When the state of New Mexico comes to mind, we often think of the Carlsbad Caverns, uniquely rugged landscapes and exotic wildlife. Soon it may also conjure up thoughts of solid railroad safety and landmark two-person crew laws.

On Feb. 20, New Mexico’s state house chamber, known as the “Round House,” was full of debate and discussion about the state of modern railroads. Watching the proceedings felt on some level like sitting in a crewroom listening to coworkers argue. Many of the representatives sounded like the new guys every crew base has who try to argue their point, even though you can tell they are still working out the rough spots in their understanding of railroad terminology. Other reps offered the time-tested “old head” line of “This is how it’s always been done.”

Unlike those crewroom debates, the one in the Round House had the potential to bring about tangible results.

The weight of the outcome of the argument made it absolutely critical that SMART Transportation Division had a role in this debate. Luckily for all involved, State Legislative Director (SLD) Don Gallegos was right in the middle. At the right-hand side of Rep. Eliseo Alcon who was HB 105’s primary sponsor, Gallegos shepherded the conversation through to a successful conclusion.

As the House minority leader and the minority whip did an excellent job of playing the role of trainmaster in this crew room debate, they tried their best to paint Rep. Alcon into corner after corner in an effort to muddy the water on the bill’s intention and scope. They tried to make the bill too complex to stand a chance in the Senate by including verbiage on passenger rail and also tried to slow down the bill’s momentum by offering to take it back to the drawing board and work with the bill sponsor to strengthen the language.

In short, they put on a clinic on how to execute the railroad lobbyist playbook to subvert the common-sense inherent in HB 105. Yet at the end of the conversation, Rep Alcon and SLD Gallegos came out with a win — a 43-25 vote in favor with two representatives opting to pass on voting,

After passing through the House with such remarkable bipartisan support, the bill was then sent to New Mexico’s Senate Transportation Committee where it will be taken up in the near future. For his part in the progression of the bill, SLD Gallegos said, “This is further than our two-person crew legislations have gotten in the past. We are all very excited at the prospect of bringing a heightened level of safety to the communities of New Mexico as well as job security to our state’s railroad professionals.”

SMART-TD is proud of the progress in New Mexico and looks forward to seeing HB 105 progress. This is yet another example of SMART-TD’s National Legislative Department’s positive momentum.

New Mexico’s progress is a great illustration of the efforts that are going on nationwide to defend our members from the profit-at-all-costs business model of Precision Scheduled Railroading.

N.Y. Governor Kathy Hochul

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

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

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

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

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

A mobilization of SMART members urging the passage of a state two-person crew bill in Maryland made their voices heard on Thursday (Feb. 7).
The bill, which requires two crew members on freight rail trains, was introduced by Delegate Dana Stein, who represents Maryland’s District 11.
“I want to personally thank the sponsor, who did an excellent job introducing the legislation and explaining in detail the need for Maryland to pass this very important rail safety legislation, and the members from both Sheet Metal and Transportation Division who came to the hearing in support for the bill and in a show of solidarity,” said Maryland State Legislative Director Larry Kasecamp. “On to the Senate we go!”
Testimony from Kasecamp, SMART TD Designated Legal Counsel Matt Darby, the submission of more than a dozen letters of support from affiliated unions by Donna Edwards, president of the Maryland State & D.C. AFL-CIO, and additional testimony from first responders, local elected officials and Local 631 Legislative Representative Tom Cahill helped to compel the committee.

SMART Sheet Metal and Transportation Division members and other supporters showed up to advocate for HB-66, the state’s two-person crew bill, Feb. 7. Center is Md. SLD Larry Kasecamp (blue striped tie); at Kasecamp’s right is the sponsor of the bill – Md. Delegate Dana Stein (Dist. 11); DLC Matt Darby; and Donna Edwards – president of MD State & D.C. AFL-CIO.

The state of Colorado is one step closer to having a two-person crew law on the books. After a third reading of House Bill 1034 (HB19-1034), a vote was taken on the house floor Feb. 5, and the bill passed with a vote of 39 – 23.
“We are glad the Colorado House of Representatives care about railroad worker safety and community safety for the citizens of the state,” Colorado State Legislative Director Carl Smith said. “We are confident that the state Senate will hold the same beliefs.”
On Jan. 9, the Colorado State Legislative Board released the results of a survey conducted by DFM Research on behalf of SMART TD showing that Coloradans held strong support for two-person crews. The survey, conducted Jan. 2 – 5, 2019, asked 550 random Colorado residents about issues centered on railroad safety. The results showed that 77 percent of Coloradans said that they would vote in favor of two-person crews if given the chance.
Click here to follow the progress of HB19-1034.

SMART TD  is sharing a recent study released by the Midwest Economic Policy Institute at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, which highlights the economic impact of declining unionization over the past decades across states in the Midwest.
The study found that as unionization declines, wealth inequality between workers and businesses continues to widen particularly in states that have passed so-called “right-to-work” laws (i.e. Michigan, Wisconsin, etc.).
The real goal of “Right-to-Work” is to lower wages for workers and divert that money to the owners and upper management of the company.
Click HERE for more information about the study.
Strength in numbers is what sustains our union and is the only thing that can turn the tide.
Your voice matters, so please take a minute to send a message to your representatives in Congress.
Click here to send your message in opposition of HR 785, the National Right to Work (FOR LESS) act; and in support of HR 233, The Safe Freight Act, that calls for two-person crews on all freight trains.

The Portland Press Herald reported that as amphibious vehicles (duck boats), designed to traverse land and water, have increased in popularity over the years, so has the number of accidents and fatalities involving these complicated vehicles.  Advocates for increased safety measures are calling for mandated two-person crews on all duck boats.  Some amphibious vehicle companies have voluntarily  instated policies that mandate two-person crews at all times.  Since rail carriers can’t be counted on to do the same, we need to continue all efforts to pass HR 233.
Read the complete article here.
Take just a couple of minutes to contact your legislator in support of HR 233 – The Safe Freight Act, that includes a two-person crew mandate, by clicking here. 

ABC News.com reported that following last week’s deadly New Jersey Transit crash in Hoboken that killed a woman standing on the platform and injured more than 100 commuters, NJT announced a new mandate that requires the presence of both the engineer and a conductor during the final phase of the commute, when the trains are pulling into NJT’s Hoboken or Atlantic City stations.  Read the complete article here.
Contact your elected officials in support of two-person crew legislation, through the SMART TD Legislative Action Center.

Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) began the task of gathering evidence to determine the cause of yesterday morning’s deadly New Jersey Transit crash that injured 114 and killed a woman who was standing on the platform at the busy hub in Hoboken, New Jersey. According to a CNN report, NTSB officials have retrieved the train’s event recorder and will soon interview engineer Thomas Gallagher, who was treated and released from the hospital yesterday. The sharp increase in railway accidents underscores the need to hasten implementation of  Positive Train Control (PTC) systems and mandated two-person crews on all trains.  Read the latest article from CNN, here. 
Photo courtesy of CNN.com.

Add this occurrence to thousands just like it – examples of why two crew members are absolutely necessary to safely operate a locomotive.  In a recent news story from NBC Montana, both crew members worked to disengage cargo cars, effectively stopping the fire from spreading and averting a potential disaster. No injuries were reported. Read the complete story here.

By National Legislative Director John Risch

Recently, Republican Congressman Louie Gohmert of Texas – one of the most conservative members of the U.S. House of Representatives – cosponsored our two-person crew legislation, H.R. 1763, the Safe Freight Act. This show of support follows cosponsorship from Congressman Trent Franks of Arizona, a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus. Both are considered among the most conservative members of Congress. Why did Rep. Gohmert sign onto the bill? The simple answer is that one of our members asked him to. General Chairperson Steve Simpson’s office is located near Rep. Gohmert’s, and Steve decided to set up a meeting to engage the Congressman on our issues, including the need for two-person crews on all trains. Steve didn’t shy away because Rep. Gohmert is a conservative Republican; no, Steve’s attitude was that “this is my Congressman, and I will request a meeting.” They talked for more than an hour and Steve convinced this very conservative Republican that the only safe way to operate a train is with a crew of at least two people. Arizona State Director Scott Jones lives in Congressman Franks’ district and decided to set up a meeting with his Congressman. Scott brought along a retired engineer who attends the same church as Congressman Franks and whose children attend bible study taught by the Congressman. These personal connections proved extremely effective as Congressman Franks came out of the meeting as a supporter of the Safe Freight Act and he also became a cosponsor. Last year, one of our bus members, Socorro Cisneros-Hernandez, had an upcoming meeting with Republican Congressman Paul Cook of California and called our office looking for talking points on our legislative priorities. Ms. Cisneros used the information we provided and had a very productive meeting with Congressman Cook, after which he co-sponsored the Safe Freight Act. Most recently, Greg Hynes and I met with another conservative Republican, Ryan Zinke of Montana. After a robust discussion about the two-person crew legislation, Congressman Zinke agreed to sign on as a cosponsor. The lesson from all of these cases is that every member of Congress, regardless of party or ideology, should be viewed as a potential cosponsor of H.R. 1763. Our Washington team will continue to do our part, but when it comes to issues that some members of Congress may not be naturally inclined to support, our members – their constituents – are the ones who can make the most effective case. I am calling on all of you to set up meetings with your Congressional Representatives and ask that they cosponsor H.R. 1763, the Safe Freight Act. We can provide you with handouts and other materials to help. Our recent comments on the FRA’s crew size rule is a good source of information on this issue. Here is the link: https://static.smart-union.org/worksite/PDFs/SMART-TD_BLET_Joint_Comments.pdf If we are going to succeed in passing this bill, we need to be engaged at the local level. Special thanks to Brothers Steve Simpson, Scott Jones and Sister Socorro Cisneros-Hernandez for stepping up to the plate and taking the initiative in getting these new cosponsors. Visit the Legislative Action Center to learn more about the Safe Freight Act and to find out who represents you in congress.