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Monday, Sept. 4, marked Labor Day in the United States and our members were out making their presence known in celebration of the work we do while raising awareness about the work that still needs to be done in this country to raise the profile of the working class and organized labor.
California — Local 23 — Santa Cruz
Bus Department Alt. Vice President James Sandoval, left, and other members of his Local 23 in Santa Cruz, Calif., take part in a Labor Day event.
SMART Transportation Division President Jeremy Ferguson and Alt. National Legislative Director Jared Cassity were in Galesburg, Ill., and continued the tradition of a TD presence in the the nation’s longest-running Labor Day parade.
Our members participated in a Labor Day parade in Omaha, complete with the traditional appearance of the SMART-TD-branded mini-locomotive.
SMART-TD’s Nevada State Legislative Board had a presence at the Reno LaborFest.
Members from TD Locals 2, 1529 and 1816 walked in the Toledo annual Labor Day parade with Sheet Metal members from SMART Local 33.
SMART Transportation Division had a presence at the Labor Day parade in Roanoke, Va.
Wage theft and worker misclassification are forms of exploitation that litter the construction industry, where unscrupulous employers take advantage of employees to pay them less than what they are owed. A recent Economic Policy Institute (EPI) study found that construction workers lose out on as much as $16,729 per year in income and job benefits; the EPI also reported that wage theft costs American workers as much as $50 billion per year — more than annual robberies, burglaries and motor vehicle thefts combined.
SMART locals are fighting against such practices from coast to coast – helping workers win the pay that they deserve.
“Wage theft is occurring everywhere in the construction industry, and employers will take advantage of those people who may not know what their rights are or have any idea of what prevailing wages are,” SMART Local 16 (Portland, Oregon) Business Manager Brian Noble explained in a recent episode of SMART News. “That’s who they prey on.”
SMART Local 16 has filed 10 prevailing wage complaints against 360 Sheet Metal, an aggressively anti-union contractor in Vancouver, Washington, whose workers previously went on strike after joining Local 16. The company was paying workers $12 to $15 an hour for fabricating duct in its shop, at a time when the prevailing wage (which applies to fabrication of ductwork in the state) was more than $65 an hour.
The Washington Department of Labor & Industries has resolved four of the 10 complaints so far.
“In those four cases,” Noble said, “they found that [the owner of 360 Sheet Metal] owed over $200,000 in back wages to 20 workers, and they assessed $115,000 in penalties for failing to pay prevailing wage in the shop.”
In Virginia, meanwhile, SMART Local 100 filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) alleging that a nonunion contractor on the Potomac Yards Metro Station project had misclassified sheet metal workers performing metal roofing work on the station. This resulted in them being paid approximately 60% less than the prevailing wage – hurting those workers and taking work away from Local 100.
“Misclassification is pretty rampant across the country,” explained Local 100 Marketing Director Chuck Sewell to SMART News. “Our contractors have to abide by certain rules, they have to pay certain rates, they know what the rates are, so that’s how they bid the projects. If you have these low-wage contractors come in and undercut everybody and get the project, it takes work hours from the local.”
The DOL investigation, which ended in the fall of 2022, found that the employees in question were, in fact, misclassified, resulting in more than $288,000 in back wages being recovered for eight workers.
Such wins against wage theft and worker misclassifications are critical for employees, ensuring that they are fairly compensated for their labor. They also demonstrate the crucial role unions play in representing all workers, including those who have yet to be organized.
“It’s important that we make sure all workers are represented and get what they deserve,” Noble concluded. “[It’s vital] that we stop these employers from undercutting our contractors and the industry, and most importantly, that these underrepresented workers are getting what’s truly owed to them.”
SMART Transportation Division Virginia State Legislative Director Ronnie Hobbs issued a reminder Oct. 16 that absentee voting in-person or by mail has begun for the state’s Nov. 5 general elections. Voters can cast absentee ballots in person at their local voting registration office. Virginia members can visit this link for their absentee in-person location or Virginia members can visit this link to apply online for an absentee ballot. By voting absentee, Virginia residents can make sure their work schedule or a family emergency does not impact their right to vote. To vote absentee in Virginia, voters must have a reason (code 1D or 1E should work for rail workers and retirees). “No matter whom you choose, choose to vote early!” Hobbs said.
Pat Corp, Virginia State Legislative Director of the SMART Transportation Division, submitted the following letter to the editor of The Roanoke Times. It was published Aug. 22, 2014.
Re: the July 28 article “Coal exports bypass emission rules” from the Associated Press. The article’s leanings struck me as somewhat less than pure investigative reporting.
U.S. exports are actually down and projected to decrease through 2015 for a reduction of almost 25 percent from 2012, due in most part to other countries upping their production levels (source Energy Information Adminstration).
Since world demand for coal is expected to grow and demand for our coal to almost double, building export terminals in the U.S. for Powder River Basin coal is being worked out now and argued over, yet the author fails to note Canada has the ability to export as well, and this is outside of the administration’s authority. British Columbia is planning expansion of the coal terminal at New Westminster and a large new facility at Prince Rupert.
History is replete with examples of failed attempts to stop the supply of commodities in the face of demand (marijuana being a prime example). Perpetuating the misperception that restricting U.S. coal exports will result in the world’s reduction in the use of coal is promoting an agenda of certain groups whose ultimate goal, though arguably utopian, is the unrealistic near-term elimination of fossil fuel use.
Any coal export or mining of coal that is for the purpose of burning for thermal (power plant) or metallurgical (steel production) will add to global emissions, versus where it not mined at all. The real question is in what amounts. The article could have argued the emissions from production and transportation of U.S.-mined coal exceed that of Australia or Columbia, if it does.
Perhaps the large supply of U.S. reserves keeps the costs of coal lower on the open markets than if that supply were not accessible, and therefore more economically feasible to use as opposed to less carbon producing alternatives, but it is a leap to say it is “fueling demand.” Though this country holds 28 percent of recoverable coal reserves, this leaves 72 percent on the world market, hardly a monopoly.
The author, after exploring the administration’s reasoning for not interfering in the domestic coal export markets as an avenue for lessening worldwide carbon emissions, leaves us with the thought that U.S. coal exports have a direct effect on rising sea levels in the Norfolk area, and therefore the false suggestion that the reduction of such would have the reverse effect, and further implies the ship sailing away from U.S. shores to other countries is the cause of global warming.
Continuing and accelerating the research and application of technologies that will allow for the use of all fossil fuels, with the goal being to minimize any environmental impact, and at the same time lessening demand in developed and developing countries through technology is a realistic approach to solving the carbon emissions quandary worldwide.
Examples of each are carbon sequestration, which The Roanoke Times covered well not so long ago, and wraparound solar panels, which can envelope an entire multistory building. China is still building coal-fired power plants at a substantial rate, along with India, and even Germany is increasing its electricity capacity from coal generation.
The U.S. needs to keep trade open to these countries and maintain relationships in the coal markets so we can influence the expansion of pollution and carbon mitigation technologies worldwide.
Printing articles that accurately explore carbon emission/pollution reduction possibilities (which the author failed to do) would certainly be of greater service in informing readers to the challenges of providing the world with affordable electricity, and at the same time maintaining a healthy planet for all to be able to enjoy the benefits of that electricity.
Newspapers still play a significant role in keeping the public informed as to the workings of the world. Unfortunately, articles such as the referenced one here do all a disservice, certainly those in our domestic coal industry, by building upon the myth that limiting U.S. coal exports is a realistic answer to global warming.
RICHMOND, Va. – Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph C. Szabo today called on elected officials and transportation planners in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia to develop a shared vision of rail service along the Southeast High-Speed Rail Corridor (SEHSR) between Washington, D.C., and Atlanta. Administrator Szabo’s challenge came as he addressed members and supporters of Virginians for High-Speed Rail during their 20th anniversary luncheon in Richmond.
“The metropolitan regions of the South and the Southeast in particular, are growing faster than other metropolitan regions across the country,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “In order to meet the mobility needs of a growing population and to move the products they will need to market, rail must play an enhanced role in the transportation delivery network there.”
Across the country, regions are banding together to forge collective long-term visions for passenger rail. Along the Northeast Corridor (NEC), eight states and the District of Columbia are working on a 40-year plan for rail service between Boston and Washington, D.C. In the Midwest, nine states and 40 cities have already developed the Midwest Regional Rail Initiative, a planning guide for long-term rail investments.
“Good planning is the cornerstone of service delivery and a plan reflecting the collective vision for a region helps the region compete effectively for future rail funds as money becomes available,” said Joseph C. Szabo, Federal Railroad Administrator. “In order for the region to achieve optimum growth, it will be necessary for them to work together more closely and plan for their transportation future.”
Administrator Szabo said regional planning between Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia could effectively yield seamless passenger rail travel all along the East Coast from Boston to Atlanta.
During his address, Administrator Szabo also highlighted the importance of the Grow America Act , the Obama Administration’s four-year $302 billion surface transportation reauthorization bill now before Congress. The bill includes $19 billion for rail, and for the first time, would provide railroads with a predictable, dedicated funding source. The Act will invest $600 million in existing state corridors like the Southeast High Speed Rail Corridor and provide an additional $6.4 billion for rail service improvements along existing, expanding and new passenger corridors over the next four years.
Passenger ridership has been setting record highs in the Southeast. In Virginia, passenger ridership is up 100 percent since 2009 and in North Carolina Amtrak’s Piedmont service between Charlotte and Raleigh continues to set ridership records carrying about 100,000 more people in 2013 than it did in 2009. Since 2007, passenger ridership in Georgia increased by 15 percent and by 14 percent in South Carolina.
Similarly, freight rail traffic in the Southeast has been increasing since 2009 an average of 10 percent annually. Georgia has seen an increase of nearly 13 percent with a more than 883,000 carloads of freight annually.
The Federal Railroad Administration, along with its 32 state partners and the District of Columbia, is laying the foundation for a higher performance rail network. Sixty-five projects worth $4.1 billion in High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail Program funding are currently completed, under construction, or will soon start construction in 20 states and the District of Columbia. Today, about $736 million in federal funding supports a dozen projects along the Southeast High Speed Rail Corridor.
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe on Friday announced the creation of a Railroad Safety and Security Task Force that includes state agency officials and subject matter experts.
Task force members will be responsible for making recommendations and taking actions to enhance Virginia’s capability to protect lives, property and the environment along rail lines, said McAuliffe in a press release.