March 17, 2020

In line with White House recommendations that gatherings of more than 10 people be avoided to counter the transmission of the COVID-19 virus, SMART Transportation Division Locals are advised they may cancel monthly meetings in March and April 2020.
During this period only, officers and members seeking membership approval of expense submissions will be able to utilize a relaxed version of a procedure that was previously available only to Local Chairpersons.
In addition, a form is being made available for use by those seeking expense reimbursement. Any officer or member abusing the form and/or submitting fraudulent claims may be subject to removal from office, reprimand, penalties and fines in accordance with the SMART Constitution.
Questions regarding this procedure should be directed to the office of the Transportation Division President.

On behalf of Labor Member of the Board John Bragg, the following release was issued:
On March 13, the President declared the COVID-19 virus outbreak a national emergency. While the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) employees continue to work both on-site and remotely, out of an abundance of caution, the RRB decided to close its 53 field offices to the public effective Monday, March 16, until further notice.
Older individuals with underlying medical conditions comprise a significant percentage of individuals who visit their local field office for assistance. Unfortunately, this same group of people are also within the group of people at high-risk of contracting the virus. The decision to close public access to field offices was made in order to mitigate the exposure to the COVID-19 virus. Limiting personal contact is the best method for combating widespread transmission of the virus for both our customers and our employees. While closed physically, these offices will continue to remain accessible by phone and email.
This regrettable situation allows for the opportunity to become better acquainted with self-service options which are available for RRB customers. These options are available 24/7. Customers can request the following documents and get the following information online by visiting myRRB at or by using the automated menus on the toll-free number (877-772-5772):

  • Letters verifying income and monthly benefits rates
  • Service and compensation statement
  • Replacement Medicare card
  • Duplicate tax statement (1099, 1099R)
  • General benefit information
  • RRB field office addresses

In addition, railroad employees who have established myRRB accounts can login and:

  • Apply for and claim unemployment benefits
  • Claim sickness benefits
  • Check the status of their unemployment or sickness benefit claims
  • View their railroad service and compensation history
  • Get an estimate of retirement benefits

If a customer absolutely needs to talk to an RRB employee, they always have the option of connecting with a representative through the toll-free number (877-772-5772). However, customers are being asked to be patient because of the expected increase in call volume due to the office closures.
Customers also have the option of sending a secure email to their local office by accessing Field Office Locator on, and clicking on the link at the bottom of their servicing office’s page.

Officers and Staff
SMART Transportation Division

Dear Brothers and Sisters:
As the COVID-19 continues to impact our country and its day-to-day operations, I have received a number of inquiries concerning travel and day-to-day business for union officers and staff.
I will simply state that at this time, it is my personal decision to continue as normal with our mission to serve the membership. As a leader I would never ask our members who are working on buses, trains, and commuter operations every day to do something I would not do. I know they are in harm’s way every day they go to work, with or without COVID-19, and as long as they are there, I too will be traveling by all means necessary to move us forward. This past week, I flew to the AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department executive council meetings and the UTUIA Field Supervisor annual training class. Next week, I look forward to traveling to Los Angeles to meet with many bus drivers and SMART-TD officers. Until a government agency tells me I can no longer travel, my schedule will not be altered.
In doing so, I will also be monitoring this situation and keeping current with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines, while staying particularly mindful of the links provided below my signature. If you are not already, I would encourage you to do the same.
With that being said, should anyone have issues with having to travel while serving in a union capacity due to personal health reasons or fear of contamination of a family member, then I understand. That is your personal decision to make, in conjunction with your doctor or family members.
We will do our best to keep everyone apprised of any changes and we will take every precaution necessary to keep everyone safe. Many letters went out last week and early this week from my office requesting advice for the safety of our members, and also demanding relief from the draconian attendance policies currently in place. So far, the FRA has been the only one to respond. It is sad, yet not surprising, to see the FRA has responded in such a pathetic manner. It is also disconcerting how the FAA stepped up and issued advisories to airports, pilots, and flight attendants; yet the FRA relies on “having no authority in this area” (via Frank Wilner of Railway Age) as their excuse for inaction. We will continue to push all agencies to do everything possible to protect our membership when on duty.

Fraternally yours,





Jeremy Ferguson
President — Transportation Division

COVID-19 and Travel in the United States:
CDC Steps to Prevent Illness:
CDC Guidelines on Identifying Symptoms:

CLEVELAND, Ohio (March 6) — SMART Transportation Division (SMART-TD) and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) jointly petitioned the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) on March 6 to take action in responding to the rapidly spreading COVID-19 (coronavirus) in the United States.

“With at least 231 patients treated in 22 states, and at least 14 deaths at the present time … we and other rail labor Organizations take this issue very seriously, and we have been monitoring it closely,” wrote SMART-TD President Jeremy Ferguson and BLET President Dennis R. Pierce in a letter to FRA Administrator Ronald J. Batory.

The two union presidents pointedly questioned the FRA’s lack of an action plan to help address the potential spread of the coronavirus among rail workers.

“As you are likely already aware, over the last several weeks multiple departments within the Department of Transportation … have issued guidelines to employers on how to approach this issue, along with statements and guidelines focused on educating and protecting the crew members, passengers, and consumers who may be impacted by this deadly disease,” the union presidents wrote. “To our knowledge, the FRA has overlooked, or perhaps outright disregarded, its responsibility to get involved with this matter.”

The presidents urged FRA to issue guidelines directed at U.S. rail carriers, employees and passengers similar to those issued by other departments within the DOT.

Those would include:

  • Sanitizing equipment such as (but not limited to) locomotive cabs, computers, remote control boxes and communal areas such as passenger cars, offices, crew staging areas, company provided ground transportation, and away-from-home lodging facilities.
  • Providing crews and passengers with personal protective equipment, alcohol-based hand sanitizer strong enough to kill viruses, and other cleaning supplies as deemed appropriate.
  • Encouraging employees to stay home if they have respiratory symptoms (such as coughing, sneezing, shortness of breath, and/or fever) that are similar to those associated with the coronavirus and to leave if they develop such symptoms while working.
  • Strongly encouraging rail carriers to relax current attendance policies which can be described as unforgiving, at best, to employees who miss work due to illness.
  • Educating all rail employees (including supervisory staff) on the appropriate guidelines for self-monitoring of their health, as well as monitoring and addressing others who appear to be symptomatic.
  • Reporting to appropriate health departments where employees have shown aforementioned symptoms that prevent them from carrying out their assigned duties.
  • Developing plans for employees who reside with, and/or come into direct contact with individuals who are symptomatic.
  • Encouraging carriers to develop health programs and practices which exceed FRA’s recommended guidelines.
  • Encouraging all parties to understand and comply with other such guidelines issued by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Presidents Ferguson and Pierce concluded by again urging prompt action from FRA to protect the safety of railroad workers and the traveling public.

“Further, we ask that you provide continual updates to these guidelines, as other departments have done. Please advise of your plans pertaining to this very serious situation,” they wrote.

Read the letter to FRA Administrator Batory.

The SMART-Transportation Division has reached out to the chairman of the National Carriers’ Conference Committee (NCCC) seeking answers as to what the rail industry’s response would be to the spread of the COVID-19 respiratory illness, especially when considering the strict attendance policies of carriers.

This is the first of what will be a number of outreach efforts by the union to transportation stakeholders to protect the health and jobs of SMART-TD members as the illness, commonly known as the coronavirus, spreads.

At present, the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other reputable sources report 158 patients being treated in 17 states for the disease, which starts out with respiratory symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, shortness of breath and/or fever. In order to prevent the virus’s spread, CDC has recommended that affected workers remain at home.

“As we have discussed on numerous occasions, this philosophy is incongruent with many of the rail carriers’ current attendance policies, which can be described as unforgiving, at best, for employees who miss work due to illness,” SMART-TD President Jeremy Ferguson wrote to the NCCC’s Brendan Branon.

Ferguson said that the communications efforts of the NRC/UTU Health and Welfare Plan Governing Committee in conjunction with the Railroad Employees’ National Health and Welfare Plan to inform, educate and help protect members from coronavirus could have a positive impact in stopping the spread of the virus among transportation workers.

However, he asked Branon to map out a more detailed response in cooperation with the governing committee to answer questions about the industry’s response to the virus going forward:

Do the carriers plan to adopt the CDC’s guidelines, specifically, the CDC’s Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers to Plan and Respond to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), as published on the website?

If the answer is yes, do the carriers plan to relax their current attendance policies for employees who miss work accordingly?

If the answer is no, then what are the carriers’ alternative plans or suggestions?

Do the carriers plan to relax their current attendance policies for employees who miss work as a result of a family member, or someone who resides in the same household, contracting coronavirus or showing such symptoms?

Do the carriers plan to relax their current attendance policies for employees who miss work because they determine that they should be tested for coronavirus?

What steps are the carriers taking, if any, to sanitize the workplace (including but not limited to equipment, company provided transportation and away-from-home lodging facilities, and other common areas such as offices and crew staging areas)?

COVID-19 is easily spread through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes, the CDC said. It also may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads, CDC said.

Additional outreach is planned by SMART-TD to the federal Department of Transportation, federal Health and Human Services Department, Federal Railroad Administration and the Association of American Railroads.

Read President Ferguson’s letter here.