Joint pilot program encourages railroaders to confidentially report safety concerns

SMART Transportation Division officers flank TD President Jeremy R. Ferguson (center), NS CEO Alan Shaw (left of Ferguson) and FRA Administrator Amit Bose (right of Ferguson) at Thursday’s signing ceremony in Atlanta.

ATLANTA (February 15, 2024) – Norfolk Southern Corporation (NYSE: NSC), the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers – Transportation Division (SMART-TD) and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) along with the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), signed an agreement Thursday to participate in the FRA’s Confidential Close Call Reporting System (C3RS).

The signing ceremony was held at the Atlanta offices of the U.S. Department of Transportation. With attendees from Norfolk Southern, the unions and FRA leadership, the ceremony officially kicked off the one-year partnership.

Norfolk Southern is the only Class I railroad participant in the program, which the company committed to in 2023. As part of the C3RS pilot program, covered Norfolk Southern employees can report safety concerns confidentially.

Railroaders at the company’s Atlanta; Elkhart, Indiana; and Roanoke, Virginia locations will participate in the pilot. Reports will be reviewed by a joint committee composed of Norfolk Southern and labor representatives, who will identify and implement safety improvements with the FRA’s guidance.


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 approximately 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 Norfolk Southern originates more automotive traffic than any
other Class I Railroad. Norfolk Southern also has the most extensive intermodal network in the eastern U.S. It serves a majority of the country’s population and manufacturing base, with connections to every major container port on the Atlantic coast as well as to major ports in the Gulf of Mexico and Great Lakes. Learn more by visiting www.NorfolkSouthern.com.
Media Inquiries: media.relations@nscorp.com

About SMART Transportation Division
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. Media contact: news_TD@smart-union.org

About BLET
The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen represents nearly 51,500 professional locomotive engineers and trainmen throughout the United States employed in both freight and passenger rail. Founded in 1863, BLET is the oldest union in the United States. The BLET also is the founding member of the Rail Conference, International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

Phone: (216) 228-9400 

Fax: (216) 228-0411  

Email: news_td@smart-union.org 

The results of a strike vote authorized in October by SMART Transportation Division President Jeremy Ferguson on the Southeastern Philadelphia Transportation Authority (SEPTA) were finalized yesterday, Nov. 20. SMART-TD members of Local 61 (GCA-STA) in Philadelphia overwhelmingly voted to authorize a potential work action.  

This announcement comes after 19 months of contentious negotiations and mediation led by the National Mediation Board with the carrier.   

General Chairperson Ray Boyer expressed disappointment with what he described as SEPTA’s bad-faith negotiating. 

“SEPTA has implemented a tactic called ‘pattern bargaining’ — blending aspects of the railroad and bus industries. Unfortunately, this strategy has disproportionately affected conductors, leaving us significantly behind our industry peers in terms of compensation,” he said. “In essence, SEPTA is demanding a front-row effort from conductors while offering nosebleed pay. We believe that fair compensation is not just about wages but also about acknowledging the essential role we play in the efficient functioning of SEPTA.”  

SMART-TD President Ferguson said that after workers served through a pandemic while receiving wages that trail other regional transit peers that the carrier needs to rethink its approach.  

“We have been clear with SEPTA from Day 1 that our men and women are the lowest-paid workforce in the commuter industry and that this negotiation was NOT going to be status quo,” he said. “They continue to stand behind a smoke screen of fancy language their lawyers put together — mixing crafts when it is convenient and clarifying our members are railroaders when it is to their advantage.  

“This union is not a business-as-usual organization. Our members spoke loud and clear in their vote. Everyone is scheduled to come back to negotiations late next month, and SEPTA would be wise to recognize the leverage these men and women of Local 61 have authorized. We will not settle for anything less than the respect our members have earned.” 

TD Vice President Jamie Modesitt stated that SEPTA rail workers have spoken as a collective voice and SEPTA’s Board should be listening to that voice. 

“The collective voice has spoken, and that voice seeks to correct the wage suppression that has been largely ignored over the years. It’s time for SEPTA’s board to correct the wage injustice that has plagued their rail labor force. Ultimately, correcting the wage disparity at SEPTA, by investing in labor, will increase employee morale, establish greater retention of good talent, better recruitment opportunities, and reward the commitment of the hard-working SEPTA men and women who serve the public every day of the week.” 

General Chairperson Boyer will work closely with President Ferguson and Vice President Modesitt as this situation develops. SMART-TD will ensure our members and the press are kept up to date as we move ahead. 

The union represents 481 members on SEPTA properties.  

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If you are interested in speaking more about the union’s stance on this issue and its negotiations with management on the SEPTA property, we’d be happy to connect you with:  

SMART Transportation Division President Jeremy Ferguson   

President Jeremy Ferguson, a member of Local 313 in Grand Rapids, Mich., was elected president of SMART’s Transportation Division in 2019.   

President Ferguson, an Army veteran, started railroading in 1994 as a conductor on CSX at Grand Rapids, Mich., and was promoted to engineer in 1995. Ferguson headed the recent national rail negotiations for the Union with the nation’s rail carriers.  

SMART Transportation Division Vice President Jamie Modesitt  

Vice President Jamie C. Modesitt is a member of Local 298, Garrett, IN, was elected to Vice President in 2019, and resides in Saint Augustine, FL. Modesitt serves on the SMART TD National Negotiation Team and serves as a SMART TD Board Member on the National Railroad Adjustment Board’s First Division. 

SMART Army members from Local 278 (Jackson, Mich.) and Local 1438 (Lincoln Park, Mich.) delivered two cords of firewood to our United Auto Workers (UAW) brothers and sisters in UAW Local 1248 in front of the Mopar Parts Distribution Center in Romulus, Mich. SMART-TD President Jeremy Ferguson purchased the wood for the UAW strike lines last week while Locals 278 and 1438 took it from there and got it where it needed to go.  

SMART Army members from TD Locals 278 and Local 1438 unload two cords of wood donated by SMART-TD President Ferguson. UAW Local 1248 Strike Captain John Baker, in red shirt close to trailer, said they were in dire need of the wood donation given how quickly the temperatures were dropping.

The union’s donation was well-timed for the men and women on the Stellantis picket line. When SMART-TD’s Nick Greficz spoke to UAW 1248 Strike Captain John Baker, he told Brother Greficz they were in dire need of fuel for their fires. He told Greficz how quickly the temperatures has been dropping with each passing day in late October and that colder weather was taking its toll on morale on the line. 

President Ferguson got the idea to donate firewood to the effort while walking the line in Toledo, Ohio, at a Stellantis plant that produces Jeep Gladiators. The UAW reps in Toledo told them that keeping the burn barrels stocked was a challenge.  

So with cold weather on the horizon, Ferguson committed resources to fulfill a need in solidarity with the UAW prior to the union’s announcement that tentative agreements had been reached with the nation’s Big Three automakers. 

SMART-TD Local 1438 and Local 278 members walk with UAW Local 1248 members in front of Mopar Parts Distribution Center in Romulus, Mich.
SMART-TD Local 1438 and Local 278 members walk with UAW Local 1248 members in front of Mopar Parts Distribution Center in Romulus, Mich.

Unions in the United States have championed workplace safety from the beginning. In the 1870s, organized labor championed “State factory safety and health laws” — the predecessor of the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) a century later. Whether it’s freight rail, bus or transit, workplace safety remains the foundation of everything we strive toward.

Our organization and labor have made tremendous headway, but as was clear over the summer, there is progress yet to be made and fights left to be won. We had two trainmen trainees killed in Maryland railyards.

We have been screaming into the megaphone to FRA, STB, NTSB, Congress, the White House, people in the media — frankly anyone else who will listen — that we will not stand for the current state of training on America’s Class I railroads. Please follow this link to read SMART-TD’s statement regarding the safety of our trainmen trainees, as well as the safety advisory we issued in hopes of directly speaking to our newly hired brothers and sisters and the conductors who mentor or train them.

It is our hope that our internal safety advisories will be a jumping-off point to inspire productive conversations. If carriers think they can get away with insufficient and unsafe training without SMART-TD opposing it, they are very much mistaken. Please take the time to read these materials.

While on the topic of safety, I want to proudly announce the formation of a new committee at SMART-TD focused on ending the epidemic of physical assault on our bus and transit membership. SMART-TD‘s Bus/Transit Assault Prevention and Safety (BTAPS) Committee was established at the SMART Leadership Conference in Washington, DC this August. It was born from the courage of Legislative Representative Christine Ivey of Local 1785 (Santa Monica, Calif.), who brought up the long-overdue idea that SMART-TD needed to form a committee to lead the charge for the transportation workers of this country — researching workable solutions to the increasing violence against on-duty members.

I agreed with the message Ivey eloquently and passionately shared and called for a vote on the formation of the committee on the spot, naming Sister Ivey as chairperson of the BTAPS Committee. It is not in this union’s DNA to sit idly by while our members’ safety and personal well-being are at risk.

Please read SMART-TD’s statement regarding the safety of our trainmen trainees, as well as the safety advisory we issued in hopes of directly speaking to our newly hired brothers and sisters and the conductors who mentor or train them

The BTAPS Committee and Chairperson Ivey have my full support and confidence as they strive for increased mandatory sentences for those who assault transit workers and craft the legislative language to protect our brothers and sisters. I thank her for her leadership on this important topic. BTAPS is looking for both bus and transit members to volunteer to serve. To be considered for an appointment to BTAPS, or if you know of someone we should be considering, please contact her at Chrissie.ivey.smtd.1785@gmail.com, or Dan Banks in our Cleveland office, at dbanks@smart-union.org.

On another positive note, I am happy to announce the retirement of SMART-TD Vice President Calvin Studivant, senior VP from our Bus Department. Calvin has dedicated his life to advocating for the safety, compensation and respect our bus operators and mechanics deserve. He has led the department since being elected VP in 2014. Along with VP Alvy Hughes, Studivant has led SMART-TD’s Bus Department to unparalleled success. We all wish Brother Studivant a long and happy retirement, and I thank him for all his years of dedicated service to our members.

As we wish Calvin the best, we are encouraged that he leaves our Bus Department in the capable hands of VP Hughes and James Sandoval from Local 23 in Santa Cruz, California, who has been elevated to VP. Brother Sandoval has served multiple roles in his career, and I have every confidence in his ability. The TD Board of Directors has approved General Chairperson Markeisha Haynes of Local 1785 as our new alternate vice president of the Bus Department. When sworn in, she will be the first Black woman to serve our union at this level of leadership. I am very proud to have Sister Haynes in the SMART-TD leadership team!

September marked the beginning of elections in most SMART-TD locals. Not only does this union need these leadership positions to be filled to function well, but they need to be filled with dedicated brothers and sisters willing to work to better the lives and careers of our members. This is not a top-down organization — it is supported and maintains its strength from the bottom up. The local leaders of today will spearhead the future of this organization and this movement. The first step is getting involved.

Please engage in your local and become well-informed about who is running. Make wise decisions in your leadership — these leaders have a hand in your safety and your family’s well-being.

Thank you for your continued support, and I want you all to have a great fall. Please don’t let the distractions of a new school year, football season and all the trappings take away from focusing on the safety of you and those you work with.

In Solidarity,

Jeremy R. Ferguson
President, Transportation Division

The SMART Transportation Division has formed a new committee to address the growing problem of assaults on bus and transit operators. The Bus and Transit Assault Prevention and Safety committee (BTAPS), was founded at the recent SMART Leadership Conference in Washington, D.C.

The idea for the committee was raised by Christine Ivey, a legislative representative from Local 1785 out of Santa Monica, Calif. Ivey spoke during a TD breakout session about the need for a union-led effort to address the issue of assaults on bus and transit operators.

Legislative Representative Christine Ivey of Local 1785 (Santa Monica, Calif.) addresses TD leadership Aug. 2 at the SMART Leadership Conference in Washington, D.C.

“The gate is already open. The bull is coming out. We’ve already had drivers stabbed. We’ve had drivers shot. We’re still having drivers that are being assaulted and we’re still dragging our feet on creating laws that protect the drivers,” Ivey said from the floor of the leadership meeting. “My question is, ‘How do I get on a team that will propose a bill that will change the status quo?’ ”

SMART-TD President Jeremy Ferguson was impressed by Ivey’s presentation and called her up to the podium to address the entire crowd from the stage. When Ivey finished making her points about the need for SMART to consider developing a committee to address these concerns, Ferguson stepped to the mic and surprised everyone in the room, including Sister Ivey, with what came next.

President Ferguson called for a point of order and all eyes locked on him. He then said that in his opinion, what Sister Ivey had just said to the leadership of SMART-TD constituted a motion on the floor. Ferguson then called for a second on the motion to officially form the committee and immediately called for a voice vote. The motion passed unanimously, and with a spontaneous standing ovation, the Bus and Transit Assault Prevention and Safety Committee was founded.

Ferguson named Ivey chairperson of the committee with no objections. Ivey is a highly experienced union leader and advocate for bus and transit operators. She is well-respected by her peers and is known for her passion for safety.

The BTAPS committee will be tasked with developing and implementing strategies to reduce the number of assaults on bus and transit operators. The committee will also work to raise awareness of the issue and advocate for policies that will make bus and transit operators safer, including lobbying in Congress and state legislatures to urge that punishments for the crime of assault on a transit worker be heightened from a misdemeanor to a felony.

“This is a historic moment for the SMART-TD union,” said Ferguson. “We are committed to doing everything we can to protect our members from violence. The Bus and Transit Assault Prevention and Safety committee will be a powerful tool in our fight for safety. Christine Ivey is driven, intelligent, and determined to make this committee successful. I have full confidence that SMART will be proud of what this committee will achieve through Sister Ivey’s leadership.”

The committee will meet regularly and report its findings to the SMART-TD Board of Directors. The committee will also advocate for safety measures at the federal and state levels through the Federal Transit Administration (FTA).

Ivey and Ferguson seek nominations for bus and transit members to serve on the committee. If you are willing to serve and would like to be considered for an appointment, please contact Chairperson Ivey at Chrissie.ivey.smtd.1785@gmail.com or Dan Banks in SMART-TD’s Cleveland office at (216) 227-5450 or by email at dbanks@smart-union.org.

The formation of the committee is a major step in the fight to protect bus and transit operators. The committee is well-positioned to make a real difference in the lives of SMART-TD members and make bus and transit a safer place for our members to work and passengers to ride alike.

Brothers and sisters,

SMART Transportation Division has seen historic successes in 2023 and at the same time, we face some unprecedented struggles. 

Since our last publication, many of our freight rail members have won major victories with new contracts including paid sick leave, increased schedule predictability, and pay increases. Two-person crew and other rail-safety legislations have been passed in statehouses around the country, and the United States Congress maintains its focus in the face of carriers’ intense opposition to take overdue action that gives our members’ safety and quality of life the credence that they deserve.

As the SMART-TD President I am also very excited to have Brother Mike Coleman as the new General President of SMART. We wished General President Sellers a very happy retirement at our board of directors meeting this past April, and I was proud to see Mike sworn in as General President at our General Executive Council meeting on May 23rd. Mike and I have had a longstanding working relationship and I am also proud to call him a friend.

On the flip side of all the positive we are experiencing, I am very troubled with the fact our bus members’ safety has never been more at risk. On May 18, a SMART-TD bus operator from Local 1715 (Charlotte, NC) was involved in a shoot-out with a disgruntled bus passenger, an incident that sent both men to the hospital with what were described as life-threatening injuries.

Less than a week later, on May 24, another SMART-TD bus operator out of Local 1608 (Chatsworth, Calif.) was stabbed multiple times in the neck and back while working his assigned route in Los Angeles.

There have been news reports of gunfire on buses, angry parents going after school bus drivers, road rage incidents. The list is extensive.

You cannot tell me that it is acceptable that on two out of every three days in this country one of our transit workers is violently assaulted.

The United States Federal Transit Administration put out a study in December 2022 entitled “Update on Transit Worker Assault Prevention and Mitigation.” This report looked at data from 2008 through 2011. In those 13 years, the FTA reports that there was an average of 241 assaults per year on transit workers throughout the country. This study itself points out that, “This data includes only the most serious events, and may significantly underestimate the total number of assaults.”

You cannot tell me that it is acceptable that on two out of every three days in this country one of our transit workers is violently assaulted. These men and women are the lifeblood of our economy, getting Americans to work and improving their quality-of-life day in and day out. They deserve to be heard and protected like the essential workers that we know they are. We’ve had two members on both sides of the country in the hospital fighting for their lives as a result of violent incidents. Last year, also in Charlotte, one of our members was killed by gunfire while on the job. 

It’s no time for a government study. It’s not time to discuss increasing next year’s safety budget. Our men and women deserve and demand immediate and definitive actions to ensure their physical safety. The FTA has requested public comments on what needs to be done to shore up safety in public transportation, and SMART-TD members can rest assured that our call to action will be heard.

On another positive note, our general chairpersons on multiple rail carriers have a lot of momentum going into the summer. New agreements, including crew-consist guarantees, paid sick leave for multiple crafts including some yardmasters, and more firmed-up scheduling for time off have been making their way into rail crew rooms all over the country. To the GCs who have been on the front lines negotiating these quality-of-life improvements for our rail members, you have both my gratitude and support.

SMART-TD has also spent the spring and early summer delivering on the legislative front. Our skilled group of State Legislative Directors and our National Legislative Department have been producing great results in state legislatures and on the hill in Washington D.C. We are moving the needle nationally on issues of rail safety, 2PC, and others. Credit for these pivotal victories does not belong exclusively to me, or our office holders. You, the SMART-TD members, have done a remarkable job of advocating on your own behalf. We asked you to be part of this process, and we continue to be excited by your response.

To that end, I would like to personally thank each and every one of you, your friends and family members who have answered the bell and sent your messages to legislators, written letters to the editor, and have reached out to our office this year to add your voices to SMART-TD’s efforts to mold the public policy surrounding railway safety. Please continue to use the tools your union provides you to continue this push. Your continued use of the new hours-of-service reports, the safety conditions reports, and tech event reports is a key ingredient to keeping our union’s momentum and countering the carriers’ attempts to sow misinformation. 

And, as a reminder, please update your personal information via the website and app so that we can keep you informed of what’s happening in your industry and your union.

As an organization SMART-TD is only growing stronger each day with all of your dedication and we are without a doubt the best bus, rail and air union in the country. I appreciate your hard work and want you to know that your union is in the fight with you. There will always be much more that needs to be accomplished by this organization, but you can rest assured that we are doing everything that can be done to advocate for you and your family.

Fraternally,

Jeremy R. Ferguson
President, Transportation Division

Brother Arin Johnson of SMART Local 194 (Elkhart, Indiana) kicked off his series of coalition building meetings in Cleveland, Ohio on Wednesday, May 3rd. Johnson’s vision of bringing members from multiple carriers together to discuss best practices and form a clear idea of what is and isn’t working in the railroad industry was a tall order, but after the first meeting last week, he is off to a great start.

This meeting brought roughly 80 men and women from SMART Transportation Division together and featured three State Legislative Directors, three General Chairmen, members from seven states and four railroads. SMART-TD President Jeremy Ferguson was in attendance and spoke to the crowd along with other representatives from the International.  

There was also an effort to reach out to the attendees of the meeting from two Ohio government leaders. The first was a recorded video message from Ohio State Senator Nickie Antonio, who sits as the ranking member of the Ohio Senate’s Transportation Committee, as well as the Ohio Select Committee on Rail Safety. The second was from United States Senator Sherrod Brown, who could not attend but sent a letter to the group that can be seen here. Both Senators Brown and Antonio emphasized in their messages that they share SMART-TD’s commitment to rail safety and that they are using their roles as legislators to bring about two-person crew minimums, regulations surrounding the use of wayside defect detectors and several other rail safety improvements.

President Ferguson’s message largely focused on continuing SMART’s current momentum. He started off by thanking Brother Johnson for putting the meeting together.

“It feels good to be on offense!” he added. “We are winning in Washington, DC. We are winning in state houses. We are kicking ass. Our members, local officers and general chairs are winning claims, you’re winning appeals, and you’re winning the confidence of our members.”

Before opening the floor to questions, Ferguson used the moment to emphasize the role that SMART-TD’s training curriculum plays in maintaining our momentum. “These training opportunities get our newer officers ready to properly conduct hearings and put together their appeals.”

He asked all the brothers in sisters in the room to use the training tools at their disposal: “Let’s get prepared to represent these guys right! Please take advantage of our Regional Training Seminars. Please jump on the website and use the SMART University to keep your skills sharp and up to date. These tools are important, and we owe it to every one of our members to get everything out of them that we possibly can.”

Brother Arin Johnson speaks at the coalition building meeting in Cleveland.,
Brother Arin Johnson speaks at the coalition building meeting in Cleveland.,

Following President Ferguson, SMART-TD’s Alternate Legislative Director Jared Cassity broke down the need for members of all rail carriers to put the pedal down on filling out Unsafe Conditions Reports and Technology Failure Reports. He emphasized the importance of this “ammunition” when he takes our fight to the halls of Congress and to each state’s legislators.

Following Brother Cassity, State Legislative Directors from Indiana, Michigan and Ohio took the floor, providing a detailed update on the advancements made in their state legislatures and their plans for what comes next in their states. Michigan SLD Don Roach and Indiana SLD Ken Edwards were wonderful examples of Brother Johnson’s vision for the sharing of best practices. Roach has recently played a large role in the successful overturning of the so-called “right-to-work” (RTW) law in his state. Edwards and other members of the Indiana labor community are in the process of taking that same fight to the state house in Indianapolis.

The conversations between these two SLDs was a great testimony to how effective this series of coalition-building meetings can be as Brother Johnson takes them across the country. Ohio SLD Clyde Whitaker discussed SMART-TD’s recent success in getting two-person crew legislation passed in the Buckeye State and what went into his approach for getting first-of-its-kind regulations put into Ohio law surrounding the regulation of wayside defect detectors. The outline of Brother Whitaker’s talking points are available here and may prove helpful to LR’s and SLD’s nationwide.

Many other topics were brought up by members who came to Cleveland. Among them was the decline in training programs being offered by the rail carriers, the delay in some carriers honoring their back pay obligations that came with the new contract Congress imposed in December, the utility position and crew consist agreements Union Pacific members are grappling with, and the universal question of how we are going to get attendance policies under control across all railroads.

Attendees of this kickoff meeting represented the states of Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, Pennsylvania, New York and North Dakota and included members working on CSX, Norfolk Southern, Canadian Pacific, and BNSF railroads. The diversity as well as the commonality of the experiences in the room made the meeting a huge success. SMART-TD owes a debt of gratitude to Brother Johnson, and we hope the rest of the meetings in your series are as productive as this one proved to be.

Brothers and sisters,

I wanted to open this column by expressing my continued admiration to the dedication and drive all members of the SMART Transportation Division have shown in the face of adversity.

As an example, our bus members in Santa Cruz out of Local 23 have coped with weather challenges posed by massive flooding in the area and helped to evacuate people to safety. Elsewhere on the West Coast, the Midwest and in the Northeast, we’ve dealt with our share of storms that make our work more difficult and stressful for bus operators, transit workers, passenger rail, air and freight rail workers.

I want to thank you for showing up. You do the work that others are unwilling or cannot do, and that keeps this country moving. You are appreciated, and when I travel to your area, I will tell you that in person.

A special congratulations goes out to the members of Local 1715 in Charlotte who ratified a new contract by a near-unanimous margin that secures a significant wage increase and other positive gains. Thank you, General Chairperson Joseph Paglia, Vice General Chairperson and Local President Christy Kiser, Local Chairperson Stanley Valentine, Secretary & Treasurer Chris Johnson, Local Committee of Adjustment Secretary Sabrina White and Bus Department Vice President Calvin Studivant for getting such a positive result!

Congratulations also go out to the Ohio State Legislative Board and State Legislative Director Clyde Whitaker, who made Ohio the ninth state to require a minimum two-person freight rail crew. His poise and truthful testimony in March before the U.S. Senate served as a great example for all of labor. He did a fine job.

You do the work that others are unwilling or cannot do, and that keeps this country moving. You are appreciated, and when I travel to your area, I will tell you that in person.

While we’ve each dealt with our own adversity over the past months, the people of East Palestine, Ohio, have dealt with a unique set of challenges. Thanks to a situation that they had no role in creating, the greed of Precision Scheduled Railroading (PSR) came to an ugly head in the southeastern Ohio town.

The headlines and situation following the derailment there in early February are all too familiar, and each subsequent derailment in the months since has made headlines. People in East Palestine have been left with many questions. As the NTSB is thoroughly investigating the derailment to answer the question of “How” this scenario came to pass, we all know the answer to “Why?” PSR and its disregard for safety placed a higher value on getting Norfolk Southern’s train across the road than it did on safeguarding the communities it travelled through or the wellbeing of the crew on it.

The results have been splashed all over your televisions and news feeds. As we pray for the victims and hope that claims made by the carrier, EPA and local officials are true that the people of East Palestine are not in danger, we all owe it to those people to prevent that scene from playing out again and again and again.

Drone footage, doorbell cameras and interviews of the people directly affected have emphasized the points SMART-TD has been making for years about the destructive potential of PSR. With the national attention that has been generated by derailments, it is imperative that we disseminate the facts as we know them and continue to repudiate the role corporate greed plays in the rail industry, making community and worker alike less safe.

It is imperative that we harness this momentum to bring about some good from these disasters. Many states have seen progress on crew-size and train-length bills as the national discussion continues to examine rail safety. It is important that as our families, friends and neighbors come to us as industry experts, we are open and honest about the root cause. We need to stand together and to deliver the truth about the carriers’ conduct and what it has done to jeopardize our personal safety as well as the safety of every city and village we roll through.

As you are all aware, this past quarter has been one of much activity for SMART-TD. I want to take this opportunity to personally thank you for your continued professionalism, and I want to assure you that SMART-TD is engaged in every aspect of what is happening on both national and local levels. We are a party to the investigations into all of the recent derailments, as well as the wave of rail safety legislation that is getting headlines. We stand committed to making your voices heard in the halls of Congress as well as the backrooms of the nation’s rail carriers.

In freight negotiations, Luke Edington and his fellow officers at GC-953, as well as Rick Lee and his officers at GO-049 have leveraged gains on their respective properties into tentative agreements before the membership. GC-953’s agreement preserves the conductor position on Union Pacific and the carrier has withdrawn its nomadic “expediter” plan. GO-049 has achieved for the first time the chance for paid sick leave among T&E employees. I applaud their diligence in working to get these tentative agreements before our members and look forward to seeing other carriers follow suit in crafting similar on-property contracts.

Please continue to keep yourself safe and watch out for your brothers and sisters in your crew base. We will be remembered not for our career accomplishments but for how well we serve as one another’s keeper in trying times like the present.

Fraternally,

Jeremy R. Ferguson
President, Transportation Division

Agreement with SMART-TD provides greater flexibility for railroad, improves service for customers and enhances quality of life for employees 

OMAHA, Neb., (March 25, 2023) — Union Pacific has reached a tentative crew consist agreement with General Committee 953, part of its largest union, The International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers — Transportation Division (SMART-TD). 

The proposed agreement makes no changes to the current conductor position staffing each train as part of a two-person crew, provides long term job protection to current employees and gives the railroad greater flexibility to deploy brake or switch persons to work either in the yard or outside the yard. The proposed agreement, if ratified, closes Union Pacific’s current Section 6 Notice to redeploy Conductors on this committee.

“We are pleased that Union Pacific is focusing on quality of life for our conductor workforce,” said Jeremy Ferguson, president of SMART-TD. “Along with the scheduling enhancements, which were part of last year’s national agreements, we have an opportunity to positively impact our conductors by giving them fixed days off and greater certainty about their weekly assignments.”

“This agreement with SMART-TD reflects Union Pacific’s commitment to enhance the quality of life for our employees through predictable, scheduled shift work while giving us greater scheduling flexibility that will also improve customer service,” said Beth Whited, executive vice president – Sustainability and Strategy and CHRO. “We are working to finalize the contract details as quickly as possible.”


ABOUT UNION PACIFIC

Union Pacific (NYSE: UNP) delivers the goods families and businesses use every day with safe, reliable and efficient service. Operating in 23 western states, the company connects its customers and communities to the global economy. Trains are the most environmentally responsible way to move freight, helping Union Pacific protect future generations. More information about Union Pacific is available at www.up.com.

About SMART-TD

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 www.smart-union.org.



SMART Transportation Division President Jeremy Ferguson appeared with U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown in Cleveland on Monday morning to discuss the bipartisan Railway Safety Act of 2023 as momentum for legislative action on railroad safety continues to build on Capitol Hill.

Sen. Brown and fellow Sen. J.D. Vance of Ohio, Pennsylvania Sens. Bob Casey and John Fetterman and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and Sen. Josh Hawley all are initial sponsors of the bill introduced March 1 intended to counter the negative impact Precision Scheduled Railroading (PSR) has had on public and worker safety.

Sen. Brown started off the press conference by discussing how the rail industry has gotten itself into its current state of disrepair. He came out of the gates dropping uncomfortable realities such as, “Here’s the story. The rail lobbyists have fought against rail safety for a hundred years.”  

Brown went on to lay out a list of parallels he sees between the current scenarios in the rail and banking industries. “When I first heard about Silicon Valley Bank, the first thing I thought was this is the same story. Corporate lobbyists with banks and railroads for 100 years have fought for weaker rules, weaker safety requirements. That’s what Norfolk Southern and the rail companies do. They lobby Congress. They too often get their way with the railroad’s regulators, and we see trains that derail much more frequently.” 

He went on to say, “We know what we need to do. That’s why I’ve introduced bipartisan legislation with my colleague, the new senator from Ohio. (Senator J.D. Vance) We want to address the number of (operators) on this train. The railroads, believe it or not, want a two- or three-mile train with 150 or 200 cars, with only one engineer on that train with no conductor. One engineer to drive a train that’s two to two and a half miles long with 150 to 200 cars. That makes no sense for the public interest.” 

SMART Transportation Division President Jeremy Ferguson addresses the attendees at the press conference Monday, March 20, in Cleveland, Ohio.

Following Sen. Brown, SMART-TD President Jeremy Ferguson made a statement of support for the bill as well as his vision for the future of the rail industry.  

“Sen. Brown has seen firsthand what the devastation looks like when we let profits dictate the safest course of action to take when moving America’s freight by rail,” President Ferguson said. “We look forward to working tirelessly with Sen. Brown and his team to realize his vision for a safer and stronger rail industry. This bill offers a chance for the nation to require the highly profitable rail corporations to take rational measures to get the industry to do what it’s designated to do. Which is move freight through our nation safely and efficiently.” 

Ferguson then spoke directly to those in power, saying, “We owe it to the people of East Palestine, Ohio, and to all the communities that have railroad tracks running through them to have the members of Congress do the right thing. Take back control of our nation’s supply chain from Wall Street’s profit-at-any-cost mentality.” 

President Ferguson rounded out his public statement offering this endorsement for the Railway Safety Act of 2023. “This bill has the potential to put safe operations into its rightful place as the gold standard for railroading, and not what the next quarterly report can bring.” 

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown and SMART-TD President Jeremy Ferguson shake hands following the press event Monday, March 20, in Cleveland Ohio.

This statement summed up what rail labor has been saying since Hunter Harrison brought PSR to CSX in 2017. Our safety and our ability to provide a reasonable work-life balance for our loved ones does matter. The time is now to end the industry’s experiment with PSR and get back to safe, sensible and efficient railroading that preserves the safety of general public and of worker alike.  

SMART-TD is very grateful to Sens. Brown, Vance and their colleagues who have sponsored this legislation for their leadership. We also are appreciative for the opportunity to make SMART-TD part of the discussion. The light they have shed on our issues and the amplification of our concerns has been incredibly helpful in our fight against PSR. 

Brown plans additional appearances around the state this week to discuss the legislation. The U.S. Senate Commerce Committee will be holding a hearing March 22 on “Improving Rail Safety in Response to the East Palestine Derailment.”  The hearing will start at approximately 10:45 am ET, following a 10 a.m. mark-up.

SMART-TD Ohio State Legislative Director Clyde Whitaker will be among those testifying at the hearing along with Jennifer Homendy, chair of the National Transportation Safety Board, a local first-responder from East Palestine and two carrier representatives.