Upwards of 70% of UPS employees are represented by the Teamsters Union. In one of the most prominent news stories of the summer, the Teamsters and UPS workers fought the good fight against the corporation and made large gains in their levels of pay and company-provided fringe benefit packages.

SMART-TD would like to echo many of the media’s responses and congratulate the Teamsters and especially our union brothers and sisters who do tireless work on the frontlines of UPS. However, it is worth pointing out that the wage and benefit increases gained in the wake of a 2022 Biden-appointed Presidential Emergency Board (PEB #250) are in many ways equal to, or better than, the commendable achievements of the Teamsters and UPS drivers, although our achievements received far less positive fanfare and attention from the media.

As many of us have seen in the news, UPS CEO Carol Tome made the eye-opening statement that drivers at UPS will now be making $170,000 annually. That got the attention of many of us in the rail industry, and at SMART-TD. When we looked closer at that statement, we identified some important nuances that this executive did not make apparent to the general public.

More specifically, the figure of $170,000 appears to be CEO Tome’s claim for the amount of total compensation, including fringe benefits, that Teamster-represented UPS drivers are estimated to receive at the conclusion of the five-year contract. As many SMART-TD members know, this is the same rhetoric that rail carriers and their analysts used during PEB #250, in their unsuccessful attempts to convince the PEB members and the general public that railroad employees were already generously compensated for the work that we do. We rejected those tactics then, and we reject them now from CEO Tome.

In researching this issue, we noted that CBS News recently reported that at the conclusion of five years’ worth of stepped raises, full-time Teamster-represented UPS drivers will be earning approximately $49/hr. Assuming a 40-hour work week, this adds up to a base annual salary of $101,920, pretax. CBS News also reported that the fringe benefit package for Teamster-represented UPS drivers adds up to approximately $50,000, for a total combined compensation of approximately $151,920.

Based on the above, it appears that in some rare circumstances, CEO Tome’s claims could be technically correct, provided that the UPS employee works a considerable amount of overtime. However, we do not believe that CEO Tome’s claims are representative of most UPS employees, and we object to her making statements that are undoubtedly intended to mislead people into believing that UPS drivers commonly receive a salary of $170,000.

As you can probably imagine, comparing a UPS driver’s total compensation package to a SMART-TD rail member’s compensation package is not a simple task. There are many factors that weigh into our salaries and compensation packages; seniority, assignment preferences, rail traffic/volume and work location, to name a few. When working on an extra board, sometimes our compensation depends on downright luck. The provisions of on-property agreements in effect at our specific work location negotiated by our General Committees of Adjustment and subject to ratification by the members on that specific property are another factor.

Over the last several decades, our organization has published an annual fringe benefits sheet intended to illustrate the monetary value of our hard-earned and well-deserved national benefits package.

In doing so, some assumptions must be made. These examples are illustrative of an experienced railroader with enough seniority to qualify for full vacation, with earnings that exceed the Railroad Retirement Tier II tax limit and meet the Railroad Retirement Tier I tax limit. This is done not to mislead, but to illustrate the maximum potential value of our fringe benefits.

With the above in mind, in our 2023 publication, our members’ annual fringe benefits are valued at nearly $75,000, which brings the members’ total compensation package to nearly $235,000.

In the case of a railroad member who earns $118,800 in compensation (Railroad Retirement Tier II tax limit) and qualifies for three weeks of vacation, their annual fringe benefits are valued at an estimated $63,000, for a total compensation package of close to $182,000. We believe that this estimation is representative of a much larger percentage of our members and is a fairer and more direct comparison to most UPS drivers.

When making this comparison, it is worth reiterating that the above estimates for railroad employees are based on 2023 data. UPS CEO Tome’s claims are based on estimates of what an experienced UPS driver will earn five years from now, nearing the expiration of the current contract.

We hope that this article sheds some additional light on the issue and helps our members, as well as the general public, better informed on these issues.

SMART-TD will continue our fight for exemplary wages and benefits that align with the essential work you do and the sacrifices you make. Together, we will continue to lead the way as the nation’s largest rail employee union, setting the standard for collective bargaining within our industry and beyond it.

Please take the time to follow this link to read a breakdown of Your Fringe Benefits prepared by the staff at SMART-TD’s International headquarters. Prior fringe benefit documents are available behind the SMART Member Portal.

As prescribed by the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution, the SMART Transportation Division acknowledges the ability of Congress to legally impose the Tentative National Rail Agreement upon the operating-craft employees represented by the SMART-TD. While it is unfortunate that our members were not able to approve the agreement in which they work under, we thank the President, House Speaker, Senate leadership, and Cabinet members for their support at the negotiating table and on the floor of Congress in an attempt to achieve more for our members.

It is extremely disappointing that 43 Senators voted to prioritize the corporate greed of rail carriers and CEOs over the needs and quality-of-life improvements that our members so desperately deserve. Because of Precision Scheduled Railroading, our members are forced to work more hours, have less stability, suffer more stress and receive less rest. The ask for sick leave was not out of preference, but rather out of necessity. No American worker should ever have to face the decision of going to work sick, fatigued or mentally unwell versus getting disciplined or being fired by their employer, yet that is exactly what is happening every single day on this nation’s largest freight railroads.

The Senators who opposed the measure all have paid sick days, as do their staff. Apparently, they believe the nation’s rail workers are “essential” to the American economy and supply chain, but not essential enough to deserve the same protection as them when becoming ill. By voting against that measure, these Senators made no illusions that they side with the decision that is most economically beneficial to their deep-pocketed corporate donors.

Our efforts to improve the lives of our membership will continue during future negotiations, as well as in the regulatory and legislative process. The American rail worker has spoken, as have the American rail shippers. The national freight rail network is broken, and the need for long-term rail reform is clear. Labor and shippers are united on this front. More must be done to reverse the harmful effects of Precision Scheduled Railroading and to right the ship for this nation’s economy and the hard-working members of SMART-TD.

The SMART Transportation Division does not support the notion of Congress intervening in our collective bargaining negotiations to prevent a strike. We firmly believe in the workers’ right to fight for their own best interests, as well as the best interests of their families. Unfortunately, threats to the economy have caused this Congress to believe that a strike aversion is the best course for this nation.

We implore them to not allow political pursuits or efforts to result in a scenario where we are forced to accept less than what is currently on the table, which includes the enforcement of the limited PEB recommendations and/or an extension of the cooling-off period.

Our members want and need sick leave, but even more so, they need relief from the damning effects of operational changes made by the railroads over the last five years. If Congress truly wants to take action to improve the industry for our members, then we recommend legislation that will work to reverse the devastation of Precision Scheduled Railroading.

As for this moment, we ask these elected leaders to stand with our essential workers and urge the House and the Senate to vote in favor of guaranteeing seven days of paid sick leave to rail workers.

Action today is a start, but the fight for rail workers continues.

BLET members vote to ratify national rail agreement with the nation’s Class I railroads; operating craft (Train & Engine service) members of SMART-TD have voted to reject it, while TD yardmasters have voted to ratify their national agreement.

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio — Voting concluded midnight Sunday for members of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) as well as the Transportation Division of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, and Transportation Workers (SMART-TD) on proposed new five-year collective bargaining agreements with the nation’s Class I railroads. BLET members voted to accept a tentative agreement reached on September 15; SMART-TD train and engine service members have voted to reject their proposed contract, while SMART-TD yardmaster members voted to accept. BLET and SMART-TD are the two largest rail unions, accounting for half of the unionized workforce on the nation’s largest freight railroads.

The five-year agreement ratified by BLET members and SMART TD yardmaster members addresses rates of pay, health & welfare, and other fringe benefits for approximately 24,000 locomotive engineers and other rail workers represented by the union who are employed by the nation’s Class I railroads.

A record number of eligible BLET members participated in the ratification vote with 53.5% voting in favor and 46.5% voting against.

Turnout among the more than 28,000 eligible SMART-TD members was also a record high. 50.87% of train and engine service members represented by SMART-TD voted to reject the TA, while 62.48% of SMART-TD-represented Yardmasters voted to ratify.  Representatives from SMART-TD will now head back to the bargaining table with the National Carriers Conference Committee (NCCC), which represents railroad management, to negotiate new terms for the affected train and engine service members.

“BLET is a membership-driven union.  In September, our National Wage Committee and our General Chairmen who represent freight rail workers unanimously agreed that the time had come for the membership to have a say on their contract,” said BLET President Dennis Pierce.  “Since then, we have worked to ensure that all of our members fully understand the wins and losses in the Presidential Emergency Board recommendations and how those recommendations were improved upon leading to the tentative agreement sent out for their consideration. In every communication we stressed that we were there to explain the tentative agreement, not to tell any member how to vote. Our goal was to get all involved members to cast a ballot — no matter how they voted.  With over two-thirds of eligible BLET members returning a ballot, a true majority of the membership has spoken and I want to thank them all for participating.  Rank and file member ratification of contracts is one of the core democratic principles of our Union.”

Under the provisions of the Railway Labor Act, the labor law for workers employed by railroads and airlines, contracts don’t generally expire, they become amendable. After the unions filed their Section 6 notices with the NCCC in November 2019, talks began in January 2020.

 “SMART-TD members with their votes have spoken, it’s now back to the bargaining table for our operating craft members,” said SMART-TD President Jeremy Ferguson. “This can all be settled through negotiations and without a strike. A settlement would be in the best interests of the workers, the railroads, shippers and the American people.”

A status quo agreement between SMART TD and management is in effect until December 8. Beginning on December 9, SMART-TD would be allowed to go on strike or the rail carriers would be permitted to lock out workers — unless Congress intervenes.

“The ball is now in the railroads’ court. Let’s see what they do. They can settle this at the bargaining table,” said Ferguson. “But, the railroad executives who constantly complain about government interference and regularly bad-mouth regulators and Congress now want Congress to do the bargaining for them.”

If there is a strike by SMART-TD or any of the other three rail unions that have rejected proposed contracts with the carriers, BLET and the other eight rail unions that have ratified agreements have pledged to lawfully honor their picket lines.

“We stood shoulder to shoulder with our brothers and sisters in SMART-TD and others in rail labor throughout this process, and we will continue to stand in solidarity with them as we approach the finish line in this round of negotiations,” said Pierce.

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The SMART Transportation Division is comprised of approximately 125,000 active and retired members of the former United Transportation Union, who work in a variety of crafts in the transportation industry. Find out more at the SMART-TD site: https://www.smart-union.org.

The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen represents nearly 57,000 professional locomotive engineers and trainmen throughout the United States. The BLET is the founding member of the Rail Conference, International Brotherhood of Teamsters. More information can be found on the BLET website: https://ble-t.org/

Balloting to have your voice heard on the tentative National Rail Agreement (TA) closes 11:59 p.m. Eastern TONIGHT, Nov. 20, 2022.

We thank all of the members who have participated thus far by casting your vote. For those who have not yet voted, we wanted to provide a one-stop source of information that can be referred to prior to the close of balloting at 11:59 p.m. (Eastern) Sunday, Nov. 20, 2022.

Video of the Nov. 9 town hall meeting in Ohio.

BE INFORMED BEFORE DECIDING: Transportation Division President Jeremy Ferguson and Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen President Dennis Pierce engaged in a candid, in-depth town-hall meeting with members of both unions Nov. 9 and fielded questions regarding all aspects of the TA. Please see above to watch.

IF YOU HAVE NOT RECEIVED A BALLOT: Ballots were mailed to the addresses that the union had on file for eligible members via USPS first class mail two weeks ago. If you have not received your ballot and you believe that you are eligible to vote, please contact the SMART-TD office and submit your request for a replacement ballot. For the quickest response, requests may be submitted by emailing ContractQuestions@smart-union.org. Replacement ballot requests may also be submitted by calling (216) 227-5424. When submitting your request, please provide your full name, home address, last 4 digits of your Social Security number and date of birth. Once your identity and eligibility are confirmed, you will be provided with the pertinent materials and instructions to cast your vote.

REGARDING H&W: Payment rates for the plans have been announced, pending ratification.

PLEASE REMEMBER THAT YOUR VOTE COUNTS! To have a say on this TA, all eligible members are encouraged to exercise their democratic rights as a member of our union.

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio, November 11 — At a November 9 Town Hall meeting, SMART Transportation Division President Jeremy Ferguson and Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen President Dennis Pierce discussed the tentative National Rail Agreement with dozens of members from both unions.

A video recording of the Town Hall (approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes) is available on the BLET and SMART TD websites.


Ballots have been sent out to all eligible SMART-TD members for voting on the 2022 National Rail Tentative Agreement. A PDF synopsis of the Tentative Agreement can be found here, and a full PDF copy of the Tentative Agreement can be found here.

As required by SMART Constitution Article 21B, Section 91, ballots were mailed via USPS first class mail to all eligible members at their last known address. Over the next several days, members will begin receiving ballot packages in standard #10 size envelopes containing information about the 2022 Tentative Agreement, a unique 12-digit access code and detailed instructions for casting telephonic votes using the BallotPoint election services voting system.

Voting on the 2022 Tentative Agreement closes on Sunday, November 20, at 11:59 p.m. ET. Tabulation will occur and results will be announced on Monday, November 21.

To be eligible to vote, members must be employed by a carrier that is fully involved in national handling, and they must be actively working in one of the crafts covered by the tentative agreement (conductor, engine service, brakeman, yardman or yardmaster). Members who are employed by carriers that are partially subject to national handling (i.e., H&W only, or H&W and wages only) and members who are not working for any reason including sickness, disability, furlough, suspension and dismissal (commonly referred to as “E-49” members) are not eligible to vote.

If you are a SMART-TD member who meets the above eligibility requirements and you have not received your ballot by the week of November 7, you may contact the SMART-TD office by emailing ContractQuestions@smart-union.org, or by calling (216) 227-5424. In doing so, please provide your full name, home address, last 4 digits of your Social Security number and date of birth. Once your identity and eligibility are confirmed, you will be provided with a telephone number and a unique 12-digit access code to cast your vote.


ABOVE: Video from SMART-TD President Jeremy Ferguson and BLET President Dennis Pierce explaining the National Rail Tentative Agreement.

Timeline showing the development of the National Tentative Agreement (PDF).

The 2022 Tentative Agreement (TA) documents for Transportation Division members under national rail contract handling are available to be reviewed through the SMART Member Portal.

Both PDFs of the TA (with rate tables to be added) and the Questions and Answers that accompany it are ready for members to read and to seek clarification about prior to filling out ballots, which are to enter the mail system next week, kicking off the 21-day voting period.

It goes without saying that it is of the utmost importance that each member takes the time to read these documents. If you are having difficulty in accessing the documents or have questions, please contact your local leadership.

This agreement will set the table for our members’ financial security and quality of life for five years, and it is important to do a thorough review of the TA before making your voice heard through the ballot process.

It has been a long and difficult path to get to the point of having an agreement for rail labor to consider. This most important part of the process is up to each of you.


As you are likely already aware, SMART Transportation Division members will soon be voting on the 2022 Tentative National Rail Agreement. As required by Article 21B, Section 91, of the SMART Constitution, voting information will be mailed to all eligible members via USPS first-class mail.

In order to ensure that you receive your balloting materials in a timely manner, please take a moment to log in to the SMART Member Portal or the SMART App to verify or update your contact information as necessary.

It should be noted that Article 21B, Section 49, of the SMART Constitution states that it is the members’ responsibility to keep SMART-TD apprised of their current home address. It should also be noted that in most cases, the railroads do not provide employee contact information to the unions. In other words, if your employer has your current home address on file, it is not safe to assume that SMART-TD has that same up-to-date information on file!

In accordance with the requirements of the SMART Constitution, ratification voting will be conducted and overseen by an independent certified election services provider. Votes will be collected and tabulated using a secure telephonic voting system. In order to cast their votes, members will be required to provide the unique login information that will be mailed to their home address.

Additional information regarding the upcoming ratification vote, including the exact dates for mailing and tabulation of ballots, will be distributed to our members following the conclusion of the current Question and Answer period.

A link to the SMART Member Portal can be found here: https://www.smart-union.org/members/

The SMART Union app is available by texting the word APP to 67336 or for download on Apple’s App Store or Google Play.

SMART Transportation Division President Jeremy Ferguson, right, appears on Episode 5 of the Between the Rails podcast with host Jon Chaffin of Local 1313, left.

SMART Transportation Division President Jeremy Ferguson appeared in a joint video with Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen President Dennis Pierce on Oct. 7 with both presenting facts regarding the Tentative Agreement (TA) being considered by rail labor.

President Ferguson also answered additional questions regarding the TA on a pair of episodes of the Between the Rails podcast over the weekend as well.

The joint video with the BLET can be seen here.

The first episode of Between the Rails that President Ferguson appeared on is available here.

The second episode of Between the Rails featuring President Ferguson is available here.

As of 11:59 p.m. Eastern on Friday, Oct. 7, the 15-day question-and-answer submission period concluded. The next steps in the process of considering the agreement will consist of meetings between legal representatives of both SMART-TD and the carriers that will address the questions posed by members and their General Chairpersons, and then coming to agreed-upon interpretations to answer these questions.

The completed Q&A document will be released in conjunction with the full text of the TA prior to the start of the 21-day TA balloting period toward the end of October.