Local 610 members on Canton Railroad short line unanimously ratify new contract

July 25, 2023

A conductor watches Canton RR locomotive 1906 pull forward on July 3. (Photo courtesy George Pitz of the Canton Railroad Past & Present Facebook group).

SMART Transportation Division represents roughly 100,000 members across the United States. With much of our time and efforts focused on helping large properties that affect thousands of members at a time, it is easy to understand how our brothers and sisters who work for smaller outfits and short line railroads could feel that their accomplishments are overshadowed by the events happening on a more national scale involving the behemoth Class I carriers.

The reality is that SMART-TD is the biggest and best labor union in transportation, and we have the capacity to focus on many issues and areas simultaneously. An example of the commitment this union has to even its smallest groups of members occurred Thursday, July 20 in the Baltimore, Md. area.

The Canton Railroad Co. is a small freight operation outside of Baltimore that services the shipping docks there. SMART-TD represents all the transportation crafts at this property. Under their current contract, these workers were given nothing but 2% annual increases. These “raises” didn’t do much to take the edge off the cost of living in a major metropolitan area on the East Coast.

As these members were up for a new contract, SMART-TD General Chairperson Tommy Gholson (GO-898) went to Baltimore and was enlisted to fight on their behalf.

In his words, when General Chairperson Gholson got to the property, he couldn’t help but notice that for an operation with four front-line employees, it had three executives on the property to negotiate on behalf of the carrier. Not only did this indicate to Brother Gholson that the organization was obviously top-heavy, but it indicated that the Canton Railroad Co. was doing just fine financially. The other crafts on the property had negotiated for 8% raises over the next four years, which was significantly higher than the increase the company was offering our SMART-TD members and had agreed to in the recent past.

Needless to say, when the carrier attempted to explain how they could not afford to agree to higher wage increases because they were in hard times, Brother Gholson did not accept their story.

At the conclusion of the rather one-sided negotiations, Brother Gholson and the SMART-TD Local 610 members had obtained a tentative agreement offering them a 15.83% compounded wage increase over the life of the agreement. In addition, our members also had locked in a cap to their health and welfare costs in their agreement that froze their employee contribution for four years. Not only was this new agreement a massive increase from the historical trend, but it also roughly doubled the pay increases negotiated by other unions for the other crafts working on the Canton Railroad Co.

The tentative agreement was quickly ratified by a unanimous vote.

General Chairperson Gholson wanted to make sure that all Local 610 members appreciated how vital a role their local representatives played in this successful negotiation.

“From starting off with the Section 6 process to the ratification of this agreement, Local Chairperson Rob Levine was instrumental in getting his members a fair deal,” Gholson said. “He wasn’t willing to take ‘no’ for an answer on the issues that meant the most for his crew base. From wages to health and wellness, Brother Levine fought the good fight and knocked it out of the park.”

For his part in this negotiation, Local Chairperson Levine said, “We’re putting our life on the line each and every day. These crews deserve to be compensated for that. You can’t put a price tag on a life, but you can recognize the facts on the ground and compensate the men and women accordingly.”

SMART-TD would like to congratulate the Local 610 members of the Canton Railroad Co., and we would also like to thank General Chairperson Gholson and Local Chairperson Levine for their efforts in making sure that all the hard-working men and women in this organization are well represented!