Phone: (216) 228-9400 

Fax: (216) 228-0411  


The results of a strike vote authorized in October by SMART Transportation Division President Jeremy Ferguson on the Southeastern Philadelphia Transportation Authority (SEPTA) were finalized yesterday, Nov. 20. SMART-TD members of Local 61 (GCA-STA) in Philadelphia overwhelmingly voted to authorize a potential work action.  

This announcement comes after 19 months of contentious negotiations and mediation led by the National Mediation Board with the carrier.   

General Chairperson Ray Boyer expressed disappointment with what he described as SEPTA’s bad-faith negotiating. 

“SEPTA has implemented a tactic called ‘pattern bargaining’ — blending aspects of the railroad and bus industries. Unfortunately, this strategy has disproportionately affected conductors, leaving us significantly behind our industry peers in terms of compensation,” he said. “In essence, SEPTA is demanding a front-row effort from conductors while offering nosebleed pay. We believe that fair compensation is not just about wages but also about acknowledging the essential role we play in the efficient functioning of SEPTA.”  

SMART-TD President Ferguson said that after workers served through a pandemic while receiving wages that trail other regional transit peers that the carrier needs to rethink its approach.  

“We have been clear with SEPTA from Day 1 that our men and women are the lowest-paid workforce in the commuter industry and that this negotiation was NOT going to be status quo,” he said. “They continue to stand behind a smoke screen of fancy language their lawyers put together — mixing crafts when it is convenient and clarifying our members are railroaders when it is to their advantage.  

“This union is not a business-as-usual organization. Our members spoke loud and clear in their vote. Everyone is scheduled to come back to negotiations late next month, and SEPTA would be wise to recognize the leverage these men and women of Local 61 have authorized. We will not settle for anything less than the respect our members have earned.” 

TD Vice President Jamie Modesitt stated that SEPTA rail workers have spoken as a collective voice and SEPTA’s Board should be listening to that voice. 

“The collective voice has spoken, and that voice seeks to correct the wage suppression that has been largely ignored over the years. It’s time for SEPTA’s board to correct the wage injustice that has plagued their rail labor force. Ultimately, correcting the wage disparity at SEPTA, by investing in labor, will increase employee morale, establish greater retention of good talent, better recruitment opportunities, and reward the commitment of the hard-working SEPTA men and women who serve the public every day of the week.” 

General Chairperson Boyer will work closely with President Ferguson and Vice President Modesitt as this situation develops. SMART-TD will ensure our members and the press are kept up to date as we move ahead. 

The union represents 481 members on SEPTA properties.  


If you are interested in speaking more about the union’s stance on this issue and its negotiations with management on the SEPTA property, we’d be happy to connect you with:  

SMART Transportation Division President Jeremy Ferguson   

President Jeremy Ferguson, a member of Local 313 in Grand Rapids, Mich., was elected president of SMART’s Transportation Division in 2019.   

President Ferguson, an Army veteran, started railroading in 1994 as a conductor on CSX at Grand Rapids, Mich., and was promoted to engineer in 1995. Ferguson headed the recent national rail negotiations for the Union with the nation’s rail carriers.  

SMART Transportation Division Vice President Jamie Modesitt  

Vice President Jamie C. Modesitt is a member of Local 298, Garrett, IN, was elected to Vice President in 2019, and resides in Saint Augustine, FL. Modesitt serves on the SMART TD National Negotiation Team and serves as a SMART TD Board Member on the National Railroad Adjustment Board’s First Division. 

“Our General Chairperson for the SEPTA property, Ray Boyer, served Section 6 Notices on SEPTA well over a year ago. SEPTA management knows full well that SMART-TD’s members are the backbone of the greater Philadelphia area. Our members operate heavy rail, buses, light rail, and trolleys that keep this city moving. They do so in all kinds of weather and through the pandemic, all while assault rates on transit workers are going through the roof. At minimum, SEPTA management should show labor the respect it deserves and negotiate in good faith. Instead, SEPTA refuses to adjust its initial proposals or acknowledge the various packages proposed by SMART-TD. With that, I have authorized a strike vote for our SEPTA passenger service members.” 

SMART-TD President Jeremy Ferguson

October 23, 2023 

Phone: (216) 228-9400

Fax: (216) 228-0411 


This morning, SMART-TD President Jeremy Ferguson authorized a strike vote on the Southeastern Philadelphia Transportation Authority (SEPTA). For SMART-TD, this announcement comes after 18 months of contentious negotiations and mediation led by the National Mediation Board.  

General Chairperson Ray Boyer, expressed his disappointment with SEPTA’s bad-faith negotiating: 

“We have proposed several packages to settle this round of bargaining, and SEPTA has not moved one inch from their initial position. Even through mediation, SEPTA refuses to bargain by completely ignoring inflation and labor’s part in keeping the service fluid during the pandemic. CEO Leslie Richards was provided with a four-year contract in May 2023 that included a $75,000 wage increase, bringing her total compensation to $425,000. SEPTA’s board approved her raise after a comprehensive review of compensation for leaders in comparable transit systems. In other words, the board applied a prevailing-wage concept to determine her compensation. SEPTA is completely ignoring the same prevailing-wage concept when it comes to labor, which is hypocrisy. It’s a clear picture of management’s value of its labor force, and SMART-TD is not going to tolerate our voices being ignored any longer. A strike vote must be presented to the members to prepare for further action.” 

TD Vice President Jamie Modesitt stated that SEPTA wages need to be increased to reflect the prevailing wage of the industry and that SEPTA is conveying a “take it, or else” attitude during the bargaining round.

“SEPTA’s passenger rail wages have been deteriorated over the years by SEPTA’s success in convincing Presidential Emergency Boards to withhold general wage increases during the bargaining period and eliminate retroactive wages. This is significant because it has permitted SEPTA to avoid labor wage increases for almost two years during certain bargaining cycles,” Modesitt said. “A 0% wage increase, logically, does not compound, and that has caused SEPTA wages over the past years to drop below the prevailing wage for the passenger rail industry. It is obvious to me that SEPTA hopes to repeat its attack on wages because they have made it clear to us that the PEB is their goal.

“Anyone can review the list of Presidential Emergency Boards and see SEPTA seems to end up there almost every round of bargaining. In short, SEPTA has presented a ‘take it, or else,’ attitude. Even so, SEPTA’s attitude towards labor will eventually cost them greatly when employee wages fall so far below the prevailing wage that employee retention and hiring will come to a standstill. What’s more, the taxpayer will ultimately bear the consequence of SEPTA’s greed when the wages have to be significantly increased to keep commuter trains fully staffed. That’s why this issue has to be corrected in this bargaining round. Make no mistake, SMART TD will utilize every legal resource to aggressively fight this injustice for our members who have sacrificed so much for SEPTA and their communities. This strike vote is the first step of action for our members.” 

As of 10 a.m. local time Oct. 23, voting will be open for SMART-TD members to voice their opinion on whether or not to authorize President Ferguson to call for a work action. This vote will be conducted online through a secure survey service. General Chairperson Ray Boyer of GCA-STA, SMART-TD Local 61 (Philadelphia), will be disseminating information on how to access the voting portal to membership today.   

SMART-TD represents 481 members on SEPTA properties. Results of the strike vote will be announced Nov. 20, 2023, at 2 p.m. local time.  


If you are interested in speaking more about the union’s stance on this issue and its negotiations with management on the SEPTA property, we’d be happy to connect you with: 

SMART Transportation Division President Jeremy Ferguson  

President Jeremy Ferguson, a member of Local 313 in Grand Rapids, Mich., was elected president of SMART’s Transportation Division in 2019.  

President Ferguson, an Army veteran, started railroading in 1994 as a conductor on CSX at Grand Rapids, Mich., and was promoted to engineer in 1995. Ferguson headed the recent national rail negotiations for the Union with the nation’s rail carriers. 

SMART Transportation Division Vice President Jamie Modesitt 

Modesitt has served as general chairperson on one of the largest rail general committees in the country representing thousands of members consisting of conductors, trainmen, yardmen, passenger conductors, passenger assistant conductors, hostlers, engineer trainees, engineers, trackmen, signalmen, carmen, machinists and locomotive electricians. Modesitt is considered an expert when it comes to Railway Labor Act (RLA) arbitration with experience in well over a thousand cases consisting of discipline cases and agreement rules and was elected vice president in 2019.

SMART Transportation Division Local 61 (Philadelphia, Pa.) has experienced the loss of a second member from the novel coronavirus.

Brother Stephen McFadden, 51, of Philadelphia, and a SEPTA conductor, died April 30 from COVID-19. He had been a member of the union since September 1991.
“I saw him at every union meeting we had – and sometimes he was the only person there,” said Bernard Norwood, general chairperson of GO-STA. “Stephen was very committed to the union. He was a really nice guy.”
Using money out of his own pocket, Brother McFadden donated to the local’s annual holiday party without fail, Norwood said.
McFadden was a very passionate Phillies fan – sometimes catching part of the game during the down time he had during a shift and filling in his union brothers and sisters on what was going on – and making sure the game was on the TV in the crew room. He also was a very particular lottery player, schooling people to scratch from the bottom up and letting them know the range of numbers they should snag when considering a scratch-off ticket purchase.
Another tradition he was known for was on pay weeks – when the system processed the payroll and employees knew they were going to get their deposits, he’d greet his brothers and sisters with a cheery “Happy Wednesday!”
“That’s going to be missed a lot, especially today,” Norwood said. (He was interviewed on May 6 — a Wednesday morning.)
On April 14, McFadden’s Local 61 brother Michael A. Hill, 58, of Glassboro, N.J., died of COVID-19. Norwood says he’s received reports of 35 positive coronavirus cases and 135 SEPTA workers have been in quarantine. Seventy-two are back on the job.
Norwood said it’s been an uphill fight to get the carrier to mirror some of the sanitizing practices being adopted in New York and in New Jersey, to provide personal protective equipment and to adhere to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention measures.
“We’re still fighting for temperature checks and to get marks on the floors for social distancing,” Norwood said, although he said he’s seeing some progress.
To date, SMART-TD nationally has lost at least eight members and retirees to the pandemic, according to reports submitted to the union.

On April 15, SMART Transportation Division Local 61 (Philadelphia, Pa.) announced that conductor Michael A. Hill, 58, of Glassboro, N.J., died from the coronavirus.

Local 61 Legislative Representative Nichelle Miles poses with member Michael Hill. It was announced April 15 that Brother Hill passed away from COVID-19.
Brother Hill was a 30-year member of SMART-TD and worked for the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority (SEPTA). He is the second active member fatality for SMART-TD from the virus following New Jersey Transit conductor Joseph Hansen, whose death was reported a week ago.
SMART Transportation Division President Jeremy Ferguson called General Chairperson Bernie Norwood to offer the condolences of all of SMART to the Hill family and Local 61. General Chairperson Norwood relayed to him that “Brother Hill was a great member that was no nonsense and always had a smile on his face. He really enjoyed being with his co-workers, attending football games for the Philadelphia Eagles and playing cards. Brother Hill will surely be missed.”
General Chairperson Norwood was also thankful for the assistance of UTUIA Field Supervisor Chris Malley, who is working with the family to ensure the fraternal UTUIA life insurance benefits Brother Hill had are handled quickly.
Brother Hill was on the front lines moving passengers as an essential employee and was doing so without all the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) that should have been provided by SEPTA. As news of this second fatality reached him, Ferguson participated in an AFL-CIO-hosted conference call to news media April 15 taking to task federal agencies that he said have not gone nearly far enough in protecting workers during the coronavirus pandemic, even as our union’s death toll from COVID-19 increases.
The union has sent letters to the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) seeking emergency orders that establish definitive regulations to protect employees. The FRA has only issued a safety advisory when they have the power to regulate, while FTA Acting Administrator K. Jane Williams did not even respond to a letter sent by SMART-TD, which is a slap in the face to labor, President Ferguson said during the call.
“I’m appalled that we can’t even get a response. It is not like we are asking for anything extravagant. Just what the CDC has stated is the bare requirements to ensure a safe work environment for both our members and the general public that use these services.” Ferguson said. “It’s paramount that we get this fixed at all levels of transportation, and quickly. Enough is enough.”
Other labor leaders participating in the conference included Transport Workers Union of America President John Samuelson, Amalgamated Transit Union President John Costa and AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department President Larry Willis.

SEPTA_logo_150pxTwenty two months ago, SMART Transportation Division Local 61 (Philadelphia, Pa.) train service members working at SEPTA ratified their contract from the previous round. Now, for the first time in recent memory, these same members have ratified a new agreement governing the rates of pay and working conditions of conductors and assistant conductors on that property prior to their next scheduled wage increase. A vast majority of those voting, 87 percent, voted to ratify the agreement. The short-term pact runs through June 4, 2017 and includes general wage increases, increased instructor allowance, increased uniform allowance and same sex spousal benefits amongst its provisions. 

Transportation Division Vice President John Lesniewski, who assisted with negotiations, expressed his gratitude to General Chairperson Bernard Norwood, as well as his negotiating committee consisting of Vice General Chairpersons A. J. Bright, Michael Stevens, Raymond Boyer and General Secretary Nelson Pagan for their professionalism, tenacity and commitment to finding an equitable agreement in a timely manner for the benefit of our Local 61 members. 

The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) is a metropolitan transportation authority that operates various forms of public transit—bus, subway and elevated rail, commuter rail, light rail, and electric trolley bus—that serves 3.9 million people in and around Philadelphia. General Chairperson Norwood and his committee represent approximately 350 active rail members on this property.

The Federal Railroad Administration Feb. 10 will hold a public hearing before ruling on a waiver request by Southeastern Pennsylvania Metropolitan Transportation Authority (SEPTA)?to extend its current waiver of hours of service provisions for on duty points.

SEPTA has asked FRA to renew a waiver that the transit agency has had in effect for the past two years.

The rule in question involves the time employees spend traveling from home to start work somewhere other than their usual designated location. At issue is whether this time is considered as part of their hours of service.

In its written comments to FRA prior to this hearing, the SMART? Transportation Division said it “opposes SEPTA’s request because granting it would reduce much needed rest periods for operating employees and will put the traveling public and SEPTA employees at increased risk of fatigue related accidents.

“Fatigue related accidents are a particular concern because of SEPTA’s claim that it serves 3.8 million people and is the sixth largest U.S. commuter rail system, averaging approximately 127,000 daily weekday riders. Given the large amount of passengers that SEPTA carries, granting this waiver request will place crew members and the public in increased likelihood of fatigue-related accidents to help solve what are essentially crew scheduling issues.

“According to SEPTA, only seven assignments start at a location different than the regular reporting location for extra board employees. We estimate this waiver is a fix for less than five percent of SEPTA’s total jobs. Again, this is a crew scheduling issue and in no way justifies a waiver from minimal hours of service rules. If SEPTA needs help in managing crew availability and scheduling concerns, we would be happy to assist them.

“The SMART Transportation Division believes deadhead transportation to an on duty assignment should be counted as time on duty for SEPTA operations, just as it is counted as on duty for every other railroad in the country. The reason is simple, whether an employee is working on an assignment or driving to an assignment, they are still not receiving needed rest. There is no guarantee SEPTA will keep this system if given this waiver. It would clearly benefit SEPTA to remove it if this waiver is approved.

“The Metro-North accident in November 2013, resulting in the death of four people, was found to be caused by an engineer that ‘nodded off’ before the accident. The engineer had recently changed from an afternoon to morning shift, which could have impacted his internal clock. This should have been a wake-up call for SEPTA.

“In the interest of public safety and in the interest of preserving minimal hours of service standards, the SMART Transportation Division asks that the FRA decline this waiver request.

“In its petition, SEPTA states it has the support of the SMART Transportation Division for this waiver. This claim, along with much of SEPTA’s claims in this request, is inaccurate. We oppose this waiver request and ask that it be denied in its entirety.”

Transportation Division Pennsylvania Paul Pokrowka attended the Feb. 10 hearing.

“In October 2014, I attended SEPTA Local 61’s meeting and the membership unanimously asked me to fight this issue. This is of major concern for us due to safety of our members and the riding public. Fatigue related accidents are a huge concern to the Pennsylvania Legislative Board. SEPTA has chosen to spend their resources circumventing the system rather than working with this office for a proper resolution,” Pokrowka said.

The public hearing was scheduled for 10 a.m. at Baldwin Tower at 1510 Chester Pike in Crum Lynne, Pa.


Local 61 Legislative Rep. Keith English, Pokrowka, Local 1373 Legislative Rep. Kyle Brightbill and SEPTA General Committee of Adjustment Vice Chairperson Michael Stevens attend the Feb. 10 waiver request hearing before the Federal Railroad Administration.


The SMART Transportation Division (UTU) general committee of adjustment representing conductors and assistant conductors employed by Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) has reached a tentative contract with the commuter railroad.

The agreement calls for wage increases totaling 11.5 percent over the five-year life of the contract that are similar to increases the carrier agreed to with the Transport Workers Union in 2009. TWU represents bus and subway operators and mechanics employed by SEPTA.

Approximately 390 conductors and assistant conductors are represented by SMART Transportation Division (UTU) Local 61 in Philadelphia.

Local 61 Treasurer Elliott D. Cintron said contract ballots, which have been mailed to all affected members, will be tabulated after April 24.

The tentative agreement must also be approved by SEPTA board members.