Brother Arin Johnson of SMART Local 194 (Elkhart, Indiana) kicked off his series of coalition building meetings in Cleveland, Ohio on Wednesday, May 3rd. Johnson’s vision of bringing members from multiple carriers together to discuss best practices and form a clear idea of what is and isn’t working in the railroad industry was a tall order, but after the first meeting last week, he is off to a great start.

This meeting brought roughly 80 men and women from SMART Transportation Division together and featured three State Legislative Directors, three General Chairmen, members from seven states and four railroads. SMART-TD President Jeremy Ferguson was in attendance and spoke to the crowd along with other representatives from the International.  

There was also an effort to reach out to the attendees of the meeting from two Ohio government leaders. The first was a recorded video message from Ohio State Senator Nickie Antonio, who sits as the ranking member of the Ohio Senate’s Transportation Committee, as well as the Ohio Select Committee on Rail Safety. The second was from United States Senator Sherrod Brown, who could not attend but sent a letter to the group that can be seen here. Both Senators Brown and Antonio emphasized in their messages that they share SMART-TD’s commitment to rail safety and that they are using their roles as legislators to bring about two-person crew minimums, regulations surrounding the use of wayside defect detectors and several other rail safety improvements.

President Ferguson’s message largely focused on continuing SMART’s current momentum. He started off by thanking Brother Johnson for putting the meeting together.

“It feels good to be on offense!” he added. “We are winning in Washington, DC. We are winning in state houses. We are kicking ass. Our members, local officers and general chairs are winning claims, you’re winning appeals, and you’re winning the confidence of our members.”

Before opening the floor to questions, Ferguson used the moment to emphasize the role that SMART-TD’s training curriculum plays in maintaining our momentum. “These training opportunities get our newer officers ready to properly conduct hearings and put together their appeals.”

He asked all the brothers in sisters in the room to use the training tools at their disposal: “Let’s get prepared to represent these guys right! Please take advantage of our Regional Training Seminars. Please jump on the website and use the SMART University to keep your skills sharp and up to date. These tools are important, and we owe it to every one of our members to get everything out of them that we possibly can.”

Brother Arin Johnson speaks at the coalition building meeting in Cleveland.,
Brother Arin Johnson speaks at the coalition building meeting in Cleveland.,

Following President Ferguson, SMART-TD’s Alternate Legislative Director Jared Cassity broke down the need for members of all rail carriers to put the pedal down on filling out Unsafe Conditions Reports and Technology Failure Reports. He emphasized the importance of this “ammunition” when he takes our fight to the halls of Congress and to each state’s legislators.

Following Brother Cassity, State Legislative Directors from Indiana, Michigan and Ohio took the floor, providing a detailed update on the advancements made in their state legislatures and their plans for what comes next in their states. Michigan SLD Don Roach and Indiana SLD Ken Edwards were wonderful examples of Brother Johnson’s vision for the sharing of best practices. Roach has recently played a large role in the successful overturning of the so-called “right-to-work” (RTW) law in his state. Edwards and other members of the Indiana labor community are in the process of taking that same fight to the state house in Indianapolis.

The conversations between these two SLDs was a great testimony to how effective this series of coalition-building meetings can be as Brother Johnson takes them across the country. Ohio SLD Clyde Whitaker discussed SMART-TD’s recent success in getting two-person crew legislation passed in the Buckeye State and what went into his approach for getting first-of-its-kind regulations put into Ohio law surrounding the regulation of wayside defect detectors. The outline of Brother Whitaker’s talking points are available here and may prove helpful to LR’s and SLD’s nationwide.

Many other topics were brought up by members who came to Cleveland. Among them was the decline in training programs being offered by the rail carriers, the delay in some carriers honoring their back pay obligations that came with the new contract Congress imposed in December, the utility position and crew consist agreements Union Pacific members are grappling with, and the universal question of how we are going to get attendance policies under control across all railroads.

Attendees of this kickoff meeting represented the states of Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, Pennsylvania, New York and North Dakota and included members working on CSX, Norfolk Southern, Canadian Pacific, and BNSF railroads. The diversity as well as the commonality of the experiences in the room made the meeting a huge success. SMART-TD owes a debt of gratitude to Brother Johnson, and we hope the rest of the meetings in your series are as productive as this one proved to be.

The SMART Transportation Division would like to remind members of the grassroots organizational meeting being led by Brother Arin Johnson of Local 194 (Elkhart, Ind.,) in Cleveland on May 3, 2023. 

SMART-TD International officers and staff have been invited to attend the meeting and will have representatives on hand to participate in the discussion being led by Brother Johnson. The meeting will begin at noon EST at the SMART Sheet Metal Local 33 Building 12515 Corporate Dr., Parma, OH, 44130.  

SMART-TD would like to clarify that the May 3 meeting in Cleveland is not part of the international’s training program. Rather, it is a coalition-building session organized and led by Brother Johnson, who has had success building on the best-demonstrated practices of the locals in Indiana through his meetings. TD leadership is supportive of his efforts and has encouraged him to expand the reach of his project to include meetings around the country. SMART-TD published an article on March 29 to promote the event and to give Johnson’s efforts a wider reach. 

SMART-TD is proud to organize and to lead a strong curriculum of educational and informational opportunities for our members around the country. These opportunities include Regional Training Seminars like those scheduled later this year Oct. 3-6 in Toledo, Ohio, and Nov. 6-9 in Davenport, Iowa. SMART’s annual Leadership Conference in Washington D.C. for general chairperson officers and state legislative board officers is scheduled July 30-Aug. 2. A slate of educational videos also is available through the SMART Member Portal 24-7 via SMART University

SMART-TD again thanks Brother Johnson for having coordinated this meeting and looks forward to seeing as many of you there as possible. 

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio, (Nov. 3, 2022) — The BLET and SMART-TD will host a joint town hall meeting next week to discuss the tentative national rail agreement. Members of both unions from all involved railroads are welcome to attend.

Details are as follows:

Time: 5:30 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 9

Location: BLET National Division Headquarters, 7061 E. Pleasant Valley Road, Independence, OH 44131

SMART-TD President Jeremy Ferguson and BLET National President Dennis Pierce will be in attendance to answer membership questions.

A flyer for the November 9 Town Hall meeting is available.

For those who cannot attend, a video recording of the Town Hall meeting will be made available in the members’-only areas of the unions’ respective websites following the event.

Dates and locations of additional meetings will be announced as available.

CLEVELAND, Ohio (April 21, 2020) – Unfortunately, due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, including the state of Ohio’s orders regarding distancing and banning meetings, we have had to cancel the 2020 SMART Transportation Division Regional Meeting.
Accordingly, please disregard the registration information printed in the February/March SMART Transportation Division News. That particular edition of the News was published prior to the decision to cancel.
For anyone who has already registered, you will be receiving a refund of the registration fees. Those who had registered electronically will have a full refund automatically returned to the card that was used to make their registration. If you paid for the registration by a method other than credit card, you will also receive a refund in the near future.
As a reminder, please note that members are responsible for the cancellation of their personal travel and hotel reservations.

Because of continued demand, a workshop has been scheduled in March to help local treasurers learn how to use TD Connect, the new eBilling system that also manages member records. Numerous workshops scheduled in late 2018 and early this year filled to capacity. Follow the link below to register.
Register online for the March 19-21 TD Connect workshop in Cleveland.
The workshop registration deadline is March 13, 2019.
A flier is available with additional information about accommodations and the workshops (PDF).
Attendees are responsible for arranging their own travel and hotel rooms. Visit this link for a list of discounts available in the area.
The workshop sessions will run from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. on all three days in the first-floor training room at the SMART Transportation Division office, 24950 Country Club Blvd., North Olmsted, Ohio.
For any additional information about the workshop, please call Alyssa Patchin at 216-227-5281 or email

Railroad bridge, ClevelandCLEVELAND –- Norfolk Southern owns the Conrail vertical lift railroad bridge, which is near the river’s mouth at Lake Erie, northeast of Willow Bridge.

This operational bridge, which fell under a Corps of Engineers bridge-replacement project in the 1940s, replaced an old, bulky swing bridge. Its span is 265 feet, and it stretches 98 feet above the Cuyahoga River. It remains a main rail-traffic thoroughfare.

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