Since November 2019, SMART members in the Railroad, Mechanical and Engineering Department on Class 1 freight railroads have been engaged in intense negotiations with the National Carriers’ Conference Committee (NCCC), a coalition of employers representing the railroads. Throughout that entire time, the NCCC has continued its assault on labor by seeking agreements which are both unfair to workers and bad for the industry.

The NCCC’s wage proposals would result in an actual reduction in employee earnings in “real wages” (adjusted for inflation). The carriers have proposed such measures as increases to the amount of work that is contracted out and changes to the 40-hour work week, all while demanding that workers pay more for H&W coverage. Despite posting record profits during the pandemic, employers refuse to admit that it is the workers who have risked their lives to keep trains running. And after the experience of the pandemic, the carriers still refuse to agree to paid sick leave. Apparently, management doesn’t see the link between their higher earnings and the harder work performed by our members.

One thing is clear: Our members are prepared to seek the protections, wages and respect they deserve.

Unlike many at SMART, those working on the railroad negotiate with employers (the carriers) under the Railway Labor Act (RLA), a law enacted in 1926 to settle labor disputes using arbitration and mediation instead of the more familiar collective bargaining model under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). Because of the particular structure of bargaining under the RLA, parties often end up negotiating through the National Mediation Board (NMB), an independent federal agency that helps resolve contract issues. Repeated failures to reach an agreement can even result in negotiations being pushed to an emergency board established by the president of the United States.

After 18 months of unsuccessful bargaining, SMART’s coalition requested mediation from the NMB in June 2021. After several sessions of both mediation and “super mediation” – in which no productive dialogue occurred and carriers only offered deals that would substantially diminish any increase in compensation while simultaneously refusing the unions’ proposals – the NMB finally released the parties on June 17, starting a 30-day cooling off period.

On July 15, in order to avert a shutdown of the rail industry, President Biden established a Presidential Emergency Board (PEB), an entity that is tasked with investigating rail disputes and issuing non-binding recommendations. Under the RLA, if a PEB concludes and the parties do not accept its recommendations within 30 days, the parties may then exercise “non-violent self-help” (strike or lockout). Ultimately, however, Congress has the final authority to impose a resolution, and it has done so in the past in order to avoid such an outcome.

While this process is complicated, we are hopeful that it will provide the framework for an agreement that is beneficial to workers. One thing is clear: Our members are prepared to seek the protections, wages and respect they deserve.

An open letter from the office of SMART-TD President Jeremy Ferguson

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Earlier today, I advised our Rail General Chairpersons involved in national bargaining that the cooling-off period after our release by the NMB will be ending Monday, July 18, at 12:01 a.m., and if a Presidential Emergency Board is not appointed by then, there will be the opportunity to engage in self-help. A copy of that letter can be found here.

According to the governing provisions of the SMART Constitution, a strike action over a national contract dispute must first be approved by a two-thirds vote of the affected General Chairpersons. This method, which has been carefully written and democratically required by our delegates, provides a quick and effective way to obtain strike authority from our members. As noted in my letter, our General Committees have so far shown unanimous support for exercising our right to legally strike, if and when the opportunity presents itself. This result does not come as a surprise, given the railroads’ abysmal treatment of our members over the last 2+ years, and their ongoing refusal to make any move toward a contract that is even remotely worthy of your consideration in a ratification vote.

As noted in my letter to our General Chairpersons, this approval does not automatically constitute authorization to engage in a strike. Final authorization will come in a separate notice from this office, and will be widely distributed using every communication tool available to us. The earliest this office could issue that notice could be on or after 12:01 a.m. on Monday, July 18, 2022. However, if President Biden establishes a Presidential Emergency Board (PEB) prior to this date, which is generally expected under these circumstances, no strike authorization can be issued during the PEB process.

With that being said, preparation for the possibility of a strike is well under way. We will soon be distributing materials to all affected SMART-TD Locals, which will include explicit detailed instructions. We will also be electronically distributing picketing materials so our members may choose which signs they want to display. This method of distribution provides the added benefit of avoiding any potential delays that might result from mass printing and mailing these materials from a central location.

Your national negotiating team is more determined than ever to obtain a contract that provides the fair compensation, meaningful improvements in quality of life, and better healthcare that we rightfully expect and deserve. To the carriers and their media pundits who are trying to cast us in a negative light: Your bogus rhetoric might resonate with the hedge fund managers, Wall Street investors, and billionaire cronies you cater to, but the hard-working people who earn you your all-time record-breaking profits aren’t buying it. Make no mistake, we are prepared and willing to exercise every legal option available under the Railway Labor Act to achieve our goals.

Fraternally,

Jeremy R. Ferguson
President, Transportation Division

The United Rail Unions issued the following statement on June 15, 2022:

Following the conclusion of our third week of compulsory mediation conducted by the National Mediation Board (NMB), the rail unions who are bargaining as part of the Coordinated Bargaining Coalition (CBC) and the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way/SMART Mechanical Coalition pursuant to Section 5 First of the Railway Labor Act, received a proffer of arbitration from the NMB.

As previously stated, all of the carriers’ proposals to date serve as an insult to our collective membership. These essential employees carried the railroads to their record profits throughout the last several years. As much as the rail unions would have preferred to reach a voluntary settlement, this has become the only viable path to reaching a satisfactory conclusion. The chiefs of all 12 rail unions wish to thank the NMB members and the assigned mediators for their efforts in trying to bring us to a voluntary agreement, and for their recognition that such an agreement was not possible under the current circumstances.

With regard to the proffer of arbitration, the NMB urged the parties to enter into an agreement to resolve the dispute via binding arbitration in accordance with Section 8 of the Railway Labor Act. If either party rejects the NMB’s proffer, or fails to respond prior to the deadline of 5 p.m. (EDT) on June 16, 2022, the parties will enter a 30-day “cooling-off” period where the status quo is maintained. While each rail union has its own process for considering whether or not to accept the NMB’s proffer, it is anticipated that we will unanimously reject it in the coming days. 

At any point during the aforementioned 30-day cooling off period, President Biden may appoint a Presidential Emergency Board (PEB), which typically consists of three to five members. The PEB will conduct a hearing and issue a recommendation regarding settlement of the dispute. The issuance of the PEB recommendation starts another 30-day cooling-off period.

During this second cooling-off period, the parties may choose to accept or reject the PEB’s recommendation. If either party rejects the PEB’s recommendation, or if the cooling-off period expires and the dispute has not been resolved, either party may engage in self-help.

If this happens, it is expected that Congress will intervene and end self-help by passing legislation to resolve the dispute. To address this possibility, we have already mobilized our legislative departments to get the message to our elected representatives. In addition to these efforts, we are urging our members to begin reaching out to their U.S. senators and House representatives to voice their support for a labor-friendly PEB, and, if necessary, labor-friendly legislation to bring this round of bargaining to a successful conclusion. The time to make our collective voices heard is now!

Additional information will be provided as developments warrant. We appreciate your continuing support.

###

The unions comprising the Coordinated Bargaining Coalition are: the American Train Dispatchers Association (ATDA); the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen / Teamsters Rail Conference (BLET); the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen (BRS); the International Association of Machinists (IAM); the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers (IBB); the National Conference of Firemen & Oilers/SEIU (NCFO); the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW); the Transport Workers Union of America (TWU); the Transportation Communications Union / IAM (TCU), including TCU’s Brotherhood Railway Carmen Division (BRC); and the Transportation Division of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, and Transportation Workers (SMART–TD).

The Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees Division and SMART Mechanical Unions are also bargaining as a coalition.

Collectively, these Unions represent approximately 140,000 railroad workers covered by the various organizations’ national agreements, and comprise 100% of the workforce who will be impacted by this round of negotiations.

Read this release in PDF form.

CLEVELAND, Ohio (March 23, 2022) — After thoroughly examining all possible avenues to best continue the unions’ fight against the BNSF Hi-Viz attendance policy, SMART-TD and the BLET announced today that they will proceed as expeditiously as possible to arbitration over the policy.

On February 22, 2022, a U.S. District Court ruled that the unions’ dispute over the policy constituted a “minor dispute” under the terms and conditions of the Railway Labor Act. The court’s use of “minor” does not signify the importance of the issue, but is only a legal term which provides that resolution of the matter must be by arbitration. In considering a potential appeal of the District Court’s ruling, it was determined that an appeal could take another one to two years, and likely not result in a different decision. An appeal would not be the quickest, or most effective way, to stop the BNSF policy. The quickest and most direct way to challenge this policy is through a Public Law Board or Special Board of Adjustment, properly constituted under Section 3 of the Railway Labor Act. That board will have the authority to strike down either the entire policy or the most egregious parts of the policy much more quickly. The time frame will be months as opposed to years.

As a result, BLET and SMART-TD general chairpersons have notified BNSF of their intent to move the dispute forward pursuant to Section 3 of the Railway Labor Act. Additional details will be provided to all involved union officers and members as they become available.

###

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.


Talking SMART: TD President Jeremy Ferguson Discusses ‘Hi-Viz’ Policy, National Rail Contract

Class I railroad carriers BNSF and NS declared an impasse this week in the mandatory bargaining over crew size under Section 6 of the Railway Labor Act (RLA). In declaring an impasse, the two railroads, represented by the National Railway Labor Conference (NRLC), seek federal mediation as required by the RLA. Union Pacific Railroad is not seeking mediation at this time.

Beginning in October 2019, most Class I carriers served notice under Section 6 of the RLA to force the SMART Transportation Division to bargain over crew size. Today crew size is determined by collective bargaining agreements implemented by Presidential Emergency Board 219 under then-President George H.W. Bush.

SMART-TD and the involved General Committees intend to continue to demonstrate the significant problems with the carriers’ plans and the current technology that carriers believe allows for a redeployment of conductors to ground-based positions.

SMART-TD General Committees and union leadership will continue to fight to protect the jobs of today as well as the jobs of the future and to ensure protection for SMART-TD members.


In the current episode of Talking SMART, we sit down with SMART TD President Jeremy Ferguson to talk about a subject that is foremost on the minds of many members. In February 2022, BNSF arbitrarily changed its attendance policy and took advantage of a pro-management judge to force (as of now… this episode was recorded in early March), a draconian “Hi-Viz” attendance policy upon the very members who have kept the company operational through the pandemic – and who earned BNSF record profits in 2021. President Ferguson also provides an update on contract negotiations with the national rail carriers.

In early July 2020, just over eight months after the current round of national bargaining had begun, the carriers’ representative — the National Railway Labor Conference (NRLC) — proposed reconfiguring the National Plan’s network structure in a way that would force many railroad workers into the cheapest area medical network immediately and then on a continual 3- to 5-year schedule without formal bargaining.
The Cooperating Railway Labor Organizations (CRLO), which is the rail labor umbrella group that oversees plan administration in concert with the NRLC, rejected the proposal, stating that this was an issue for negotiations and pointing out that the carriers had made an identical proposal at the bargaining table. In late July, the NRLC demanded that the unions agree to the proposal and threatened to use the binding deadlock neutral process found in the 1991 National Agreement settlement to resolve the dispute.
This threat led 12 unions in the CRLO to file suit against the nation’s Class I railroad carriers in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, asking the court to force the carriers to bargain in good faith with the unions over mandatory subjects of bargaining, such as their network structure proposal. The carriers’ defense was that this was a “minor” dispute under the Railway Labor Act, as it involved an administrative matter under the National Plan and, therefore, could be resolved by the “deadlock neutral” process that was included in national agreements for all unions that were imposed by Congress — and signed into law by President George H. W. Bush — in order to stop a national strike in 1991.
At an Aug. 31, 2021, hearing before a Special Board of Adjustment chaired by Arbitrator Joshua M. Javits, the unions documented the history of health care network development in the railroad industry, showing that the carriers’ proposal was anything but administrative in nature. They also showed the adverse impact the proposal would have on over a quarter-million plan participants. The carriers countered that no “right to choose” existed in any national agreement, and that the deadlock neutral had the authority to decide the matter if the parties couldn’t agree.
In upholding the unions’ position on the key question of network choice, Chairman Javits’ Oct. 20 award found “that the Carriers’ proposal – in as far as it relates to the selection of network vendors – is an administrative matter. However, those elements of the Carriers’ proposal that reduce choice for Plan participants and result in only a single network vendor being available to Plan participants, constitutes a change in Plan design and, thus, is outside the deadlock neutral’s jurisdiction.”
The leaders of the prevailing unions issued the following statement concerning this decision:
“This is a significant victory for the men and women covered by the national plans, and for their families. The carriers have been dragging their feet at the bargaining table while this dispute wound its way through the system. All the while, our members — essential employees, one and all — have continued to keep the country moving despite the pandemic.
“To the carriers, whose profits continued to flow in unabated, we say ‘The time for delay is over. Your workers have earned and deserve a new national agreement, one that reflects their true contribution to your bottom line.’ We remain ready to negotiate that agreement, and urge you to devote as much energy to that task as you invested in your failed effort to deprive your workers of their choice of medical networks.”

# # #

The unions involved in the dispute are the American Train Dispatchers Association; the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen; the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes; the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen; the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers; the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers, Mechanical Division; the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers, Transportation Division; the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers; the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers; the National Conference of Fireman & Oilers District, Local 32BJ, SEIU; the Transportation Communications Union/IAM; and the Transport Workers Union.
View this release in PDF form.

Local 313 (Grand Rapids, Mich.) member Chris Larson, a member of our union for seven years, wrote to the office of SMART-TD President Jeremy Ferguson asking the extent that members can go to support and show solidarity to an ongoing labor action by another labor union against an employer.
More than 1,000 members of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers (BCTGM) union have been striking for more than a month in locations in Portland, Ore.; Richmond, Va.; Norcross, Ga., and Chicago against Nabisco/Mondelez. Brother Larson suggested in a letter that unionized train operators stop deliveries to the company’s plants in a concerted effort in support of the strikes.
“Nabisco / Mondelz (sic) International will quickly notice when their raw inputs of flour, sugar, and other bulk commodities delivered by rail are no longer being delivered because SMART-TD is supporting the BCTGM strike,” Larson wrote. “I would like to encourage SMART-TD to quickly explore how our union can honor the BCTGM strike by not delivering raw inputs to Nabisco / Mondelz (sic) International by rail.”
While a strong and impactful suggestion by Larson, the federal Railway Labor Act limits when, where and why rail workers can engage in a work stoppage, as the union’s response noted.
“…it is important to note that the governing federal law (specifically the Railway Labor Act, as amended,) limits our ability to go on strike to very narrow and specific circumstances. Unfortunately, those circumstances do not include the secondary strike action you describe in your letter,” the TD office replied.
“We absolutely support the BCTGM workers in their fight for fairness and justice with Nabisco/Mondelez,” Ferguson said. “Our members and leadership will do what we can within the law through personal boycotts and outreach initiated by local members to show support from our union. We thank Brother Larson for speaking up and asking this question, and we appreciate his desire to act in solidarity with our fellow workers at BCTGM.”
Constitutionally, members can act in the interest of their personal safety in areas where a strike is taking place. According to Article 21B, Section 92 of the SMART Constitution:
When a strike of any other nationally recognized labor organization is in effect and danger to the safety of our members exists in or about the area affected by the strike, and/or if there exists any substantial present or potential threat of danger to the members enroute to or from their work, and/or to the members’ families, it is the policy of SMART to support its members in declining to enter the territory directly affected.
The strikes against Nabisco/Mondelez first began in August with BCTGM workers in Portland, then spread to the three additional locations during the month to protest the company’s outsourcing of U.S. jobs to plants in Mexico and the disproportionate hazard pay given to management when workers received only a $300 bonus.
As of this writing, the work stoppages are ongoing, and there are multiple ways TD members and their families can assist in the effort in the spirit of solidarity suggested at the BCTGM website.

  1. Check the label of Nabisco/Mondelez snacks and do not buy products made in Mexico by non-union labor.The UComm blog has an extensive list of the brands under the Nabisco/Mondelez umbrella, and the BCTGM has a PDF (image reproduced and linked here and below) showing where to check a Nabisco/Mondelez product’s place of manufacture. Some of the most-popular products sold by the company include Oreo, Chips Ahoy and Fig Newtons cookies as well as Ritz crackers.
  2. Join one of the picket lines to give supplies or offer support at the following sites:
    • Portland, Ore.: 100 N.E. Columbia Blvd.
    • Aurora, Colo.: 17775 E. 30th Ave.
    • Chicago, Ill.: 7300 Kedzie Ave.
    • Norcross, Ga.: 6300 Brook Hollow Pkwy.
    • Richmond, Va.: 6002 S. Laburnum Ave.
  3. Send a message of solidarity to the strike organizers.
  4. Donate to the BCTGM local strike funds:
    Local 1, Chicago Bakery Workers
    Local 42, Atlanta/Norcross Distribution Workers
    Local 358, Richmond Bakery Workers
    Local 364, Portland Bakery Workers
  5. Spread the word through your community by posting this flier or online through social media by following the BCTGM union’s accounts and using the #NabiscoStrike and #NoContractNoSnacks hashtags.

Together, we can assist the BCTGM workers to achieve a fair and favorable outcome to stop the corporate greed exhibited by Nabisco/Mondelez management.
Read Brother Chris Larson’s letter and the TD response. (PDF)

On July 28, 2021, a Neutral appointed by the National Mediation Board issued his ruling finding that on certain railroad properties, the current moratoria in those crew consist agreements do not prohibit the railroads from serving a Section 6 Notice regarding crew size. The properties affected or having no current moratorium include certain properties at BNSF, UP, NS and CN Railroads. Other properties not currently affected or involved may also be included in the future as moratoriums naturally expire. Please contact your local chairperson or general chairperson for specific details regarding your terminal or district.
The ruling comes after a nearly two-year battle between SMART-TD and the National Railway Labor Conference over the moratoria provisions and their effect. The arbitration was one of the largest conducted by SMART-TD and its predecessor union, UTU, in decades.
The ruling does not eliminate any current crew consist provision or requirement. The only thing it does is to open the door for bargaining to occur. The moratoria that previously prevented any mandatory bargaining on crew consist were predicated on the last remaining employees having hired on the railroad previous to the 1980’s. Today, less than 100 of these employees remain nationwide, and most are at, or near retirement age. 
Once a Section 6 is served, the Railway Labor Act requires both parties to engage in mandatory bargaining. The Act, however, does not mandate any particular outcome in such negotiations, it merely provides a process. In the event parties reach an impasse, the Act contains methods to avoid disruption to commerce through mandatory mediation and possibly intervention from the President of the United States and the U.S. Congress.
SMART-TD remains committed to protecting the jobs of today, as well as securing the jobs of the future. While only some General Committees will be involved in bargaining, the full support and effort of the International in assisting those Committees will continue.

SMART and 18 other unions sent a letter to President Joe Biden and Democratic U.S. Senate leaders Chuck Schumer and Patty Murray reminding the president that appointing new members to the National Mediation Board (NMB) should be prioritized and endorsed the appointment of Deirdre Hamilton and reappointment of Linda Puchala to the board.

President Biden
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue N.W.
Washington, DC 20500
Via US Mail and Electronic Transmission
Dear President Biden:
We, the undersigned unions representing hundreds of thousands of Americans working in the airline and rail industries, take pleasure in expressing our strong support of Deirdre Hamilton to serve as a Member on the National Mediation Board (NMB), and for sitting NMB member Linda Puchala’s reappointment to the board. We also urge you to make these appointments immediately. Unlike other federal agencies, the Trump-appointed NMB will remain in control until new board members are nominated and confirmed by the Senate. With each passing day, the Trump NMB is allowed more opportunity to suppress the voices of aviation and rail workers, stifle collective bargaining rights, and undermine the Biden-Harris pro-worker agenda.
Created by Congress through the Railway Labor Act (RLA), the NMB plays an essential role in the facilitation of labor-management relations in the aviation and rail industries. Collectively, our unions represent mechanics, pilots, flight attendants, engineers, conductors, and maintenance of way employees, among other critical roles. These workers are best served when the NMB is reliably staffed with public servants who understand the importance of collective bargaining and who, when disputes arise, will seek fair and timely resolutions. Both Ms. Hamilton and Ms. Puchala have impeccable qualifications for positions on the board, and have proven throughout their careers to be steadfast allies of workers.
With over 20 years of experience, Ms. Hamilton has represented workers before federal courts and with the NMB on a wide range of legal issues, including union elections, mediation, contract enforcement, and major and minor dispute claims, and has amassed an in-depth knowledge of the RLA and how it functions. For the past 6 years, Ms. Hamilton has served as the Staff Attorney to the Airline Division at the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. She has held similar positions as a Senior Staff Attorney at the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, AFL-CIO, and Legal Fellow at the International Association of Machinists. With her experience and command of the RLA, Ms. Hamilton would be in an excellent position to foster strong labor-management relations, protect the right of workers to form and join unions, and ensure that the mediation and arbitration duties of the Board are deployed to serve all stakeholders.
Ms. Puchala has served as a member of the NMB since her confirmation by the U.S. Senate in 2009. Prior to her service as a Board Member, Ms. Puchala worked as a Mediator, Sr. Mediator (ADR) and the Associate Director of Alternative Dispute Resolution Services over a 10-year career at the NMB. During her tenure, Ms. Puchala has demonstrated leadership and professionalism that has earned her the respect of both parties across the mediation table. Ms. Puchala has also pursued innovative strategies to resolve pending arbitration cases, sought to modernize the NMB’s management practices and has fought for policies that will protect the rights of workers to have a union voice. Ms. Puchala also obtained important labor relations experience as a former International President of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, and a Staff Director, Michigan State Employees Association, AFSCME.
The rail and aviation industries support good middle-class jobs that are critical to the economy and are even more important as the country seeks to recover from COVID-19 in the coming months and years. NMB members have an important role to play in protecting these jobs and expanding workforce opportunities in sectors covered by the RLA.
Sincerely,
Air Line Pilots Association, International
Allied Pilots Association
American Train Dispatchers Association
Association of Flight Attendants, CWA
Association of Professional Flight Attendants
Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen
Communications Workers of America
International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers
International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers
International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers
International Brotherhood of Teamsters
National Conference of Firemen & Oilers, SEIU
NetJets Association of Shared Aircraft Pilots
Service Employees International Union
Southwest Airlines Pilots Association
Transportation Communications Union/IAM
Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO
Transport Workers Union of America
UNITE HERE International Union
CC: Senator Charles Schumer
Senator Patty Murray

Brothers and Sisters,
It’s time to set the record straight. I am certain many of you have seen the recent anti-labor articles that have been published regarding our recent win in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit. That win has apparently struck a raw nerve with the carriers and the minions who eagerly await their master’s call. Make no mistake, that decision struck a fatal blow to the carriers’ plans to put you on the unemployment line. Rather than accept defeat, their apologists are trying to spin this loss into something that it is not. The long history of crew consist cannot be denied. For decades, we have battled with the carriers over their fevered attempts to cut costs and put your life at risk by down-sizing crews. This current round of negotiations is no different. They sought to eliminate your job and operate trains in perhaps the most dangerous way possible. Standing up for you, that’s what this case was about.
They have severely underestimated the fight in each and every one of us; the sheer grit and determination that we have to defend our families, our jobs, and the overall welfare of our co-workers and the general public alike. The truth that these apologists fear to admit is that in this Union, the dues-paying members are the Union — period. There is no divide between the “Union” and the “dues-paying members.” There is only a “Union.” We stand together now more than ever.
To salve their masters’ wounds, those “commentators” try to spin this as union officers protecting their own jobs. They know not of what they speak and their ignorance is evident in the web that they weave. They used nameless sources in an attempt to add credibility to a tall tale that anyone with true insight would know is far from factual. The fact remains that all officers in this newly elected SMART-TD administration are firmly united.
The Railway Labor Act protects agreements from being changed except through the processes provided for in Section 6 of the Act. The carriers had agreed to crew consist provisions years ago. Not only that, but to end the constant battle over crew consist, the carriers also agreed to moratoria provisions that barred any Section 6 Notice over crew consist until the last protected employee voluntarily left service. That event has not yet happened. These are the facts, but they are nowhere to be found in any recounting in the carriers’ favored publications. Rather, what you are treated to is the old worn song of the anti-unionist. The apologist who says trust the carriers, they only want what was best for you. Right. The carriers want to give you lifetime protections? At what cost? And when they decide they don’t like that deal any more, will they ignore it just like they have tried to ignore our moratoria provisions and put you on the street? These apologists assert that they have some inside scoop, yet I have never witnessed any “commentator” at the bargaining table. They are outsiders.
What else is missing? Acknowledgement of the only thing the carriers care about — their bottom line. Money comes before all else. That is evidenced by the unbelievable lengths they will go to argue that you are paid too much, that your insurance is too expensive, and that they are going broke as a result of the costs of our Agreements. You are the target in their zeal to improve their stock price. That is a sad fact that you will not find in any of those articles.
Another fallacy that is being sold — technology will do everything more safely. That simply is not true. Their technology is fallible. It doesn’t work like they wish it would nor as advertised. In fact, it’s not a matter of if it will break down, but when. We have collected thousands of Failure Reports across all Class Is and the data is terrifying. Never has the human element been more important in railroad operations. Engineers spend more time with their faces in multiple screens trying to manipulate and interpret the ambiguous systems than they do focusing on the territory ahead. Conductors are relied upon now more than ever, as they are the eyes and ears of the train crew, and we have the stories to prove it.
The articles also attempt to scare you by asserting that the carriers will unilaterally reduce crews at the end of the last-person-standing moratorium. That is not how the Act works. The expiration of the moratoria does not sunset crew consist. Rather, moratoria bar either party from serving a Section 6 notice to amend or change the current Crew Consist Agreements until the last protected employee leaves. Once that happens, then a Section 6 Notice can be served and the long and drawn-out process of the RLA engaged to negotiate the next generation of agreements.
Railroad workers have all been lied to long enough by management, and we can smell lies coming from a mile away.
As a word of advice to Railway Age, I would caution them against living in the past and trying to play SMART-TD against the BLET. We are working closely together in the Coordinated Bargaining Coalition (CBC) in national handling and on the various other disputes that the carriers have forced us into.
Brothers and Sisters, do not be discouraged, and do not be swayed by those with ulterior motives. We are in this fight together, and we are moving forward.
 

 
 
 

Jeremy Ferguson
President — Transportation Division