Dear Brothers and Sisters:

As you are undoubtedly aware, voting on the 2022 Tentative Agreement concluded yesterday evening at 11:59 p.m. Eastern time. I would like to sincerely thank each and every member who exercised their right to participate in this ratification, regardless of how you voted. While the final outcome is somewhat disheartening, I am proud to say that SMART-TD members turned out in record numbers, and your voices have been heard.

Before addressing the ratification vote results and our next steps, it is important to note that Article 21B, Section 91, of the SMART Constitution pertaining to national contract ratifications states, in pertinent part:

“A majority of the members voting of each of the crafts to be covered or affected by the terms of the proposed agreement shall be required to ratify the offer of settlement.”

This requires that each historic craft we represent (e.g., Conductors, Engine Service, Brakemen, Yardmen) must ratify for an agreement to ratify. 

It is also important to note that there are two separate agreements covering the affected SMART-TD members. Document “A” applies to members working in the crafts of Conductor, Engine Service, Brakemen, and Yardmen (collectively referred to as the “operating crafts”), while Document “B” applies specifically to Yardmasters. With that being said, the final results of SMART-TD’s ratification vote are as follows:

CraftIn FavorOpposedResult
Conductor50.8%49.2%Pass
Engine Service50%50%Tie
Brakemen50.2%49.8%Pass
Yardmen39.8%60.2%Fail
Yardmaster62.5%37.5%Pass

As a majority of the members voting of each of the operating crafts did not approve the 2022 Tentative Agreement, Document “A” has failed ratification. As a majority of Yardmasters approved the 2022 Tentative Agreement, Document “B” is ratified, effective November 21, 2022.

With respect to the operating craft members outlined above, SMART-TD has entered a cooling-off period that extends through December 8, 2022. The National Carriers’ Conference Committee (NCCC) has already indicated to us that they do not intend to engage in further bargaining over these issues. This has been their behavior to the other unions that have failed to ratify during this round of bargaining. Nonetheless, SMART-TD’s negotiating team will return to the table and invite the NCCC to reopen good-faith negotiations during this period.

If the cooling-off period expires and an improved Tentative Agreement cannot be reached, self-help will be available commencing at 12:01 a.m. Eastern time, Friday, December 9, 2022. There will be no need for this office to conduct another vote seeking strike authorization, as the results of our July 2022 polling and the unanimous approval of the affected General Committees of Adjustment still apply.

Please note that this letter does not automatically constitute authorization to engage in self-help. Final authorization will come in a separate notice from this office. The earliest such notice could be issued would be on or after 12:01 a.m. on Friday, December 9, 2022. However, there is a distinct possibility that Congress may pass legislation to resolve this dispute and/or impose an agreement prior to the expiration of our current cooling-off period. In that event, no self-help authorization can be issued.

As additional information becomes available, updates will be shared with all SMART-TD members via email, the SMART Union website and Transportation Division social media pages.

With best wishes and sincere gratitude for your continued support, I remain

Fraternally yours,

Jeremy R. Ferguson
President – Transportation Division


Follow this link for a printable version of this letter.

Balloting to have your voice heard on the tentative National Rail Agreement (TA) closes 11:59 p.m. Eastern TONIGHT, Nov. 20, 2022.

We thank all of the members who have participated thus far by casting your vote. For those who have not yet voted, we wanted to provide a one-stop source of information that can be referred to prior to the close of balloting at 11:59 p.m. (Eastern) Sunday, Nov. 20, 2022.

Video of the Nov. 9 town hall meeting in Ohio.

BE INFORMED BEFORE DECIDING: Transportation Division President Jeremy Ferguson and Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen President Dennis Pierce engaged in a candid, in-depth town-hall meeting with members of both unions Nov. 9 and fielded questions regarding all aspects of the TA. Please see above to watch.

IF YOU HAVE NOT RECEIVED A BALLOT: Ballots were mailed to the addresses that the union had on file for eligible members via USPS first class mail two weeks ago. If you have not received your ballot and you believe that you are eligible to vote, please contact the SMART-TD office and submit your request for a replacement ballot. For the quickest response, requests may be submitted by emailing ContractQuestions@smart-union.org. Replacement ballot requests may also be submitted by calling (216) 227-5424. When submitting your request, please provide your full name, home address, last 4 digits of your Social Security number and date of birth. Once your identity and eligibility are confirmed, you will be provided with the pertinent materials and instructions to cast your vote.

REGARDING H&W: Payment rates for the plans have been announced, pending ratification.

PLEASE REMEMBER THAT YOUR VOTE COUNTS! To have a say on this TA, all eligible members are encouraged to exercise their democratic rights as a member of our union.

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio, November 11 — At a November 9 Town Hall meeting, SMART Transportation Division President Jeremy Ferguson and Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen President Dennis Pierce discussed the tentative National Rail Agreement with dozens of members from both unions.

A video recording of the Town Hall (approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes) is available on the BLET and SMART TD websites.

ATTENTION: ALL SMART-TD RAIL MEMBERS SUBJECT TO NATIONAL HANDLING

Ballots have been sent out to all eligible SMART-TD members for voting on the 2022 National Rail Tentative Agreement. A PDF synopsis of the Tentative Agreement can be found here, and a full PDF copy of the Tentative Agreement can be found here.

As required by SMART Constitution Article 21B, Section 91, ballots were mailed via USPS first class mail to all eligible members at their last known address. Over the next several days, members will begin receiving ballot packages in standard #10 size envelopes containing information about the 2022 Tentative Agreement, a unique 12-digit access code and detailed instructions for casting telephonic votes using the BallotPoint election services voting system.

Voting on the 2022 Tentative Agreement closes on Sunday, November 20, at 11:59 p.m. ET. Tabulation will occur and results will be announced on Monday, November 21.

To be eligible to vote, members must be employed by a carrier that is fully involved in national handling, and they must be actively working in one of the crafts covered by the tentative agreement (conductor, engine service, brakeman, yardman or yardmaster). Members who are employed by carriers that are partially subject to national handling (i.e., H&W only, or H&W and wages only) and members who are not working for any reason including sickness, disability, furlough, suspension and dismissal (commonly referred to as “E-49” members) are not eligible to vote.

If you are a SMART-TD member who meets the above eligibility requirements and you have not received your ballot by the week of November 7, you may contact the SMART-TD office by emailing ContractQuestions@smart-union.org, or by calling (216) 227-5424. In doing so, please provide your full name, home address, last 4 digits of your Social Security number and date of birth. Once your identity and eligibility are confirmed, you will be provided with a telephone number and a unique 12-digit access code to cast your vote.

SMART-TD URGES ALL ELIGIBLE MEMBERS TO EXERCISE THEIR DEMOCRATIC RIGHTS BY VOTING ON THIS TENTATIVE AGREEMENT.

ABOVE: Video from SMART-TD President Jeremy Ferguson and BLET President Dennis Pierce explaining the National Rail Tentative Agreement.

Timeline showing the development of the National Tentative Agreement (PDF).

The 2022 Tentative Agreement (TA) documents for Transportation Division members under national rail contract handling are available to be reviewed through the SMART Member Portal.

Both PDFs of the TA (with rate tables to be added) and the Questions and Answers that accompany it are ready for members to read and to seek clarification about prior to filling out ballots, which are to enter the mail system next week, kicking off the 21-day voting period.

It goes without saying that it is of the utmost importance that each member takes the time to read these documents. If you are having difficulty in accessing the documents or have questions, please contact your local leadership.

This agreement will set the table for our members’ financial security and quality of life for five years, and it is important to do a thorough review of the TA before making your voice heard through the ballot process.

It has been a long and difficult path to get to the point of having an agreement for rail labor to consider. This most important part of the process is up to each of you.

SMART Transportation Division President Jeremy Ferguson, right, appears on Episode 5 of the Between the Rails podcast with host Jon Chaffin of Local 1313, left.

SMART Transportation Division President Jeremy Ferguson appeared in a joint video with Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen President Dennis Pierce on Oct. 7 with both presenting facts regarding the Tentative Agreement (TA) being considered by rail labor.

President Ferguson also answered additional questions regarding the TA on a pair of episodes of the Between the Rails podcast over the weekend as well.

The joint video with the BLET can be seen here.

The first episode of Between the Rails that President Ferguson appeared on is available here.

The second episode of Between the Rails featuring President Ferguson is available here.

As of 11:59 p.m. Eastern on Friday, Oct. 7, the 15-day question-and-answer submission period concluded. The next steps in the process of considering the agreement will consist of meetings between legal representatives of both SMART-TD and the carriers that will address the questions posed by members and their General Chairpersons, and then coming to agreed-upon interpretations to answer these questions.

The completed Q&A document will be released in conjunction with the full text of the TA prior to the start of the 21-day TA balloting period toward the end of October.

SMART-TD Brothers and Sisters,

Due to an immense amount of misinformation, I would like to provide answers to some of the questions and concerns that I have been receiving over the past few weeks, as well as provide an update on where we are in the process regarding the tentative agreement (TA).

The question and answer (Q&A) period for the general chairpersons is still underway as per our constitution. The deadline for submissions is October 7th. Once the questions have been submitted, they will be checked for duplication and wording, which is estimated to take three to four days. A final single document will then be submitted to the National Carriers Conference Committee (NCCC), with whom we will meet to reach an agreement on the final answers. A meeting will promptly follow so our target date for the ballots to be sent to you, the members, can be achieved. The final Q&A will be part of the tentative agreement and will be included in its entirety for members to review before voting.  

Several topics have also arisen that we would like to respond to regarding the upcoming vote every member will hopefully be casting regarding the tentative agreement:

  • Ballot and voting information for SMART-TD has not been put out. Per the SMART-TD Constitution, Article 21(B), Section 91, ballots and instructions cannot be sent out in any capacity until the Q&A stage of the agreement process has been met. Anyone claiming or posting on social media that they have received a ballot and instructions should be taken with caution as nothing has been authorized by my office. I will never submit material to the membership instructing them to vote YES or NO.
  • Contrary to certain groups and social media rumors, the SMART-TD Constitution does not allow for a non-vote to be counted as a YES vote. This protection means that EVERY vote is important. Every member of the union needs to make sure their vote is submitted, regardless of voting yes or no. The SMART Constitution clearly states: “A majority of the members voting of each of the crafts to be covered or affected by the terms of the proposed agreement shall be required to ratify the offer of settlement.” Voting is your most sacred and powerful right as a union member. Please encourage your fellow brothers and sisters to take part in the upcoming vote.
  • A recent accusation is circulating that if the majority of the membership votes not to ratify the tentative agreement, SMART-TD will override the NO vote and force the tentative agreement on the membership. This is materially FALSE. Your International leadership does NOT have the ability under the SMART Constitution to overturn a vote. In the event that the majority votes no, we would go back to the table until a resolution is either forced on us by Congress or a resolution that the SMART-TD membership would ratify is presented.

I would ask that you consider the source of information that is projecting this reckless and materially false information. Social media posts, news and blog articles from other sources and discussions around the yards are contributing to a large amount of misinformation being spread. These sources do not have the “inside information” as they claim. The information posted on the SMART union website and its official social media pages is THE source for completely accurate content regarding the Tentative Agreement.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact my office.

Fraternally,

Jeremy R. Ferguson

President, Transportation Division

For the first time in more than 30 years, this Union has taken the Railway Labor Act (RLA) to its limits. We negotiated. We mediated. We cooled off. We went all the way to a Presidential Emergency Board (PEB) and then back into a cooling-off period again. The coordinated bargaining group was tasked with obtaining the best benefits possible, and we never stopped fighting.

I understand the desire amongst many of you to strike. I know the contempt the carriers treat you with at work and have faced it in negotiations. I agree that this nation needs to know and understand just how poorly you and your families are being treated by America’s Class I railroads. You sacrificed every day for the last several years in the face of this disregard for the sake of your families, your communities and this nation. Working through the pandemic, you endured as critical essential infrastructure workers. You put your health and safety on the line to ensure the world continued to function uninterrupted.

Our supply chain remained intact because of your efforts. How did the carriers respond? With nothing more than “labor doesn’t contribute to profits.” It is clear from not only their words, but also their actions that their sole focus was and still is to satisfy Wall Street investors and their constant desire to maximize profits.

In the face of all this, why did we not strike? It is not due to the RLA, but rather because of the commerce clause contained within the Constitution of the United States of America. The fact is, Congress would not risk any more harm to the supply chain than what the railroads have already committed since the advent of Precision Scheduled Railroading (PSR). We were then faced with an ugly reality. We could refuse to negotiate any further and initiate the strike procedures, which, in turn, would have been blocked by Congress with the PEB imposed upon us, or we could come to a tentative agreement that then gives you a voice in these proceedings through a direct up or down vote. Beyond empowering each and every member in the process, the agreement opens new ground and cracks open the door to attendance policies being negotiated at the table, instead of through unilateral edicts from the carriers.

The fact is, Congress would not risk any more harm to the supply chain than what the railroads have already committed since the advent of Precision Scheduled Railroading (PSR). We were then faced with an ugly reality. We could refuse to negotiate any further and initiate the strike procedures, which, in turn, would have been blocked by Congress with the PEB imposed upon us, or we could come to a tentative agreement that then gives you a voice in these proceedings through a direct up or down vote. Beyond empowering each and every member in the process, the agreement opens new ground and cracks open the door to attendance policies being negotiated at the table, instead of through unilateral edicts from the carriers.

From the beginning, it was clear that the carriers had no intent of negotiating in good faith. Their primary goal was to break our crew-consist agreements and force crew reductions upon us. In their list of items they wished to accomplish in negotiations (Section 6 notices) they included pay concessions from members so that you would actually have money taken away from you if their objective of single-person crews was rejected. Similarly, their proposed general wage increases (GWI) were a meager 11% with a tiered health care system that would subject you to a monthly premium (moving goal post) that was dependent upon their current health factors, the number of dependents in their respective households, and, in addition, drastic increases to deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses.

Needless to say, there was nothing gained during the early stages of negotiations. While you were hard at work risking your health and safety, the carriers were warm and cozy with the shareholders enjoying record profits while sitting quiet at the table, arms folded and with icy glares blanketly rejecting every proposal we put forth. We demanded our fair share, as you have seen in our published Section 6 Notices. They were absolutely unwilling to negotiate at any point. As a result, and after almost three years of the carriers’ stonewalling, the National Mediation Board (NMB) ordered the parties to mediation.

During mediation, the political climate became more influential, as the elected representatives who would eventually have oversight of our dispute were known to be more labor friendly. This caused the railroads’ bargaining unit to slightly loosen its position, which resulted in their new offer of a 16% GWI (a raise they coined – “reasonable”), but they still maintained their positions on drastic healthcare and work rule changes. Clearly, this fell well short of being acceptable, so we held strong, maintained our position and continued the battle.

Eventually, the parties were released from mediation because it was abundantly clear the carriers were not willing to engage in a conversation, much less meaningful negotiations, and given that we were at a standstill and making zero progress, the cooling-off period commenced.

The carriers drew their line in the sand from the very beginning and claimed that, in their opinion, your demands were excessive and undeserved. We had no other choice but to prepare for a strike; and that’s exactly what we did throughout the cooling-off period. While they were busy courting Wall Street and putting up smoke and mirrors to hide from their own customers and the Surface Transportation Board (STB), we were busy preparing for the first strike in more than 30 years.

The carriers drew their line in the sand from the very beginning and claimed that, in their opinion, your demands were excessive and undeserved. We had no other choice but to prepare for a strike; and that’s exactly what we did throughout the cooling-off period. While they were busy courting Wall Street and putting up smoke and mirrors to hide from their own customers and the Surface Transportation Board (STB), we were busy preparing for the first strike in more than 30 years.

Given your value and worth to this nation as the backbone of America’s economy, President Biden enacted his right, according to the RLA, to impose a PEB in a last-ditch effort for the two sides to reach an amicable agreement. The PEB appointments were publicly named, and given who was selected, we maintained faith that they would have labor’s best interests in mind.

The preparation for the PEB was immediate. Much like court, despite only having three jurors (PEB appointees) as opposed to the standard 12, we prepared to make three years’ worth of arguments in a five-day period. We stretched those days for everything we could to wage our strongest arguments for the highest priority of issues. This included a 28% GWI, no healthcare changes, 15 paid sick days, three additional holidays, a voluntary five-day work week for road service, scope rule and vacation pay changes for our yardmasters, and the abolishment of their egregious attendance policies. The carriers, of course, made all their standard rebuttal arguments on why you shouldn’t be entitled to any of our proposals, and what they wanted to gain from this process.

From day one of negotiations, we never backed down, and we never conceded to any of the items the carriers were demanding. Without question, we knew our only chance at success was to stand united and be willing to go the full distance under the RLA. Had any Union achieved or agreed to a tentative agreement prior to the PEB, it would have most likely established a potentially harmful precedence, which, historically, leaves the remaining unions to face that pattern as the most likely PEB recommendation.

Eventually, PEB 250 concluded and its jury made their ruling. Immediately it was clear the recommendations fell short. The quality-of-life issues we had fought so hard to achieve were negated, namely sick leave and the invalidation of attendance policies. Given that the additional holidays and sick leave were not included, the recommended wage increases should have been greater, and we had sound testimony to support it. The coalition hired an expert economist, and he clearly expressed what was needed in the form of an agreement to recruit and retain an adequate and talented workforce. Our stance was ignored, and the PEB members decided to meet both parties somewhere, theoretically, in the middle.

While this outcome fell short of our expectations, they did rule against the carriers’ proposal to force our crew-consist negotiations into an expedited arbitration (within six months of continued mediation), in addition to denying any forfeiture of pay raises where conductors remain in the cab of a locomotive. The board also rejected the railroads’ proposal for drastic changes to our healthcare plans which would have had long-term financial impacts on the members when they or their dependents received medical care or preventative exams. We were also successful with our position to achieve much-needed changes to the healthcare plan with respect to speech therapy, Autism Spectrum Disorder and an increase in hearing benefits.

While this outcome fell short of our expectations, they did rule against the carriers’ proposal to force our crew-consist negotiations into an expedited arbitration (within six months of continued mediation), in addition to denying any forfeiture of pay raises where conductors remain in the cab of a locomotive.

Additionally, the PEB recommended our position for rest days, but in doing so, commingled this into their decision with the carriers’ demand to implement automatic bids (ABS) and self-supporting pools (SSP) (with modifications to pool/extra board regulations). I want to be very clear that neither SMART-TD nor the BLE-T argued in support of the ABS or SSP. Unfortunately, these were two items that the carriers were successful in receiving, along with the return of the 15% monthly contribution for healthcare premiums.

Following the PEB, it was clear the carriers were not happy with what they had received. This proved to be detrimental to our collective bargaining process as the recommendation would serve as the foundation for any possible agreement moving forward. The carriers were adamant that we would not receive anything more than what was contained within the PEB, period! While most of the other Unions accepted the recommendation as written, we were determined to get more, we dug in, did not waver and continued the fight.

My objective during this time was two-fold; prepare for a national strike and negotiate additional benefits for our members in excess of the PEB recommendations. As a leader, this decision was tough. I had just as many members telling me they wanted to vote on the recommendation as I did that wanted to strike. In addition, I do not agree with, nor will be party to any attempt to restrict your right to vote. You sacrificed too much to not have a say in this process.

So, we pressed on until the 12th hour, when the political powers made it clear, regardless of what was portrayed in the media, that we would not be allowed to shut down America’s supply chain. In the final hours, we were successful in obtaining more, in spite of the headwinds and all who stated it was not possible.

In the final hours, we were successful in obtaining more, in spite of the headwinds and all who stated it was not possible.

As President of this Union, I will not sell members on this tentative agreement. It is my responsibility and duty to provide you with factual information and allow you to make an educated choice, based on the facts presented, that serves you and your family’s interest. Further, it would have been reckless of me to put your fate in the hands of politicians who know very little of the plight of a modern railroad worker in today’s PSR environment. Therefore, as it should be, the vote is now yours. No matter what your collective decision is, I will work to ensure it is heard and is acted upon.

In solidarity,

Jeremy Ferguson,
President — Transportation Division

SMART Transportation Division General Chairpersons Dirk Sampson (GO 769), Robert Keeley (GO 342) and Fran Ariola (GO 663) announced today that they have reached a tentative agreement with Amtrak on behalf of their members employed by the passenger railroad.
The chairpersons convened Jan. 10 and 11 at SMART TD headquarters in Cleveland, Ohio, to continue negotiations over a new contract for Amtrak employees represented by the union. Assisted by SMART TD President John Previsich and Vice Presidents John Lesniewski and John England, union officials and Amtrak representatives reached tentative agreements for each bargaining group.
A synopsis of the tentative agreements can be read here.
Each proposed agreement will be submitted for a ratification vote of the affected members.
Copies of the proposed agreement and information on ratification will be communicated by the General Chairpersons to their respective memberships with balloting materials to be prepared and distributed beginning Jan. 15.

On October 6, 2017, the six Rail Unions comprising the Coordinated Bargaining Group (CBG) announced that they had reached a Tentative National Agreement with the Nation’s Freight Rail Carriers. Shortly after that announcement, a Union belonging to a different bargaining coalition began a campaign of misinformation, misrepresentation and outright falsehood in an effort to disrupt and undermine the democratic ratification process of the CBG Unions. This anti-union activity has included public letters replete with falsehoods, leaflets at TY&E on-duty points, also filled with falsehoods, and a social media campaign intended to negatively influence the ratification process of the CBG Unions. We can no longer stand by and allow this anti-union interference and disruption to go unchecked.
Before the Section 6 Notices were filed in late 2014, the Union now interfering in our ratification process was invited to join together with all unions to bargain jointly. That Union rejected this invitation, and set out on its own as the smallest of the three coalitions in the bargaining round. Without informing the other ten Unions at the table, that smaller coalition offered the railroads its own version of Plan Design Change to the Health Care plan. In its public contract offer in the Spring of 2017, that group offered Plan Design Changes valued by their own math at over $200,000,000.00 to the Carriers. It was only after the railroads rejected this proposal, absent the buy in of the other ten Unions, that this smaller coalition offered to share its proposals with the CBG Unions.
Contrary to what that group would now have you believe, only one of the ten other Unions in negotiations were ever invited to join the smaller coalition, and to date not one of those ten other Unions has signed onto the smaller coalition’s version of Plan Design Change.
That smaller group now argues that their Plan Design Proposal would cost you nothing; that is not a proven fact. Here are the facts:

  1. The Union interfering in your ratification process does not have the support of 10 other Unions at the bargaining table and they couldn’t care less what any other Union thinks.
  2. The Union interfering in your ratification process does not have an agreement with the railroads to even compare to the CBG Tentative Agreement. Proposals are not Agreements.
  3. Due to its failure to obtain an agreement, the Union interfering in your ratification process has publicly declared to the National Mediation Board that they are at an impasse in negotiations and have no plans to bargain further.
  4. Instead, the Union interfering in your ratification process has publicly stated that it plans to put its Healthcare dispute before the Federal Government for resolution, knowing that the current Congress is one of the most Corporate owned, anti-labor, anti-healthcare, Federal Governments in years.
  5. The Union interfering in your ratification process made the decision to put its own membership at risk in this way without allowing them to have any say through a ratification vote.
  6. The Union interfering in your ratification process wants you to vote no and join it before the Federal Government, and it does not care if your wages, benefits and work rules are put at risk.

Refraining from attacking another Union in the performance of its negotiating obligations is a core principle of Trade Unionism. The Union interfering in your ratification process does not have the same exposure to significant work rules changes that you do and has publicly stated that it does not care if your work rules are eliminated. The leaders of that Union at the highest level have been repeatedly asked to stay out of our ratification process, and they have refused.
This is the opposite of true Brotherhood; don’t be conned by their anti-union activities. Take the time to understand all your options and the risks associated with each, and then be sure to participate by voting in your ratification process, a process that the interfering Union does not think you are entitled to.

# # #

The Coordinated Bargaining Group is comprised of six unions: the American Train Dispatchers Association; the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (a Division of the Rail Conference of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters); the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen; the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, Iron Ship Builders, Blacksmiths, Forgers, and Helpers; the National Conference of Firemen and Oilers / SEIU; and the Transportation Division of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers.
Collectively, the CBG unions represent more than 85,000 railroad workers covered by the various organizations’ national agreements, and comprise over 58% of the workforce that will be impacted by the outcome of the current bargaining round.


To view this release in PDF form, click here.