SMART Transportation Division National Legislative Director Greg Hynes and his department led the charge in our nation’s capital to get bus and transit members’ safety concerns in front of members of the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate.

This union, our Bus Department and the Bus/Transit Assault Prevention and Safety (BTAPS) committee have been advocating for Congress to act to end the startling growth of violent assaults on the nation’s public transit workforce.

President Biden’s administration and the Federal Transit Administration have begun to make moves to address shortcomings in security. SMART-TD and BTAPS are now taking our issues directly to Congress urging them to act on transit safety, which is a life-and-death issue for our brothers and sisters.

Hynes said he’s “fired up about how his team represented this union and the potential results of their great work.”

TD directly engages U.S. Congress and agency directors

“Our new BTAPS committee had a fantastic showing. All six members from across the country made the trip. Along with Bus Department VPs (Alvy) Hughes and (James) Sandoval, they brought the realities of the roads and rails with them into the halls of Congress today. Their message hit home with these officials because they were undeniably authentic.” Hynes said.

Hynes’ team, along with Christine Ivey, chairperson of BTAPS, and her team of bus and transit rail safety advocates met with the offices of 13 members of the House of Representatives, 2 U.S. senators, and the staff director of the House Subcommittee on Highways and Transit.

“I’m proud of the effort this union put forward today, and I have high expectations for the results. I want to thank Christine and the BTAPS members for making an important contribution to this union today and to the safety and well-being of our membership,” Hynes said.

Bus Department Vice Presidents Alvy Hughes, left, and James Sandoval, right, visit Capitol Hill at the Bus/Transit Day on the Hill.

In addition to our BTAPS members, SMART-TD was represented by Bus Department Vice Presidents Hughes and Sandoval, plus New Jersey State Legislative Director Ron Sabol as well as SMART-TD Auxiliary’s Monica Sandoval.

“We took a powerful step forward, but this is just the beginning,” VP Sandoval said. “We will not take our foot off the pedal until every transit worker is safe and secure. Only together will we make sure our voices and stories continue to echo through Capitol Hill.”

On a second day of meetings, Hynes led a team of SMART-TD leaders in a highly successful meeting with acting FTA Administrator Veronica Vanterpool. Administrator Vanterpool was highly receptive to the message and perspective SMART-TD had to share with her.

Administrator Vanterpool, who has a commercial driver’s license and four years of experience as a bus operator on her resume, quickly identified with the realities SMART-TD presented in their meeting. She is hoping FTA can partner with SMART-TD and our BTAPS committee in an effort to collect data on future assaults directly from our membership rather than depending on the transit agencies to self-report the information.

SMART-TD Alternate National Legislative Director Jared Cassity had this to say: “In talking with acting Administrator Vanterpool, it immediately became clear that she is eager to address the same safety issues as this union. She went into detail on the new property-specific safety committees that she and the Biden administration are instituting for our bus members and was engaged in dialogue with our people about how SMART-TD can play an active role in the success of their mission.”

Bus Department Vice President Alvy Hughes added, “I’ve been involved in this union and this Bus Department for a long time now. I can tell you that the meeting we had with Administrator Vanterpool and the work we put in on Capitol Hill the day before has been one of the most-productive projects I’ve had the opportunity to be involved in. This organization is stronger, and our members will be made safer through what we accomplished during this first-of-its-kind Bus/Transit Day on the Hill.”

Daily headlines about new railroad safety laws make it feel like every day is “Railroad Day on the Hill.” However, the formal event falls once a year on the legislative calendar, where rail union representatives share the many issues that face our industry with legislators in D.C.

Thirty-eight men and women represented SMART Transportation Division, the nation’s largest railroad union. They spread the gospel of the Railway Safety Act, the need for shorter trains, increased quality of life and our call for better safety inspections of rolling stock.

The SMART delegation represented 20 different states and held 130 meetings with any Congress member or staffer willing to listen throughout the day.

The event was organized by National Legislative Director Greg Hynes, Alternate National Legislative Director Jared Cassity and Legislative Department Chief of Staff Jenny Miller. The Legislative Department invited 13 other unions to participate in Railroad Day on the Hill.

President Jeremy Ferguson, multiple vice presidents, state legislative directors, alternate state legislative directors, general chairpersons, local legislative reps and state legislative vice chairs from across the country all were present.

Ohio senators support Railway Safety Act, REEF Act

SMART-TD representatives started with a breakfast with Senator J.D. Vance of Ohio. Vance has proven himself to be a champion for rail safety and is the lead sponsor of the Railway Safety Act.  Transportation Division representatives discussed ways our union could help rally support for the RSA and the REEF Act.

The REEF Act is a bipartisan bill that will end an out-of-date tax on Railroad Retirement Board benefits awarded to rail employees who are furloughed or medically out of service.

Vance and fellow Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown are with us and continue to strategize with SMART-TD on ways to build support for the RSA and REEF Acts.

America’s largest railroad union leaves a lasting impression

Following the successes of the day’s events, NLD Hynes expressed his gratitude to the army of SMART-TD leaders who made the trip.

“These men and women went above and beyond the call of duty to be here today. Because of them, we had a fantastic show of force in the halls of Congress. The validity of our issues speaks for itself, but when leaders from these different states show up to meet with their congressional and senate delegations, it makes an impact on these lawmakers,” he said. “They hear from Jared Cassity and me all the time, but when someone from home comes to meet with them in D.C., it puts a face to our issues in a unique way.

“I want to thank each one of them for making the effort to come out this year. With your help, we will deliver on the promise of the Railway Safety Act, the REEF Act, and all the issues that speak to the quality of life our members deserve and the dignity of the work they do each day.”