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INDEPENDENCE, Ohio (Nov. 3, 2023) — SMART Transportation Division (SMART-TD) members working under the proposed agreement voted, with approximately two-thirds in favor, to ratify a tentative agreement the union had reached with BNSF in late September, union leadership announced today.

Negotiations with BNSF under Articles VI and VII of the National Rail Agreement began in January following wide national attention brought by the fight of rail labor led by SMART-TD, the nation’s largest freight railroad union, to improve rail workers’ quality of life. The tentative agreement with BNSF was reached by the eight affected SMART-TD General Committees in late September. Votes were cast through the month of October and tabulated Nov. 2, 2023.

The general chairpersons involved include 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. 

Additional information and details regarding the agreement can be found at this link.

Under the next phase of this process, SMART-TD and BNSF will begin implementing the agreed-upon changes. Members who are eligible for additional vacation will have the opportunity to schedule that vacation in 2024. Implementation of other provisions of the agreement will take place over the coming weeks and months.

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

“We would like to thank our members for their patience throughout the negotiation process, and for casting their votes. The overwhelming approval ratings prove that our members see the value in this agreement. We were determined to obtain meaningful improvements to our working conditions, and this agreement does exactly that. While our fight is never over, we are confident that this will serve as a substantial step in the right direction.”

TD General Chairpersons representing BNSF members

The general chairpersons also expressed appreciation to Vice President Joe Lopez, who helped lead negotiations, along with Vice Presidents Chad Adams and Jamie Modesitt. The VPs made the following joint comment:

“Our general chairpersons showed exemplary leadership and cohesion through the up-and-down nature of these discussions,” the vice presidents said. “We congratulate them on their accomplishments and commend them on their focus on what matters — improving the quality of life and working conditions of our members.”

“This agreement our General Committees have reached with BNSF continues to show the strength of our union’s leadership. Together we have made unprecedented inroads on attendance and quality of life issues — an area carriers had no interest to collectively bargain,” said SMART-TD President Jeremy Ferguson. “We have cleared the way for our members on BNSF to expect predictability in their work rest schedules, while at the same time securing proper compensation on a variety of issues that were not agreed to in past rounds of national negotiations. It was long overdue that these issues be addressed. I’m very proud of everyone’s efforts to get this accomplished.”

“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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GO OO9 synopsis

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GO O20 synopsis

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GO 386 synopsis

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GO 393 synopsis

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GO 577 synopsis

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GO JTD synopsis

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