Adriana Farren has always been into numbers. She earned a bachelor’s degree in human resources with a minor in finance and worked in the front office of the former Sheet Metal Workers Local 41 in Puerto Rico before moving to Pennsylvania in 2011.

This was the point where her life took a much different turn, and it all started with a job working in the office of Comprehensive Test and Balance in Dover, Pennsylvania.

After two years overseeing Farren working in the office, reading plans, going over forms and entering data, Todd Walter, owner of the company, approached her with a question: would you be interested in becoming an apprentice?

“I said, ‘yes.’ Then, he said, ‘You’ll have great benefits,’ and I said, ‘yes’ twice,” Farren recalled with a laugh. “By looking at the reports, I thought it would be a career I would be interested in.”

Walter saw Farren working on bids and learning the drawings, documentation and paperwork and offered up the change to a career instead of a job. A second-generation sheet metal worker, Walter also took the opportunity to guide Farren through the process and mentor her as others had mentored him.

The first lesson: integrity and honesty are important in testing, adjusting and balancing (TAB), he said.

“No matter what you do, they have to believe what you tell them. Adriana had good personal skills. She had the insight. She is very smart, and she was at the top of her class. She fit the bill,” Walter added. “It’s something my father said a long time ago — you can have a job or you can put your head into it and make it a career.”

The first two years of her apprenticeship at Sheet Metal Workers Local 19, Central Pennsylvania, Farren knew she wanted to do testing, adjusting and balancing. So, at night, she took air and water classes and was certified as a technician in 2015 while she was still an apprentice.

Since her graduation in 2017, Farren has continued to gain certifications. She said testing keeps the skills fresh in her mind. To date, she holds a welding certification in addition to duct leakage testing and high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) testing.

“It’s a continuous learning process. I want to continue learning more about the balancing concept. I like to learn new things every day. I would like to expand my knowledge in different areas related to TAB,” she said. “Having a certification shows people you’re certified in that concept and you know what you’re doing. In order to be a TAB tech, you don’t have to have the certification, but if you do, it proves you know what you’re doing.”

Knowledge, in Farren’s case, was definitely powerful. Although she took English classes on her native island of Puerto Rico, it was her second language. Being the only female balancer at Comprehensive Test and Balance — something Walter would like to see change — has its challenges, but all the challenges she’s faced have been nothing she can’t handle, she said.

“Back when I was in college, I thought I wanted to look after the employees and watch over them from a human resources point of view,” Farren said. “Looking back, 12 years later, that would have been very boring for me. I would have had to be in an office with the same four walls. No offense to the people who do it, but I like the fact I’m always somewhere different and learning something new.”

Walter took a chance asking Farren if she would be interested in a career. Now, as a full-time balancer at Comprehensive Test and Balance, she sees how her love of numbers led her to the career she now has. An interest in math, problem solving and finance isn’t relegated to an office and four walls. Those interests also can lead outside to various Comprehensive Test and Balance locations, continuous learning and a skillset that can last a lifetime.

“If you think you can do it, give it a try,” Farren said. “You don’t lose anything by trying, not just in this career, but anything. Trust your gut feeling. If you think you can do it, you probably can.”



Transportation Division Pennsylvania State Legislative Director Paul Pokrowka asks that all members from the state call their Republican house representatives and ask them to support the state’s two-person crew bill.

Representative Jim Marshall (R-Dist. 14) is the prime sponsor of the bill. Marshall serves on the Pa. House Transportation Committee and is chairman of its Subcommittee on Transportation Safety. The language of the bill is out as a memo right now to gain co-sponsors and will be introduced as a bill soon.

The language of the bill currently reads, “No train or light engine used in connection with the movement of freight may be operated unless it has a crew consisting of at least two (2) individuals. Any person who willfully violates this section may be guilty of a summary offense and shall, upon conviction, be sentenced to pay not less than $250 nor more than $1,000 for a first offence; not less than $1,000 nor more than $5,000 for a second offense committed within 3 years; and not less than $5,000 nor more than $10,000 for a third offense and subsequent offenses committed within 3 years of the first offense.”

Pokrowka reports that the language of the bill cannot require a certified conductor and a certified engineer due to a case from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit that held that a state could not require certified engineers or conductors and such state law must be limited to requiring two persons (BNSF v. Doyle, 186 F. 3d 790 (7th Cir. 1999)).

“The bill has a much better chance of passing if the bill is supported by Republicans from the Republican-controlled House,” said Pokrowka. “I feel strongly that we will get this bill out of committee.

“Members should call my office if they need help on what they should say or if they need help finding their legislators.”

Pokrowka’s office number is (717) 234-2475. Click here to find your legislators’ contact information.

pa_outlinePennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration is hiring a railroad engineering expert for three months to advise on ways to prevent oil-train accidents.

Allan M. Zarembski, a University of Delaware research professor and director of the university’s railroad engineering and safety program, will study oil-train risk factors and make recommendations to improve operations in Pennsylvania, said Jeff Sheridan, spokesman for Wolf.

Read the complete story at The Inquirer.

two-person_crewTransportation Division Pennsylvania State Legislative Director Paul Pokrowka had a meeting with Pennsylvania House of Representatives Transportation Committee Chairperson John Taylor (R-Dist. 177) Feb. 25 seeking his support of a two-person rail crew law in the state. Taylor pledged his support and said he would draft the two-person crew bill.
Pokrowka asks that SMART members in the state contact Taylor to thank him for his support and ask him to keep his promise to draft the bill. “Because Rep. Taylor is the chairperson of the Transportation Committee, any member in the state can contact him,” Pokrowka said. “You do not need to be a resident of his district.”
Members can reach Rep. Taylor by calling him at (717) 787-3179 or writing him at 214 Ryan Office Building, P.O. Box 202177, Harrisburg, PA 17120-2177. Members can also contact Rep. Taylor by visiting his website at

pa_outlinePennsylvania State Legislative Director Paul Pokrowka is asking all SMART Transportation Division members from Pennsylvania to take action and contact the office of Gov. Tom Corbett, requesting he sign House Bill 2354 into law.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently announced the first ever regulation of carbon dioxide emissions for existing stationary sources (power plants). Under the preliminary EPA rule, Pennsylvania is given an emissions target to meet by 2030 and will be able to write its own implementation plan on how best to meet those reductions.

The legislation, which already has approval from both chambers of the Pennsylvania General Assembly, would require the state’s Department of Environmental Protection to receive approval from the General Assembly prior to submitting the plan to the EPA.
“This bill is important to our members because it helps to give us a voice in regulations concerning the coal industry,” Pokrowka said. “We need Corbett to sign this bill into law by Oct. 26 or the bill is dead in the water.”
Rep. Pam Snyder (D), who authored the bill said, “Pennsylvania deserves the opportunity to forge its energy future and protect electric ratepayers and jobs. The state legislature will be the final arbiter of how the commonwealth approaches greenhouse gas regulation. It is what we were elected to do, and leaving Pennsylvania’s energy destiny in the hands of unelected, unaccountable federal regulators would be irresponsible.”

SMART Transportation Division Pennsylvania State Legislative Director Paul Pokrowka is asking members and their families in the state to contact their representatives in the state House of Representatives and ask for their support of House Bill 2345.
The Pennsylvania Greenhouse Gas Regulation Implementation Act will require the state’s Department of Environmental Protection to receive approval from the general assembly for plans to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from existing sources prior to submitting the plan to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for approval.
“This measure is very important to our members due to the amount of coal we haul. Forty percent of all cars hauled here are coal cars,” Pokrowka said. “Twenty-five percent of railroad revenue comes from coal and 20 percent of all freight jobs involve hauling coal. We are asking that the general assembly have some input before the plan is submitted to the EPA. It will also increase electricity reliability and contain energy costs.”
Pokrowka said State Rep. Pam Snyder (D-Dist. 50) is the prime sponsor of the legislation and that she has asked SMART members for their help.
To contact your state representative, visit Pennsylvania House of Representative’s website and click on the representative of your district. Click on the envelope icon above “Contact Information” to send an email message or call his or her office at the telephone number provided. Ask your representative to support H.B. 2345.
View the complete text of the bill here.

pa_outlineSMART Transportation Division Pennsylvania State Legislative Director Paul Pokrowka is calling on all members to help stop legislation introduced here that bans Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority employees from striking.

H.B. 2109, introduced by State Rep. Kate Harper (R), would add SEPTA workers to the list of public employees prohibited from striking in the state, including “employees directly involved with and necessary to the functioning of the courts of this Commonwealth,” her website reads.

The bill would amend Section 1001 of P.L.563, No.195, stating that “strikes by employees of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA), guards at prisons or mental hospitals, or employees directly involved with and necessary to the functioning of the courts of this Commonwealth are prohibited at any time. If a strike occurs the public employer shall forthwith initiate in the court of common pleas of the jurisdiction where the strike occurs, an action for appropriate equitable relief including but not limited to injunctions.”

Pokrowka is requesting all members and their family members to contact their representatives in the Pennsylvania General Assembly and ask them to vote “no” on H.B. 2109.

“This legislation tramples on the rights of workers. If this bill is passed, what group of workers will be targeted next?” Pokrowka asked.

To find information regarding your state representative, click here.

Harper originally introduced this legislation in 2009 following a six-day strike by various SEPTA employees, including members of the SMART Transportation Division (UTU). The legislation did not get out of committee at that time.

Word has just leaked out of the State Capitol in Harrisburg, Pa that the Koch Boys are talking to severely wounded Republican Governor Corbett to move legislation this winter and spring to outlaw union dues deduction for all state and local public employees.

It is the same kind of legislation Scott Walker passed in Wisconsin and Kasich tried to pass in Ohio.

Read the complete story at Daily Kos.

Wisconsin Rally; Wisconsin; Rally; protestYet another packet of right-to-work bills has made an appearance, this time in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania legislators drafted House Bills 50, 51, 52 and 53 to become a “Right-to-Work” state.
Ten different unions marched in downtown Chambersburg, Pa., in protest of the bill over the weekend. If passed, the bills would allow non-union members the same benefits that dues-paying members receive, such as higher wages and benefits and union representation.
House Bill 50, sponsored by Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, seeks to end union membership or dues payment by non-members as a condition of employment.
House Bill 51, sponsored by Rep. Kathy Rapp,  seeks to prohibit unions from collecting dues from non-union public school employees.
House Bill 52, sponsored by Rep. Fred Keller, would prohibit unions from collecting dues from non-union state employees.
House Bill 53, sponsored by Rep. Jim Cox, seeks to prohibit unions from collecting dues from non-union local government employees. Rep. Stephen Bloom is also proposing House Bill 250, that would repeal a state law known as “maintenance of membership.” The bill would essentially allow dissatisfied union members to quit their union at any time, as opposed to a current 15-day window toward the end of contracts. Rep. Jerry Knowles also seeks to pass an umbrella bill that would prevent union membership from being a condition of employment in the private sector.
Metcalfe has introduced this union-busting legislation in every session over the past 14 years. This year is viewed as different, because Republicans control both the House and Senate of the Pennsylvania Legislature, as well as the governor’s seat.
Legislators in favor of the bill hope to introduce it to the House speaker soon.