Time to rise to the challenge

Published: May 18, 2021

As we turn from enduring a difficult winter and the challenges of a pandemic that has tested our resilience and our country for more than a year, our organization has continued to press ahead to better serve you.

The core purpose of SMART-TD is to aggressively and vigorously defend the safety and well-being of workers and to promptly field the concerns of its membership. Ever since the installation of my administration in 2019, we have been moving ahead to make dynamic changes internally and externally to the union. We want the services you are entitled to as a union member to be delivered promptly and effectively to your satisfaction, pandemic or not.

We want the services you are entitled to as a union member to be delivered promptly and effectively to your satisfaction, pandemic or not.

To this end, a number of technology-related projects have been completed. More are in the works — all undertaken with the intent that we provide the best value and representation that your union can offer and that you deserve as a part of SMART-TD.

Some of these include:

  • The creation of online Safety Condition and Technology Failure Reports to properly document and address membership issues and concerns in a more timely manner. We have received thousands of submissions with a vast majority of these concerns successfully addressed by officers since their launch.
  • Significant improvements to the SMART phone app, with more on the way, which will provide even more functionality, utility and information. These include new features such as messaging functions, virtual membership cards, a listing of Local, State Legislative and General Committee information and contact options to members.
  • A revamped website is in the works that will improve and expand members’ experience to find answers and information that they need.
  • After receiving numerous requests, we have recently created a membership option to receive the TD News electronically instead of print in efforts to reduce delivery time while saving production and mailing costs.
  • We are also in the process of expanding Field Service assistance for local treasurers by providing additional representatives who will be available during select evening and weekend hours.
  • We have increased our efforts of communicating with our members and officers, soliciting ideas and suggestions via personal phone conversations and surveys. This includes responding to each and every phone call and email to those that have contacted my office with issues, concerns or questions. As I have stated several times, I value each and every member and your thoughts and ideas are important to me.

These are but a small example of the many projects we are working on, but few are more important than the efforts underway to adapt and improve our efforts to educate members and officers.

While we are disappointed that 2021 marks the second straight year we have not been able to have an annual regional meeting due to COVID-19, we’re making adjustments. We plan to have smaller regionally focused training sessions when and where it is safe to do so. We’re also in the process of establishing virtual training online through the SMART University initiative that’s being developed. These will provide officer training and resources, both visually with videos as well as with supporting documents and presentations.

Externally, we are working at being more visible as well.

Legislative directors in 14 states are working to get two-person crew bills introduced after our successful case in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. They’re also working on fighting back against Precision Scheduled SPRING 2021 5 Railroading (PSR) with 10 states working on bills to limit train lengths.

Legislative directors in 14 states are working to get two-person crew bills introduced after our successful case in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

No doubt, it’s been a rough period, but our team is built for facing adversity, and more importantly, have the experience and determination to address it.

Many members have been furloughed at the whim of carriers thanks to PSR. We are fighting back by telling all of those who would listen about the increased danger posed by this mode of operation and about carriers wanting to cut freight crews. The in-depth article that Vice Magazine put together in late March is just one example. We are looking to expand these conversations and are reaching out to additional media outlets, as well as each and every state capital. We now have doors held open, often receiving invitations to tell our side of the story and have our voices heard on Capitol Hill, which is a complete reversal of what we have had to endure the past four years.

There’s much to be positive about as we roll ahead. Amtrak members who had been furloughed because of the pandemic are back on the job thanks to the American Recovery Plan championed by Joe Biden. The American Jobs Plan infrastructure bill that Biden unveiled March 31 contains many of the good, transportation-related provisions that last year’s H.R. 2 had, such as bus and transit operator protection and mandating two-person freight crews. We’ll need to all work together, be active and have our collective voices heard loud and clear to get this done, but we can do it.

We’re going to keep making your union the best it can be by serving, protecting and responding to you. You are the union. We are here for you. Let’s go!

Please stay safe out there, and God bless.

Jeremy Ferguson
President, Transportation Division