Any of us who has had a conversation in a crew room, locker room or a locomotive about politics knows that there is a 50% chance that things could get awkward in a way that’ll take more than a few minutes to clear the air. When in a 10-square-foot metal box with another alpha personality for 12 hours and you have another 12 hours to look forward to the next day, we all know that it is good practice to avoid getting into the vortex of politics or religion.
Most of us have learned that lesson the hard way and have some colleagues we don’t like working with because of it. This is symptomatic of the fact that politics has no place in a bus garage or in railroading. What should matter on the job (as well as when transportation issues are discussed on Capitol Hill) are safety, common sense and getting the job done.
Your union agrees with you on this topic 100%. Our true north is keeping our members safe and properly compensated for the essential role they have in this nation’s economy. As part of our mission to accomplish these two goals, we keep as close an eye on Congress and the state legislatures as bus operators keep on traffic signals and pedestrians and railroaders keep on the track ahead.
Unlike some unions that simply choose a party and blindly support the candidates in that party, SMART-TD is laser-focused on analyzing candidates’ voting histories more than their campaign promises when we choose to endorse in any race from City Council to the presidency. The conclusion of this research is often that the Democratic candidate for a given office is more in line with the values and goals of SMART-TD on rail, bus and transit issues, but that’s NOT always the case. Just like you take a serious approach to your daily tasks on the job, our union’s national and state legislative teams do the same.
The process of breaking down each race is done pragmatically and without predetermined outcomes. As a result, a study our union’s political consultant presented at SMART’s most-recent leadership meeting showed that our Political Action Committee, (PAC) had a breakdown of 80% donations to Democrats and 20% to Republicans. As a frame of reference, our closest rail labor partner, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, had a ratio of 96% Democratic support to only 4% Republican in the same timeframe.
As it turns out, there is no political party with a monopoly on common sense or a focus on doing the right thing by transportation workers, the nation’s economy or the safety of the communities we live and work in. Co-author of the Railway Safety Act of 2023, U.S. Sen. J.D. Vance (R-OH) recently said in The Hill, (a D.C. newspaper) “These rail lines pass frequently through Republican areas, small towns with a lot of Republican voters. How can we look them in the eye and say, we’re doing a good job by you? If we choose the railroads over their own interests, we can’t.” While the words align with what our union fights for daily, it is the fact that he recognizes the need for change in rail safety and introduced the legislation that will hold the most weight when considering whether to endorse Vance for a new term when the time comes.
Missouri U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley is a polarizing national figure. However, he was one of just a half-dozen Republicans in the Senate who voted to give seven days of paid sick leave to all railroad employees in late 2022. He also supports the bipartisan Railway Safety Act of 2023 that Vance and his fellow Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown introduced. Last week, Hawley signed on as a cosponsor to the Railroad Employee Equity and Fairness (REEF) Act to stop the practice of targeted federal taxes on our brothers and sisters who are furloughed or can’t work because of a medical disability. He has stood with SMART-TD members on these three rail issues that hit close to home for a large segment of our membership. When he signed on as a cosponsor to the REEF Act, our union emailed the news to all our members in Missouri along with a prewritten thank you to send to the senator’s office.
Unlike some other unions, our union is always open to supporting legislators whose prime motivation is our people — looking out for your safety and that of the communities where you live and work.
Please keep this fact in mind when considering whether to donate to SMART-TD’s PAC and also when you consider what union you should belong to in the first place.
Additionally, this is a good perspective to keep in mind when SMART-TD does endorse a candidate in a political race. There is no need for skepticism. If you hear any chatter that SMART-TD’s endorsements are one-sided or biased, that is 100% correct. We are unapologetically on the side of YOU and YOUR LOVED ONES who rely on you.
SMART-TD is proud to be known for this bias and not any obsession with partisanship.