SMART Local 20 (Indianapolis, Ind.) hosted United States Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, Indiana Congressman Andre Carson and AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler at its training center on August 31, 2023, where members demonstrated the top-notch training currently bringing hundreds of apprentices into a good, union career.
“We are at the Sheet Metal Workers Local 20 training facility seeing the extraordinary skill building that is happening here,” Buttigieg said during his visit. He also highlighted the $4.6 billion Indiana is receiving in federal funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, pointing out that that funding is helping spur workforce demands and recruiting efforts for unions like Local 20.
“We were pleased to host Secretary Buttigieg, Congressman Carson and AFL-CIO President Shuler,” said Local 20 Business Manager/Financial Secretary-Treasurer Trent Todd. Local 20 has longstanding relationships with both Buttigieg and Carson, and Shuler has been a longtime advocate of workers and SMART members as leader of the AFL-CIO.
“It was just a way to show off our facility, show them some of the equipment that we’ve purchased with federal grant money, and really demonstrate our commitment to training,” Todd added.
Federal grant money has helped the local purchase a laser welder and plasma table in recent months. And thanks in large part to the influx of funding from federal legislation, a construction boom in the state has helped Local 20 grow its apprenticeship classes at an astounding rate.
“All across Indiana, we’re seeing jobs pop up — from Kokomo, to New Carlisle, to Terre Haute — and these multi-million-dollar facilities are being spurred by the policies of this administration,” Todd explained. “Just as an example of what it’s doing for our numbers: In 2021, we were at 449 apprentices. Currently, we’re at 586, and we’ll be well over 600 apprentices in the first quarter of 2024.”
Importantly, he noted, the ongoing infrastructure and construction surge means that the local will need to continue recruiting and organizing for the long term. Along with job fairs, high school visits, canvassing and yard signs, Local 20 is conducting jobsite blitzes across the state — leaving no stone unturned in its pursuit of further growth, and ensuring working-class Hoosiers know the benefits of a good, union career.
“We’re just trying to get the word out about what we can offer,” Todd concluded. “We’re opening our doors and trying to bring as many people to the table as we can.”
The 2023 SMART Leadership Conference concluded Wednesday, Aug. 2. The joint session featured a wide variety of pro-labor speakers and allies from Congress, the Biden administration and beyond, demonstrating the strength of our union’s relationships as we work to seize this moment of opportunity.
SMART Army award winners honored for practicing union values
Each year, SMART awards the Joseph J. Nigro SMART Army award to local union members who dedicate themselves to building their local SMART Armies and serving their union – and their communities.
A SMART-TD member and two sheet metal members from Canada and California were the latest honorees to be recognized by General President Michael Coleman.
The first recipient, SMART-TD Local 1409’s (Kansas City, Kansas) Dan Bonawitz, Jr., accepted the honor with modesty, and he admitted he had some embarrassment at being singled out for his activism in safety, organizing for our union and helping honor fallen heroes.
The TD National Safety Team Alternate Director for the East Region and local legislative representative declared that it’s not an individual honor, but one that came as a result of the support system that the union provides, from his local level on up to the national headquarters.
“Nothing happens without an entire army, an entire team. I may be the schmuck up here speaking before you, but this is a collective effort,” he said, running down a long list of local, state and national officers and staff who helped reinforce and uplift his efforts.
GP Coleman presented Bonawitz with a railroad spike to symbolize his constant efforts to promote safety and bring together members of his local union.
Next, Coleman introduced sheet metal award winners Jeff Lind of SM Local 280 (British Columbia, Canada), and Manuel Zapata of SM Local 105 (Los Angeles, Calif.)
Lind, who helped create and craft the Local 280 SMART Army, has made the SMART Army both a place for members to come together and a place of service. Among the projects were the fabrication of metal tables for the local Meals on Wheels, volunteering for events like the Terry Fox Run for cancer research and much more.
“It’s an honor to accept this award, but really this is all about the membership of Local 280,” Lind said, thanking local leadership, his fellow Local 280 sisters and brothers and the members and leaders of SMART Canada.
Zapata, a longtime servant of Local 105, is the creator and leader of Autism Spectrum Athletics, a community organization in Los Angeles that provides a safe space for kids and families to play and socialize.
The organization started with 30 kids — it now has more than 140 participants playing sports including baseball, basketball, bowling, flag football and soccer.
“Brother Zapata exemplifies the values of our organization,” Coleman said.
“It’s an honor to be here, I’m truly humbled to be given this award. As a sheet metal worker, I’m as proud as I can be,” Zapata said, thanking Local 105, his wife and children while accepting his award.
Following the SMART Army award presentation, SM Local 100 Business Manager Richie Labille joined GP Coleman for a truly inspiring announcement and demonstration of our union’s solidarity.
“I am proud to announce that the Maryland Special Olympics will receive $173,582 from us,” Coleman declared.
As a token of appreciation, Special Olympics of Maryland Global Ambassador and Coach Tim Gowen presented General President Coleman and Labille with medals.
Visitors from Congress, Biden administration Cabinet
The joint session’s first visitor was pro-labor U.S. Rep. Madeleine Dean of Pennsylvania, who has worked to prioritize infrastructure funding and union jobs at the state and federal levels.
“I’ve been with you all along, you’ve been with me all along, so we have a very good partnership,” Dean said.
Dean, who is in her third term representing Pennsylvania’s fourth district, noted the extraordinary opportunity at hand to invest in America and do so by using union labor. Dean was instrumental in passing three transformation laws over the last several years: the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the CHIPS and Science Act and the Inflation Reduction Act. Those laws, she explained, will define America’s future: Updating our country’s infrastructure to build climate resiliency, investing in manufacturing to meet the demands of modern technology and more. Union labor, she said, will be essential for implementing all the investments in that federal legislation.
“These huge investments are reaching communities across the country, and that’s where we work with you,” she said.
“Those three bills are important to our nation and to how we will leave the world,” she added. “Your devotion to country, to your families is and has been good for America. It inspires me and my own work. I am grateful for the continued strength and contribution of America’s labor unions as we reimagine and reinvest in America’s future.”
Next, GP Coleman and Transportation Division President Jeremy R. Ferguson welcomed U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg for the Leadership Conference’s first-ever “fireside chat,” during which the secretary answered questions from both presidents, engaging in a candid conversation on how the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law invests in transportation and union jobs; how our bus and transit operators need better on-the-job protections; and more.
Buttigieg described the test that faces both the Department of Transportation and the labor movement as funding continues to flow in from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. Passing the bill was one thing, he noted, but implementing and performing the work is the key. It’s an opportunity to reverse decades of disinvestment in our country and an opportunity to put skilled tradespeople to work.
“Part of the idea was to create good-paying union jobs that are going to be the foundation of middle-class lives and livelihoods in the years ahead,” Buttigieg said. “This is a big test. Getting the bill done was one test. Now the bill got passed and the president signed it, we spent most of the last year expanding on these programs, including 45 major programs just at the DOT alone — some of them multi-billion-dollar programs.”
Coleman also asked Buttigieg about the work being created by federal funding – HVAC retrofitting, indoor air quality and more – and which organizations local unions should get in touch with to secure that work.
Federal funding from agencies like the Department of Transportation is often implemented by local bodies, from state governments to local airport authorities, and Buttigieg said that DOT is working closely with fellow agencies, like the Department of Labor and the EPA, to ensure that federal funding is creating good-paying, union jobs for SMART members.
“America is expecting a lot from all of us. Not only from this administration, but from the skilled trades in order to actually get these things done,” Buttigieg said. “This is an infrastructure decade, which means people can plan a career and plan to educate their kids and buy that house, and in that sense, we’re just getting started.”
President Ferguson asked Buttigieg about the ever-expanding length of trains on the railroad, and what DOT is doing to mitigate the effects of that, especially after a ProPublica and InvestigateTV report showed videos of children risking their lives, moving between and crawling under stopped trains to get to school.
“You can’t help but notice these trains, two miles long … three miles long, four miles long,” Buttigieg said. “Common sense tells you this is going to have an impact.”
To measure just what sort of impact, DOT is putting resources toward data collection and improving or eliminating rail crossings and more, Buttigieg said.
FRA also has resumed work on implementing a two-person crew law, opting not to wait for Congress to act but to undertake the steps available at the federal agency level to procure information for any future rulemaking and/or enforcement, he added.
Incidents involving attacks on SMART bus members in North Carolina and California – and on other unionized transit workers and bus operators – have escalated in their ferocity and frequency. Ferguson asked Buttigieg to describe what steps DOT is taking to protect bus and transit operators nationwide.
“The definition of an essential worker is one who makes it possible for other essential workers to get to work,” Buttigieg said. “We counted on transit operators in a way that was very visible during the first days of COVID. None of these assaults are acceptable.”
DOT, Buttigieg said, is working with local transit agencies and helping develop a regulatory process that would empower workers in the process of developing safety protocols that protect operators.
“It is a danger to the operators, it’s a danger to the traveling public,” Buttigieg said. “We are not going to let this go until there are zero assaults.”
Finally, Ferguson read a question submitted by a SMART-TD member, who asked what DOT is doing to gather information from workers and to address safety concerns on the railroad.
Buttigieg, noting that the last presidential administration’s rulemaking process included scant input from workers, urged the Transportation Division and its members to continue taking advantage of procedural measures like public commenting on notices of proposed rulemaking. He also listed steps DOT is taking to ensure commitment from the Class I carriers to participate in the Confidential Close Call Reporting System (3CRS) and to enforce that commitment, and said his agency has been ordered to actively seek labor’s input through open dialogue.
“All of that connective tissue in an administration that, not that I wouldn’t do this anyway, has very clear directions from the very top to make sure we never miss an opportunity to get the input, the views and concerns of workers into all of our processes, official and informal, so we really understand safety from the people who have the most at stake and the people who know the best,” he said.
Educating future workers
U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona spoke next, addressing how the Department of Education partnered with SMART on issues like indoor air quality and reopening schools in the midst of the pandemic. He also talked about how the Department of Education is shifting focus away from the idea that a four-year undergraduate degree is the only path forward for young people.
“Union workers don’t just get the job done. They get the job done right. That’s because union workers are highly skilled workers,” Cardona said.
Echoing Rep. Dean, Cardona pointed out that the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the Inflation Reduction Act and the CHIPS and Science Act are creating millions of jobs, including for SMART members, and the country is going to need skilled people to fill them.
“We have a job tsunami on the horizon. Career opportunities that will support families, strengthen communities, and fuel America’s competitiveness for decades to come,” he said. “If we don’t prepare our young people for these careers – then shame on us! If we don’t fundamentally change our high schools to make sure we have pathways to these high skill-high paying careers, then we are failing our kids.”
SMART, Cardona noted, is already doing the work by partnering with high schools and CTEs everywhere from Idaho to Georgia to bring young people into the trade.
Cardona pledged to lead a Department of Education that partners with organized labor to continue that progress; that creates pipelines into the trades that benefit SMART, students and communities as they work to transform U.S. high schools and treat trade education and college as options of equal weight to grow a future career.
Labor secretaries past and current
Former U.S. Labor Secretary and National Hockey League Players Association Executive Director Marty Walsh next received a warm welcome as a fellow member of the labor movement. Walsh gave two shout-outs to start his speech: General President Emeritus Joseph Sellers, and Local 17 President Robert Butler, who, Walsh said, “has been with me in every race I’ve ever run.”
He also offered his condolences for the passing of General Vice President John D. Whitaker III and TD General Chairperson Gerald Wallace, noting that any loss to our union family is a tragic one.
Walsh then got into the meat of his speech, which focused primarily on one theme: Elections have consequences. There’s nothing more important, he said, than making sure elected officials support union workers, understand our value, understand what we do and act on our behalf. That’s how pro-labor policy is made – and that’s how we create an economy that works for SMART members.
“The labor movement is the greatest force for economic justice that’s ever existed,” Walsh said.
As Labor Secretary, he added, he was proud to work for a pro-labor administration in President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.
The American Rescue Plan, he said, put working families back on the job and reopened the economy. While the last presidential administration talked about passing an infrastructure bill, this one actually did it with the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. The CHIPS Act is bringing manufacturing back home – when fully implemented, Walsh noted, it will create hundreds of thousands of new jobs. And the Inflation Reduction Act is creating green energy jobs to combat the climate crisis and lower costs for working families.
All of that can only happen, he reiterated, when unions work with pro-labor elected officials to make it happen.
“We stand on the shoulders of the founders of our local unions,” Walsh said. “It’s our obligation to continue what they started so the next generation has the same opportunity. That’s why elections matter.”
During his time as labor secretary, Walsh said, the Department of Labor worked to make sure labor protections, the right to join a union, project labor agreements and pathways to the trades were included in federal investments.
“We’re investing in today’s union jobs. We’re investing in tomorrow’s union jobs, and we’re investing in our retirees as well,” Walsh said.
Unemployment has been brought down to levels not seen since the 1960s. That strategy is part of a move away from decades of trickle-down economics, replaced by an economy built from the bottom up and the middle out, he said.
“We didn’t get a drop of the trickle,” Walsh said. “And only because organized labor was able to save what was left of the middle class, otherwise we wouldn’t have a middle class in this country.”
Now, he said, union members need to spread the message far and wide – both to their communities and to their fellow members – to make sure working families are voting for candidates who act on their behalf.
Finally, he talked about the importance of confirming Acting Labor Secretary Julie Su.
“I want you to know that she has your back, just like I had your back. Brothers and sisters, I will always stand with you,” he concluded.
Su was next up in the joint session, with GP Coleman declaring: “We will not rest until she has won her confirmation as labor secretary in the U.S. Senate.”
Su stated that she was here, with SMART and in her place at the Department of Labor, to finish the good work that she and Secretary Walsh started. To demonstrate the importance of a union career, she told the story of recently retired Local 28 member Leah Rambo, who now works in the Department of Labor Women’s Bureau.
“Leah’s career as a SMART sheet metalworker gave her a life she couldn’t have imagined for herself — homeownership, pension, a pathway to middle class,” Su said. “Today, I am so proud to work alongside Leah at the Department of Labor, where she is part of our women’s bureau and pays it forward every single day by making sure we are connecting people, including women, to jobs across the country.”
As the entire theme of this conference demonstrates, these are historic times, she said. But federal investments don’t turn into good, union jobs by accident – that’s the work that the Department of Labor and unions like SMART must perform to build an economy that is truly pro-worker.
At the DOL, Su said, that takes several forms. First — empowering and educating workers in everything the department does, putting workers at the center of the agenda, supporting workers’ rights to organize and the collective bargaining process.
“We see workers’ ability to demand more at the bargaining table not as a threat, but as a critical tool to advance and build a strong economy,” she said.
Second — equity. Embedding equity in everything the department does, including in the federal investments going out.
Third — Enforcement. Using every tool available at the DOL to combat wage theft, protect pensions, and more. Part of that work, Su noted, is having the department update Davis-Bacon laws, for the first time in 40 years.
“Marty started that, now we’re going to finish it,” she declared.
Su’s mission, she said, is to fundamentally change the American workforce so that everyone can get ahead; so that every community has the opportunity to gain a pathway into the middle class.
“We need to build the bridge from poverty to prosperity … the bridge that families need to the middle class,” she said. “This is our time, this is your time, so let’s build together.”
Commerce and climate crisis poised to define future jobs
Deputy Secretary of Commerce Don Graves visited the joint session to update attendees on the work that the Department of Commerce is doing to help create an economy for and by working people.
“There’s great things happening all across the country,” he said. “As you all know, the work of you and your members is integral to the infrastructure of our country.”
The Biden administration’s “Investing in America” agenda is making the once-in-a-generation investments that we should have been making for decades, Graves said.
“We believe that SMART members are going to be at the forefront of that work.”
Most people think of the Department of Commerce as the Department of Business. Under this administration, he explained, it’s the “Department of People, Communities, and American Workers.” Along with Secretary Raimondo, Graves added, he is working to distribute billions of dollars in federal funding with the goal of American competitiveness – so SMART members, union workers and communities thrive. CHIPS funding alone, he noted, will spur hundreds of billions of dollars in private capital investment, creating thousands of union jobs and sparking the recruitment and retention of a diverse skilled workforce.
“The construction jobs we’re going to create are going to change lives.”
Under President Biden’s direction, he said, the Department of Commerce is calling on companies and contractors to work with unions, requiring companies to submit workforce development plans that allow workers the freedom to organize.
“Every project using these funds needs to pay prevailing wages,” Graves declared, adding that the Department of Commerce will continue to work with SMART moving ahead. “Thank you for your leadership, thank you for your partnership, and thank you for pushing us.”
The joint session’s final speaker was White House Climate Advisor Ali Zaidi, who discussed the progress that SMART has made in making it known that green jobs – like those in energy efficiency and public transit – are real jobs and good, union jobs that tackle the climate crisis while bringing people into the middle class.
“This is the essential part of the transformation that we seek,” he said. “We’ve got the solutions – now we’ve got the workers that will build those electric buses that will hit the road across the country. … It’s because of your membership that we’re able to get that done, not just in a way that deploys that technology, but in a way that builds it in the United States.”
If we only go from a dirty energy economy to a clean energy economy, we will have missed the moment, Zaidi said. We can’t just lift ourselves to a clean energy economy. This has to be a moment where we lift up the middle class and inspire a manufacturing renaissance.
“Folks, we’re doing that,” he declared, citing the 800,000 manufacturing jobs created by the Biden administration. “You all are the engine that’s driving us forward to not just a strong economy, but a clean energy economy.”
There are huge workforce needs in the clean energy space, Zaidi said, pointing to the work that SMART is doing to diversify and expand the pool of workers being brought into our union.
By growing the labor movement and combating the climate crisis simultaneously, he concluded, we can create a green energy future that works for all.
“I’m so optimistic about our chances, because you are the ones on the front lines.”
Then, for the last time, sheet metal and Transportation Division union leaders parted ways, bringing an end to joint activity at a productive and educational leadership conference.
SMART Transportation Division President Jeremy Ferguson issued the following statement on Feb. 21:
“The greatest threat to the American railroad industry and the communities with which it intersects is Precision Scheduled Railroading (PSR). The changes PSR has brought since its inception in 2017 have only served to make executives and Wall Street shareholders richer, while the risk to employees and the public has become greater.
“The derailment that occurred in East Palestine was predictable and preventable. Unfortunately, financially driven equations, like the operating ratio, have caused rail carriers to abandon fundamentally sound practices for haphazard, inherently dangerous, impetuous movements of freight and locomotives across America’s rail system — all in the pursuit of increasing the bottom line. This is neither responsible nor sustainable, and we are now seeing the reality of this fact coming into fruition.
“Because of PSR, we find ourselves in an era of exponential increases to train length, less consideration to train make-up or construction, the desire to reduce crew size and introduce automation, the reduction in frequency and quality of inspections to equipment and infrastructure, and the permissibility of railroads to self-report and self-police — none of which are consistent with safety.
“Now is not the time to introduce more technology but rather to focus on the fundamental changes needed to reverse railroading’s dangerous trajectory. Now is the time to put an end to PSR.
“While our hearts break for the people of East Palestine, Ohio, we are thankful that our calls for meaningful oversight are finally being heard. We look forward to working with President Biden and the Department of Transportation to get this right. The catastrophe in Ohio and Pennsylvania demands that we get this right.
Good labor relations with elected officials can be summed up by knowing that the people who represent us in our state legislatures and Washington D.C. are familiar with our needs and concerns, and that they keep us informed on what is going on in their committee meetings and about legislation that might affect our membership.
Great labor relationships are when elected officials value our opinion and actively seek it out to help decide their votes and what legislation they write to bend the actions of government to the best interests of our membership. The latter is what is happening in Kansas under the leadership of State Legislative Director Ty Dragoo (Local 1503, Marysville, Kan).
In February of this year, Brother Dragoo was chosen to introduce Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Congresswoman Sharice Davids (D-Kans., Dist.-3) at an event discussing the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (previously known as the IIJA — the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act). This was a great showcase of the role that SMART plays in the labor community of the state. What’s more important is that on October 19, Secretary Buttigieg came back to the state to hold a series of events and round table discussions about how to move forward and Brother Dragoo was brought into the thinktank to be consulted.
Along with Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh, Secretary Buttigieg and Rep. Davids, SLD Dragoo helped form discussions surrounding the implementation of federal dollars in both Kansas and nationwide. In one of the multiple events of the day, SLD Dragoo was the only representative of the labor community at the table with the White House contingent along with a handful of contractors. Brother Dragoo’s role in these important discussions is indicative of the expanding role SMART-TD is playing in recent days when it comes to forming public policy.
When asked about the day’s events, Brother Dragoo described how refreshing it is to be treated as a contributing player of the team rather than being viewed as an opponent. He went on to say that the access that our union has been given to the Biden team is unprecedented in his 12 years as the SLD of Kansas.
In his words, “With past administrations, labor was considered and given a spot at the table on some issues, but with the Biden administration, the meeting doesn’t happen unless labor is represented.”
The emphasis the administration has placed on labor has given SMART added clout with Congress as well. SLD Dragoo receives calls weekly from Davids to discuss upcoming votes she has and how to best represent SMART members in Kansas.
“It’s this kind of a productive relationship that allows us to create a better future for our members,” Dragoo said.
In the past year, Kansas has seen the fruits of these relationships in the form of 26 newly funded projects for the Kansas Department of Transportation. These projects are beneficial to Transportation Division and Sheet Metal members alike.
It’s said that change is inevitable, and it’s up to you whether you merely react to that change or if you become the agent of it. SLD Dragoo and SMART-TD’s National Legislative Department have positioned themselves well to have a big hand in what is to come in Kansas as well as in the rest of the country.
“SMART really has become the leader of labor in Kansas,” Dragoo emphasized. “With continued support from SMART members, we can create better careers and a better country for all of us.”
SMART TD hosted a round-table in January 2022 at the University of Kansas Medical Center campus with U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, local elected officials, labor leaders and community members to spotlight how the bipartisan infrastructure law will create local jobs and spur economic growth across Kansas’ Third Congressional District, including in communities that are frequently overlooked.
The group was later joined by Kansas Department of Transportation Secretary Julie Lorenz, Kansas City Mayor Tyrone Garner, Rep. Sharice Davids and Secretary Buttigieg at the Rock Island and Cesar Chavez Bridges for an event highlighting the bridges’ complementary purposes as infrastructure and economic projects in the Kansas Third. Among the attendees were local labor and business community leaders, elected officials and transportation authorities.
“The bipartisan infrastructure law is innovative legislation that will bring thousands of jobs to the state of Kansas.”
– SMART TD Kansas State Legislative Director Ty Dragoo
“The bipartisan infrastructure law is innovative legislation that will bring thousands of jobs to the state of Kansas,” said SMART TD Kansas State Legislative Director Ty Dragoo. “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 TD 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 high-light the new law’s benefits.”
“It’s no accident when federal agencies call on our state directors to be at the table when these events happen,” added Dragoo. “Our legislative team is second to none in D.C. Director [Greg] Hynes and Alternate Director [Jared] Cassity are making great connections and advancing our cause in Congress. It’s proof when we get these calls: SMART is a key stakeholder in D.C. and throughout the country.”
Local 759 (Paramus, N.J.) President and Legislative Representative Rafael Becerra met with Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Tom Carper and Gov. John Carney on Friday, March 4, in Wilmington, Del., as part of an event promoting the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL), formerly known as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.
Brother Becerra, a veteran bus operator for Community Coach based out of New Jersey, frequently travels the main thoroughfares between the states and has been a SMART-TD member since November 1984.
“It was a great honor in meeting Transportation Secretary Buttigieg, Gov. Carney and Sen. Carper,” Becerra said. “The infrastructure law will accomplish a big transformation in our nation — not just the conditions of our roads and bridges — but in how people get around via bus and transit.”
“All of our bus members here in New Jersey and from coast to coast take extreme pride in doing their job safely day after day,” said New Jersey State Legislative Director Ron Sabol, who also attended the event. “For decades, President Becerra has served as a dependable bus operator, and he’s helping the membership in two roles as an elected officer. I’m very proud of his work and his leadership.”
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.”
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.”
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.
New Jersey State Legislative Director Ron Sabol met with federal Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg in Westfield, N.J., an encounter that was later featured in a video produced by the DOT and then shared on Buttigieg’s official Twitter account in conjunction with Labor Day on Sept. 6. Sabol, of Local 1447 (Newark, N.J.), met Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Ind., on Aug. 9 and discussed his career as a freight rail conductor, remote-control operator and as a SMART-TD union officer. “I got involved in my union right away, and that’s because of safety,” Sabol told Buttigieg. “Railroading is the most dangerous job in the country.” A member of the SMART-TD National Safety Team, N.J. SLD since December 2016, and also his local’s president, Sabol reminded the Transportation Secretary of something that sometimes is lost among the public. “Our railroads and bus operators, which we represent as well, they’re first responders,” he said. Sabol recalled the efforts made by TD members to help evacuate people in tunnels during the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York City. “They’re heroes.” Sabol also said that the passage of infrastructure legislation will improve with an expansion of service, better accessibility to riders and improved safety for a number of TD members. “The best part of my job is being able to help people,” Sabol said. “As you the mayor were able to help all those people, I do it at a different level with a different group of people.” Buttigieg’s Department of Transportation and the Federal Railroad Administration will be increasingly important as regulatory efforts develop to make the Rule of 2 — a certified conductor and certified engineer — enforced on freight trains throughout the United States. The Biden administration announced earlier in the year that FRA is revisiting the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking regarding freight train crew size and would be prioritized at some point in the autumn.
WASHINGTON – U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg announced the recommendation of $2.5 billion to advance the construction or completion of 25 rail, bus rapid transit (BRT) and streetcar projects in 12 states, as well as other projects that may become ready for funding in Fiscal Year (FY) 2022. These projects, competitively funded through the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) Capital Investment Grants (CIG) Program, will create hundreds of construction- and operations-related jobs and help communities expand transportation options that improve access and mobility for residents. “Across the country, communities are seeking to expand public transit as a way to create economic opportunity, improve safety, advance equity, reduce congestion and pollution, and lower the cost of living for their residents,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. “These capital projects will improve life in 25 communities and are the start of what we hope will be a once-in-a-generation investment to modernize and expand public transit across the country.” FTA’s FY 2022 Annual Report on Funding Recommendations includes $1.56 billion for 17 CIG projects with existing grant agreements, and $461.1 million for eight new CIG projects estimated to be ready for grants in FY 2022. An additional $427.2 million is recommended for other CIG and Expedited Project Delivery (EPD) Pilot Program projects that may become ready for funding during FY 2022. “FTA is proud to work with communities across the country to bring more environmentally friendly public transportation options to residents,” said FTA Deputy Administrator Nuria Fernandez. “These investments support President Biden’s commitment to combat climate change while also improving safety, racial equity and quality of life for thousands of Americans whose lives will be touched by these projects.” This announcement is consistent with President Joe Biden’s FY 2022 budget, which includes first-time funding recommendations for eight transit projects in five states. These include:
In Phoenix, Arizona, the Northwest Extension Phase II project would extend Valley Metro’s light rail system 1.5 miles from the existing end-of-line station in northwest Phoenix to the Metrocenter Mall, improving access to the region’s light rail system for residents in various communities in north and west Phoenix, Glendale and Peoria, and support transit-oriented land-use planning in the corridor, including the planned redevelopment of the Metrocenter Mall site.
In Minnesota, two BRT projects are recommended for funding: 1) The METRO Gold Line BRT project in St. Paul would better connect transit riders traveling along a 10.3-mile corridor on I-94 between downtown St. Paul and the suburban cities of Maplewood, Landfall, Oakdale and Woodbury and, more broadly, connect the eastern part of the Twin Cities metropolitan area to the regional transit network via Union Depot in downtown St. Paul; and 2) The Rochester Rapid Transit BRT project in Rochester would bring BRT service to a 2.6-mile corridor that includes Downtown Rochester, Mayo Clinic campuses, commuter lots and residential neighborhoods.
In Austin, Texas, two BRT projects are recommended for funding: 1) The Expo Center BRT project would bring BRT service to residents along a 12-mile corridor, connecting East Austin to the University of Texas, downtown Austin and other major employment areas; and 2) The Pleasant Valley BRT project would bring BRT service to a 14-mile corridor connecting residents of the Mueller neighborhood in northeast Austin to the Goodnight Ranch neighborhood in southeast Austin, and other major employment areas such as Dell Children’s Medical Center and Austin Community College (ACC) Eastview.
In Washington state, two BRT projects are recommended for funding: 1) The RapidRide I Line BRT project in South King County would bring BRT service to suburban communities along a 17-mile corridor between the cities of Renton, Kent and Auburn; and 2) The Pacific Avenue/State Route 7 BRT project in Pierce County would bring BRT service to communities along a 14.3-mile corridor between downtown Tacoma and Spanaway, connecting residents to key destinations such as the Broadway Center for the Performing Arts/Pantages Center, the Greater Tacoma Convention and Trade Center, and the University of Washington Tacoma Campus.
In Madison, Wisconsin, the Madison East-West BRT project would provide fast, reliable bus service for residents in a key 15.5-mile corridor running along East Washington Avenue, around the State Capitol building, through downtown Madison and the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus, and continuing west on University Avenue to the West Transfer Point or West Towne Mall.
The CIG Program is the federal government’s primary grant program for supporting transit capital projects that are locally planned, implemented and operated. It provides funding for investments such as new and expanded heavy rail, commuter rail, light rail, streetcars, bus rapid transit and ferries, as well as corridor-based BRT investments that emulate the features of rail. The program includes funding for three categories of eligible projects, as defined by the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act: New Starts, Small Starts and Core Capacity. FTA’s Annual Report on Funding Recommendations for the Fiscal Year 2022 CIG Program, including links to individual project profiles, is available on FTA’s website.