HOLLYWOOD, Fla. — SMART Transportation Division President John Previsich foresees a very different scenario when the next round of national rail negotiations starts in 2019, he told the audience at the closing session of the TD Regional Meeting on Wednesday, Aug. 8.
“When we entered into the last round, you’ll recall that the railroad business was down … the railroads were claiming they were losing money” Previsich said. “That situation is now entirely different.”
Carriers have been reaping record profits and increased revenue and received the gift of a corporate tax reduction from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act passed last year. But instead of reinvesting their gains in their infrastructure or rewarding their workforce, rail carriers have used it to buy back stocks to boost their share prices.
That means with the national rail agreement open for negotiations in late 2019, the carriers will not get to recycle the economic argument, Previsich said.
“We will not tolerate in negotiations any claim for lack of revenue, or for lack of available money to provide a decent increase to our membership in the face of record stock buybacks that enrich a select few,” Previsich said. “We won’t stand for it. It’s an important time, given the political climate, given the economic climate, that we now reap what we’ve earned.”
Previsich also touched upon the situation in Texas, where Kansas City Southern (KCS) started early last month the practice of allowing foreign rail crews to cross into the United States at the Laredo border crossing and travel nine miles into our country before replacing them with American workers.
“The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) thus far has taken absolutely no action to stop this practice,” Previsich said. “FRA has an obligation to ensure the safety of American workers and the American public. Their refusal to live up to that obligation is not acceptable. On this matter, FRA is allowing the railroads to self-regulate and self-certify without oversight.” He told attendees at the meeting that the union will do “anything and everything” to attack FRA’s lack of responsibility on the issue.
“We deem it to be unsafe, we deem it to be a threat to our jobs,” Previsich said. “We are not going to let them (FRA) stand aside while a Class I carrier allows foreign crews to cross the border and steal our jobs while jeopardizing the safety of our members and the general public.” He called for members to prepare to act to put the pressure on when and where it is needed.
“When that time comes, we’re going to let you know,” he said. “We want you to do everything you can to ensure that each and every member delivers a strong and powerful message to Washington.”