HOLLYWOOD, Fla. — Transportation Division President John Previsich looked to the recent past to point the way to the future on Monday, Aug. 6, at a critical point in United States labor history.
In opening remarks to the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers’ first combined educational meeting at the Hilton Diplomat Resort in Hollywood, Florida, Previsich reflected on the status of the coordinated bargaining unit’s national rail agreement talks that appeared to be at a standstill last summer and an appearance at the Sheet Metal Business Agents Conference in Vancouver last year that he said might have changed the tide.
At the time, a declaration of an impasse was likely at the next meeting between the rail labor unions and the carriers and a Presidential Emergency Board would convene, Previsich said.
But the potential impasse was broken at the next meeting with the carriers willing to negotiate, and Previsich has an inkling of what played a big part: unity.
“I told the Sheet Metal brothers and sisters in the room that when the time came, and that we had to look at a Presidential Emergency Board, I said I didn’t want 65,000 Transportation Division members calling the White House, I wanted 200,000 SMART members calling the White House,” Previsich said. “Every brother and sister stood up and pledged their support. I would like to think that support, that word, that message, got – maybe to the White House. It got somewhere good, because at the very next session immediately after that meeting in Vancouver, the railroads came into the room and started negotiating.”
Within a month, a contract offer was on the table that was ratified Dec. 1, 2017, by four out of five TD members, Previsich said.
“It was the support of everyone in that room that made that happen,” he said.
Establishing that unity not only within SMART but among all labor organizations nationwide and education efforts will be key in the aftermath of the attack on labor in the form of this summer’s Janus decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, Previsich said.
“There are forces out there that want to reset the entire playing field. They want to move the goalposts to a place that we can’t get to. They started with Janus,” he said.
The Janus decision nullifies the ability of public-sector unions to collect what are known as maintenance fees from “free-riders” — those people who take advantage of union membership benefits but do not pay for those benefits.
“It’s not going to be fatal to our organization, but it will be close to fatal to other organizations,” Previsich said.
Teachers unions, the SEIU and unions that protect government employees will be most affected, but that doesn’t mean that those anti-union forces will stop at just that single victory to crush labor in the U.S., he said.
“The next step is to private employers and there are already efforts to start that happening,” Previsich said. “They create a dispute here, a dispute there, get some conflicting court decisions and boom, it bubbles up to the Supreme Court.”
With a second Supreme Court vacancy to be filled by the Trump administration, 150 years of labor history that workers fought and died for is under attack and in jeopardy in the United States, Previsich said.
Union members need to act.
“We can no longer sit back and let somebody else take care of our business. We have to take care of it,” Previsich said. “We have to stand united, not only within, but with every other labor organization in the country. We need to talk to our friends, our relatives, our neighbors and everybody we encounter in the grocery store and let them know the labor movement is an honorable movement.
“It’s the foundation of America, and if they start beating back the unions, they’re going to beat back every employee in any form whether they’re unionized or not … we can’t let it happen.”
The key to stopping the attack will be individual action and spreading the word, member-to-member, about the importance of the November mid-term elections, Previsich said.
“This is really the cliff-side point in labor history. I can’t stress strongly enough how important it is that we get out there and motivate our members to get out there to preserve the labor movement,” he said. “We can’t forget our paychecks. We can’t forget our pensions, our benefits and our families.
“We need to make sure our members are educated on everything that is important to the cause, the movement, the preservation of the labor lifestyle that comes about as the result of unions and the hard work that they’ve been doing for 150 years.”
Earlier in the opening session, SMART General President Joseph Sellers Jr. and General Secretary-Treasurer Rich McClees also encouraged the further development of solidarity by increasing cooperation between the Sheet Metal and Transportation Division membership.
The Hollywood, Fla., combined educational meeting itself marks the first time since the Sheet Metal and Transportation Division’s merger that both a TD regional meeting and a Sheet Metal business agents conference have taken place at the same location.
SMART Transportation Division President John Previsich addresses the opening session of the Transportation Division regional meeting at the Hilton Diplomat Resort on Monday, Aug. 6, in Hollywood, Fla.
On Monday, July 10, 2017, U.S. Congressmen from the State of New York, Rep. Tom Suozzi (D) and Rep. Peter King (R),addressed SMART TD members and officers at the Eastern Regional Meeting in New York City, Suozzi at the morning opening session and King at the lunch reception.
Although new to Congress, Suozzi served for many years as mayor of his hometown and later as a county representative, with a long-time focus on working families and labor issues.
Rep. Suozzi addresses SMART members attending the N.Y. Regional meeting during Monday’s opening session.
“The transportation industry, your industry, built America.The American dream is slipping away and too many working families have been left behind, but there is hope,” Suozzi said.
“How can we rebuild a strong, vibrant middle class? The hope is reflected in this room, in the power of strength in numbers, organizing and working together to move our infrastructure forward, create new jobs and maintain a strong union base, that is how,” Suozzi said.
At the lunch reception, Republican Congressman Peter King, who represents the Long Island, N.Y. region, vowed that his longtime advocacy of transit and rail labor issues, including his staunch support of minimum two-person crew mandates, will not wavier.
“I am proud to stand with you.I will do everything in my power to work with labor to get the job done, to protect your jobs and to protect your interests,” King said.
He added that transportation, including bus, rail and air, remains at the heart of the economy, and the hope for the future of working men and women.
“I will continue to work with SMART TD, with labor leaders and with elected officials on both sides of the aisle, to move America’s infrastructure upgrades forward, and to work together to protect and grow our nation’s transportation jobs. SMART TD is stronger than ever, and together, we will make sure that our jobs are protected,” King said.
SMART TD honors Representative King with Brass Lantern Award
SMART TD President Previsich (left) presents Rep. King with a commemorative brass lantern.
At the closing of the lunch reception, John Previsich, SMART TD president, presented Rep. King with the coveted Brass Lantern Award, on behalf of SMART TD.
“The Brass Lantern is not awarded often, and is presented to those rare individuals who have never waivered in their commitment to the issues and concerns of our membership. We are pleased to recognize Congressman Peter King as a recipient of the Brass Lantern Award, that recognizes his efforts, and we look forward to our continued partnership,” Previsich said.
Pictured from left: General Secretary-Treasurer Rich McClees, SMART TD Vice President John Lesniewski, SMART General President Joe Sellers, SMART TD President John Previsich, Rep. Suozzi, SMART TD Alternate Vice President Anthony Simon, National Legislative Director John Risch and N.Y. State Legislative Director Sam Nasca.
Pictured from left: General Secretary-Treasurer Rich McClees, SMART General President Joe Sellers, SMART TD President John Previsich, SMART TD Alternate Vice President Anthony Simon, Rep. King, SMART TD Vice President John Lesniewski, N.Y. State Legislative Director Sam Nasca and National Legislative Director John Risch.
(The following is a joint statement by Dennis R. Pierce, National President of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, and John Previsich, President, SMART Transportation Division, regarding questions that have arisen since the fatal Amtrak derailment in Philadelphia on May 12, 2015.)
CLEVELAND, May 19 — Members of BLET’s Safety Task Force and SMART Transportation Division’s National Safety Team, in addition to representatives from the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees Division of the Teamsters Rail Conference (BMWED), are working with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) to assist in the investigation of the catastrophic May 12 derailment of Amtrak Train 188.
Significant progress has been made in understanding how the accident occurred on May 12. That portion of the investigation is not yet complete, however, and even more work needs to be done to determine why the events of that tragic night transpired the way they did.
BLET and SMART TD do not make official comments about any ongoing NTSB investigation. Due to the number of press inquiries concerning issues not under investigation, however, we are providing the following information on why Amtrak trains on the Northeast Corridor are manned by a lone engineer in the control cab and why Positive Train Control (PTC) has not been installed on the Corridor. The answers to both questions begin with the United States Congress.
Why a One-Person Train Crew? In 1981, Congress passed legislation (the Northeast Rail Service Act of 1981) that ended the previous Conrail requirement that there be a second crew member in the control cab of commuter rail trains on the Northeast Corridor. Armed with that legislative precedent — and mindful of where its funding originates — Amtrak has since 1983 refused to crew Northeast Corridor trains with more than one employee in the cab – the locomotive engineer. Although BLET and SMART TD have steadfastly maintained that there should be two crew members in the cab of all trains to ensure public safety, only Congress can change the 1981 legislation that reduced crew size on the Northeast Corridor. But this is only one piece of a very large, complex puzzle.
Why No Positive Train Control? On the heels of another catastrophic railroad accident in Chatsworth, Calif., the federal government mandated in 2008 that Positive Train Control (PTC) be put in effect by the end of this year. That was seven years ago. Even with that mandate in place, and with the exception of some railroads such as BNSF Railway, the industry at large has spent the interim finding reasons to avoid implementing PTC technology. They have created the situation about which they all now complain — they say they cannot meet the December 31, 2015 deadline. Each death caused by the delay of PTC implementation is one too many, yet Congress is preparing to consider a blanket 5-year extension to 2020. This is most certainly not in the public interest.
Since 2005, the NTSB has completed 16 investigations of railroad accidents that could have been prevented or mitigated with PTC. These 16 accidents claimed 52 lives — many being BLET and SMART TD members — and injured 942 people, with damages totaling hundreds of millions of dollars. NTSB has publicly stated that the accident on May 12, 2015 was also PTC preventable. There is no disagreement over the value of PTC technology.
That said, there is no technology available today that can ever safely replace a second crew member in the cab of the locomotive. The only thing on a locomotive that is not a machine is the crew. The uncontrolled external environment in which trains are operated along with regulatory and operational demands of a safe transportation service demand a crew of at least two fully trained and qualified employees in the control cab of every train. PTC is only a safety overlay that ensures a safer operation, and no technology can replace the level of safety provided when two crew members are on board and can serve as a check and balance to one another.
Even with all the safety-related technology that the government has mandated on commercial airlines, the public would never accept an airline operation with a single person in the cockpit. There is no reason that rail employees and rail passengers’ lives should be viewed any differently.
Contrary to what some in government may say, the only place that crew size and PTC do connect is when it comes to funding. That is especially true in the case of Amtrak, because the government has woefully underfunded Amtrak since its inception. Additional crew members and new technology both cost money, and so long as those in Congress see fit to underfund the operation, they undermine their own mandate and shortchange the safety of the traveling public.
# # #
The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen represents more than 55,000 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 is headquartered in the Cleveland suburb of North Olmsted, Ohio. It is a broad-based, transportation labor union representing about 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.
By John Previsich, SMART Transportation Division President –
Today, people who work in a unionized environment are facing challenges unlike any that have come before. The current political climate is fostering attacks not only on organized labor, but also on the rights and entitlements of workers in every industry.
From “right to work for less” bills being introduced all over the country to continual attacks on retirement and health care benefits, today’s workers are more in need of strong and effective representation than ever before. Your union is a leader in advocating on behalf of its members in every forum – from our regulatory and legislative efforts in Washington, D.C., and the state houses, to the day-to-day representation of our members at the local level – no union does a better job of representing the interests of its members.
However, the current political climate makes it much more challenging to achieve the successful outcomes that our members deserve. Budget squabbles and funding decisions made by elected officials affect each and every one of our members every day. Who gets elected really does matter and it is critically important that our members consider carefully their choice of candidate when they cast their votes.
Candidates for public office who support issues important to unionized labor deserve our votes. Those who will vote against our interests do not. Your union is developing new communication tools that will keep our members informed about which candidates deserve our support.
A key component of good representation and good citizenship is education and training. In the centerfold of this publication, you will find information on the 2015 SMART Transportation Division Regional Meetings. The focus of this year’s meetings is education, training and what it means to be a union member.
With no meetings held in 2014 because of our need to have two conventions, that hiatus provided an opportunity to renew and invigorate the regional meeting format for 2015 and beyond.
New offerings include workshops on the rights and responsibilities of all local officers, from the local president to the trustees, and comprehensive training for local chairpersons and local legislative representatives.
If you currently hold any local office or believe that you may want to run for election in the future, these workshops are designed to tell you everything that you need to know to be an effective representative of your fellow members. These workshops are not restricted to officers – they are designed to be informative for all members who have an interest in how business is properly done at the local level.
Also new to the meeting agenda are enhanced workshops for our bus members designed to address issues of interest to members in the bus industry.
In addition, there will be an array of workshops with representatives from the Federal Railroad Administration, the Railroad Retirement Board and others to provide updates on numerous issues including federal certification, positive train control, the Rail Safety Advisory Committee, Confidential Close Call Reporting (C3RS), retirement benefits and much more. Also in attendance will be representatives from our health care providers to provide information and advice on matters of importance to you and your family.
And of course, the topic of national rail contract negotiations will be front and center, with the latest information and updates presented during the meetings. Your national negotiating committee will be in attendance at both meetings and this is your opportunity to talk in person with those who are directly involved in negotiating your contract.
Your union – your future. The strength of our organization begins with each and every member and our future depends on a membership that is motivated and trained to advance the union message. I am confident that our enhanced regional meeting agenda will prove valuable to all who are able to attend.
Transportation union leaders vowed to “redouble their efforts” to push for bipartisan solutions to the growing transportation infrastructure investment crisis that is undermining the economy and idling millions of jobs, said AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department President Edward Wytkind following the 2014 Fall TTD Executive Committee meeting Nov. 13.
“We had an important conversation today about how the midterm elections will impact our members in 2015,” Wytkind said. “We focused on how we can change the tone and content of the senseless debates in Washington about the bread and butter economic issues that have gone unaddressed for too long. We also vowed to stop current and newly elected members of Congress who think they’re being sent to Washington to eviscerate workers’ rights and abdicate the federal government’s responsibility as the chief steward of our transportation system.”
SMART Transportation Division President John Previsich and SMART Transportation Division National Legislative Director John Risch were in attendance.
Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) joined the meeting to collaborate with transportation unions on strategies to end the gridlock on vital transportation funding legislation. Specifically, Carper emphasized the need to stop “kicking the can” on a long-term fix to the insolvency faced by the Highway Trust Fund, which is the centerpiece of transit, highway, and bridge investments.
“I am committed to working with TTD affiliates, as well as a broad coalition of businesses, labor, truckers, motorists, transit riders, and elected officials, to ensure Congress does its job to pass and fund a long-term transportation bill. Without long-term funding certainty, our cities and states have put projects on hold that would repair our aging infrastructure and grow our economy,” Carper told transportation union leaders.
“Passing a fully-funded surface transportation bill is my top priority in the lame duck session, but Congress also must not lose sight of other critical infrastructure responsibilities in the rail, aviation, and port-maritime sectors. I believe that the chorus of voices supporting this initiative will be heard and Congress will do the right thing.”
Two senior officials of the Obama administration also joined the meeting to discuss the president’s goal to boost investments in and modernize our transportation system.
Byron Auguste, deputy director of the National Economic Council, and Peter Rogoff, undersecretary of transportation for policy at the U.S. Department of Transportation, joined the Executive Committee to discuss strategies to unify Democrats, Republicans, and Independents around a bipartisan solution to our severe infrastructure investment deficit and to emphasize the importance of such a solution to the administration in 2015.
SMART Transportation Division President John Previsich has responded to an inquiry from Florida State Legislative Director Andres Trujillo requesting an interpretation related to the role of the SMART Transportation Division Legislative Department in connection with the collective bargaining jurisdiction of SMART’s general committees.
The inquiry relates to a proposed collective bargaining agreement between SMART Transportation Division GO-001 and BNSF Railway and is in regard to crew consist for its affected members.
The text of the letter follows.
“Mr. Andres Trujillo, Chairman National Association of State Directors
“Dear Sir and Brother:
“This is in response to your letter of August 5, 2014, wherein you request an interpretation related to the role of the legislative department in connection with the collective bargaining jurisdiction of our General Committees. Your inquiry stems from questions in connection with a collective bargaining agreement proposed by GO-001 regarding crew consist for its affected members. A number of issues have been raised in connection with that agreement and this response to your inquiry will include clarification of those issues so that all concerned will be fully informed on this matter.
“To begin, the issue of a General Committee’s right to negotiate crew consist for its members is a matter long settled. Our constitution grants the General Committees jurisdiction in this area and this organization has successfully defended that right over the years through litigation and arbitration (see, e.g., United Transp. Union v. Alton & S. Ry. Co., Case No.: 05-190-GPM, 2006 WL 664181 (S.D. Ill. March 10, 2006)). There are no grounds for any entity to interfere with that right and there will be no attack on that authority by this office or any subordinate body of this organization. Nonetheless, it should surprise no one that the proposed agreement is generating a great deal of discussion due to its potential impact beyond its own territory. This office will not interfere with the rights of all of our members to engage in that discussion.
“Next, a question has been raised with respect to the knowledge of the Transportation Division regarding the proposed agreement. Earlier this year, the officers of GO-001 requested a meeting to discuss “a matter of great importance to the committee and its members.” At the meeting this office was informed that GO-001 was negotiating an agreement that may include a provision for engineer-only operation under certain conditions. Included in that meeting was a discussion of general committee autonomy and authority to make crew consist agreements. An actual quote by one of the officers is “I have a file cabinet full of precedent that crew consist is a General Committee issue.” There was a great deal of discussion over the wisdom of making such an agreement and the affect that it would have nationally on other properties and on our legislative effort to require two certified people on every train.
“Some number of months later another meeting was requested, this time to inform this office of the content of the proposed agreement. Again, the wisdom and difficulties of such a proposal were discussed and it was stated by the undersigned that “if a committee is forced to submit to single person operations this outcome isn’t too bad.” In addition, some small errors were noted for correction. The key component of the statement above is “If a committee is forced to submit to single person operations.” Any assertion that such a statement constitutes an endorsement of the agreement is, at best, deliberately misleading and, in fact, the officers in the meeting were told in no uncertain terms that the agreement was in conflict with our national agenda and would not be endorsed by this office.
“Although the proposed agreement is clearly within the authority of the officers of GO-001 to negotiate, there is no doubt that passage of such an agreement would alter our dialogue in the legislative arena. As you are aware, efforts to preserve jobs and safety currently in progress are far reaching and not confined to H.R. 3040. The role of the legislative department is unchanged – we are working in every regulatory and legislative arena to protect our members and the public from the danger of single person operations and those efforts will continue.
“It is worth noting here that all General Committees with crew consist agreements will face expiring moratoriums at some point in the future. It is also important to note that an expired moratorium is where negotiations begin – once expired, notices must be served by the parties to enter into negotiations in accordance with the Railway Labor Act (this is intended to clarify any misinformation that would suggest to the listener that conductors are automatically removed from the train when a moratorium expires).
“Some will say that it is better to act earlier and get something at the cost of current jobs and others will argue it is better to wait while preserving current jobs for some time into the future, allowing legislative, regulatory and safety considerations to play out in the intervening time. Regarding the current proposal, it is up to the members of GO-001 to decide if now is the time for their committee to address single person operations.”
Amtrak links the Hudson Valley to the rest of North America. From Hudson and Albany, you can take the train to western New York, to New York City and to Canada. And people do just that: Last year, Amtrak’s Empire Service alone brought more than a million riders through the Hudson Valley, carrying business travelers and vacationers alike. A recent poll suggests that residents of the North Hudson Valley and the Catskills want to keep it this way. Like Americans throughout a wide cross-section of the nation, residents of the 19th Congressional District want more, and safer, Amtrak service.
According to the poll prepared by Dean Mitchell of DFM Research in Minnesota on behalf of the Transportation Division of the Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, and Transportation Union (formerly the United Transportation Union), 87 percent of residents would like to see daily passenger rail service increase or remain the same. This support cuts across party lines: More than 80 percent of residents like the idea of additional train service to cities like Boston, Buffalo and Chicago, including 75 percent of self-identified conservatives.
In a time of partisan gridlock and ideological polarization, these numbers are striking. With Congress preparing to rewrite the law that governs Amtrak — which carries more than 30 million passengers each year — elected officials should listen to their constituents and support one of the nation’s most important transportation resources.
A thriving Empire Service doesn’t come for free, but not only do North Hudson Valley residents want Amtrak to stick around — they’re willing to pay for it. Nearly 75 percent of residents, including almost 7 out of 10 Republicans, support funding at the current level or greater, even when told that the federal government subsidizes Amtrak by more than $1 billion per year.
Many of the rail lines used by Amtrak are shared by freight trains, and residents of the Hudson Valley also want to ensure that the rails passing by their towns and homes are safe. One idea that is wildly unpopular in the Hudson Valley is the use of one-person train crews, an unsafe practice that received attention last year when a train operated by a single crew member leveled a town just outside Quebec and killed 47 people. An overwhelming 84 percent of Hudson Valley residents would vote in favor of proposed legislation requiring two-person crews on freight trains, including almost 8 out of 10 Republicans. These numbers are similar to the results of polls around the country, reflecting a strong nonpartisan desire to prioritize safety.
Given the broad public backing for more Amtrak service and two-person crews on freight trains, one might think that congressional approval of expanded passenger rail and increased safety measures was a foregone conclusion. But many other common-sense transportation proposals have languished in Congress over the past several years. While here in the Hudson Valley, Amtrak is supported by residents (and by the local congressional delegation), there is little guarantee that it will continue to get the support it needs in Washington, D.C.
Providing long-term funding to ensure a strong national rail network is not a luxury, it’s a necessity. Because we have failed to invest in a modern rail system, we are lagging behind much of the developed world. While we force Amtrak to use 50-year-old equipment, countries like China are introducing 300-mph train service.
During this dangerous era of austerity in Washington, too often policymakers have offered budgets that attempt to advance an old, tired and inaccurate idea that we can privatize and cut our way to a successful national passenger rail system. It’s time for Congress to listen to the American people and provide the long-term funding for the world-class Amtrak passenger rail network this country needs and deserves.
The preceding column by John Previsich and AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department President Edward Wytkind was published Aug. 6 by the Albany Times-Union.
A message from President John Previsich, SMART Transportation Division:
This office is receiving numerous inquiries regarding two tentative agreements recently proposed by a general committee for its members on a portion of Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway. One of the agreements addresses crew consist issues and the other is a wage proposal contingent upon successful ratification of both proposed agreements.
While crew consist and wage proposals such as these are within the authority of each general committee to negotiate and propose to its members, it must be noted that it is the membership working under the jurisdiction of the respective committees who have final approval in accordance with the ratification requirements of our constitution. The proposed agreements, if approved by the affected members, will apply only to the members working under the jurisdiction of the negotiating BNSF General Committee of Adjustment GO 001.
It is noteworthy that the crew consist provisions of the proposed agreements can be implemented only in the event that regulatory authorities permit one-person train crews to operate on our nation’s railroads. Accordingly, the position of the SMART Transportation Division is not affected by the agreement proposals – simply stated, the only safe and secure operation of any train includes a minimum of two people on each and every crew. Issues of predictability, fatigue, task saturation, operating requirements, crossing separation for emergency reasons, security and other issues remain at the forefront of any discussion regarding crew size, and to date, all such concerns remain unresolved.
Although technology has produced many benefits for our industry and clearly aids in improving the safe movement of trains, it is imprudent for anyone to assert that technology can replace the safety and security of a two-person train crew. Operations requirements cause it to be necessary that crews perform a number of tasks concurrently while operating the train. This can result in what the National Transportation Safety Board calls “task saturation.” There are so many things to do that one of them falls off the radar screen.
No one would permit an airliner to fly with just one pilot, even though they can fly themselves. Trains, which cannot operate themselves, should be no different. The check, double check, extra set of eyes and ears watching both sides of the train and division of tasks are safety measures that cannot be duplicated by written rule or technology. Every safety professional knows this and to remove the second person is to compromise safety.
The dangers are great and not confined to trains carrying hazardous materials (review the runaway train wreck in San Bernardino in the 1990s where a loaded rock train left the rails with catastrophic results).
We as a society don’t permit corporate profits to compromise safety in food products, pharmaceuticals, hospitals and other industries and transportation should be held to the same standard. We will continue our efforts in every forum to secure legislative and/or regulatory action to protect the safety of our members, other employees and the general public.
WASHINGTON – U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx July 14 announced receipt of a report from the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) National Freight Advisory Committee (NFAC) that makes recommendations to improve the performance of the Nation’s freight transportation system. These recommendations will be used to inform the development of the DOT’s National Freight Strategic Plan.
The report was submitted to the Secretary ahead of a two-day NFAC meeting in Washington, D.C., beginning July 15. The NFAC was established by Secretary LaHood in June 2013.
SMART Transportation Division President John Previsich is a member of the committee.
“Our nation’s economic competitiveness depends on a transportation network that can move freight safely and efficiently, especially as we are expected to move double the current amount by 2050,” said Secretary Foxx. “I appreciate the work of the advisory committee – their suggestions will help inform the department’s work improving our country’s future freight system.”
The 81 recommendations made by NFAC, now under review by the department, include suggestions to improve safety and security across the freight rail network, highlight funding needs and challenges, and call for increased streamlining processes and better collection of data and research. The NFAC also proposed exploring ways to improve collaboration for multijurisdictional freight planning, developing goals related to freight safety, and addressing workforce development needs as the Department develops the National Freight Strategic Plan. A copy of the report may be found here: http://www.dot.gov/policy-initiatives/national-freight-advisory-committee/recommendations-us-department-transportations.
Together, these recommendations highlight the need for increased transportation investment and greater certainty to support the kind of research and planning such projects would require. Earlier this year, Secretary Foxx submitted the GROW AMERICA Act for consideration by Congress. This Act will make critical investments to help improve the safe and efficient movement of freight across all modes of transportation – highway, rail, port, and pipeline by providing $10 billion over four years for targeted investments in the nation’s transportation system to improve the movement of freight and by giving shippers, transportation providers, and freight workers a real seat at the table for making investment decisions. The GROW AMERICA Act will also better align planning among the Federal government, states, ports, and local communities to improve decision-making and help improve the U.S.’s long-term competitiveness by taking steps to achieve President Obama’s call to reduce the time it takes to break ground on a new transportation project.
To help DOT promote a safe, economically efficient, and environmentally sustainable freight transportation system, the NFAC provides advice and recommendations to the Secretary on matters related to freight transportation in the United States including (1) implementation of the freight transportation requirements of the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21); (2) establishment of the National Freight Network; (3) development of a National Freight Strategic Plan; (4) development of strategies to help States implement State Freight Advisory Committees and State Freight Plans; (5) development of measures of conditions and performance in freight transportation; (6) development of freight transportation investment, data, and planning tools; and (7) legislative recommendations. More information on the NFAC may be found here: http://www.dot.gov/nfac.
SAN DIEGO, Calif. – John Previsch was elected president of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers’ Transportation Division June 30, shortly after the opening of the union’s First Transportation Division Convention at the Hilton San Diego Bayfront Hotel.
Previsich, who had been elevated to the position of SMART Transportation Division President Oct. 1, 2013, was challenged for the office by members Mark B. Burrows, Scott Cole and Gary Robison. He received 434 votes of the 485 ballots cast.
Current Alternate National Legislative Director John J. Risch III was elected the Transportation Division’s National Legislative Director and will assume the office Oct. 1. National Legislative Director James A. Stem announced his intention to retire Sept. 30 and did not seek re-election. Risch was opposed by the Transportation Division’s Utah State Legislative Director F. Jay Seegmiller of Local 166 at Salt Lake City. Risch won the election after receiving 285 votes of the 485 valid votes cast.
Incumbent Transportation Division Vice Presidents David B. Wier, John E. Lesniewski, John R. England, Doyle K. Turner and Jeremy R. Ferguson were returned to office by acclamation.
Due to the elimination of the position of SMART Transportation Division assistant president in 2013, Article 21B, Section 35, of the SMART Constitution provides for a successor to the president of the Transportation Division in the event a vacancy occurs between conventions. To provide for such a contingency, delegates elected Lesniewski to that position by acclamation.
Election results for two additional vice president positions were as follows:
Vice President Troy L. Johnson defeated Union Pacific GO 577 General Committee of Adjustment Secretary Charles “Buddy” Piland of Local 1205 at Kingsville, Texas, 270-210.
Santa Monica Municipal Bus Lines GO SMB General Chairperson Adhi S. Reddy defeated incumbent Vice President – Bus Bonnie Morr, 256-228.
In the election for the office of Transportation Division Alternate National Legislative Director, Arizona State Legislative Director Gregory K. Hynes defeated Seegmiller, Louisiana State Legislative Director David S. Duplechain and Virginia State Legislative Director Patrick A. Corp, 274-142-47-22.
July 1 elections:
Federal Railroad Administrator Joe Szabo addressed the delegation on the second day of the First SMART Transportation Division Convention. His remarks can be found here.
At the conclusion of Szabo’s speech, the following elections were held:
Alternate Vice President Bus – East Calvin Studivant was re-elected by acclamation.
Guillermo Rosales of Local 1607 defeated Bonnie Morr, 276-210, for the position of Alternate Vice President Bus – West.
Among seven candidates for six alternate vice president positions, incumbents R.W. “Red” Dare, Danny L. Young, Brent C. Leonard, Mark H. Cook, Chadrick J. Adams and Anthony Simon were returned to office. Candidate Robert J. Keeley received the fewest votes.
Board of Appeals members Dale B. Barnett Jr., Tessa R. Burkle, Dirk A. Sampson, Alvy Hughes and candidate David W. Patenaude were elected by acclamation.
Executive Board members Stephen T. Dawson, Steven C. Mavity, Michael N. Anderson, Robert Resendez Jr. and Phillip J. Craig were elected by acclamation.
John D. Whitaker III was elected to the office of Alternate to the Executive Board by acclamation.
A member of SMART Transportation Division Local 31 at San Jose, Calif., Previsich began his transportation career with Southern Pacific Transportation Company, where he commenced work as a train-service operations employee in San Francisco. He later transferred to engine service and achieved certification as both a railroad conductor and locomotive engineer.
Previsich started doing work as a local union officer in the mid-1980s. Thereafter, he moved into a system-wide position as a general chairperson in the early 1990s, followed by his election to UTU International vice president in 2007. He was re-elected in 2011, elevated to the position of assistant president in 2012 and assumed the responsibilities of the general secretary and treasurer position on Jan. 1, 2013.
Having a special interest in transportation-industry safety issues, Previsich is the SMART Transportation Division representative on the Federal Railroad Administration’s Rail Safety Advisory Committee (RSAC) and has served on numerous subcommittees associated with RSAC. In addition, he is a cabinet-level appointee to the National Freight Advisory Committee, a group that reports directly to the secretary of transportation on MAP-21, a program charged with assisting in the development of administration policy on a national freight plan for the 21st century.
During the course of his career, Previsich has advocated on behalf of his members in mergers and consolidations in the rail and airline industries, 13(c) transactions, divestitures, national and local contract negotiations and numerous arbitrations and mediations, securing and defending collective bargaining agreements on properties large and small.
By John Previsich, SMART Transportation Division President –
Organizing – it is good for you, for our members, for our union and also for America.
Those of us who enjoy the benefits of working as organized labor are acutely aware of the value that our membership in the union provides for us and for our families. Good wages, excellent health care and retirement programs that are the envy of working people everywhere are goals that are strived for by every union negotiator in every contract. The success of unions in achieving these goals is beyond argument. There is no industry where workers who do not belong to a union are better off than those who have chosen to bargain collectively.
Why is organizing good for you, our members and our union? Aside from the obvious benefits of better wages and working conditions, union jobs provide better security, protection from discriminatory employment practices and the opportunity to negotiate as a group for improvements to income and work rules. As successes are achieved on short lines, bus companies and airlines, our membership grows, resulting in a stronger union. But just as importantly, good contracts raise the bar industry-wide. For example, when the railroad industry first started to spin off branch lines after the Staggers Act deregulation of the 1980s, it was not unusual for “mom and pop” operators to come in and pay near minimum wage for seasoned, professional railroad workers. Now, after many years of successful organizing, the short line world is much different, operated to a great extent by large companies who pay a good union wage. This has changed the financial incentives for creating short lines and as a result, the jobs of our members on the larger railroads are more secure than ever before.
Why is organizing good for America? Setting aside the occasional stumble due to recessionary cycles, business has done very well in the last half of the 20th century and the first years of the 21st century. During the industrialization era that followed World War II, American workers shared in that prosperity, creating an economic engine that was second to none. Unionized labor was widespread, workers received a fair share of the profits that they helped to create and as a result, were able to purchase a house or a new car and send their children to college to continue the upward mobility of the middle class.
And then things changed. Over the past few decades, there has been a disturbing trend in the economics of our country. Rules that support unions have been weakened and right-to-work-for-less laws have been enacted in many states. Companies have moved manufacturing offshore, taxes on the wealthy have been reduced and loopholes created that allow Warren Buffet to be taxed at a lesser rate than his secretary. Conglomerates are permitted to park their profits outside of the country, effectively paying no tax at all while sitting on hundreds of billions of dollars that were not shared with their substandard-wage workers overseas. Income that used to be shared with the employees now either sits offshore, goes toward stock buy-backs or is used to pay senior management salaries that are thousands of times greater than that of their workers.
As more and more of the available capital is gathered up by fewer and fewer people at the top, workers are forced to compete for an ever-shrinking piece of the pie. This drives down wages, reduces spending power and contributes to the overall widening of the gap between workers and the wealthy. The current path is unsustainable and its continuance contributes to a downward spiral for our country and its workers.
The benefits of organizing new members are many. The downside of not organizing is substantial. Accordingly, the SMART Transportation Division Board of Directors and the SMART General Executive Council have approved my budget request to expand our already very effective organizing department. We are in the process of doing so and will keep you updated on the outcome of our efforts in the months ahead.
SMART Transportation Division Minnesota State Legislative Director Phillip Qualy reports that House File 3172, the Omnibus Supplemental Appropriations Bill containing the Minnesota Railroad Yard Lighting Bill, has been passed and signed into law by Gov. Mark Dayton.
“The men and women in Minnesota and around the country that work in yard-switching operations should be able to see where they are walking. This is a great step forward and will become a model for many other states’ consideration,” SMART Transportation Division President John Previsich said.
Added Transportation Division National Legislative Director James Stem: “Phil Qualy and our Minnesota Legislative Board understand the needs of railroad workers. Congratulations to them on their great work on behalf of their members.”
“The legislative board would be remiss if we did not report to our membership that from the carrier’s testimony before the legislature, it is difficult not to conclude that while the railroads want to talk about safety, they do not want you to have yard lighting,” Qualy said. “We will see how the carriers react to enactment of the Railroad Yard Lighting law. Their actions will reveal management priorities and how corporate financial budgeting will be targeted.”
In summary, the new law puts in place the following provisions:
1.) Sets the AREMA (American Railway Engineering Maintenance of Way Association) policy as a minimum standard and guideline for future lighting of rail yards;
2.) Sets a maintenance standard that malfunctioning lighting must be repaired to Minnesota Electrical Code within 48 hours of first report to the carrier;
3.) Sets forth that annual reports from railroad carriers and railroad labor shall be submitted to the Minnesota Department of Transportation Freight Rail Office by Jan. 15. If there is any discrepancy between carrier and labor reports, MnDOT shall investigate and report the areas in question to the legislature, including what will be necessary to bring yards to the AREMA standard.
4.) Sets a standard for lighting review at locations where cars or locomotives are switched or inspected, or where trains are assembled or disassembled frequently.
5.) Prescribes that at any yard where hazardous material cars are switched, inspected, picked-up or set-out frequently, or 25 hazmat tank cars are placed in trains frequently, or any yard within two miles of a major refinery where hazmat is placed in a train, the yards must be lighted to the AREMA standard by Dec. 31, 2015.
“We can work with this state law,” Qualy said. “This should get our railroad yards in Minnesota lighted going forward in this decade. We deferred to the wisdom of the Minnesota Legislature and railroad labor has prevailed.”
Also contained in H.F. 3172 are statutes naming rail labor as participants in hazmat planning and training, the creation of three positions for MnDOT safety inspectors, and the “Minnesota Oil Spill Defense Act,” that will ensure public first responders are trained and equipped with fire and disaster equipment. MnDOT will also invest resources for grade-crossing improvements along high-density hazmat corridors.
Finally, H.F. 3172 appropriates transportation funding that has been traditionally spent on short-line rehabilitation projects to Class I railroad projects that will divert hazardous material away from population centers in western Minnesota.
House File 2881, the Railroad Crew Van provision, has also been signed into law and will strengthen our current crew-van statutes, Qualy said.
“With our second Railroad Crew Van law passed in Minnesota in four years, H.F. 2881 will raise standards for driver qualifications, carrier reporting of total hours of service, vehicle equipment standards and vehicle inspection requirements,” Qualy said. “We maintain our $5-million liability and $1-million uninsured and underinsured motorist provisions.”
Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers’ Minnesota Legislative Director Dave Brown had been the primary advocate for H.F. 2881 – the Crew Van law. “It was good to work the BLET Director Brown as we remained focused on passage of these laws to the final day of the 2014 session. On behalf of our membership, I also want to thank Minnesota AFL-CIO Legislative Director Jennifer Schaubach, who was instrumental in finding a compromise for our yard-lighting legislation with an entrenched, obstinate, railroad lobby,” Qualy said.
The SMART TD Minnesota Legislative Board also, on the last day of the legislative session, worked with State Rep. Jason Metsa on the introduction of House File 3394, which would increase fines on carriers that intentionally block grade crossings. Qualy said train crews have reported that CN Railway train dispatchers continue to order train crews to not cut or open grade crossings. “Hopefully, they will discontinue these illegal directives,” Qualy added.
“The Minnesota Legislative Board extends its appreciation to all SMART-TD officers who testified before the legislature, our SMART TD National Legislative Office, SMART TD’s Iowa and North Dakota Legislative Boards, the officers of our BNSF, CN, Canadian Pacific and Union Pacific general committees of adjustment, our political consultant Dean Mitchell of DFM Group, and our SMART TD designated legal counsel – along with Larry Mann – all of whom really stepped-up to assist us in these efforts. We are also grateful to all of our members who made telephone calls to assist in this effort.
“As SMART Transportation Division-represented employees, we are also Minnesotans first,” Qualy added. “With the close of this two-year legislative cycle, our SMART TD and Minnesota AFL-CIO Working Family Agenda has moved the safety and security of our membership forward in a positive and productive manner. Our state of Minnesota is doing well and we look forward to the election season with optimism.
“Please contribute to your Minnesota UTU PAC. Your political voice is an essential investment in your future. Each member’s small contribution makes one large voice for transportation labor. UTU PAC does not cost, it pays.”
The individuals above attended legislative hearings for, testified about, or worked in support of the passage of H.F. 3172, Minnesota State Legislative Director Phillip Qualy said. They are, from left, retired former Assistant State Legislative Director Dan Paradise (1614), Local President George Armstrong (650), Local Chairperson Randy Raskin (650), Minnesota AFL-CIO Legislative Director Jennifer Schaubach, Qualy, Local Legislative Rep. Wayne Newton (1000) and Local Legislative Rep. Matt LaBine (650). (Not pictured are member Mike Heffernan (650) and Political Consultant Dean Mitchell, DFM Research Group).