On a beautiful Kansas spring day, legislators, their families, and community members gathered for a special train ride hosted by SMART Transportation Division (SMART-TD) and the Rock Island Railroad.

Kansas State Legislative Director Ty Dragoo speaks at Baldwin train depot before the excursion trip.

The event provided an opportunity for advocacy and education on rail safety legislation, community involvement and the development of industry partnerships.

SMART-TD Kansas State Legislative Director Ty Dragoo spoke with the legislators at the historic Baldwin city train depot and a safety briefing by the train crew followed before everyone came aboard.

As the train rolled through the scenic countryside, legislators engaged in discussions with TD representatives, learning about the importance of rail safety and the need for comprehensive legislation. The SMART-TD team shared their firsthand experiences and emphasized the crucial role of rail safety in protecting both workers and the public.

Kansas State Legislative Director Ty Dragoo speaks with a fellow passenger during the Kansas excursion trip.

The train ride also showcased the strong community involvement in rail safety. Leaders from statewide organizations representing first responders and firefighters attended and demonstrated their readiness to respond to any emergency situation. Their presence highlighted the importance of collaboration between rail workers and emergency services to ensure the safety of everyone involved and the need for common-sense minimum rail safety legislation.

SLD Dragoo gives a passenger an assist.

Key to the event was the partnership between SMART-TD’s Kansas contingent and the Rock Island Railroad in Baldwin City.

“Rock Island provided the historic train and the tracks, creating a unique and memorable experience for all participants,” Dragoo said. “The partnership demonstrated the commitment of both organizations to rail safety community engagement and a shared interest in advancing rail safety legislation.

“It was an awesome event. Special thanks go to the crew members and Robert Riley, CEO of the Rock Island Railroad, for their dedication and hard work in making the legislative train ride a success. Their contributions ensured a safe and enjoyable event for everyone involved.”

Dragoo said that he hopes that the excursion becomes a regular event because it can educate and strengthen understanding among legislators about the industry in a practical way.

Kansas State Legislative Director Ty Dragoo (Local 1503, Marysville, Kan.) accepted an invitation from the federal Department of Transportation to introduce DOT Secretary Pete Buttigieg and U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids at a Jan. 28 event discussing the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) in Kansas City.

“It’s no accident when federal agencies call on our state directors to be at the table when these events happen,” said Dragoo, who has been Kansas SLD since January 2010. “Our legislative team is second to none in D.C. National Legislative Director Greg Hynes and Alt. National Legislative Director Jared Cassity are making great connections and advancing our cause.

“It’s proof when we get these calls. SMART-TD is a key stakeholder in D.C. and throughout the country.”

U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids of Kansas’s third district speaks at an event promoting the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act on Jan. 28 with DOT Secretary Pete Buttigieg and SMART-TD Kansas State Legislative Director Ty Dragoo to her right.

Accompanied by Kansas Assistant State Legislative Director Chad Henton (Local 506, Herington, Kan.) and Kansas SLB Secretary & Treasurer Dan Bonawitz (Local 1409, Kansas City, Kan.), Secretary Buttigieg, Rep. Davids and SLD Dragoo took part in a roundtable discussion at the University of Kansas Medical Center campus with local elected officials, labor leaders and community members.

“The bipartisan infrastructure law is innovative legislation that will bring thousands of jobs to the state of Kansas,” Dragoo said in his introduction of DOT Secretary Buttigieg and Rep. Davids. “My organization is uniquely qualified to reap its benefits because we are the men and women that physically transport the products created by our great unions and building trades. We are moving from the Great Resignation to the Great Innovation. From SMART members building new HVAC systems for our nation’s schools and hospitals to SMART members transporting the much-needed resources to build and innovate this country. We get it done!

“Representative Davids was there when this much-needed legislation was drafted, and she voted to pass it into law. I am proud of both her and Secretary Buttigieg’s work to highlight the new law’s benefits.”

The event also spotlighted how, when implemented, the IIJA will create local jobs and spur economic growth across the third district of Kansas that Davids represents, including in communities that are traditionally overlooked, Dragoo said.

Buttigieg described the funds coming to invest in the nation’s infrastructure as being of historic levels and said that good-paying union jobs would be created in the state of Kansas and nationwide because of the bipartisan legislation signed into law by President Joe Biden last year.

“We are preparing to deploy historic levels of funding to help modernize transportation across the country thanks to this law,” he said. “This law is going to do so much in every part of the United States, and certainly here. It’s going to help us build more electric buses, to help kids get to school without being exposed to toxic fumes. It’s going to help us expand public transit to make commutes faster and traffic lighter.”

U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, right, meets with Kansas State Legislative Director Ty Dragoo and his family at an event Jan. 28 in Kansas City, Kan.
A portion of the day’s events took place during an outdoor press conference at the Rock Island and Cesar Chavez bridges, and Secretary Buttigieg, Rep. Davids and the SMART-TD contingent were joined by Kansas DOT Secretary Julie Lorenz and Kansas City, Kan., Mayor Tyrone Garner. The event highlighted the bridges for their complementary purposes as infrastructure and economic projects in Davids’ district:

Among the attendees were local labor and business community leaders, elected officials and transportation authorities. Dragoo’s family — Jessica, Kennedy, Quinn, Savannah and Jax — also attended some of the day’s activities.

“This was an amazing opportunity and one that our members in Kansas can be proud of,” Dragoo said.

From left, Local 1409 Legislative Representative Dan Bonawitz Jr., TD Vice President Brent Leonard, Washington State Legislative Director Herb Krohn, TD President Jeremy Ferguson and Kansas State Legislative Director Ty Dragoo participate in an informational picket on Tuesday, Nov. 5, in Kansas City.

General President Joseph Sellers Jr. and TD President Jeremy Ferguson both participated in a town hall meeting and informational rally in Kansas City on Nov. 4 and 5 to draw attention to Union Pacific’s closure of the Neff Yard that resulted in about 200 lost jobs.
The event received local media coverage and was a success, said Kansas State Legislative Director Ty Dragoo.
“it was a great event,” Dragoo said. “We had over 170 members there. We’re definitely moving forward.”
More coverage of the event will be forthcoming.

Union Pacific’s version of Precision Scheduled Railroading (PSR) claimed more victims recently.
UP announced last week that it was doing away with its Neff Yard in Kansas City, Mo., and with it 200 well-paying rail jobs evaporate.
The short-term benefits of these and other workforce reductions by carriers in the name of PSR result in a few more bucks for Wall Street shareholders — the end result of PSR for all to see.
Ignored is the long-term damage done to customer service as the carrier tries to adapt to the change it has made to operations, to equipment because of deferred maintenance, to the lives of employees – both those who are left jobless and those who have to work even harder to pick up the slack — and to the economies of communities in which those good-paying rail jobs have vanished.
UP’s not alone. Right around Labor Day at two locations in Pennsylvania and one in Virginia, Norfolk Southern cut nearly 300 jobs. What do the two carriers have in common? They’re both knee-deep in PSR.
SMART TD leadership backs Kansas State Legislative Director Ty Dragoo, who wrote a letter to explain to members of the general public about what the carriers are really doing.
We support the Kansas State Legislative Board’s efforts to preserve jobs in the face of carrier cuts and hope that other members of rail labor follow his lead. SLD Dragoo’s letter is reproduced below. He is not being silent, and we will not be silent.
Dear Editor,
America’s railroads are going through a round of job cuts. But at what cost? We, the public, are paying for significant Wall Street gains while selling out our communities.
Union Pacific has announced the closure of Neff Yard in Kansas City. Now you get to hold the bag as UP takes the money to the bank.

Kansas State Legislative Director Ty Dragoo

Union Pacific Railroad’s decision this week to abolish 200 positions at Neff Yard follows similar force reductions by the other major freight rail systems across the country.
The cuts aren’t coming because the company is losing money: Union Pacific in July 2019 reported 2019 second-quarter net income of $1.6 billion, or $2.22 per diluted share. This compares to $1.5 billion, or $1.98 per diluted share, in the second quarter of 2018.
“We delivered record second-quarter financial results driven by exceptional operating performance, including an all-time best quarterly operating ratio of 59.6 percent,” said Lance Fritz, Union Pacific chairman.
The cuts aren’t due to burdensome corporate taxes. Union Pacific disclosed in 2017 the estimated impact from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. That disclosure saw some shocking amounts of money to the tune of $6 billion.
The $5.8 billion benefit comes primarily from the revaluation of UP’s deferred tax liabilities to reflect the new federal corporate tax rate of 21 percent.
Also, UP stated the tax break law would result in a $200 million non-cash reduction to its operating expenses. It is also of note that many states and local communities have subsidized Union Pacific with tax money.
The most-significant financial boost was Union Pacific’s much-lower tax bill for the reporting quarters. Operating income may have increased, which is impressive knowing that workers are responsible for that, but the company’s tax bill since passage has been substantially lower, which has led to a massive increase in net income for the quarters.
Despite taxpayer dollars and tax cuts helping Union Pacific gain more per-share for Wall Street, their way to say “thanks” seems to be, pack up and go. This is leaving behind an economic catastrophe for impacted communities to clean up for themselves. To add insult to injury, the company didn’t even have the decency to warn employees until a few days out.
The cuts are due to insatiable corporate greed. Union Pacific is one of the largest U.S. freight rail operators with annual revenues of more than $20 billion.
While communities struggle with basic needs, education, public utilities, streets, emergency services, food tax rates, sales tax, etc. all at the table for increase when UP wants its cut. You have been paying more while they cut and run. This is a double slap to the face; one we must be vocal about.
These job losses will ripple through the heart of the local economy. Without income and security, workers and families won’t be able to spend on clothes, restaurants, recreation, and much more. Union Pacific isn’t only undermining workers and families, but entire regional economies.
As we stand in solidarity with the Union Pacific workers who are about to lose their livelihoods, we can’t forget that corporate decisions in faraway places leave deep scars in unsuspecting communities. Not only do workers in these communities deserve gratitude, but we must also hold companies who take them for granted accountable. When communities invest in companies, we are investing in jobs.
We kept our promise. Will Union Pacific and other railroads continue to break theirs?


Ty Dragoo

Kansas State Legislative Director — SMART TD

Members in Kansas and Missouri — please take a few moments of your time to tell the elected officials listed below about what you think about the carrier cash grab that is PSR.
2335 Rayburn HOB
Washington, D.C. 20515
Phone: (202) 225-4535
Fax: (202) 225-4403
Email him at https://cleaver.house.gov/contact/email-me
101 W. 31st St.
Kansas City, MO 64108
Phone: (816) 842-4545
Fax: (816) 471-5215
1541 Longworth HOB
Washington, D.C. 20515
Phone: (202) 225-2865
Email her at https://davids.house.gov/contact/email-me
753 State Ave., Suite 460
Kansas City, KS 66101
Phone: 913-766-3993
City Hall
414 E. 12th St.
Kansas City, MO 64106
Phone: 816-513-6515
Email: katheryn.shields@kcmo.org
Legislative aide Crissy Dastrup 816-513-6517
Email: Eric.Bunch@kcmo.org
City Hall
29th Floor
414 E. 12th St.
Kansas City, MO 64106
Phone: 816-513-3500
Email: MayorQ@kcmo.org