Transportation Division Local 367 (Omaha, Neb.) has announced that the 10th annual SMART Day at the Races will be at 3 p.m. on Friday, April 26 at the Fonner Park Racetrack, 700 E. Stolley Park Road, Grand Island, NE 68801.
This year the race will be in honor of the late General President Joe Nigro. Nigro attended this event in 2014 at a time when the SMART merger was still contentious.
“Joe was amazing. He won over everyone attending that day and calmed everyone’s nerves as to the future of the union,” said Vice Local Chairperson Rich Mohr. “We are hoping to present to someone from the international a framed photo from that day in hopes that it will be forwarded to Joe’s family.”
For those who RSVP, free clubhouse seating, programs and food will be available. A free catered barbeque will follow the races at Boarders Inn and Suites, 3333 Ramada Road, Grand Island, NE 68801.
There will be a free shuttle between Fonner Park and the hotel. Boarders Inn and Suites is also offering a discounted member rate and free breakfast. To take advantage, call the hotel at 308-384-5150.
To RSVP for the SMART Day at the Races, email or call Mohr at 785-409-4540 or Cliff Gordon at 308-530-5766.
“Please come and enjoy a day at the horse races with your SMART union brothers and sisters. There will be food, drinks and a good time will be had by all,” Mohr said.
Click here for a flyer about the event.


By Joe Nigro, 
SMART General President – 

Recently, SMART Sheet Metal Division Local 9 and Transportation Division Local 202 came together to honor the memory of the victims of a massacre that occurred 100 years ago.

On April 20, 1914, the Colorado National Guard joined with security guards hired by a local mining company to launch a bloody and devastating assault on 1,200 striking coal miners and their families camped at a tent city set up in Ludlow, Colo.

The event, known today as the Ludlow Massacre, saw one of the most egregious acts of violence committed by company guards and mine owners against their workers in a time when acts of violence against workers were commonplace. More than two dozen people, including 11 children and the four women shielding them from harm, were killed in the assault when a tent they were hiding in was lit on fire by company guards.

The man who led the attack on the miners, Gen. John Chase of the Colorado National Guard, had no love for the men and women who made up the labor movement, nor their families. According to historian Howard Zinn, in his book Three Strikes, Chase led a cavalry charge right into a group of protesting women a week earlier who had been supporting the striking miners. His troops tore banners and flags from the women’s hands while slashing bystanders with their sabers. Chase later went on to call this an effective means of mob control.

This massacre was a watershed moment in American history. The outcry was so fierce and loud that workers across the country struck as a result to demand justice for the women and children that were murdered in cold blood. A hostile Senate was forced to convene hearings looking into labor conditions and actually made incremental changes that began to form the foundation of the New Deal reforms two decades later. The incident continued to serve as a rallying cry for working families on through the following decades as the memory of those women and children was not left to die.

The Ludlow families helped bring our local unions closer together today just as they did a century ago when the labor movement demanded an end to this brutal violence in one loud voice.

This is the power of unity on display – a force for change and for progress that is as strong today as it was strong in those dark, early days where workers lost their lives fighting to improve their working conditions.

SMART members are already taking advantage of this unity. In New Mexico, Sheet Metal Division Local 49 was involved in assisting the Transportation Division in organizing 40 new members at Herzog Transit Services – a subcontractor responsible for running New Mexico Rail Runner Express commuter rail service. In New York, Sheet Metal Division locals are standing shoulder to shoulder with their brothers and sisters on the Long Island Rail Road against a difficult management at the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

This is the kind of unity and strength envisioned by our predecessors when this merger was voted on and passed seven years ago. We are now gradually starting to see the fruition of that vision.

I look forward to standing with you in securing a better future for ourselves and for our families and ask that you join us in commemorating the victims of this heinous massacre. Their memory lives on in our actions and in our work to strengthen the solidarity and bonds of the labor movement we are all a part of.

By UTU International President Mike Futhey
and SMWIA General President Joe Nigro – 

We are just months from one of the most important Election Days in our careers.

Not in our lifetimes has organized labor been under attack as we are today from corporate-funded anti-worker conservatives in state legislatures and Congress who are attacking collective bargaining rights, workplace safety laws and regulations and the ability of workers to finance their union activities.

They want to turn Medicare into a voucher system and slash payments, raise the age for benefits under Railroad Retirement, eliminate Amtrak and reduce funding for public transit.

We will not back down in defense of what labor has achieved for working families.

The UTU PAC and the SMWIA PAL are collaborating to support worker-friendly candidates at the state and federal levels.

We also point with pride to the successful roles played by the UTU Collective Bargaining Defense Fund as well as get-out-the-vote efforts by members of the UTU and the SMWIA.

These activist brothers and sisters helped achieve a ballot-box defeat of an Ohio law that would have curtailed collective bargaining rights, and engineered the recall of anti-union senators in Wisconsin, restoring control of the Senate to a labor-friendly Democratic majority. They also succeeded in forcing the Wisconsin governor — the architect of that state’s legislation to scrap collective bargaining rights for public employees — to face a recall election.

While we cannot match the dollars of the corporate elite who are funding anti-worker candidates, we have a more potent weapon – the steadfast eagerness of working families to knock on doors and make phone calls to get out the vote on Election Day.

The men and women in the American labor movement vote in greater numbers than most any other group of voters, and if we are to stop this attack on workers on Election Day, we must energize even more of our friends and family members to register to vote and go to the polls on Election Day in support of worker-friendly candidates.

The UTU website provides a button that, with one click, takes you to a website allowing you to verify your voter registration and to register to vote if you are not registered:

Your job security, good wages, benefits and workplace safety laws and regulations are directly related to political action by working families. Together, we can defeat the corporate-fueled attack on workers.

Within the UTU and the SMWIA, now is the time for each of us to ensure we are registered to vote, to pledge at least $1 a day to our respective UTU PAC and SMWIA PAL, and commit our time and energy in helping to get out the vote on Election Day.

Among the numerous political challenges facing working families is preservation of Railroad Retirement and Social Security, which are both under attack by political conservatives.

As the UTU’s Portland, Ore., regional meeting commenced June 18, the labor member of the Railroad Retirement Board, Walt Barrows (pictured at left) told attendees, “You can be very proud of your leadership and your legislative staff. You have the best legislative team of any union, bar none. [The UTU is] in the forefront of defending our retirement system against those who try to weaken it.”

Echoing those sentiments was Joe Nigro, general president of the Sheet Metal Workers International Association (SMWIA), who said the UTU has “the best political machine” among labor organizations, which is essential in the fight to preserve Railroad Retirement and Social Security.

Nigro said the SMWIA and the UTU – now combined as SMART – “share the goal of achieving power and success to make legislators, other unions and employers look to us for leadership and training.” SMART, he said, is creating “a bigger, better, stronger and members’ oriented union that represents its members aggressively.”

Barrows, a senior officer of the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalman before being nominated by President Obama and confirmed by the Senate to the three-member Railroad Retirement Board to represent the interests of labor, warned that “the trend of attacking and eliminating defined benefit pension plans across the country will continue.

“In the last 30 years, defined benefit plans have been stripped away from most workers,” Barrows said. “We have seen defined benefit plans replaced by tax deferred savings accounts, like 401(k) plans and other less desirable substitutes [and] with the decline of defined benefit plans, far too many Americans cannot retire with any sense of dignity or security.

“Wondering if you will be able to receive a steady income during your retirement years is important to you and your family when you consider retirement,” Barrows said. “Railroad Retirement gives you that assurance. You can rest assured that when you are ready to retire, the Railroad Retirement Board and the Railroad Retirement system will be there for you.

“You would think that the strength and solvency of our system would exempt us from attacks, but our retirement system is never totally safe from attack. A recent House budget resolution [introduced by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.)] proposed massive changes to our retirement system. While this proposal will not go anywhere this year, it again demonstrates that rail workers must remain vigilant if we expect our retirement system is there for us and for future generations of rail workers.

“Since the establishment of the Railroad Retirement system 76 years ago, labor has fought to protect and preserve these benefits,” Barrows said. “The longevity and stability of our Railroad Retirement is a testament to strength of rail workers standing together. But we all must be vigilant to make sure that our retirement system is there for us and for future generations of rail workers and their families.

“It is now up to us to ensure that our retirement system is there to provide protection and retirement security for future generations,” Barrows said. “So when we hear retirement benefits attacked, and when we hear them referred to as entitlements, remind people that railroad workers are entitled. 

“We are entitled,” Barrows said, “because we worked for it. We are entitled because we sacrificed for it. We are entitled because we contributed to it. And we are entitled because the profits enjoyed by the railroad industry came from our blood and sweat. Nobody gave us anything. We earned it.

“And as your member on the Railroad Retirement Board, it is an honor for me to stand here today to tell you that I will fight to protect our retirement system,” Barrows said.

By UTU International President Mike Futhey

“Stay calm and carry on” has always been the best advice during challenging times.  It is appropriate advice for UTU members and employees as we move forward following the October 10 merger arbitration award.

That arbitration ruling makes the merger look very similar to the merger we were initially promised — the merger the UTU membership and I voted for in 2007.

The arbitrator recognized that maintaining the historical governance of the UTU was important by ruling that the UTU’s cherished craft autonomy, along with general committee autonomy, be preserved post-merger; and that changes to the UTU Constitution not be unilaterally made by the SMWIA executive council.

As required by the arbitration decision, I met with new SMWIA General President Joe Nigro, who took office July 1. The meeting was productive and positive.

At a meeting in early November of all incoming UTU International officers — a meeting traditionally held between a quadrennial convention and those officers being seated — we discussed the events of the past four years. 

We agreed unanimously that UTU members’ interests have been vigorously defended, and it is now time to move forward — discussing with the SMWIA the rights and traditions of both organizations, and to collaborate constructively in finding the most efficient and equitable means of resolving any further outstanding differences, including pending litigation.

I know that I speak for Joe Nigro, as well, when I say that the leadership of both the UTU and the SMWIA has, as our highest priority, the delivery to our members of the wages, benefits and working conditions they expect and deserve.  We also share a commitment to our loyal employees, who serve our members on a daily basis.

In the meantime, I assure you that our United Transportation Union and our United Transportation Union Insurance Association are each financially strong and are continuing to grow stronger notwithstanding this deep and lengthy recession.

As we put substantial merger-related litigation expenses behind us, and continue managing our other costs wisely, the UTU’s monthly surplus will continue to grow and allow for improved member representation.

The UTU and its predecessor unions have persevered and prospered for nearly a century and a half by being resolute in representing our members and flexible in the face of changing demands and events. It is a formula that has served our members well and will continue to serve us well.