The SMART Transportation Division would like to thank all of you for your historic response to the FRA’s Notice of Public Rulemaking (NPRM) on Freight Train Crew Size. In the moment when our livelihood and the safety of all involved was on the line, SMART members, along with their friends and families, answered the bell in a profound way.

For months, we have been requesting your help in submitting comments to the FRA and in a record-setting demonstration of concern and support, you came through with flying colors. The FRA reports Dec. 22 that 13,090 submissions were received in their request for public comments that closed on December 21st. This outpouring of your information and personal reasons for wanting a minimum crew size of two will play a large role in the FRA’s process of determining their final ruling.

The next step in this process is for the FRA to announce its determinations. We at SMART-TD will be sure to keep you all informed as to how that process plays out. We appreciate your partnership with us in this project, and we look forward to continuing the fight as long as needed to keep our members safe and employed.

The Transportation Trades Department (TTD) of the AFL-CIO, as the umbrella organization representing all factions of rail labor, wrote the definitive submission stating our case.

The two unions representing in-cab freight personnel — SMART-TD and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) — submitted a joint statement accentuating the positions of the T&E employees in support of the NPRM. These submissions are linked below.

Once again, your activism and support are vastly appreciated. We thank you profoundly.

AFL-CIO TTD statement

SMART-TD/BLET statement

The AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department (TTD), of which the SMART-TD and -MD are members, released the following statement on behalf of rail unions regarding next steps in our push forward on reforms to a freight rail industry that is failing its workers and the American people:

“Across this nation, the American people have been awakened to the importance of freight rail workers to the national supply chain and our economy. More importantly, they have learned that the workers who are single-handedly responsible for the success of this industry have been mistreated while they’ve held these companies together through a pandemic and a historic supply chain crisis.

While rail unions successfully secured historic pay increases and other benefits for their workers with the support of President Biden, the railroads and their bought and paid-for allies in Congress refused to meet our demands for the basic human right of paid sick leave in bargaining. However, it should be made clear that the lack of paid sick leave is merely a symptom; so-called “Precision Scheduled Railroading” (PSR) and its cut-to-the-bone business model is the virus plaguing the rail industry and America’s freight commerce network. This virus exists for one reason, and one reason alone: corporate greed.

Let us be clear. The fight to guarantee paid sick leave for rail workers is not over and we will not back down until we win. We are committed to aggressively pursuing further action by both parties in Congress and the President, including the strategic use of legislation and Administration action, such as federal regulations and oversight, that will once and for all hold the rail industry accountable.

We stand united with workers and are grateful to the American people who have heard our call: in one of the most profitable industries in the richest country in the world, there is no excuse for rail workers to go another day without immediate action to correct this glaring injustice. But we must also remain focused on the underlying problems that remain for workers and the industry, which cannot be solved through paid sick leave policies alone.

The American people should know that while this round of collective bargaining is over, the underlying issues facing the workforce and rail customers remain. Over the last seven years, the freight railroad industry has moved to a business model that has cut their workforces to the bone, devastated worker morale by creating unsustainable working conditions across the industry, and put the safety of their workers and the American public at risk. This business model, which the industry termed “Precision Scheduled Railroading” (PSR), is not meant to improve service or reduce costs for shippers and consumers. Instead, it is meant to squeeze, with precision, every last penny of profit out of their operations for the benefit of a handful of ultra-wealthy investors who have contributed nothing themselves to the success of this industry.

Prior to PSR, if an employee needed to call in sick, they were nearly always allowed to “mark off,” and would be replaced by the next person on the roster. However, after cutting 30% of the workforce, there are no backups, and in an effort to keep trains moving, the rail industry needed a “stick” to keep employees in line. Management dusted off their rulebooks and decided to begin disciplining employees for missing work – a right they always retained but never used. If railroad workers spoke up, they risked being targeted. And in an era of mass furloughs, railroaders were rightfully worried that tomorrow would bring a pink slip.

The need for paid sick leave is only greater in this environment of strict discipline enforced by ruthless managers that were told to cut costs by any means. To most railroad managers, the solution was to furlough all possible employees, and rule over those remaining with an iron fist. Forced overtime went from being rare to a routine, multi-day occurrence. In fact, fatigue is now one the most dangerous issues facing employees. That is why the rail industry fought tooth and nail to deny paid sick leave to workers. They know that they cannot sustain their unsafe, greed-driven business model without putting the health and safety of workers on the line. In other words, denying workers sick leave isn’t an oversight but rather a core, intentional feature of the freight railroads’ business model.

In April, the railroads were called before the Surface Transportation Board (STB) for a three-day hearing on “Urgent Issues in Freight Rail Service.” The railroads were scolded not just by the STB and rail unions, but by rail customers across the spectrum. From grain shippers to chemical distributors, every witness pinpointed the same issue: that poor rail service is the result of years of irresponsible cost-cutting and the hostile work environment for remaining employees. And despite their public scolding and promises to make improvements, all of these metrics have continued to decline. Six months later, staffing levels are even lower than before, and freight embargoes of shippers are higher than ever.

And it is not just rail workers who are suffering. The freight railroads have created an economic crisis for all Americans by failing to meet the service needs of their customers. They have shamelessly crippled our supply chain, driving up prices for consumers on our most essential goods. What’s more, by forcing sick or fatigued workers to perform their jobs, they are knowingly risking public safety in our communities every single day. All of this for the sake of eking out a few extra dollars to further pad the pockets of their CEOs and Wall Street.

We will share our concerns about the freight rail industry’s behavior in greater detail before the Surface Transportation Board’s public hearing next Tuesday, Dec. 13, regarding Union Pacific’s refusal to accept goods for shipment because they’ve undermined their own capacity to ship them. We also applaud the Federal Railroad Administration for holding a public hearing next Wednesday, Dec. 14, on train crew size safety requirements, which is a fundamental safety issue and another example of the railroads willingly jeopardizing the welfare of their workers and safety to fuel more profits.

Ahead of these public hearings, rail workers will rally in front of the US Capitol on Tuesday, 12/13 from 1 to 3 p.m. to highlight the need to address all of these issues within the freight rail industry. Additional details will follow.

The wins for rail workers that resulted from a Presidential Emergency Board appointed by President Biden with further improvements facilitated by the Biden Administration are indeed historic. They include a 24% pay raise with back pay, which is the biggest wage increase in 45 years; a $5,000 bonus for every worker; an increase in travel disbursements for maintenance of way workers; no increase in health insurance copays or deductibles; no changes to two-person crew staffing; and more.

But rail workers, the unions who fight for them, and our partners in government must work together to hold this industry accountable for their actions and reconcile the long-term consequences of their greed. By prioritizing profits over people, they have failed workers, customers, and consumers. We need a freight rail system that works for the entire country. It is time for a reckoning.”

American Train Dispatchers Association (ATDA)

Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen-IBT (BLET)

Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes Division-IBT (BMWED)

Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen (BRS)

International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) District 19

International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, Iron Ship Builders, Blacksmiths, Forgers and Helpers (IBB)

International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW)

National Conference of Firemen and Oilers, SEIU (NCFO, SEIU)

International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers Railroad, Mechanical and Engineering Department (SMART MD)

International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers Transportation Division (SMART TD)

Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD)

Transport Workers Union of America (TWU)

SAN FRANCISCO — Transportation Trades Department (TTD), AFL-CIO President Greg Regan emphasized that the resurgence of labor unions’ power has been very apparent as he addressed the general session Aug. 9, the second day of the SMART Leadership Conference.

It began as the nation coped with the pandemic and then as the Biden administration set its sights toward accomplishing true action on infrastructure.

“The labor movement drove the response,” Regan said. “We were the ones who delivered for working people every step of the way.”

Among the examples: Investments in the transportation sector through the CARES Act, which put SMART-TD members furloughed by Amtrak back on the job after the pandemic froze the nation’s transportation system, and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which outlaid a historic level of funding for Amtrak and public transportation, among others.

“This is the type of legislation that every president since Richard Nixon has been trying to accomplish,” Regan said. “And it happened last year. That doesn’t happen without the strength of the labor movement pushing that legislation.

“This is a rebirth for this country. We have a massive amount of opportunity for infrastructure in this country right here and we cannot skip over that. We might want to go on and move on to the next fight, but we should take a moment to reflect on what a major accomplishment that was.”

Regan mentioned specifically the work of the legislative departments of both SMART and the Transportation Division on Capitol Hill.

Now, as national rail contract negotiations near the end of the line set forth by the Railway Labor Act and comment has opened for a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) by the Federal Railroad Administration to make a minimum two-person rail crew nationwide, transportation labor has a chance to flex its muscles again.

Regan took part, along with many unionized workers from multiple industries July 30 in Galesburg, Ill., as they stood together to draw attention to carriers’ treatment of rail workers.

“We are not going to buckle. They are not going to be able to split us,” he said. “There is a level of strength and solidarity I see in freight rail right now that is unmatched.”

As for getting the Rule of 2 finalized by the Federal Railroad Administration, Regan said he’s confident that the public and regulators will recognize that it’s a safety issue and non-negotiable, especially as the comment period progresses to its conclusion in late September. “We’re not going to back down. We’re going to stay together, we’re going to fight like hell and we’re going to deliver.”

From left, Local Chairperson Chris Bond (Local 513, Gainesville Texas); Local Chairperson Steve Groat (Local 329, Boone, Iowa); General Chairperson Matt Burkhart (GCA-341); SMART Transportation Division President Jeremy Ferguson and AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department President Greg Regan wait to deliver their testimony before the Surface Transportation Board on April 26, 2022.


Video recap of the damning testimony on rail carrier policies.

On April 26, SMART Transportation Division President Jeremy Ferguson and three members of the union shed light April 26 on the devastating effects Precision Scheduled Railroading (PSR) has had on customers and labor alike before the Surface Transportation Board (STB).

Their testimony came on the first day of STB’s hearing on “Urgent Issues in Freight Rail Service” convened in Washington, D.C.

“As professionals, it’s painful to watch our shippers get bad service or no service at all, much higher rates, destroyed product and equipment, and in some cases having to resort to shipping by truck whenever possible,” President Ferguson said. “I want to make our voice heard that we stand with the shippers who want our professional service to keep the supply chain open and keep this country’s economy moving.”

President Ferguson’s testimony will begin immediately upon clicking the image.

President Ferguson referred back to the “safest and most productive era” of railroading years ago with more service flexibility, proper maintenance and full extra boards that has now been sacrificed for the higher stock prices sought by Wall Street investors through the implementation of PSR.

“Thousands of men and women have been laid off with reckless abandon while no consideration has been given to the service that has ultimately been forsaken,” he said. “All that is known to us and our members at this point is that the railroads are dead set on achieving the lowest operating ratio attainable at any cost.”

“Railroading, once revered as one of the most-coveted blue-collar jobs in the world, is now hemorrhaging employees at unprecedented rates because of the abusive work environments PSR has created. Truth is, employees are leaving the industry faster than the railroads can hire.”

He referenced the “Hi-Viz” attendance policy that BNSF implemented in February several times, stated that its implementation has led to the departure of 1,000 workers who were forced to choose between trying to attain enough sleep to safely work their next shift or try to spend limited time with family for a undervalued employee that often has only one day off a month.

“Now, because of PSR, two choices exist for rail labor: Work or be fired,” President Ferguson said.

Brother Burkart’s testimony will begin immediately upon clicking the image.

General Chairperson Matt Burkhart (GCA-341), a fourth-generation railroad worker, yardmaster and member of Local 1975 (Kansas City, Mo.), testified that the relative simplicity of railroading over its nearly two centuries in the United States is being violated.

“It takes three things to railroad: Power, crew and rail. That’s it. Something to pull it, somebody to move it and something to run on,” said Burkhart, a former member of management. “You give us those three things and we can run all day long. We’re not running all day long right now.”

Burkhart mentioned the lengthy trains PSR has brought, many which exceed 10,000 feet when yards and sidings were made to accommodate World War II-era lengths of 3,000 feet. Not only does it take more moves to build or put a train away, it also takes more time, thus burning through the crew base.

Brother Burkhart also brought to light our equipment, including the hand-held radios supplied to our members, were not made to accommodate these types of train lengths either, stating that, “the radios do not work with the longer trains, hampering the crew’s ability to communicate when inspecting larger trains” he said.

“It just doesn’t make sense, it’s perpetuating manpower issues, it’s dangerous, and it’s not servicing our customers. All of it’s bad,” Burkart said.

And, lastly, BNSF, contrary to belief, has implemented PSR and has imposed its own data-driven metrics based on reducing resources and headcount for years, Burkart said.

He offered a pair of simple solutions looking back a decade and a half:

“It takes planning. It takes common sense,” Burkart said. “Two things can be legislated today: a maximum of 8,000 foot on trains. We don’t need these three-mile-long monsters running around. We need to disincentivize any reason to ever store a locomotive. In Donley Creek we have five miles of engines stored. There’s no reason for a train to sit without power.”

Brother Groat’s testimony will appear immediately upon clicking the image.

Also testifying was Local Chairperson Steve Groat (Local 329 — Boone, Iowa), a Union Pacific engineer, who mentioned the slower velocity caused by inadequate track maintenance, derailments and mechanical failures caused, in part, by long trains.

“Since the increase in train lengths, I’ve noticed more hard wear,” he said — broken cars split in half, drawbars and knuckles being left on the ground. “These train lengths increase the in-train force that stresses the components that don’t normally fail.”

Travel times for trains also have increased and locomotive use hasn’t been efficient, Groat told the board.

“This is like hooking up a 28-foot camper to a Toyota Prius and trying to drive to Colorado,” he said. “At what time do you expect the engine to fail or a component of the locomotive to fail?”

Brother Bond’s testimony will appear immediately upon clicking the image.

Local Chairperson Chris Bond (Local 513 — Gainesville, Texas), an engineer, spoke about BNSF’s throttle and power limitations that had been rescinded April 15 after the STB hearing had been announced.

“The carrier has put profit over everything,” Bond said. “Over customer service, over employees, even over safety.”

Hi-Viz also has caused an employee exodus and a personnel shortage at the carrier when there wasn’t one before, Bond said.

“This new policy has employees resigning in record numbers. I have several employees who are facing discipline and possible dismissal right now,” he said, including a single mother who has staggered custody of her child, now facing potential termination as a result of Hi-Viz.

“With BNSF losing people because of resignations and terminations, they’ve attempted to recall furloughed employees that are hearing of the current work environment and choosing not to return,” Bond said. “The new conductor trainees who are hiring on are quitting almost right away.”

The testimony from SMART-TD was preceded by Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO President Greg Regan, who recently detailed PSR-related meltdowns that have adversely affected shippers.

“The workers represented by TTD-affiliated unions have been sounding the alarm on the state of the freight-rail industry for years,” he said. “It’s deeply unfortunate but completely predictable that we would find ourselves here today as both railroad employees and customers sit before you to express a shared simple fact — that today’s freight-rail network is not working for anyone other than railroad investors.”

Regan reminded STB members that Class I railroads shrank their workforce well before the pandemic by 29 percent over the last six years — about 45,000 jobs and were making the system less flexible by storing equipment.

“The elimination of jobs across all crafts of the freight rail network has undoubtedly contributed to operational breakdowns and service degradation, including the ability to operate, inspect, maintain and repair every component of a railroad.”

He mentioned service disruptions experienced by customers of BNSF, Union Pacific and Norfolk Southern in recent months.

“For as long as these railroads continue along their current path, these meltdowns and service degradations will continue,” Regan said.

Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen Vice President Mark L. Wallace also testified on behalf of labor.

WASHINGTON – Greg Regan, President of the Transportation Trades Department (TTD) of the AFL-CIO, of which the SMART Transportation Division (SMART-TD) and SMART Mechanical Divisions (SMART-MD) are members, released the following statement in response to President Joe Biden’s Executive Order establishing a Presidential Emergency Board (PEB), which will delay any freight rail work stoppage or strike for 60 days upon taking effect Monday, July 18th. TTD is the nation’s largest transportation labor federation and represents 37 labor unions, including the 13 rail worker unions involved in the ongoing national contract negotiations:

“We commend President Biden for announcing a board of neutral arbitrators to investigate and report its findings and recommendations to help both parties work toward a resolution.

“After nearly three years of bad faith negotiations by the railroads, it is sad but not surprising that we arrived at this point in the bargaining process governed by the Railway Labor Act.

“Our goal from the beginning of this process has been to deliver a contract that freight rail workers could ratify, particularly as the railroads are raking in their highest-ever profits as workloads and work hours have increased exponentially. Throughout this process, the railroads have never made a contract proposal that these workers could reasonably accept.

“Just as they have failed in their responsibility to provide reasonable freight service for their customers and the American people, the railroads have also failed in their responsibility to their workers in their greedy quest to become modern-day robber barons.

“The reality is that these frontline workers are pandemic heroes who move essential cargo and goods through the supply chain, yet they have not received a pay raise in three years and are risking their personal health and safety every day on the job.

“The time has come for the nation’s railroads to be held accountable for their actions, and reconcile the long-term effects of their greed. The seven Class I railroads have raked in $146 billion in profits since 2015 while cutting 45,000 jobs in the same period.

“Quite simply, the facts are on our side and we look forward to the forthcoming recommendations of the presidentially-appointed arbitrators.”

In a joint statement in response to the Executive Order, the 13 rail unions stated: ‘The Rail Unions remain united in their efforts, and are now working together in preparation of a unified case representing the best interests of all rail employees before the Presidential Emergency Board. Our unified case will clearly show that the Unions’ proposals are supported by current economic data and are more than warranted when compared to our memberships’ contribution to the record profits of the rail carriers.‘ “

Background:

Upon the formation of the Presidential Emergency Board (PEB), the Railway Labor Act (RLA) imposes a 30-day status quo period during which the Board will receive written submissions and hold hearings, and the parties are not permitted to exercise self-help. The Board would be required to issue its report within 30 days of its appointment. Once the Board issues its report, the RLA mandates another 30-day cooling off period as the unions and the carriers attempt to negotiate an agreement based on the PEB’s recommendations. If no agreement is reached at the end of that last 30-day period, then all restrictions on self-help are removed. Therefore, under the RLA, if a PEB is created and no agreement is reached based on its recommendations, the parties could exercise self-help in mid-September. Congress could take action at this point and mandate the Board’s recommendations or extend the cooling-off period.

###

The 13 unions involved in the national rail labor contract negotiations are: the American Train Dispatchers Association (ATDA); the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen / Teamsters Rail Conference (BLET); the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees Division (BMWED); the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen (BRS); the International Association of Machinists (IAM); the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers (IBB); the National Conference of Firemen & Oilers/SEIU (NCFO); the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW); the Transport Workers Union of America (TWU); the Transportation Communications Union / IAM (TCU), including TCU’s Brotherhood Railway Carmen Division (BRC); and the Transportation Division and Mechanical Division of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, and Transportation Workers (SMART–TD and SMART-MD, respectively).

Collectively, these Unions represent approximately 140,000 railroad workers covered by the various organizations’ national agreements, and comprise 100% of the workforce who will be impacted by this round of negotiations. 

Pictured in the Governor’s office, left to right: Senator Carolyn McGinn (R); Mike Scheerer, LR Local 94; Troy Fansher, Local 1503; Governor Kelly (seated); Nick Davis, Local 527; Ty Dragoo, SLD Kansas; Chad Henton, ASLD Kansas; Kyle Brooks, Local 1503


In late April, members of the SMART Transportation Division joined Kansas legislators and Governor Laura Kelly at the state capitol in Topeka, where Governor Kelly officially proclaimed April 28th “A Day of Honor and Remembrance for Railroad Workers” in the state of Kansas.

Along with witnessing Kelly sign the proclamation, Mike Scheerer of LR Local 94 (Kansas City), Troy Fansher of Local 1503 (Marysville), Nick Davis of Local 527 (Coffeyville), Kansas State Legislative Director (SLD) Ty Dragoo, Alternate SLD Chad Henton and Kyle Brooks of Local 1503 joined the governor to discuss the vital role railroaders play in the state and in the nation at-large – as well as honor, recognize and remember the ultimate sacrifice some railroaders have made.

“Today reflects our ongoing relationship with Kansas’ government and the recognition that rail labor is vital to the state, and that we are appreciated,” Dragoo said. “It is a proud day for Kansas’ SMART Legislative Board.”

Dragoo also noted that Governor Kelly has been a steadfast champion of SMART TD members and all of rail labor throughout her time in state government. “She has proposed the two-person crew regulation and has been a steadfast wall of support when legislation is directed to harm our jobs,” he explained. “She has been there on every issue; she includes us in policy discussions, and we always have a seat in Kansas.”

The text of the proclamation is below:

WHEREAS, since the first railroad was chartered to carry freight and passengers in the United States in 1827, this nation’s railroads have been vital to the national economy and defense; and

WHEREAS, it is estimated that each American freight rail job supports 9 jobs elsewhere in the U.S. economy; and

WHEREAS, over one-fourth of all freight movement in ton-miles annually in this country occurs by rail, including many of the goods upon which Kansas residents and businesses rely; and

WHEREAS, thousands of passengers arrive, depart, and travel through Kansas on Amtrak passenger trains annually; and

WHEREAS, the rail lines crossing Kansas provide a vital transcontinental link facilitating the movement of this freight and these passengers; and

WHEREAS, the safe and efficient movement of the trains transporting this freight and these passengers
through Kansas is due foremost to the dedication, professionalism, and knowledge of those employees who are directly involved in train movements, including Train and Crew Dispatchers, Maintenance of Way personnel, Signal Maintainers, Mechanical personnel, and fully staffed two-person Train crews;

NOW, THEREFORE, I, LAURA KELLY, GOVERNOR OF THE STATE OF KANSAS, do hereby proclaim the day
of April 28, 2022, as

A DAY IN HONOR OF RAILROAD WORKERS.

CLEVELAND, Ohio (April 6, 2022) — The nation’s two largest railroad unions continue to gather allies and momentum as they oppose the imposition of precision scheduled railroading (PSR) tactics by Class I carriers that put safety and the health and lives of working people at risk.

SMART Transportation Division President Jeremy Ferguson, Association of Flight Attendants-CWA President Sara Nelson, President of the Air Line Pilots Association Capt. Joe DePete and Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen President Dennis Pierce meet April 4 at the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO Executive Committee session in Washington, D.C.

At the April 4 Executive Committee meeting of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (AFL-CIO TTD), a pair of airline unions pledged to support rail labor in the fight against unfair PSR-related practices such as BNSF’s “Hi-Viz” attendance policy, which requires rail workers to be available to work 29 of 30 days or risk being penalized. Additionally, the AFL-CIO TTD adopted language in its legislative agenda that encourages railroads to work together with rail labor to reconsider overly punitive attendance policies.

Capt. Joe DePete, president of the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), and Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, pledged to support rail labor in opposing egregious attendance policies. The airline union leaders also vowed to stand by rail labor in the current round of national contract negotiations. Railroad and airline unions are governed by the Railway Labor Act.

Despite record fiscal returns in 2021 and lip service on the part of Class I carriers showing appreciation for the “essential” job that rail workers performed to move goods and services 24/7 during the COVID-19 pandemic, the railroads have chosen to not treat their employees with dignity and fairness during negotiations.

“Supply-chain issues were highlighted in the news at the end of 2021, but the shelves were stocked. It’s not thanks to PSR — that’s resulted in the rail industry doing less with less while making more profit,” SMART-TD President Jeremy Ferguson and Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen President Dennis Pierce stated. “Employees’ rewards for their work through COVID-19 are that they are being subjected to degrading attendance policies at the expense of their health and family lives.

“These carriers have cut past the bone and are well through the marrow. Now they are scrambling to get people to run their trains,” the presidents said. “What is the incentive for our members who do not have scheduled time off — instead only hours when they cannot be called back into work? What’s the incentive for our members who get punished when life events happen? Thus far our members have been the recipients of nothing but insulting offers at the bargaining table.”

These practices have drawn the attention of media outlets such as Vice Magazine and UK’s The Guardian, as well as transportation labor at large. AFL-CIO TTD’s legislative agenda adopted April 4 states the following:

“Hi-Viz and similar policies serve to do nothing more than increase demands of an already exhausted workforce. For the dignity of these rail workers, their quality of life, and the safety of our nation’s freight railroad network, they must be abandoned and reconsidered.”

The leaders of SMART-TD and BLET will continue to work for intervention on the federal level, including at the Surface Transportation Board, Federal Railroad Administration, the Department of Transportation, the Department of Labor, Congress and in the White House itself, to stop in its tracks the dangerous and reckless nature of the path that the Class I rail carriers have chosen to take.

Also at the April 4 TTD Executive Council meeting, it was announced that five Republication U.S. representatives have contacted the BNSF Railway and encouraged its CEO to reengage with its operating unions to alter the highly-restrictive and punitive Hi-Viz attendance policy.

Read the TTD’s priority statement on rail attendance policies.

###

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 crafts in the transportation industry.

The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen represents nearly 57,000 professional locomotive engineers and trainmen throughout the United States. The BLET is the founding member of the Rail Conference, International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

CLEVELAND, Ohio (April 5) — Five Republican U.S. representatives have contacted the BNSF Railway and encouraged its CEO to reengage with its operating unions to alter the highly-restrictive and punitive “Hi-Viz” attendance policy.

From left, Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen President Dennis Pierce, U.S. Rep. Don Bacon of Nebraska and SMART-TD President Jeremy Ferguson meet April 4 at the Transportation Trades Department AFL-CIO Executive Committee meeting in Washington, D.C.

In a letter to Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) President Dennis Pierce, SMART Transportation Division (SMART TD) President Jeremy Ferguson and BNSF CEO Katie Farmer, the representatives encouraged a reengagement over the punitive policy, which docks employees for taking time off for medical appointments or funerals.

“We write today out of concern for BNSF Railway’s recently established absenteeism policy, called ‘Hi-Viz,’ and the growing number of resignations that have occurred since its implementation,” the representatives wrote. “Even a modest number of those resignations may pose additional stress to our already strained supply chain.”

Among the letter’s signatories were Rep. Don Bacon of Nebraska, who met with President Pierce and President Ferguson on April 4 at a meeting of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (AFL-CIO TTD) Executive Committee, the nation’s largest transportation labor coalition. Others signing included Brian K. Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, David McKinley of West Virginia, Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey and Chris Smith, also of New Jersey.

The Hi-Viz attendance policy requires rail workers to be available to work 29 of 30 days or risk being penalized. Thousands of well-paying unionized railroad jobs have been cut since implementation of the PSR strategy began in 2017. The Hi-Viz policy by BNSF and draconian attendance measures used by Class I railroads have led to additional attrition and a worker shortage as carriers try to undo the self-inflicted reductions they’ve made. President Pierce and President Ferguson said more than 700 BNSF operating employees have resigned since implementation of Hi-Viz on February 1, 2022.

The representatives concluded their letter by urging the BNSF to reengage in good-faith discussions with its unions to develop a more mutually acceptable attendance policy.

“We urge both sides to reengage in good-faith discussions to achieve a policy that works for all,” they wrote. “Only by working together can meaningful policies be developed, and mutual resolutions achieved … We view this as a crucial priority to maintaining a robust transportation system and a healthy supply chain.”

A PDF of the five representatives’ letter regarding Hi-Viz is available.

###

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 crafts in the transportation industry.

The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen represents nearly 57,000 professional locomotive engineers and trainmen throughout the United States. The BLET is the founding member of the Rail Conference, International Brotherhood of Teamsters

The BNSF “Hi-Viz” attendance policy drew the attention of the U.K.-based Guardian media organization March 14.

“We feel stabbed in the back, completely demoralized with the work we did through the pandemic, understanding the situation, going the extra mile, and doing what we’re asked to do, and then some without complaint,” an engineer for the Class I carrier told Guardian reporter Michael Sainato about the punitive points-based policy, described in the article as “arcane.”

Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO President Greg Regan also was quoted in the article as well:

“This is a policy that, frankly, is just blind to the moment,” he said.

SMART Transportation Division and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) are both members of the AFL-CIO TTD.

BNSF earned record profits last year and implemented the Hi-Viz policy on Feb. 1.

Read the full article.

FTA has not yet implemented worker safety provisions in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

WASHINGTON – Today, 20 labor organizations representing transit drivers and other transportation workers urged Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg and Federal Transit Administration (FTA) Administrator Nuria Fernandez to immediately implement the safety provisions in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) to protect transit workers from assault.

Four months after the passage of the BIL, the FTA has yet to implement these safety provisions. Meanwhile, transit workers continue to face danger on the job.

Assaults against transit workers have long been a concern but dramatically increased during the last three years of the pandemic, as did assaults on other frontline transportation workers like airline and airport workers.

Labor unions representing frontline transit employees have responded to this crisis over the years through legislative and regulatory measures, most recently securing several provisions in the BIL to protect transit workers.

Because of the BIL, the FTA is now statutorily required to collect accurate data on transit workforce assaults, to reform its Public Transportation Agency Safety Plan (PTASP) process to include worker voices and incorporate measures to reduce the risk of assault in every transit system, and to update its national safety plan to address the risk of assault and public health concerns.

The unions wrote: “Our members include bus and rail transit operators, station agents, car cleaners, mechanics and other frontline workers, all of whom are at risk of assault and worse each day they arrive at work. President Biden committed to protecting these workers and that promise was enshrined into law as part of the BIL. Before, and particularly during the COVID19 pandemic, these workers have laid their lives on the line every day to ensure Americans have access to safe, reliable transportation, and we must not turn our backs on them another day.”

Signers of the letter include the Transportation Trades Department of the AFL-CIO (TTD) and the nation’s largest transit unions, including the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU), Transport Workers Union of America (TWU), International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers–Transportation Division (SMART-TD), International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT), and Transportation Communications Union/IAM (TCU).

The letter was also signed by the following unions: Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), American Train Dispatchers Association (ATDA), Association of Flight Attendants–CWA (AFA), Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes–IBT (BMWED), Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen (BRS), International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW), International Brotherhood of Boilermakers (IBB), International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA), International Organization of Masters, Mates & Pilots (IOMM&P), International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT), National Conference of Firemen & Oilers, SEIU (NCFO), Office and Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU), and Professional Aviation Safety Specialists (PASS).

Read the letter here.