President Joe Biden on April 26 signed an executive order that created a Task Force on Worker Organizing and Empowerment to increase union density and union organizing in the country.
The group will be led by Vice President Kamala Harris and DOL Secretary Marty Walsh and have more than 20 members of Biden’s Cabinet and heads of agencies involved, according to a fact sheet released by the White House.
“American workers have faced increasing barriers to organizing and bargaining collectively with their employers. Economic change in the United States and globally, technological developments, and the failure to modernize federal organizing and labor-management relations laws so they respond appropriately to the reality found in American workplaces have made worker organizing exceedingly difficult. The result has been a steady decline in union membership in the United States over past decades,” a White House fact sheet on the creation of the task force stated. “Since 1935, when the National Labor Relations Act was enacted, the policy of the federal government has been to encourage worker organizing and collective bargaining, not to merely allow or tolerate them. In the 86 years since the Act was passed, the federal government has never fully implemented this policy.”
The task force intends to, within 180 days, recommend ways that current policies, programs and practices can be used to promote worker organizing and collective bargaining in the federal government and identify where new policies, regulatory and statutory changes are needed to achieve the task force’s mission.
The goals set forth for the task force are:
Lead by example by ensuring that the federal government is a model employer with respect to encouraging worker organizing and collective bargaining among its workforce.
Facilitate worker organizing across the country by taking an all-of-government approach to mobilize the federal government’s policies, programs and practices to provide workers the opportunity to organize and bargain collectively.
Increase worker power in underserved communities by examining and seeking to address the particular challenges to worker organizing in jurisdictions with restrictive labor laws; the added challenges that marginalized workers in many communities encounter, including women and people of color; and the heightened barriers to organizing workers in certain industries.
Increase union membership across the United States to grow a more inclusive middle class and provide workers the opportunity to come together for the purpose of mutual advancement, the dignity of worker and workers, respect and the fair compensation they deserve.
After four-plus years of arduous contract negotiations and mediation, SMART TD train and engine service members operating at Birmingham Terminal Railway (BHRR) have ratified their first generation collective bargaining agreement that governs wages and working conditions on that property through calendar year 2019; 96 percent of the voting membership was in favor of the agreement.
SMART TD Vice President John E. Lesniewski, who assisted with negotiations, commended General Chairperson Mark Cook and his negotiating team (consisting of Assistant Chairperson Thomas Gholson, William “Eddie” Carroll, Derek Brown and Bobby McFadden) for their “persistent and systematic attentiveness to the needs of our membership.”
Cook expressed his gratitude to Lesniewski for “bringing a wealth of experience and an enduring commitment to the bargaining table.” Lesniewski, Cook and the entire negotiating team praised the members of Local 1887 for their patience and loyalty throughout the extensive negotiating process.
Birmingham Terminal Railway is a subsidiary of Watco Companies, an operator of several short-line railroad companies. The BHRR operates on 75.9 miles (122.1 km) of track providing switching services in the Birmingham, Alabama area. It began operating in 2012 after acquiring the assets of the Birmingham Southern Railroad.
Train and engine service employees as well as yardmaster employees of Golden Isles Terminal Railroad recently voted yes to SMART TD representation.
On May 12, the National Mediation Board (NMB) certified that SMART TD has been duly designated and authorized to represent train and engine service as well as yardmaster employees of the railroad.
“These employees recognize what the strength and power that being part of the nation’s largest rail labor organization can do for them,” said SMART TD Director of Organizing rich Ross.
“We would like to thank all those involved with the successful campaign on Golden Isles Terminal Railroad, specifically Vice President Jeremy Ferguson, GO 851 General Chairperson Joe Bennett and local officers of Local 1031, Local President James Robertroy, Local Legislative Rep. Isaac Gamble, Local Chairperson Darrin Brown and Local Chairperson Jeremy Sessions,” said Ross and Transportation Organizer Larry Grutzius.
Golden Isles Terminal Railroad operates 33 miles of track in and around the port at Brunswick, Ga. The railroad has interchanges with both CSX and Norfolk Southern. Commodities carried by the short line are automobiles, chemicals, food and feed products, machinery, and pulp and paper. The Golden Isles Terminal Railroad was founded in 1998 by Genesee & Wyoming, Inc.
SMART Transportation Division Director of Organizing Rich Ross reports that non-operating employees of Central Maine & Quebec Railway (CMQ) located in Hermon, Maine, have voted in overwhelming favor of representation by the SMART Transportation Division.
The National Mediation Board certified the election results October 28, 2015. “I would like to thank SMART TD Organizer Larry Grutzius (Local 1895 – Chicago) for all of his hard work in this campaign,” Ross said.
CMQ is a Class III freight railroad responsible for car repair, car storage and switching services in the states of Maine and Vermont. The non-operating employees build and repair track and track infrastructure, repair and inspect freight cars and locomotives. CMQ operates 220 miles of track in Maine and 23 miles in Vermont. The railway is owned by Railroad Acquisition Holdings, LLC.
Train and engine service employees of Alliance Terminal Railroad located in Haslet, Texas, have voted for representation by the SMART Transportation Division, Director of Organizing Rich Ross reports.
Of 23 eligible voters, 14 voted for SMART while two cast ballots for no union.
The National Mediation Board certified the election results Dec. 30.
ATR is a Class III terminal railroad responsible for the switching and operations at the Alliance Intermodal Facility. It is owned by OmniTRAX, a North American private railroad and transportation management company with interests in railroads, terminals, ports and industrial real estate.
ATR connects with BNSF Railway at Haslet and operates over seven miles of BNSF track through incidental trackage rights, according to the company’s website.
Employees of Bay Line Railroad based in Panama City, Fla., voted July 2 for representation by the SMART Transportation Division, Organizer Rich Ross reports.
Of 17 eligible voters, 10 voted for SMART while three voted for no union.
“I thank CSX and Norfolk Southern new-hire class instructor Justin Humphries and Local 1291 Chairperson Jacob Lane for all of their hard work in this campaign,” Ross said. “I also want to recognize the efforts of Cara McGinty at the Transportation Division Headquarters in North Olmsted, Ohio. She truly put a lot of time and energy in bringing this organizing drive to a successful conclusion.”
Bay Line Railroad is a 103-mile short line freight railroad that interchanges with CSX Transportation and Norfolk Southern. Commodities transported by the carrier include aggregates, brick and cement, chemicals, coal, food and feed products, forest products, metallic ores and minerals, and steel and scrap. It was acquired by Genesee & Wyoming in 2005.
In representation elections held May 15 on both bus and rail properties, the SMART Transportation Division came out on top, keeping the Organizing Department’s 2014 undefeated streak alive.
Yet another division of First Student bus operators has joined the SMART fold as Kansas City, Mo., school bus drivers overwhelming selected SMART over both the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and the Service Employees International Union.
Of eligible voters, 107 selected SMART Transportation Division, 63 selected the Teamsters, 16 selected SEIU and just seven chose to vote for no union.
“This was a hard-fought campaign, but it was also a well-run campaign,” said Transportation Division Director of Organizing Rich Ross. “We won, and we won by a large majority because we spent a lot of time out there making our case. The operators wanted representation and chose the best bang for their buck.”
“We were out near the property every day at 4:30 a.m. to get our message across. The Teamsters came out in force with their parade truck, trying to block us from view, but the First Student operators found us.
Ross lauded the efforts of Alternate Vice President-Bus Calvin Studivant and Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority General Chairperson Waverly Harris (1594) and Vice Local Chairperson Brian Caldwell (1594). He also thanked CSX and Norfolk Southern new-hire class instructor Justin Humphries Local 1291 Chairperson Jacob Lane for their dedicated service throughout the campaign and Local 759 member Sheny M. Mendez for acting as an interpreter for the company’s Spanish-speaking employees.
In Western Michigan, the train and engine service workers employed by Marquette Rail also said “SMART” when they opted for union representation.
With the assistance of Vice President Jeremy Ferguson, Ross concluded another successful campaign in the Great Lakes State.
The Genesee & Wyoming-owned short line operates over approximately 126 miles of Michigan track, primarily on rail route extensions from CSX and Norfolk Southern near Grand Rapids northward to Ludington and Manistee.
Marquette transports chemicals, paperboard, grain, salt, petroleum products and other commodities. It also serves as a storage agent for fleet owners requiring accommodations for seasonally inactive or off-lease rolling stock. Capacity is in excess of 500 railcars.
Campus shuttle operators for the University of Tennessee’s transportation service chose the SMART Transportation Division as their collective bargaining representative in a representation election April 16.
Of the approximately 50 eligible voters, 26 voted for SMART, 10 voted for no union representation and 13 chose not to participate in the election
The operators transport students, faculty and staff throughout the 550-acre campus located in Knoxville, Tenn., and will provide rides to more than 814,000 passengers per year.
SMART Transportation Division Director of Organizing Rich Ross and Alternate Vice President – Bus Calvin Studivant spent nine days on the campus just prior to the vote, engaging operators in discussions about their needs and answering their questions.
The operators are employed by First Transit, Inc., based in Cincinnati, Ohio.
“The good news for this group of operators is that Calvin is close to finalizing an agreement for the First Transit group at Rutgers University that we organized in December and will be negotiating this contract with the same labor relations officer,” Ross said. “Hopefully, due to their familiarity, they can reach a mutually acceptable agreement quickly.”
Bus operators for Rutgers University’s inter-campus bus and shuttle system seeking union representation overwhelmingly chose the SMART Transportation Division Dec. 9 as their collective bargaining representative.
In an effort put forth by SMART TD’s Director of Organizing Rich Ross, SMART TD brought three short lines to the fold in an election held March 4, 5 and 6.
The short lines are all owned by Genesee & Wyoming, Inc., and included: Conecuh Valley Railway, LLC, Three Notch Railroad and Wiregrass Central Railway.
“I would like to thank NS/CSX new hire Instructor/Organizer Justin Humphries for his help in this organizing effort,” Ross said.
The Conecuh Valley Railway (COEH) operates over 12 miles of track southwest from Troy, Ala., to Goshen, Ala. The COEH interchanges with CSX at Troy and handles about 3,000 carloads per year. The line transports poultry feed ingredients, plastic, lead, vegetable oil and food products.
The Three Notch Railroad (TNHR) operates over 34 miles of track southeast from Georgiana, Ala., to Andalusia, Ala. TNHR interchanges with CSX at Georgiana and handles approximately 1,050 carloads per year. The line carries chemicals, polypropylene, fertilizer and agricultural products.
The Wiregrass Central Railway (WGCR) operates 20 miles of track in Alabama, west from Waterford to Enterprise. The line intersects with CSX at Waterford and handles around 8,200 carloads per year, carrying poultry feed ingredients, peanut products and seed.
In their final approach for union representation, the pilots of Avantair, Inc., successfully touched down on the SMART Transportation Division runway.
The Feb. 14 vote brought 224 Avantair pilots under the SMART umbrella. Among the pilots who participated in the representation election, 77 percent voted in favor of SMART.
“Our ability to represent transportation employees was one of the key factors in their choice of UTU/SMART,” said SMART Transportation Division Director of Organizing Rich Ross. “They had specific questions and wanted answers about union representation and we were able to accommodate their needs. Now we have to get down to business to get them a contract.”
“These pilots fly everywhere and anywhere at any time of the day. We set up a lot of conferences calls at all hours of the day in this campaign,” Ross said. “Some of these guys are working 80 hours a week.”
“I once again extend my sincere appreciation to International organizers James “Mike” Lewis and Calvin Studivant, and to International staff member Cara McGinty,” Ross said.
“I also want to thank the pilots’ group that initially approached us. They were the key to making this a successful campaign.”
Avantair is an aircraft fractional ownership company, headquartered at Clearwater, Florida, U.S.A.
With fractional jets, some customers may buy a share of a plane rather than an entire plane. Their fee is pro-rated and the cost of an aircraft is spread among a number of investors. They then have access to a plane for a specified number of hours or days per year on short notice.
Employees of the Texas & Northern Railway Company this week were successful in their efforts to bring union representation to their property.
In separate elections held Feb. 6 and Feb. 7, the operating and non-operating employees at the northeast Texas railroad voted overwhelming for SMART Transportation Division representation.
Non-operating employees include maintenance-of-way workers, machinists and mechanics.
The railroad, based in Lone Star, Texas, provides rail transportation service to U.S. Steel’s Texas Tubular operations, as well as other customers on its line, including A&A Coating, Friedman Pipe and Lone Star Specialties .
The Class III railroad comprises 7.6 miles of the trackage and 32 miles of storage tracks. It interchanges with Kansas City Southern operations at Veals Yard.
SMART Transportation Division Director of Organizing Rich Ross lauded the efforts of International organizers James “Mike” Lewis and Calvin Studivant and International staff member Cara McGinty.
“I would like to personally thank Mike and Calvin for their work put forth in this victory. There was a lot of traveling and a lot of effort involved,” Lewis said.
Texas & Northern Railway is a subsidiary of Pittsburgh-based Transstar, which also operates the Union Railroad Company in Pennsylvania and Delray Connecting Railroad Company in Michigan.