On December 5, 2016, SMART Transportation Division issued a press release to announce that the unions participating in the Coordinated Bargaining Group (CBG) had requested that the National Mediation Board (NMB) mediate the group’s negotiations with the National Carriers Conference Committee (NCCC).
The decision to move the process forward with a request for mediation was made after our last negotiating session with the NCCC, when it became apparent that the prospect of reaching a voluntary agreement had grown significantly less likely, due in large part to the outcome of November’s elections. During negotiations, the organizations submitted a proposal that would provide the framework of an improved wage, work rule and benefit package that we believe our members have earned.
The carriers responded with an offer that was significantly less in every regard. Your negotiating team found the carriers’ demands for certain work rule changes unacceptable. In our opinion, these changes would compromise safety by creating a negative impact on rest and predictability. In addition, the carrier proposed unsatisfactory wage increases and dramatic cuts to our health care benefits, both of which were also unacceptable.
We have negotiated in good faith because we believe a voluntary agreement is in the best interests of our members and will continue to do so while in mediation. However, we stand firm in our conviction that our members deserve a better outcome than the carrier’s proposal and we will exhaust every avenue available to achieve a contract settlement with equitable compensation and benefit improvements that reflect the employees’ contributions to the carriers’ success. Additionally, we will not accept or propose a contract that adds to the already intolerable levels of unpredictability and rest deprivation that our members currently endure.
What’s next? The parties will engage in mediation as part of the dispute resolution process required by the Railway Labor Act. If a voluntary agreement is not reached in mediation, the process provides for a proffer of arbitration by the NMB, which, if refused by either participant, will then release the parties to engage in self-help (strike/lockout).
Moving through the Railway Labor Act to a strike is a long and arduous process, and requires that the parties exhaust every opportunity for settlement before a work stoppage disrupts the nation’s transportation system. However, the right to strike is a part of the process and the only person who can take away your right to strike is the President of the United States, who may intervene and appoint a Presidential Emergency Board.
In the event that we reach that point, I will be calling on all of our members to reach out to the White House and request that our newly elected President not interfere with our right to exercise self-help in our quest for a fair and equitable contract settlement.
To better explain the process that governs from this point forward, click on https://smart-union.org/td/washington/abridged-version-railway-labor-act/ to read an abridged version of a more detailed explanation of the Railway Labor Act.
President, Transportation Division
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.”
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).
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.
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.
Ed 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.
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.
“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.
- The legislation requires DOT to promulgate a rule requiring working alerters in the controlling locomotive of each commuter and intercity passenger train.
- The legislation requires DOT to initiate a rulemaking for redundant signal protection for Maintenance of Way (MOW) workers.
- 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.