Two years of pro-worker progress create jobs; SMART members directly benefit from new work opportunities

On Nov. 15, 2021, after years of political pressure from SMART and fellow unions, President Joe Biden signed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), now known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which will invest more than $1 trillion in our nation’s crumbling infrastructure. The law promises to create good union jobs and put SMART members into action, improving indoor air quality in schools and commercial and residential buildings.

The International Training Institute (ITI), National Energy Management Institute Committee (NEMIC) and Sheet Metal Occupational Health Institute Trust (SMOHIT) will all benefit from the passage of this legislation, as the law will bolster the need for training more SMART members.

The law promises to create good union jobs and put SMART members into action, improving indoor air quality in schools and commercial and residential buildings.

Specific parts of the legislation will directly impact the SMART workforce. Below are some of the highlights of the law and where growth is anticipated over the next five years:

Energy efficiency in public schools

Under the law, the Department of Energy (DOE) will have $500 million to run a competitive grant program for public schools to make energy efficiency improvements. This program aims to improve indoor air quality and make repairs or renovations that directly reduce energy costs on school grounds.

In addition, states have been allocated funds to enhance energy security, advance energy initiatives and maximize the benefits of energy efficiency. Through additional grant programs, states are encouraged to establish initiatives to conduct commercial or residential energy audits or upgrades and retrofits.

Efficient building envelopes, testing, adjusting and balancing (TAB) and indoor air quality will be instrumental in retrofitting school buildings and new construction projects.

TAB technicians and supervisors needed

The Energy Auditor Grant Training Program will provide funding — up to $2 million per state — to train individuals to conduct audits or surveys on commercial and residential buildings. Training centers that do not already offer TAB should look to pair up with their state to apply for these grants or contact the ITI for assistance.

Opportunities to change local building codes

A total of $225 million has been designated for a competitive grant program within the Building Technologies Office to enable sustained, cost-effective implementation of updated building energy codes. This funding is designed to be distributed over five years, averaging $45 million per year.

These grants are available to states and tribal governments — either alone or in partnership with local building code agencies, codes and standards developers, relevant professional organizations, local and utility energy efficiency programs or consumer advocates. The overarching goal is to help understaffed and underfunded local governments upgrade their building codes to the most up-to-date energy efficiency standards.

New markets and emerging technologies

Building information modeling (BIM) will be more important than ever. Experts are predicting that connected construction technologies like BIM will drive the construction industry in the future. A larger integration of modularization and prefabrication in the design and build process is at the forefront.

The law will open new markets for SMART members and present new challenges in the training and deployment of those members. Over the next five years, we will all need to work together to press for funding for our registered apprenticeship programs.

We have a substantial opportunity to change and update building codes at the local, state and national levels. And we have a once-in-a-generation chance to put more members to work.

Safety is paramount

When the initial hiring begins, a labor shortage is anticipated. One of the main concerns with filling a large labor gap is doing so in a safe manner. SMOHIT and the ITI have created training and have the resources needed for work to be completed correctly and safely.

Moody’s Analytics, an economic research company, projects that the law’s peak labor force impact will occur in the fourth quarter of 2025, when there will be 872,000 more jobs as a result of the law. Of those jobs, about 461,000 are expected to be in construction; 227,000 in manufacturing; 75,000 in transportation and distribution; 35,000 in government; and 73,000 in other industries.

Apprenticeships will be more important than ever as the law is implemented. While we have the tools to train the next generation of sheet metal workers, we need the companion Build Back Better legislation to provide more funding for training. If you haven’t done so already, contact your senators and tell them to pass the Build Back Better Act.

It is time to get to work rebuilding America’s infrastructure.

SMART TD hosted a round-table in January 2022 at the University of Kansas Medical Center campus with U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, local elected officials, labor leaders and community members to spotlight how the bipartisan infrastructure law will create local jobs and spur economic growth across Kansas’ Third Congressional District, including in communities that are frequently overlooked.

The group was later joined by Kansas Department of Transportation Secretary Julie Lorenz, Kansas City Mayor Tyrone Garner, Rep. Sharice Davids and Secretary Buttigieg at the Rock Island and Cesar Chavez Bridges for an event highlighting the bridges’ complementary purposes as infrastructure and economic projects in the Kansas Third. Among the attendees were local labor and business community leaders, elected officials and transportation authorities.

“The bipartisan infrastructure law is innovative legislation that will bring thousands of jobs to the state of Kansas.”

– SMART TD Kansas State Legislative Director Ty Dragoo

“The bipartisan infrastructure law is innovative legislation that will bring thousands of jobs to the state of Kansas,” said SMART TD Kansas State Legislative Director Ty Dragoo. “My organization is uniquely qualified to reap its benefits because we are the men and women that physically transport the products created by our great unions and building trades. We are moving from the great resignation to the great innovation. From SMART members building new HVAC systems for our nation’s schools and hospitals, to SMART TD members transporting the much-needed resources to build and innovate this country: We get it done! Representative Davids was there when this much-needed legislation was drafted, and she voted to pass it into law. I am proud of both her and Secretary Buttigieg’s work to high-light the new law’s benefits.”

“It’s no accident when federal agencies call on our state directors to be at the table when these events happen,” added Dragoo. “Our legislative team is second to none in D.C. Director [Greg] Hynes and Alternate Director [Jared] Cassity are making great connections and advancing our cause in Congress. It’s proof when we get these calls: SMART is a key stakeholder in D.C. and throughout the country.”

US Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg in Kansas City. Photo by Christopher Smith for the USDOT.

After years of false starts, President Biden signed America’s most impactful infrastructure bill in its history.

Delivered on bipartisan votes in both the Senate and House of Representatives, the Infrastructure Bill will provide $1.2 Trillion in infrastructure funding over the next five years. To highlight the importance of SMART members, and the labor movement in this bill’s passage and our importance in rebuilding and transporting people and goods in America, the President invited and spoke with 5 rank and file SMART members from the transportation and sheet metal industries who joined me at the signing ceremony. It was a proud and historic day which symbolically kicked off years of new work opportunities and revitalized transportation network for future Americans.

The bill can create jobs for existing SMART members and spur new union jobs, which will help us grow the power of union.

The bill includes over $1 billion in funding for Indoor Air Quality for schools along with commercial and residential buildings that can be used for badly needed HVAC upgrades.  There is also funding for thousands of electric school buses to help school districts across the country buy clean, American-made, zero emission buses that will create more jobs for SMART members employed not only in their production, but also in their operation.

The bill includes over $1 billion in funding for Indoor Air Quality for schools along with commercial and residential buildings that can be used for badly needed HVAC upgrades. 

The legislation also invests $25 billion in airport and $17 billion in port infrastructure a to not only address repair and maintenance backlogs, but invest in keeping America’s supply chain moving to ensure goods are delivered with speed and efficiency to market. 

And all of this will be done with funding conditional on the use of American made products and material – an important diversion from the past, where government purchases and toothless Buy America enforcement undermined American workers and jobs.

SMART members in the transportation industry are also one of the key winners, with Amtrak’s annual appropriations doubled along with an additional $3 billion for badly needed railroad crossings; $36 billion for Regional Passenger Rail, $16 Billion for Amtrak’s National Network, and important progress on bus and transit operator safety with public transportation agencies ordered to enhance safety plans, safety training, and procedures to reduce assaults on vehicle operators.

Brothers and sisters, this has been a long time coming.  We have seen a tidal wave of the Biden Administration  pro-labor and pro-worker developments in the past year.  From the passage of the Infrastructure and Investment Act, to the American Rescue Plan to critical pension relief and to all the progress made in between, America’s workers have been the direct beneficiaries of the change that has come to Washington.  We accomplished this because we stood together for bread and butter working family issues.

There is still much work to be done.  We must work together at the federal, state and local level to make sure the promise of the Infrastructure and Investment Act is realized in our communities. This means we’ll need to work with our policy makers on implementation to help make sure the funding comes to truly create good, union jobs.

Let’s continue to stand together as we work to expand on the progress made through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill.  We still have the chance to add millions of new sheet metal  and transportation hours with the addition of thousands of jobs through the Build Back Better Act along with critical labor law reform that is long overdue.  Text the word PASS to 67336 (message and data rates may apply) to let your Senators know that now is the time to continue to put the needs of working families first by passing the budget reconciliation bill.

Thank you and please stay safe!

Fraternally,

SMART General President Joseph Sellers, Jr.

President Joe Biden signed on Nov. 15 the Infra­structure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) that will expand work opportunities for Union sheet metal workers rebuilding America’s schools and public buildings as well as boost U.S. passenger rail service, lead to improved safety measures for bus and transit operators and adjust how freight rail safety is han­dled by the Federal Railroad Administration.

The bill provides $1.2 tril­lion in funding for infrastruc­ture, with a large proportion of the funding going directly to the industries SMART represents. This bill=union jobs for SMART members.

“Our union was proud to stand with President Biden today to sign this historic bill into law. It will create an unprecedented number of good, union jobs and put SMART sheet metal workers to work improving indoor air quality in our schools and in commercial and residential buildings. It also makes long-overdue railroad safety improve­ments and will help school districts across the country buy clean, American-made, zero-emission buses that will drive demand for the prod­ucts and services provided by SMART members,” union leadership stated after the bill’s signing, which was attended by SMART General President Joseph Sellers as well as five members from across the mid-Atlantic who were invited to the ceremony.  These included  SMART TD D.C. Legislative Director Jarad Jackson of Local 1933 (Washington, D.C.), SMART TD Local 610 (Balti­more, Md.) Chairperson Michael Harbin, Kalima Ramsay from SM Local 100 (Washington, DC), along with fellow Local 100 members Mike Moran and Rolando Javier Montoya Garzona.

President Biden made one of his principal promises the pledge to rebuild America’s infrastructure after years of neglect. This legislation proves his Administration is delivering on this promise. However, this is only the start.

Now we’re working with his administration to implement the bill. Every SMART local must work at the local and state level to help with implementation of the bill to secure the work and make sure funding from the bill results in jobs for SMART members.

And there is the potential for even more union jobs. Another $1.75 infrastructure bill is pending that would deliver thousands of additional jobs. It’s now up to all of us to do our part to make sure Congress acts and passes this second bill quickly. America should have world-class infrastructure built by skilled union workers and it must be done quickly so the nation can catch up to its competitors on the global stage and once again set the precedent other nations follow. Text the word PASS to 67336 to let your Senators know the importance of investing in America’s workers by addressing the nation’s infrastructure. (message and data rates may apply).

Important Highlights of This Historic Infra­structure Investment and Jobs Act and How It Impacts SMART Members are Listed Below:

  • Energy Efficiency & HVAC upgrades:
    • $250 million to be used for energy efficiency revolving loan fund, which can be spent on indoor air quality in commercial and residential buildings.
    • $50 million for an energy efficiency pilot program for non-profit buildings to conduct energy efficiency upgrades, including HVAC systems.
    • $500 million for school energy efficiency that can be used to upgrade ventilation.
    • $40 million for an energy audit training program to train individuals to conduct energy audits or surveys of commercial and residential buildings.
    • $250 million in grants for federal buildings to improve energy performance targets.
  • Electric school buses:
    • $5 billion for the replacement of existing school buses with zero emission and clean school buses
  • Registered apprenticeship/workforce development:
    • $10 million for career skills training programs where students concurrently receive classroom instruction and on the-job training for the purpose of obtaining an industry related certification to install energy efficient buildings technologies.
    • $15 million for a pilot program to restore, retrofit and construct eligible transportation facilities. The grants should employ residents impacted by the project through targeted hiring programs, in partnership with registered apprenticeship programs and contract and subcontract with disadvantaged business enterprises.
    • Requires at least 5% of grants for buses and bus facilities is used for workforce development, including registered apprenticeship programs.
    • $550 million for industrial research and assessment to maximize energy efficiency. Registered apprenticeship programs qualify to receive the funding.
  • Transportation funding:
    • $6B for Northeast Corridor Grants
    • $16B for the National Network
    • $36B for Fed-State Partnership for Intercity Passenger Rail, with $24B set aside for the Northeast Corridor
    • $5B for CRISI
    • $3B for Railroad Crossing Elimination Program
    • $50M for Restoration and Enhancement
  • Amtrak Reforms:
    • Amtrak Mission Statement, Sec 22201: Amtrak’s mission is modified to better reflect the primary goal of providing quality service, including eliminating references to “justifying expending public money.”
    • Amtrak Food and Beverage, Sec, 22208: Eliminates harmful language on food and beverage revenues that stunted growth of Amtrak on board options and sought to ultimately reduce or eliminate on board service and creates a new food and beverage working group that includes labor participation.
    • Amtrak Quality Jobs, Sec 2213: Prohibits contracting out of work if employees who can perform that work are currently furloughed.
    • Station Agents, Sec. 22203: Requires Amtrak to staff station agent positions at stations that receive certain levels of traffic.
    • Critical Incident Stress Plans, 22424: Amtrak and commuter rail employees who are victims of assault must now be covered by critical incident stress plans, and the benefits and protections provided by such plans.
    • Long Distance Trains, Sec. 22210: Increases the difficulty for Congress to eliminate a long-distance route.
  • Rail Safety:
    • Train Length, Sec. 22422: Requires a National Academies study on the safety of trains longer than 7,500 feet.
    • FRA Reporting Requirements, Sec. 22421: requires FRA accident reports to include information on train length and number of cars as well as the size of the crew on board. Additionally, increases transparency for regulatory waiver requests, including requested suspensions of rules.
    • FRA Accident and Incident Investigations, Sec. 22417: DOT must create a process to better involve stakeholders, including rail labor representatives, in its investigations.
    • PTC Failures, Sec. 22414: requires a quarterly report on failures and functions of positive train control technology. This includes cutouts, malfunctions, and enforcements where an accident was actually prevented.
  • Buy America Provisions:
    • Limit federal financial grants to infrastructure projects that only use iron, steel, manufactured products, and construction materials that are produced in the U.S.
    • Direct the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to establish a Made in America Office that President Biden established with an executive order in January.
    • Require the Secretary of Commerce, the United States Trade Representative, and the Director of OMB to assess impacts of all U.S. free trade agreements, World Trade Organization Agreements on Government Procurement, and federal permitting processes on the operation of Buy American laws and include their impacts on the implementation of domestic procurement preferences within 150 days.
    • Require the OMB Director along with the Federal Acquisition Regulatory (FAR) Council, to issue guidance to standardize how federal agencies comply with and enforce the Buy American Act within one year.
    • Include a Sense of Congress that the FAR Council should increase the domestic content requirements for domestic end products and domestic construction material to 75%, or in the event of no qualifying offers, 60%. President Biden issued an executive order that aligns with this provision in January. In addition, there was a notice of proposed rulemaking in July, to gradually raise the domestic content threshold from 55 to 75% over five years.
    • Establish a centralized online hub (BuyAmerican.gov) that would contain information on all waivers and exceptions to Buy American laws that have been accepted, requested, or granted to increase the transparency of the waiver process.
    • Make the Buy America requirement permanent for Drinking Water and Clean Water State Revolving Funds (DWSRF), a program that provides loans and grants to fund water infrastructure improvements. $23.4B for DWSRF is provided in the bill overall.

A recently released report from the Economic Policy Institute finds that decades of attacks on collective bargaining have been a driving factor behind depressed wage growth for working Americans over the last four decades, regardless of their union affiliation. The inability for workers to join or form a union at work, due to roadblocks enacted by a series of conservative courts and hostile Congresses, has only exacerbated this issue.

According to the report, the decades-long erosion in union membership has lowered the median hourly wage by $1.56, a 7.9% decline since 1979. When applied to a year’s wages, this comes to $3,250 annually for a full-time worker. Another study from the same group found that workers would be making $10 more an hour if their wages had kept up with increases in productivity during the same 40-year period.

The good news is this trend can be reversed, and there are serious efforts now underway by pro-labor elected officials to do exactly this. If you are reading or watching the news, you would imagine that what matters to your financial wellbeing is the last thing anyone on Capitol Hill is thinking about. The truth is that the results of the last Presidential election gave labor a seat at the table, where for years working family issues had been sidelined. With the focus in the media on sensational and divisive topics, one important story missing has been the renewed focus on rebuilding the American middle class.

The truth is that the results of the last presidential election gave labor a seat at the table, where for years working family issues had been sidelined.

Americans already saw the passage of the American Rescue Plan back in March. This legislation brought new job opportunities, now and into the future, for our SMART union families. It not only boosted jobs but retirement security as well, with $86 billion in funding for multiemployer pension plans. New child tax credits for working families and elements of the pending infrastructure package will not only increase funding for registered apprenticeship programs, apply labor standards and put members to work building schools and ensuring the quality of the air that our school children breathe, but will also add elements of badly needed labor law reform that will level the playing field for working families. This includes actual sanctions for companies that interfere with their employees’ rights to organize, from $50,000 per offense to $100,000 and punitive penalties for executives that encourage this unlawful behavior. Additionally, via the infrastructure package, Congress would reinstate the tax deduction for union dues with a $250 cap—an important provision for union workers that the Trump administration removed in 2017. These are significant steps forward and why SMART is fighting hard for Congress to pass the infrastructure package.

These important changes will play a big part in turning the tide for workers and collective bargaining. They will strengthen our unionized presence, enforce the fact that it is the workers’ right to organize and close the gap between where America’s wages are and where they should be.
It took decades of attacks from anti-labor legislators and courts to get us to where we are today. It will take some time to improve the state of collective bargaining to where we can rebuild America’s middle class and make sure opportunity is available to all who seek to achieve it. The responsibility continues with each of us.

Fraternally and in unity,

Joseph Sellers, Jr.
General President

Alaska Railroad could get an extension into Canada, pending the approval of a permit from President Donald Trump, reports the Anchorage Daily News.
In the proposed project by the Alberta to Alaska Railway Development Corporation (A2A), 1,700 miles of track would be built in a plan to make it easier for goods to travel to and from Asia by linking the Canadian rail network to Alaska’s Port MacKenzie. If approved, A2A plans to raise the money needed for the $17 billion project and does not intend to seek any state funding.
The plan’s proponents say that the route would cut two days of transport time for goods to Asia and relieve congestion at ports on the U.S.’s West Coast, the Daily News reported.
A presidential permit is required for all cross-border infrastructure.
Click here to read more from the Anchorage Daily News.

On Monday, July 10, 2017, U.S. Congressmen from the State of New York, Rep. Tom Suozzi (D) and Rep. Peter King (R), addressed SMART TD members and officers at the Eastern Regional Meeting in New York City, Suozzi at the morning opening session and King at the lunch reception.

Although new to Congress, Suozzi served for many years as mayor of his hometown and later as a county representative, with a long-time focus on working families and labor issues.

Rep. Suozzi addresses SMART members attending the N.Y. Regional meeting during Monday’s opening session.

“The transportation industry, your industry, built America. The American dream is slipping away and too many working families have been left behind, but there is hope,” Suozzi said.

“How can we rebuild a strong, vibrant middle class? The hope is reflected in this room, in the power of strength in numbers, organizing and working together to move our infrastructure forward, create new jobs and maintain a strong union base, that is how,” Suozzi said.

At the lunch reception, Republican Congressman Peter King, who represents the Long Island, N.Y. region, vowed that his longtime advocacy of transit and rail labor issues, including his staunch support of minimum two-person crew mandates, will not wavier.

“I am proud to stand with you. I will do everything in my power to work with labor to get the job done, to protect your jobs and to protect your interests,” King said.

He added that transportation, including bus, rail and air, remains at the heart of the economy, and the hope for the future of working men and women.

“I will continue to work with SMART TD, with labor leaders and with elected officials on both sides of the aisle, to move America’s infrastructure upgrades forward, and to work together to protect and grow our nation’s transportation jobs. SMART TD is stronger than ever, and together, we will make sure that our jobs are protected,” King said.

SMART TD honors Representative King with Brass Lantern Award

SMART TD President Previsich (left) presents Rep. King with a commemorative brass lantern.

At the closing of the lunch reception, John Previsich, SMART TD president, presented Rep. King with the coveted Brass Lantern Award, on behalf of SMART TD.

“The Brass Lantern is not awarded often, and is presented to those rare individuals who have never waivered in their commitment to the issues and concerns of our membership. We are pleased to recognize Congressman Peter King as a recipient of the Brass Lantern Award, that recognizes his efforts, and we look forward to our continued partnership,” Previsich said.

 

Pictured from left: General Secretary-Treasurer Rich McClees, SMART TD Vice President John Lesniewski, SMART General President Joe Sellers, SMART TD President John Previsich, Rep. Suozzi, SMART TD Alternate Vice President Anthony Simon, National Legislative Director John Risch and N.Y. State Legislative Director Sam Nasca.

 
Pictured from left: General Secretary-Treasurer Rich McClees, SMART General President Joe Sellers, SMART TD President John Previsich, SMART TD Alternate Vice President Anthony Simon, Rep. King, SMART TD Vice President John Lesniewski, N.Y. State Legislative Director Sam Nasca and National Legislative Director John Risch.

New trainsets to enter service in 2021; Station upgrades and improvements for track capacity and ride quality among infrastructure upgrades

amtrak_w_shadow_150px WASHINGTON – Amtrak is contracting with Alstom to produce 28 next-generation high-speed trainsets that will replace the equipment used to provide Amtrak’s premium Acela Express service. The contract is part of $2.45 billion that will be invested on the heavily traveled Northeast Corridor (NEC) as part of a multifaceted modernization program to renew and expand the Acela Express service.
“Amtrak is taking the necessary actions to keep our customers, the Northeast region and the American economy moving forward,” said Amtrak President & CEO Joe Boardman. “These trainsets and the modernization and improvement of infrastructure will provide our customers with the mobility and experience of the future.”
The new trainsets will have one-third more passenger seats, while preserving the spacious, high-end comfort of current Acela Express service. Each trainset will have modern amenities that can be upgraded as customer preferences evolve such as improved Wi-Fi access, personal outlets, USB ports and adjustable reading lights at every seat, enhanced food service and a smoother, more reliable ride.
This procurement comes as demand for Acela Express service is as popular as ever, with many trains selling out during peak travel periods. The new trainsets will allow for increased service including half-hourly Acela Express service between Washington D.C. and New York City during peak hours, and hourly service between New York City and Boston.
“As more people rely on Amtrak, we need modernized equipment and infrastructure to keep the region moving,” said Chairman of the Amtrak Board of Directors Anthony Coscia. “These trainsets will build on the popularity and demand of the current Acela Express and move this company into the future as a leader in providing world-class transportation.”
The new trainsets will operate along the Washington – New York – Boston Northeast Corridor initially at speeds up to 160 mph and will be capable of speeds up to 186 mph and thus will be able to take advantage of future NEC infrastructure improvements.
Additionally, the trainsets use the base design of one of the safest high-speed trainsets. Concentrated power cars, located at each end of the trainset, provide an extra buffer of protection. The trainsets will also meet the latest Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) guidelines including a Crash Energy Management system.
“The next generation of Acela service will mean safer, faster and modern trains for customers throughout the Northeast,” said U.S. Senator Charles Schumer. “This investment will pay immediate dividends for businesses and travelers from Washington D.C. to Boston, and the fact that these new trains will be built in Upstate New York makes this project a win-win. These New York-made Acela trains will soon be zipping along the Northeast Corridor and – as a regular customer – I can’t wait for my first ride.”
“The Northeast Corridor is a national economic engine that carries a workforce contributing $50 billion annually to the national GDP,” said U.S. Senator Cory Booker. “Amtrak’s continued investment in modernizing its fleet will only serve to enhance this vital rail link between Boston and Washington D.C. while allowing for safer and faster travel at a time when passenger demand is expected to rise. Strengthening our nation’s infrastructure is essential to the economic growth of our region and the nation and this investment by Amtrak will help ensure the reliable service travelers expect.”
Amtrak is funding the trainsets and infrastructure improvements through the FRA’s Railroad Rehabilitation & Improvement Financing program that will be repaid through growth in NEC revenues.
“Amtrak is grateful for all of the support we have received from Congress, especially from Sen. Schumer and Rep. Reed who represents Hornell, New York – home of the Alstom facility,” said Boardman. “We would also like to thank Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Thune and Ranking Member Nelson and House Transportation Committee Chairman Shuster and Ranking Member DeFazio for their leadership on the FAST Act. Additionally, we appreciate the efforts of Senators Booker and Wicker for their support on the inclusion of the rail title, the first time Amtrak reauthorization has been included in surface transportation legislation.”
In addition to the trainsets, Amtrak is also investing in infrastructure needed to improve the on-board and station customer experience that will accommodate the increased high-speed rail service levels.  Amtrak will invest in significant station improvements at Washington Union Station, Moynihan Station New York, as well as track capacity and ride quality improvements to the NEC that will benefit both Acela Express riders and other Amtrak and commuter passengers.  Amtrak will also modify fleet maintenance facilities to accommodate the new trains.
The trainsets will be manufactured at Alstom’s Hornell and Rochester, N.Y., facilities, creating 400 local jobs.  Additionally, parts for the new trainsets will come from more than 350 suppliers in more than 30 states, generating an additional 1,000 jobs across the country.
The first prototype of the new trainsets will be ready in 2019, with the first trainset entering revenue service in 2021. All of the trainsets are expected to be in service, and the current fleet retired, by the end of 2022.
High-resolution photos, a video, fact sheet and other materials are available here.

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.

Previsich
Previsich

On December 3, 2015, Congress passed H.R. 22, the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (FAST ACT) by overwhelming bipartisan votes of 83 to 16 and 359 to 65 in the Senate and House respectively. The legislation is the first long-term surface transportation reauthorization in a decade and provides funding and policy changes for our nation’s highways, mass transit and rail systems. This landmark legislation includes a number of SMART TD policy priorities, many of which are outlined below.

“I’m very pleased with the legislation overall compared to some of the original proposals. The legislation was modified in both houses and in the conference committee to correct many of the harmful issues facing our membership,” SMART TD President John Previsich said.

“Our National Legislative Director John Risch and his team, working with other unions and allies did a stellar job on a very complex 1300-page piece of legislation that was passed through a very complicated legislative process.

John_risch_thumbnail_web
Risch

“In difficult economic and political times, an effective legislative department makes all the difference and we have one of the best in the business.”

“Considering the makeup of the Congress, overall we are pleased with the policy provisions in this legislation, and that the law covers five years of authorization,” said Risch. “However, we are disappointed that much of the funding came from non-user fees. Freight railroads alone fund their own track and infrastructure. Using general funding for highways puts railroads at a competitive disadvantage because trucks are not paying their fair share of costs for highway construction and maintenance.”

Provisions to protect transit members from assault
  • Section 3022. Improved Public Transportation Safety Measures
  • This much-needed section will better protect our transit members by requiring the Federal Transit Administration to promulgate regulations to protect public transportation operators from assault.
  • The rulemaking will be required to consider the safety needs of drivers in different modes, including bus and light rail.
  • This provision was a direct result of a joint lobbying effort by SMART TD, the AFL-CIO’s Transportation Trades Department (TTD), AFL-CIO, the Transport Workers Union (TWU) and the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU).
ECP brake mandate is maintained
  • The legislation largely protects the May 2015 Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) rule that requires the use of electronically controlled pneumatic (ECP) brakes on certain high-hazard flammable trains (HHFTs), which SMART TD strongly supports.
  • While the legislation does require another study on ECP brakes, it also includes language supported by SMART TD that will ensure testing is done independently and objectively, and not by the railroads or other entities affected by the rule.
  • Additionally, the legislation neither prohibits DOT from moving forward with the May 2015 rule while the study is in progress, nor does it require DOT to issue a new rule dependent on the study’s findings.
  • The original Senate Commerce Committee language would have repealed the ECP rule and replaced it with a railroad-dominated study.
Inward-facing cameras cannot be used to retaliate against employees.
  • Working with Senator Richard Blumenthal (D – Conn.), SMART TD secured a provision stating that any in-cab audio or image recording obtained by a railroad carrier under this section may not be used to retaliate against an employee. Rail Subcommittee Chairman Jeff Denham (R – Calif.) reinforced this provision by specifically mentioning it in a House floor speech.
  • We are pleased the final bill removed a requirement for efficiency testing.
Removed harmful privatization language for transit projects
  • Working with TTD and other transit unions (TWU and ATU), SMART TD helped strip a harmful privatization provision from the legislation. The provision would have been an unprecedented giveaway to the private sector by allowing certain public-private partnerships to move to the front of the line for grant awards simply because the project included private money, with no minimum threshold.
  • This provision – if not changed – could have resulted in lost jobs, lower wages and diminished passenger rail and transit service.
Biased hair testing methods rejected
  • SMART TD has strongly opposed the unfair and biased use of hair testing for drug tests.
  • SMART TD strongly opposed previous versions of this legislation that would have allowed companies to immediately begin testing an employee’s hair for drugs.
  • The final legislation would only allow companies to do so after experts at the Department of Health and Human Services have set guidelines for such testing.
Tank car safety standards
  • The legislation makes substantial improvements in tank car standards by requiring that all new tank cars are equipped with one-half inch thermal blankets.
  • All existing DOT-111 tank cars transporting flammable liquids are required to be upgraded to retrofit standards regardless of product shipped.
Alerters
  • The legislation requires DOT to promulgate a rule requiring working alerters in the controlling locomotive of each commuter and intercity passenger train.
Signal Protection
  • The legislation requires DOT to initiate a rulemaking for redundant signal protection for Maintenance of Way (MOW) workers.
PTC Grants
  • The legislation provides $199 million to finance a competitive grant program for PTC implementation on commuter railroads.
Funding: Amtrak and Transit
  • Transit programs will receive a 9 percent funding increase in Fiscal year 2016 over FY 2015 levels and 2 percent increases each year through 2020.
  • Amtrak is funded through the appropriations process; however, this legislation increases authorized FY 2016 funding levels for Amtrak by $60 million.