BLET members vote to ratify national rail agreement with the nation’s Class I railroads; operating craft (Train & Engine service) members of SMART-TD have voted to reject it, while TD yardmasters have voted to ratify their national agreement.

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio — Voting concluded midnight Sunday for members of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) as well as the Transportation Division of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, and Transportation Workers (SMART-TD) on proposed new five-year collective bargaining agreements with the nation’s Class I railroads. BLET members voted to accept a tentative agreement reached on September 15; SMART-TD train and engine service members have voted to reject their proposed contract, while SMART-TD yardmaster members voted to accept. BLET and SMART-TD are the two largest rail unions, accounting for half of the unionized workforce on the nation’s largest freight railroads.

The five-year agreement ratified by BLET members and SMART TD yardmaster members addresses rates of pay, health & welfare, and other fringe benefits for approximately 24,000 locomotive engineers and other rail workers represented by the union who are employed by the nation’s Class I railroads.

A record number of eligible BLET members participated in the ratification vote with 53.5% voting in favor and 46.5% voting against.

Turnout among the more than 28,000 eligible SMART-TD members was also a record high. 50.87% of train and engine service members represented by SMART-TD voted to reject the TA, while 62.48% of SMART-TD-represented Yardmasters voted to ratify.  Representatives from SMART-TD will now head back to the bargaining table with the National Carriers Conference Committee (NCCC), which represents railroad management, to negotiate new terms for the affected train and engine service members.

“BLET is a membership-driven union.  In September, our National Wage Committee and our General Chairmen who represent freight rail workers unanimously agreed that the time had come for the membership to have a say on their contract,” said BLET President Dennis Pierce.  “Since then, we have worked to ensure that all of our members fully understand the wins and losses in the Presidential Emergency Board recommendations and how those recommendations were improved upon leading to the tentative agreement sent out for their consideration. In every communication we stressed that we were there to explain the tentative agreement, not to tell any member how to vote. Our goal was to get all involved members to cast a ballot — no matter how they voted.  With over two-thirds of eligible BLET members returning a ballot, a true majority of the membership has spoken and I want to thank them all for participating.  Rank and file member ratification of contracts is one of the core democratic principles of our Union.”

Under the provisions of the Railway Labor Act, the labor law for workers employed by railroads and airlines, contracts don’t generally expire, they become amendable. After the unions filed their Section 6 notices with the NCCC in November 2019, talks began in January 2020.

 “SMART-TD members with their votes have spoken, it’s now back to the bargaining table for our operating craft members,” said SMART-TD President Jeremy Ferguson. “This can all be settled through negotiations and without a strike. A settlement would be in the best interests of the workers, the railroads, shippers and the American people.”

A status quo agreement between SMART TD and management is in effect until December 8. Beginning on December 9, SMART-TD would be allowed to go on strike or the rail carriers would be permitted to lock out workers — unless Congress intervenes.

“The ball is now in the railroads’ court. Let’s see what they do. They can settle this at the bargaining table,” said Ferguson. “But, the railroad executives who constantly complain about government interference and regularly bad-mouth regulators and Congress now want Congress to do the bargaining for them.”

If there is a strike by SMART-TD or any of the other three rail unions that have rejected proposed contracts with the carriers, BLET and the other eight rail unions that have ratified agreements have pledged to lawfully honor their picket lines.

“We stood shoulder to shoulder with our brothers and sisters in SMART-TD and others in rail labor throughout this process, and we will continue to stand in solidarity with them as we approach the finish line in this round of negotiations,” said Pierce.

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The SMART Transportation Division is comprised of approximately 125,000 active and retired members of the former United Transportation Union, who work in a variety of crafts in the transportation industry. Find out more at the SMART-TD site: https://smart-union.org.

The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen represents nearly 57,000 professional locomotive engineers and trainmen throughout the United States. The BLET is the founding member of the Rail Conference, International Brotherhood of Teamsters. More information can be found on the BLET website: https://ble-t.org/

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.

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio, (Nov. 3, 2022) — The BLET and SMART-TD will host a joint town hall meeting next week to discuss the tentative national rail agreement. Members of both unions from all involved railroads are welcome to attend.

Details are as follows:

Time: 5:30 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 9

Location: BLET National Division Headquarters, 7061 E. Pleasant Valley Road, Independence, OH 44131

SMART-TD President Jeremy Ferguson and BLET National President Dennis Pierce will be in attendance to answer membership questions.

A flyer for the November 9 Town Hall meeting is available.

For those who cannot attend, a video recording of the Town Hall meeting will be made available in the members’-only areas of the unions’ respective websites following the event.

Dates and locations of additional meetings will be announced as available.

BLET President Dennis Pierce (center, in black) and SMART-TD President Jeremy Ferguson at right, in blue, speak with the hundreds of attendees at the Houston Solidarity Rally on Oct. 17.

SMART Transportation Division President Jeremy Ferguson and Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen President Dennis Pierce stood shoulder-to-shoulder as they answered direct questions from a standing-room-only crowd Oct. 18 at the annual Solidarity Rally for Rail Labor in Houston, Texas.

SMART Transportation Division President Jeremy Ferguson speaks during the Houston Solidarity Rally Oct. 17.

Hundreds of members and officers from SMART-TD, BLET and the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes Division (BMWED) — the nation’s three largest freight rail labor unions — gathered to address hot-button issues in the industry, including the tentative National Rail Agreement (TA), to be voted upon soon by TD members.

“It was a great opportunity again to collaborate with BLET President Pierce, to get the facts out there at a face-to-face event about what’s going on in our industry,” President Ferguson said. “SMART-TD, BLET and other unions went through more than two and a half years of negotiations. There’s a lot to unpack about where the industry is right now, and it was good for us to have a factual presentation about the PEB and how the tentative agreement was constructed.

“This was a very lively event, and one where we were able to get right down to an honest discussion about our members’ upcoming ratification process and the decisions that lie ahead,” he said. “Years ago, I don’t know if the degree of solidarity among these different unions would have existed. It’s open dialogue like this that’s a healthy way to combat some of the untruths that’s been floating out there regarding the tentative agreement. Both President Pierce and I are absolutely committed to working together as we continue to move forward, in solidarity.”

Along with President Ferguson, SMART General President Joseph Sellers and other officers enjoyed the hospitality of the Houston rally’s organizers. Special recognition goes out to General Chairperson Roy Davis and GCA Secretary Buddy Piland (GO 577) for putting the event together. As always, Local 1892 out of Houston was heavily involved in the hometown event, including Vice Local Chairperson Keith Green (LCA-577), Local Secretary & Treasurer Robert Maldonado, Legislative Representative Butch Boggess and retiree Dan Holak. General Chairperson Chris Alston (GCA-803) out of Local 1686, GCA Secretary Buddy Piland (GCA-577) out of Local 1205 and Darvin Scott of Local 524 also put in hard work at getting things rolling at the headquarters of SPJST Lodge 88.

Representatives from the SMART-TD Auxiliary, AFL-CIO, UTUIA, Railroad Retirement Board and NARVRE as well as United Healthcare, Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield and a number of SMART-TD Designated Legal Counsel attended as well.

Local 1892’s Maldonado estimated that there were anywhere from 250 to 300 people in attendance, giving it the air of a “mini-regional” meeting, even after a two-year hiatus because of the COVID pandemic.

“GC Davis was telling me that 30 to 40 general chairpersons from throughout the country were in attendance and are looking forward to this event next year already,” Maldonado said. “Quite a few BLET GCs from the Texas/Gulf Coast area were in attendance as well. This rally is a multi-craft and multi-railroad (UP/BNSF/KCS/PORT TERMINAL RR) and from what I’ve been told, the biggest and best one held throughout the country.”

Maldonado said nine SMART locals participated as well as four BLET lodges and BMWED Lodge 1058.

“A big thank-you goes to the Houston-area Designated Legal Counsel Marc Zito, Sara Youngdahl and Clint McGuire for their continued support and sponsorship of this huge event. I don’t want to forget to thank SMART-TD Auxiliary 281 for their help with the decorations and SMART-TD Texas State Legislative director Kamron Saunders for sponsorship and support as well,” he said.

“I was told that this year’s rally was the best one yet and that having Presidents Ferguson and Pierce attend was a home run,” Maldonado said. “So we will start prepping for the 2023 Solidarity Rally next year. Everything is BIGGER in TEXAS.”

Next on President Ferguson’s schedule is a discussion at the Tacoma Regional Training Seminar occurring this week.

Brothers and Sisters,

It’s no secret that Precision Scheduled Railroading (PSR) has devastated this industry. And it’s no secret that safety and service have suffered, but now the most vulnerable among us are being threatened. In the carriers’ pursuit to remove themselves from the limelight of regulatory authorities and neglected shippers, they are now blindly rushing new-hire trainees through unilaterally expedited training courses that have slashed educational curriculums in the hopes of being able to reflect an inflated headcount to remove the proverbial wolves from off their backs.

Today, in far too many Class I training courses, newly hired employees are receiving less than half of the standard training times that existed little more than a year ago. Without so much as an improved educational mechanism, the railroads are falsely claiming the ability to train in less time with less on-the-job experience. The material has not changed. The way in which the education is delivered has not changed. The only thing different is the abbreviated time frame, which is unacceptable and a danger to us all.

Exacerbating this issue is the fact that the railroads are not adequately staffed for on-the-job training. Currently, a concerning number of complaints have been received by our National Legislative Office pertaining to trainees being trained by newly promoted conductors. This practice is reckless, irresponsible, and a violation of the applicable regulations. A carrier should never task a recently promoted conductor with the training of another new hire employee unless it has received explicit approval from the union, and only in very limited circumstances. Permitting an employee with less than 12 months of service to train a new hire employee is not only a violation of the regulations, but it has resulted in injuries and fatalities in the past and we cannot allow it to continue.

Additionally, accidents and incidents involving newly promoted conductors (those which have graduated from these shortened training programs) are occurring. It is critical that we be made aware of these mishaps so that we can follow-up with the employee to offer assistance, where needed, and to ascertain that the carriers are reporting in compliance with the regulations and/or their internal operating rules and procedures. As you are aware, the FRA relies on the carriers to self-report or self-police, so it is vitally important that we can verify their compliance in order to ensure proper accountability.

Lastly, we are asking you to please be on the lookout for your new brothers and sisters. Keep a watchful eye over them, but also encourage them to report the concerns and shortcomings they have experienced both in the classroom and in the field to the Unsafe Condition Report on our website or the SMART-TD app. Let them know that it is OK to bring these issues to us, and that their reports will be kept confidential. If you see a wrongdoing, please let us know. For example, if they are assigned to an employee with less than 12 months of service, or if they are involved in an incident that could serve as an indicator for a lack of training, please report that to your local representative as soon as possible.

Local officers, if you receive a report of this nature, please promptly pass it up to your General Chairperson and State Legislative Director for further handling. We are all in this together, and we have to have each other’s back, but we also have to hold the carriers accountable and to ensure they meet their mandate to provide a safe working environment.

In solidarity,
Jeremy R. Ferguson
President, Transportation Division

The New York Post reported that Amtrak paid out over $2.3 million in annual bonuses to 10 executives in 2021, despite the carrier seeing its lowest revenues in a decade.

In the article published by the Post on Oct. 5, the bonuses were reported by Amtrak to be “earned incentives,” but it’s hard to understand the structure of an incentive program that paid an average 58.12% bonus to 10 executives in a year when the company was hemorrhaging money post-pandemic.

It’s also unclear what criteria these bonuses were based upon; The New York Post referenced a Freedom of Information Act request as the source of the salary data.

In regard to this report, SMART Transportation Division President Jeremy Ferguson commented: “Amtrak has received an influx of COVID-19-related government funds the past two years, and this is how they chose to use our tax dollars. Meanwhile, our members were the ones moving trains and the nation’s passengers daily in the face of a deadly pandemic. We will remember the value Amtrak puts on such ‘earned incentives’ when we negotiate the next contract for our Amtrak conductors and other members who worked on the front lines.”

According to the N.Y. Post report, Amtrak Deputy General Counsel William Herrmann’s base salary of $352,898 was compounded by an astonishing bonus of 85.29% for a total of $653,879. This bonus of over $300,000 was only enough to rank Mr. Herrmann fourth in overall compensation at Amtrak, but he did net the highest percentage of his salary in the bonuses, the Post reported.

In the same year these executives were apparently crushing their performance metrics to earn these bonuses, while in all probability working from isolation, the popular employment website Indeed.com put the average salary of an Amtrak conductor at $71,916 over the past 36 months.

Had the average conductor received the same 58.12% bonus these executives made on average, they would have received $41,797. At least one Amtrak general chairperson who was contacted and other Amtrak employees reported 0% in bonuses were received. In addition to not receiving bonuses, the Amtrak rank and file had a much different 2021 than their bosses. These men and women faced large-scale furloughs, and those who stayed working often were forced to chase work to terminals hours away from their homes. This led to distinct declines in their home time and their quality of life. Many of these conductors used Amtrak trains to deadhead themselves to work at their new terminals, which racked up an incalculable amount of uncompensated hours and indirectly allowed Amtrak to skirt federal Hours of Service regulations.

This blatant disregard for safety comes as no surprise when we look at the Section 6 notices that Amtrak has put forward in advance of the next contract negotiation. In these notices, the only item listed under the heading of “Safety” on the company’s vast wish list is that they expand random testing for drugs and alcohol. Apparently, that is the only safety concern facing Amtrak’s workforce in their view.

The executive bonuses might seem par for the course and typical for our day, but even by the standard we have come to expect in corporate bonuses, the Amtrak executives’ windfalls are exorbitant.

The New York Post pointed out in their article that in 2016, 2017 and 2018, Amtrak executives received much smaller bonuses and received no bonuses in 2015 and 2020. With the company ending the year in the red for the 51st consecutive time, it is difficult to imagine what spurred this windfall for the brass of this heavily taxpayer-subsidized company.

To put a bow on it, when asked about bonuses for conductors in 2021, one manager told his crews that, “Our bonus to you is that you kept your job.” It’s hard to encapsulate Amtrak’s view any better than that.

Read the New York Post article and an accompanying graphic breaking down the Amtrak executive pay and bonuses for the 10 executives.

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.

A must-watch for all involved members of the SMART-TD and the BLET, SMART-TD President Jeremy Ferguson and BLET President Dennis Pierce have published a joint video regarding the tentative national freight agreement. The presidents describe the challenging political environment surrounding the negotiating process and outline the wages, work rules, and health & welfare benefits secured in the tentative deal.

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 President Jeremy R. Ferguson issued the following statement on Aug. 18, 2022:

On Tuesday, August 16, 2022, Presidential Emergency Board 250 (PEB 250) provided the White House with its recommendations for settlement between the National Carriers’ Conference Committee (NCCC) and the United Rail Unions coalition. And while the recommendations of PEB 250 were a vast improvement over the carriers’ previous proposals, the recommendations do not go far enough to provide our members with the quality of life that they have earned, and that both they and their families deserve.

Last month, the leaders of the dozen-strong United Rail Unions delivered impassioned and technically sound presentations before the PEB expressing the need for improvements to quality-of-life issues, including addressing the draconian carrier attendance policies and the need for more paid and scheduled time off. However, it would seem as if these were not deemed as key issues. Obviously, our preference was for the PEB to make firm and bold changes to that status quo, but, unfortunately, they deferred and moved these important issues back to the domain of arbitration.

Additionally, the PEB recommended a 22 percent cumulative, 24 percent compounded, raise in compensation, which, if passed, would be the largest raise rail labor has seen in 47 years, but falls well short of our proposed benchmark to provide our members, most of whom have worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic and have brought about the richest era in railroading history, with a rate of pay of which they are deserving and that will attract new talent. Our organizations presented real-time statistics that exhibited how our remaining members are left to shoulder the additional workload after seeing valued co-workers laid off or resigning as a direct effect of Precision Scheduled Railroading. Furthermore, it is unknown if the recommended wage and benefit package will assist in retaining workers, let alone recruit new employees into the industry. Only in time, if accepted, will we be able to correctly answer that question, but based on our initial feedback, the outlook is not good.

SMART-TD leaders made our case clear before the PEB in July that our membership and the membership of the other unions deserve better, especially in recognition of what we accomplished before, during and after the pandemic. Our position has not changed, nor have we wavered from it. We are and will continue to fight for each and every one of our members, seeking the best possible outcome in all that we engage in.

Truthfully, your union negotiators feel a level of disappointment with the PEB’s recommendations falling short on many of our requests — especially as it split the difference between what Labor and the carriers were seeking from a wage perspective, rather than choosing one over the other. While it is a slight comfort knowing that these results are still better than those the carriers previously proposed and what likely would have been obtained under the previous administration, it does little to alleviate the division between the hedge fund managers, shareholders, and railroad officers — those who have obtained record profits, bonuses, stock buybacks and lower operating ratios all the while sitting in their climate-controlled, sanitized corporate offices — while the working people, their employees, our members, fellow brothers, and sisters are on call 24/7/365, working safely, loyally, moving America’s freight and citizens.

The decision on whether to accept a tentative agreement that could be based on these recommendations may ultimately lie in the hands of those same workers whose passion and determination carried the country through a pandemic and a supply-chain crisis.

Although we share your frustration, our effort towards attaining the best possible contract for our membership will not be deterred. This is but the first step in the process, so please be patient as this situation continues to evolve. We are currently gathering and evaluating information, which includes input from the membership, as we weigh the PEB’s recommendations and what our options may be. The remaining members of the coalition will be meeting with the NRLC in the very near future to determine if a possible tentative agreement can be reached as a result of these recommendations.

In the meantime, we will be presenting factual information strictly based on the PEB recommendations in an effort to educate all involved what this could look like from a financial standpoint when evaluating GWI’s, back pay, or the 15% cost sharing associated with your health and welfare plan. These presentations will be without the opinion of SMART-TD in an effort to strictly dispel any misconceptions or misunderstandings of how these critical components should be reviewed at this time.

In solidarity,

Jeremy R. Ferguson

President, SMART Transportation Division