By John Previsich, President, SMART Transportation Division

SMART TD President John Previsich
John Previsich, President, SMART Transportation Division

It is said that two things to never discuss at a family gathering are religion and politics and for the most part that is very good advice. But I’m going to break that rule here–I view my brothers and sisters in the labor movement as family, but I cannot stay silent while the consequences of the upcoming national elections may have such a severe impact on the working men and women of this country.
Let’s look first at our industry – those of us who work in the transportation field are very much affected by decisions made in Washington, D.C. by a number of Federal agencies. Without exception, the people who lead these agencies and have final say over such decisions are appointed by the President of the United States.
For example, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) are entities that have a direct impact on all of us, every day that we go to work. These agencies make the rules that govern our licenses and certifications. They enact the rules and regulations that govern our safety and well-being while working on the job.
Our members in the air and rail industry negotiate their collective bargaining agreements and enforce their contractual rights under the auspices of the National Mediation Board (NMB), while such activities for our bus members are governed by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).
The Surface Transportation Board (STB) has jurisdiction over rail mergers and abandonments. This is the board that decides not only when mergers can happen, but also which line consolidations and which abandonments will occur–and whether labor protection will be imposed as a requirement of the transaction. And 13c labor protective conditions are a requirement of Federal law when Federal funds are used to enhance bus or rail operations.
Retirement, occupational disability, unemployment compensation and sickness benefits for rail workers are governed by the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB). If you’re a railroad worker and you get sick, you receive Railroad Retirement sickness benefits. If you get furloughed, you receive Railroad Retirement furlough benefits. When you are old enough to retire and enjoy the hard-fought and hard-earned retirement that you’re due, that’s through the RRB.
If you are a rail worker injured while working, the Federal Employers’ Liability Act governs the recovery of lost wages and pain and suffering for you and your family.
If you are a rail worker with 20 years of service and are disabled from working in your regular occupation, the RRB will grant you an occupational disability with full retirement benefits. This occupational disability benefit is something unique to the railroad industry. It exists nowhere else and there are people in Congress today, each and every session, that try to take those benefits away from us – including the Republican candidate for Vice President, Mike Pence.
It’s a fact – Mike Pence, governor of Indiana and former Congressman (R-Ind.), voted against labor’s interests 95 percent of the time while in congress. He voted in 2001 against the railroad retirement revisions that gave us full retirement at age 60 with 30 years of service. During his tenure from 2001 to 2013, there was not a single person in congress with a worse labor record than Pence. The Republican nominee for President has stated that he wants to freeze and roll back regulations, including ones that may affect our safety. Mike Pence has a well-documented history of trying to do just that.
It’s a fact – The Republican nominee for President is Donald Trump, a man without any experience in elective office. Some believe that may not be a bad thing, but it forces us to look at the actual record of Trump’s statements and accomplishments to ascertain his fitness for the highest office in the land.
First, let’s look at Trump’s position on coal, an issue that’s very important to our members. Anyone who watched the Republican convention may have noticed the signs in the audience, “Trump digs coal.” But a review of the facts shows that Trump has no credible plan to return the coal business to profitability, a requirement for increased production. The downturn in coal comes from a number of factors connected to global economics and cheaper alternative fuels such as natural gas. While Trump makes empty promises, Democratic Nominee Hillary Clinton is actually meeting with workers and labor leaders in the coal industry to develop strategies to support and assist the impacted workers.
It’s a fact – Now, what about Mr. Trump’s promise to bring manufacturing back to America? Another simple statement without any credible plan for actually accomplishing that objective, so once again we are compelled to look at the record. Here we find that Mr. Trump says that he will bring the jobs back but in the next breath he declared that the reason we’re not competitive in the global market is because America’s wages are too high. And the record also shows that every product with Trump’s name on it is currently manufactured in a low wage foreign country.
It’s a fact – Trump supports a national right-to-work rule. We all know what that means. Workers can freeload. They can have a union represent them, and they don’t have to contribute a nickel. They don’t have to support the union, they don’t have to support the effort, they don’t have to support the cause. They can even work against the union and their fellow workers and still get the benefit of your leadership and your activities in the day-to-day ensuring of agreement compliance and a safe workplace.
In an interview with the Washington Examiner, Trump said he favors states with right-to-work laws because, “it is better for the people to not have to pay union dues if they don’t want to…It gives great flexibility to the companies.”
It’s national right-to-work for less, and nothing more than a Republican-led tactic to take away worker’s rights and bust the unions, because that is exactly what will happen. Unions will weaken, and fade away—the exact intent and design behind right-to-work laws that, if implemented, will result in reduced wages for all workers.
It’s a fact – Trump’s companies have been investigated numerous times by the National Labor Relations Board for unfair labor practices. His companies have been sued by government agencies and his own employees after refusing to pay overtime and benefits rightfully due the employees. He has bankrupted companies to avoid paying contractors who in turn could not afford to pay their employees. He takes pride in not living up to the contracts he signs and has even suggested that is a good tactic for use when he is elected President.
It’s a fact – Presidential appointments impact union workers.
Earlier in this column we discussed the importance of federal agencies to workers in the transportation industry. One need only review the recent history of this labor union and Presidential Emergency Boards to see an example of how Presidential appointees directly impact our members.
On both Long Island Railroad and New Jersey Transit, management came into the most recent rounds of negotiations firm in their positions that there would be zero percent wage increase over many years while imposing draconian changes to health benefits that would force our members to pay more and receive less. Your union refused to entertain such offers and after negotiation and mediation the carriers still refused to budge from their opening positions. The National Mediation Board released the parties, and President Obama appointed a Presidential Emergency Board for each railroad. Those two Boards ruled overwhelmingly in favor of the employees. Both railroads requested a second PEB, with new members appointed by the President. The two new Boards again ruled in favor of the employees and as a result our members are currently enjoying new contracts with industry-standard wage increases and health care benefits.
We are currently in negotiations on a national rail contract with the freight carriers and a system-wide contract with Amtrak, where the carriers have taken a similar position–insignificant wage increases coupled with draconian cuts to our health care benefits. Who would you rather see appoint the next Presidential Emergency Board to decide these contracts–a Democratic President who supports labor or a Republican President who has stated for the record that he believes American workers are overpaid, supports right to work for less and refuses to pay his own employees the compensation to which they are entitled?

This election: A critical moment in history

This Presidential election is a watershed moment in the labor movement and in the history of our country. Make no mistake – the anti-labor Republican agenda is intended to reduce workers’ pay and benefits while improving the “flexibility” of the companies for whom we work. The so-called “flexibility” that Trump admires is just a euphemism for the reduction if not outright elimination of worker’s rights. While “Make America Great Again” means different things to different people, it is clear that Trump’s version is not good for our members.
The facts matter – and we’re going to do everything we can to educate our members, and we want your help. We want you to communicate these facts to your union brothers and sisters, your friends, family, neighbors and acquaintances. Let them know that this is a big deal. Let them know that Trump and Pence will work to take away from our families the hard-fought benefits, protections and securities that our predecessors worked so hard to secure.
Let’s work together to protect our jobs and our families.

By John Lesniewski, Vice President, SMART Transportation Division

j e lesniewski_for web
John Lesniewski

In the July/August edition of the SMART Transportation Division News, both SMART General President Joseph Sellers and SMART Transportation Division President John Previsich wrote extensively about the importance of this election cycle. General President Sellers detailed why Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton was the obvious choice for any working man or woman, while illustrating why Republican candidate Donald Trump is not our friend, as his legacy is one of divisiveness, reneging on contractual commitments, bankruptcies that leave workers holding the bag, and producing his own brand-name products overseas.
President Previsich’s column elaborated on the importance of a Democratic president, pointing out that the numerous federal agency appointments made by the president directly affects your employment and working conditions on a daily basis. His article also illustrated numerous facts regarding the candidates and their agendas, leaving no doubt that we desperately need to elect a United States president who is labor-friendly. That candidate is Hillary Clinton.
While I certainly concur and echo the sentiments raised by both President Sellers and President Previsich from an employment standpoint, my concerns with the 2016 presidential election are much more elemental. I, too, am convinced that former Senator and Secretary of State Clinton is by far the most experienced and qualified candidate, a fact which seems to have been lost in the Trump smokescreen of outrageous comments and allegations, but the most compelling reason I support Secretary Clinton is my fear of Donald Trump’s narcissism, thin skin and toxic personality.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I have been a Democrat my entire life, although I have voted otherwise when circumstances truly warranted it. I am praying now that my Republican friends, Independents and disenfranchised Democrats recognize the current presidential election as just one of those unique circumstances. My trepidation over Donald Trump goes far beyond his narcissism or his penchant to insult every group, race and religion that doesn’t look like him or share his beliefs. It goes to the ease with which he can be manipulated through compliments and to his irresistible impulse to retaliate with full force against anyone who disagrees with him, threatens his authority or disparages him in any manner. While I have not shared common political views with past Republican presidential candidates and presidents, I have never feared their impulsive temperament and lack of sound judgment would put my country, my loved ones and my friends in harm’s way. I have that fear now.
You see, I was a living witness to the terror of the Cuban Missile Crisis. I remember the terror that gripped the nation during that time and I never want to see that again. Although I was a child, and my parents did their best to shield me from the looming possibility of a nuclear holocaust, they couldn’t fully conceal the distressed look on their faces or the anxiety that permeated the air during those horrible 13 days in October of 1962. They couldn’t hide the 13 days we were glued to our black and white televisions watching for updates; or the ID bracelets parents placed on their children so they or their bodies could be identified if the worst occurred; or the emergency drills we practiced in school. They also could not conceal their relief when President Kennedy defused that crisis.
What does this have to do with the 2016 presidential race? Only that the Cuban Missile Crisis, along with President Kennedy’s assassination just 13 months later, prompted me to become a student of presidential history. Among the books I read on the subject was Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr.’s “A Thousand Days: John F. Kennedy in the White House,” where I was awestruck by the realm of knowledge a president must possess about every conceivable issue and contingency, and just as important, understanding the personalities and temperaments of leaders from nations around the world, both small and large. Every decision made by our president affects each nation’s leader in a different way, and their potential reaction must be considered before any and all foreign policy decisions are rendered. No decision can be made on impulse or out of emotional distress.
I thank God that during those precarious days in October 1962 President Kennedy took full measure of the consequences of his actions before ordering a full scale invasion, despite the fact he was being encouraged by many in the military to engage immediately. Had the president overreacted, and he was given ample cause to do so, the results would have been catastrophic. Post-crises revelations verified that the Russians in Cuba already had tactical nuclear warheads for their artillery rockets and bombers, and Castro was prepared to recommend their use if the U.S. invaded, regardless of the devastation it may have caused his own country.
Donald Trump has demonstrated time and time again throughout this campaign that he would not have exercised the same self-control as President Kennedy did in 1962. He lashes out immediately in response to every threat, real or perceived, and tries to justify his reaction later through subordinates. Recently he threatened, “I’ll blow them out of the water” if Iranian boats circled our destroyers and made inappropriate gestures. Really? Does the U.S. really want to trigger a war costing thousands of U.S. lives over inappropriate gestures? Apparently a President Trump would. It’s sincerely scary.
Also, forget about your guns. There have been several Democratic presidents and not one has taken away your hunting rifles. Forget about abortion, Roe vs. Wade has been here since 1973 and is not likely to change during this president’s term, nor is the president likely to change anyone’s feelings on the subject. When you strip away all of the peripheral political pundit buzz, the bottom line is Donald Trump is unstable, dangerous, and clearly governed by his own ego. If there’s even a slight chance that his irrational and impulsive decisions can trigger an unnecessary war or, God forbid, a nuclear conflict, are you willing to take that chance? Are you willing to bet your life on it? Or the life of your loved ones? You need to be, because a vote for Trump is tantamount to placing just such a bet.
Let us not forsake the most qualified and experienced candidate for president in our lifetime, in favor of the least qualified candidate who has never held so much as a city council seat. Even if you bought into the recent Republican rhetoric about emails or audiences granted to donors from the Clinton Foundation, I would much rather have a president who had been careless with emails in the past, but has our back, than a president who is so unstable he could put our country and its citizens in harms way.
Also, don’t forget that a vote for a third party candidate is a wasted vote, and equivalent to a one-half vote for Trump. There can be no doubt that Hillary Clinton is the only logical choice for president.
John Lesniewski
Vice President
SMART Transportation Division


For months now, coverage of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton has saturated our nation’s news coverage. And thanks to Trump’s ability to swamp the media with the insults he hurls and gaffes he makes, that coverage is too often light on substance.

Not enough is being reported on or shared with voters about the stark differences between the candidates on major issues that affect our economy — including the state of our transportation infrastructure. We hardly hear a word in the news coverage about what Clinton and Trump will do about suffocating commutes, aging infrastructure, choke points in our freight network and technology upgrades waiting to be deployed. Disparaging comments aimed at major swaths of our populations, apparently, sell more TV ads.

Today, the AFL-CIO’s Transportation Trades Department (TTD) is hoping to change that with the launch of their new campaign #SheWillFixIt. Their goal is to educate working people in transportation, and those who care about the quality, reliability and safety of our transportation system, about the candidates’ plans to fix our aging transportation system. Hint: that should be literally everyone.

This initiative isn’t about making Donald Trump look bad — he does that quite well all on his own. This is about taking a close look at the candidates’ views on the issues that matter to America’s transportation workforce, including Clinton’s and Trump’s vision (or lack of one) and specific proposals to modernize a sadly deteriorated transportation system.

Join the conversation at and share the content with your friends, co-workers and family.

I haven’t met a Democrat who enjoys crushing traffic, overcrowded subways or ports that can’t meet the needs of our businesses. And I haven’t met a Republican who enjoys cascading flight delays, dangerously aged bridges or Amtrak train delays.

But there is a candidate in this race who understands the severity of these problems, has a plan to fix it and has pledged to make it a priority in her first 100 days in office. Learn more about how #SheWillFixIt.

Doyle Turner, Hillary Clinton, Jared Cassity
Doyle Turner, Hillary Clinton, Jared Cassity
On May 2nd, SMART TD Kentucky State Legislative Director Jared Cassity and SMART TD Vice President Doyle Turner participated in a round table discussion in Ashland, Ky. with presidential candidate and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The Lexington Herald Leader reported that Clinton promised federal assistance for Eastern Kentucky, which has been negatively impacted by job losses in steel and coal industries. Read the entire story here. A complete video of the meeting, by The Daily Independent, can be found on facebook here.


SMART, the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers, has endorsed Hillary Clinton as the union’s choice for President in the upcoming 2016 election.

Clinton stood out to members based on her strong leadership, experience, competency and unwavering support for working families. The selection process had input from a survey of the union’s U.S.-based members and from its leadership at the local, regional, and national levels.

SMART General President Joseph Sellers, Jr., said, “She has the real-world experience and dedication that makes her the right candidate to serve the interests of America’s working families in these turbulent times.”

Hillary Clinton Offiial Portrait

Sellers noted that “Secretary Clinton’s plans are detailed and well-reasoned. On the economy, she will build on our apprenticeship and training programs, expand and improve freight transportation and transit and address environmental concerns with investments in energy efficiency. All of these involve jobs that members earn their living in every day.”

SMART surveyed its diverse membership on the 2016 election in December. The poll focused on issues, not candidates, in order for member feedback to guide the union’s electoral efforts in every race, at every level, in 2016 and beyond.

Members overwhelmingly chose jobs and the economy as their most vital interest. On qualifications, members indicated they want leaders to possess the competency, broad experience and serious approach necessary to tackle the nation’s difficult domestic and international challenges.

These, combined with the membership’s preference, led the SMART General Executive Council to approve Secretary Clinton for the Union’s support. SMART will mobilize its members across the United States to help ensure that Hillary Clinton is elected to serve as the next President of the United States.

Sellers also acknowledged Senator Bernie Sanders, saying, “I thank him for his lifetime of unwavering support for working families and especially for ensuring that the everyday issues working families face are squarely addressed in this campaign.”


SMART is one of North America’s most dynamic and diverse unions. SMART’s 216,000 U.S. and Canadian members ensure the quality of the air we breathe, promote energy efficiency, and produce and provide the vital services that move freight and products to market and passengers to their destinations. We are sheet metal workers, service technicians, bus operators, rail engineers and conductors, sign workers, welders, production employees and more. 

railroad_tracks414Evoking the investment in American infrastructure by Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan, Hillary Clinton on Monday unveiled the most sprawling — and costliest — government program of her campaign to date.

Mrs. Clinton said her five-year, $275-billion federal infrastructure program was aimed at creating middle-class jobs while investing heavily in improving the country’s highways, airports and ports. Bridging the “infrastructure gap” between the United States and developing nations like China would also eliminate red tape and fuel overall economic growth, she said.

“Workers can’t get to work, congestion keeps parents stuck in traffic, floods threaten our cities, and airports leave travelers stranded for hours or even days at a time,” the campaign wrote in a fact sheet about the proposal.

Read more from The New York Times.