As the expression goes, there is strength in numbers. The SMART Transportation Division is about to get a whole lot stronger thanks to yesterday’s announcement by President Joe Biden in Las Vegas, Nevada.
On Dec. 8, President Biden and SMART-TD President Jeremy Ferguson announced a $6 billion investment Biden’s administration is making in this country’s rail infrastructure and in the value of union rail jobs through two projects in California and Nevada.
“When I ran for president, I made a commitment to build a high-speed rail worthy of America. I mean it — put our nation on track with the fastest, safest and greenest rail ays in the world and high-speed,” President Biden said. “You have no idea how much this pleases me, at long last, we are building the first high-speed rail project in our nation’s history, and it’s starting here.
“It means growth and opportunity for towns and communities between here and the California coast. It’s on track to be completed by the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles. And here’s the best part — it means jobs. Union jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs!”
Representing the nation’s largest freight rail union at today’s press conference, SMART-TD President Jeremy Ferguson had this to say: “The idea of high-speed rail has been discussed in this country for decades, and it is beyond exciting to see it coming together here today. Our members, and our brothers and sisters throughout rail labor should see this as a day when our nation’s president and the country itself recognize our value and what we bring to the table. The skills our conductors, engineers, and yardmasters possess were not an afterthought when the plans for this rail line came together. They are invaluable to this project and woven into the fabric of what will make this high-speed rail project a success. It’s a proud day for us, and we thank Congresswoman Dina Titus from Nevada’s First Congressional District, Congressman Steven Horsford from Nevada district 4, Congresswoman Susie Lee from Nevada’s 3rd district, and Nevada’s U.S. Senators Jacky Rosen and Catherine Cortez Masto, along with the Department of Transportation, and of course, President Joe Biden himself for all of their work to make this dream a reality for our men and women.”
This project has been years in the making and is becoming a reality now due to the public-private partnership between the federal government and the Brightline West Railroad. In plans submitted to the administration, Brightline highlighted the efficiency of this high-speed rail project stating the trains will travel at speeds upwards of 186 mph and that will make it possible to get 218 miles from Southern California to Las Vegas in just over two hours which is a fraction of the time it takes on the highway.
Some of the benefits of this high-speed rail project include taking traffic off the heavily congested U.S. Interstate 15, as well as having positive impacts on the environmental emissions. This project will also bolster the economies of some of our nation’s largest cities.
As a stipulation for receiving federal funding for this project, Brightline West committed to using an organized workforce. SMART-TD has been part of the planning for this project since the railroad made that commitment to Biden and Congress. Along with employing thousands of our brothers and sisters in the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way, Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen, SMART-MD, TCU and all of our rail labor partners, they also committed to running their trains with SMART-TD crews.
This is obviously a big win for the U.S. economy, but more directly it is a win for us as a union family. SMART-TD would like to thank the Biden administration, and the U.S. Department of Transportation for their leadership. This project will provide hundreds of good union jobs in our industry and is a wonderful example of what can be accomplished when private industry, federal government, and a strong labor coalition are all pulling in the same direction.
If you would like more information about this project or about rail labor’s participation in it, we would be happy to connect you with:
President Jeremy Ferguson, a member of Local 313 in Grand Rapids, Mich., was elected president of SMART’s Transportation Division in 2019.
President Ferguson, an Army veteran, started railroading in 1994 as a conductor on CSX at Grand Rapids, Mich., and was promoted to engineer in 1995. Ferguson headed the recent national rail negotiations for the Union with the nation’s rail carriers.
Greg Hynes is a fifth-generation railroader and was elected national legislative director in 2019.
Hynes served on the SMART Transportation Division National Safety Team that assists the National Transportation Safety Board with accident investigations, from 2007 – 2014.
In 2014, he was appointed to the Federal Railroad Administration’s Railroad Safety Advisory Committee (RSAC), which develops new railroad regulatory standards.
Hynes was appointed the first chairperson of the UTU Rail Safety Task Force in 2009 and served in that capacity until being elected SMART Transportation Division alternate national legislative director at the Transportation Division’s 2014 convention.
Jared Cassity, a member of Local 1377 (Russell, Ky.), was elected to the office of alternate national legislative director at the Second SMART Transportation Division Convention in August 2019 and became director of the TD National Safety Team in June 2021.
Cassity started his railroad career with CSX in September 2005 and was promoted to engineer in 2008.
In addition to his elected roles, he has been a member of the National Safety Team since 2014, where he was subsequently elected to the position of Alternate Director (East) for the NST in 2016. Likewise, he was elected by his fellow peers of state directors to serve as the directors’ representative on the CSX Safety Model Executive Board in 2013.
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