This past weekend, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) President Eddie Hall desperately attempted to attack SMART Transportation Division in two separate incidents to distract from the fact that his union was more willing to partner with corporate greed than to serve the will of their own membership. In a move that looked more like it was copied from a rail carrier’s playbook than that of a labor organization, they chose to portray themselves as the victim rather than the responsible party.

Both attempts were anything but truthful and are, at a minimum, misleading, if not downright false. We hesitated in responding, as we recognize that our members and those of the BLET are not well served by a public battle, but after several inquiries, it is time we set the record straight.  

In one of the attempts, Hall based his logic on grudges he claims to hold against our organization surrounding what is known as “the Halloween Agreement” signed Oct. 31, 1985 — coming up on 40 years past. However, he needs to go back a few years further to 1982 and Presidential Emergency Board 194, which resulted in the Van Wort study commission findings. Maybe the facts will get in the way of his blame game, but nonetheless they are FACTS. Unfortunately, it would seem Eddie believes in the adage, “Never let facts get in the way of a good story.” However, as a labor leader, the things you say and do matter … and facts are FACTS.

Additional misleading statements he made are glaring. First, SMART-TD has NEVER represented Coaster, so his comments that they are not satisfied with us is an interesting twisting of the truth. Furthermore, his hypocrisy apparently knows no bounds as the Louisville and Indiana Railroad A-Card campaign was a direct result of three previous failed attempts by the BLET to raid SMART-TD properties.

There were some limited truthful statements Eddie made, including that we have welcomed new members into the SMART-TD family on the Louisville and Indiana Railroad. While we could share their reasoning for leaving the BLET for SMART-TD, we felt it best to have them explain that themselves in a future article. I think once everyone hears why they left, it will become very apparent as to why they came to SMART, and why others are reaching out as well.

It is also true that we are in the process of gathering A-Cards on the Indiana Harbor Belt Railroad after significant interest from some BLET members to join SMART. They cited recent issues with their general committee, poor agreements and a lack of transparency from officers … but the storyline became more interesting once it became known that Eddie reached out to his BLET group months before we became involved, asking them to A-Card SMART-TD! Again, the hypocrisy overwhelms.  

Prior to the Hall administration, our two unions operated well together. The presidents established a relationship based on integrity and a shared view that achieved improved quality of life for railroaders. This unified front before the carriers was vastly more important than petty differences between our organizations dredged from generations past. Mirroring the collaborative nature of two people working in the train cab, collaboration between SMART-TD and the BLET helped solidify crucial legislation and regulations regarding rail safety and in national negotiations that benefited all railroaders, regardless of union affiliation.

During the administration of past President Dennis Pierce, when a BLET-represented short-line property expressed interest in joining SMART-TD, our Organizing Department would pass on the opportunity as it was in rail labor’s best interest to keep the peace. However, that principle disappeared in an instant when BLET’s leadership changed hands and they began attempting to recruit membership on SMART-TD properties.

In short, there is not a “raiding problem” in rail labor. There is a representation problem. Like the weakest link in a chain, the BLET threatens to fragment the efforts of nearly a dozen other labor organizations with its current behavior. SMART-TD will not and cannot allow that to happen as it is imperative that all rail labor work together for the betterment of our members. My partnership with Pierce and our collective efforts to grow both unions illustrated this. We worked together to benefit all crafts with all unions, not just our own.

As seen with the Ancora debacle, BLET’s subpar representation threatens labor’s strength at the negotiating table. Their willingness to sell out or settle short drags down the standard of negotiations and adversely affects each and every one of you. This is precisely why so many are abandoning their ranks and are seeking our representation. We are not raiding their union — we are heeding the call. Their members see the successes and leadership of SMART and, understandably, they want to be a part of it.

Unfortunately, BLET’s attacks did not stop there as they turned their misguided focus on our Alternate National Legislative Director, Jared Cassity.

Anyone who knows Jared knows where he stands on safety, I assure you. Washington, D.C., knows it. The FRA and NTSB know it. The railroads definitely know it, and the BLET knows it (at least those who actively participate in using our electronic safety forms that Jared created). They have unquestionably benefited from his and this union’s relentless pursuit of achieving safer condition for all railroad workers across all crafts. Clearly, BLET’s fear of his recognition is greater than their desire to obtain the safest course and another sad attempt to distract from their inability to lead on any front.

To the BLET and your feeble effort to change the narrative, we see you for what you are, and we will continue to rise above it. The once-proud organization that has been branded as “the oldest rail labor union in the United States” is being run into the ground by the conduct of its leadership. They are desperate to change the narrative by changing the topic. Blind to the adverse effects it has on railroad workers and oblivious to the power they’re granting the railroads, BLET leadership has made known that they are poor in judgment and willing to abandon unionism in these misguided attempts to protect themselves. Former President Pierce’s leadership and commitment to solidarity are surely missed at this crucial time when we are on the verge of another round of national freight negotiations.

In closing, SMART-TD will remain focused on the 2025 national negotiations with the rest of rail labor and continue the heavy work of advancing safety legislation in the halls of Washington D.C. and in state capitals. We will continue to increase the momentum of our historic winning percentage in arbitration and stand up against the rail carriers. We stand behind the winning record SMART-TD has produced for the people we proudly serve. Hall and his BLET can continue using smoke screens, parlor tricks, and cartoons to gain social media likes while SMART-TD continues our focus on leading the industry and protecting our members.  

To our SMART-TD members and those that wish to join our family, my commitment to you and to rail workers across the country is unwavering. I will fight ignorance – not join it. I will stand with those who are willing to stand with us as I remain relentless in my pursuit of seizing power from corporate greed and giving it back to the members.

I welcome all of those who share this vision and passion to join SMART-TD.


Jeremy R. Ferguson

President, Transportation Division

After the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) flip-flop last week led to it becoming the second Teamsters union deciding to buy in with a hedge fund, everyone wondered what its leadership thought they would get out of the deal. 

It has now come to light that the BLET has entered into a “memorandum of understanding” (shown below) with Ancora’s aspiring Norfolk Southern (NS) management. This group has no authority on NS and the deal for BLET is based solely on promises “if” successful in a takeover bid.

They’re hopeful that by cheerleading this hostile takeover that Ancora will give them what SMART-TD already has achieved. Our NS general chairpersons’ professionalism and quality leadership have achieved superior agreements to what the BLET has. They’ve decided to sell out to catch up.

The attached memorandum shows BLET’s desperate attempts to take over certain remote-control operations already belonging to SMART-TD. BLET is also attempting to inject their officers into the conductor new-hire training process and the locomotive engineer training process. SMART-TD already holds the contracts on these arrangements.

Furthermore, they are also trying to get “me-too” improvements to their on-property agreements following SMART-TD’s successful negotiations of Articles 6 & 7 in the 2022 National Agreement. 

BLET and BMWED have chosen to blatantly sell out SMART-TD AND the 10 other rail labor groups who oppose Ancora’s takeover. Most importantly, they are selling out RAIL SAFETY and QUALITY OF LIFE for thousands of workers to serve their own purpose.

Ancora promised to hand BLET President Eddie Hall and the BLET GCs everything SMART-TD worked to gain. All he had to do was sell out the men and women working for Norfolk Southern. 


Here are the repercussions

Ancora hasn’t hidden that, if successful in their hostile takeover, they are bringing Precision Scheduled Railroading (PSR) back big time. SMART-TD and the majority of rail labor unions (and BLET — up until two days ago) had stood together in solidarity for two months and said no. Meanwhile, BLET is playing Judas and has chosen to sell out workers so they can get a do-over on past negotiations their organization fell short on with NS.  

Eddie Hall and everyone associated with BLET’s decision should be ashamed. They were willing to hand over everything our movement has done to defend our men and women against PSR at NS. 

A display of blatant hypocrisy

For the record, less than one day before BLET announced they were backing Ancora, they had given their word to the AFL-CIO’s Transportation Trades Department that they were standing with us. Apparently, the attached agreement was an effective sweetener. Eddie Hall and his NS general chairpersons have turned on us. 

Prior to succumbing to Ancora’s temptation, BLET’s stance was clear. Featured on their website since late February and even after the April 26th announcement went public was an infographic of BLET General Chairman Dewayne Dehart with the quote, “Ancora would be bad for investors. It’s easy to imagine a train wreck under their proposed plans, both literally and figuratively speaking.” A second quote from Dehart says, “I can assure you I will be voting all shares in favor of Alan Shaw and his team.”

The two other BLET GCs shared similar sentiments in a Feb. 29 press release. All three were highly critical of Ancora’s executive selections, including proposed COO Jamie Boychuk, a former CSX executive.

“From our vantage point and from what we’ve learned from our union brothers and sisters at CSX, Boychuk was reckless and ran CSX operations into the ground before he was run out by CSX’s management team,” said BLET General Chairman Scott R. Bunten (NS-Eastern Lines GCA). “Ancora wants to turn back the clock and return to the failed Precision Scheduled Railroading business model with Boychuk’s help that the other Class I railroads are now abandoning.”

“Ancora has been pointing to the East Palestine derailment as a failure by Alan Shaw and his team, but we believe that the PSR model is directly linked to the East Palestine failure. Shaw was only on the job for a few months prior to the disaster. Since the derailment last year, NS’ CEO has risen to the occasion and, through his leadership, NS has become a safer, more efficient and customer focused company again,” said BLET General Chairman Jerry G. Sturdivant (NS-Southern Lines GCA).

“Having a CEO like Barber with zero railroad experience and a Chief Operating Officer such as Boychuk wedded to the worst aspects of PSR would likely lead to more, not fewer costly train wrecks,” said Sturdivant.

Dehart also had seemed very steadfast in the February statement, adding:

“I am a shareholder and I also vote hundreds of thousands of shares of NS stock for BLET as a fiduciary of the BLET NS 401(k) Plan. I can assure you I will be voting all shares in favor of Alan Shaw and his team. The leaders of our union and our members see the potential for increased revenue for Norfolk Southern with him at the helm,” said BLET General Chairman Dewayne L. Dehart (NS-Northern Lines), who has been with Norfolk Southern for 28 years.

But a private closed-door meeting with Ancora out of sight of its members changed their minds and made them flip the switch to support the group they had demonized.

Said BLET President Hall in an April 26th statement published by Trains Magazine attributed to him: “BLET’s three elected General Chairmen representing locomotive engineers and trainmen at Norfolk Southern met with Ancora’s leadership team yesterday and determined that they are the right leaders for Norfolk Southern moving forward. After the railroad’s CEO Alan Shaw hired COO John Orr and following the public comments of both those executives on their strategy for NS, our General Chairmen determined that a change at the top is needed. Although this decision was not easy, the General Chairmen believe it is necessary.”

A failure to communicate and serve its membership

What is not featured on the BLET website is any reference to the announcement they made switching their allegiance to Ancora. One would think that a labor organization making that big of a change in direction would want to inform its members, rather than having them find out from the press.

BLET appears to not want to talk about this abrupt decision, nor to be transparent to members who pay union dues for their protection and representation.

In contrast, their membership has been willing to talk about it this weekend. A 36-year BLET Division 110 Member, engineer Scott Pendygraft, spoke to one of our NS general chairpersons over the weekend and said,“I cannot pay dues to a union that would sell out for what’s probably an empty promise and not consider all of the membership.” 

Brother Pendygraft has joined SMART-TD Local 1190.

Please take the time to read the signed agreement between BLET and Ancora below to see what a backroom sellout of rail labor looks like. 

Our lines of communication are open.

Joint safety initiative provides employees confidential forum to report safety issues  

ATLANTA and INDEPENDENCE, OH (January 29, 2024) —  Norfolk Southern Corporation (NYSE: NSC), the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers – Transportation Division (SMART-TD), and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET), in partnership with the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), announced Monday their joint participation in an FRA Confidential Close Call Reporting System (C3RS) pilot program designed to enhance railroad safety. 

“NS is proud to partner with our labor leaders and FRA to make another industry-leading advancement in safety,” said Alan H. Shaw, Norfolk Southern President and CEO.  “We are committed to setting the gold standard for rail safety, and we are proud to be the first Class I railroad to deliver on our promise to co-develop and launch a C3RS program.” 

Under the one-year C3RS pilot, covered NS employees can report safety concerns with the certainty that such reports will not result in discipline. NASA will deidentify data and provide it for review by a joint committee of NS and labor representatives, who, with FRA’s guidance, will identify and implement corrective actions to improve safety. 

“This is huge step forward for the safety of our brothers and sisters at Norfolk Southern,” said SMART-TD President Jeremy Ferguson. “SMART-TD has been a long-time champion of C3RS, and this new program will allow our members to speak up when they see unsafe conditions without fear of negative repercussions. I would like to thank General Chairpersons James Ball, Joe Borders, Tommy Gholson, David Phillips, and Dan Weir for their unwavering commitment to bringing C3RS to their members.” 

“It should be the goal of everyone who works in the railroad industry to continually improve safety,” said BLET National President Eddie Hall. “Providing a confidential platform to report unsafe practices allows us to harness the power of every worker’s voice. NS and its CEO, Alan Shaw, should be applauded for taking this step. I hope that this will become a model for other Class I freight railroads.” Added Hall, “I also would like to commend the leadership shown by General Chairmen Scott Bunten, Dewayne Dehart, and Jerry Sturdivant who helped make this happen by negotiating on behalf of our NS members.” 

Participation in this C3RS pilot underscores NS, SMART-TD and BLET’s shared belief that collaboration and transparency are foundational pillars of an effective safety program. Key goals of the C3RS pilot program include: 

  • Collecting currently unreported unsafe practices, behaviors, or situations; 
  • Identifying and implementing corrective actions; and 
  • Sharing general trends and statistics to enhance railroad safety. 

Throughout the program, FRA will provide oversight, guidance, and support to the parties as they analyze safety data and work to effect positive change. 

“FRA’s C3RS program provides a useful industry-wide platform to gather valuable insights from frontline railroad workers when they experience close calls – helping to uncover risks and providing opportunities for railroads and their workers to take actions to prevent serious safety incidents,” said Amit Bose, FRA Administrator. “We appreciate BLET, NS, and SMART-TD’s collaboration on this important partnership, and FRA remains committed to further expanding participation in the C3RS program to advance safety.”


About Norfolk Southern 

Since 1827, Norfolk Southern Corporation (NYSE: NSC) and its predecessor companies have safely moved the goods and materials that drive the U.S. economy. Today, it operates a customer-centric and operations-driven freight transportation network. Committed to furthering sustainability, Norfolk Southern helps its customers avoid approximately 15 million tons of yearly carbon emissions by shipping via rail. Its dedicated team members deliver more than 7 million carloads annually, from agriculture to consumer goods, and is the largest rail shipper of auto products and metals in North America. Norfolk Southern also has the most extensive intermodal network in the eastern U.S., serving a majority of the country’s population and manufacturing base, with connections to every major container port on the Atlantic coast as well as the Gulf of Mexico and Great Lakes. Learn more by visiting

NS Media Inquiries: Media Relations; NS Investor Inquiries: Luke Nichols 

About the BLET 

The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen represents nearly 57,000 professional locomotive engineers and trainmen throughout the United States employed in both freight and passenger rail.  Founded in 1863, BLET is the oldest union in the United States. The BLET also is the founding member of the Rail Conference, International Brotherhood of Teamsters. For more information visit the union’s website at 

BLET Media Inquiries: Jamie Horwitz 


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

SMART-TD Media Inquiries: Ben Nagy 

WASHINGTON, Feb. 7 – SMART Transportation Division leadership as well as officers from the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen, the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes and the AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department will join U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), chairman of the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, and U.S. Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.) at 1:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 9, to demand companies provide rail workers with at least seven paid sick days.

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders addresses a Rail Solidarity rally organized by SMART-TD on Capitol Hill in December.

Sanders led the effort late last year to pass an amendment to guarantee paid sick days to rail workers. The amendment, which passed the House but failed in the Senate, received the votes of every Senate Democrat but one, as well as six Republicans. Braun voted for the amendment.

Sanders also appeared at a Washington, D.C. solidarity rally attended by members of the SMART-TD, other rail labor groups and supporters.

Following the vote, Sanders and more than 70 of his colleagues sent a letter to President Biden urging his administration to take action to guarantee paid sick days for rail workers.

The press conference comes as rail companies announce record earnings during quarterly earnings calls. Last year, the top railroads made over $26 billion in profits and paid their wealthy shareholders over $25 billion in stock buybacks and dividends. They spent 184 percent more on returns to their shareholders than what they spent on their workers’ wages and benefits. Guaranteeing seven paid sick days to rail workers would cost the industry just $321 million dollars – less than 1.2 percent of profits in a single year. Rail companies have eliminated 30 percent of their workforce over the last six years.

A representative from the the National Association of Chemical Distributors also is scheduled to appear.

What: Sanders and Braun Hold Press Conference with Rail Workers
When: Thursday, Feb. 9, 1:30 p.m. ET
Where: Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, 430 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Note: The event will also be livestreamed at and

The SMART Transportation Division would like to thank all of you for your historic response to the FRA’s Notice of Public Rulemaking (NPRM) on Freight Train Crew Size. In the moment when our livelihood and the safety of all involved was on the line, SMART members, along with their friends and families, answered the bell in a profound way.

For months, we have been requesting your help in submitting comments to the FRA and in a record-setting demonstration of concern and support, you came through with flying colors. The FRA reports Dec. 22 that 13,090 submissions were received in their request for public comments that closed on December 21st. This outpouring of your information and personal reasons for wanting a minimum crew size of two will play a large role in the FRA’s process of determining their final ruling.

The next step in this process is for the FRA to announce its determinations. We at SMART-TD will be sure to keep you all informed as to how that process plays out. We appreciate your partnership with us in this project, and we look forward to continuing the fight as long as needed to keep our members safe and employed.

The Transportation Trades Department (TTD) of the AFL-CIO, as the umbrella organization representing all factions of rail labor, wrote the definitive submission stating our case.

The two unions representing in-cab freight personnel — SMART-TD and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) — submitted a joint statement accentuating the positions of the T&E employees in support of the NPRM. These submissions are linked below.

Once again, your activism and support are vastly appreciated. We thank you profoundly.

AFL-CIO TTD statement

SMART-TD/BLET statement

2023 payment rates confirmed for H&W plans

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio (Nov. 8, 2022) — Late last week, members of the Cooperating Railway Labor Organizations (CRLO) and the National Carriers’ Conference Committee (NCCC) convened to review and renew the payment rates for the nationally negotiated health & welfare plans including medical, dental, vision, and life/accidental death & dismemberment (AD&D) benefits.

Prior to last week’s meetings, SMART-TD and BLET mailed ratification ballots to eligible members who are covered under the above plans. If ratified, the agreement would restore the 15% monthly employee cost-sharing contribution (based on the monthly payment rates set annually) that was included in the past three National Agreements. The Tentative Agreement also would provide additional benefits for hearing, speech therapy, and autism-related therapies that are not currently covered by the plans. There are no other H&W cost increases in the Tentative Agreement.

Accordingly, SMART-TD and BLET members are advised that the following payment rates (and monthly employee cost-sharing contribution rate, if ratified) will become effective January 1, 2023:

BenefitMonthly Payment Rate
Medical + Rx (non-hospital association rate)$1,972.43
Life/AD&D Coverage$12.30
15% Cost-Sharing Contribution (proposed)$309.21
Note that the above payment rates do not include costs for on-duty coverage or other administrative costs that are paid 100% by the carriers

The above confirmed payment rates, and therefore the proposed monthly employee cost-sharing contribution rate, came in lower than the previously provided estimates, which projected the 2023 monthly employee cost-sharing contribution rate to be $319.00. As further information, as part of the last National Agreement, the monthly employee cost-sharing contribution rate has been frozen at $228.89 since July of 2016. Had that freeze not been in effect, the 15% monthly employee cost-sharing contribution rates would have been as follows;

2016: $228.89

2017: $261.37

2018: $245.07

2019: $248.59

2020: $248.59

2021: $262.10

2022: $287.46

The 2023 15% monthly employee cost-sharing contribution rate of $309.21 represents a $21.75 increase over 15% of the 2022 premium rate, had the 15% monthly cost sharing not been capped in the last National Agreement. The Tentative Agreement under consideration now includes a similar cap that takes effect at end of 2024 and that cap is an improvement over the recommendations of the Presidential Emergency Board.

Voting on the 2022 Tentative Agreement will remain open until 11:59 p.m. on Nov. 20, 2022. Tabulation is set to occur and results will be announced on November 21.

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio, (Nov. 3, 2022) — The BLET and SMART-TD will host a joint town hall meeting next week to discuss the tentative national rail agreement. Members of both unions from all involved railroads are welcome to attend.

Details are as follows:

Time: 5:30 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 9

Location: BLET National Division Headquarters, 7061 E. Pleasant Valley Road, Independence, OH 44131

SMART-TD President Jeremy Ferguson and BLET National President Dennis Pierce will be in attendance to answer membership questions.

A flyer for the November 9 Town Hall meeting is available.

For those who cannot attend, a video recording of the Town Hall meeting will be made available in the members’-only areas of the unions’ respective websites following the event.

Dates and locations of additional meetings will be announced as available.

BLET President Dennis Pierce (center, in black) and SMART-TD President Jeremy Ferguson at right, in blue, speak with the hundreds of attendees at the Houston Solidarity Rally on Oct. 17.

SMART Transportation Division President Jeremy Ferguson and Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen President Dennis Pierce stood shoulder-to-shoulder as they answered direct questions from a standing-room-only crowd Oct. 18 at the annual Solidarity Rally for Rail Labor in Houston, Texas.

SMART Transportation Division President Jeremy Ferguson speaks during the Houston Solidarity Rally Oct. 17.

Hundreds of members and officers from SMART-TD, BLET and the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes Division (BMWED) — the nation’s three largest freight rail labor unions — gathered to address hot-button issues in the industry, including the tentative National Rail Agreement (TA), to be voted upon soon by TD members.

“It was a great opportunity again to collaborate with BLET President Pierce, to get the facts out there at a face-to-face event about what’s going on in our industry,” President Ferguson said. “SMART-TD, BLET and other unions went through more than two and a half years of negotiations. There’s a lot to unpack about where the industry is right now, and it was good for us to have a factual presentation about the PEB and how the tentative agreement was constructed.

“This was a very lively event, and one where we were able to get right down to an honest discussion about our members’ upcoming ratification process and the decisions that lie ahead,” he said. “Years ago, I don’t know if the degree of solidarity among these different unions would have existed. It’s open dialogue like this that’s a healthy way to combat some of the untruths that’s been floating out there regarding the tentative agreement. Both President Pierce and I are absolutely committed to working together as we continue to move forward, in solidarity.”

Along with President Ferguson, SMART General President Joseph Sellers and other officers enjoyed the hospitality of the Houston rally’s organizers. Special recognition goes out to General Chairperson Roy Davis and GCA Secretary Buddy Piland (GO 577) for putting the event together. As always, Local 1892 out of Houston was heavily involved in the hometown event, including Vice Local Chairperson Keith Green (LCA-577), Local Secretary & Treasurer Robert Maldonado, Legislative Representative Butch Boggess and retiree Dan Holak. General Chairperson Chris Alston (GCA-803) out of Local 1686, GCA Secretary Buddy Piland (GCA-577) out of Local 1205 and Darvin Scott of Local 524 also put in hard work at getting things rolling at the headquarters of SPJST Lodge 88.

Representatives from the SMART-TD Auxiliary, AFL-CIO, UTUIA, Railroad Retirement Board and NARVRE as well as United Healthcare, Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield and a number of SMART-TD Designated Legal Counsel attended as well.

Local 1892’s Maldonado estimated that there were anywhere from 250 to 300 people in attendance, giving it the air of a “mini-regional” meeting, even after a two-year hiatus because of the COVID pandemic.

“GC Davis was telling me that 30 to 40 general chairpersons from throughout the country were in attendance and are looking forward to this event next year already,” Maldonado said. “Quite a few BLET GCs from the Texas/Gulf Coast area were in attendance as well. This rally is a multi-craft and multi-railroad (UP/BNSF/KCS/PORT TERMINAL RR) and from what I’ve been told, the biggest and best one held throughout the country.”

Maldonado said nine SMART locals participated as well as four BLET lodges and BMWED Lodge 1058.

“A big thank-you goes to the Houston-area Designated Legal Counsel Marc Zito, Sara Youngdahl and Clint McGuire for their continued support and sponsorship of this huge event. I don’t want to forget to thank SMART-TD Auxiliary 281 for their help with the decorations and SMART-TD Texas State Legislative director Kamron Saunders for sponsorship and support as well,” he said.

“I was told that this year’s rally was the best one yet and that having Presidents Ferguson and Pierce attend was a home run,” Maldonado said. “So we will start prepping for the 2023 Solidarity Rally next year. Everything is BIGGER in TEXAS.”

Next on President Ferguson’s schedule is a discussion at the Tacoma Regional Training Seminar occurring this week.

SMART Transportation Division President Jeremy Ferguson, right, appears on Episode 5 of the Between the Rails podcast with host Jon Chaffin of Local 1313, left.

SMART Transportation Division President Jeremy Ferguson appeared in a joint video with Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen President Dennis Pierce on Oct. 7 with both presenting facts regarding the Tentative Agreement (TA) being considered by rail labor.

President Ferguson also answered additional questions regarding the TA on a pair of episodes of the Between the Rails podcast over the weekend as well.

The joint video with the BLET can be seen here.

The first episode of Between the Rails that President Ferguson appeared on is available here.

The second episode of Between the Rails featuring President Ferguson is available here.

As of 11:59 p.m. Eastern on Friday, Oct. 7, the 15-day question-and-answer submission period concluded. The next steps in the process of considering the agreement will consist of meetings between legal representatives of both SMART-TD and the carriers that will address the questions posed by members and their General Chairpersons, and then coming to agreed-upon interpretations to answer these questions.

The completed Q&A document will be released in conjunction with the full text of the TA prior to the start of the 21-day TA balloting period toward the end of October.

Jeremy Ferguson, President, SMART Transportation Division and Dennis Pierce, President, Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, Teamsters Rail Conference, on move announced by the nation’s largest railroads to further abuse shippers and gridlock the supply chain in order to extort a contract settlement from rail unions:

CLEVELAND — Late on Friday, September 9, the nation’s largest railroads began warning major shippers that they are declaring an embargo on certain types of new shipments five days in advance of the end of the federally mandated cooling-off period at 12:00 AM EDT September 16. They further advised that all rail shippers could be blocked from making any rail shipments well in advance of next Friday’s deadline for a lockout or strike. This completely unnecessary attack on rail shippers by these highly profitable Class I railroads is no more than corporate extortion.

Our Unions remain at the bargaining table and have given the rail carriers a proposal that we would be willing to submit to our members for ratification, but it is the rail carriers that refuse to reach an acceptable agreement. In fact, it was abundantly clear from our negotiations over the past few days that the railroads show no intentions of reaching an agreement with our Unions, but they cannot legally lock out our members until the end of the cooling-off period. Instead, they are locking out their customers beginning on Monday and further harming the supply chain in an effort to provoke congressional action.

The railroads are using shippers, consumers, and the supply chain of our nation as pawns in an effort to get our Unions to cave into their contract demands knowing that our members would never accept them. Our Unions will not cave into these scare tactics, and Congress must not cave into what can only be described as corporate terrorism.

Rather than gridlock the supply chain by denying shipments and potentially locking our members out next Friday, the railroads should work towards a fair settlement that our members, their employees, would ratify. For that to happen, we must make improvements to the working conditions that have been on the bargaining table since negotiations began. Penalizing engineers and conductors for getting sick or going to a doctor’s visit with termination must be stopped as part of this contract settlement. Let us repeat that, our members are being terminated for getting sick or for attending routine medical visits as we crawl our way out of a worldwide pandemic.

No working-class American should be treated with this level of harassment in the workplace for simply becoming ill or going to a routine medical visit. Sadly, the Presidential Emergency Board recommendation got it wrong on this issue. As we have said from the day that they were implemented, these policies are destroying the lives of our members, who are the backbone of the railroad industry.

These employment policies have forced thousands of employees out of the industry and make it all but impossible to recruit new workers. With understaffed operations, these railroads abuse their best customers by refusing to provide deliveries consistent with their legal obligations. These self-appointed titans of industry complain constantly about government regulation and interference — except now when it comes to breaking the backs of their employees. It’s time for the federal government to tell the CEO’s who are running the nation’s railroads into the ground that enough is enough. Congress should stay out of the rail dispute and tell the railroads to do what other business leaders do — sit down and bargain a contract that your employees will accept.


The SMART Transportation Division is comprised of approximately 125,000 active and retired members of the former United Transportation Union, who work in a variety of crafts in the transportation industry.

The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen represents nearly 57,000 professional locomotive engineers and trainmen throughout the United States. The BLET is the founding member of the Rail Conference, International Brotherhood of Teamsters.