By John Previsich, 
SMART Transportation Division President – 

Today, people who work in a unionized environment are facing challenges unlike any that have come before. The current political climate is fostering attacks not only on organized labor, but also on the rights and entitlements of workers in every industry.

From “right to work for less” bills being introduced all over the country to continual attacks on retirement and health care benefits, today’s workers are more in need of strong and effective representation than ever before. Your union is a leader in advocating on behalf of its members in every forum – from our regulatory and legislative efforts in Washington, D.C., and the state houses, to the day-to-day representation of our members at the local level – no union does a better job of representing the interests of its members.

However, the current political climate makes it much more challenging to achieve the successful outcomes that our members deserve. Budget squabbles and funding decisions made by elected officials affect each and every one of our members every day. Who gets elected really does matter and it is critically important that our members consider carefully their choice of candidate when they cast their votes.

Candidates for public office who support issues important to unionized labor deserve our votes. Those who will vote against our interests do not. Your union is developing new communication tools that will keep our members informed about which candidates deserve our support.

A key component of good representation and good citizenship is education and training. In the centerfold of this publication, you will find information on the 2015 SMART Transportation Division Regional Meetings. The focus of this year’s meetings is education, training and what it means to be a union member.

With no meetings held in 2014 because of our need to have two conventions, that hiatus provided an opportunity to renew and invigorate the regional meeting format for 2015 and beyond.

New offerings include workshops on the rights and responsibilities of all local officers, from the local president to the trustees, and comprehensive training for local chairpersons and local legislative representatives.

If you currently hold any local office or believe that you may want to run for election in the future, these workshops are designed to tell you everything that you need to know to be an effective representative of your fellow members. These workshops are not restricted to officers – they are designed to be informative for all members who have an interest in how business is properly done at the local level.

Also new to the meeting agenda are enhanced workshops for our bus members designed to address issues of interest to members in the bus industry.

In addition, there will be an array of workshops with representatives from the Federal Railroad Administration, the Railroad Retirement Board and others to provide updates on numerous issues including federal certification, positive train control, the Rail Safety Advisory Committee, Confidential Close Call Reporting (C3RS), retirement benefits and much more. Also in attendance will be representatives from our health care providers to provide information and advice on matters of importance to you and your family.

And of course, the topic of national rail contract negotiations will be front and center, with the latest information and updates presented during the meetings. Your national negotiating committee will be in attendance at both meetings and this is your opportunity to talk in person with those who are directly involved in negotiating your contract.

Your union – your future. The strength of our organization begins with each and every member and our future depends on a membership that is motivated and trained to advance the union message. I am confident that our enhanced regional meeting agenda will prove valuable to all who are able to attend.

See you in Providence and Phoenix!