“Our rail members from BNSF properties definitely had their voices heard in this process and they should be proud to see their fingerprints throughout this outstanding TA. They were very clear that they wanted a level of predictability for when their time off would be honored, and they wanted a predictable and non-punitive method of filling vacancies that directed the assignment to those who wanted the work and was not aimed at punishing those who aren’t willing to work off of their turns.  This TA that our eight General Chairpersons fought for does both. Not only will our brothers and sisters get more compensated time off, but it will be less of a moving target. This is another big step ahead for SMART-TD and our BNSF members.” 

SMART-TD President Jeremy Ferguson 

SMART-TD is proud to announce that a tentative agreement has been reached between our General Committees and the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad (BNSF). This agreement has been in the works since January 18, 2023, and is highlighted by many upgrades to the quality of life for our members.  

All eight SMART-TD General Committees representing our BNSF properties have reached tentative agreements with the carrier and have already sent the details to their local chairpersons for distribution to their members for consideration.  

The general chairpersons involved included GO-001’s Mike LaPresta, GO-009’s Scott Swiatek, GO-017’s Rich O’Connell, GO-020’s Justin Schrock, GO-386’s Larry Miller, GO-393’s Kevin Kime, GO-577’s Roy Davis, and Tony McAdams from GO-JTD. 

The tentative agreements for each of the eight General Committees are founded on the same language while still giving each General Committee the flexibility to adapt the terms to fit the unique needs of their specific members. The following is a synopsis consistent for all eight of the committees. 

  • Extra boards: Allowed to keep road and yard separate under new conditions under Section V. 
  • 6th week of vacation for 25 year or more employees. 
  • Up to two weeks of vacation can be selected as float weeks. 
  • PRE-layoff for all single PLD/VAC, weekly VAC and EDO days. 
  • Continuous-held-away after 16 hours for everyone on every pool. 
  • Extra Paid Sick Leave Day. (5 total w/same option of converting 3 PLD/VAC to total 8) 
  • Earned Day Off: With no unpaid layoffs in a 90-day period, earn one anytime day unpaid to lay off. 
  • Turn swapping on pools that elect this option, 
  • Preventive care days now available to assigned jobs. 
  • Bereavement leave changes to expand the scope of what relationships qualify for bereavement as well as creating additional flexibility as to when bereavement can be used. 
  • Increased new-hire training from 13 weeks to 14 weeks with additional time allotted in terminals that have RCO operations. 
  • All Reduced Entry Rates or Tiers eliminated for all properties. Everyone will be at 100%. 
  • Student and trainer pay rate increases. 

Additional details tailored to the members of each General Committee will be included with membership ratification instructions, which are currently scheduled to be mailed to eligible voters on Tuesday, October 3rd. For those members who have email addresses and telephone numbers on file with SMART-TD, electronic notifications and voting instructions will also be sent. Tabulation of the ratification votes will occur on Thursday, November 2nd, and results will be announced soon after. 

In a joint statement from the eight general chairpersons of the involved committees, the GCs had this to say about the tentative agreement. 

“Our goals for this TA were to defend the separation of the road and yard extra boards and to bring predictable guaranteed time off for our members regardless of their assignment or board. We believe we achieved these goals and significantly more. This TA has come a very long way from where it started back in January. The eight of us and our committees fought hard to finally get it to a point where the TA is worthy of ratification. None of us thought it was possible initially, and up until very recently, we thought it was destined to go to arbitration. But we are excited about the agreement we are putting out to the members for ratification. We would also like to thank Joe Lopez, who was the SMART-TD vice president assigned to this project, along with Vice Presidents Chad Adams and Jamie Modesitt for their assistance over this long nine-month process. Joe Lopez, in particular, went out of his way to shepherd this TA through the many highs and lows in the process. We all appreciate their dedication to the process and to the quality of life this TA has the potential to bring to our members.”   

 — SMART-TD General Chairpersons representing BNSF crew bases 

In a combined statement from the three vice presidents who were involved in this negotiation, Lopez, Adams, and Modesitt were quick to give the 8 GCs the praise, saying, “The ability of this group of general chairpersons to stick together for the benefit of all is a true testament to brotherhood. Maintaining the same course for eight general chairpersons is no easy task, but this group successfully did it. Their effort and hard work were the difference between securing a tentative agreement and leaving the final outcome in the hands of a third-party arbitrator.  

“As a group, we are proud to send this TA to the members for a ratification vote. We know that we got every inch of quality-of-life improvements out of this agreement. It’s our belief that our BNSF members are going to have more time off with their loved ones. They won’t get called right before their day off, forcing them to continuously cancel and change their family’s plans, and when they have this time away from the rail, they’ll have a little more in their pockets on top of it. All the way around, this is a good development for our men and women, and we couldn’t be more excited for them.” 

GO OO1 Synopsis

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BNSF_Color_LogoOf 3,679 ballots returned, 3,056 were in opposition to the crew consist agreement. Nearly the same number of ballots cast were in opposition to a wage and rule settlement offered by the carrier.

Under the proposal, engineers would have received a pay boost, and conductors would have been given the opportunity to become engineers. It also called for the creation of a “master conductor,” who would be responsible for supervising multiple trains from a fixed or mobile location.

The railroad was seeking to operate most of its trains with a single engineer on trains equipped with positive train control, a collision-avoidance system mandated by Congress in 2008.

It maintained that trains carrying hazardous materials, including those with large volumes of crude oil or ethanol, would still have operated with two people on board.

Prior to releasing the complete vote count Sept. 29, GO 001 General Chairperson Randy Knutson had acknowledged earlier in September that the proposal had failed.

“Please be advised that we have completed the tabulation of ratification ballots for the tentative crew consist agreement and wage and rule settlement, and neither agreement was ratified. A more complete summary of the vote will be forthcoming in the next several weeks, but we felt it was important to provide our members with immediate notification that these agreements were not ratified,” Knutson said.

“Moving forward, this office will notify BNSF Labor Relations that we remain open to informal conversation regarding these matters, but will oppose any formal attempt by BNSF to serve notice to change our existing crew consist agreements prior to the attrition of all protected employees.”

The proposed agreement generated a lot of discussion from Transportation Division members around the country.

In a statement posted on the SMART Transportation Division’s website prior to the voting deadline, Transportation Division President John Previsich noted that, “Our constitution grants the general committees jurisdiction in this area and this organization has successfully defended that right over the years through litigation and arbitration. There are no grounds for any entity to interfere with that right and there will be no attack on that authority by this office or any subordinate body of this organization.

“Nonetheless, it should surprise no one that the proposed agreement is generating a great deal of discussion due to its potential impact beyond its own territory. This office will not interfere with the rights of all of our members to engage in that discussion.”

previsich_web_062714-150x150SMART Transportation Division President John Previsich has responded to an inquiry from Florida State Legislative Director Andres Trujillo requesting an interpretation related to the role of the SMART Transportation Division Legislative Department in connection with the collective bargaining jurisdiction of SMART’s general committees. 

The inquiry relates to a proposed collective bargaining agreement between SMART Transportation Division GO-001 and BNSF Railway and is in regard to crew consist for its affected members.

 The text of the letter follows.

“Mr. Andres Trujillo, Chairman
National Association of State Directors

“Dear Sir and Brother:

“This is in response to your letter of August 5, 2014, wherein you request an interpretation related to the role of the legislative department in connection with the collective bargaining jurisdiction of our General Committees. Your inquiry stems from questions in connection with a collective bargaining agreement proposed by GO-001 regarding crew consist for its affected members. A number of issues have been raised in connection with that agreement and this response to your inquiry will include clarification of those issues so that all concerned will be fully informed on this matter.

“To begin, the issue of a General Committee’s right to negotiate crew consist for its members is a matter long settled. Our constitution grants the General Committees jurisdiction in this area and this organization has successfully defended that right over the years through litigation and arbitration (see, e.g., United Transp. Union v. Alton & S. Ry. Co., Case No.: 05-190-GPM, 2006 WL 664181 (S.D. Ill. March 10, 2006)). There are no grounds for any entity to interfere with that right and there will be no attack on that authority by this office or any subordinate body of this organization. Nonetheless, it should surprise no one that the proposed agreement is generating a great deal of discussion due to its potential impact beyond its own territory. This office will not interfere with the rights of all of our members to engage in that discussion.

“Next, a question has been raised with respect to the knowledge of the Transportation Division regarding the proposed agreement. Earlier this year, the officers of GO-001 requested a meeting to discuss “a matter of great importance to the committee and its members.” At the meeting this office was informed that GO-001 was negotiating an agreement that may include a provision for engineer-only operation under certain conditions. Included in that meeting was a discussion of general committee autonomy and authority to make crew consist agreements. An actual quote by one of the officers is “I have a file cabinet full of precedent that crew consist is a General Committee issue.” There was a great deal of discussion over the wisdom of making such an agreement and the affect that it would have nationally on other properties and on our legislative effort to require two certified people on every train.

“Some number of months later another meeting was requested, this time to inform this office of the content of the proposed agreement. Again, the wisdom and difficulties of such a proposal were discussed and it was stated by the undersigned that “if a committee is forced to submit to single person operations this outcome isn’t too bad.” In addition, some small errors were noted for correction. The key component of the statement above is “If a committee is forced to submit to single person operations.” Any assertion that such a statement constitutes an endorsement of the agreement is, at best, deliberately misleading and, in fact, the officers in the meeting were told in no uncertain terms that the agreement was in conflict with our national agenda and would not be endorsed by this office.

“Although the proposed agreement is clearly within the authority of the officers of GO-001 to negotiate, there is no doubt that passage of such an agreement would alter our dialogue in the legislative arena. As you are aware, efforts to preserve jobs and safety currently in progress are far reaching and not confined to H.R. 3040. The role of the legislative department is unchanged – we are working in every regulatory and legislative arena to protect our members and the public from the danger of single person operations and those efforts will continue.

“It is worth noting here that all General Committees with crew consist agreements will face expiring moratoriums at some point in the future. It is also important to note that an expired moratorium is where negotiations begin – once expired, notices must be served by the parties to enter into negotiations in accordance with the Railway Labor Act (this is intended to clarify any misinformation that would suggest to the listener that conductors are automatically removed from the train when a moratorium expires).

“Some will say that it is better to act earlier and get something at the cost of current jobs and others will argue it is better to wait while preserving current jobs for some time into the future, allowing legislative, regulatory and safety considerations to play out in the intervening time. Regarding the current proposal, it is up to the members of GO-001 to decide if now is the time for their committee to address single person operations.”