Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Since my last column, a lot has taken place. Breakthroughs have been made on multiple bus properties and a marathon negotiation session regarding a national freight rail contract has resulted in a Tentative Agreement (TA). The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has finally come through for us and issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) requiring two-person crews for both freight and passenger rail operations with some exceptions. In-depth details about the National Rail TA are well-documented elsewhere.
Two-person crew NPRM
On July 28th, the Federal Railroad Administration had its NPRM requiring two-person crews on most trains published in the Federal Register, kicking off an initial comment period. Thus far, 10,750+ comments have been received for the rule. This is the most comments FRA has ever received on a proposed rulemaking. I am urging you to submit your comments in support of the two-person crew rule before the deadline, which has been extended to December 2nd, if you have not done so already. Details on how to submit your comments are available on our website at https://smart-union.org/2pc.
Now is the time to stand together in support for each other and in solidarity. Let’s keep alert and have situational awareness in all that we do.
There are absolutely ZERO federal regulations preventing one-person crews. This proposed rulemaking puts in place restrictions against one-person crew operations. Though we may not like that the NPRM establishes a waiver process to allow for one-person crews, they are required by law to establish a waiver process for regulations such as this. I know that many are saying on social media and elsewhere that through a waiver process that this NPRM opens the door for one-person crews. I would like you to keep in mind that currently there is NO door.
We are fortunate that FRA has had the foresight to include a provision mandating public input on all waiver requests, while most regulations do not even consider public concern on waiver requests. Even if you don’t like the rule and its provisions, it is important that you comment and tell the FRA how you feel. You don’t even have to submit your name, you can comment anonymously.
Bus industry advances & contracts
While the freight rail contract drew huge headlines and much media attention, our Bus Department is not at rest. Agreements have been reached and voted on and beneficial legislation has also been approved and signed into law.
Members who work for the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LACMTA) voted at the end of July to ratify a TA negotiated by our Bus Department and GO 875. Members will now enjoy appreciation pay for those who worked through the pandemic along with generous wage increases of 26.6% over the life of the agreement, no changes to employee benefits, updates to sick leave, modifications to work rules and modified disciplinary procedures – the carrier’s board approved it, and the contract is done. Congratulations to the Bus Department, GO 875 General Chairperson John Ellis and his negotiating team on a job well done.
For our members who work for Santa Cruz Metro (SCM), a victory was achieved when California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed S.B. 957 into law, including the property under the umbrella of the state’s Public Employment Relations Board (PERB). The law requires that employers and employees of SCM adjudicate complaints of specified labor violations before PERB as an unfair practice instead of in superior court. By requiring the district to adjudicate claims before PERB, the bill will impose a state-mandated local program that will serve to harmonize relations between SCM management and labor.
Finally, a TA was reached for our membership who work for Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS) and has been voted on. Our membership voted against ratification and the discussions of next steps continue as of this writing. Our Bus Department is committed to gaining an agreement that our members will find acceptable and is scheduled to head back to the bargaining table for further negotiations. We will not give up until we have a TA that addresses the issues our CATS members gave as the reason for voting down the agreement.
Our unfortunate losses
While we celebrate these successes, it is also important to pause and reflect on our challenges as well. Members from both the bus and rail industries have experienced losses since my last column. Our bus members face assaults and harassment from the public on a daily basis, while our rail members are facing unreasonable attendance policies that put our members’ lives at risk and exacerbate fatigue. Tragically, both departments have faced the loss of life of fellow brothers, while on the job, on the way to and from work, and in one case, a member was gunned down just outside his home. These losses are unacceptable to us as a union and to our families who distinctly feel the unimaginable hardship and loss of a husband, wife, father, son or daughter.
Let us take a moment to remember Local Chairperson Kevin Spragg (Local 1420), Ryan Jones (Local 446), Mario Navarro (Local 18), Local Chairperson Richard Keen (Local 1263), Zachery Lara (Local 1846), William “Bill” Laver (Local 556) and Daniel Ruley (Local 61). They will all be missed.
Now is the time to stand together in support for each other and in solidarity. Let’s keep alert and have situational awareness in all that we do. Please stay safe, and God bless.
Jeremy R. Ferguson
President, Transportation Division
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