Proposed rule: “Competitive Passenger Rail Service Pilot Program”

FRA_logo_words The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) in the Federal Register August 22. This proposed rulemaking from the FRA is a direct result of Section 11307 of the FAST Act which requires FRA to implement a pilot program for competitive selection of petitioners other than Amtrak to operate up to three long-distance routes currently operated by Amtrak. The final rule will establish the procedures for interested parties to submit bids and the information that petitioners must submit to FRA. It will also establish the procedures for the Secretary to evaluate bids, and select and notify selected petitioners, should there be any.

SMART TD, TTD and all of rail labor opposed this concept and other privatization mandates as the bill was going through the legislative process and fought to remove it or include conditions that would protect workers and create a level playing field if it ever went into effect. In the end, while the pilot provision stayed in the final bill, a number of conditions were attached to it at our request and it was limited to three long-distance routes. Given the political realities we face on the Hill and the opposition to Amtrak that exists, this was not an easy task. 

TTD submits comments on proposed rule TTD_Fotor

Yesterday, September 6, the Transportation Trades Department (TTD) of the AFL-CIO commented on the proposed rule published by the FRA. Click here to read TTD’s comments.

National Legislative Director John Risch on TTD’s comments:

Risch
Risch

“The comments filed by TTD urge FRA to ensure that labor, service and Buy America rules that attach to this program are fully implemented. Specifically, TTD’s comments call on FRA to ensure that so-called 4R rail employee protections cover workers impacted by this program. As TTD notes in their comments, we think the law requires this result, but we need to make sure the FRA implements this in the right way. I should note that Rich Edelman, on behalf of the BMWE (which was not included in TTD’s comments since they are not members) also filed comments. Edelman, who has a strong background in this area of the law, goes into more detail on the legal background on the protections which should be helpful. It is important to note that both TTD and Edelman’s comments are on the same page. (Click here to read Edelman’s comments.) They demand 4R act protections and our comments have a whole section that talks about why they are legally needed to be applied and specifically ask that the proposed regulations be amended to require any winning bidder be responsible for those protections. We also are asking FRA to issue guidance to adopt them to this situation.

“TTD’s comments also urge FRA to adopt hiring preferences and procedures for Amtrak employees and to ensure that any new entity is covered by rail laws just like Amtrak is today.   

“We all need to keep this in perspective. Amtrak receives preferential pricing from the Class 1’s to operate over their track, something the Class 1’s have for years decried as inadequate. A new entrant will not likely receive nearly as good an operating rate as Amtrak currently does. If there is a winning competitive bidder on any of these three routes they will only receive 90 percent of the funding that Amtrak currently receives to provide the service making the bidding process even harder.”

SMART TD Testifies before FRA

Today, September 7, the FRA held a public hearing on the proposed rule. SMART Transportation Division National Legislative Director John Risch was at the hearing and testified on behalf of SMART TD. Click here to read his comments.

  John Risch, SMART TD National Legislative Director, testifies at FRA hearing

“Donald Trump says he’ll make America great by being tough on trade, building things and creating jobs. Sure, it sounds good, but Trump is forgetting one thing: actions really do speak louder than words.
Not only has Trump failed to share any semblance of a plan for how he’ll do the things he so arrogantly brags about, but the GOP platform — which he now owns — is nothing more than a how-to manual for the destruction of the American middle class and our country’s transportation system. You’d think it can’t get worse, but it does” – Ed Wytkind, President, Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO. Read his complete column here.
 

By Larry I. Willis, AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department Secretary-Treasurer

Larry Willis
Willis

Unfortunately, the anti-growth, anti-government movement is alive and well. Heck, we have extremists in the GOP who think House Speaker Paul Ryan is too moderate.I had the honor last week of speaking to IBEW members at their Railroad Department and Government Employees Conference. I had a chance to talk about what is at stake in this election and the challenges we face as a country.
We need a president and a Congress who embrace what we know: that a strong, safe, vibrant transportation system will be the backbone of any economic expansion and the fuel to rebuild our shrinking middle-class.
Turning directly to who is now the presumptive Republican nominee, I pulled no punches:


“Donald Trump has tapped into an electorate that is frustrated, scared and sick and tired of Washington politics. His ability to register and connect with voters, even if limited to parts of the Republican base, shouldn’t be ignored. I can assure you we won’t ignore it. We know there are millions of voters who have been harmed by policies and economic conditions that are responsible for plant closures, reckless outsourcing and declining wages, and who might pull the lever for a candidate who promises to make our country “great again.” Our job is to explain that supporting working people is about more than making empty speeches. Supporting working families is about actually advancing a vision and prescribing solutions.
“At many levels, it really isn’t hard to understand the initial, visceral appeal Trump may have with people struggling in this economy. He talks a good game on trade but manages to sidestep the fact that his billionaire class is responsible for dotting the globe with sweatshops whose employees replaced workers here in America. He promises to build a wall on the southern border, a podium line that speaks to the feelings, maybe buried in the subconscious of some people, that it will prevent someone else, not from here, from taking their jobs and lowering wages. It is the classic blame game and Trump is all in with this strategy.
“Once you get past the bluster, Donald Trump is absolutely no friend of working families. While pretending to embrace an economic populist message, the billionaire told a national debate audience that wages in this country are “too high.”
“He claims that he has worked with unions, but he embraces completely the right-to-work agenda that we know would gut the labor movement and hollow out our ability to represent our members and secure good contracts. But I guess if you think wages are too high, it makes sense to destroy the only institution that can actually raise wages and bring collective strength to the bargaining table.
“He tells voters that when he is elected president, he will force Apple and Ford and Nabisco, among others, to bring their production back to the U.S. At the same time his own line of suits and ties are made in China and Mexico. I wonder if he’ll force the Trump Empire to produce those suits and ties in America.
“When workers at the Trump International Hotel in Las Vegas wanted a union voice, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) alleged that the hotel fired or threatened union supporters, suspended employees and maintained illegal rules that prohibited workers from talking to each other. So much for democracy.
“His anti-worker plank is bad enough, but it is his reliance on hatred, racism, chauvinism and xenophobia to support his agenda and to guide his vision for this country that should scare the hell out of us.
“We must reject bigotry and divisiveness from any candidate for any office, but especially from those auditioning to lead our nation. Making America great should be about rebuilding the country – its infrastructure, transportation system and public institutions – giving millions the chance at the middle class through strong unions, and embracing the diversity of this nation, not exploiting it to advance a dangerous agenda that would turn the clock back on decades of progress.
“Simply put, Donald Trump is not only unfit to be president, he represents a danger to our democracy that we cannot allow to stand.”


I also noted that it might be easy – given recent polling – to underestimate Donald Trump in a general election. Sixteen defeated Republican candidates made that mistake. The stakes are too high and the voters are too angry to take any election outcome for granted. We must do everything we can to make sure union members know the facts come November.
This article originally appeared on the TTD’s MoveAmerica Blog.

TTD_Fotor In a letter to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD), endorsed better oversight of curbside bus operators. In there letter, the TTD says “the passenger bus sector must be held to one standard of safety and curbside operators should not be allowed to operate unsafe vehicles, violate hours of service rule or avoid compliance with driver screening regulation simply because of where they pick up passengers.” Their letter to the FMCSA is on behalf of 32 affiliated unions, of which SMART is a part. Click here to read the letter.  

la_metro_busEd Wytkind, President of TTD, AFL-CIO, John Previsich, President of SMART Transportation Division and other union leaders have released a joint letter to Anthony Foxx, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), urging the DOT to issue a rule “to protect bus drivers and other transit operators from the physical assaults that are plaguing this industry.”
Read the complete letter, here.

afl_cio The San Diego Free Press reported that, at the winter 2016 AFL-CIO executive meeting in San Diego, the agenda suggested a growing emphasis on broad political actions like economic inequality and democracy in America. The big story from the meeting has been the decision not to make a presidential endorsement. Read the entire story here.

Wytkind
Wytkind
In a letter to the editor and published by The Hill, AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department (TTD) President Edward Wytkind warns that GOP presidential candidates want to devolutionize laws governing freight and passenger rail in the U.S. The candidates are in support of deregulating the current rail laws and funding and turning it over to each individual state to mete out transportation policy and funding. GOP candidates Ohio Governor John Kasich, Jeb Bush and U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (Fla.) have come out in support of devolution of transportation policy and funding. “…we must not accept candidates for president who fail to grasp the magnitude of this transportation investment crisis, and who advance policies that would make us a loser in the increasingly competitive global economy,” Wytkind said. “We need a vast transportation system that can deliver goods and people safely and with speed and precision, not some piecemeal experiment dreamed up by anti-government crusaders who can’t seem to get out of their own way.” Click here to read the full story from The Hill.

TTD_Fotor Yesterday (January 11), the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a case you may have heard about — Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association (CTA).

The gist of the case is this: many California public school teachers are members of CTA. Like all union members, California teachers can choose whether or not to join the union. However, when the majority of people vote to form a union (as is the case with California school teachers), the union is required by law to represent everyone in the workplace, whether that employee is a union member or not. Teachers who don’t want to belong to a union only have to contribute to the costs of the representation they receive. Because all teachers enjoy the benefits, job security and other protections the union negotiates, it is only fair that all employees contribute to the cost of securing those benefits and protections.

Pretty simple, right? Not so fast. Those challenging this common-sense system argue that simply paying fair-share fees is a violation of free speech.

So why should transportation workers across the country care about teachers in California?

  1. Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association (CTA) is an orchestrated, malicious attack on workers’ rights. This case isn’t just about teachers in California—it’s about weakening the rights of workers, specifically those employed in the public sector. The group behind the court case is the Center for Individual Rights, which has ties to greedy CEOs and wealthy special interests. If the court finds that teachers no longer have to pay fair-share fees (and sides with those wealthy extremists), teacher unions (and all other public sector unions) will lose considerable strength and leverage. By the way, if details of this case sound familiar to you, it’s because they are. The same special interests that backed Gov. Scott Walker’s attack on public sector workers in Wisconsin in 2011 are the same groups and individuals at play here.
  1. Many transportation workers are public sector workers. Transportation workers account for less than 3 percent of all public sector workers, but nearly 50 percent of those workers are covered by collective bargaining agreements. A bad decision by the Supreme Court could significantly weaken the power these workers have to stand up for basic workplace rights, like fair wages and safe working conditions.
  1. A bad decision by the Supreme Court will only make the rich richer. For far too long, America’s economy has unfairly favored the wealthy at the expense of ordinary people. Our middle class is shrinking and it’s getting harder to get by, let alone get ahead. If the Supreme Court rules in favor of the plaintiffs, things will only get worse. That’s because unions act as a check against corporate power. When unions are weak, corporate CEOs and wealthy individuals have more power to manipulate the rules in their favor and exploit working people.

Learn more by visiting http://americaworkstogether.us/ and by following #WorkTogether on Twitter.

This article originally appeared on the TTD’s MoveAmerica Blog, January 11, 2016.

TTD_Fotor $5.4 billion — that’s how much public transit agencies collectively spend on buses and trains each year.

U.S. public transportation authorities are using taxpayers’ dollars to employ Americans. Well, sort of — there’s a lot of room for improvement. Thanks to weak laws and procurement rules, taxpayer dollars all too often reward low-road companies that pay poor wages and routinely game our domestic content rules to manufacture just the minimum here in America.

That’s why transportation unions have long supported policies that raise domestic content standards for transit and rail purchases made with federal funds — the same kind of laws found in the recently passed Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act. In addition to being the first long-term, bipartisan surface transportation bill in a decade, the FAST Act raises Buy America standards for transit vehicles from a 60 percent minimum to a 70 percent minimum domestic content.

This is a great next step in our effort to beef up transportation manufacturing jobs, but we aren’t stopping now: the goal must be 100% domestic content for publicly funded transit and rail equipment orders. Unfortunately, changes to procurement laws alone aren’t enough to get us there. In fact, a new report by economist Robert Pollin and the Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) shows more can and needs to be done to ensure that investments in our nation’s transportation infrastructure help sustain domestic manufacturing and the millions of jobs the sector supports. The report, titled Strengthening U.S. Manufacturing Through Public Procurement Policies, focuses on railcar procurements, but its lessons can be applied to the broader Buy America program.

The report finds that:

  • 60 is the new 40. Under law, 60 percent of component production and 100 percent of final assembly of railcar manufacturing are supposed to happen in the U.S. However, as the authors show, for a variety of reasons, these standards amount to an overall requirement of only 40 percent domestic production.
  • Monitoring and enforcement standards are a weak link. Because few local transit agencies have adequate capacity to conduct audits in-house and public interest groups face major obstacles in obtaining relevant compliance information, the monitoring and enforcement of domestic content requirements leave much to be desired.
  • Too many waivers are still granted. Available evidence suggests that a significant number of domestic content waivers are being granted to contractors bidding on transportation procurement projects covered under Buy America. The good news? Under the Obama Administration, the wavier process has improved significantly. But there’s more work that needs to be done. The Department of Transportation needs to keep systematic records on waiver applications and decisions and to establish consistently high thresholds for granting waivers.

As the authors of the study point out, we must pair stronger laws with straightforward, effective measures that encourage public transportation agencies to consider the impact of their purchases here at home. Some of the plans outlined in the report — including changes to Request for Proposal (RFP) procedures — are the same kind of forward-thinking measures being pushed by the Jobs to Move America Coalition, of which TTD has been a member since 2013. They include incentivizing companies that bid on publicly-funded transportation equipment orders to describe the number and quality of jobs that would be created from a contract, and encouraging local transit authorities to select bids based on best value instead of just the lowest price. This new approach rewards employers that train their workers and make a genuine effort to hire people from disadvantaged populations including, for example, veterans and single mothers.

These kinds of smart procurement strategies act as a win-win for all parties involved: public transportation dollars help create good transportation manufacturing jobs here at home; transit agencies purchase high-quality, American-made components; and high-road manufacturers are rewarded for lifting labor standards and keeping buses and trains made in the USA.

Read the full report here.