From left, SMART Transportation Division Minnesota State Legislative Director Nick Katich, Michigan SLD Don Roach, Amtrak employee Stefan Schweitzer, FRA Deputy Administrator Amit Bose, TD Local 168 (Chicago, Ill.) member Keisha Hamb-Grover and Illinois State Legislative Director Bob Guy stand at Chicago’s Union Station on Oct. 13.
Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) Deputy Administrator Amit Bose’s nomination by President Joe Biden to become administrator of FRA was advanced Oct. 20 by the U.S. Senate’s Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.
Along with Bose, the nomination of Meera Joshi to be administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) also was advanced to the full U.S. Senate by a 22-6 committee vote. A timetable for the full Senate to consider Bose’s and Joshi’s nominations has not yet been set.
In related news, Bose was a passenger Oct. 13 aboard the Amtrak Wolverine route from Chicago to Detroit with three SMART Transportation Division state legislative directors and also appeared at a news conference at Chicago’s Union Station as the Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Commission (MIPRC) unveiled its 40-year Midwest Regional Rail plan.
“Looking all the way through 2055, the plan addresses key corridor and investment priorities, potential funding strategies, and necessary governance structures identified by the states working with MIPRC,” Bose said. “While America’s interstate highway system and commercial aviation industry are vital and indispensable, rail can and does play a key role in our multi-modal transportation system,” Bose said. “Nowhere is that more evident than Chicago, the nation’s rail hub.”
SMART-TD Illinois State Legislative Director Bob Guy, chairman of the commission, as well as Michigan SLD Donald Roach and Minnesota SLD Nick Katich, all spent time with Bose during the trip before MIPRC began its three-day-long meeting.
“It was wonderful to be able to spend time with Deputy Administrator Amit Bose while he was in Chicago and on the train to Detroit as part of the MIPRC annual meeting,” Guy said. “It’s clear that he is very aware of our serious concerns and frustrations with the previous FRA hierarchy, but his openness, communication and availability to our members and our leadership are a testament to his priorities and provides a glimpse into how he values SMART-TD’s input on issues affecting our members.”
Bose also was a guest on the SMART-TD National Legislative Office’s monthly Zoom call Oct. 11 where he discussed concerns brought up by both national and state officers.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Senate today passed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, its $1.2 trillion bipartisan legislation, by a 69-30 vote, sending the bill to the U.S. House of Representatives for consideration and taking a step to end a substantial period of largely flat federal investment in the nation’s roads, rails and bridges.
The bill contains $786 billion to address a backlog of national infrastructure needs, $66 billion for Amtrak and $39 billion for public bus, transit and subway systems.
“This legislation marks the end of a long period of stagnation in the upper chamber of Congress when it comes to putting additional money into the nation’s infrastructure,” SMART Transportation Division National Legislative Director Greg Hynes said. “There was a lot of talk of Infrastructure Week and the like in prior years, but nothing ever was accomplished with the bills dying in the Senate. Now we see a strong effort to protect bus and transit workers to shield them from assaults and a major influx of money that will allow Amtrak to provide expanded service and help its national passenger service to flourish. These are very encouraging signs and the bill’s passage is a major win for our Amtrak, bus and transit members.”
Absent from the Senate bill was a two-person freight crew provision that was passed through the U.S. House of Representatives’ infrastructure bill known as the INVEST in America Act (H.R. 3684). Yardmaster hours of service, also in the INVEST Act, suffered the same fate.
The 10 bipartisan senators who authored the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act did not include those items when writing the more than 2,700 pages of the legislation, and no amendment adding a 2PC provision was introduced by senators as the bill was considered for passage. Only bipartisan amendments were considered during the amendment process, and no Republican senators offered to co-sponsor the two-person-crew or yardmaster hours of service items as an amendment.
This does not close the door on national two-person crew bill efforts with House leaders, including Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairperson Peter DeFazio, Railroad Subcommittee Chair Donald Payne and other supporters of rail safety, working to find a vehicle to get a legislative solution passed. Regulatory efforts via the federal Department of Transportation and the Federal Railroad Administration will be intensified.
“We ask that members continue to be loud and clear about rail safety and the importance of a certified conductor and certified engineer being in the cab to elected officials via phone call, letter, and email and also by raising public awareness on social media,” Hynes said. “We have come further than we ever have in getting national two-person crew legislation accomplished this cycle. The battle is not over, and there is much more to be done.”
You’ve probably heard in the news over the past few days that the U.S. Senate has agreed on a new bipartisan infrastructure package. This article is to provide facts, highlight the ongoing differences between the House’s infrastructure bill and the Senate’s infrastructure bill, show where we stand and what can be done to step up as we fight for public and worker safety and for the Rule of 2 — a certified conductor and engineer in the cab of freight locomotives.
The bipartisan infrastructure bill is a product of the Senate, where a bill needs a simple majority to pass — that means 51 votes. However, unless a bill has 60 senators in solid support, it is vulnerable to a filibuster by any who oppose the bill and thus cannot pass. This bipartisan bill has been a big deal in the news because something is being done about the nation’s infrastructure as some senators from both parties came up with a bill by working together after a long, long period of partisan gridlock on Capitol Hill. Let’s remember that this Senate bill has only been in existence since last Sunday, Aug. 1 — about three days — and things can change quickly.
The House gets a chance to make additions, subtractions, and changes to anything the Senate passes in what is known as the conference process. Be assured that our allies in the House will fight to have portions of their bill reinstated that were left out of this Senate bill, but, as it was when we first passed two-person crew legislation out of the House in 2020, the divided Senate remains an obstacle. Already, we have come farther than we did last year, and this is thanks to involvement from our membership as well as how we improved conditions for success in November 2020.
So the door is NOT CLOSED on a legislative solution from Congress coming through with this bill. A senator could amend the bill to add the two-person crew provision before a vote. The conference process also takes time, and we have strong allies in the U.S. House in Transportation Chairman Peter DeFazio and Rail Subcommittee Chairman Donald Payne who worked to get the 2PC provision in the INVEST Act both times it passed the House. But it’s not DeFazio, Payne or the U.S. representatives who already voted in favor of the INVEST Act’s two-person crew provisions that we need to convince. Republican senators who helped to craft the “bipartisan” Senate bill didn’t include the provision in accordance with the wishes of their railroad industry allies.
So what can you do to help?
We need to be loud and persistent. We need all of you to help. With the work being done right now in Washington D.C. on the legislative, and later this year, on the regulatory channel, now is the time to mobilize across the nation to step up and get the Rule of 2 across the finish line. Red state, blue state, purple state, north, south, east and west. We need to call. We need to email. Share the image above on social media. We need to explain to people in Congress, especially senators:
That public and worker safety is non-negotiable. That lives have been saved because of the presence and combined actions of a conductor and engineer working together. That the people in the freight locomotive provide the same safety functions and duties as a pilot and co-pilot on an airliner. By disregarding the 2PC provision, American lives are going to be endangered.
That the two-person crew component within the original INVEST in America ActMUST be included as the Senate considers this bill. Anything less ignores rail worker safety and community safety, jeopardizes jobs and lets the railroads and their profiteering Wall Street masters dictate what they say is safe rather than what we KNOW is safe.
Keep in mind that second path — the regulatory one — to secure the Rule of 2 is via the Federal Railroad Administration where the agency would promulgate a rule establishing a minimum crew size. Under President Biden, FRA has announced that a reopening of examining a rule concerning crew size would be a priority of the agency this autumn as it attempts to fill the regulatory vacuum that was created under the prior administration.
More about that will be shared as time goes on, but we are farther along the legislative path than we ever have been. We need to use our collective voices to get our message out to Congress.
Let’s continue to persist, step up, go forward and get the word out to Congress. Please get in touch with your senators and talk about the Rule of 2.
National Legislative Director — SMART-TD
Through 10 terms as a representative of Ohio’s 17th and 13th Districts representing the working cities of Akron and Youngstown and as a former presidential candidate, he’s had plenty to say about helping American workers. March 9’s speech was no different.
“If there’s one thing you can always count on from me, it’s giving a damn about America’s working families,” Ryan tweeted out with a link accompanying the video below.
We appreciate his passion. We applaud Rep. Ryan’s focus, drive and fire when it comes to the working class. We thank him, and, once again, we support him.
WASHINGTON, D.C. (Feb. 3, 2021) — The nation’s largest freight railroad worker union pledges its full support to U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio as he considers a potential bid for the United States Senate.
“Rep. Ryan, throughout his 10 terms as a representative of Ohio’s 17th and 13th Districts, has proven time and time again that he is willing to fight and win for this nation’s transportation workers,” said Jeremy R. Ferguson, president of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers — Transportation Division (SMART-TD). “With a solid record as a voice for labor in his district that spans Akron to Youngstown, it stands clear that Tim Ryan would have the strength and political experience to protect and support all working Ohioans on Capitol Hill as a senator.”
Rep. Ryan has stood up to bad corporate policy and has co-sponsored national legislation that would require two certified people to operate freight trains, even as rail companies continue to place profit over safety via precision scheduled railroading. Last year, he voted in favor of both the HEROES Act, which would have protected transportation workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, and in favor of the comprehensive Moving Forward Act (H.R. 2), a measure that included provisions to protect bus and transit operators, as well as many other rail safety priorities.
On Sept. 30, Ryan appeared alongside SMART-TD members outside the U.S. Capitol as members of the Cleveland-based union rallied to support Amtrak workers who faced furloughs.
“Ryan is a champion for labor and working families. He has stood beside the members of our union for many years and he has been steadfast in his commitment to the unionized worker,” Ferguson said. “There is no doubt that he has our backs, so if he seeks a seat in the U.S. Senate, there is no doubt that we will have his.”
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.
WASHINGTON (June 26, 2019) — U.S. Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) today introduced the Safe Freight Act, (S.1979) legislation that would promote rail safety by mandating at least two-person crews on all freight trains in the United States.
The bill is designed to correct the Federal Railroad Administration’s rollback in May of a proposed rule that would have established these necessary safety standards. The Safe Freight Act will specifically require that all freight trains have at least one certified conductor and one certified engineer on board, who can then work together to protect the safety of both the train and people living near the tracks. In 2013, there was a tragic accident in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, Canada, where an unattended freight train carrying 72 tank cars of crude oil derailed and exploded, killing 47 people, destroying much of the town and causing millions of dollars in environmental damage.
“The FRA abdicated its responsibility as our nation’s rail safety agency when it withdrew the proposed two-person crew rule,” said Sen. Markey. “A series of tragic accidents have resulted in recent years from unattended and understaffed trains, making clear that we need enough crew on board to protect both property and the public. I am proud to lead the introduction of the Safe Freight Act with Senator Wyden to address this critical safety concern.”
“The decision by the FRA to abandon its planned two-person crew rule makes no sense, especially in light of recent rail accidents,” said Sen. Wyden. “This is a matter of safety and security for rail crew and the public and experts agree. It’s now up to Congress to step in and require freight trains have the staffing required to keep folks safe.”
Other senators co-sponsoring the Safe Freight Act are Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Angus King (I-Maine), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.).
“SMART Transportation Division has been working tirelessly to promote safety in the railroad industry,” said SMART Transportation Division President John Previsich. “There is no doubt that the safest rail operation is a two-person crew operation. After several major train derailments, we must send a clear message to our lawmakers and the general public that multi-person crews are essential to ensuring the safest rail operations possible in their communities. I would like to thank Senator Markey for his leadership on this critical issue as we continue improve safety on our nation’s railroads for both our members and the general public.”
“The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen has led the fight for railroad safety for over 156 years,” said BLET National President Dennis R. Pierce. “Two-person crews make for safer, more efficient train operations, and two-person crews play a key role in safeguarding our Nation’s communities when a serious accident occurs. I congratulate Senator Markey for stepping up to lead the fight for a safer railroad industry and a safer America.”
The U.S. Senate on Nov. 10, 2015, passed a motion opposing the allowance of twin 33-foot trailers on federal highways in a 56-31 vote.
The amendment, “Motion to Instruct Conferees of the Highway Bill on Double 33-Foot Trailer Trucks,” would instruct conferees to allow the U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary to issue a federal rule allowing for these longer trucks only if USDOT finds that such an increase would not have a net negative impact on public safety.