By John Risch, SMART TD National Legislative Director
For those of you who don’t know me, I’m honored to serve as your elected National Legislative Director. I came from the ranks, starting in the track department on the Burlington Northern and went into train service, spending more than 30 years in freight and passenger service in North Dakota.
My father was a truck driver and my mother was a stay-at-home parent who raised three children and a cousin of mine. We grew up poor, which gave me a real appreciation for the pay and benefits that a good union job provided. My 30-plus years working on the railroad has given me a real perspective of the issues we face, and drives me to protect what we already have and work to make our jobs better.
The outcome of the Presidential Election will determine whether we make progress on improving our jobs or whether we lose ground.
The next president of the United States will set the tone, and will make important appointments to positions that directly affect you.
The head of the Federal Railroad Administration will decide:
- Whether the two-person crew regulation is finalized or discarded
- Whether we enact regulations requiring uniform speed signs on railroads
- Whether there will be limitations on the use of inward facing cameras
- What to do about fatigue in the freight rail industry
Appointees to the National Mediation Board will intervene in our contract negotiations and influence things like wages and work rules. They will also appoint arbitrators who decide if an unjustly fired member returns to work with or without back pay.
The head of the Motor Carrier Administration will decide how, or if, we will deal with the terrible problem of driver assault.
The next Chairman of the Railroad Retirement Board will determine not only how our pension is administered, but how our unemployment, sickness and disability benefits are administered as well.
I’m very concerned about Donald Trump, should he be elected as our next President. He has repeatedly said he will discard regulations and get rid of government bureaucracy. These are good sound bites and none of us want more government rules than are necessary, but when you look at the pending regulations affecting us, like two-person crews, fatigue and locomotive cameras, this rhetoric takes on a different meaning.
I have a note on my desk that says: “My most important job is to make sure that bad things don’t happen to our members.” I’m charged with the responsibility of protecting and improving the jobs of our members – an assignment I don’t take lightly. That job may be nearly impossible under a Trump administration.
Here is a book review of a recent book by Pulitzer Prize winning journalist David Cay Johnston. The book explains many of Donald Trump’s human failings. I know the hardcore Trump supporters in our ranks have by and large ignored these failings, but I cannot. I care about our hardworking members and our country, and quite simply put, Donald Trump is unqualified to serve as President of the United States.
If he is elected I’m afraid that he will appoint people to government that are equally unqualified, causing significant damage to the progress we have already made.
While I pledge to do the best I can to improve things for our members, I can’t do it on my own. I need your help at the ballot box. We’ve endorsed Hillary Clinton, she will support our union, our issues and the progress that unions have made. This is serious stuff and we all need to do our part in making our jobs better not just for us, but for those who follow. And that work starts with this election.
Anyone who wants to call and talk about this can call me at 202-543-7714. I work for you: What every one of you has to say matters to me.
- SMART-TD statement on the results of the U.S. Senate vote to impose the rail agreement
- SMART-TD statement on potential extension of status-quo period
- SMART-TD statement on congressional intervention in the national rail negotiations
- ERMA lifetime maximum benefit to increase in 2023
- RRB: Credit for military service under the Railroad Retirement Act
- 2022 Tentative Agreement ratification results and next steps
- Split decision: Unions for engineers and conductors take different routes in freight rail contract ratification vote
- Balloting closes TONIGHT for tentative national rail agreement
- SMART-TD, BLET town hall yields facts about tentative agreement
- A message to veterans from President Ferguson