Given a second chance to act, New York Governor Kathy Hochul has chosen to side with safety.

In late 2022, a bill requiring two-person crews on freight trains in the state reached her desk — and she vetoed it.

But something changed in 2023. Perhaps it was seeing legislatures and governors in both Ohio and Minnesota take the steps to pass legislation, or the catastrophic derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, that happened last February.

Either way, Hochul made the right decision on December 8, 2023, when she signed S.5775 into law: capping a superlative effort from SMARTTD’s New York State Legislative Board led by State Legislative Director Sam Nasca.

A mere three years ago, a bill establishing a minimum freight crew size did not even make it out of a state Senate committee. Now, New York is the third state in 2023 to pass two-person crew legislation, bringing the total number of states to have implemented legislation or regulations regarding a minimum two-person crew to 12.

“Another state has come to the conclusion that a two-person crew is appropriate and necessary for safe railroad operations,” SMART-TD National Legislative Director Greg Hynes said. “We thank all of the legislators, especially state Senator Timothy Kennedy, who introduced the bill in his chamber, and Assemblyman Bill Magnarelli for their leadership.

“Congratulations to all on the TD New York State Legislative Board for pulling together and achieving another victory.”

The bill was introduced in March and establishes an escalating structure of fines for violations by Class I and II rail carriers that run freight trains without two on the crew in the state. It took effect in January 2024.

The 3rd Congressional District of New York has consistently valued proven leadership — with the glaring exception of George Santos. Luckily for the people of Long Island and SMART-TD members in particular, we have an opportunity to right the ship in February.

Our union has an ally in this race with a proven track record of serving the district and our membership with consistency. Congressman Tom Suozzi is a known commodity in Long Island. We remember him over his six years in Congress that highlighted his advocacy for nationwide two-person crew legislation and for his role championing the Long Island Rail Road in Washington.

Suozzi has been a personal friend of SMART-TD Alternate Vice President and General Chairperson Anthony Simon for nearly two decades. While in office, Suozzi has a track record of consulting with Simon and your union on a regular basis using our organization as his sounding board for every decision and vote he made affecting the transportation industry.

Your union has rarely, if ever, had a better advocate. Suozzi has brought funding to both the subway and LIRR, among other projects, that have benefited our members.

Now he needs our help. We owe it to ourselves to bring consistent and reliable leadership back to Long Island’s 3rd Congressional District. Not only does Congressman Suozzi need our support Feb. 13, but he has arranged for all organized labor to show the world who he serves and why. Suozzi and his campaign are asking Long Islanders in the labor movement to take advantage of their ability to vote early and do it on the same day (Feb. 3) so that they can use the vote totals from that day to demonstrate our collective power.

SMART-TD and Simon are asking for your support. All members of our union and other labor organizations have been informed that Congressman Suozzi’s campaign is asking our men and women to cast their ballots at their local early voting locations on Feb. 3.

The goal is to show a noticeable spike on what they are calling Labor Votes Day and put Washington on notice that Representative Suozzi is coming back to Capitol Hill with a clear, distinct mandate that he is there to represent labor and our interest.

There are rallies for the congressman planned in multiple locations on Feb. 3 aimed at rallying labor and getting our collective voice heard that day. More information will be provided on these events as we get closer.

Please do your due diligence as a SMART member and as an American, and double check that your voter registration is up to date and that you know where your early voting location is. This is our moment to return sanity to New York’s 3rd Congressional District and to return a champion for our union to Washington!

For this episode of the Talking SMART podcast, we sat down with SMART Local 28 Business Agent Marvin Tavarez to discuss his journey going from working non-union to being organized into SMART. He breaks down some of the myths about organizing into our union versus taking a more traditional full apprenticeship route.

“Some people are like ‘Oh, that’s the backdoor, that’s the backdoor,’ ” says Tavarez. “But at the end of the day, it all comes down to educating the membership. You know, if you’re not organizing members in, you’re gonna be working against them and not with them.”

“If you’re not organizing members in, you’re gonna be working against them and not with them.”

Tavarez also discussed his efforts to help build a rank-and-file building trades movement, including organizing rallies attended by thousands in New York City.

“As soon as I got into the union,” says Tavarez, “I felt like I needed to give back, someway, somehow. I was getting so much from the union… what can I do to contribute? So, I started a rank-and-file movement on Facebook. Started with like five members. Within a year, year and a half, it grew to over 10,000 members on social media.”

At the end of this episode, in his last open mic segment before he retired at the end of May 2023, former SMART General President Joseph Sellers discusses the road ahead for SMART, as we work to train a new generation of members and staff up scores of large “megaprojects” across the United States and Canada.

Return to the Talking SMART index page.


Talking SMART is a member of the Labor Radio Podcast Network — working people’s voices, broadcasting worldwide 24 hours a day.

When 64-year-old Orchard Park, N.Y. resident Chuckie Sonntag found himself in need of an entry ramp for his home, the SM Local 71 (Buffalo, N.Y.) SMART Army leapt into action — demonstrating the vital role unions play in American communities, on and off the job.

Sonntag, who helped form a local charity that gives economically challenged Buffalo-area kids the chance to attend their first NFL games, is a double amputee who lost his limbs to a bone disease — his arm at age 35, and his legs eight years ago. Until recently, he only had an entry ramp at the front of his home, giving him just one way to enter and exit his house. A former member told Local 71 leadership about Sonntag’s plight, and the membership mobilized immediately.

“Our members find the time to help somebody; our [members] are workers who get satisfaction in helping others,” Local 71 Business Manager Paul Crist told WNYLaborToday.com. “When someone needs help in our community, why not us?”

“It’s important to help people who need,” added Local 71 Membership Development Organizer Andre Mayes. “We got a donated aluminum ramp, disassembled it at one location and then transported it over to Chuckie’s house just before the holidays (and in between two massive snowstorms that hit the Buffalo area, thankfully).”

Mayes, Local 71 Vice President Cary Hinterberger and eight-year member Scott Brodnicki then spent the afternoon reconfiguring and installing the ramp, which had been broken down into eight-foot segments, at the back of the house.

“I jumped on board and volunteered. That’s the way I was brought up,” explained Brodnicki. “It always goes back to my [late] father, who was also a SMART member: When someone needs help, you lend a hand – no matter who it is.”

SMART Army projects like the one at Sonntag’s house help spread the word about how all working people benefit from the presence of organized labor; they show clearly that unions are pillars of local communities. More importantly, such projects put labor’s principles into action, demonstrating the real, concrete power of community solidarity.

“I’m so happy — [Local 71] came through for me,” Sonntag told WNYLaborToday.com. “They’re a bunch of really nice guys. [The ramp] works really well, and it couldn’t have happened at a better time.”

Pictured left to right are SMART Local 71 members Paul Holland, Nick Hoffman, Anthony Paris, Shilo Rogers, Dan Morino, Jeff Gatti and Ryan Hurley. As part of Local 71’s SMART Army and Apprenticeship Community Service programs, these members partici­pated in a cleanup of Raymond Klimek Veteran’s Park in North Tonawanda, N.Y., a suburb of Buffalo. Spear­headed by Paris, a U.S. Army National Guard veteran, the beautification project took place on May 21–22, one weekend ahead of Memorial Day. Not pictured are Busi­ness Manager Paul Crist and Business Agent Timothy Benes, who also participated in the cleanup.

Today, the United States Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, undermining the fundamental rights of working women and families across the country. SMART releases the following statement:

“Today’s decision by the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade is yet another attack on the freedoms of working Americans by unelected extremist justices. The right to make our own choices about our bodies – and, consequently, our jobs – is fundamental in this country.

“These justices will not stop at reproductive rights – these extremists will attempt to dismantle all labor rights. SMART remains committed to fighting back to ensure our members and all American workers are fully guaranteed their right to privacy, economic justice and to make their own healthcare decisions.”

N.Y. Governor Kathy Hochul

The two-person crew bills introduced in New York state, Assembly Bill 1287B and Senate Bill 3953B, have passed both chambers of the state Legislature as of Tuesday, May 31. Both bills have been combined into Senate Bill 3953 and are now headed to the desk of Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) for signing.

The SMART-TD New York State Legislative Board urges all SMART members in the state to contact Governor Hochul and tell her to sign the two-person crew bill – Senate Bill 3953 — into law.

“We need our members to contact the governor’s office, urging her to sign the bill so we can wrap this effort up,” TD N.Y. State Legislative Director Sam Nasca said. “This is a big accomplishment, and a lot of effort went into this by a lot of members and others, which I want to offer my deepest thanks.”

Follow this link to contact Gov. Hochul, call her at 1-518-474-8390 or write to:

The Honorable Kathy Hochul
Governor of New York State
NYS State Capitol Building
Albany, NY 12224

Today, an overwhelming majority of employees at the JFK8 Amazon warehouse in Staten Island, New York, voted to join the worker-led Amazon Labor Union – becoming the first unionized Amazon warehouse in the United States. In response, SMART released the following statement:

“We at SMART enthusiastically congratulate the Amazon workers at JFK8, who have pulled off an inspiring victory by choosing to form a union. Over the course of the campaign, workers across the country witnessed as Amazon used countless, bad-faith union-busting tactics to mislead its employees. What Amazon warehouse workers in Staten Island proved today is that captive audience meetings and multi-million-dollar anti-union campaigns are no match for the power of workers who stand together for a better future. Again, congratulations to the Amazon workers in Staten Island.”

Last fall, SMART General President Joseph Sellers traveled to UBS Arena, then still in progress, to tour and meet members working on the brand-new, $1.5 billion multipurpose home of the New York Islanders, which opened on November 20, 2021. Watch the video of their trip to see how our entire union – including sheet metal, testing and balancing, sign installation and Transportation Division members – came together to construct UBS Arena, as well as track for a new rail station serving the stadium.

Unique to this project was the presence of SMART members from across our union, including Local 137 sign members who installed the giant center ice board, as well as signage around the arena and in the new train station built to handle swarms of fans from across Long Island and the NY metropolitan area.

SMART-TD members led the way in constructing the Long Island Rail Road track leading to the new station. SMART Local 28 sheet metal workers installed all parts of the HVAC system, including ductwork, rooftop units, fans, fire dampers and smoke purge systems. SMART members also installed architectural features, including roofing and decking, and specialty work such as kitchen equipment, lockers and toilet partitions.

Read more about the project:
Sheet metal and TD members have hands in UBS Arena project