Posts Tagged ‘SMART Transportation Division President John Previsich’

SMART TD Regional Meeting: President Previsich says FRA action will not go unchallenged

SAN DIEGO, Calif. — In closing remarks to the SMART Transportation Division Regional Meeting July 3, TD President John Previsich said that recent actions of government agencies under the umbrella of the federal Department of Transportation will not go unchallenged.

Actions by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regarding safety issues have shown that those agencies have stepped away from their duties of overseeing the safety of communities and of the nation’s transportation workers, he said.

SMART Transportation Division President John Previsich addresses the closing session of the San Diego Regional Meeting at the Hilton Bayfront Hotel on July 3.

The FRA’s withdrawal of a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) in May plus a similar action within days by the FMCSA that withdrew a notice regarding bus operator safety is a starting point to what will be a challenging period for our union, Previsich said.

All options, including litigation, are being explored to challenge what Previsich had described in testimony before a U.S. House Subcommittee as FRA’s abdication of its safety oversight responsibilities by withdrawing a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking regarding minimum crew size. Attorneys general from every state that have implemented legislation requiring two-person freight crews are being invited to join with labor to protect the state laws.

The effort will address FRA’s abuse of authority by withdrawing the NPR, ignoring the comments that were overwhelmingly in favor of a two-person crew rule and the agency’s attempt to pre-empt state laws. It will be a “concerted” effort with other labor organizations.

Previsich said that the union is planning on a multi-faceted approach to take on FRA while also challenging Congress to pursue legislation to correct FRA’s refusal to oversee safety on the nation’s railroads.

Attendees at the July 3 closing session of the San Diego Regional Meeting listen to TD President John Previsich’s remarks at the Hilton Bayfront Hotel.

State legislative action surrounding two-person rail crews also will be ongoing, he said, and more details of our efforts as well as additional actions for members to take will be communicated in the near future.

“There is going to be a big push coming,” Previsich said. “We are going to reach out to you when the proper time comes and ask for your assistance. I think your members will be proud of their union and where we’re going with this.”

To do something immediately, members should take the time to watch the video of the House subcommittee hearing. There they will see who supports our efforts, and what opponents are saying.

All brothers and sisters should then contact their legislators directly to explain our issues to their U.S. House and Senate representatives, and why the current bills regarding transportation safety are important. An in-person visit, an option advocated by National Legislative Director John Risch during the Regional Meeting’s opening session, helps to personalize and drive these issues home no matter what political party the public official identifies with.

The TD Legislative Action Center is a one-stop repository that has information on federal bills advocating bus and transit operator safety, freight rail crew size and yardmaster safety.

Our brothers and sisters also should donate to the SMART TD PAC.

“There’s nothing more important in this environment today — in this political climate that we’re in — that we get access, and we get access through PAC,” Previsich said.

On the second day of the meeting, SMART General President Joseph Sellers, Jr. addressed the new leaders in attendance and encouraged them to take advantage of all resources available to them in both the Washington, D.C., and in the Cleveland offices.

The TD Regional Meeting theme — “Your Union Leading the Way” — was particularly appropriate this year — members “need to understand that ‘Your union’ is our union … 200,000 members are part of our union,” Sellers said. “And ‘leading the way’ means you leading the way, meaning us leading the way meaning leaders and members leading the way.”

In a time of upheaval in the industries that SMART members are employed in, efforts to grow the organization will continue to be a priority, and officers will take an important role in those efforts.

“We must continue to grow. We must organize, organize, organize — internal organizing, external organizing, making sure every worker is a SMART member,” Sellers said.

SMART General President Joseph Sellers, Jr., delivers opening remarks on Tuesday, July 2, the second day of the SMART Transportation Division Regional Meeting in San Diego, Calif.

From all levels of the union, it is up to everyone to take responsibility for the safety of themselves and build and maintain a strong foundation and maintain a powerful and nimble network that can take collective action to protect ourselves and the legacy our union represents, Sellers said.

“I want to make sure that we continue to build that foundation, that we continue to form this union so that future generations will have the same opportunity, enjoy that same representation, enjoy the same benefits of a collective bargaining agreement and enjoy a retirement particularly at a time when many people won’t have a retirement or work pension.”

Support from the SMART Army has brought results — members’ efforts beat back Right to Work For Less legislation in Washington one day after a call for mobilization at the state’s Capitol, and helped to get two-person crew legislation passed in Colorado and Nevada this year. They’ve also mobilized to defend proposed pension changes in Congress.

“As we build that, we will do better,” he said.

To join, text SMART Army to 21333.

In closing the meeting, Previsich announced that the 2020 TD Regional Meeting will be held in its home base of Cleveland, Ohio, at the Hilton Cleveland Downtown from Aug. 24 to 26.

The three-day San Diego meeting at the Hilton Bayfront Hotel featured more than 30 educational workshops intended to assist officers and strengthen our union at every level.

President Previsich testifies before House subcommittee

    SMART Transportation Division President John Previsich testifies Thursday afternoon before the House Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials.

SMART Transportation Division President John Previsich appeared before the U.S. House Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials to testify on the state of the railroad workforce.

Rather than use his prepared written testimony, he delivered a statement in response to the testimony given earlier in the hearing by Federal Railroad Administration Administrator Ron Batory. In his statement, President Previsich told the representatives about issues crucial to the rail labor workforce, including what he described as FRA’s “abdication” of its safety oversight duties in the wake of its withdrawal last month of the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking regarding a minimum train crew size.

He also addressed questions posed by subcommittee members on subjects including Congress’s role in helping to ensure a safe working environment for rail workers, the national Safe Freight Act two-person crew legislation and the role of technology, including automation, and its effects on the rail labor workforce.

A video of President Previsich’s testimony and responses is embedded below.

Video of the full hearing containing President Previsich’s testimony as well as that of other railroad labor leadership in attendance is available here on YouTube.

FRA just reduced the prospects of a safer railroad industry

By John Previsich, SMART TD President, and Dennis Pierce, BLET National President

On Thursday, May 23, 2019, we were informed that the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) had released a notice, withdrawing a 2016 notice of proposed rulemaking establishing a minimum train crew size for most rail freight operations in the United States. This news was not surprising.

What is shocking, however, is the degree to which FRA has chosen to subordinate the safety of BLET and SMART TD members, other railroad workers, and the American public to the interests of the nation’s major railroads.

FRA’s reference to current crew sizes, which have existed for decades, as mere “crew redundancy” displays an astonishing ignorance of the findings of the agency’s own research studies, which establish — in detail and beyond dispute — the unique and specific duties of each crewmember.

FRA also disappointingly engages in self-serving fact selection in its attempts to negate the importance of the 2013 Lac-Mégantic tragedy and the Casselton, North Dakota, oil train derailment — and subsequent explosion and fire — to the crew size debate. And it simply ignores several subsequent accidents where a two-person crew saved the public from an even more horrific outcome.

In its rush to diminish the safety impact of common-sense crew size regulations, FRA also points to various regulations requiring risk analyses and the adoption of risk reduction plans by railroads. While our Organizations fully support such plans, we note that Congress mandated regulations governing these subjects more than a decade ago, but they have yet to be promulgated because of industry recalcitrance and obstructionism.

Also, the argument that two-person crews have not been proven safer — because of FRA’s failure to collect crew size data — while the data support a conclusion that single-person crews are not demonstrably less safe is mystifying in its logic, to be charitable.

Moreover, the federal rail safety regulator hints that there is no “specific requirement that would prohibit autonomous technology from operating a locomotive or train” in the absence of any human crewmember whatsoever as a means of “reducing accidents caused by human error.” If the ongoing grounding of the Boeing MAX aircraft has taught nothing else, FRA and the Department of Transportation should be mindful of the danger of transferring the risk of a human factors accident from operator to programmer when autonomous technology is implemented. For this reason, FRA’s declared “support [for] the integration and implementation of new automation technologies” on the nation’s locomotives should give everyone pause.

Lastly, the Agency’s invocation of the negative preemption doctrine is incredible. Both the industry and the Agency reject prescriptive safety regulations as a philosophical matter, because they supposedly require a “one size fits all” approach; indeed, this was part of the industry’s argument against the proposed rule.

In stark contrast to this philosophy, FRA’s invocation of negative preemption seeks to promulgate a prescriptive prohibition, regardless of the implications of its action on federalism. In so doing, the valid safety concerns expressed by supporters of the proposed rule such as National League of Cities — representing more than 19,000 cities, villages, and towns — and the Western Organization of Resource Councils are dismissed out of hand.

We frankly did not expect this Administration to complete this rulemaking, but we did afford the new Federal Railroad Administrator a fair opportunity to demonstrate that safety was his primary objective. Given the scope of this withdrawal, the Administrator has clearly failed the test, because he has placed corporate profits above public safety. Railroad safety has taken a giant step backward today, but our Organizations do not intend to let this development go unchallenged.

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The SMART Transportation Division is comprised of approximately 125,000 active and retired members of the former United Transportation Union, who work in a variety of crafts in the transportation industry.

The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen represents over 57,500 professional locomotive engineers and trainmen throughout the United States. The BLET is the founding member of the Rail Conference, International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

Two large U.S. rail unions announce national two-person crew legislation

WASHINGTON, D.C. (March 22, 2019) – Two large railroad unions in the United States have pledged their joint support for the Safe Freight Act legislation introduced by U.S. Rep. Don Young (R – Alaska).

The Safe Freight Act (H.R. 1748) requires that two certified crew members operate freight trains on U.S. rails and has the backing of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers — Transportation Division (SMART TD) and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET).

“SMART Transportation Division has been working tirelessly to promote safety in the railroad industry, and there is no doubt that the only safe rail operation is one that includes at a minimum a certified conductor and a certified locomotive engineer,” SMART TD President John Previsich said. “A clear message must be sent to our lawmakers and to the general public that multi-person crews are essential to ensuring the safest rail operations possible in their communities. I would like to thank Congressman Young for his leadership on this critical issue as we continue to improve safety on our nation’s railroads for both our members and for the general public.”

“This is necessary safety legislation to protect railroad workers and the American public,” BLET National President Dennis R. Pierce said. “While the railroad industry talks of one-person train crews and even autonomous trains, the 2013 tragedy of Lac-Megantic is justification enough that we need two sets of eyes and ears in the locomotive cab.”

Recent well-publicized rail accidents in other nations involving trains with one or no crew members show how smaller crews increase the risk of catastrophe in railroad accidents.

In September 2018, an autonomous runaway TasRail train reached speeds of 31 mph before it derailed in the Tasmanian city of Devonport, injuring two people. The train had become unresponsive to remote control commands, including the train’s emergency stop feature.

On Nov. 5, 2018, a runaway BHP ore train of 268 cars with no one aboard reached speeds of 62 mph before it was forcibly derailed in Western Australia. The approximately 1.9-mile-long train loaded with iron ore was operated by a lone crew member who had left the locomotive to inspect an issue with the brakes when the train began moving.

And finally, an oil train with a single-person crew in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, Canada, rolled into the center of the town July 6, 2013, after its brakes disengaged. The resulting derailment touched off an inferno that killed 47 people and destroyed the town center.

In the United States, labor unions and others concerned with safety on the United States’ 140,000 miles of rail are seeking to prevent such events from happening. Legislation setting crew size at two people aboard has passed in five states. A two-person crew bill backed by both the SMART TD and BLET unions (H.B. 1034) was signed into law March 21 by Colorado Gov. Jared Polis.

“Automation of cars, buses, aircraft and trucks are being addressed by legislation and in regulation by the federal government and many states. It’s time the federal government provided some oversight on railroads,” SMART TD National Legislative Director John Risch said. “Congressman Young’s bill is a first step, and we thank him for his leadership on this. The safety of the public and our members depend on this.”

“Safety is non-negotiable, and this legislation is about railroad safety,” BLET Vice President and National Legislative Representative John Tolman said. “The members of the BLET and SMART TD are highly trained professionals who have dedicated their lives to performing their jobs as safely as possible, and we thank Congressman Young for his ongoing support and for introducing H.R. 1748.”

This national legislation introduced by Young, a longtime advocate of railroad safety, is a common-sense step toward making our nation’s rails safer for workers and the public alike. It has the full endorsement of both unions.

H.R. 1748 has been referred to the House Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials.

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The SMART Transportation Division is comprised of approximately 125,000 active and retired members of the former United Transportation Union, who work in a variety of different crafts, including as bus and commuter rail operators, in the transportation industry.

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.

A new name for UTU PAC, but the same support for labor-friendly legislators!

NORTH OLMSTED, Ohio (Feb. 13, 2019) — The International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers Transportation Division (SMART TD) has filed with the Federal Elections Commission to change the name of its Political Action Committee. Formerly known as UTU PAC, the new name is the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers Transportation Division Political Action Committee (SMART TD PAC). This change is to align the name of the PAC with the merged organization while preserving its mission of support for transportation-related issues.

“Our Political Action Committee’s identity is now more in line with the status of our union after its merger with the Sheet Metal Workers International Association,” Transportation Division President John Previsich said. “But our PAC’s mission — to offer financial support to transportation labor-friendly political candidates who keep the interests of our union members and our alumni at heart — has not changed one bit.”

With more than 28,000 contributors from the ranks of Transportation Division members, alumni, officers and others, we continue to advocate for the issues that are front and center to our brothers and sisters: advancing two-person crew legislation for freight rail operations around the country and hours-of-service regulations for yardmasters; protecting our bus and transit members from assault on the job; and many other safety and transportation-related issues. Our efforts are critical to assuring a safe and healthy place to work and securing the future for your family.

President Previsich encourages every member and alum to become a PAC member. “The money you donate — no matter what amount — helps us in that goal,” Previsich said. “Give what you can, and you will be doing your part to help our union support candidates who are in favor of common-sense transportation legislation.”

For more information about SMART Transportation Division PAC, visit www.smart-union.org/td/washington/tdpac.

SMART TD, four other unions submit joint comments on train automation

SMART Transportation Division President John Previsich and leaders from four other unions — the ATDA, BLET, BRS and TCU — submitted a 26-page document May 7 in response to the Federal Railroad Administration’s request for comment on autonomous trains.

In it, Previsich and union leaders Leo McCann, Dennis Pierce, W. Dan Pickett and Richard Johnson outline the approach they believe the industry should take in adopting new technologies in the rail industry in addition to the continuing role labor will play as these technologies advance.

To read a PDF of their submission, visit this link.

Previsich also submitted a second set of comments to FRA outlining SMART TD’s position on automation.

“Safety must be first and foremost when discussing the future of automation of our nation’s railroads,” Previsich wrote. “It would be unethical and would violate the mandate of Congress to sacrifice safety for potential profits.”

SMART TD’s comments:

1. Safety and security must be our No. 1 priority
2. Essential job functions of human railroad employees cannot be automated

In addition, the condition of America’s infrastructure, the risk of cyberattacks and the elimination of the human element of being able to watch and respond to possible safety threats also should be weighed as autonomous technology is considered, Previsich said.

“The functions of human crewmembers can never be fully automated in a way that maintains safety at its current level, let alone increases safety,” Previsich wrote. “In this industry, we are beset by challenges from all sides, and it is critical that at this juncture we take all of these challenges into consideration when it comes to automation, so as to keep railroads moving efficiently, profitably, and most importantly, safely.”

To read SMART TD’s full comments, follow this link.