[As published By John Previsich And Edward Wytkind in The Modesto Bee]

California has more museums dedicated to railroads than any other state in our country – and it’s easy to see why. From the transcontinental railroad to the developing high-speed rail system, rail transportation has played a significant role in shaping this state’s history.

The people of California believe passenger rail is key to the state’s future, too. At a public hearing in Modesto last summer, plans to improve and expand passenger rail service received overwhelming support from area residents, Republicans and Democrats alike. And a new poll prepared by Dean Mitchell of DFM Research found those same sentiments are shared by the people of California’s 10th Congressional District.

Those living in the district enjoy six daily Amtrak train routes in the San Joaquin Valley, running from Bakersfield to Sacramento and the Bay Area. More than 8 of 10 polled say they want to see Amtrak service increased or at least remain the same, and more than 80 percent want commuter rail services increased or maintained at current levels.

Modesto-area residents aren’t alone. As Amtrak continues to grow in popularity – ridership hit an all-time high in 2014 with 31 million passengers – an overwhelming majority of Americans support increasing passenger rail service in all parts of the country, both in traditionally blue and red states from the south to the Midwest and Northeast.


Sadly, not everyone is hearing this call.

Some in Congress continue to fight the old anti-Amtrak wars by proposing the elimination of all federal funding to support the service, which would bankrupt the railroad and strand riders in California and across America. While those efforts have failed, the persistence of anti-passenger rail forces has brought headwinds to efforts to advance a robust passenger rail expansion and modernization plan.

Like the vast majority of Americans, most residents of Stanislaus County and the surrounding areas have shown they don’t agree with such proposals. In fact, when told that Amtrak gets over $1 billion per year in federal support, more than 80 percent say they reject attempts to eliminate it and want to continue the current funding level.

In addition to expanded passenger rail service, Californians also say emphatically that they favor policies making rail transportation safer.

Not unlike the views of most Americans, the idea of running 19,000-ton freight trains – many containing hazardous materials – with only one crew member doesn’t sit well with the people of the 10th Congressional District. With up to 50 freight trains running through the region each day, a stunning 95 percent of residents support a state law requiring a minimum of two crew members on all freight trains running through California – such as the one signed into law in September by Gov. Jerry Brown.

More than 90 percent of those surveyed want national legislation mandating the same thing. This issue impacts passenger rail safety as well, because in most parts of the country Amtrak shares the tracks with freight trains.

Californians understand that having a safe, efficient rail system is vital to a strong economy. We need actions that can bring relief to a clogged transportation system that is choking productivity, stunting job creation and undermining efforts to grow our economy. California voters couldn’t be more clear: they like passenger rail service, they want more of it and they expect their elected officials to make it as safe as possible.

SMART Transportation Division President John Previsich recently conversed with U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I – Vt.) about Sanders’ democratic candidacy for President of the United States and the positive impact that the voice of unionized labor can have on the outcome of the race. Sanders is well known for his record of voting for policies that help working families and against those policies that hurt the poor. On the issues such as wealth inequality, Sanders is outspoken about evening out the gap between the middle class and the wealthy.

If elected, Sanders has promised:Previsich and Sanders

  • To rebuild our crumbling infrastructure.
  • To reverse climate changes.
  • To create worker co-ops.
  • To grow the trade union movement.
  • To raise the minimum wage.
  • Pay equity for women workers.
  • To establish trade policies that benefit American workers.
  • To make college affordable for all.
  • To take on Wall Street and break up the big banks.
  • To make Health care a right for all.
  • To protect the most vulnerable Americans.
  • To reform the tax structure.

Senator Sanders is the longest-serving Independent in U.S. congressional history, having served 16 years in the House of Representatives before being elected to the U.S. Senate in 2006. He is currently serving his second term as a senator.

By John Previsich, SMART Transportation Division President



We are all aware of the recent incident that occurred on Amtrak Train 188 in Philadelphia. Three of our conductor Brothers and Sisters from Local 1370 in New York City and the engineer operating the locomotive have had their lives forever changed by a tragedy that could have been prevented. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Akida Henry, Thomas O’Brien, Emilio Fonseca and everyone who lost their lives or were injured in the May 12 derailment.

The accident is currently under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board. Members of the SMART Transportation Division’s National Safety Team were dispatched to the site of the catastrophic derailment to assist in the investigation. Significant progress has been made in understanding how and why the accident occurred and that investigation is continuing. It is our policy to not comment on the outcome of an ongoing investigation and we will leave that discussion for a later date.

We are, however, compelled to comment on a number of issues raised in the national discussion after the accident. The installation of Positive Train Control and its value in accident prevention has been placed front and center in the dialogue. While our Organization strongly supports the installation of PTC as a safety enhancement, we must comment that PTC is a safety overlay to the other measures that are necessary for a safe rail operation. PTC can be a valuable tool in helping to ensure safe operation of a train according to what is supposed to happen, but it is of little or no value in addressing issues that aren’t supposed to happen; i.e., pedestrian or vehicular intrusions into the right-of-way, broken or faulty rail or railhead, sudden incapacitation of the employee operating the train and other anomalies that will continue to occur with or without PTC.  Some in the rail industry even claim that PTC will permit locomotives traveling at high speeds, routinely hauling hazardous materials, to be safely operated by a single crew member. This claim is fiction. One need only look at the Chatsworth incident, Metro North and the tragic 2013 train wreck in Lac-Mégantic, where a train leveled an entire town in Quebec, to see the risks associated with operating trains with single-person crews.

The ongoing dialogue includes discussion of inward-facing cameras in locomotive cabs. While inward-facing cameras may be of interest after an accident occurs, they will do nothing to prevent tragedies like the one we saw in Philadelphia. It is only natural to want to know every detail that occurs during an accident. However, locomotives already incorporate sophisticated event recorders that record the actions of train crews. The recorder measures speed, throttle, amperage, whistle and bell, application of the brakes, location, operation of head lights, ditch lights, etc. The data collected are routinely used by the NTSB and FRA to pinpoint the cause of accidents, and have already provided important information about this terrible incident. Inward-facing cameras add little additional information to that already available and in fact may be counter-productive due to the intrusive and unnecessary distraction caused by their use.

Many who promote the increased use of video surveillance in locomotives have good intentions, but rail transportation safety will continue to be impaired until Congress adopts a serious reform agenda that addresses crew staffing, work schedules and chronic fatigue. Focusing on implementation of technology that might make it easier to investigate accidents or monitor employee behavior merely diverts the conversation from meaningful safety reform. No one should believe that inward-facing cameras are the answer to the multiple safety challenges faced by the industry. There is no technology that can ever safely replace a second crewmember in the cab. The uncontrolled external environment in which trains operate along with regulatory and operational demands of a safe transportation service demand a crew of at least two fully trained and qualified employees in the control cab of every train. All such employees must be given a predictable work schedule with adequate time away from work to properly mitigate the chronic fatigue inherent in the industry.

Allowing discussion of inward-facing cameras and PTC to divert policy makers from addressing other much more meaningful rail safety reforms would be a mistake. Employees know the real culprits that undermine rail safety include chronic fatigue, chaotic and unpredictable work schedules, trains being operated with a single crewmember in the locomotive cab – a situation that if not present would have prevented the Philadelphia accident – and delays in implementing life-saving measures such as predictable work schedules. No amount of PTC or surveillance cameras can make up for the lack of well-rested, properly-staffed operating crews.

It is time for Congress to get serious and advance legislation that will have a meaningful impact on the true safety issues in our industry. It is only through such action that we will reduce the occurrence of preventable rail accidents and save lives.


CLEVELAND, Dec. 17 — Top leaders of the Transportation Division of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART–TD) and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) announced today that their organizations will be participating with four other rail unions in coordinated bargaining in the upcoming round of national negotiations.

On Dec. 8, 2014, BLET general chairmen and SMART–TD general chairpersons each served bargaining notices on their respective railroads, including identical notices related to health and welfare and related benefits.

“Today we build on the successes of joint bargaining during the past two national rounds,” said BLET National President Dennis R. Pierce. “Now more than ever before it is imperative that the unions representing railroad operating crafts sit side-by-side at the national table, and I am pleased that we have been able to accomplish that.”


“This is a landmark occasion for BLET members and SMART–TD members alike,” said SMART–TD President John Previsich. “Today’s announcement builds on several years of cooperation between our organizations on a variety of common issues, and is the logical next step for our great unions. Working together will allow rail labor to make the strongest possible effort to obtain for our members the wages and working conditions that they deserve.”

Also participating in the coordinated bargaining effort are the American Train Dispatchers Association (ATDA), the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen (BRS), the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, Iron Ship Builders, Blacksmiths, Forgers, and Helpers (IBB), and the National Conference of Firemen and Oilers/SEIU (NCFO).

Jointly, the participating unions represent more than 85,000 railroad workers covered by the various organizations’ national agreements, and comprise over 58% of the workforce who will be impacted by the negotiations.


John Previsich has been elevated to the position of president of the Transportation Division of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers following the retirement of Mike Futhey.
Previsich becomes the second president of the SMART Transportation Division and the eighth leader of what was formerly the United Transportation Union. He is a member of Transportation Division Local 31 in San Jose, Calif.
According to the current UTU Constitution, Article 2 states that “Vacancies occurring in positions not subject to attrition shall be filled as follows: President – By the Assistant President.”
“It is with immeasurable pride and humility that I accept elevation to the position of president of the SMART Transportation Division. This is an honor that I do not take lightly,” Previsich said.
“I recognize the immense responsibility that comes with this office and I pledge to all of our members that I will continue, as I have always done, to serve in a transparent and effective manner, with the strong leadership that is essential to secure and protect the interests of our membership.”
Previsich began his railroad career with Southern Pacific Transportation Company, where he commenced work as a train service operations employee in San Francisco, Calif. He later transferred to engine service and achieved certification as both a railroad conductor and locomotive engineer.
Previsich started doing work as a local union officer in the 1980s. Thereafter, he moved into a system-wide position as a general chairperson in the early 1990s, followed by his election to International vice president in 2007. He was re-elected in 2011, elevated to the position of assistant president in 2012 and assumed the responsibilities of the general secretary and treasurer position on Jan. 1, 2013.
During the course of his career, Previsich has advocated on behalf of his members in mergers and consolidations in the rail and airline industries, 13(c) transactions, divestitures, national and local contract negotiations and countless arbitrations and mediations, securing and defending collective bargaining agreements on properties large and small.
Having a special interest in transportation-industry safety issues, Previsich is the SMART Transportation Division representative on the Federal Railroad Administration’s Rail Safety Advisory Committee and has served on numerous subcommittees associated with RSAC.
In addition, he was appointed by the secretary of the Department of Transportation to the National Freight Advisory Committee, a cabinet-level group that reports directly to the secretary on MAP-21, a program charged with assisting in the development of administration policy on a national freight plan for the 21st century.
At the conclusion of the SMART Transportation Division’s Boston regional meeting July 3, Futhey announced he would step down from office, pending resolution of arbitration proceedings regarding the union’s constitution. His retirement was effective Sept. 30.

By John Previsich, 
UTU Assistant President/ GS&T – 

Discipline in the railroad industry is a curious business. I recall that when I first hired out, I was proud of my new employment. The railroad had selected me over other well-qualified applicants, and I was sent to school and provided extensive on-the-job training before being allowed to mark up.

I thought the railroad that hired and trained me actually valued a good, responsible employee who was loyal to the company and who wanted to give a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay.

And then I marked up. On my first trip for pay, we saw a burning fusee very close to the rail on the outside of the curve. Thanks to the engineer, we stopped short of the burning fusee, with plenty of room to spare. Nonetheless, two company officers climbed on board and told us we got lucky this time, but maybe next time the fusee would be a little harder to see or some other more difficult test might be coming our way. There was not a word of praise for the heads-up performance of the engineer or a welcome aboard to the new guy.

After the officers left, I asked the engineer what that was all about. He said those were the local managers and they were forced by their supervisors to perform a number of efficiency tests each month and that some portion of those tests were required to be failures — that some superintendents actually required a number of dismissals to ensure all of the other employees “got the message”.

He said if a manager refused to comply with the requirements, that manager would be looking for another job real soon – that managers sometimes were under pressure to produce test failures and dismissals without regard for the positive performance of the employees.

When asked how he knew about such matters, the engineer said he had been one of those managers, and as a result of his refusal to comply with such directives, he had been released back to the ranks. I shared my thoughts about having a good relationship with the company and that throughout the entire employment and training process all involved stressed repeatedly how much the company valued me and wanted to keep me around. The engineer said, “Kid, those were the guys who hired you and you won’t see them ever again. These are the guys that want to fire you, and they will be in your face every day until they are successful.”

That exchange occurred more than 30 years ago, and I never was fired. But I did become a union officer, and learned a great deal about how things work in a command and control environment.

To learn more about the UTU Discipline Income Protection Plan, click on the following link:


UTU Assistant President and International Vice President John Previsich has been named to the additional post of UTU general secretary and treasurer (GS&T) by the UTU Board of Directors.
Previsich also will continue handling assignments as an International vice president, but those assignments will be pared down given his new duties.
Previsich succeeds GS&T Kim Thompson, who retired Dec. 31. UTU International Vice President Delbert Strunk had been elevated to that post, effective Jan. 1, but Strunk chose, instead, to retire Dec. 31.

The UTU Board of Directors made additional appointments:

* UTU Alternate Vice President Troy Johnson becomes an International vice president, succeeding International Vice President Paul Tibbit, who retired Dec. 1.

* UTU Alternate Vice President John England becomes an International vice president, filling a position vacated by Strunk.

* Vice General Chairperson Jeremy Ferguson (CSX, GO 049) and General Chairperson Brent Leonard (Union Pacific, GO 953) become alternate vice presidents, filling the positions of alternate vice president vacated by Johnson and England.

Bruce Feltmeyer; Feltmeyer, Bruce; International Employee

Additionally, the United Transportation Union Insurance Association (UTUIA) Board of Directors elected Bruce Feltmeyer as general secretary and treasurer of UTUIA, succeeding Kim Thompson in that position. Feltmeyer also holds the position of director of staff at the UTU Headquarters in North Olmsted, Ohio.

Biographies of the new officers are available – or will become available in the case of Ferguson and Leonard – at http://www.utu.org/ by clicking on “About the UTU,” then clicking on “officers” and scrolling down to the names.

Feltmeyer’s biography is available at http://www.utu.org/ by clicking on “About the UTU,” then clicking on “UTU/UTUIA Staff” and scrolling down to his name.

By Assistant President John Previsich

We all know that drug and alcohol use can have a negative impact on users, fellow employees and the transportation industry.

That said, it must be emphasized that SMART members are to be commended for setting a compliance standard that places our airline, bus and rail members as leaders, second to none, in striving to achieve the drug and alcohol-free workplace that is essential to the safe and effective operation of our nation’s trains, planes and buses.

Data show that our members take very seriously the responsibilities of their employment – the incident-free transport of passengers and freight and the safety of co-workers and the public with whom we interact on a daily basis.

We do, however, see occasional spikes that are cause for concern. Although infrequent, our attention is too often drawn to the needs of a member who has failed a drug or alcohol test or who is in need of assistance due to personal struggles with substance abuse.

Sometimes it is an experienced worker who made an error in judgment. Other times, it is a newly hired employee who may be coping with personal issues. Longer term employees may remember a time, just like in society as a whole, that tolerances were different than they are today. But society has moved on, and so has our industry. There is no place in today’s transportation business for drug or alcohol use in violation of federal regulations or company policy.

We are all aware of the challenges we face daily — from unpredictable work requirements and unscheduled (or non-existent) off-days to being on-call 24/7. The ability to balance work and off time can be difficult, at best, if not downright impossible at times.

Poorly conceived availability policies often put pressure on employees to report for service at times they shouldn’t, and the absence of meaningful RedBlock-type programs on many carriers leave the employee who received the surprise call no choice but to report for service or be disciplined for laying off on the call. The industry needs to change and you can rest assured that your union is doing everything to promote that change in the quickest way possible, both at the local and national levels.

Our message to members who decide to experiment casually with illegal use of drugs, or with alcohol or legal use of drugs in a manner that conflicts with the requirements of their employment is one word – DON’T!

For a member who struggles with compliance, we strongly encourage you seek help immediately. Dependency is a medical issue and there are many avenues available to you. From utilization of your health plan for professional assistance, to family, friends, church and co-workers, help is just a phone call away. Please make that call now – the safety of you and your co-workers, your job and even the economic security of your family depends on it.

John Previsich has been elevated from International vice president to assistant president by the UTU Board of Directors, succeeding Arty Martin, who retires Sept. 1.

UTU International President Mike Futhey said of Martin’s departure, “It is difficult to lose a talent like Arty Martin with all the institutional knowledge he has gained through his years of service to UTU members. We certainly wish him and Cindy the best on their retirement adventure.


“In turn, we are truly fortunate to have someone like John Previsich willing to take on the responsibilities of assistant president,” Futhey said.

Previsich, age 58 and a member of UTU Local 31 (San Jose, Calif.), began his railroad service with Southern Pacific (now part of Union Pacific) in 1973, working in yard, road and engine service. He currently holds seniority as a switchman, brakeman, conductor, fireman and engineer on UP, and worked in commuter and long-distance passenger rail service for 10 years.

He was elected to numerous positions, including local chairperson, vice general chairperson and general chairperson — the latter to which he was elected five times by acclamation — representing brakemen, assistant conductors, conductors, firemen, hostlers, engineers and train dispatchers on short lines, passenger lines and Class I railroads.

As an elected Local 31 delegate, Previsich attended International conventions in 1991, 1995 and 1999. Additionally, he served on the peer support committee for UP’s Operation Red Block (1993 to 1998), UP’s Safety Assurance and Compliance Program, chairperson of the UTU’s Union Pacific General Chairperson Association for three terms (2002-2006), and as the UTU’s representative on Southern Pacific’s 401(k) Plan board of directors.

Previsich was elected an International vice president in 2007 and re-elected in 2011. His assignments have included assisting general committees on UP, BNSF, Kansas City Southern, CSX, CN/IC, Canadian Pacific, Delaware & Hudson, San Joaquin Valley Railroad, Kyle Railroad, Nebraska Central, Birmingham Southern, Amtrak, Progressive Rail, Connex, Terminal Railroad of St. Louis, Louisiana & Northwest Railroad, Dakota Minnesota & Eastern, Great Lakes Aviation and Lynx Aviation pilots’ group.

He also was assigned to assist the National Legislative Office in passage of the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008, and serves on behalf of the UTU on the act’s safety advisory committee, the FRA Medical Standards Working Group, the Positive Train Control Advisory Committee and the Close Call Reporting System (C3RS).

He and his wife, Kathy, have four children.

Arty Martin

Arty Martin, age 66, is a fourth generation railroader, having been elected assistant president in 2007 and re-elected in 2011.

He signed on with Union Pacific in Pocatello, Idaho, in 1966 while attending Idaho State University, where he earned a degree in business administration, with a minor in labor law. An Air Force veteran, he also played minor league baseball as a catcher, including one professional season in Alaska.

Martin was promoted to engineer in 1975. Frustration over railroad treatment of employees encouraged him to run successfully in 1977 for UTU Local 78 vice local chairperson, representing engineers. He subsequently was elected vice general chairperson and general chairperson. In 1992, Martin merged the enginemen general committee with one representing conductors, brakemen and yardmen, and today that general committee represents more than 5,000 UP train and engine workers.

His mother, father and grandfather were UP employees, and his great-grandfather ran steam locomotives on New York Central Railroad (now part of CSX).

Martin and his wife, Cindy, have four children, including Brian who is a UTUIA field supervisor, and Dallas, who is a UP conductor in Portland.






Arty Martin, above, during his minor league baseball playing days.

After 53 fruitless mediated bargaining sessions stretching over almost three years between United Transportation Union-represented pilots and Great Lakes Airlines, the union has asked the National Mediation Board to declare an impasse in the talks, release the parties from mediation and make a proffer of binding arbitration.

Great Lakes Airlines pilots are members of United Transportation Union (UTU) Local 40 in Denver.

Great Lakes Airlines is based in Cheyenne, Wyo., and serves 48 of its destinations with assistance from federal subsidies provided by the congressionally created Essential Air Service program. The airline is the nation’s largest provider of Essential Air Service and those federal subsidies assure air service to communities in rural areas that are without easy access to the nation’s transportation network.

In seeking the release from mediation and a proffer of binding arbitration, UTU International President Mike Futhey told the NMB that despite the 53 mediated bargaining sessions in which the UTU has sought to bargain in good faith, “the airline has refused even to discuss an acceptable offer, thus creating an impasse.”

Airlines, as railroads, are governed by the Railway Labor Act (RLA), which puts the National Mediation Board (NMB) in control of negotiations until such time as the NMB determines there is an impasse and releases the parties from mediation. If either side rejects a proffer of binding arbitration, the Railway Labor Act provides for a series of cooling-off periods, during which the White House may appoint a Presidential Emergency Board (PEB) to make non-binding recommendations for a settlement.

If the sides cannot reach a voluntary settlement based on those recommendations, or if a PEB is not appointed – and PEBs are rare in stalled airline negotiations — then either side becomes free to engage in self-help, which could include a work stoppage by pilots.

UTU International Vice President John Previsich, who is assigned to assist in the negotiations, said, “Self-help from either party is not UTU’s desired outcome for this process as it would have a significant negative impact on the Essential Air Service provided by Great Lakes Airlines. The UTU’s desire is that the parties reach a mutually satisfactory agreement and avoid any interruption to the Essential Air Service.”

From the onset of negotiations with Great Lakes Airlines in October 2009, the UTU has presented evidence that the current contract – which the UTU seeks to amend under provisions of the RLA – is substandard in terms of working conditions and wages that daily puts pressure on Great Lakes pilots whose highest priority is to fly passengers safely.

Under the current contract with Great Lakes Airlines, pilots are among the lowest paid of any scheduled passenger airline in the United States.

On Great Lakes Airlines, a first officer can expect to make less than $15,000 in the first year.

The carrier’s latest offer provides that first officers will continue to make less than the flight attendants with whom they are working. In addition, the airline proposed a reduction of 15 percent in the monthly guarantee for all pilots.

These pilots are professionals with extensive training and expertise, and some of them are paid less than entry-level retail and food service jobs.

Difficult negotiations with Great Lakes Airlines are not rare. Great Lakes Airlines flight attendants, now represented by the UTU and also members of UTU Local 40, were in negotiations with the airline for 10 years (initiated prior to the selection of UTU as their bargaining representative in 2009) before a new agreement was reached and ratified.

The UTU-negotiated contract for flight attendants is the only ratified agreement the carrier has received with any labor organization since the first contracts were negotiated in the 1990s.

The pilots fly 30-passenger Embraer and 19-passenger Beechcraft aircraft, serving airports in Arizona, California, Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Michigan, Minnesota, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming, and with crew bases in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, North Dakota, Minnesota, South Dakota and Wyoming.

The local hosts its own website, www.faircontractnow.com