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.”

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.

The AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department, of which the SMART Transportation Division is a proud member, released the following statement on March 1 after President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address.

Greg Regan and Shari Semelsberger, president and secretary-treasurer of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD), issued the below statement in response to President Biden’s first State of the Union (SOTU) address to the nation.

“From the passage of the American Rescue Plan to the biggest investment in infrastructure in our nation’s history, the first year of the Biden Administration was a capstone year of legislative victories for transportation labor unions and working people.

“Chief among these legislative victories is the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL), a once-in-a-generation investment across every sector of our transportation network — and an unprecedented investment in workers. 

“We proudly represent 36 labor unions whose members will be put to work during the implementation of this historic legislation, ushering in a new era of manufacturing, construction, and transportation job creation. We applaud President Biden for putting union job creation and worker empowerment at the center of his governing agenda.

“We welcome the progress of the White House Task Force on Worker Organizing and Empowerment, which recently released a report outlining 70 recommendations to empower workers, including an initiative to increase worker awareness of their federally protected rights to organize and establish a resource center for information on unions and collective bargaining.

“We urge Congress to heed the President’s call to pass the Richard L. Trumka Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, which would help workers collectively bargain for better wages, benefits, and working conditions.

“We look forward to continuing to work with President Biden and the Administration to create good union jobs, invest in America’s transportation infrastructure, and expand collective bargaining for every transportation worker in the nation.”

The SMART Transportation Division joins transportation labor leaders nationwide as we mourn the untimely death of AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department President Larry Willis.
“Brother Willis was a tremendous leader who provided determined guidance, measured action and stood undaunted by the multitude of challenges transportation labor in our country faces now and will continue to face going forward,” SMART-TD President Jeremy R. Ferguson said. “Along with the other unions that comprise the TTD, we will miss his leadership, tremendous insight and experience. We are filled with sadness for his family and friends at his tragic loss and mourn along with them.”
On Nov. 30, TTD Secretary-Treasurer Greg Regan issued this statement of mourning and remembrance:
“With his wife and daughter by his side, AFL-CIO TTD president Larry Willis, 53, succumbed on Nov. 29 to injuries sustained on November 22 in a tragic biking accident.

AFL-CIO TTD President Larry Willis passed away on Nov. 29.

“We mourn today the shocking loss of a brother and fierce advocate for working people.
“The transportation labor family and the entire workers’ rights community lost a leader, activist, mentor, and friend when Larry Willis, president of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD), passed away yesterday.
“For more than 20 years, Larry dedicated his life to the labor movement, working tirelessly to enhance the rights and livelihoods of those who work on the front lines of our transportation system. In addition to serving as president, a position he was elected to in 2017, Larry also served as secretary-treasurer, chief of staff, general counsel, and legislative counsel and representative at TTD. His mastery of complex legal and regulatory issues set the foundation for TTD’s policy leadership, and raised the bar for demanding and enforcing worker protections throughout our nation’s transportation system.
“During his tenure at TTD, Larry faced some of transportation labor’s most daunting challenges. He met those and other crises head on, showing an unwavering dedication to working people and their unions, and a deep-seated desire to help those suffering from circumstances beyond their control. In the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks, Larry took on the insurmountable challenge of restoring our transportation industry and balancing the security needs of the country with the due process working people are entitled to, successfully securing protections in our laws that lie at the center of our homeland security regime. During the 2008 financial crisis, he played a pivotal role in shaping the largest economic stimulus package for transportation investments ever passed in the U.S. Even up until the week he left us, Larry continued to push for health care and economic assistance for those impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and acted as a steady reminder that recovery from this crisis is not possible without the essential functions performed by transportation workers.
“Larry’s advocacy style was straightforward and effective: forge meaningful relationships with leaders at all levels of government and across the political spectrum, build power through unity and find ways to work together to lift up all transportation workers. This approach is perhaps best exemplified in the 2018 FAA Reauthorization bill. Under a Republican-controlled Congress and White House, Larry’s leadership led transportation labor to endorse one of the most pro-labor FAA reauthorization bills in U.S. history.
“Millions of people have had their lives improved because of the work Larry did, yet most of those people will never know Larry’s name. For Larry, that didn’t matter. He was not motivated by fame or fortune – his end goal was always about doing the most good for the greatest number of people. Though his time with us has been cut short, Larry’s legacy will live on in the legislation he helped shape, the policy makers he reached through thoughtful, sophisticated arguments, the colleagues and staff he influenced and mentored, and the working people he dedicated his life to.
“Larry graduated from the University of Iowa with a B.A. in Political Science and earned a J.D. from the John Marshall Law School. He was an active member of the D.C. Bar. He loved Camp Echo, biking, traveling with his wife, cheering on his daughter at swim competitions, and playing tennis with his father. Larry is survived by his loving wife, Amy, and beloved daughter, Samantha.”
Click here for additional details about Larry’s life in this story from the Washington Post.
Click here for the official and service details.

Amtrak’s financial situation and the freight rail industry’s continued use of Precision Scheduled Railroading (PSR) practices were the focus of a U.S. Senate Commerce Committee hearing Oct. 21.
Amtrak President and CEO William Flynn repeated his plea for almost $5 billion in emergency funding to help the nation’s passenger carrier weather the continued downturn in ridership caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The carrier has made drastic long-distance service cuts, going from daily to three trips per week on many routes. Furloughs for almost 2,000 Amtrak employees are scheduled to take effect in November.
“Virtually all of the CARES Act money has been spent,” Flynn told the committee. “These workforce adjustments are essential with current financial funding.”
A number of legislative actions, including the HEROES Act and the INVEST in America Act, while passed by the U.S. House of Representatives, have been stalled by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in the GOP-controlled Senate. The emergency funding provided by such legislation would help the carrier rebound, Flynn said.
“Once the pandemic eases, Amtrak plans to grow,” he said.
A second panel featured a discussion of PSR.
Rudy Gordon, CEO of the National Grain and Feed Association, expressed concerns from a shipper perspective about the redeployment of furloughed railroad workers, saying that he fears delays in service and shipments on the part of rail carriers when the economy rebounds.
PSR has caused “a tipping point” at the expense of customer service, Gordon said, and said that if rail service erodes further at the expense of the carriers obtaining lower operating ratios (ORs) that the Surface Transportation Board should intervene.
Larry Willis, president of the AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department (TTD), of which the SMART Transportation Division is a member, offered written testimony concerning PSR.
“Across the sector, the pandemic continues to wreak havoc, threatening both the health and livelihoods of employees,” Willis stated. “At the same time, freight railroads, at the insistence of Wall Street investors and hedge fund managers, have pursued operating practices that undermine basic tenets of rail safety, ask frontline workers to do more with less, and threaten the reliable and efficient customer service that should be the hallmark of this industry.”
The lone labor representative invited to testify in person was Dennis Pierce, president of the Teamsters Rail Conference.
Other industry stakeholders appearing were:

  • Paul Tuss, executive director, Bear Paw Developing Corporation and Member, Montana Economic Developers Association
  • Frank Chirumbole, vice president global supply chain, Olin Corporation on behalf of American Chemistry Council
  • Kent Fountain, chairman, National Cotton Council
  • Ian Jefferies, president and chief executive officer, Association of American Railroads

Watch the hearing by following this link.