The SMART Transportation Division would like to thank all our members who have been filling out the safety forms when PTC doesn’t work as intended, when long trains make handheld radios useless, when signals drop out and when a DP units fail and there’s a mile of cars between the crew and the ability to fix the problem. 

All these reports from the ground are the ammo we need as a union to fight the carriers for you.

As railroaders with any time under our belts at all, we know that it is never a good idea to take the railroad you work for at face value when they try to convince you that a proposed change they are is “small” or “won’t have any effect” on you or your co-workers. That skepticism we all have toward the carriers obviously ends up being amplified when 19 railroads come together to request a “minor and insignificant” change to a federal statute on rail safety.

On June 28, that is exactly what happened when 19 railroads, including all six of the Class I freight carriers, submitted a joint request to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) asking them to change the definition of the term “initial terminal. (PDF below).

This alliance of would-be competitors rallied together around the cause of changing the official definition, saying that they only wanted to change it in terms of PTC rules. Since you must have a functioning PTC to take the main from an initial terminal, the carriers claimed they were concerned that passenger trains that change directions at the end of the line and go the opposite direction under a new train symbol are getting stranded and unable to move their passengers because of the current definition of “initial terminal” for a new train. They also put forward an example of a coal train in relay service that goes into the coal plant empty under one train symbol and leaves under a new train symbol when loaded. Their argument is that when the train symbol changes, if the PTC doesn’t reinitialize they currently aren’t permitted to take the main and head to the end user. This is because the current definition of that coal plant as the initial terminal of the loaded train under the new symbol means that it was not an en route failure for the second train.

This explanation was difficult to believe for us here at SMART-TD. Relay service on coal trains isn’t where these Fortune 500 companies are making their fortunes, and there is no reason to believe that 19 freight railroads are reaching out because they are concerned for the well-being of Amtrak and the convenience of their ridership.

When this joint request was published, SMART-TD’s National Legislative Department went to work on getting to the bottom of what these companies were trying to accomplish with this seemingly harmless changing of the meaning of a term. What we figured out was just as predictably deceptive as you would expect.

The first way that using their newly minted definition of the initial terminal would benefit them affects the way one railroad interchanges with another company. If the PTC doesn’t load for the new leg of the trip, under the proposed new definition, this second railroad could take off without having PTC available, and they could treat it as an en route failure even though that is a new train on their lines.

The second way it would benefit the company is that under the current PTC rules if a train is rerouted, the PTC information must be updated so the miles on the alternative route are run with PTC. This change in verbiage would have changed that, too. These companies can’t be slowed down by waiting for their own safety-related software to be updated. This proposed change would have been a permission slip for them to send crews on alternate routes into territory they, by definition, are less familiar with, without the safety redundancy of PTC.

In a public comment sent to the FRA on Aug. 8, 2023, by Greg Hynes, SMART-TD’s National Legislative Director, SMART pointed out that the reasons and examples the railroads gave FRA as to why they wanted this change of definition were nonsense. NLD Hynes demonstrated the real incentive for the railroad was the ability to run thousands of rail miles without having to be hampered by federal regulations meant to safeguard our members and the communities we run through.

Hynes went on to describe that, in his career of fighting against railroad companies’ regulatory overreaches, he saw this request as being the first chess move the railroads were using to set up the board for a more-aggressive offensive maneuver on their next turn. He told the FRA that by changing the definition of the initial terminal now only in the context of PTC, it was logical that they would come back to the government later and ask it to change the definition of the initial terminal when it comes to the topic of Class I brake tests. He described in detail that this proposal from the railroads to “make the verbiage consistent and avoid confusion” would have devastating effects on the safety of our nation’s rails.

Last week, on Aug. 14, the FRA made its decision. FRA in its dedication to public safety, and in reference to SMART-TD’s concerns and those of the AFL-CIO’s Transportation Trades Department, officially denied the 19 railroads’ request to change the definition of “initial terminal.” (PDF below).

On paper, this victory looks to be merely the maintaining of the status quo, but it cannot be overstated how big of a victory this was for rail labor and common sense. It is a demonstration that SMART-TD’s National Legislative Office of three people outgunned the legal and lobbying wings of 19 combined railroads. The railroads had a massive manpower advantage, and the majority of their people have law degrees. But what they don’t have is railroad experience and the power of 100,000 men and women behind their words.

We can’t thank you enough for your support.

Please keep these reports coming. And, rest assured, your union will remain in the trenches fighting these carriers every step of the way.

Local 600 in Cumberland, Md., is mourning the loss of CSX conductor trainee Travis Bradley alongside his family and friends.

Brother Travis Bradley, a conductor trainee out of Local 600 in Cumberland, Md., died after an at-work accident on Aug. 7

Shortly after midnight August 7, Brother Bradley, 40, died from injuries he received Aug. 6 while working in an incident involving a close clearance in a yard track. Brother Bradley referred to his new career in railroading as his dream job. Unfortunately, his career and life were both tragically cut short in Cumberland Yard.

Bradley came to the railroad in hopes of providing for his wife and three children. Like most of us, he was willing to sacrifice holidays, sleep and any aspect of a normal lifestyle to bring his family the security of railroad worker wages, healthcare and retirement.

As a trainee, Brother Bradley’s family is not protected by the same level of benefits that non-probationary employees are. The ugly truth is that his wife and children will not be taken care of by the railroad in the way that Travis had set out.

We all began as trainees, and even if it was 30 years ago, many of us remember having a close call while learning how to railroad safely. Brother Bradley didn’t survive that moment in his young career.

SMART-TD is asking all those who can identify with Brother Bradley and are able to do so, to please consider following this link to the GoFundMe campaign established to benefit Bradley’s wife, Nichole, and their three young daughters.

SMART-TD extends its condolences to the Bradley family and all our members in Local 600 and thanks Local 600’s Local Chairperson Danny Strang for establishing the GoFundMe campaign to benefit Brother Bradley’s family. Your leadership and willingness to go above and beyond the call of duty for the men and women of your crew base is appreciated.

Read Brother Bradley’s obituary

The International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers’ Transportation Division (SMART-TD) is standing with its fellow rail labor union, the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes Division (BMWED), in its lawsuit against BNSF Railway.

The lawsuit alleges that BNSF has violated the Railway Labor Act by reducing its Maintenance of Way workforce without proper notice and consultation with the unions.

“We are committed to fighting alongside our brothers and sisters at BMWED to protect the safety and security of our rail system,” said SMART-TD President Jeremy Ferguson. “BNSF’s reckless decision to cut jobs without regard for the consequences is a threat to the safety of everyone who relies on the railways. We will not stand by while BNSF puts lives at risk.”

Ferguson and BMWED President Tony Cardwell have a long history of working together to protect the interests of rail workers. Last year, they fought side by side in the national contract negotiations, and they continue to collaborate on a number of issues since then.

The lawsuit is currently pending in federal court. BMWED is seeking an injunction to prevent BNSF from further reducing its Maintenance of Way workforce, as well as damages for the harm that has already been caused.

Five General Committees ratify tentative agreement securing up to eight sick days

The oldest railroad in the nation has finally realized that people get sick.

About 6,000 SMART Transportation Division conductors and trainmen have secured paid sick leave from Union Pacific after voting to ratify a tentative agreement.

The agreement was reached July 10 by Alt. Vice President and General Chairperson Scott Chelette (GO-927); Alt. Vice President and General Chairperson Gary Crest (GO-887); General Chairperson Joey Cornelius (GO-569); General Chairperson Roy Davis (GO-577) and General Chairperson Luke Edington (GO-953).

“This is a great day for our members as this agreement is all inclusive to all members and can be used for not only themselves but also in their families’ illnesses as well,” said Chelette, whose GO-927 unanimously ratified the agreement. “The ability to bank unused days for future use in case they are needed or having a cash out option is a huge benefit.”

“This agreement is not only great for our members it’s great for our industry. This is the start of us working on real quality of life issues for our membership,” Crest said. “We look forward to delivering more victories like this in the coming years.” 

“This is a great agreement,” said GC Davis, whose GO-577 also ratified it unanimously.

The agreement, ratified by more than 96% of members in favor, includes:

  • Five (5) paid sick days to all employees actively working in road and yard service, including Hostler/Hostler Helpers and Firemen in Training. Paid sick days can be taken at any time and cannot be denied.
  • In lieu of the restricted medical days provided to employees in unassigned service only in Side Letter #3 of Public Law No. 117-216, all employees, regardless of class of service that is represented by SMART TD, will have the ability to convert three (3) single vacation days to paid sick days to be taken on demand, any day of the week that cannot be denied.
  • The Additional Day provided in Public Law No. 117-216 can now be taken on demand, any day of the week, without restriction unless it falls on the following holidays: July 4th, Thanksgiving, Day After Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
  • Creates a process for banking of up to sixty (60) days of any unused Personal Leave Days, Paid Sick Days, and the Additional Day. This includes the ability to cash out or utilize any or all banked days.

This letter was co-signed by Greg Regan, the president of the Transportation Trades Department of the AFL-CIO, of which the SMART Transportation Division and SMART Mechanical Divisions are members.

July 31, 2023

The Honorable Patty Murray
Committee on Appropriations
United States Senate
Washington DC 20510

The Honorable Susan Collins
Vice Chair
Committee on Appropriations
United States Senate
Washington DC 20510

The Honorable Kay Granger
Committee on Appropriations
United States Senate
Washington DC 20510

The Honorable Rosa DeLauro
Ranking Member
Committee on Appropriations
United States Senate
Washington DC 20510

Dear Chair Murray, Vice Chair Collins, Chairwoman Granger, and Ranking Member DeLauro:

On behalf of the Association of American Railroads (AAR), the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association (ASLRRA), and the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD), we write to express our strong opposition to the limitation on administrative funding for the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) included in the fiscal year (FY) 2024 House Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (Labor-HHS) appropriations bill and to urge you to adopt the limitation included in the FY 24 Senate Labor-HHS bill.

As passed by the House Labor-HHS Subcommittee on July 14, 2023, the House FY 24 bill would cap RRB’s administrative funding at $103 million, a $25 million decrease from FY 23 funding, which is maintained in the Senate FY 24 bill, and over $35 million below the President’s FY 24 Budget Request. This limitation would severely impact the ability of the RRB to process retirements and sickness benefits for railroad employees and retirees living in every state and every congressional district. At this funding level, RRB would be forced to cut approximately 23 percent of its current workforce, dramatically slowing down processing times and service for beneficiaries. This funding limitation comes at a time when RRB is in dire need of more employees and has consistently asked Congress to increase the administrative funding limitation to better meet the needs of the over 530,000 beneficiaries currently served by RRB.

This new limitation is especially troubling because, though it was included under the guise of lowering federal spending, it does not cut spending at all. The overwhelming majority of funding for the RRB, including the administrative funding capped by this bill, comes from payroll taxes paid by railroad employers and railroad employees. No other taxpayers or businesses pay into the fund, and the RRB does not receive any funding from the U.S. Treasury. Therefore, caps on RRB spending do not reduce the deficit or slow federal spending. Further, this limitation on funding would not reduce the amount of money paid into the fund by railroads or railroad workers. All this limitation will do is force RRB to cut staff and reduce service to hard-working railroad employees and retirees.

We urge you to remove this draconian limit on RRB’s administrative funding and support the limitation in the Senate bill, which maintains FY 23 funding levels and allows the agency to maintain its current employment levels and continue providing strong service to the over 530,000 beneficiaries currently served by the employees as well as 200,000 active railroad employees relying on these benefits in the future.


Ian Jefferies
President and CEO
Association of American Railroads

Chuck Baker
American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association

Greg Regan
Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO

PDF Version

Vice President John D. “J.D.” Whitaker III, whose vital and key roles in negotiating numerous contracts on the general committee and national levels that improved the lives of many SMART-TD rail members, passed away July 27, 2023, of cancer.

VP Whitaker was 50 years old.

“It is a tremendous loss for John’s family — his wife, Melissa, and their three sons — to his friends and to the SMART Transportation Division,” TD President Jeremy Ferguson said. “Brother John was a trusted and tireless leader for the membership and had an absolute passion about what he did for everyone we represent. Our hearts are broken and there is a great loss caused by his untimely passing. Yet the legacy he leaves behind is one of strength, bravery and accomplishment. The union would not be what it is today without his contributions.”

SMART Transportation Division Vice President John D. “J.D.” Whitaker III addresses the Second SMART General Convention at the Mirage in Las Vegas Nevada in 2019. VP Whitaker passed away on July 27 after a battle with cancer.

In his position as TD vice president, Brother Whitaker engaged in the National Rail Contract negotiations that began in November 2019, in addition to all his assignments for many of the TD general committees. He also proudly fulfilled his duties as a General Vice-President on the SMART General Executive Council (GEC).

“His absence leaves a profound void, for he dedicated his entire life to representing and advocating for the members he served,” SMART General President Michael Coleman said. “Throughout his career, he achieved remarkable success, always putting the well-being of those he represented above all else. Our hearts and thoughts are with his family as they navigate through this challenging period of loss.”

Brother Whitaker was born Nov. 16, 1972, and began his railroad career in 1997 with CSX Transportation as a conductor. He was promoted to engineer in 2002. A member of Local 1106 in Rocky Mount, N.C., he was elected to the position of local chairperson for engineers in 2002.

After gaining experience as local chairperson, he ran for vice general chairperson for CSX General Committee of Adjustment GO-851 and was elected effective January 2006. Whitaker maintained that position through March 2011, at which time he was elected general chairperson for GO-851 representing approximately 2,000 members on the former Seaboard Coast Line, CSX Transportation, Florida East Coast Railway, Winston-Salem Southbound Railway, High Point Thomasville & Benton Railroad, Georgia Railroad, South Carolina Public Railway Commission and South Carolina Central Railroad, covering six states.

In October 2013, Whitaker was appointed alternate to the TD executive board and was elected by delegates for another term in 2014. In December of that year, he was elevated to the position of Transportation Division alternate vice president. Whitaker was elected to the board of the SMART TD Association of General Chairpersons (Dist. 1) in 2016. He was then elevated to the position of vice president in April 2019, upon the retirement of Dave Wier and was elected by acclamation to that position at the Second Transportation Division Convention in August 2019.

Vice President Whitaker is survived by his wife, Melissa, and their three sons, Russel, Chase and Nick (Nicholas).

A celebration of VP Whitaker’s life is scheduled for 3 p.m. Friday, Aug. 18, 2023, at Plantation Oaks Farms, 45460 Hodges Road, Callahan, FL 321011.

View Brother Whitaker’s obituary.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (July 31, 2023) – CSX (NASDAQ: CSX) and the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers — Transportation Division (SMART-TD) announced they are partnering to extend CSX’s conductor training program to five weeks from the previous four-week regimen to provide new hires with additional hands-on experience prior to beginning on-the-job training (OJT).

The extra week of training at the CSX Training Center in Atlanta will focus on performing tasks in a field setting to increase trainees’ exposure to railcar switching scenarios, radio communication, securement of equipment, brake tests and other fundamentals of the conductor’s role. Hands-on application of these skills begins in the third week of training, and the additional week will reinforce trainees’ comfort level by providing multiple opportunities to perform the tasks while operating on first and second shifts.

“Training is the foundation of the CSX safety culture, and investing in employees is the most fundamental way we can prepare our train crew members for a safe, successful career on the railroad,” said Jamie Boychuk, executive vice president of Operations. “The additional week of new-hire training in Atlanta will help conductors strengthen their skills in preparation for their on-the-job training assignment.”

CSX developed the extended training program in consultation with the SMART-TD, which represents its train crew employees.

“We’re proud to continue working with CSX to improve the training curriculum for new hire trainmen, in the same spirit as we’ve worked together to increase compensation and expand our mentoring partnerships for trainees,” said Jeremy Ferguson, President of SMART-TD. “More training directly translates to better safety for our members and demonstrates our shared commitment to the CSX safety culture.”

After completing their five weeks at the Atlanta Training Center, new conductors begin up to five months of OJT at their hiring location, where they learn the physical characteristics and job assignments of their designated territory.

About CSX

CSX, based in Jacksonville, Florida, is a premier transportation company. It provides rail, intermodal and rail-to-truck transload services and solutions to customers across a broad array of markets, including energy, industrial, construction, agricultural, and consumer products. For nearly 200 years, CSX has played a critical role in the nation’s economic expansion and industrial development. Its network connects every major metropolitan area in the eastern United States, where nearly two-thirds of the nation’s population resides. It also links more than 240 short-line railroads and more than 70 ocean, river and lake ports with major population centers and farming towns alike.


SMART Transportation Division is comprised of approximately 125,000 active and retired members who work in a variety of different crafts in the transportation industry. These crafts include employees on every Class I railroad, Amtrak, many shortline railroads, bus and mass transit employees and airport personnel. More information about the union is available at

On April 27, Federal Railroad Administration Administrator Amit Bose issued a safety advisory regarding carriers’ operation of longer trains.

The recommendations by FRA include that carriers review their
operating rules and existing locomotive engineer certification programs to address operational complexities of train length, take appropriate action to prevent the loss of communications between end-of-train devices and mitigate the impacts of long trains on blocked crossings.

“it is known that the in-train forces longer trains experience are generally stronger and more complex than those in shorter train consists,” the advisory states. “FRA is issuing this Safety Advisory to ensure railroads and railroad employees are aware of the potential complexities associated with operating longer trains and to ensure they take appropriate measures.”

The submitted advisory appears below, with the final version to be published in the Federal Register.

SMART-TD General Committee of Adjustment 261 representing our members working on the CP-SOO property were dealt a blow when General Chairperson Gerald Wallace passed away July 16th. Less than two weeks later, on July 27, Vice President John (J.D.) Whitaker III, who served as their advocate assigned to work on their behalf at the SMART-TD national level, passed away. 

SMART TD Vice President John Whitaker III
SMART TD Vice President John Whitaker III

These two men were tireless champions for the cause of rail labor. Their loss will be felt by SMART-TD as a whole and especially by the men and women of CP-SOO for years to come. This is an inescapable truth. However, their legacy and the benefits that are the product of their aggressive leadership will stay with the members as well.  

Our brothers and sisters in the seven terminals SMART represents on the CP-SOO properties resoundingly cemented the legacy of these two men recently by ratifying the agreement that was the last project brothers Wallace and Whitaker had collaborated on. The agreement received a solid majority of 65% voting to ratify the agreement.  

This vote to ratify was not based on sentiment. The agreement brothers Wallace and Whitaker pounded out for GO-261 warranted this mandate of support. With the ratification of this agreement, our brothers and sisters on the CP-SOO properties agreed to a three-year agreement that compounds over the life of the agreement to roughly a 15.5% raise in wages. The raises for 2022 and 2023 come complete with retro pay so the immediate impact of this agreement will be substantial.  

SMART TD Auxiliary Secretary-Treasurer Denise ‘Niki’ Wallace and General Chairperson Gerald Wallace

For 2022, the raise is 7%, with 4% raises in 2023 and 2024. In addition to the rise in financial compensation, this agreement also came complete with an additional personal leave day starting in 2023.  

When talking to the Acting General Chairperson for GCA-261, Vince Ramirez, he told SMART News that he would like to dedicate this win to these two men and their legacies.  

“It is with immense pride that I acknowledge the hard work, dedication and commitment that the committee demonstrated throughout this whole process. In this moment of triumph, we are acutely aware of the absence of former General Chairperson Gerry Wallace, as well as SMART-TD Vice President John D. Whitaker,” Ramirez said. “The unwavering visions and leadership of these men were instrumental in bringing this endeavor to fruition. Their absence is deeply felt, and their legacy resonates in the success of this agreement. We will honor their memory with every step we take forward.” 

SMART-TD echoes the sentiments of Acting GC Ramirez and would like to add that we have every confidence that he and the team of professionals in GCA-261 will be successful in carrying the mantle left to them by the passing of Whitaker and Wallace.  

Making two-person crews the rule of the land in the state of Kansas took an atypical route to the finish line but got there just the same.

It has been the goal of SMART Transportation Division Kansas State Legislative Director Ty Dragoo for years and it was finally achieved. When asked about how he made this happen, Brother Dragoo cited persistence and patience as the keys, along with some out-of-the-box thinking.

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly, a Democrat who began her second term in Topeka in January, has been a friend to rail labor throughout four terms in the state Senate as well as in her first term as governor. Throughout her public service, she’s accomplished quite a bit for rail members and their families in Kansas, and during her first term as governor, she and SMART-TD thought that 2PC had been made the law of the state.

On July 27, 2020, Kelly signed a safety rule establishing a minimum railroad crew size — making Kansas the ninth state in the country to have accomplished this goal. Just one formality stood in the way of that being a reality.

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly poses with Kansas State Legislative Director Ty Dragoo.

At the time she signed the rule sent to her desk from the Kansas Department of Transportation, the state’s attorney general was a man named Derek Schmidt, a Republican who was in the beginning stages of campaigning to challenge Kelly for governor in 2022. In an effort to flex his political muscle and block his future opponent from the accomplishment, Schmidt opted not to sign the safety rule, allowing it to die on his desk. As they say, “Schmidt happens.”

What did not die that day was the drive of Brother Dragoo and his team of LRs to secure the conductor craft in Kansas.

As the political fight card for Kansas’s statewide races coalesced for the 2022 election cycle, it was no surprise to see Schmidt squaring off against Kelly to take the reins. This was obviously not in the best interest of our membership, so Dragoo and SMART had a clear-cut role to play. SMART-TD and all Kansas’s labor movement worked hard to secure Kelly’s narrow 11,000-vote re-election in 2022. As a bonus, Schmidt’s failed gubernatorial ambitions meant that he forfeited his seat as the state’s attorney general.

Having learned the hard way that having a rail labor-friendly governor in office was not enough on its own to get a 2PC rule into state law, Dragoo and his team of LRs also got involved in the state’s race for the AG’s office.

In that race, rail labor had the luxury of having both candidates for the job open to our message. In an unconventional manner, Dragoo and SMART-TD endorsed both Democrat Chris Mann and Republican Kris Kobach. Both candidates had advocated for rail safety, and that is what matters to our organization. Political party affiliation is not what qualifies someone to earn our endorsement, a commitment to rail safety is. As it happened, SMART-TD was the only trade union in the state of Kansas that endorsed Kobach. It was a distinction that did not go unnoticed, and, appropriately on May Day, Kobach didn’t forget about his labor support.

Dragoo and the Kansas State Legislative Board had secured the needed support in both offices to solidify the 2PC rule, so when Gov. Kelly again sent the DOT’s proposed safety rule to the AG’s office, it was signed and sealed into Kanas state law.

“We always need to remember that elections have consequences all the way up and down the ticket,” Brother Dragoo said about the five-year-long multi-party, multi-office, multi-administration battle to secure the role of freight conductors in his state. “SMART-TD and labor in general cannot allow ourselves to confine our thinking to the standard way of doing business in our state capitals. This holds especially true in red states that are traditionally less friendly to our causes.”

When asked about the ramifications of the rule becoming the law of the land in Kansas, Dragoo went on to say: “This is the proudest day of my career. It took every one of our LRs in the state to get this done, and I’m eternally grateful to my team as well as Gov. Kelly, AG Kobach and their staff for safeguarding our members and the public through the work they have done on this regulation.”

SMART-TD is very proud of the work being done in Kansas. Not only have they cemented the two-person crew in the state this year, but in the 2023 legislative session in Topeka, they also presented a noteworthy 13 bills in their efforts to bolster safety on the state’s railways.

Time will tell if these bills have the legislative support to be signed into law in the future, but if the past two years have taught us anything, we know that Brother Dragoo doesn’t take no for an answer very well, and these bills will be given every opportunity to be considered one way or another.

The 2PC regulation will take effect upon the publication of the Kansas Administrative Regulations (KAR) that follows the conclusion of their general assembly for the year. Brother Dragoo anticipates that this will happen in a matter of weeks.