SMART Transportation Division’s Indiana State Legislative Board’s Executive Committee announced this week that it has unanimously voted to support U.S. Sen. Mike Braun’s run for governor in Indiana. This is no surprise to railroaders, who have followed Braun’s advocacy for our issues in Washington.

SMART-TD has endorsed U.S. Sen. Mike Braun in the Indiana governor’s race.

Sen. Mike Braun stands with us. He has proven this through his actions, not just his words. Now is our opportunity to stand with him. Braun has proven himself worthy of SMART-TD’s support in Indiana’s primary election May 7, as well as in the general election this November. Please consider giving his campaign your personal support as well.

On Capitol Hill, Sen. Braun has been a champion of railroad labor, supporting multiple bills that keep our men and women safe, paid, and respected. He has reached across the political aisle and worked with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders to get all railroad employees paid sick days.

Braun stood up for us. He pushed for us to get the dignity of paid sick leave before the press had made it a national issue and before any of the carriers had begun to consider it as an option. He and Sanders made our sick leave a national issue, and less than two years later, 86% of us now work under agreements that include the paid sick days Sen. Braun envisioned.

As if that were not enough reason for this union and all of rail labor to rally around him, Sen. Braun also co-sponsored the Railroad Employee Equity and Fairness (REEF) Act and the Railway Safety Act, which seeks to codify two-person crews into federal law and provide us with many other common-sense safety initiatives, like regulating defect detectors and limiting train length.

“The decision to endorse Mike Braun for governor was an easy one to make. It is based on one of our core values — we support those who support us! Mike Braun is a consistent supporter of rail safety and rail workers. We look forward to joining with Mike Braun in 2025 to continue the work of strengthening rail safety here in Indiana at the state capitol.”
— Indiana SLD K.O. Edwards

In his official endorsement, SMART-TD Indiana State Legislative Director Kenny Edwards said: “The decision to endorse Mike Braun for governor was an easy one to make. It is based on one of our core values — we support those who support us! Mike Braun is a consistent supporter of rail safety and rail workers. We look forward to joining with Mike Braun in 2025 to continue the work of strengthening rail safety here in Indiana at the state capitol.”

SMART Transportation Division President Jeremy Ferguson and Adam West, secretary and treasurer of SMART-TD Local 744 in Lafayette, Ind., served as speakers during a press conference Feb. 9 demanding that rail companies provide seven days of paid sick leave to workers organized by U.S. Sens. Bernie Sanders and Mike Braun.

Both senators were among a majority that supported a sick leave measure in December that was blocked by filibuster.

“We are here today to send a very strong message to the CEOs in the rail industry, and that is that the American people are sick and tired of the type of corporate greed we are seeing in that industry,” Sanders, a Vermont independent who spearheaded support for a bill guaranteeing paid sick time. “At a time of record-breaking profits, that industry can and must guarantee at least seven paid sick days to every rail worker in America. In the year 2023, that’s not a whole lot to ask.”

Indiana Republican Sen. Braun framed it as a moral, correct and common-sense choice for business owners to take care of employees, treat them like family and help in worker retention.

“When I heard you didn’t have a guaranteed sick day, I wondered how could you get by with that in this day and age? You don’t know when you’re going to get sick,” Braun said. “It’s going to be an issue on keeping employees long-term.”

“Most of this stuff should be natural, and if you do it, it’s in the best interest of your company, long term.”

Local 744’s Adam West speaks at the press conference on Capitol Hill on Feb. 9.

Adam West of Local 744, the S&T out of Lafayette, Ind., and a 18-year conductor/engineer, stated the situation for workers in the operating crafts very plainly.

“When they get sick, they have to make a decision,” between working sick or facing the attendance policy of their carrier,” West said. “You are not going to get the preventive health care you need to stay healthy.”

President Ferguson thanked both senators for their ongoing support during last year’s contract impasse.

“This is a fight that needs to continue, and it is a challenge for all of us union leaders with the railroads, both freight and passenger because historically nobody has had paid sick leave,” President Ferguson said.

SMART-TD President Jeremy Ferguson addresses the press conference about paid rail labor sick time on Feb. 9.

Six Class I railroads last year spent $20 billion (not including CSX) on buybacks and dividends — $5 billion more than pay and benefits for the entire rail workforce, Sanders said. Plus, rail CEOs made $175 million in three years in a period after cutting 30 percent of its workforce while they implemented Precision Scheduled Railroading.

“They are doing extremely well and what did they do with those record-breaking profits? Did they spend it on making the rail industry safer? No they did not do that.  Did they spend that money on improving the horrendous working conditions today in the rail industry? No they didn’t do that,” Sanders said.

Watch highlights from the press conference in episode six of SMART News.

Harsh attendance policies put in place to force workers to do more with less, a key component of Precision Scheduled Railroad remain intact and have not yet been dismantled.

“Everybody’s seen how difficult it was for our operating employees to have scheduled days off, period,” President Ferguson said. “That is what we’re up against, so to continue now that the national contract dispute behind us, to see thatenergy still coming from our senators, still behind rail labor, not forgetting how bad it was last year … we are very, very thankful for that.”  

“People around the countries are seeing what these workers have to go through. We surely will bring legislation to the floor.”

Sanders, chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, sent a letter Feb. 8 to the CEOs of six Class I rail CEOs urging them to follow the lead of CSX, which made inroads to providing paid sick time to a limited group of 5,000 workers. The White House and DOT are also involved in ongoing talks with rail executives.

“I have news for executives in the rail industry,” Sanders said. “If they think that those of us in Congress who voted for seven paid sick days for workers are going to forget this issue, they got it wrong.”

Also speaking was President Greg Regan of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO, BMWED President Tony Cardwell, BRS Vice President Doug VanderJagt, BLET Vice President Vince Verna, and National Association of Chemical Distributors President Eric Byer.

WASHINGTON, Feb. 7 – SMART Transportation Division leadership as well as officers from the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen, the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes and the AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department will join U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), chairman of the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, and U.S. Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.) at 1:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 9, to demand companies provide rail workers with at least seven paid sick days.

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders addresses a Rail Solidarity rally organized by SMART-TD on Capitol Hill in December.

Sanders led the effort late last year to pass an amendment to guarantee paid sick days to rail workers. The amendment, which passed the House but failed in the Senate, received the votes of every Senate Democrat but one, as well as six Republicans. Braun voted for the amendment.

Sanders also appeared at a Washington, D.C. solidarity rally attended by members of the SMART-TD, other rail labor groups and supporters.

Following the vote, Sanders and more than 70 of his colleagues sent a letter to President Biden urging his administration to take action to guarantee paid sick days for rail workers.

The press conference comes as rail companies announce record earnings during quarterly earnings calls. Last year, the top railroads made over $26 billion in profits and paid their wealthy shareholders over $25 billion in stock buybacks and dividends. They spent 184 percent more on returns to their shareholders than what they spent on their workers’ wages and benefits. Guaranteeing seven paid sick days to rail workers would cost the industry just $321 million dollars – less than 1.2 percent of profits in a single year. Rail companies have eliminated 30 percent of their workforce over the last six years.

A representative from the the National Association of Chemical Distributors also is scheduled to appear.

What: Sanders and Braun Hold Press Conference with Rail Workers
When: Thursday, Feb. 9, 1:30 p.m. ET
Where: Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, 430 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Note: The event will also be livestreamed at and