During his first term, President Biden kept his campaign promises to SMART members and working families, putting workers first with the American Rescue Plan, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the CHIPS and Science Act and the Inflation Reduction Act, as well as an executive order requiring project labor agreements on federal projects that cost more than $35 million and a partnership with SMART on improving air quality in buildings.
Under the Biden-Harris administration, a wave of new megaprojects is employing SMART sheet metal and production members by the thousands, while a pro-labor National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has helped hold bad-faith employers accountable and benefited union organizing and recruiting efforts. The Biden-Harris Federal Railroad Administration has proposed a regulation requiring two-person crews on all freight trains, and federal funding has put SMART sheet metal members to work on critical infrastructure projects that will better the working conditions of SMART Transportation Division members.
“We know that the job isn’t finished,”Coleman said. “Even as the American economy continues to grow from the bottom up and the middle out, anti-labor politicians and their bad-faith benefactors are intent on stifling that growth and returning to an economy ruled from the top down. We have progress to make, from passing the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act to securing real rail safety regulation.”
“With Joe Biden as our president, we are confident that we will continue to make progress for working people,” he added. “SMART is proud to endorse President Biden for the 2024 United States Presidential Election, and we look forward to mobilizing in support of the president and pro-worker candidates down the ballot.”
SMART members from across the United States and Canada gathered in Washington, DC on April 25th and 26th for the North America’s Building Trades Unions (NABTU) 2023 Legislative Conference. Throughout the week, workers and elected union leaders came together to push for legislation that prioritizes union members, as well as hear from elected officials, industry stakeholders and others.
The April 25th plenary session began with a keynote address from NABTU President Sean McGarvey, who introduced and emphasized the 2023 conference theme: “Empowering the Infrastructure Generation.” Unprecedented investment — spurred by pro-worker federal legislation like the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the CHIPS and Science Act, the Inflation Reduction Act and more — is creating tens of thousands of jobs and sparking the renewal of America’s infrastructure. This presents opportunity for the workers of today and tomorrow, McGarvey said, and it’s vital that unions push for legislation like the National Apprenticeship Act to ensure we can train the workforce to meet demand and bring workers of all backgrounds — rural, urban, women, people of color, the formerly incarcerated, veterans and more — into unions like SMART.
“Our model makes sure workers aren’t just trained for a project, but equipped with the highest skillsets for a long and meaningful career,” McGarvey explained. “This is our time to make sure we are building the opportunity pipeline to maximize private investment with public dollars and reach communities large and small.”
McGarvey was followed by various pro-worker officials, including former Labor Secretary Marty Walsh, Illinois Governor JB Pritzker and Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin. Walsh discussed his time working with the Biden administration and the importance of making our voices heard in the halls of power — and the need to spread the word about how pro-labor elected officials are benefiting working families.
“Who you vote for has consequences,” Walsh said. “This is how we restore and expand access to the middle class in this country: through good, union jobs.”
Following Walsh, NABTU attendees were joined by Governor Pritzker, who has overseen a transformative pro-worker shift in the Prairie State — including the passage of the Workers’ Rights Amendment, project labor agreements on more than 1,000 construction projects, a $50 million Illinois Works pre-apprenticeship program and the passage of the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act, a pro-worker clean energy law that covers climate infrastructure projects with project labor agreements.
“Workers’ rights are gaining strength,” Pritzker declared. “Supporting workers’ rights is about investing in Illinois’ most precious resource, our nation’s most precious resource: our people.”
Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin has been a steadfast advocate for the union apprenticeship model, recognizing the potential unions have to lift workers of all backgrounds into the middle class. She explained the continued significance of union apprenticeships as policy and technology shift the way the world works, and declared to NABTU attendees her intent to continue the fight to reauthorize the National Apprenticeship Act.
“There’s one tried and true method that has lasted and stood the test of time, and that’s apprenticeships,” Baldwin said.
The day concluded with a fiery address from President Joe Biden, who took the stage hours after announcing his intent to run for reelection. Throughout his speech, Biden focused on the steps taken by his administration to create an American economy that grows from the bottom up and the middle out — and emphasized that “we need to finish the job.”
“I learned a long time ago: There’s labor, and then there’s UNION labor,” he declared.
Biden explained how his administration’s pro-worker agenda has led to the passage of laws including the American Rescue Plan, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the CHIPS and Science Act and the Inflation Reduction Act. Together these laws helped protect multiemployer pension plans; invested heavily in HVAC, energy efficiency, production, transit, rail infrastructure and other SMART sectors; created more than 800,000 manufacturing jobs; capped insulin copays at $35 per month for those covered by Medicare; and much more. The president also referred to his executive order requiring project labor agreements on federal projects that cost more than $35 million — a policy that amounts to an investment in union labor.
“I’ve said it many times: Wall Street didn’t build America. The middle class built America, and unions built the middle class,” Biden said.
“For decades, trickle-down economics hollowed out the middle class. America rewarded wealth, not work. … As jobs were lost, something else was lost as well: a sense of pride, a notion of who you are, a sense of self-worth, earning your way,” he added. “My economic plan is a blue-collar blueprint to rebuild America, and that’s what we’re doing: rebuilding America.”
The April 26th plenary saw remarks from a range of bipartisan speakers, including Rep. Nikki Budzinski, Republican Congressmen Don Bacon and Brian Fitzpatrick, Senator Raphael Warnock, Senate Leader Chuck Schumer and others. Once again, the focus was firmly on the future — and how unions like SMART need to ensure we meet the workforce demands of this moment for generations to come. From making sure people of all backgrounds have pathways into union apprenticeships, to passing legislation that helps fund ever-evolving apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship programs, now is the time to secure our future
“Thank you for building the strongest and most robust country in the world,” Bacon said during his speech. “You deserve fair wages for a hard day’s work; pension when you retire and safety at work.”
“You are at the center of America,” Warnock added during his remarks. “We need to hear your voices and countless efforts you’ve made to build this country. As you continue beating that drum, I will keep looking for every opportunity I can to stand up and protect our working people.”
Following the speaking agenda, SMART members joined representatives from the rest of the building trades on Capitol Hill to lobby for legislation that benefits our members.
“SMART has proudly gathered with our fellow building trades unions at the annual NABTU Legislative Conference for decades, and in recent years we have seen first-hand how conditions for workers have changed under the Biden administration,” SMART General President Michael Coleman said. “We will continue to work with pro-labor allies and push for policies that put our members to work.”
In April 2021, we met with Steve Dodd and Greg Hynes to talk about the first 100 days of the Biden administration. We have brought them back for this Talking SMART episode to talk about the first year of the administration and, more specifically, its impact on SMART members.
Brother Dodd is SMART’s Director of Governmental Affairs. He spoke with us about the many actions the Biden administration has already taken to support working families, including positive impacts of the passage of the American Rescue Plan on COBRA, unemployment benefits, multiemployer pensions, and funding for school HVAC retrofits.
He also discussed the PRO Act and what it means for SMART members to have so many labor friendly people now appointed to top positions in the Biden administration.
“This president has done something that all presidents have always talked about but never were able to accomplish,” said Dodd. “This Bipartisan Infrastructure bill, and now its implementation, means a great deal to not only sheet metal workers but all workers, whether they’re union or nonunion, across the United States.”
Brother Hynes is a fifth-generation railroader and SMART TD’s National Legislative Director. He discussed how the Biden Administration, in contrast to the previous administration, now very much has an open door for labor and actively seeks input from unions on issues of concern to working families.
“The most obvious are the appointments and the people that President Biden has surrounded himself with,” said Hynes. “He’s actually put competent people in charge of these agencies. And they are all very labor friendly, I mean, it comes from the top down.”
Greg also touched on how the American Rescue Plan included funding to rehire furloughed Amtrak workers, the significance of new leadership at the Federal Rail Administration which is now re-prioritizing rail safety over corporate profits, and what it really means when politicians or rail carriers say we need to just “cut back on regulations.”
In addition, listen for the open mic segment with SMART General President Joseph Sellers at the end of this episode. He responds to multiple questions that have come in from SMART members asking about what steps the Biden-Harris administration has taken to address the multiemployer pension crisis.
Back in January, we met with Steve Dodd and Greg Hynes to talk about the 2020 election and what to expect from the Biden-Harris administration. We have brought them back for this Talking SMART episode to talk about the first 100 days of the administration and, more specifically, its impact on SMART members.
Brother Dodd is SMART’s Director of Governmental Affairs. He spoke with us about the many actions the Biden administration has already taken to support working families, including positive impacts of the passage of the American Rescue Plan on COBRA, unemployment benefits, multiemployer pensions, and funding for school HVAC retrofits. He also discussed the PRO Act and what it means for SMART members to have so many labor friendly people now appointed to top positions in the Biden administration.
Brother Hynes is a fifth-generation railroader and SMART TD’s National Legislative Director. He discussed how the Biden Administration, in contrast to the previous administration, now very much has an open door for labor and actively seeks input from unions on issues of concern to working families. Greg also touched on how the American Rescue Plan included funding to rehire furloughed Amtrak workers, the significance of new leadership at the Federal Rail Administration which is now re-prioritizing rail safety over corporate profits, and what it really means when politicians or rail carriers say we need to just “cut back on regulations.”
In addition, listen for the open mic segment with SMART General President Joseph Sellers at the end of this episode. He responds to multiple questions that have come in from SMART members asking about what steps the Biden-Harris administration has taken to address the multiemployer pension crisis.
President-elect Joe Biden has decided not to take Amtrak to his inauguration ceremony after security concerns intensified following the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, CNN reports. Biden had planned a journey similar to the one he had taken from Delaware to D.C. as a U.S. senator when he commuted daily on the passenger rail carrier. He also took a ride on Amtrak into D.C. for his 2009 inauguration for his first vice presidential term. However, the attack on the U.S. Capitol and additional threats detected by federal agencies led to the cancellation after Biden had initially announced his intention to take the train. Read more on CNN.
SMART representatives had a front-row seat as Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden spoke Oct. 24 at Bristol Community College in Bristol, Pa. SMART-TD New Jersey State Legislative Director Ron Sabol and Gregg Weaver, a retired TD Local 838 member and former Local 1390 officer who served as a conductor for many Amtrak rides taken by Biden, were in the front row at the “drive-in” rally that was broadcast live on CNN from the town outside Philadelphia. “What we heard from Joe Biden today was a concrete plan,” Sabol said. “He has a strategy to address the virus. He has a plan to repair the economy. He has ideas and has a strategy to make things better going forward with a focus on transportation and infrastructure.” Weaver, who worked the rails on both the passenger and freight side with Conrail for 42 years, said Biden has proven his concern for the working people. Weaver’s son, Blake, a Local 838 member, followed in his father’s path and has been an Amtrak conductor for more than 16 years.
“Everybody wants to talk to him (Joe Biden) after the speech – there were politicians, the big-money donors who have millions,” Weaver said. “He didn’t go after the big donors. He picked a blue-collar working man to come talk to him. He has time for us.” Biden addressed the COVID pandemic at the outset, mentioning that the country had set a record for daily cases with more than 80,000. The Biden campaign has observed social-distancing and mask protocols at its rallies to avoid the transmission of COVID-19. Most of the attendees participated in the rally from their cars, honking their horns in unison to show appreciation during the speech. “I will shut down the virus, not the economy,” Biden said. “We can build back better.” With just days until Election Day, Biden’s speech touched upon a number of union-related issues, such as infrastructure, the gigantic $1.5 trillion corporate tax cuts in late 2017 that remain the signature legislative accomplishment of the current administration and the worsening COVID-19 pandemic. “This guy’s not on the level. He thinks Wall Street built thus country,” Biden said. “You and I know who built this country … working people built it — the middle class, and unions built the middle class.” In the April 2018 SMART Transportation Division News reported how Class I rail carriers reaped great benefits from those Republican tax cuts. Union Pacific (UP) received a $5.8 billion boost. CSX saved $3.6 billion, Norfolk Southern (NS) about $3.48 billion and Kansas City Southern (KCS) $488 million. BNSF, a Berkshire Hathaway subsidiary, reported in its Form 10-K filing to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission that it received a tax benefit of $7.4 billion. Savings for the two Canadian-based Class I railroads also increased, reported at $1.4 billion (U.S.) for Canadian National (CN) and about $406 million (U.S.) for Canadian Pacific. “Vice President Biden understands where working people are coming from. He’s been there. He knows what kind of struggle the working people of country are going through,” Sabol said. “With Biden, SMART members, labor and the middle class will absolutely have a seat at the table.” Today, thousands of SMART members and other unionized essential frontline employees still are waiting for additional assistance and protections that are being blocked by the Republican-controlled Senate. For others, enhanced unemployment and sickness benefits that were in effect and a lifeline early in the pandemic have expired. “How many [parents] a day can look at their kids and say with confidence, ‘everything’s going to be OK’ and mean it?” Biden asked. “Times are hard. Unemployment is way up. Folks are worried about making their next rent or mortgage payment, whether their health care will be ripped away in the middle of a pandemic. Worried about sending their kids to school … worried about not sending them to school. “They see folks at the top doing much better while the rest are wondering who’s looking out for me. That’s Donald Trump’s presidency.” Legislation to help union workers such as the HEROES Act and the Moving Forward Act has been stopped by Trump and his Republican allies, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in the Senate.
Weaver reminds his SMART-TD brothers and sisters that railroaders especially need to keep in mind that their benefits are vulnerable to the whims of Capitol Hill. A vote for Trump and for his Republican allies is opening the door for workers’ health care, jobs and pensions to be targeted, he said. Children would be off their parents’ health coverage at age 18 instead of being covered until age 26 under the Affordable Care Act. Weaver said a vote for Democrats would protect union jobs and railroaders. Biden would not be hostile to Amtrak, whereas Trump and Republicans have habitually tried to cut funding for the national passenger rail network. “Joe Biden has got their backs. He’s not going to make things worse for them,” Weaver said. “There will be a lot less fighting with the Democrats than with the Republicans.” Biden gave a brief outline of his economic recovery plan — taxes would not be raised on any family making less than $400,000, while making corporations pay their fair share. “It’s time for working people and the middle class to get tax relief,” Biden said. He also said his administration would focused on job creation and education. “We’re going to create millions of union jobs modifying the infrastructure to modernize it, “ he said. Biden also emphasized in the speech that he is not banning fracking, an accusation leveled by Trump lately on the campaign trail.
The following article appeared in the August/September 2020 edition of the SMART Transportation Division News and is referred to by President Ferguson in the video above. Dear Brothers and Sisters, With the 2020 general election right around the corner, we are dedicating a large portion of this edition of the SMART-TD News to what may be the most-critical question we’ve ever been faced with: Who should serve as President of the United States for the next term? Divided and contentious as this subject can be, I am asking that you take the time to read through with an open mind, and think critically about what we have riding on the outcome of this election as unionized essential transportation workers. In determining who SMART and its Transportation Division should endorse, first and foremost we listened to what our members had to say. I want to sincerely thank each and every one of you who responded to our surveys and emails, called our office, and wrote to us to express your viewpoints. Your opinion matters to us above all else. With that being said, we also considered external sources and blocked out those that misrepresented the candidates and their intentions, or were biased towards one end of the political spectrum or the other. Problem is, there is an abundance of misinformation coming from all directions. In a world where it’s difficult to trust virtually every source of information, where should we turn? Fortunately, in this election we have a race where both candidates have set precedent in the White House; President Trump as the incumbent with nearly four years of experience under his belt, and Joe Biden with eight years of experience as our former Vice President. We also examined the promises that each candidate has made on the campaign trail, and compared those to their actions while holding elective office. As the saying goes, actions speak louder than words. Below are some examples that you can trust, because they are based on objective fact – no conjecture, no spin, no bias, and no BS:
Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) appointments
In March 2009, the Obama/Biden administration nominated Joseph C. Szabo for the position of FRA administrator; a career railroader, SMART-TD member and Illinois State Legislative Director. Brother Szabo was the first FRA administrator to come from a rail labor background, and he served until 2015 when the Obama/Biden administration appointed Sarah Feinberg to the position. Under Szabo’s tenure, accidents, injuries, and fatalities dropped to record-low levels, and the FRA improved its rules pertaining to fatigue mitigation and training requirements. Under Feinberg’s tenure, the FRA issued notice of a proposed rulemaking which would have required two-person train crews. In July 2017, the Trump/Pence administration nominated Ronald Batory, the former CEO of Consolidated Rail Corporation, for the position of FRA administrator. Within one year of Batory’s nomination, the FRA had begun allowing Kansas City Southern to utilize Mexican train crews to cross our southern border and operate trains into Laredo, Texas. SMART-TD and other rail labor unions had to sue the FRA to rectify this issue – a process which took more than two years to resolve. During that time, the Trump administration ignored rail labor’s pleas to secure our southern border and prevent American jobs from being lost to foreign countries; both of which were campaign promises of his. In May 2019, the FRA withdrew its proposed two-person crew rulemaking, claiming that research didn’t support implementing such a rule, and that two-person crews would unnecessarily impede the future of rail innovation and automation.
More on two-person train crews, and National Mediation Board (NMB) appointments
With Mr. Batory leading the FRA and its withdrawal of the proposed two-person crew rule, the nation’s rail carriers saw opportunity and in October 2019, eight (8) railroads filed a lawsuit against SMART-TD, attempting to force us to bargain over crew consist on a national level. To better their chances, the railroads filed their lawsuit in the Northern District of Texas, which is notoriously one of the least labor-friendly courts in the country. The case was assigned to a Trump-appointed judge who in February 2020 ruled in favor of the rail carriers and ordered us to negotiate over crew consist, despite the fact that moratoriums are in place barring such negotiations. At the same time they filed the above lawsuit, the railroads turned to the NMB, requesting that they begin the process of forcing SMART-TD into binding arbitration over the same crew-consist issues. The NMB is controlled by a 2/3 majority of Trump-appointed members, as follows: ■ Mr. Gerald W. Fauth III, a former consultant and president of a company that railroads hire for mergers, acquisitions, time studies, cost analyses and traffic analyses. ■ Ms. Kyle Fortson, a former labor policy director for Republicans on the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee. Despite SMART-TD’s objections, in January 2020, the NMB granted the railroads’ requests and voted by a 2/3 majority in favor of moving forward with the binding arbitration process. In stark contrast to the above, Joe Biden has met with SMART’s leadership and committed to defending two-person crews. For more than 30 years, Biden commuted for several hours per day on Amtrak. To this day, he remains on a first-name basis with some of our members. With respect to the NMB, the lone Obama/Biden appointee, Linda Puchala, is the former president of the Association of Flight Attendants. In the crew-consist binding arbitration decision, Ms. Puchala wrote nearly three pages in dissent objecting to the NMB’s decision.
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) appointments
Similar to the other regulatory agencies mentioned in this article, the FMCSA’s stated purpose is to establish policies governing carriers and ensure their compliance, thereby reducing accidents and protecting our bus members and the passengers we carry. Under the Trump administration, the post of FMCSA administrator was vacant until February 2018, when Raymond P. Martinez was nominated and confirmed by the U.S. Senate. Martinez’s nomination was lauded by carrier-sponsored lobbying groups such as the American Trucking Associations, the American Bus Association and the United Motor Coach Association. In October 2019, Martinez resigned as FMCSA administrator and Jim Mullen assumed the position of acting administrator. Mullen served in that capacity until his resignation in August 2020, which left Wiley Deck to act as FMCSA administrator. This frequency in turnover has largely resulted in an agency without clear direction or leadership. However, there has been one consistent theme over the last few years; the FMCSA has lent a sympathetic ear to the carrier-sponsored lobbying groups that endorse President Trump, while largely ignoring organized labor and the general public. This is evidenced by the FMCSA’s waiving of hours-of-service requirements for Mexican carriers, which already have inadequate regulations when compared to their U.S.-based counterparts. FMCSA has also turned a blind eye to carriers’ efforts to eliminate drivers’ breaks, including meal and restroom breaks, and they have allowed outsourcing of school bus drivers to third-party rideshare companies with questionable practices for conducting the requisite, thorough background checks for drivers.
National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) appointments
Similar to the NMB’s structure, the NLRB is required to have five members with a simple majority appointed by the president. To clarify the importance of these positions, these are the individuals who are in charge of investigating and remedying unfair labor practices with the carriers, as nominated by the Trump/Pence administration: ■ John F. Ring (chairman), a former management and labor relations attorney, appointed in 2018. ■ Marvin E. Kaplan, former chief counsel of the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission, whose 2017 appointment was supported by a number of business special-interest groups. ■ William Emanuel, a former labor law attorney for transportation, logistics, and manufacturing companies, who was appointed in 2017. With respect to the other two NLRB seats normally held by minority party appointees, President Trump has stated his intention to re-appoint Lauren McFerran, although he has yet to follow through. It is also apparent that he intends to leave vacant the seat that had been occupied by Democratic appointee Mark Gaston Pearce, resulting in a board with three Republican members and no or perhaps eventually a single minority party member. Since the law requires only three NLRB members for a quorum to conduct its business, the agency has pressed forward with its two vacant seats and issued a series of decisions, rulemakings and initiatives that heavily favor corporations and repeal myriad existing worker protections. Under President Trump’s direction, the NLRB has acted on every single item on a top-10 corporate interest “wish list” that was published by the Chamber of Commerce in early 2017.
Department of Labor (DOL) appointments
President Donald Trump’s decision to nominate Eugene Scalia as the new labor secretary is driving wide rifts among HR and benefits professionals, with some praising his industry knowledge as a boon to businesses. Others decried the choice, saying he’d hurt the American worker. Scalia has spent his career fighting for the interests of financial firms, corporate executives and shareholders rather than the interests of working people. In another example of stark contrast, in 2009 the Obama/Biden administration nominated Hilda Solis for the position of labor secretary. At the same time, Solis joined Vice President Biden’s Middle Class Task Force, and pressed ahead with a clear and unapologetic agenda to aggressively enforce workplace protection laws, and enact new rules and regulations intended to grant more power to unions and workers. Corporate interest groups, antiunion organizations, and Republican Congress members adamantly opposed Solis’s nomination. Following Solis’s resignation in 2013, the Obama/Biden administration praised her accomplishments and chose Tom Perez, a former civil rights attorney who dedicated much of his efforts to increased protections for the elderly, war veterans, and labor unions, as her successor. Perez was known for regularly making house calls and onsite trips to obtain personal feedback from workers.
Beginning in February 2020, before it was known that the virus had reached this country, we began making myriad preparations for a worst-case scenario, including modifications to our Health & Welfare Plans and a legislative agenda that make sure our members are protected. As a part of those efforts, in early March when there were fewer than 200 confirmed cases in the U.S., we wrote to the railroads, the FRA, the FMCSA, OSHA, and the Department of Transportation demanding that mandates be issued requiring essential employers to comply with basic CDC guidelines for COVID-19 cleanliness, including providing essential employees with the proper protective equipment and social-distancing measures. As you can probably surmise by now (if you are not already aware) the response from the rail carriers, bus carriers and transit agencies was that the responsibility of adhering to CDC guidelines was entirely up to the employee. In the instances where a few regulatory agencies, such as the FRA, bothered to respond, we were told that they essentially trust the carriers to do the right thing, and in their view, it isn’t necessary or appropriate to issue mandates. Instead, we had to take matters into our own hands by cataloging the carriers’ violations and shortcomings via an online reporting tool, which continues to serve its purpose to this day.
What about the booming economy and increased rail traffic?
As is usually the case, over the last decade the number of carloads originated by U.S. Class I railroads has fluctuated with the economy, usually varying by single-digit percentages from year to year. Despite this relative consistency, the railroads’ operating ratios and revenues have gone up by double-digit percentages, while at the same time tens of thousands of rail labor employees have been furloughed. This is mostly due to the fact that Wall Street investors have taken an interest in our nation’s railroads, and they are obsessed with so-called “Precision Scheduled Railroading” practices, which have resulted in (among other detrimental effects) the doubling and tripling of train length and tonnage, and thus, the reduction of crews. Under the Trump administration, the White House, FRA, Department of Transportation and other regulatory authorities have refused our requests to mandate the train length limitations and issue safety regulations that we, and the general public, deserve. It’s also worth noting that, according to the Association of American Railroads, there has been no significant increase in coal shipments from 2016 to today. President Trump’s promises to revive this business would have been hugely beneficial to our brothers and sisters whose livelihoods depend on these shipments, and it was a part of Trump’s policy that had our full support. Instead, we’ve been handed broken promises. But my 401(k) is at an alltime high, doesn’t that count for anything? Of course it does. However, more important than the inevitable ebb and flow of the stock markets is the very real threat of bus and rail automation, train crew consist changes, reduction of federal subsidies for certain carriers such as Amtrak, and the funding and administration of the Railroad Retirement Board and Social Security Administration. Every single budget from the Trump administration proposed the reduction or elimination of funding that not only employs our members, but protects their retirement and health & welfare benefits. If not for the hard work of our Legislative Department and the support of certain members of Congress, Amtrak would have gone bankrupt under the Trump administration. This single event would deal a devastating blow to the solvency of our Railroad Retirement benefits. In addition to the above, automation of trains and buses, and the elimination of crew members and operators alike would have compounding effects that reach far beyond the obvious unemployment issues and the solvency of our retirement funds. As we all know, furloughs tend to hit our youngest members (not just in seniority, but also in age) the hardest. From a healthcare and benefits perspective, these are our healthiest members with the lowest frequency of major medical, dental, vision, short-term disability and long-term disability claims. There is a direct correlation between extensive furloughs and the already difficult-to-manage rising cost of our benefits. The downstream consequences of Trump’s policies can easily extend to our higher seniority members who are immune to furlough. We’re all in this together!
While this edition of SMART-TD News might not change your mind about who you’re going to vote for this November, we certainly hope it will help to shed some additional light on the importance of this election and what we all have at stake. When casting our ballots, we’re making the choice between better protections and job security for our members, or leaving our regulatory agencies in control of the very Wall Street investors, CEOs and corporations that they are intended to protect us from. We’re making the choice between tough bargaining with the nation’s rail carriers that leads to the best possible deal in our next contract, or risking letting President Trump make carrier-friendly appointments to a Presidential Emergency Board that will determine our fate. We’re making the choice between protecting our working class or continuing on our path of worshipping the almighty dollar, while throwing caution and safety to the wayside. One thing is certain — on our current trajectory the rich will continue to get richer, while unionized labor and other hard-working citizens are left behind to pick up the scraps. So, I ask all of you today: Are you ready to stand up to the abuse we’ve been dealt for these last several years? Are you prepared to cast a vote that will help to ensure that your family and future generations have the ability to earn a living wage, with choice health-care and retirement benefits? Are you ready to begin rebuilding an America that works for all of us, and not just our most wealthy and elite citizens? Regardless of the outcome, I pledge that we will continue to fight for the protections, pay, benefits and retirement that we deserve. Without your support, however, this becomes exponentially more difficult, if not impossible. It’s going to take ALL of us to make this happen. Thank you, and God bless. Fraternally,
Jeremy Ferguson President — Transportation Division
Gregg B. Weaver, a retired member of SMART-TD Local 898 who rode with former Vice President Joe Biden many times during the longtime senator’s commute from Delaware to Washington D.C., was featured in a video presented Monday, Aug. 17, during the first night of the Democratic National Convention. In the video, the former vice president’s respect and empathy toward the SMART members who served him as he traveled on Amtrak were highlighted. “I think he’s most comfortable around everyday, working-class people,” Weaver said. “He makes you feel like you belong.” Weaver has had a long relationship with the former senator and vice president, even introducing Biden and former President Barack Obama as they took a train ride to their first inauguration in January 2008 as featured in the February 2009 issue of the SMART-TD News. Another instance of Biden’s concern came after he heard that Weaver had had a heart attack, Weaver recalled in the video. “I was in a barber shop in New York City and the phone rings,” Weaver said. “And sure enough, it’s Vice President Biden asking how I’m doing — wanted to know the whole story. Kind of funny that you’re talking to the Vice President of the United States, but if I would have told the people in the barber shop, I don’t think they would have believed me. “I’m not saying like it was me and I’m anything special. Everyone was special to him. We have heroes all over this country … the average guy is important to him.”
General Chairperson Adren Crawford of GO-433 (Canadian National — Illinois Central) had the following op-ed column published in the Tennessean on June 26. To anyone who thinks America’s labor unions aren’t relevant, think again. In what has become both a sad and challenging time in our history, unions are more important than ever — and with Joe Biden as president, they’ll be stronger. Across the U.S., working men and women — union members — are responding to the COVID pandemic with the same courage and work ethic that built the middle class and made our country the most productive nation in the world. For example, the United Auto Workers are now part of the healthcare system, with members building life-saving ventilators at Ford and General Motors. United Food and Commercial Workers are keeping the shelves stocked, ensuring that we can put food on our tables and enjoy meals with our families. Members of the Service Employees International Union are standing on the front lines in hospitals and clinics. Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, and Transportation (SMART) union members have worked tirelessly running freight trains to maintain the flow of goods — such as delivering chlorine-based disinfectants for water, enabling e-commerce, transporting food, and other essential products. The list goes on. Let’s take stock of this historic moment — and, as we march toward the other side of the COVID crisis, let’s recommit to organized labor. Simply put: Union workers are our heroes right now. The fact that they’re well-organized at this critical time allows them to push for the necessary personal protective equipment, safe working conditions, and overtime wages that they need in order to support all of us. Union workers’ courage stands in stark contrast to the behavior of corporations and anti-labor politicians who have spent decades waging war on organizing and collective bargaining. The predictable results: Stagnant wages, loss of pensions, and exploitation of workers. As president, Joe Biden intends to correct these inequities. He will: • Check the abuse of corporate power and hold executives accountable. This means penalizing employers who pretend to bargain with employee unions while sidestepping meaningful agreements with their workers and also ensuring that federal dollars don’t flow to employers who engage in union-busting activities. • Encourage and incentivize unionization and collective bargaining. This means extending the right to organize to independent contractors in a fast-growing segment of the economy, enforcing workplace rights for federal employees, and making sure that the National Labor Relations Board does its job in supporting workers. • Ensure that employees receive the pay, benefits, and protections they deserve. This means making the minimum wage an actual living wage, directing the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to expand its enforcement of workplace-safety laws, and protecting undocumented immigrants who report labor violations. Most importantly, Joe Biden knows that labor rights are civil rights and that the strength of unions is their diversity. In the days, weeks, months, and years ahead, we owe it to all of our brothers and sisters of color to listen, reflect on our own actions, and recommit ourselves to the fight for economic and social justice. When we emerge stronger after the multiple crises facing our nation, let’s remember the critical role that the American labor movement played in both our economy and our society. Finally, let’s support Joe Biden for president and renew our commitment to labor — and let us never forget the individual workers who pulled us through this crisis and led the fight for economic and social justice. Adren Crawford is a general chairperson and proud member of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, and Transportation Workers.