interim release periods; and, a limitation on limbo time to a maximum of two hours for each tour of duty.
While the UTU has many friends on both sides of the aisle, we expect very few major policy issues to pass Congress the next two years given the divided government (Republicans in charge of the House; Democrats controlling the Senate).
While that may be disappointing, we also expect there to be less opportunity for bad things to happen.
That said, we will keep pressing on and do our very best to protect the interest of our members.
UTU Michigan State Legislative Director Jerry Gibson knows the value of the UTU PAC in electing labor friendly lawmakers. He knows how to share those facts, also.
UTU Local 1075 Secretary-Treasurer John Purcell says he and other members of his Trenton, Mich., local had “no clue of what the UTU PAC was. No one had ever explained how it worked” until Gibson showed up at a union local meeting.
Purcell credits Gibson with educating the local’s members “on how PAC funds are used and the benefits the PAC provides. I started contributing myself immediately and began to encourage others to do the same,” Purcell said in a recent e-mail he sent Gibson.
“The value of the UTU PAC was further driven home after my attendance at the regional meetings where I learned what was being done in Washington D.C., and the impact of our PAC funds there,” Purcell said.
More recently, Purcell said the UTU’s get-out-the vote drive for the Nov. 2 elections was a success. Post cards sent members through a project of the National Legislative Office “reached the members’ homes and several contacted me and asked questions,” Purcell said.
“I provided information which included that the UTU PAC is not a partisan program and that it supports candidates that support us regardless of party affiliation,” Purcell said. “I used the information provided, which listed successful legislation that has improved safety and benefits.
“All of this resulted in 12 members either increasing their UTU PAC donation or becoming new donors all together,” Purcell said.
Purcell said he now writes a check to the UTU PAC in the amount of $265 per month, and 44 percent of Local 1075’s members now donate. He said his goal is to gain PAC contributions from 75 percent of Local 1075’s members.
It’s a new year. We have a new administration in Washington and a larger labor-friendly majority in the House and Senate. It is a time of new hope.
It will not be easy. The deteriorating economic conditions in this country are serious and will take time to solve. There are no quick fixes.
With the unfortunate death of National Legislative Director James Brunkenhoefer, we have suffered a serious loss.
As the new Congress organizes itself in January and February, our focus– with assistance from the AFL-CIO — will be to gain Senate confirmation for labor-friendly cabinet and regulatory agency heads nominated by President Obama. Updates on nominees and the confirmation process will be reported at www.utu.org. Members should visit the UTU Web site regularly to check on updates.
President Futhey, Assistant President Martin and Alternate National Legislative Director James Stem will be working to educate new members of the House and Senate — on both sides of the aisle — about the rail industry and transportation labor’s past and present role in improving productivity and safety.
During difficult economic times, UTU members are fortunate to have good benefits, good working conditions and a strong union to provide them and their families with protections.
Even so, it is not going to be easy. Many of our locals will be entering contract negotiations in 2009 and management is going to point to the financial crisis as reasons to seek givebacks.
Your union officers and representatives will be doing their jobs, which is protecting your rights. This union has a proud history in times of crisis, and I am confident that our strengths will be evident in 2009.
Congratulations to Local 1900 Chairperson Albert Collie and President Juan Ucanan at Parsec in Florida on their success in winning four of five grievances.
Kudos also go to Local 172 Chairperson Theresa Costantini and Trustee Kathleen Sitongia at Delco Transportation in Pennsylvania. They successfully resolved contract grievances resulting in reinstatement of a member and assurances for others of pay for lost work.
A special commendation goes to the New Jersey State Legislative Board and State Legislative Director Dan O’Connell for their efforts in helping to gain passage of legislation — signed by Gov. Jon Corzine — providing up to six weeks of paid family leave. They worked with the New Jersey State AFL-CIO and many community organizations to secure the legislation after 13 years of previously unsuccessful efforts.
Because of continued strong employer opposition, a compromise was required to gain legislative passage of the new law. Thus, the worker requesting family leave first must use two weeks of vacation or sick leave. This benefit will be paid out of New Jersey’s Temporary Disability Income Fund, with employees paying $33 annually to ensure the coverage.
The New Jersey Legislative Board unsuccessfully sought to gain coverage for rail workers in the state, but because they do not pay into the disability income fund, they were not included in coverage. The new benefit will commence July 1, 2009.
Our Organizing Department is in contact with bus operators and mechanics on numerous properties around the nation who have shown interest in representation by the UTU. If you know of unorganized workers seeking representation, please let me know, or call our Organizing Department at (216) 228-9400.