The Investing in a New Vision for the Environment and Surface Transportation in America (INVEST in America) Act is the result of countless hours of work by this Union on the Hill and in the halls of Congress. The INVEST in America Act reauthorizes funding set to expire Sept. 30, but more so, sets standards for safety, training, and transportation reform that have long been sought by the members of SMART Transportation Division including:
Yardmaster Hours of Service
a “Cross Border” fix.
Additionally, Amtrak would see its funding triple to $29 billion over the five-year period of the bill, allowing for expansion of national, state and regional routes and facility modernization. Funding for the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) grant program also would be increased to $7 billion to fund passenger and freight rail projects. Provisions for/or against the transportation of liquid natural gas (LNG) via rail tank cars, blocked railroad crossings, and excessive freight train length, among others, also have been included.
Our National Legislative Office has been hard at work in Washington, D.C., to convey our issues to both sides of the aisle in the U.S. House and Senate, and the provisions within this bill are the fruits of that labor.
Undoubtedly, House Democrats have heard our cries and have answered the call. By including our issues within the context of this bill, they have let America know that the only safe operation of a Class I freight train is with a two-person crew; that our bus drivers and operators have the right to a safe work environment; and that the public should be shielded from the risks that rail carriers will take in the name of greed.
But make no mistake, this bill still has a long road to travel and a lot of heavy-handed opposition standing before it in the Republican-controlled Senate. We will need all hands on deck to protect the provisions we have all fought so hard for to survive that journey.
I am asking you to please watch this bill as it moves through the legislative process and see who and what hurdles it faces. I’m asking you to please pay attention to the party affiliations of the individuals as the yeas and nays are registered when the bill is voted upon. And I am asking you to listen to the rhetoric and testimony that will affect its final appearance. Once the dust has settled, I will call on you to please support those who support you and your family’s well-being, and I firmly believe that picture will be crystal clear.
There are only two parties at the table. The Democrats wrote it into the bill, only the Republicans will take it out.
President — Transportation Division
State Legislative Director Stu Gardner reports that proponent testimony has been scheduled for 11 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2019, in House Hearing Room 114 in the Ohio Statehouse, 1 Capitol Square in Columbus, regarding H.B. 186, a comprehensive railroad safety bill under consideration in the state’s House of Representatives.
“This is the SMART TD and BLET members, friends and concerned citizens’ opportunity to let the House Transportation and Safety committee know and understand the reasons why HB 186 – a comprehensive railroad safety bill — is important to us and the communities that our trains pass through, and where those railroad yards are located throughout the state of Ohio,” Gardner said.
H.B. 186 covers the following safety issues:
Two-person freight train crews
Proper walkways in railroad yard safety legislation
Railroad yard lighting safety legislation
The bill is sponsored by Ohio Reps. Mike Sheehy, a retired rail worker and member of the SMART TD Alumni Association, and Brent Hillyer.
Proponent testimony must be provided to Matthew Taylor in Committee Chairman Doug Green’s office (Matthew.Taylor@ohiohouse.gov.) with the deadline for electronic submission of both written and in-person testimony and witness slip being 3 p.m. Sept. 9, the Monday before the hearing. On the day of the hearing, witnesses have the option of presenting their testimony in person before the committee if they have submitted the testimony and required witness slip by the deadline.
Gardner said that he plans to be at the Statehouse at 9 a.m. the day of the hearing.
“My hope is we have a large turnout (even if you are not giving testimony) to demonstrate our solidarity on these important rail safety issues,” he said.
If the volume of testimony warrants, Gardner said that subsequent committee hearings could be scheduled for the legislation so that all witnesses are heard.
“Please advocate and give testimony in support of H.B. 186,” Gardner said. “Thank you for your support.”
Instructions for those wishing to testify before the committee:
Prior to committee:
The House Transportation and Public Safety Committee is scheduled to meet on Tuesday mornings at 11 a.m. in House Hearing Room 114 in the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus.
The committee notice typically goes out on Friday afternoon. The notice will confirm that H.B. 186 is up for a hearing and when and where the committee will convene.
The Ohio SLB will work with the chairman’s office and our policy team to get as much of an advanced notice as possible
Testimony is to be electronically submitted to the chairman’s office by 3 p.m. Monday afternoon.
A witness slip (fillable PDF) is to be completed prior to the committee meeting and should also be submitted electronically to the chairman’s office.
Testimony and the witness slip can be submitted at the same time and there is no need to send multiple emails.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has posted new frequently asked questions (FAQs) on the agency’s standard for respirable crystalline silica in general industry.
OSHA developed the FAQs in consultation with industry and union stakeholders to provide guidance to employers and employees on the standard’s requirements, such as exposure assessments, regulated areas, methods of compliance and communicating silica hazards to employees. The questions and answers are organized by topic and include an introductory paragraph that provides background information about the regulatory requirements.
Silica dust, when inhaled, affects the lungs and can be a contributor to the development of lung cancer, silicosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and kidney disease in workers. It is of potential concern to rail workers as the dust created from the passage of trains over track ballast containing silica could become airborne and be inhaled.
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to help ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit www.osha.gov.
On July 7, Grupo Mexico S.A.B. de C.V. announced that its Grupo Mexico Transportes S.A. de C.V. unit (GMXT) completed its procurement of Florida East Coast Holdings Corp., parent company of Florida East Coast Railway (FECR).
The acquisition had approvals from the Committee on Foreign Investment, Surface Transportation Board and the Federal Communications Commission.
SMART TD represents approximately 200 conductors, engineers, trainmen and yardmasters employed by FECR. The railway operates 351 miles of track between Jacksonville, Fla., and Miami.
Click here to read more from Florida East Coast Railway.
Train and engine service employees as well as yardmaster employees of Golden Isles Terminal Railroad recently voted yes to SMART TD representation.
On May 12, the National Mediation Board (NMB) certified that SMART TD has been duly designated and authorized to represent train and engine service as well as yardmaster employees of the railroad.
“These employees recognize what the strength and power that being part of the nation’s largest rail labor organization can do for them,” said SMART TD Director of Organizing rich Ross.
“We would like to thank all those involved with the successful campaign on Golden Isles Terminal Railroad, specifically Vice President Jeremy Ferguson, GO 851 General Chairperson Joe Bennett and local officers of Local 1031, Local President James Robertroy, Local Legislative Rep. Isaac Gamble, Local Chairperson Darrin Brown and Local Chairperson Jeremy Sessions,” said Ross and Transportation Organizer Larry Grutzius.
Golden Isles Terminal Railroad operates 33 miles of track in and around the port at Brunswick, Ga. The railroad has interchanges with both CSX and Norfolk Southern. Commodities carried by the short line are automobiles, chemicals, food and feed products, machinery, and pulp and paper. The Golden Isles Terminal Railroad was founded in 1998 by Genesee & Wyoming, Inc.
Members of the SMART Transportation Division’s Washington State Legislative Board have been quite busy in recent weeks.
Working with the board members and state emergency management officials, state senators and representatives of the Washington State Legislature Jan. 29 introduced six bills that could have a direct impact on Transportation Division-represented railroad employees and the safety of the communities in which their trains operate.
Also introduced were a yardmaster hours of service bill in both the House of Representatives and the Senate and a rail crew transportation safety bill.
Under the proposed crew-staffing legislation, all trains and yard-switching assignments will be staffed with no less than two qualified employees. Trains designated as hazardous material trains of 50 cars or less, will be staffed with no less than three qualified employees, with the thirdemployee assigned to work on the rear of the train in a position to be able to safely observe and monitor the train.
Trains designated as hazardous material trains of 51 cars or more will be staffed with no less than four qualified employees, with two employees assigned to work on the rear of the train in a position to be able to safely observe and monitor the train.
Hazardous material trains are defined utilizing the current national standards adopted by Department of Transportation and all Class I carriers. The State Utility and Transportation Commission can direct carriers to exceed the minimum requirements if specific conditions affecting safety or security necessitate additional crewmembers.
Hearings on both bills have been tentatively scheduled for Feb. 9 in the House Labor Committee and the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee, Transportation Division Washington State Legislative Director Herb Krohn said.
“Our workers know how to run these trains safely, but the railroad refuses to provide adequate staffing, exposing the public and railworkers to death and injury. These bills simply restore Washington State’s commonsense safety standards,” Krohn said.
“We looked at what went wrong in each of the catastrophic explosions and the close calls, and it’s clear that one or two people simply can’t monitor and safely operate these dangerous cargos. Adding even one more person to a train, particularly at the back of the train, will save lives.”
H.B. 1809 was introduced by State Rep. Larry Haler (R-Richland) and currently has a total of 33 additional co-sponsors.
House Transportation Committee Chairman Judy Clibborn (D-Mercer Island) said, “This bill just requires a minimum level of staffing because an adequately staffed train is a safe train.”
S.B. 5697 was introduced by State Sen. Linda Evans Parlette (R-Wenatchee), Chairman of the Senate Majority Caucus. It currently has 23 additional co-sponsors.
“Safely moving goods through Washington State is in everyone’s interest. The public is counting on us to ensure that trains, no matter what they are transporting, are safely operated,” Evans Parlette said.
“I’ve worked as a conductor for 10 years with a perfect safety record and this bill will make trains safer,” said Local 324 Chairperson and Legislative Rep. Paul McGill of Seattle.
The text of the bills read, in part, “Any person, corporation, company, or officer of the court operating any railroad, or part of any railroad or railway within the state of Washington, and engaged as a common carrier, in the transportation of freight or passengers, who violates any of the provisions of section 3 of this act are guilty of a misdemeanor, and upon conviction shall be fined not less than one thousand dollars and not more than one hundred thousand dollars for each offense.”
Krohn said the bills are in response to concerns raised by emergency management officials who have become aware that the crewmembers on the head end of trains, in most cases, cannot see their train beyond a limited sight distance. Recognizing that the train crews are the first responders, they believe that trains that pose a significant risk to the public need crewmembers on the rear of the train, in a position to be able to see the train and take appropriate action if something goes wrong.
Krohn said he attended a freight mobility roundtable discussion last year featuring a presentation on oil-train safety from emergency responders. “Not aware of who I was, Director of the Seattle Office of Emergency Management Barb Graff mentioned the BNSF Railway one-person crew contract proposed to the members of General Committee of Adjustment GO 001 last year. She said she was glad that it was voted down and said two-person crews were not enough on hazmat trains.”
That led to Krohn and members of the state legislative board working with emergency management officials to get the ball rolling on the two bills.
“As an emergency manager, I plan for disaster and work for safety. Human eyes are key to safety and proper staffing is important, which is why I support this bill,” said Dominic Marzano, emergency manager for Kent, Wash., and division chief of the Kent Fire Department – Regional FireAuthority.
Noting that railroad yardmasters are required to work excessively long hours by railroad carriers, H.B. 1284 and S.B. 5696 will prohibit a yardmaster to “remain or go on duty for a period in excess of twelve consecutive hours…An employee may not remain or go on duty unless that employee has had at least ten consecutive hours off duty during the prior twenty-four hours.”
If the state’s Utilities and Transportation Commission finds that a Class I carrier violates the provisions of these bills, if passed, “the commission may assess a civil penalty of not less than ten thousand dollars and not more than fifty thousand dollars.”
Krohn said that yardmaster and BNSF GO 341 General Chairperson Jeffrey Sellman was the impetus behind these bills and worked tirelessly to advance them in the legislature.
Finally, H.B. 1808 and S.B.5797 will, if passed, “regulate charter party carriers providing railroad crew transportation and every contract crew hauling vehicle with respect to the safety of equipment, driver qualifications, insurance levels, and safety of operations. The commission must adopt rules and require reports as necessary to carry out this chapter regarding contract crew hauling vehicles and establish federal motor vehicle safety standards for contract crew hauling vehicles, regardless of seating capacity, as the minimum safety standards.”
“I am really excited about how we’ve advanced these bills in the legislature,” Krohn said. “They are reasonable bills that won’t break the bank of the railroads. They are a reasonable precaution to protect the public and our members.”
Krohn encourages Transportation Division members and all concerned railroad employees to contact their lawmakers and seek their support of these legislative proposals.
UTU-represented yardmasters employed by Canadian National Railway’s Illinois Central Railroad have reached a new tentative agreement following mediation assistance from the National Mediation Board. A March tentative agreement was rejected by the membership, which will now vote, through Sept. 15, on the new tentative pact.
Negotiations were led by UTU International Vice President Paul Tibbit and UTU General Chairperson Doyle Turner (GO 347).
“This tentative agreement, as with others negotiated with Class 1 railroads, is intended to bring parity in wages, benefits and work rules to the thousands of employees in the railroad industry, along with the many other protections offered by union membership,” Turner said. “The seniority, scope and discipline rules these members now enjoy are what makes union membership valuable.”
Illinois Central connects Chicago with New Orleans and Mobile, Ala., and also reaches Omaha, Neb., and Sioux City, Iowa. Canadian National gained control of Illinois Central in 1998.