Local 200 chairperson, general chairperson and SLD’s combined efforts get opportunity for cut workers to remain in industry

E. Hunter Harrison has been dead since Dec. 16, 2017. His legacy known as Precision Scheduled Railroading (PSR) is still alive and kicking.  

Some of the railroads have said publicly that they are trying to steer away from PSR. But in an unexpected twist, the specter of Harrison is rearing its ugly head in the lives of all our Union Pacific members with the recent ascension of new CEO Jim Vena.   

Vena is a known student of Harrison. When UP employees, some stockholders and SMART-TD general chairpersons expressed alarm at Vena’s hiring, the carrier put out a well-polished piece of propaganda about how Vena 2.0 was a changed man. 

We were all supposed to be put at ease, that he had learned the hard way that PSR was an unnecessarily disruptive force to the industry, the supply chain and in the personal lives of railroad employees.  

For the record, SMART-TD never bought this idea. The five GCs of our UP General Committees in no uncertain terms informed the carrier that they strongly disagree with Vena’s hiring. In the letter sent to UP’s vice president of labor relations, our GCs said “As COO, Jim Vena enacted policies, practices, and procedures that deliberately destroyed our members’ quality of life for the sake of profit. 

“He orchestrated huge furloughs and cuts to every department in transportation, which resulted in the crew shortages we have yet to recover from,” the GCs wrote. 

This second point came into play almost immediately upon Vena taking over Aug. 14. Less than a week into his reign, Vena proved our GCs to be absolutely correct by announcing UP was going to cut 94 positions across four crafts and 13 terminals.  

These men and women whose jobs were erased through no fault of their own were represented by the IBEW, IAM, NCFO and SMART Mechanical Division. Many of these fellow railroaders worked in remote locations where the UP terminal was the largest employer. As a result, many of them were going to have to uproot their families and pursue new career opportunities. 

SMART-TD Local Chairperson Amanda Snide (Local 200, North Platte, Neb.) didn’t like what she was hearing. She was frustrated and confused why these railroaders, though from different crafts and unions, were being thrown to the wolves while her terminal was desperately looking to find candidates to fill their posted openings for conductor positions.  

Sister Snide took matters into her own hands at that point. She successfully brokered the idea with the local management at the North Platte terminal to offer 11 employees slated to be let go in the mechanical crafts positions as conductors.  

As we approach the Labor Day holiday, there can be no better example of the value of labor movement than what these three accomplished for these fellow railroaders and their families. We thank you for defending our rail labor brothers and sisters against the corporate greed that threatened everything they had worked to build.  

Snide’s results giving the workers affected by Vena’s malicious cuts at her home terminal the chance to preserve their income, health benefits and retirement, impressed Nebraska’s SLD Foust. He took what Snide had started and turned his attention to the 83 other casualties of Vena’s short-sighted greed. Foust contacted General Chairperson Luke Edington from GO-953. Brother Edington, who was already on the record with UP about not being on board with UP’s “new vision,” took it from there. 

Edington took Snide’s plan and Foust’s vision of expanding it straight to UP’s Human Resources Department. SMART-TD is very proud to announce that Brother Edington succeeded in reaching an agreement with UP that at all terminals where they are simultaneously attempting to hire conductors and laying off other craft employees will give the same opportunity to transfer to conductor positions that Snide had enacted in North Platte.  

As of Aug. 30, 50% of the affected employees in eligible terminals had applied for transfers to conductor positions — quite a few salvaged railroad careers.  

SMART-TD is very proud of the initiative taken by Sister Snide, SLD Foust and GO-953 GC Luke Edington to make this happen.  

As we approach the Labor Day holiday, there can be no better example of the value of labor movement than what these three accomplished for these fellow railroaders and their families. We thank you for defending our rail labor brothers and sisters against the corporate greed that threatened everything they had worked to build.  

There has always been and will always be Hunter Harrison and Jim Vena types in the rail industry. What is important is that we commit ourselves as a union and as individuals to make sure we can match them with the wits, fight, solidarity and humanity exhibited by members like Amanda Snide and that the union spirit embodies. 

On Wednesday, Sept. 30, members of SMART Transportation Division led the way, along with members of the BLET and TCU/IAM, uniting in cities across America to spread awareness about cuts coming to Amtrak if the Senate fails to act now. 
On Sept. 9, Amtrak President and CEO William Flynn appeared before a U.S. House committee saying that the carrier needs approximately $5 billion in emergency funding to deal with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. 
If no additional funding is provided by the federal government, the carrier has announced cuts, effective Oct. 1, of approximately 2,000 unionized employees and a planned reduction of service that would hit long-distance and state-run routes that serve rural areas especially hard. 
Rallies were scheduled by SMART-TD and other unions to take place a day before the planned cuts in four major cities: Washington, D.C., New York City, Chicago and Los Angeles.  
In a show of support for Amtrak funding and in an effort to raise awarenessWisconsin State Legislative Director Andy Hauck and Michigan State Legislative Director Donald Roach, with the help of Local 168 member Nate Hatton (Dearborn, Mich.), also led the members in conducting pop-up rallies in Milwaukee and Dearborn, Mich., respectively. 

Chicago 

SMART-TD President Jeremy Ferguson accused Amtrak management of setting up the nation’s major passenger carrier to fail at the rally in Chicago, “They [Amtrak’s Flynn and his board] want to take Amtrak and reduce it to a three-day-a-week service for a long-haul with a two-day layover here in Chicago when you’re trying to go from New York to L.A. How is that fair to the ridership? There’s no way that’s going to survive. That’s set up to fail. The couplets aren’t there. They can’t keep people moving. They’re setting us up to fail. 
Ferguson continued to address the assembled crowd, “We bust our butts, day in and day out, to give our country this service, and this is what the board wants to do. Now you guys have gone one step further, you Amtrak employees. You voted to waive off your pay increase this past July. You did what was best for this country and for Amtrak, didn’t you? How did you get repaid? With the threat of furlough tomorrow, right? Two thousand people could be in the streets tomorrow! 
Ferguson also pointed out that Amtrak management is restarting their salaries and 401(k) contributions coinciding with the Oct. 1 scheduled implementation date of furloughs of 2,000 union members. He also stated that Amtrak management has restructured their bonus program to better benefit themselves. 
“We’re not going to take that! We’re not going to stand for that! Not when you gave up your pay raises to protect this country and this service! Unheard of! So, let’s get busy out there! Let’s get fired up!  

Washington, D.C. 

Meanwhile, at a rally outside the U.S. Capitol building, SMART General President Joe Sellers gave a rousing speech to the crowd featuring many members employed by Amtrak who might lose their jobs. 
You are our essential workers. You are moving our essential workers. Every day, to the hospitals, to the first responders, to the police. You are moving America! We need to continue to make sure that you have the funding, to continue to make sure that you continue to move America through this pandemic! We need you! And we need Congress to make sure that they pass the HEROES Act. 
Sellers pointed out that the HEROES Act, or H.R. 6800, was relaunched on May 15, 2020, and has yet to be voted on by the U.S. Senate. “We need to make sure that the new relaunched HEROES Act is passed. To protect you. To protect essential workers. To protect the job that you do, day in and day out,” Sellers said. 
Sellers concluded his fiery speech by thanking our essential Amtrak members, “I want to thank you for the work that you do, and Congress should be thanking you for the work that you do day in and day out! We need the Senate to make sure that they take this seriously. The White House is dragging their feet. The Senate is dragging their feet. That is unacceptable! Thank you, brothers and sisters. We are going to make a difference and we are going to effect change. We are going to effect change in November, and we are going to carry this through. 
SMART-TD Alternate National Legislative Director Jared Cassity was also featured in a report that aired on Fox 5 News in D.C. at the rally and U.S. Reps. Tim Ryan of Ohio and Stephen Lynch of Massachusetts also spoke at the rally. 

New York City and Los Angeles, Calif.

General Chairperson Anthony Simon (Long Island Railroad) and Scott Carey, legislative representative of Local 95 (Albany, N.Y.), took part in a rally with BLET and TCU members outside Penn Station, while California State Legislative Director Louis Costa led a morning demonstration in front of L.A.’s Union Station.  

Dearborn, Mich. 

In Dearborn, Hatton told the Arab American News, “This is a slap in the face to all the essential workers who have been serving the public throughout the pandemic — sacrificing their health and time with their families and loved onesIn 2019, we moved a total of 1,540,972 passengers on the Michigan Corridor. In Dearborn alone, we boarded and deboarded 73,589 passengers. When this pandemic first began, we were told not to wear masks or gloves as it would frighten passengers, while management was told to work from home. As a union, in good faith, we decided to give up pay to help the company only now to be furloughed.” 
SLD Donald Roach also pointed out to the news outlet that H.R. 2, the Moving Forward Act, which included funding for Amtrak, passed the House on July 1 and has stalled on U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s desk. 
“This cut from Amtrak is not just employees being furloughed, it’s reducing service from three trains a day in both directions, east and west, to one train a day to Chicago and the shutdown of the Grand RapidstoChicago line,” Roach said.  
Local 168 member Joel Myers was there rallying along with one of his two children. Myers stands to lose a lot if furloughed with one of his sons currently going through chemotherapy treatments. 
“If we are all furloughed, we will need to figure out how to keep food on the table for our families,” Hatton told the Arab American News. “We will be losing a great public utility. This will greatly impact Dearborn and the Metro Detroit area as this is a mode of transportation that people rely on.”  

Milwaukee

In Wisconsin, SMART members along with All Aboard Wisconsin boarded the Amtrak Empire Builder and rode to Wisconsin Dells, SLD Andy Hauck told SMART-TD. “We had press coverage at both locations and an event in Wisconsin Dells. The train crew was excellent. [The riders] included six legislators and prospective legislators that SMART-TD has supported.”  

The rallies caught the notice of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, who embarked on a whistle-stop tour aboard an Amtrak train that departed from Cleveland the day after the first presidential debate and later went into Pennsylvania.  
“It’s safe to say I’ve gotten to know the hardworking men and women of @Amtrak over the years — I’m proud to stand with them as they face furloughs due to funding cuts. These essential workers have kept us moving during this pandemic –– now it’s time we have their backs,” Biden’s tweet the evening of Sept. 30 read.  
SMART-TD is urging members to contact Congress about passing emergency funding for Amtrak. Not only are the livelihoods of SMART and other union members at stake, but Railroad Retirement will also take a huge hit to its funding if these layoffs stick  
Click here to easily contact your representatives in Congress. 
 

The Omaha-World Herald reports that Class I railroads continue to cut jobs, despite earning large profits. Altogether, the railroads have cut 25,000 jobs or 13 percent of their personnel in recent years.
With companies cutting jobs left and right, and with freight volumes on an uprise (about 4 percent from a year ago), it poses the question as to whether safety is even on the radar of the railroads and how much can this bare-bones workforce handle?
Click here to read more from Omaha-World Herald.

Union Pacific (UP) announced that they plan to layoff 500 managers (8 percent) and 250 railroad workers in an effort to cut costs. Most of the manager jobs being cut are located at UP headquarters in Omaha, Neb.
Click here to read more from ABC affiliate KETV 7.

Dayton Power & Light announced Monday, March 20, that it will shut down two coal-fired power plants in southern Ohio next year. An estimated 490 people will lose their jobs once the plants close, not to mention the jobs that will be lost in other coal-related industries as a result.
The plants sit at the heart of a region Trump vowed to revitalize with more jobs and greater economic security during his 2016 campaign. As part of his pledge to reinvigorate the area, Trump also said he would “bring back coal” jobs.
Click here to read more from CBS News.

The Alaska Railroad announced Friday, Feb. 10 that they will lay off 31 people and eliminate 18 vacant positions, 8 percent of its workforce. Employees were told on Friday that their last day will be March 13. The positions being eliminated range from interns to vice president-level jobs.
The railroad has 609 full-time employees and hires approximately 150 more employees in the summer months to help with increased traffic in passenger rail.
Since 2008, Alaska Railroad has eliminated more than 300 year-round positions.
Click here to read more from the Alaska Dispatch News.

The Missouri State Legislative Board is holding two more “Surviving Layoff” workshops as a result of the success of the last workshop held Jan. 29. “We are happy to announce that after the success and desire for this program to be made available to more members, we have been able to schedule two more furloughed rail worker workshops,” Missouri State Legislative Director Jason Hayden said. The workshop is open to all rail employees (furloughed and possibly going to be), and will be 1.5 – 2 hours long and includes a Q&A session. The next workshop will be held at the Sheet Metal Workers Local 2 Hall, 2902 Blue Ridge Blvd., Kansas City, MO 64129.  This workshop is scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 25, at 1 p.m. The second workshop will be held at the Sheet Metal Workers Local 36 Hall, 2319 Chouteau Ave., Ste. 200, St. Louis, MO 63103 on Friday, Feb. 26, at 9 a.m. RSVP is not required, but is appreciated so that the board can have enough materials for all in attendance. Please contact Hayden if you plan to attend. He may be reached by emailing director@smartmoslb.org or by calling 573-634-3303. “We are still working to try and schedule a couple more workshops in different areas of the state,” Hayden added.

ns_LogoWSLS.com reported that Norfolk Southern plans to cut 2,000 jobs in response to its fourth quarter profits sliding 29 percent amidst its attempts to ward off a takeover bid from Canadian Pacific. 

Read the entire article here.

The Missouri State Legislative Board is holding a “Surviving Layoff” workshop as a part of the Missouri AFL-CIO’s Dislocated Worker Program, Jan. 29, 2016, at 10:00 a.m.

The workshop will be held at the Sheet Metal Workers Local 2 Hall, 2902 Blue Ridge Blvd., Kansas City, MO 64129. The workshop is open to all rail employees (furloughed and possibly going to be), and will be 1.5 – 2 hours long and includes a Q&A session.

RSVP is not required, but is appreciated so that the board can have enough materials for all in attendance. Please contact Missouri State Legislative Director Jason Hayden if you plan to attend. He may be reached by emailing director@smartmoslb.org or by calling 573-634-3303.

Click here to view a flyer about this event.