CLEVELAND, Ohio, (February 8, 2022) — Yesterday, SMART-TD and the BLET filed their oppositions to BNSF’s request for the court to convert the January 25, 2022, Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) into a preliminary injunction. The unions each filed for their own preliminary injunctions against BNSF’s implementation of its new Hi Viz attendance policy last week on February 2.

SMART-TD and BLET continue to maintain that BNSF’s policy, issued in the midst of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and continuing supply chain issues caused in significant part by the nation’s railroads’ own cost-cutting measures, represents the epitome of corporate greed. This new policy will require employees to choose between going to work sick and spreading the COVID-19 virus to their co-workers and those co-workers’ families or face termination by BNSF, once more proving there is no shame amongst the modern-day robber barons like BNSF.

While SMART-TD and BLET will continue to abide by the court’s TRO, it will continue to use every legal means available to prevent BNSF from carrying on its unconscionable and illegal attendance policy. Additional information will be forthcoming as it is available.

A copy of the SMART-TD’s opposition to BNSF’s motion for preliminary injunction is available.

The appendix accompanying the SMART-TD filing is available.

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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 (Nov. 23, 2021) — The Transportation Division of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, and Transportation Workers (SMART-TD) and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) are challenging Amtrak over its actions in implementing its COVID-19 vaccine policy without the bargaining mandated by the Railway Labor Act. The unions filed suit today against the nation’s passenger railroad in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division.

The suit is similar to claims filed by the SMART-TD and BLET against Union Pacific (UP) and Norfolk Southern (NS) and the BNSF Railway (BNSF) regarding their vaccine policies. The unions have taken the position that Amtrak has no authority to unilaterally implement and enforce a COVID vaccination mandate among its employees, and that its actions in failing to negotiate terms of implementation violate the status quo requirement of the Railway Labor Act, thus engendering a major dispute.

SMART-TD President Jeremy Ferguson and BLET National President Dennis Pierce issued the following joint statement regarding their action:

“Amtrak has ordered all employees to submit proof prior to December 8, 2021, that they have received at least one vaccine shot, and submit proof by January 4, 2022, that they have received their final vaccine shot, or they will be subject to termination of employment. Amtrak is directly dealing with its employees instead of negotiating with us over its unilateral mandate.

“We have several objections to Amtrak’s unilateral implementation of its policies mandating them and illegally dealing directly with its represented employees. We will continue to fight on behalf of all SMART–TD and BLET members in an effort to stop Amtrak’s lawlessness in its tracks.”

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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 (May 27, 2020) — The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) extended safety waivers granted to the Association of American Railroads (AAR) and the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association (ASLRRA) in the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic recently, again favoring the material concerns of the carriers over the safety of America’s rail workers and of the general public.
The extension runs until the earlier of when the emergency declaration is lifted, or 60 days from letters dated May 21 to the AAR and ASLRRA by the agency governing safety on America’s railroads. The broad waivers concerning numerous safety regulations and training requirements were initially set to expire beginning May 24, 29 and June 9.
The leaders of two of America’s largest rail unions, the SMART Transportation Division (SMART-TD) and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET), objected to the lengthening of these waivers that they had described as “alarming” when first initiated.
“The agency continues a pattern of FRA appeasement to the carriers,” said SMART-TD President Jeremy R. Ferguson and BLET President Dennis R. Pierce. “Essential safety tasks once again are being deferred with regulators’ blessings while the agency could not be bothered to enact an emergency order to hold carriers accountable to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention minimum health and safety standards for employees during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The waiver extension, granted nine days after the AAR’s petition to renew, cover regulations governing:

  • Periodic track inspections
  • Training
  • Quick tie-ups
  • Locomotive and conductor certification
  • Territorial qualifications

Conversely, SMART-TD and the BLET jointly petitioned FRA to respond to the pandemic multiple times in March seeking emergency orders to improve working conditions and to better protect workers from potential infection by requiring carriers to adhere to basic CDC protocols. The agency, however, declined to put its full regulatory power on the side of protecting essential transportation workers.
“The continued pattern of rubber-stamping requests by carriers while unabashedly coming up short for the essential workers who have continued to show up and work through the pandemic shows where FRA’s priorities are,” the union presidents said.

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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 58,000 professional locomotive engineers and trainmen throughout the United States. The BLET is the founding member of the Rail Conference, International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

WASHINGTON, D.C. (March 22, 2019) – Two large railroad unions in the United States have pledged their joint support for the Safe Freight Act legislation introduced by U.S. Rep. Don Young (R – Alaska).
The Safe Freight Act (H.R. 1748) requires that two certified crew members operate freight trains on U.S. rails and has the backing of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers — Transportation Division (SMART TD) and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET).
“SMART Transportation Division has been working tirelessly to promote safety in the railroad industry, and there is no doubt that the only safe rail operation is one that includes at a minimum a certified conductor and a certified locomotive engineer,” SMART TD President John Previsich said. “A clear message must be sent to our lawmakers and to the general public that multi-person crews are essential to ensuring the safest rail operations possible in their communities. I would like to thank Congressman Young for his leadership on this critical issue as we continue to improve safety on our nation’s railroads for both our members and for the general public.”
“This is necessary safety legislation to protect railroad workers and the American public,” BLET National President Dennis R. Pierce said. “While the railroad industry talks of one-person train crews and even autonomous trains, the 2013 tragedy of Lac-Megantic is justification enough that we need two sets of eyes and ears in the locomotive cab.”
Recent well-publicized rail accidents in other nations involving trains with one or no crew members show how smaller crews increase the risk of catastrophe in railroad accidents.
In September 2018, an autonomous runaway TasRail train reached speeds of 31 mph before it derailed in the Tasmanian city of Devonport, injuring two people. The train had become unresponsive to remote control commands, including the train’s emergency stop feature.
On Nov. 5, 2018, a runaway BHP ore train of 268 cars with no one aboard reached speeds of 62 mph before it was forcibly derailed in Western Australia. The approximately 1.9-mile-long train loaded with iron ore was operated by a lone crew member who had left the locomotive to inspect an issue with the brakes when the train began moving.
And finally, an oil train with a single-person crew in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, Canada, rolled into the center of the town July 6, 2013, after its brakes disengaged. The resulting derailment touched off an inferno that killed 47 people and destroyed the town center.
In the United States, labor unions and others concerned with safety on the United States’ 140,000 miles of rail are seeking to prevent such events from happening. Legislation setting crew size at two people aboard has passed in five states. A two-person crew bill backed by both the SMART TD and BLET unions (H.B. 1034) was signed into law March 21 by Colorado Gov. Jared Polis.
“Automation of cars, buses, aircraft and trucks are being addressed by legislation and in regulation by the federal government and many states. It’s time the federal government provided some oversight on railroads,” SMART TD National Legislative Director John Risch said. “Congressman Young’s bill is a first step, and we thank him for his leadership on this. The safety of the public and our members depend on this.”
“Safety is non-negotiable, and this legislation is about railroad safety,” BLET Vice President and National Legislative Representative John Tolman said. “The members of the BLET and SMART TD are highly trained professionals who have dedicated their lives to performing their jobs as safely as possible, and we thank Congressman Young for his ongoing support and for introducing H.R. 1748.”
This national legislation introduced by Young, a longtime advocate of railroad safety, is a common-sense step toward making our nation’s rails safer for workers and the public alike. It has the full endorsement of both unions.
H.R. 1748 has been referred to the House Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials.

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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 different crafts, including as bus and commuter rail operators, 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 (Sept. 5, 2018) – The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) and the International Association of Sheet Metal Air, Rail and Transportation Workers Transportation Division (SMART TD) have filed a joint petition challenging actions of the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) that allow crews comprised of Mexican nationals employed by a Mexican rail company to operate trains across the United States border and into the U.S. instead of American crews employed by American railroads.
Since July 9, the FRA has allowed foreign crews from Kansas City Southern de Mexico (KCSM), a railroad based in Mexico and subsidiary of Kansas City Southern (KCS), to cross into the U.S. and run trains on the Texas Mexican Railway Company (“Tex-Mex”) line in Laredo, Texas. BLET and SMART TD maintain that this violates long-established federal laws and regulations regarding safety, training, crew qualifications and conduct of locomotive engineers and conductors operating freight trains in the U.S. The FRA is an agency of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), which also is named as a respondent in the petition.
“The Petitioners challenge this conduct as arbitrary and capricious, an abuse of discretion, in excess of the Respondents’ statutory authority and otherwise contrary to law,” the petition states.
There has been no order, waiver, public notice or documentation published by the FRA regarding the actions being challenged. The unions seek to set aside the agencies’ actions and to require that they divulge all internal records detailing the authorization of the practice, including the vetting of the non-U.S. crewmembers by FRA, and the decision to allow KCSM, a foreign company not incorporated in the United States, to operate across the border into this country.
“FRA’s conduct has generated significant safety concerns,” BLET National President Dennis R. Pierce said. “U.S. crews are held to the highest safety standards while crews coming in from Mexico are held to much lower standards in terms of certification, testing and operating experience. This degradation in safety is unacceptable. Beyond that, while American companies outsourcing jobs to foreign countries is nothing new, all Americans should be angered by this job giveaway on our own soil.”
“We deem it to be unsafe, we deem it to be a threat to American jobs. FRA has not been able to answer simple questions regarding certification and qualification of the foreign crews. Nor have they explained in any way how they plan to enforce American safety rules to hold the foreign crews to the same high safety standards that govern all American railroad workers,” SMART Transportation Division President John Previsich said. “We are not going to let FRA stand aside and ignore their responsibilities while a Class I carrier allows foreign crews to cross the border and jeopardize the safety of our members and the American public.”
The petition was filed in U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
Follow this link to view this release in PDF form.

On Friday, October 14, 2016, SMART Union united with the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET), Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees Division (BMWED) and the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen (BRS), in a joint statement to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) that voiced their collective opposition to a recent CSX petition requesting permission from the FRA to remove approximately 125 signals from a stretch of track in Michigan.
Citing reasons of crew safety and public safety, SMART Transportation Division (SMART TD) President, John Previsich and SMART TD Michigan State Legislative Director, Jerry Gibson, worked with SMART and SMART TD’s legislative offices and and leaders from the BLET, BWED and BRS in requesting that the FRA deny CSX’s request.
“Considering the number of residents, homes, schools and churches along this line, and the safety risk involved if these signals are removed, we oppose this request and ask the FRA to deny this wavier,” stated SMART Transportation Division President, John Previsich.
Gibson emphasized safety concerns and also connected the dots between the outcome of the presidential election and future decisions made by the FRA and other president-appointed federal industry boards.
“The SMART TD Michigan State Legislative Board opposition is based on the reason signal systems are put into place: Employee and public safety. As a former qualified engineer and conductor on this line, the territory has a winding path with poor long distance sightlines, making the operable signal system that is currently in place critical to crew and public safety.
“While many may not see the direct correlation between this issue and voting for those candidates endorsed by the SMART TD National Legislative office and State boards, it is a great example. The President of the United States appoints the Director of the Federal Railroad Administration, Surface Transportation Board, Railroad Retirement Board, Department of Labor, and Department of Transportation, to name a few – all of which have the power to determine if these requests are approved or denied,” he stated.
Gibson also added: “If we cast our vote in the wrong direction, the outcome of many issues that directly affect rail labor and their families with be compromised,”
To read the joint labor statement to the FRA, please click here.
 

Previsich
Previsich

SMART Transportation Division President John Previsich and Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) President Dennis Pierce, issued a joint statement, following their submission of their comments to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) on train crew size.
“Operating freight trains with one-person train crews is unsafe and must be prohibited. That is the message we delivered yesterday in the comments filed with federal rail safety regulators,” Previsich and Pierce said.
“Our comments provide a clear rationale for the FRA to finalize a rule this year and to close loopholes included in the agency’s initial proposed rule that could permit the limited use of one-person crew freight operations.”
Pierce, Dennis
Pierce

Click here to read the official press release from both unions.
Click here to read the comments submitted to the FRA, followed by the polling results of 11 individual states on two-person crews conducted by DFM Research on behalf of SMART TD (see page 18 for polling results).

Previsich_150_px
John Previsich, President, SMART TD

On Wednesday, June 15, SMART Transportation Division and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) submitted their joint comments on the Federal Railroad Administration’s (FRA) proposed two-person crew rule.
While both unions strongly support the proposed rule, they suggested in their comments that the rule be made stronger before being made final.
“We firmly believe that the only safe way to operate a train is with a crew of at least two people – a federally certified locomotive engineer and a federally certified conductor,” the unions emphasized.
Pierce, Dennis
Dennis Pierce, President, BLET

Click here to read the unions’ comments. Following the comments (on page 18) are the polling results of 11 individual states on two-person crews conducted by DFM Research on behalf of SMART TD.
Members, family, friends and communities can comment on the proposed rule until tonight at 11:59 p.m. eastern time and are encouraged to do so. Click here to comment.

Risch
Risch
In a joint letter, SMART Transportation Division National Legislative Director John Risch and Brotherhood of Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) National Legislative Representative John P. Tolman, submitted a letter to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) withdrawing their previous letter dated Jan. 12 requesting that the FRA make a final rule mandating uniform warning speed signs in advance of speed restrictions. Risch and Tolman still ask that speed signs be standardized in dimensions, conspicuity, color and distance ahead of a speed restriction, but are asking that this issue be presented to the FRA’s Rail Safety Advisory Committee (RSAC) first. Click here to read Risch’s and Tolman’s original letter dated Jan. 12. Click here to read the withdrawal letter dated Feb. 26.