In November, SMART-TD members voted — with approximately two-thirds in favor — to ratify a tentative agreement the Transportation Division reached with BNSF in September.

“This agreement our general committees have reached with BNSF continues to show the strength of our union’s leadership. Together we have made unprecedented inroads on attendance and quality-of-life issues — an area carriers had no interest to collectively bargain,” said SMART-TD President Jeremy Ferguson. “We have cleared the way for our members on BNSF to expect predictability in their work rest schedules, while at the same time securing proper compensation on a variety of issues that were not agreed to in past rounds of national negotiations. It was long overdue that these issues be addressed. I’m very proud of everyone’s efforts to get this accomplished.”

Negotiations with BNSF under Articles VI and VII of the National Rail Agreement began in January following wide national attention on rail labor’s fight to improve rail workers’ quality of life. The tentative agreement with BNSF was reached by the eight affected SMART-TD general committees months later; votes were cast through the month of October and tabulated on November 2.

The general chairpersons involved include GO 001’s Mike LaPresta, GO 009’s Scott Swiatek, GO 017’s Rich O’Connell, GO 020’s Justin Schrock, GO 386’s Larry Miller, GO 393’s Kevin Kime, GO 577’s Roy Davis and Tony McAdams from GO JTD. 

Under the next phase of this process, SMART-TD and BNSF will begin implementing the agreed-upon changes. Members who are eligible for additional vacation will have the opportunity to schedule that vacation in 2024. Implementation of other provisions of the agreement will take place over the coming weeks and months.

“We would like to thank our members for their patience throughout the negotiation process, and for casting their votes,” the eight general chairpersons of the involved committees said in a joint statement. “The overwhelming approval ratings prove that our members see the value in this agreement. We were determined to obtain meaningful improvements to our working conditions, and this agreement does exactly that. While our fight is never over, we are confident that this will serve as a substantial step in the right direction.”

The general chairpersons also expressed appreciation to Vice President Joe Lopez, who helped lead negotiations, along with Vice Presidents Chad Adams and Jamie Modesitt.

“Our general chairpersons showed exemplary leadership and cohesion through the up-and-down nature of these discussions,” the three vice presidents said. “We congratulate them on their accomplishments and commend them on their focus on what matters — improving the quality of life and working conditions of our members.”

“Our rail members from BNSF properties definitely had their voices heard in this process and they should be proud to see their fingerprints throughout this outstanding TA. They were very clear that they wanted a level of predictability for when their time off would be honored, and they wanted a predictable and non-punitive method of filling vacancies that directed the assignment to those who wanted the work and was not aimed at punishing those who aren’t willing to work off of their turns.  This TA that our eight General Chairpersons fought for does both. Not only will our brothers and sisters get more compensated time off, but it will be less of a moving target. This is another big step ahead for SMART-TD and our BNSF members.” 

SMART-TD President Jeremy Ferguson 

SMART-TD is proud to announce that a tentative agreement has been reached between our General Committees and the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad (BNSF). This agreement has been in the works since January 18, 2023, and is highlighted by many upgrades to the quality of life for our members.  

All eight SMART-TD General Committees representing our BNSF properties have reached tentative agreements with the carrier and have already sent the details to their local chairpersons for distribution to their members for consideration.  

The general chairpersons involved included GO-001’s Mike LaPresta, GO-009’s Scott Swiatek, GO-017’s Rich O’Connell, GO-020’s Justin Schrock, GO-386’s Larry Miller, GO-393’s Kevin Kime, GO-577’s Roy Davis, and Tony McAdams from GO-JTD. 

The tentative agreements for each of the eight General Committees are founded on the same language while still giving each General Committee the flexibility to adapt the terms to fit the unique needs of their specific members. The following is a synopsis consistent for all eight of the committees. 

  • Extra boards: Allowed to keep road and yard separate under new conditions under Section V. 
  • 6th week of vacation for 25 year or more employees. 
  • Up to two weeks of vacation can be selected as float weeks. 
  • PRE-layoff for all single PLD/VAC, weekly VAC and EDO days. 
  • Continuous-held-away after 16 hours for everyone on every pool. 
  • Extra Paid Sick Leave Day. (5 total w/same option of converting 3 PLD/VAC to total 8) 
  • Earned Day Off: With no unpaid layoffs in a 90-day period, earn one anytime day unpaid to lay off. 
  • Turn swapping on pools that elect this option, 
  • Preventive care days now available to assigned jobs. 
  • Bereavement leave changes to expand the scope of what relationships qualify for bereavement as well as creating additional flexibility as to when bereavement can be used. 
  • Increased new-hire training from 13 weeks to 14 weeks with additional time allotted in terminals that have RCO operations. 
  • All Reduced Entry Rates or Tiers eliminated for all properties. Everyone will be at 100%. 
  • Student and trainer pay rate increases. 

Additional details tailored to the members of each General Committee will be included with membership ratification instructions, which are currently scheduled to be mailed to eligible voters on Tuesday, October 3rd. For those members who have email addresses and telephone numbers on file with SMART-TD, electronic notifications and voting instructions will also be sent. Tabulation of the ratification votes will occur on Thursday, November 2nd, and results will be announced soon after. 

In a joint statement from the eight general chairpersons of the involved committees, the GCs had this to say about the tentative agreement. 

“Our goals for this TA were to defend the separation of the road and yard extra boards and to bring predictable guaranteed time off for our members regardless of their assignment or board. We believe we achieved these goals and significantly more. This TA has come a very long way from where it started back in January. The eight of us and our committees fought hard to finally get it to a point where the TA is worthy of ratification. None of us thought it was possible initially, and up until very recently, we thought it was destined to go to arbitration. But we are excited about the agreement we are putting out to the members for ratification. We would also like to thank Joe Lopez, who was the SMART-TD vice president assigned to this project, along with Vice Presidents Chad Adams and Jamie Modesitt for their assistance over this long nine-month process. Joe Lopez, in particular, went out of his way to shepherd this TA through the many highs and lows in the process. We all appreciate their dedication to the process and to the quality of life this TA has the potential to bring to our members.”   

 — SMART-TD General Chairpersons representing BNSF crew bases 

In a combined statement from the three vice presidents who were involved in this negotiation, Lopez, Adams, and Modesitt were quick to give the 8 GCs the praise, saying, “The ability of this group of general chairpersons to stick together for the benefit of all is a true testament to brotherhood. Maintaining the same course for eight general chairpersons is no easy task, but this group successfully did it. Their effort and hard work were the difference between securing a tentative agreement and leaving the final outcome in the hands of a third-party arbitrator.  

“As a group, we are proud to send this TA to the members for a ratification vote. We know that we got every inch of quality-of-life improvements out of this agreement. It’s our belief that our BNSF members are going to have more time off with their loved ones. They won’t get called right before their day off, forcing them to continuously cancel and change their family’s plans, and when they have this time away from the rail, they’ll have a little more in their pockets on top of it. All the way around, this is a good development for our men and women, and we couldn’t be more excited for them.” 

GO OO1 Synopsis

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As a result of last year’s national rail negotiations, some TD freight rail members have gained — for the first time — paid sick leave benefits for train and engine workers for U.S.-based carriers on the East Coast.

In late April, GO-049 Mid-Atlantic District members ratified the first agreement for freight rail operating employees to receive paid sick days.

The agreement with CSX set a historic precedent, providing for five paid sick days, adding an option to convert personal days to sick days and cashing out sick time at the end of the year.

The lack of paid sick time within the railroad industry was highlighted in the media in 2022, when workers rejected a tentative national agreement that covered most railroad carriers and labor organizations, almost leading to a shutdown of the nation’s vital supply chain.

The operating crafts (which include engineers, conductors and trainmen) have what is perceived as the most demanding of working conditions of the railroad crafts due to the travel requirements, extreme weather conditions and the on-call nature of their positions. This agreement establishes a benefit in the railroad industry that many American workers already enjoy.

In addition to paid sick time, the agreement, which covers approximately 2,400 conductors and trainmen on CSX Northern line, also adopts the current attendance policy put in place by CSX into the collective bargaining agreement. Railroads in the past have been reluctant to negotiate attendance; this is another first for the operating workforce, as it subjects the former policy (now agreement) to negotiations if any changes are desired by either the carrier or the employees in the future.

“It’s refreshing and impressive to see the overwhelming support of the membership on this tentative agreement. It is also encouraging that SMART-TD and CSX leadership were able to sit down at the table and reach a consensus on items as important as these. I am hopeful this momentum will carry forward in future negotiations and help us collectively improve the working conditions and overall morale at CSX,” General Chairperson Richard Lee said.

Two other CSX committees, GOs 513 and 851, also reached similar tentative agreements in late May.

All Norfolk Southern operating general committees have ratified an agreement and completed negotiations with the carrier gaining five paid sick days, additional financial compensation and addressing scheduling and quality-of-life concerns. Yardmasters also reached an agreement that provides paid sick time.

UP GO reaches crew-consist agreement

Out west, GO-953 ratified a crew-consist agreement, preserving the in-cab role of the conductor until national negotiations reopen. The ratified agreement provides for a substantial signing bonus, work protections and no rules changes regarding road/yard switching.

General Chairperson Luke Edington of Local 286 (North Platte, Neb.) negotiated the successful agreement with assistance from Vice General Chairperson Zach Nagy and Vice President Brent Leonard.

GO-953 has members in 48 TD locals and represents workers in Union Pacific’s Eastern, Pacific Northwest and Idaho territories (former Chicago-Northwestern Railway Co.), Kyle, Nebraska Central and Portland Terminal railroads and the Wichita Terminal Association.

Property-specific negotiations continue with BNSF and remaining segments of CSX and UP, while talks with Norfolk Southern have concluded. The SMART website will continue to be updated with the latest information about continued negotiations and the substantial gains these agreements bring to our members’ quality of life.

CSX facts

  • Five paid sick days with option to convert two personal days
  • Unused sick days converted to cash
  • Incorporates more lenient carrier attendance policy
  • Covers ~2,400 members

UP facts

  • A $27,500 signing bonus upon the contract’s ratification
  • Continues to require the conductor’s position as being based in the cab of the locomotive
  • 30 years of protections for brakemen/switchmen, with assignments abolished

NS facts

  • T&E workers get five paid sick days with the option to convert up to two personal leave days to on-demand sick days
  • Unused personal leave days can now be carried over and accumulated indefinitely, with no limitations
  • Yardmasters get four paid sick days with the option to convert up to three personal leave days

SKAGWAY, Alaska (July 25, 2023) — White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad (WP&YR) and the SMART Transportation Division (SMART-TD) are pleased to announce that a tentative agreement has been reached between the railroad and the union for WP&YR’s train and engine workers.

The agreement, which will run through 2027, is under consideration by the more than two-dozen unionized operating employees and is pending ratification. Details of the agreement will be released publicly following the announcement of the ratification vote results.

“Growing up in train and engine service, I have a deep respect for the craft and have worked hard over my tenure to help further that tradition on the railroad. With this agreement, we can now move forward together continuing the WP&YR’s 125-year legacy,” WP&YR Superintendent of Rail Operations Mark Taylor said.

“The members I represent will carefully consider the provisions of this agreement,” said General Chairperson Jason Guiler (GCA-WPY), who led the labor union’s local negotiating team and represents the unionized operating employees working for the WP&YR. “This long process has allowed us to express our concerns and urge the carrier to offer a contract that is fair and addresses workers’ needs.”

“I’m very proud of the hard work that General Chairman Guiler and the Local 1626 negotiating team did on this round of negotiations,” said SMART-TD Vice President Brent Leonard, who assisted in facilitating the negotiations. ”This tentative agreement recognizes the dedicated hard work that SMART-TD members provide to the WP&YR and provides exceptional raises in pay, maintains a high level of health & welfare benefits and does so without a single concession in work rules. SMART-TD White Pass members, once again have something to be proud about in their jobs.”

“It has certainly been a challenging process, but we are happy that both parties have been able to come together and get this done in the best interest of our employees. It is a good agreement for both sides and we believe shows the respect, value, and appreciation we hold for the work our people do,” said WP&YR Executive Director Tyler Rose.

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The White Pass & Yukon Route (WP&YR) is a World Class railroad annually carrying hundreds of thousands of passengers through Alaska, British Columbia, and the Yukon Territory. WP&YR is a Class 2 railroad federally regulated in the United States and Canada and is celebrating its 125th anniversary.

SMART Transportation Division is comprised of approximately 125,000 active and retired members who work in a variety of different crafts in the transportation industry. These crafts include employees on every Class I railroad, Amtrak, many shortline railroads, bus and mass transit employees and airport personnel.

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio — The International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers — Transportation Division (SMART-TD) is proud to announce a Tentative Agreement (TA) has been reached with the Union Pacific Railroad that, among other things, provides paid sick leave to about 6,000 of UP’s conductors and trainmen. SMART-TD President Jeremy Ferguson is calling this TA a win for the quality of life for thousands of railroaders on the frontline of America’s economy today and for generations to come.

The Union Pacific general chairpersons met in the SMART-TD board room during their negotiation sessions. On the left side of table are General Chairperson Scott Chelette (GO-927), General Chairperson Joey Cornelius (GO-569) and General Chairperson Gary Crest (GO-887). On the right side are General Chairperson Roy Davis (GO-577), and General Chairperson Luke Edington (GO-953). 

“Our members made it very clear in 2022 that quality-of-life issues and the ability to provide stability for their families in times of medical crisis was of the utmost importance. On-demand sick days that do not amount to discipline from their employer are a historic step in the right direction for these men and women, and I am very proud of the effort that our General Chairmen on the UP properties put in to make this happen,” Ferguson said.

“In this industry, everything is earned, and nothing is given. These five GCs worked tirelessly to get this TA done for our SMART-TD rail members. This organization listens to our members and their voices guide our mission 100% of the time. Today is a great example of us being able to impose our conductors and trainmen’s will on the carriers to bring them a better quality of life and peace of mind for their families.”

“Union Pacific has been running freight trains in this country since Lincoln signed the Pacific Railway Act in 1862. Today for the first time they have agreed to provide their frontline employees with the dignity of paid sick leave. It’s a proud day for our men and women.”

SMART-TD President Jeremy R. Ferguson

UP, which is the largest freight railroad in the U.S., has 45,400 employees. The TA announced will affect upwards of 5,900 conductors and trainmen.

For his part in the TA negotiation, General Chairman Roy Davis of GO-557 said: “It took a lot of hard work to get here, but in the end, it all came together. All five of the UP General Chairs stuck together in these negotiations and it paid off with this great TA.” Brother Davis also added that “It only took UP about 160 years to figure out that people get sick and that it doesn’t make sense to fire them for it!”

Brother Scott Chelette, GC of GA-927, wanted it to be highlighted that: “The three medical occurrences we negotiated for in December’s contract didn’t help our members in assigned service. With this TA, we were able to convert them into on-demand sick days available to assigned and unassigned boards alike. Now our yardmen and all our road crews can benefit from these days without UP being able to deny the requests.” Chelette also wanted it known that this win wasn’t just accomplished by himself and the other four GCs.

“This truly was a team effort. Not only were we successful in having all 5 GCs stick together in the negotiations, but our legislative team was a big part of this,” he said. “The State Legislative Directors across UP’s territory as well as Greg Hynes and Jared Cassity in the National Legislative office worked behind the scenes to get Congress and state officials to apply pressure on UP to bargain with us in good faith. When you have the legislative team working hard and the membership amplifying their message every step of the way about our quality-of-life concerns, this TA is the kind of product we can achieve as a strong labor organization.”

Brother Luke Edington GC of GO-953, said: “All told, this TA provides our members with an unprecedented 8 days of on-demand paid leave for illness and well-being. This is the kind of achievement that makes the countless hours of work we put into this union movement worthwhile. This improvement to SMART-TD frontline workers’ lives is what makes it worthwhile answering the alarm clock every day of our careers.”

General Chairman Joe Cornelius of GCA 569 said: “We put a lot of time and thought in to make sure that everyone got cut in on this deal. The TA really is a win/win for our members. If they get sick, they can take a day off and not worry about losing that day’s pay, and for the first time, they won’t have to worry about being assigned any points toward discipline. One of the perks to this agreement that we insisted on is that it isn’t a ‘use-it or lose-it’ scenario. All unused sick days can be banked up to 60 days that keep rolling. If a member accumulates more than 60 unused days, UP will cut them a check to cash out the excess days. It’s a great parachute to have a 60-day buffer when things go wrong medically.”

Brother Gary Crest, GC of GO-887, said: “This TA has been a long time coming. It took 160 years to get here, but we aren’t done yet. There’s still a lot of work left to do to bring this railroad into the 21st century, and we are determined to do it.”

“I want to thank SMART-TD leadership for their support as we work together to create an environment where employees feel valued, supported and empowered to deliver exceptional service to our customers,” said Lance Fritz, Union Pacific chairman, president and CEO. “We are committed to continued collaboration with our labor partners and employees to further identify opportunities that support our best-in-class workforce.”

Please see the attached document to see the highlights of the tentative agreement. Local chairpersons will be receiving the verbiage soon and they will be providing it to the members for review as they consider ratification of the agreement.

Momentum is a powerful force. Right now, it is on rail labor’s side and our leadership is doing a great job of using it to the advantage of our membership. Monday, May 22, Joe Bennett, general chairperson of GO-851, and Brian Killough, general chairperson of GO-513 announced a tentative agreement with CSX to grant paid sick leave to its members.   

This announcement continues the progress that has been made by their counterpart in the northern region of CSX (GO-49) and by the general committees of Norfolk Southern. Paid sick leave has been the goal of railroaders for generations. It is not only the quality-of-life issue that defines our industry but also a validation of the dignity of our profession. Not only were Brothers Bennett and Killough able to get paid sick leave in this tentative agreement, but they were able to gain traction in several other areas as well.   

The tentative agreement synopsis is as follows:  

  • Provides five paid sick with the option to convert two personal days to paid sick days for conductors and trainmen. 
  • Unused sick days are converted to cash at the end of the year with the option to defer those payments into a 401(k).  
  • Incorporates the current 2023 CSX Revised Attendance Policy (the most lenient policy at CSX in decades) as a component of the CBA and is only subject to amendments under the provisions of the Railway Labor Act.  
  • Allows conductors to carry over up to 100 personal days from year to year rather than carrying over just 30 and losing the rest.  
  • Provides improved work/rest initiatives with the formation of a Joint Labor/Management Committee to implement “Smart Rest” options, which could provide for up to 24 hours off between tours of duty and voluntary rest day schedules.  
  • Reintroduces the safety boots program for trainpersons.  
  • Allows local union officials to be reimbursed for lost earnings when they mark off for vacation scheduling rather than just a basic day’s pay rate.  
  • Permits train service employees, when practicable, to drive themselves or their own crew within defined terminal switching limits under limited conditions.  

“We thank CSX CEO Joseph Hinrichs and Executive Vice President Jamie Boychuk for exhibiting flexibility and working with our union in a collaborative manner in reaching this tentative agreement,” SMART Transportation Division President Jeremy Ferguson said. “This serves as a vital first step to giving T&E personnel the paid sick time they deserve, and I am hopeful this accommodation will be soon extended to the employees working under the jurisdiction of all other rail carriers.”  

Brother Killough was quick to give credit for this TA coming together to SMART-TD Vice Presidents J.D. (John) Whitaker and Jamie Modesitt.   

“Brother Whitaker did a great job taking the lead on these negotiations, and Joe and I are excited about the end results. Not only did our team put us in a position to get the paid sick time our people need and deserve, but we got CSX to put the attendance policy into the Collective Bargaining Agreement,” Killough said. “That is a way bigger deal than most people realize. They can’t make a unilateral change to the attendance policy if this passes, and you can’t put a price tag on that kind of progress.”  

Bennett also brought the attendance policy up while he was discussing the advantages of this TA.   

“I’ve been working for CSX since 1998, and in the span of my career, they have had 4 or 5 different attendance policies. Each one was worse than the one it replaced,” he said. “Now we put ourselves in a good situation where they can’t just change our lives by simply sending out a system bulletin.”  

Another item in the agreement that both GCs brought up was the reinstatement of the boot program.   

“When CSX stopped providing safety boots for our men and women, it made a statement. It couldn’t have been a big enough expenditure to have made a real difference to them, but the money and implied downgrade in respect meant a lot to our guys,” Bennett said. “Hopefully, CSX agreeing to reinstate the program is just as good of an indicator of what is on the horizon as losing it was.”   

The boot program’s discontinuation was one of the first moves CSX made as E. Hunter Harrison embarked on implementing Precision Scheduled Railroading.  

Both Bennett and Killough went out of their way to point out that this tentative agreement is not written in stone. Bennett wanted it known that “We worked long and hard on forming this agreement and getting our members the paid sick time they obviously deserve, but it is up to individual locals to vote on whether or not this agreement gets ratified.”  

Per the SMART Constitution, each Local chair will be given the opportunity to cast a ballot, and the fate of this agreement will be decided by a simple majority of this vote.   

Both GCs have reached out to the locals they represent and provided the language of the tentative agreement. They are working to schedule conference calls with their local leaders in hopes of answering any questions they might have and ensuring that accurate information is being provided to the crew bases so they can make their decisions based on facts.  

SMART-TD is grateful to the leadership of Brothers Bennett and Killough for getting this agreement to this point. They have not only made us proud but have made strides to improve the lives of the SMART members they serve. We encourage all the members of these two general committees to read the agreement in its entirety and let your voices be heard in your local meetings. This union is in place to represent you. For SMART-TD to function properly, it requires that you take an active role, especially in matters of this level of importance.  

Tentative agreement includes scheduling, paid sick leave

ATLANTA and INDEPENDENCE, OH, (April 28, 2023) — Norfolk Southern Corporation (NYSE:NSC) and the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers — Transportation Division (SMART-TD) announced Friday that they have reached a ground-breaking, system-wide tentative agreement. The agreement would offer a comprehensive suite of new benefits and workplace enhancements to improve quality of life for Norfolk Southern’s conductors.

“This agreement underscores the progress we can make when SMART-TD and Norfolk Southern come together to improve the lives and workplace experience of our hard-working members,” said Jeremy Ferguson, president of SMART-TD. “I want to thank Norfolk Southern for their partnership, and most importantly, our tireless SMART-TD leaders – Jim Ball, Tommy Gholson, David Phillips, Drew Evans, Brian Sharkey, and Jason Roberts – for working collaboratively to reach this extremely positive outcome for Norfolk Southern conductors.”

The new agreement contains meaningful improvements that will transform the conductor experience, including:

  • Technology-driven enhancements that offer all conductors scheduled days off and greater certainty around their weekly assignments.
  • Tools and work-rule changes that provide greater transparency and flexibility to enjoy their vacation and other paid time off.
  • Higher reimbursement for meals when away from home, and additional compensation when working weekends and spending time away from home.
  • Up to seven days of paid sick leave, including five new paid sick days and the option to use two days of existing leave, to care for their personal well-being.

“I have a deep appreciation and respect for the contributions that my craft colleagues make to our company, our customers, and the U.S. economy,” said Alan H. Shaw, president and CEO of Norfolk Southern. “Coming out of national negotiations, we committed to taking a comprehensive look at quality of life at Norfolk Southern. With this agreement, we are leading the industry’s efforts to provide more predictable work and greater support for the wellbeing of our craft railroaders.”

“I am incredibly proud of the work we’ve done with our labor partners at SMART-TD to reach this landmark deal,” said Wai Wong, vice president, Labor Relations at Norfolk Southern. “This agreement is the culmination of many honest, open discussions with our General Chairmen about our employees’ perspectives and priorities. I look forward to building on the foundation of trust we’ve laid as we continue working together to improve quality of life for our dedicated railroaders.”

The tentative agreement, which is subject to member ratification, also satisfies the parties’ obligation to discuss scheduling enhancements and other related items that were part of last year’s national agreements. The agreement would go beyond those obligations, however, underscoring Norfolk Southern’s and SMART-TD’s mutual commitment to holistically improve quality of life and enhance their shared team’s ability to safely deliver reliable and resilient service as a customer-centric, operations-driven organization.


About Norfolk Southern

Since 1827, Norfolk Southern Corporation (NYSE: NSC) and its predecessor companies have safely moved the goods and materials that drive the U.S. economy. Today, it operates a customer-centric and operations-driven freight transportation network. Committed to furthering sustainability, Norfolk Southern helps its customers avoid 15 million tons of yearly carbon emissions by shipping via rail. Its dedicated team members deliver more than 7 million carloads annually, from agriculture to consumer goods, and is the largest rail shipper of auto products and metals in North America. Norfolk Southern also has the most extensive intermodal network in the eastern U.S., serving a majority of the country’s population and manufacturing base, with connections to every major container port on the Atlantic coast as well as the Gulf of Mexico and Great Lakes. Learn more by visiting


SMART Transportation Division is comprised of approximately 125,000 active and retired members who work in a variety of different crafts in the transportation industry. These crafts include employees on every Class I railroad, Amtrak, many shortline railroads, bus and mass transit employees and airport personnel. More information about the union is available at

Paid sick leave has been the goal of railroaders for decades. It is not only the quality-of-life issue that defines our industry, but also a validation of the dignity of our profession. As you can tell from the photograph attached to this article, we are not the first generation of railroaders who have felt strongly about this topic. For a railroad to function safely, carriers know providing sick days is essential, yet the executives opt to pay themselves huge bonuses and engage in profitable stock buybacks with the money it would take to provide it. Instead of being accommodating to the labor forces toward their basic human needs, management tends to extend their appreciation to those who do the work by handing out hats and trinkets on occasion. To pour salt in the wounds, they have also tightened their attendance policies to unreasonable expectations over the years to force employees, out of duress, to go to work when sick.

On April 3, however, the tentative agreement reached between SMART-TD General Committee GO-049 and CSX is a tremendous step forward for T&E personnel on the CSX Northern Mid-Atlantic District. The tentative agreement synopsis is as follows:

  • Provides five paid sick with option to convert two personal days to paid sick days.
  • Unused sick days are converted to cash at the end of the year with the option to defer those payments into a 401(k)
  • Incorporates the current 2023 CSX Revised Attendance Policy (the most lenient policy at CSX in decades) as a component of the CBA and only subject amendments under the provisions of the Railway Labor Act.
  • Provides improved work/rest initiatives with the formation of a Joint Labor/Management Committee to implement “Smart Rest” options, which could provide for up to 24 hours off between tours of duty.
  • Settles a long outstanding issue on displacement and utilization of employees in displaced status
  • Permits train service employees, when practicable, to drive themselves or their own crew within defined terminal switching limits under limited conditions.

“We thank CSX CEO Joseph Hinrichs and Executive Vice President Jamie Boychuk for exhibiting flexibility and working with our union in a collaborative manner in reaching this tentative agreement,” SMART Transportation Division President Jeremy Ferguson said. “This serves as a vital first step to giving T&E personnel the paid sick time they deserve, and I am hopeful this accommodation will be soon be extended to the employees working under the jurisdiction of the other General Committees at CSX as well.”

As noted in past SMART-TD articles and mainstream media concerning the national rail contract negotiations, labor made it clear to the hedge fund managers who run our country’s rail corporations that we are no longer willing to accept hollow attempts to make us feel like valued members of their Fortune 500 companies. SMART-TD leadership, along with the other 11 rail labor organizations, stated clearly that it was time to address the ridiculous gaps in our work/life balance.

By no means was 2022 the first time that railroad workers have pointed out the lack of sick days as a problem. For years we’ve been told that it doesn’t fit the railroad business model as they sell service to their shippers which requires a 24/7/365 operation to meet demands. The unique dependency on crew availability to keep railroads running has been used to justify carriers’ on-call work cycles and inordinately long workdays, leading to the inability for railroaders to be present for family events and holidays. The irony to the operational necessity is that railroads have reduced their labor head-count year-over-year to increase profits and simply force those left to work more and not allow them to take time off, even when sick.

In 2023, the world’s media has a newfound awareness of the struggles of the railroad work force along with the dangerous working conditions. With wall-to-wall news coverage of derailments and communities waking up to the evils of Precision Scheduled Railroading (PSR), carriers find themselves in the position of needing to prove to the American people that they are not monsters and that their industry is capable of responsibly self-regulating as they have since the 1800s. Through the hard work and persistence of SMART-TD and your activism, railroads have begun to recognize the humanity of their workforce.

In the past two weeks, SMART-TD has seen Norfolk Southern and Union Pacific begin withdrawing their Section 6 notices pursuing single-employee crews. NS has even gone as far as to implement a new plan that, among other things, reduces the length of their trains (for now) to 10,000 feet.

Many interesting questions come from the idea of conductors driving their crews. One is whether CSX will be able to require conductors to pick up other crews while in the company vehicles. The answer to that is a definitive no. If this TA is ratified, the conductor will only be responsible for transporting the members of his/her crew to perform duties associated with that conductor’s train or duties. In short, the conductor position will not be used as additional cab drivers to be dispatched throughout CSX’s yards. According to GO-049 General Chairperson Rick Lee, this proposed change has received positive feedback as our members will be in charge of their safe transport within terminals, thus not left up to a low-cost taxi vendors or disgruntled railroad managers forced to haul crews in addition to their management duties.

Perhaps the most important question from this development is this: If it is, in fact, possible to run a Class I railroad when employees have the “luxury” of being allotted sick days, why has this basic human dignity been held from us by management for so long? If we are doing away with the premise that railroads can’t function if their transportation employees aren’t duty bound to answer the bell every time they are called to work, then why aren’t all railroaders afforded the same treatment across all crafts and carriers?

Progress in the railroad industry has always been incremental, but the fact is that professionals in every other industry, with much more standard schedules and far more time off work, get paid sick leave. Rail workers need and deserve the same.

The new tentative agreement obtained by GO-049 has blazed a trail, poking a hole in the premise that operating crews can’t get sick time. It is precedent-setting that for the first time in the existence of American railroading that paid sick time will be afforded to transportation employees at a Class I railroad. This is a fact that we all need to take a moment to celebrate. But we also need to look at this development as a call to action to achieve paid sick leave for all of us, not just half the crew base in a slice of the country for 1/7th of the Class I carriers.

With matters as important as this one, it is pivotal to get the details correct. If President Ferguson, his administration, or GC Lee’s team was willing to settle for less than what our members deserved on the paid sick leave front, the opportunity was there. But what was important for our brothers and sisters in this historic decision was that we needed to get as much for the members as possible since the negotiation would set a precedent and needed to fit the work lifestyle of our T&E membership. It is hard to overstate the service GC Lee, Vice President Jamie Modesitt, and all others at GO-049 have done for conductors of all carriers with this negotiation. If this agreement is approved, it’ll be a standard-bearing precedent. We must continue the push to be fairly compensated for the essential work we do. Pending the ratification vote, this needs to be the new standard for agreements going forward.

SMART-TD is deeply grateful for GC Lee’s leadership as they have not only made us proud but have also honored the work of the railroaders in the picture featured along with this article and all those men and women upon whose shoulders this union is lifted.

On Thursday, March 23 – after 15 months of negotiations – the TCU & Shop-Craft Coalition reached a tentative agreement with Amtrak to settle each organization’s respective Section 6 notices for this round of bargaining. The coalition is comprised of the SMART Mechanical Department (MD), the Brotherhood of Railway Carmen (BRC), National Conference of Firemen & Oilers SEIU 32BJ (NCFO), International Association of Machinist and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW), Transport Workers Union (TWU), American Railway Airline Supervisor Association (ARASA), International Brotherhood of Boilermakers (IBB) and the Transportation Communications Union (TCU).

“We appreciate the patience of our members, and we will be providing all the details of this great agreement,” the coalition said in a press release announcing the agreement.

The specific terms of the agreement have been approved by the Amtrak Board of Directors; the details will be presented to SMART MD members for ratification in the coming weeks. This article will be updated.

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

As you are undoubtedly aware, voting on the 2022 Tentative Agreement concluded yesterday evening at 11:59 p.m. Eastern time. I would like to sincerely thank each and every member who exercised their right to participate in this ratification, regardless of how you voted. While the final outcome is somewhat disheartening, I am proud to say that SMART-TD members turned out in record numbers, and your voices have been heard.

Before addressing the ratification vote results and our next steps, it is important to note that Article 21B, Section 91, of the SMART Constitution pertaining to national contract ratifications states, in pertinent part:

“A majority of the members voting of each of the crafts to be covered or affected by the terms of the proposed agreement shall be required to ratify the offer of settlement.”

This requires that each historic craft we represent (e.g., Conductors, Engine Service, Brakemen, Yardmen) must ratify for an agreement to ratify. 

It is also important to note that there are two separate agreements covering the affected SMART-TD members. Document “A” applies to members working in the crafts of Conductor, Engine Service, Brakemen, and Yardmen (collectively referred to as the “operating crafts”), while Document “B” applies specifically to Yardmasters. With that being said, the final results of SMART-TD’s ratification vote are as follows:

CraftIn FavorOpposedResult
Engine Service50%50%Tie

As a majority of the members voting of each of the operating crafts did not approve the 2022 Tentative Agreement, Document “A” has failed ratification. As a majority of Yardmasters approved the 2022 Tentative Agreement, Document “B” is ratified, effective November 21, 2022.

With respect to the operating craft members outlined above, SMART-TD has entered a cooling-off period that extends through December 8, 2022. The National Carriers’ Conference Committee (NCCC) has already indicated to us that they do not intend to engage in further bargaining over these issues. This has been their behavior to the other unions that have failed to ratify during this round of bargaining. Nonetheless, SMART-TD’s negotiating team will return to the table and invite the NCCC to reopen good-faith negotiations during this period.

If the cooling-off period expires and an improved Tentative Agreement cannot be reached, self-help will be available commencing at 12:01 a.m. Eastern time, Friday, December 9, 2022. There will be no need for this office to conduct another vote seeking strike authorization, as the results of our July 2022 polling and the unanimous approval of the affected General Committees of Adjustment still apply.

Please note that this letter does not automatically constitute authorization to engage in self-help. Final authorization will come in a separate notice from this office. The earliest such notice could be issued would be on or after 12:01 a.m. on Friday, December 9, 2022. However, there is a distinct possibility that Congress may pass legislation to resolve this dispute and/or impose an agreement prior to the expiration of our current cooling-off period. In that event, no self-help authorization can be issued.

As additional information becomes available, updates will be shared with all SMART-TD members via email, the SMART Union website and Transportation Division social media pages.

With best wishes and sincere gratitude for your continued support, I remain

Fraternally yours,

Jeremy R. Ferguson
President – Transportation Division

Follow this link for a printable version of this letter.