SMART-TD welcomes members of the Louisville & Indiana

June 18, 2024

The SMART Transportation Division achieved an organizing win May 1 with the National Mediation Board’s (NMB) certification of a representation vote for the Louisville & Indiana Railroad, which operates 106 miles of track running between Louisville, Ky., and Indianapolis.

Andy Goeckner of Local 453, who led the effort, took some time to detail the process that brought new members and a new property to the union.

What initiated the process?

Contrary to what some have incorrectly claimed online, this was 100% unsolicited on SMART-TD’s part. Multiple L&I employees had been reaching out to people in the industry expressing their disappointment with the representation they’d been receiving on the property. This had been happening since the end of 2023, and it wasn’t just one disgruntled employee — it wasn’t until we heard from multiple people that we decided to sit down and talk to the group.

What were some of the issues cited by people that they wanted to have changed?

Substandard representation, wages and agreements. Feeling that their property lacked support at the local level. Rather than encouraging or assisting their local union leadership to stand against the carrier and fight in disciplinary matters, the previous organization’s general committee and international took the path of least resistance, encouraging members to fold and sign waivers. Almost as if they couldn’t be bothered by a smaller group to do what needed to be done.

They also stated that pay and penalty claim issues were ignored when assistance was requested at the general committee or international level. Phones calls and emails were not returned. With negotiations for a new contract starting soon, many of them felt like their property had been put in a corner or a box and that they were not getting anything out of the dues they had been paying. Enough was enough, so they decided it was time to make a change and come to SMART-TD.

Once we got the message across that SMART-TD provided a dedicated alternative that would listen to and serve them properly, regardless of if it was a small or large property, the energy increased and was very positive. This wasn’t a case where just one guy was mad or upset about what was going on — it was multiple people, and many of them took on leadership roles as the effort advanced and gained strength.

How long had the prior organization represented the property?

L&I had been under the representation of the BLE for 20 years — since May 2004.

It’s been a month, what are some of the steps/improvements that our union is prioritizing?

The first thing SMART-TD did was to allow the new members to select what local they wanted to join. They chose Local 1518 in Indianapolis, and a new Local Committee of Adjustment (LCA) was created within. They were also placed into General Chairperson Rick Lee’s committee, as L&I was a prior B&O property before being short-lined.

The L&I members held an election and Zach Cochran is the new local chairperson. Brother Cochran has hit the ground running and is doing all he can to get great returns for people working at the L&I.

Our focus has been on improving communications and responsiveness, which were a weak point with the previous union. We are also in the process of training and assisting the local officers and addressing membership issues, including prepping for their next contract, which expires this fall.

Has there been any feedback so far?

I’ve been staying in touch with them to make sure the transition is smooth. A group of L&I members went to the 1518 meeting as soon as they were eligible to do so, and they were blown away by the reception that they got from Local 1518 officers and members. They welcomed them with open arms and gave them a standing ovation and applause at the local union meeting. They said they had not felt welcomed or included on any union level like that in a long, long time.

The SMART-TD rail union gets results

A total of 23 T&E workers for the short line — more than half of its total workforce — can now proudly call themselves members of SMART-TD after dealing with the frustration and dissatisfaction caused by inferior representation.

We welcome our new members from the Louisville & Indiana railroad and encourage others that are tired of subpar representation to join our SMART TD family. There is a reason we are the largest rail labor union in the United States, and we stand behind the winning record SMART-TD has produced for the people whom we proudly serve.