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With daily headlines nationwide about railroad safety legislation, it has come to feel like every day is “Railroad Day on the Hill.” However, the event is formally held once a year on the legislative calendar for representatives from rail unions and rail carriers alike to descend on D.C. to discuss the issues that face our industry.
Under normal circumstances, building relationships with the 535 members of Congress falls on SMART-TD’s staff of three in our Washington D.C. National Legislative Department, but on May 17th’s Railroad Safety Day, plenty of reinforcements within our union marched forth to lead the effort with other labor groups.
This support came in the form of 35 men and women representing 15 different states. State legislative directors, vice state legislative directors, general chairpersons, local legislative reps and state legislative vice chairs from across the country answered the call to help SMART-TD National Legislative Director Greg Hynes, Alternate National Legislative Director Jared Cassity and Legislative Department Chief of Staff, Jenny Miller educate our nation’s lawmakers on rail safety.
This formidable group of SMART-TD representatives was not in D.C. as tourists. Between the group of attendees, they held over 100 meetings with legislators sharing the gospel of the Railway Safety Act of 2023, shorter trains, increased quality of life and better safety inspections of rolling stock with any Congress member or staffer willing to listen.
With the ramifications of this bill’s success weighing heavily on the quality-of-life improvements that SMART-TD continues to seek for our members, Sen. Sanders reached out to SMART’s Legislative Department and made a point of inviting our representatives to his press conference.
Following the successes of the day’s events, NLD Hynes expressed his gratitude to the army of SMART-TD leaders who made the trip.
“These men and women went above and beyond the call of duty to be here today, and because of them, we had a fantastic show of force in the halls of Congress. The validity of our issues speaks for itself, but when leaders from these different states show up to meet with their congressional and senate delegations it makes an impact on these lawmakers,” he said. “They hear from Jared Cassity and me all the time, but when someone from home comes to meet with them in D.C., it puts a face to our issues in a unique way.
“I want to thank each and every one of them for making the effort to come out this year, and with your help, we will deliver on the promise of the Railway Safety Act, the REEF Act, and all the issues that speak to the quality of life our members deserve and the dignity of the work they do each day.”
The RSA, which was born from the East Palestine derailment and contains two-person crew language, cleared its first major hurdle today when it passed through the Senate’s Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee. The bill’s passage through committee was not without controversy and fireworks, with a debate between two Republican Senators during a discussion of amendments. However, at the end of the meeting, the RSA was passed and now moves on to the Senate.
As a rule, freshman legislators on every level are expected to spend their first year, if not their first term, being seen and not heard. There is a tremendous learning curve, and most are happy to take in all of the information and calibrate themselves before becoming vocal, especially when taking on the standard bearers of their own political parties.
Unlike most other Senators, JD Vance (R-Ohio) had the luxury of a learning curve taken away from him by the derailment in East Palestine, Ohio. Like a first-round draft-pick quarterback who has to put down the clipboard and step into the game before planned, Vance was thrown into the middle of the action.
Today – May 10, 2023 – Vance helped usher the Rail Safety Act of 2023 to a bipartisan 16-11 win in the Senate’s Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee.
Vance’s opening statement in support of the bill came directly on the heels of longtime Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) pulling his support for the Vance/Brown Bill. In the face of this adversity, Vance came out swinging. Among other holes he poked in Cruz’s argument against the bill, he said: “We cannot on the one hand acknowledge that Ohio taxpayers and Ohio citizens are bearing the cost of this accident and on the other hand say that it’s ridiculous to require the railroad industry to do a little bit more on safety. They should be incurring some additional costs so that another East Palestine doesn’t happen again.”
In a direct response to Cruz’s damnation of his bill as being too costly for railroads to be expected to pay for, Vance added: “Yes, it may make rail transportation a little bit more expensive. But it’s going to make rail transportation a little more expensive in the service of safety. Because let’s be honest. We have allowed the rail industry to socialize the risk of their business while privatizing the rewards. The people of East Palestine are going to deal with the cost of what Norfolk Southern did for the next generation.”
When the hearing was opened for Senators to offer amendments to the bill, another institution of the Senate and Vance’s Republican party, John Thune (R-South Dakota), offered an amendment he claimed would alleviate the burden of Class II and Class III railroads. In his remarks, he more than suggested that other legislators aren’t in touch with rural/agricultural economies. In the face of the Thune amendment, Vance responded, “There are a number of agricultural communities small and big in the state of Ohio and a lot in East Palestine. They bear the cost when railways set off chemical bombs in their community – which is exactly what happened a couple of months ago. Those costs have been socialized onto Ohio and American taxpayers.”
Following Vance’s comments, the Thune amendment was defeated. Shortly after that success, Vance and the Railway Safety Act of 2023 scored a huge win for rail labor with a 16-11 passage of the bill (without the rejected amendments proposed by Cruz and Thune). For his part in the day’s proceedings, the newcomer received accolades not often heard in the halls of the United States Senate.
Senator Eric Schmitt (R-Mo.) thanked Vance for his leadership and said that he was happy to lend his support to the legislation. Both Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Committee Chair Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) made a point to highlight Vance’s acumen. Chair Cantwell said of Vance that, “I have to say, sir, you’ve come to the Senate and you’ve hit the ground running. And I appreciate that because you are responding to a crisis that happened in your state and you’re responding on behalf of your citizens so that this doesn’t happen again.”
It goes without saying that SMART Transportation Division is encouraged by the bipartisan effort it took to get the Rail Safety Act of 2023 through the Senate committee, and we hope the sentiment continues as the bill now proceeds to the Senate floor and then onto the House.
Rail safety is not for sale. America’s rail workers need legislation to reverse the harmful trajectory of the industry and to protect the communities in which they operate. We thank Senators Vance and Schmitt for their support, as well as every Democratic Senator on the Senate Commerce Committee for fighting to protect our members.
Media outlets and elected officials continue to spotlight rail safety in the wake of derailments in East Palestine, Ohio, Raymond, Minn. and states across the country. That makes it even more crucial for SMART members, families and allies to get involved in the fight for rail safety laws, SMART-TD Alternate National Legislative Director Jared Cassity told SMART News.
“The best way for members to get involved is to use the Action Center on our website – you go on there and you can write your representatives and let them know what your concerns are,” Cassity said. “We need everyone on board here; it’s going to take actual peer pressure and constituent pressure on our elected officials to get stuff moving and get things done.”
The Norfolk Southern disaster showed the nation what SMART-TD members have been saying for years: precision scheduled railroading (PSR) is bad for workers, communities and the environment. Now, the heightened scrutiny has presented an opportunity for rail labor to push for new safety regulation. At the federal level, that has taken the form of the bipartisan Railway Safety Act of 2023, legislation that includes a nationwide mandate for well-trained two-person crews on all freight trains; restrictions on train length and weight; regulations on the installation, frequency, upkeep and response to wayside defect detectors; speed restrictions; drastically increased fines for rail companies and management employees who do not adhere to rail safety protocols; and much more.
“Unfortunately, precision scheduled railroading has taken a toll, and the railroads can no longer hide behind what they’ve done to railroading. The dangers are out there for all to see, and East Palestine is proof of that,” Cassity said during his SMART News appearance. “This piece of legislation speaks to stuff that we need desperately to improve rail safety, like crew size issues, train length issues, train makeup issues, defect detector issues. It puts in place legislation that we need to start seeing the changes to put an end to PSR.”
“State Legislative Boards and State Legislative Directors are actively pursuing legislation in their states that are on the same level or in the same vein of what we’re doing federally,” Cassity said. “So our members need to reach out and contact their state directors to see what they can do to help … so [politicians] can see the support and feel the need, the desperate need that we have from our workforce to keep each other safe.”
Members looking to get involved in the fight for rail safety can text “Rail Safety” to 67336 (message and data rates may apply).
Freight rail safety was the focus of the March 2023 episode of the Talking SMART podcast. SMART-TD Alternate National Legislative Director Jared Cassity and SMART-TD Government Affairs Rep. Daniel Banks joined the podcast to discuss the fight to improve freight rail safety at both the state and federal levels in the weeks following the disaster in East Palestine, Ohio.
The East Palestine derailment and other well-publicized accidents since have made clear what SMART-TD and rail labor have been saying for years: So-called “Precision Scheduled Railroading” is bad for workers, the public and the environment.
“It speaks to the seriousness of the devastation that has been done to the railroad industry since the implementation of Precision Scheduled Railroading, and it speaks to the fact that our predictions are now coming into fruition. And it’s both a shame and a frustration, and – to be quite frank – a very anger-filled reaction for us,” Cassity said. “It’s shocking to see all these derailments take place. … All of these things can be brought back to Precision Scheduled Railroading and what it’s done.”
“We need to act in solidarity” on freight rail safety
Both Cassity and Banks emphasized the importance of pushing for freight rail safety regulation across the country. Federal legislation like the bipartisan Railway Safety Act of 2023 has already been introduced, along with bills in states across the country. Now, both guests said, SMART members, families and allies need to get involved and make sure the railroads and elected officials feel the pressure.
“We need the action. Today’s the day, and we need to capture the momentum – we need to act in solidarity,” Banks said, adding that members can get involved by texting “Rail Safety” to 67336 (message and data rates may apply).
“When it comes to combatting the railroads, what we need is membership engagement, membership interest, membership participation,” Cassity explained. “We need the members to win this fight … we have got to have the membership speaking, because they’re the constituents, they’re the influencers. The union is the voice of many, but we need the many voices to be speaking as one.”
At the end of this episode, SMART General President Joseph Sellers discussed what SMART is doing to recruit nonunion sheet metal workers and meet the workforce needs presented by megaprojects, infrastructure investment and more. Listen to the full episode here, or wherever you get your podcasts.
In the aftermath of February’s rail disaster in Ohio, the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee held a key hearing March 22 on “Improving Rail Safety in Response to the East Palestine Derailment” to get to the bottom of what went wrong in the accident and to discuss the bipartisan Railway Safety Act of 2023.
The committee had an all-star cast of witnesses who testified, including: two U.S. senators; Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine; East Palestine resident Misti Allison, who represented the community; National Transportation Safety Board Chair Jennifer Homendy; David Comstock, chief of the Ohio Western Reserve Joint Fire District; Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw; Association of American Railroads (AAR) CEO Ian Jeffries, and SMART-TD’s Ohio State Legislative Director (SLD) Clyde Whitaker. To begin the hearing, U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown and JD Vance kicked off the day explaining in detail the bill, S.B. 567, they’re putting forward.
Brown began his comments by thanking the witnesses for testifying and referred directly to SLD Whitaker, calling him “an unrelenting advocate for safe working conditions for his members and all people working in Ohio railroads.”
Brown then went on to discuss why this legislation is so necessary.
“Norfolk Southern followed the Wall Street business model,” he said. “Boost profits and stock price by eliminating, over the last decade, 38% of its workforce.”
He went on to describe Precision Scheduled Railroading (PSR) perfectly, saying, “They cut cost to boost profits. The communities along their route be damned!”
Vance followed Brown, and in a tone very similar to the testimony he gave March 9 in front of the Senate’s Committee on Environment and Public Works, laid out that the intention of the bill is not to put the government in charge of day-to-day operations of America’s railroad companies like the bill’s outspoken opponents would like the public to believe. He addressed that concern of the rail carriers who have made it known that they feel the legislation is an overreach by Congress, where he stands on that issue by stating plainly that, “You cannot on the one hand beg the government to bail you out of a labor dispute three months ago and then say that it’s ‘big government’ to have proper safety standards in the way that you conduct your railroads. It’s a ridiculous argument, and it doesn’t pass the smell test.”
Gov. DeWine followed the Buckeye State’s senators and weighed in heavily on behalf of the residents of East Palestine. He started by describing life as it was in the village of 4,700 leading up to events of Feb. 3, 2023. He walked the committee through the Norman Rockwellian Friday night where the community was keenly focused on the high school basketball game in progress until the unthinkable happened.
“Life stopped being normal for everyone in this community — it stopped feeling safe — when 38 cars of that Norfolk Southern freight train, carrying hundreds of thousands of pounds of hazardous materials, hurtled off the track. In an instant, life turned upside down,” he said.
DeWine went on to describe the tough questions facing residents of East Palestine revolving around their physical health as well as the viability of their community’s future.
These points were driven home by witness Misti Allison. Allison, a resident of East Palestine for the last four years, was testifying in front of the Senate committee on behalf of her community. In her own words, her goal was “to put a face on this chemical disaster.”
In addition to emphasizing DeWine’s points in reference to the health concerns swirling around in East Palestine, she shared other details about a community shattered. Among the issues she brought to the committee’s attention were home equity of the residents, the viability of local businesses and the concerning contradictions in the results of various sources of environmental testing of air, water and soil samples.
The most-telling and unique issue she brought to light was the still-developing mental and emotional health concerns of the community post-derailment. She pointed out the ramifications the derailment has had especially among the youth of East Palestine in her written testimony: “Kids are not allowed to play on the playground because it hasn’t been cleaned. So the kids now play a game they invented called ‘EVACUATION’ during recess. This train derailment has robbed our kids of their childhood, and perhaps more.” she said.
This imagery is powerful and takes the importance of the Railway Safety Act of 2023 out of the realm of financial ramifications and puts it squarely in the arena of human rights.
At the conclusion of Allison’s testimony, it was time for Brother Whitaker to take the rather large stage and speak our union’s truth directly to power. SLD Whitaker explained in detail the effects PSR have had on our industry from the ground level.
In July 2022, Whitaker filed a complaint with the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) directly reporting that NS had been ordering their crews to disregard warnings from wayside defect detectors in his state and to keep their trains rolling after receiving alerts of hot bearings.
He informed the senators that he had personally cautioned the FRA months prior to the East Palestine derailment that carriers’ business practice and adherence to the PSR doctrine was putting our crews and communities in harm’s way.
“PSR has made the Class I railroads more than $160 billion in profit since 2015 while at the same time causing the greatest degradation of safety in modern day railroading,” he said in his written testimony. “As we have all seen in East Palestine, this cut-your-way-to-profit model is not sustainable and it is very, very dangerous.”
He further emphasized the impact of PSR on safety by talking about the current state of safety inspections of rolling stock and maintenance of equipment.
“No longer is identifying defects the goal of inspections. Instead, the goal is to minimize the time it takes to perform them or the elimination of them altogether, so the trains keep moving,” he said. “Compound this with the fact that the railroads are on a determined course to grow these trains to astronomical lengths and you have a predictable outcome, and that outcome is East Palestine.”
Following Brother Whitaker was not an easy task for CEO Alan Shaw of Norfolk Southern. He was noticeably uncomfortable, and his opening statement was predictably a rehashing of the same talking points he has used since the spotlight turned to him and his company in early February.
When CEO Shaw and Ian Jefferies, president of the Association of American Railroads, completed their revisitation of industry jargon, the hearing was not over.
Each senator was given the opportunity to ask questions of the panel. Senators of both parties took turns flogging Shaw and Jefferies about the holes in the logic behind their arguments and pointing out the contradictions between their claims and what Whitaker (a certified conductor and engineer) was telling them his firsthand reality is.
Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas), ranking minority member of the committee, was clearly deferring to SLD Whitaker’s expertise, when the stories of the two rail executives weren’t mirroring reality.
To sum up the committee hearing that took the better part of a day, it is safe to say that Sens. Brown and Vance seem to have assembled a piece of legislation that has wide support among their senate colleagues on both sides of the political spectrum.
SMART-TD would like to let Brother Whitaker know that his representation of our organization and of rail labor is a proud example of how we will continue to fight for our members and the communities they call home.
SMART Transportation Division President Jeremy Ferguson appeared with U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown in Cleveland on Monday morning to discuss the bipartisan Railway Safety Act of 2023 as momentum for legislative action on railroad safety continues to build on Capitol Hill.
Sen. Brown started off the press conference by discussing how the rail industry has gotten itself into its current state of disrepair. He came out of the gates dropping uncomfortable realities such as, “Here’s the story. The rail lobbyists have fought against rail safety for a hundred years.”
Brown went on to lay out a list of parallels he sees between the current scenarios in the rail and banking industries. “When I first heard about Silicon Valley Bank, the first thing I thought was this is the same story. Corporate lobbyists with banks and railroads for 100 years have fought for weaker rules, weaker safety requirements. That’s what Norfolk Southern and the rail companies do. They lobby Congress. They too often get their way with the railroad’s regulators, and we see trains that derail much more frequently.”
He went on to say, “We know what we need to do. That’s why I’ve introduced bipartisan legislation with my colleague, the new senator from Ohio. (Senator J.D. Vance) We want to address the number of (operators) on this train. The railroads, believe it or not, want a two- or three-mile train with 150 or 200 cars, with only one engineer on that train with no conductor. One engineer to drive a train that’s two to two and a half miles long with 150 to 200 cars. That makes no sense for the public interest.”
Following Sen. Brown, SMART-TD President Jeremy Ferguson made a statement of support for the bill as well as his vision for the future of the rail industry.
“Sen. Brown has seen firsthand what the devastation looks like when we let profits dictate the safest course of action to take when moving America’s freight by rail,” President Ferguson said. “We look forward to working tirelessly with Sen. Brown and his team to realize his vision for a safer and stronger rail industry. This bill offers a chance for the nation to require the highly profitable rail corporations to take rational measures to get the industry to do what it’s designated to do. Which is move freight through our nation safely and efficiently.”
Ferguson then spoke directly to those in power, saying, “We owe it to the people of East Palestine, Ohio, and to all the communities that have railroad tracks running through them to have the members of Congress do the right thing. Take back control of our nation’s supply chain from Wall Street’s profit-at-any-cost mentality.”
President Ferguson rounded out his public statement offering this endorsement for the Railway Safety Act of 2023. “This bill has the potential to put safe operations into its rightful place as the gold standard for railroading, and not what the next quarterly report can bring.”
This statement summed up what rail labor has been saying since Hunter Harrison brought PSR to CSX in 2017. Our safety and our ability to provide a reasonable work-life balance for our loved ones does matter. The time is now to end the industry’s experiment with PSR and get back to safe, sensible and efficient railroading that preserves the safety of general public and of worker alike.
SMART-TD is very grateful to Sens. Brown, Vance and their colleagues who have sponsored this legislation for their leadership. We also are appreciative for the opportunity to make SMART-TD part of the discussion. The light they have shed on our issues and the amplification of our concerns has been incredibly helpful in our fight against PSR.
SMART-TD Ohio State Legislative Director Clyde Whitaker will be among those testifying at the hearing along with Jennifer Homendy, chair of the National Transportation Safety Board, a local first-responder from East Palestine and two carrier representatives.
Last week’s much-anticipated hearing of the U.S. Senate’s Committee on Environment and Public Works featured a discussion of the Norfolk Southern derailment and the subsequent release of chemicals in East Palestine, Ohio. The spectacle of seeing NS CEO Alan Shaw fend off questions from the senators was clearly the main event of the day; however the undercard of the hearing was well worth the price of the ticket.
The hearing’s opening panel featured a robust discussion of the new bipartisan legislation being considered in the Senate known as the Railway Safety Act of 2023. Three out of the four title sponsors of the bill were in the hearing and testified about the goals they seek to achieve through the Safety Act.
Testimony started off with U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, a Pennsylvania Democrat. Last December, Casey not only voted for U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders’ legislation to guarantee seven paid sick days for railroad employees, but he also spoke at the SMART Transportation Division-led rally Dec. 13 outside the U.S. Capitol in Washington D.C. in support of ending Precision Scheduled Railroading (PSR).
With the Feb. 3 Norfolk Southern derailment and subsequent aftermath unfolding mere feet from Sen. Casey’s state, it makes sense that he would be among the group of legislators trying to rein in the effects PSR is having on our industry.
In discussing the Railway Safety Act of 2023, Casey said, “The future has to be about passing the Railway Safety Act that Senator Brown, Senator Vance, Senator Fetterman and I and others are leading. It’s bipartisan. That never happens around here on big bills, or rarely, I should say. It would be a good start by Norfolk Southern to tell us here today in addition to what more they are going to do for the people of Ohio and Pennsylvania, to tell us today that they support the bill! That would help.” Casey continued, “That’s what the people of both states deserve.”
Following Sen. Casey’s testimony, the spotlight went to the two Ohio senators. Sherrod Brown and JD Vance are on very different ends of the political spectrum, but they both did solid work discussing the strengths of and the need for the legislation.
“Lobbyists for the railroad companies have spent years fighting every effort to strengthen rules to make our trains and our rail lines safer. Now Ohioans are paying the price.”
– Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown
In discussing Norfolk Southern’s large derailment in Ohio on March 4th, Sen. Brown said, “Another NS train derailed in Springfield, Ohio. This time the cars that derailed weren’t carrying hazardous chemicals, but other cars on that 200-plus-car train were. The only thing that saved Ohioans from another disaster was luck. But we need more than that. That is why Senator Vance and I have come together to introduce our bipartisan Railway Safety Act.”
He went on to say that “lobbyists for the railroad companies have spent years fighting every effort to strengthen rules to make our trains and our rail lines safer. Now Ohioans are paying the price.”
Sen. Vance came out swinging pretty hard at the railroads, especially considering he is just months into his first term in Congress. For his part, Vance pointed out that, “This is an industry that enjoys special subsidies that almost no industry enjoys. This is an industry that enjoys special carveouts that almost no industry enjoys. This is an industry that just three months ago had the federal government come in and save them from a labor dispute. It was effectively a bailout. And now they’re claiming before the Senate and House that our reasonable legislation is somehow a violation of the free market? Well pot, meet the kettle, because that doesn’t make an ounce of sense. You cannot claim special government privileges, you cannot ask the government to bail you out and then resist basic public safety.”
In reference to his colleagues in Congress, Vance offered this: “We have a choice. Are we for big business and big government, or are we for the people of East Palestine? It’s a time for choosing. Let’s make the right one.”
It’s hard to put a finer point on it than that. SMART-TD is happy to have the combination of these three legislators along with Sens. John Fetterman (D-Pa.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), pushing this bill in Washington. We applaud their interest in safeguarding the rail industry and look forward to helping them as we get the Railway Safety Act of 2023 over the finish line.
“This legislation goes a long way toward protecting American families and communities while fortifying the rail industry to be sustainable and safe long into the future. The voices of SMART-TD’s brothers and sisters have been heard by these senators and are echoing through the halls of the United States Congress.”
INDEPENDENCE, Ohio (March 1, 2023) — Jeremy Ferguson, president of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers Transportation Division (SMART-TD), is calling for national support of The Railway Safety Act of 2023, a bipartisan bill that acknowledges the real-world conditions that shape the day-to-day safety concerns of the railroad workers who haul America’s freight.
U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), J.D. Vance (R-Ohio), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), John Fetterman (D-Pa.), Marco Rubio (R-Florida) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) have listened to the concerns of their constituents and put forward a comprehensive package in the Railway Safety Act that lives up to its billing — prioritizing the safety concerns expressed by the public and rail worker alike. In this bill, they give credence to the common-sense safety measures that our union and others in rail labor have advanced for years.
“The provisions in this act add up to the end of the era of Precision Scheduled Railroading (PSR) and attempt to take back control of our nation’s supply chain from Wall Street’s ‘profit at any cost’ mentality. It offers a chance for the nation to make the giant rail corporations take rational measures to get the industry to do what it’s designed to do — move freight through our nation safely and efficiently and be an example for the rest of the world to model,” President Ferguson said. “SMART-TD is proud to support this bill and its efforts to bring about generational changes in this country and to take a major step to stop PSR. We will work tirelessly with this team of like-minded Senators to realize their vision for a safer and stronger rail industry.”
The safeguards offered in the bill include, but are not limited to:
A nationwide mandate for well-trained two-person crews on all freight trains;
Restrictions on train length and weight;
Regulations on the installation, frequency, upkeep, and response to wayside defect detectors;
Drastically increased fines for rail companies and management employees who do not adhere to rail safety protocols;
Universalized track maintenance standards;
Universalized rail-car maintenance standards;
Higher standards for tank cars carrying hazardous material;
Emergency response plans for carriers and communities;
Phasing out of rail cars that do not meet strengthened safety requirements;
Annual government audits of rail carriers to validate compliance to new heightened safety standards.
“Hedge fund management of rail companies and their PSR strategy have careened the United States rail industry into a dark and dangerous place in the last six years. This bill has the potential to put safe operations into its rightful place as the gold standard in railroading and not what the next quarterly report can bring. We owe it to the people of East Palestine, Ohio, and to all communities that have railroad tracks running through them to have members of Congress do the right thing — to support this bill and insist that it makes it to President Biden’s desk without being watered down by negotiations or the special interests that will seek to stop it and claim that it is too ‘burdensome’ for a highly profitable industry to implement,” Ferguson continued.
A recently released Ipsos-USA Today poll shows that 53% of Americans believe that strengthened rail industry safety regulations could have prevented the disaster in East Palestine, Ohio.
SMART Transportation Division is comprised of approximately 125,000 active and retired members who work in a variety of different crafts in the transportation industry. These crafts include employees on every Class I railroad, Amtrak, many shortline railroads, bus and mass transit employees and airport personnel.
If you’re interested in speaking more about the Railway Safety Act of 2023, PSR, East Palestine, rail safety, and the next steps for the rail industry, we’d be happy to connect you with:
President Jeremy Ferguson, a member of Local 313 in Grand Rapids, Mic., was elected president of SMART’s Transportation Division in 2019.President Ferguson, an Army veteran, started railroading in 1994 as a conductor on CSX at Grand Rapids, Mich., and was promoted to engineer in 1995. Ferguson headed the recent national rail negotiations for the union with the nation’s rail carriers.
Greg Hynes is a fifth-generation railroader and was elected national legislative director in 2019. Hynes served on the SMART Transportation Division National Safety Team that assists the National Transportation Safety Board with accident investigations, from 2007-2014. In 2014, he was appointed to the Federal Railroad Administration’s Railroad Safety Advisory Committee (RSAC), which develops new railroad regulatory standards.
Jared Cassity was elected by his peers in 2019 and currently serves as the Alternate National Legislative Director. In addition to his elected roles, Cassity has also been appointed as the union’s chief of safety, serves as the director for the SMART-TD National Safety Team (which assists the NTSB in major rail-related accident investigations), is SMART-TD’s voting member on the Federal Railroad Administration’s C3RS Steering Committee, and is the first and only labor member to ever be appointed to the Transportation Security Administration’s Surface Transportation Safety Advisory Committee.