In early June, SMART Local 16 (Portland, Ore.) journey-worker Lisa Davis was named one of the winners of the June NABTU Tradeswomen Heroes Award, which “honors two apprentices and two journey-level workers in the United States and Canada that set an exemplary example both on and off the jobsite.”

“Sister Davis is leading the industry as the first female HVACR Education Specialist for SMART International Training Institute [ITI],” read the press release announcing Lisa’s win. “Sister Davis’s passion for moving the industry’s direction to increase safety, diversity, equity, and inclusion standards in the workplace is nothing short of what she has been able to accomplish to reach those goals.”

In 2005, Lisa graduated from the University of California, Davis, solely committed to one goal: becoming a surgeon. Having graduated with a bachelor’s degree in biology, Lisa moved to Oregon to attend Oregon Health and Science University — but she soon realized a life in medicine wasn’t her calling.

Sister Davis is leading the industry as the first female HVACR Education Specialist for the International Training Institute.

The next three years found Lisa exploring what that calling might be. She worked as a barista, in an operating room and on a farm in Hawaii. After those disparate and exciting experiences, though, it was ultimately something much simpler — a job working as a mechanic in a bowling alley — that changed her life. It was there that she realized working with her hands with mechanical tools, rather than a scalpel, was her ticket to happiness.

Following that epiphany, Lisa sought out Oregon Tradeswomen and completed the organization’s training before she was accepted into the apprenticeship at Sheet Metal Workers Local 16 in Portland. There she completed a building trades apprenticeship and service program. A passionate advocate for education, recruitment, retention and diversity, Lisa worked her way up to become Local 16’s first female instructor. She also helped form a diversity committee and served on the ground floor of the local’s mentoring program, both of which continue to this day.

In 2019, Lisa furthered her role as a mentor by joining the ITI as a heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration (HVACR) service and testing, adjusting and balancing (TAB) specialist. She also serves on SMART’s International Women’s Committee, where she helped craft resolutions and amendments leading up to the union’s 2019 national convention.

“Sister Davis continues to elevate all members by devoting her extra time to actively working with her peers to create and implement DEI and safety language within government laws, initiating mentoring programs, training and educating members, and simply ’Doing the Right Thing,’” the press release concluded. “[Her] commitment, dedication, and hard work have proven that opportunity is a viable pathway for members to reach their fullest potential. Sister Davis is a true HERO for all members of SMART.”

Michael Harris, a longtime staffer at the International Training Institute (ITI), has taken the reins as its administrator. A second-generation sheet metal worker, Harris got his first taste of the industry at age 16, when he spent the summer working in a sheet metal shop.

Initially opting for college, Harris later changed course and worked in a custom fabrication shop alongside his father before joining the SMART Local 20 (Indianapolis, Ind.) apprenticeship program in 1991. During the fourth year of his apprenticeship, Harris began teaching part time at the Local 20 training center, moving to full-time teaching in 1997. By 2000, Harris took over as director of training for the statewide training trust.

In 2005, Harris joined the ITI staff as a welding assessor, and in 2009 he took on the role of program administrator, overseeing programming and instructor training and managing field staff. After the retirement of James Page in 2020, Harris assumed many of the responsibilities of ITI administrator in an acting capacity, assisting Funds Administrator Daniel McCallum in running the day-to-day operations of the organization. Effective Jan. 1, Harris officially accepted the role of ITI administrator.

 “Mike has been instrumental in the success of ITI over the years,” McCallum said. “His knowledge and experience have made my job as funds administrator far easier. He is absolutely the best person for the job.”

Harris hopes to continue to build on ITI’s success, adding new instructional offerings and developing programs for the sheet metal workers of tomorrow.

“I’m excited to take on this new role at ITI,” Harris said. “I genuinely believe that the ITI trains the best and the brightest. Our instructors are top notch, our programs are among the most advanced and dynamic in the industry. And our staff is second to none.”

May 24 marks the rollout of the Membership 101 portion of SMART University, an online video-based educational resource designed for new SMART Transportation Division members to get acquainted with their union.

The first flight of releases includes video primers on local meetings, the roles of local officers, how to approach a carrier investigatory hearing and other important topics for union members.

At this time, access to these videos is exclusively as a resource available in the Member Portal of the revamped SMART website. Instructions on how TD members can create an account to access the Member Portal are available on the website.

“This is an exciting project that we’ve been working on for some time,” SMART Transportation Division President Jeremy Ferguson said. “These videos can be accessed anytime and anywhere. In conjunction with our Regional Training Seminars and other training efforts, we’re hoping that these serve as building blocks to engage one another and to make our union stronger.”

Suggestions for future videos can be emailed to the TD President’s Department at president_TD@smart-union.org.

Additional educational efforts for union officers are forthcoming and are expected to be rolled out very soon.

New Jersey Transit (NJT) is expanding its de-escalation training for front-line employees to include curriculum from Rutgers’ National Transit Institute (NTI), the carrier said in a press release on Monday.
NTI presented a “Train the Trainers” program on conflict de-escalation techniques for bus and rail operations and New Jersey Transit police recently.
“These highly effective techniques will be incorporated into existing internal NJT de-escalation training programs to create a set of best practices for use in real-world situations,” NJT said in its release.
“This new de-escalation training demonstrates our commitment to our front-line employees and to their safety,” said NJT President & CEO Kevin Corbett.
“One of our main missions as a police department is promoting the safety of our customers and crews, and this expansion of our de-escalation training fits squarely in that space,” said NJT Police Chief Christopher Trucillo. “It is always preferable to have situations managed before it rises to the level of police involvement.”
“The best way to help employees at risk of on-the-job assaults is to help them prevent the assault in the first place,” said NJT Employee Court Advocate Michael Rubin. “With this expanded training program our bus operators, conductors, police, and other customer-facing employees will have additional tools at hand to de-escalate situations and protect themselves and their customers from possible assaults.”
All of NJT’s employees who work with the public on buses, trains or as police officers receive training on how to manage difficult situations to minimize the possibility of violence. With the assistance of NTI, the trainings will be more robust and help to reduce assaults on bus operators, conductors, police, and other personnel.
“SMART TD Local 60 applauds N.J. Transit’s efforts in protecting our front-line employees from assaults. NTI’s de-escalation training is a great step in the right direction,” said Jerome C. Johnson, president and alternate delegate of the local and general chairperson of GO-610 (New Jersey Transit). “We look forward to collaborating further with N.J. Transit to reduce assaults and provide training for our brothers and sisters in conflict avoidance.”
NJT is the nation’s largest statewide public transportation system providing more than 925,000 weekday trips on 251 bus routes, three light rail lines, 12 commuter rail lines, and through Access Link paratransit service. It is the third largest transit system in the country with 166 rail stations, 62 light rail stations, and more than 18,000 bus stops linking major points in New Jersey, New York, and Philadelphia.

SMART Transportation Division National Legislative Director James Stem appeared before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation June 19 at a hearing to explore improvements in freight and passenger rail safety.

Stem testified on a variety of issues including fatigue, positive train control, the shipment hazardous materials, new technologies and worker training.

Stem told the committee that any discussion concerning rail safety should start with employee fatigue as the first order of business.

“Our railroad corporations are re-investing more than $20 billion annually in upgrading, maintaining and expanding their infrastructure, but are unwilling to invest anything in resolving the most pressing of safety issues – unpredictable work schedules coupled with employee availability policies,” Stem said.

“The Railroad Safety Improvement Act of 2008 contained provisions for two pilot projects sponsored by the Federal Railroad Administration for improving work schedules and employee notification. We have urged all the Class I railroads to participate in a pilot project, but not a single railroad would agree to a pilot.”

Stem offered the following suggestions to address the issue:

•Providing employees a regular start time so they know days in advance when they must come to work. A large majority of our members have a regular start time and do not consider fatigue to be a safety issue. Employees with regular start times are not the employees who are dying in fatigue-related collisions.

•Notifying employees before going off-duty what time they will be required to return to work for the next tour of duty. This option actually improves the availability of the employee by allowing the employee to return to service after only 10 hours off duty.

•Replacing the required 10 hours of undisturbed rest immediately following service that is now required with 10 hours of undisturbed rest immediately preceding service. This will give the employee at least 10 hours of notification prior to reporting for service.

“The high level of professionalism and dedication of the operating crews running our railroads today are the only reasons that accidents are not more frequent,” Stem said.

On positive train control, Stem testified that there are segments of the railroad industry that are hoping Congress will grant a blanket extension of three to five years for PTC implementation. The current required date for implementation is more than 30 months away on December 31, 2015.

“If Congress chooses to grant a blanket extension for PTC, the railroads that are behind on their implementation schedule today will further slow their progress, or just stop the process until that new extension expires,” he said.

“Any extension for PTC implementation should be on an individual basis, short in duration, six to 12 months, and only after identifying the reasons that the current implementation date is not obtainable.

“The PTC systems that are being implemented today contain all the information on thedisplay screen that is necessary to operate a train safely. This will be the first time that the operating crews on the locomotive will have all that information contained in one place and displayed in real time. The quality of that information on the screen will significantly reduce the complexity of safely operating the train.”

Some railroads, including Amtrak, BNSF and Metrolink in California have announced that they will be able to meet the statutory deadline and are continuing the implementation and testing of PTC components.

?On Amtrak, Stem testified about the need for continued funding of the passenger rail carrier.

“Since its inception, Amtrak has done a remarkable job with often inadequate resources. While setting ridership records in recent years, their safety record remains solid. Amtrak’s growing passenger volumes has made them far more self-sufficient than in the past, recovering 79 percent of their operating costs from ticket revenue. The high price of fuel, growing highway and airport congestion, and the significant increase in the number of passenger rail options, all contribute to the constant increases in ridership on Amtrak.

“Even with their remarkable progress, Amtrak has had no shortage of congressional critics who expect Amtrak to be the world’s only profitable passenger railroad. We ask that this committee take a fresh look at this American success story and work with the leaders of Amtrak and others to help ‘America’s Railroad’ build on its 40 plus years of success. Amtrak was created because the demand for rail passenger services remained strong, and the private railroads could not make a profit operating their own passenger trains.”

Addressing worker training, Stem said that thousands of new employees will be coming into the freight and passenger rail industies in the near future and that adequate and appropriate training is a major safety concern.

“Our experience is that the training of our members varies widely from railroad to railroad. Some of the larger railroads are reported to have excellent initial training programs for conductors and engineers. However, they rely almost exclusively on computer-based training for follow-up training or what I call ‘training on your own.’ They no longer use the traditional model of mentoring or apprenticeship, where a new employee has the advantage of working with more mature employees with experience, skills, and good technique.

“Forty years ago, there were five members of a train crew and they spent years working as brakemen before becoming conductors, and likewise, years as a fireman before becoming an engineer. Today, the standard crew size is two. Now railroads hire people off the street and train them to be conductors in several short months. We are concerned about the long-term impact of insufficient training processes that create employees that lack the confidence in their abilities to stop a train movement when they suspect something is wrong.

“It’s expensive to train new people, so like some American companies, railroads, when left to their own desires, will reduce training costs as much as possible for the short term gains involved.”

Also testifying before the committee were Federal Railroad Administrator Joe Szabo, National Transportation Safety Board Chairperson Deborah Hersman and Association of American Railroads President Edward Hamberger.

To read Stem’s complete written testimony, click here.

stem_senate_061913 SMART Transportation Division National Legislative Director James Stem
testifies before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation
June 19, 2013.

It’s not all we wanted, but, maybe more important, it’s not as bad as it could have been.

Given the polarization of this Congress, the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century – MAP-21 – is as good a new transportation authorization bill as we could have hoped for. Passed by bipartisan majorities in the House and Senate June 29, President Obama is expected to sign the bill into law.

This is what MAP-21 does as it applies to bus, commuter rail, intercity passenger rail and freight rail:

* It increases federal expenditures for federal transit programs – bus and commuter rail – beginning in October and continuing through September 2014. Within those numbers, however, is a reduction in bus and bus facilities spending, which is a victory of sorts since an earlier version sought to zero out such spending.

* It allows transit systems operating fewer than 100 buses in peak service to use a portion of their capital grants for operating expenses. This will allow money for smaller, cash-strapped systems to keep buses on the road and return furloughed drivers to work. But, sadly, larger bus system do not gain such flexibility — even during periods of high unemployment.

* It extends a $17 billion federal loan program for transit and freight rail operators, making, for example, up to $350 million available to the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LACMTA) for transit improvements.

* It grants authority to the Department of Transportation to create a national safety plan for all modes of public transportation, which will result in minimum standard safety performance standards for systems not currently regulated by the federal government. These safety performance standards will include establishment of a national safety certification training program for employees of federal- and state-owned transit system.

* It requires the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to establish a national registry of medical examiners within one year, and requires employers periodically to verify the commercial driver license status of employees.

* It provides 80 percent in federal match dollars for transit systems to develop and carry out state safety oversight programs. State oversight will include review, approval and enforcement of transit agency safety plans, including audits by the Federal Transit Administration.

* It scraps at attempt to eliminate overtime and minimum wage provisions for van drivers whose routes cross state lines.

* It strengthens Buy America requirements for all new bus and passenger-rail rolling stock and other capital expenditures, which means more American jobs.

* It leaves in place a requirement that positive train control be implemented on all track carrying passenger rail — commuter and Amtrak — by Dec. 31, 2015. It does, however, reduce the PTC installation requirement for freight railroads, providing that PTC to be installed on fewer than 40 percent of main line trackage by Dec. 31, 2015, with 60 percent (freight only trackage) continuing to use existing train control systems.

* Importantly, it does not include a provision sought by conservatives that would have blocked federal funds for operation of Amtrak’s long-distance trains in 27 states, nor does it include a provision that would have had the same effect by denying federal funds for subsidizing food and beverage service on long-distance trains.

* Also, on the positive side for Amtrak, it provides a new federal grant program to improve or preserve Amtrak routes exceeding 750 miles, and it makes Amtrak eligible for other federal grants on corridor routes and funds intended to help ease highway congestion. Other Amtrak operating and capital grants are provided in separate legislation.

* A provision that originated in the Senate to eliminate almost 75 percent of Alaska Railroad federal funding and the $6 million in congestion and air quality mitigation funding for Amtrak’s Downeaster train in New England was amended. The Alaska Railroad funding now will be cut by 13 percent in each of the next two years by applying a new funding formula, and the air quality mitigation funding will continue for the Downeaster.

* It does not increase weight and length limits for trucks on federal aid highways – which would adversely impact rail traffic and rail jobs – but does allow an extension for current higher weights on some highway corridors while another study on the impact of liberalizing truck weight and length limits is conducted.

“Even though it has shortcomings from what we would have preferred, our members are better off with the compromise. Had there been no bill, we may have faced the undermining of public transportation by conservatives who want to push public transportation’s expense to the fare box and those who can least afford it,” said UTU National Legislative Director James Stem.

The Federal Transit Administration has created a website to provide more information on MAP-21. Click below to view the website:

http://www.fta.dot.gov/map21/

The National Labor College in Silver Spring, Md., has scheduled several hazardous materials train-the-trainer programs to help build a nationwide pool of peer instructors.

Funded by the Department of Transportation, the train-the-trainer courses provide regional peer trainers with the skills and knowledge necessary to deliver this awareness level hazmat training at their job-sites, union meetings and in their communities.

An advanced instructor training course will be held in St. Louis, June 18-22.

Basic courses will be held July 16-21 and July 22-27 at the National Labor College campus in Silver Spring, Md.

These three courses may require participants to have completed other courses.

For more information on the prerequisites, and to register, go to www.hazmatgmc.org and scroll to “2011-12 DOT HMIT Grant Hazardous Materials Instructors Training,” or send questions via email to hjajuga@nlc.edu.

The National Labor College said additional courses may be scheduled between Jun 1 and Sept. 30.

 

A training course in safe handling of radioactive material transported by rail is offered April 26-28 at the National Labor College in Silver Spring, Md. The course is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy.

The college says that with the number of rail shipments of radioactive materials expected to increase in coming years, there is increased risk for rail incidents involving that hazardous material, and thus a need for this training.

A federal grant from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences will provide transportation, lodging and meals for training participants. The training will be conducted on the George Meany Campus of the National Labor College. Silver Spring, Md., is just outside Washington, D.C.

For more information and an application for attendance, click on the following link:

http://www.hazmatgmc.org/

Additional information may be obtained by calling the labor college’s hazmat office at (301) 431-5457.

WASHINGTON — An extensive overhaul of air-carrier crew training has been proposed by the Federal Aviation Administration.

“This is a major effort to strengthen the performance of pilots, flight attendants and dispatchers through better training,” said FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt.

The proposed new training standards and procedures will be formalized in a final rule following a public comment period on the proposed changes.

In releasing the wide-ranging proposed changes, which stretch 671 printed pages, the FAA said, “flight crews would have to demonstrate, not just learn, critical skills in real-world training scenarios. Pilots would be required to train as a complete flight crew, coordinate their actions through Crew Resource Management, and fly scenarios based on actual events.”

Additionally, said the FAA, training would be required “to teach pilots how to recognize and recover from stalls and aircraft upsets,” and require “remedial training for pilots with performance deficiencies such as failing a proficiency test or check, or unsatisfactory performance during flight training or a simulator course.”

Flight attendants would be required to complete hands-on emergency drills every 12 months, and the proposal would standardize the training and experience requirements for certain dispatchers and instructors.

Click below to read the FAA 671-page notice in the Federal Register:

www.ofr.gov/OFRUpload/OFRData/2011-10554_PI.pdf

By International President Mike Futhey

Train and engine employees are the eyes and ears of every railroad, and most often the first to recognize threats and provide a response.

The post 9/11 environment dangers now include foreign terrorist threats as well as home-grown threats by disturbed individuals.

The UTU is currently engaged with Amtrak in seeking federal funds to finance training of conductors, assistant conductors, on-board service personnel and yard employees to enhance their abilities to recognize behavioral traits of individuals intending to engage in terrorist activity. This project will include coordination with the Transportation Security Administration.

Under the leadership of my administrative assistant, Bruce Feltmeyer (Local 1402), we have proposed a federally funded joint effort with Amtrak to develop situational awareness training of Amtrak employees best positioned to recognize impending attacks, whether it be aboard trains, in stations, in yards or along the right-of-way.

The core of the project is to produce a security awareness manual for front-line Amtrak employees, presenting various terrorist scenarios and means of recognizing behavioral traits of those intending to cause harm to physical facilities, passengers and Amtrak employees. This manual will be accompanied by a scenario-based video.

Bruce is uniquely qualified. During his years of rail service, he has developed training programs for the on-line UTU University; and, as a Union Pacific employee, he helped to develop customer-service related training materials for conductors and newly hired managers. He also taught business software as an adjunct professor at a St. Louis community college.

As the UTU and Amtrak are painfully aware, millions of dollars are being spent to recognize and prevent terrorist threats at airports and aboard aircraft, but far fewer funds are allocated to protect the nation’s rail, transit and bus infrastructure. At train, transit and bus stations, passengers routinely board trains and buses with backpacks and luggage that is not screened.

If our joint funding grant is approved, the UTU and Amtrak jointly will build upon those efforts to enhance the ability of front-line Amtrak employees to recognize threats and learn how best to report concerns to dispatchers and law enforcement.

A successful joint project with Amtrak could lead to additional labor-management coordination in employee security training with freight railroads, transit operators and bus companies.

Terrorist threats are real and have been carried out against rail, transit and bus operations in other nations. Enhanced security that directly involves front-line employees protects our livelihoods. The UTU is capable, willing and anxious to play a key role training front-line employees to help protect our ground-based transportation networks.

On a related note, those attending UTU regional meetings in Phoenix and Asheville this summer will have opportunity to attend four-hour workshops hosted by the National Transit Institute of Rutgers University. Presentations will be made on existing surveillance monitoring techniques and methods of identifying would-be terrorists intent on using explosives, biological chemicals and/or firearms in an attack.