Vice President Kamala Harris visited the SMART Local 17 union hall in Boston on Wednesday, November 2, emphasizing the work SMART members will perform as part of the Biden administration’s push to lower energy costs. Harris announced a variety of steps the administration will take – part of the Inflation Reduction Act – to help working families stay warm in the winter and cool in the summer; many of which will create union jobs manufacturing, retrofitting and installing energy efficiency equipment.

The vice president was introduced by SM Local 17 member Shamaiah Turner, who proudly represented our union and the many boundary-breaking women and people of color in the union trades.

“The Inflation Reduction Act … pushes the boundaries of what’s possible in terms of providing good jobs and a sustainable way to address the climate crisis,” Turner explained.

“Shamaiah, you represent the heart and soul of Local 17,” Harris said upon taking the stage. “Thank you for that introduction and all that you have done – and all that you have left to do.”

Local 17 member Shamaiah Turner introduced the vice president.

After thanking Local 17 sheet metal workers for their work building our nation, Harris outlined the Biden administration’s aim to “create millions of good-paying union jobs, to protect workers’ rights, to expand American manufacturing and to lower costs for American families.”

“One of the best ways a family can reduce the energy bill is to make their home more energy efficient. But here’s the challenge,” Harris added. “For many homeowners, energy efficiency upgrades are expensive. … And that is why we are investing $300 million right here in Massachusetts, and $13 billion nationwide, to help families upgrade their homes and to lower their monthly energy bills.”

As part of the White House’s plan to lower energy prices, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is providing $4.5 billion in assistance to help cut heating costs for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), helping families make necessary repairs and upgrades to their homes to increase energy efficiency. Additionally, the Department of Energy will allocate $9 billion in funding from the Inflation Reduction Act to support up to 1.6 million households nationwide in upgrading their homes to decrease energy bills, including by installing heating pumps – efficient technology that can heat and cool homes and buildings using half or a third of the energy used by traditional heating systems. Importantly, Harris noted, the labor standards included in the funding incentivize the use of skilled, certified workers to perform such upgrades.

“These investments will also create jobs. Jobs for electricians, who do the residential wiring. Jobs for laborers, who install energy efficient windows and doors. Jobs for sheet metal workers, who build and install electric heat pumps. Jobs for union workers who will be trained right here in this building.”

In a fact sheet released ahead of the event, the White House specifically directed stakeholders to – a resource that enables interested parties to find skilled, certified SMART workers and SMACNA contractors for their building needs. The administration also announced its intention to designate funding for workforce development and training, helping local communities and unions like SMART expand access to good, union jobs.

Richard Deiser, a former Bus Department director and union vice president, died Feb. 28. He was 79 years old.

Richard Deiser, a former Bus Department vice president, passed away Feb. 28 at age 79.

“Rich was a great union brother who will be sorely missed by those who had the pleasure to work with him,” SMART Transportation Division Vice President Calvin Studivant said. “We extend our deepest and heartfelt condolences to his wife and kids as well as all his loved ones.”

Deiser, of Dumont, N.J., was born July 2, 1940, in Bronx, N.Y. After high school, he joined the U.S. Air Force and served for eight years while also attending the University of Maryland at the same time, taking extension courses.

After his discharge from the service, he worked for many years with Trans World Airlines in the air freight, meteorology and crew scheduling departments.

He began his career as a bus operator with Rockland Coaches in 1983. Immediately active in the affairs of his local, Deiser was appointed shop steward in 1985 and elected secretary in 1988. In 1998 he was elected as general chairperson of Local 1558, Bergenfield, N.J. He was re-elected three times to that position and also attained the offices of delegate and legislative representative.

After serving for six years as alternate vice president-bus-East, Deiser was elevated to vice president and director of the Bus Department in July 2009.

He served in that capacity until his retirement in 2011.

Brother Deiser is survived by his wife of 56 years, three children, five grandchildren, a great-grandson and a number of brothers and sisters.

Family and friends are welcome to celebrate Richard’s life from 2 to 4 and 7 to 9 p.m. at Frech-McKnight Funeral Home, 161 Washington Ave., Dumont, NJ 07628. A funeral Mass is scheduled for 11 a.m. Tuesday, March 3 at St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church in Dumont. Donations in Deiser’s memory and in lieu of flowers may be made to the Wounded Warrior Project, P.O. Box 758516, Topeka, KS 66675-8516.

SMART Transportation Division expresses its condolences to Brother Deiser’s family, friends and his brothers and sisters out of Local 1558.

Read the full obituary.

John D. Whitaker III has been elevated to vice president from alternate vice president after Vice President David B. Wier retired April 1.


Whitaker’s railroad career began in 1997 when he hired out as a conductor with CSX Transportation. In 2002, he was certified as an engineer. In that same year, Whitaker decided to take a more active role in his local and was elected to the position of local chairperson for engineers for Local 1106 in Rocky Mount, N.C.
After gaining four years of experience as local chairperson, he ran for the office of vice general chairperson for CSX General Committee of Adjustment GO-851 and was elected effective January 2006. Whitaker maintained that position through March 2011, at which time he was elected general chairperson for GO-851. In October 2013, Whitaker was appointed as an alternate to the executive board and was elected at the 2014 convention to another term. In December 2014, he was elevated to alternate vice president. He also serves on the board of the SMART TD Association of General Chairpersons (Dist. 1).
SMART TD welcomes Whitaker to his new position and looks forward to working with him in this capacity.
Wier began his railroad career in 1974 as a trainman for TRRA of St. Louis. He later became an engineer.

A member of Local 469 in Granite City, Ill., Wier was elected three times by acclamation as general chairperson of G0-919. As general chairperson, he successfully negotiated yard trip rates on the TRRA and led the UTU in two successful representation elections on the TRRA of St. Louis and Manufacturers Railway.
In 2003, Wier was elected to the position of first alternate vice president east. At the 2007, 2001 and 2014 conventions he was elected to the position of vice president. Wier has also served on the board of directors since 2009 and served on the SMART General Executive Council.
He is most well known for his dedication in successfully negotiating more than 50 agreements, a lot of which have been designed to bridge the gap between pre- and post-85 members.
SMART TD thanks Wier for his service to the union and wishes him a long, happy and healthy retirement.

John Lesniewski, vice president and successor president of the Transportation Division of the International Association of Sheet Metal Air, Rail and Transportation Workers, has retired, effective July 1, 2018.
John Lesniewski
Lesniewski, a member of Chicago Local 1534, started his railroad career on the Baltimore and Ohio Chicago Terminal Railroad (CSXT) on Oct. 29, 1972. After holding local offices with the then-United Transportation Union (UTU), Lesniewski was elected local chairperson in 1982 and was re-elected by acclamation in 1986, 1990, 1994 and 1998, serving for more than 16 years. He also served as the local’s delegate at UTU conventions in 1987, 1991, 1995, 1999 and 2003.
“It has been my privilege and pleasure to serve the membership as an officer of our great Union for almost 36 of my 46 years of railroad service. My sincere thanks to all of the Union members, officers and staff who have supported me along the way,” Lesniewski said. “I will never forget you.”
In 1995, Lesniewski was elected part-time secretary of the CSXT/B&O General Committee (GO-049) after 26 years as a trainman and 16 years as a part-time representative. He was elected by acclamation to a full-time position as first vice general chairperson in 1999 and re-elected to that position in 2003. Upon the retirement of former General Chairperson J. T. Reed on July 1, 2004, Lesniewski was elected by acclamation as general chairperson on the former B&O CSXT property and then re-elected for successive terms by acclamation in 2007 and 2011.
On Feb. 28, 2011, Lesniewski was elected as second alternate vice president-East by the UTU board of directors and was subsequently elected, overwhelmingly, as a full vice president by delegates at the 2011 UTU Convention and re-elected to the position at the SMART TD convention in 2014. At the 2014 convention, he was also elected “successor president” by the delegates. He also served as general vice president on the General Executive Council of SMART.
Lesniewski served on the National Negotiating Committee for the July 1, 2008, National Mediation Agreement under both former-Presidents P. C. Thompson and M. B. Futhey Jr. He also served on the 2011 National Negotiating Committee, having been appointed by Futhey in December 2009. He served on his third National Negotiating Committee starting in 2015, having been appointed by Transportation Division President John Previsich, which resulted in the National Rail Agreement that was ratified Dec. 1, 2017.
“As I step aside, I encourage younger members to get involved in the labor movement to protect their own future as well as the future of their co-workers,” Lesniewski said. “Being a Union representative, in any capacity, is a prodigious source of personal satisfaction if it is undertaken for the correct purpose of making a difference by helping and protecting our membership.
“As an added bonus, within our Union, you end up working with a dedicated group of consummate professionals as I have.”
President Previsich commented: “I have had the pleasure of working with Brother Lesniewski during my entire career as a nationally elected officer. His professionalism and expertise are at the highest level and his integrity and commitment are confirmed by all who know him. John has been a tremendous asset to our union in all respects and a close and dear friend to me personally. It is my distinct honor to wish John and his wife, Gail, a long, healthy and prosperous retirement.”
John and Gail have been married for 45 years and reside in Noblesville, Ind. They have four children, three of whom are married, and eight grandchildren.
The vacancy created by Lesniewski’s retirement will be filled by the elevation of Alternate Vice President Brent Leonard, effective July 1.
Leonard, 45, has served as SMART TD alternate vice president since Jan. 1, 2013. He was elevated to the position by the Board of Directors on Dec. 28, 2012, and was re-elected to the position in 2014.
Brent Leonard
A member of Local 202 in Denver, Leonard started railroading in 1997 on Union Pacific as a conductor/switchman. He was promoted to engineer in 1998 and was elected local chairperson in 2001. He was elected vice general chairperson of his general committee, GO-953, in 2003; senior vice general chairperson in 2007 and general chairperson in 2011. GO-953 represents about 4,000 members and is one of the largest general committees in SMART TD. 
As general chairperson, Leonard represented Union Pacific employees encompassing 10 states as well as four regional short-line railroads representing both operating and non-operating crafts. Leonard negotiated several first-of-their-kind agreements providing significant pay increases, improvements to his members’ quality of life and predictive time off.
Leonard has filled past roles of chairman of Union Pacific Railroad Employee Health Systems (UPREHS), chairman of the District 1 General Chairpersons’ Association and has served in various leadership positions for the Union Pacific General Chairpersons’ Association.
Leonard and his wife live in Topeka, Kan., and have two daughters.

Former four-term UTU International Vice President James “Jim” M. Hicks, of Nortonville, Ky., died March 29 at Baptist Health Hospital. He was 96.

Hicks was local chairperson of Local 904, Evansville, Ind., for 11 years before election in 1963 as general chairperson on Louisville & Nashville Railway (now part of CSX). He was elected alternate vice president of UTU predecessor Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen in 1968 and re-elected in 1971 and 1975 during UTU conventions. He first took office as an International vice president in 1976. Hicks also served as manager of the UTU Field Service Department from 1981 to 1983. He retired in 1990.
He was preceded in death by his wife of 68 years, Ruth.
He is survived by his two sons, Corkie (Lois) Hicks of London, Ky., and Don (Shirley) Hicks of Owensboro.
In lieu of flowers the family request donations be made to the Shriners Hospital for Children, mail to Rizpah Temple 3300 Hanson Rd. Madisonville, KY 42431.
A link to the full obituary is here.


Hilton Durward “Dur” Masters, 86, of Newark, Ohio, unexpectedly died July 6, 2017, at his home.
Masters was a veteran of the U.S. Air Force where he served in occupied Germany following WWII. Before his retirement, he worked in the railroad industry for 42 years. He hired out with B&O Railroad as a conductor/brakeman. Before the former UTU was formed, Masters served as a local chairperson for the Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen (one of the four UTU predecessor unions). He was a member of UTU Local 404 located in Newark, Ohio. Under the UTU, he served as general chairperson for B&O/CSX GO 49. After serving as general chairperson, Masters was elected to the executive board, before he was elected to the position of international vice president at the 1983 and 1987 conventions.
Masters was also a member of the UTU/SMART TD Alumni Association, American Legion Post #85 and VFW Post #1060. An avid sports fan, he was a fan of the Ohio State Buckeyes, Cleveland Browns and Cleveland Indians.
Masters is survived by his daughter, Susan (Tim) Moore; grandsons, Brian Moore, Tyler (Natasha) Moore; great grandson, Jackson Moore; and several nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents, Hilton Masters and Dorothy (Corder) Masters-Zipperer; wife, Ruth Marie (Stough) Masters; and brothers, William Dwayne Masters and Fred Zipperer.
Memorial contributions may be made to the American Heart Association, Great Rivers Affiliate, P.O. Box 15120, Chicago, IL 60693.
Click here to leave condolences for the family.

Bruce Wigent

Bruce Robert Wigent, 73, of Prescott, Wis., died Wednesday, May 25 at United Hospital.
A member of Local 1709 in Pontiac, Mich., Wigent hired out as a switchman on the Grand Trunk Western Railroad in December 1964. He was first elected as a local officer in 1970 and then served as general chairperson of GO 377. Wigent was elected as a UTU International Vice President at the 1987 UTU quadrennial convention. He was re-elected to the position at the 1991, 1995, 1999 and 2003 conventions. Wigent retired from the position in 2007.
As a vice president, he was instrumental in contract negotiations with SEPTA and also led a strike on the Soo Line in 1994. Wigent wholeheartedly believed in the power of unions and the right of the worker to organize, as evidenced in this 2009 video Wigent made supporting the Employee Free Choice Act.
A time of remembrance and Masonic Service is being held at 11:00 a.m., Wednesday, May 31 at the Old Ptacek’s Store Event Center, 1449 Orrin Road, Prescott, WI 54021. A visitation will be held one hour prior to services. Interment will be at Pine Glen Cemetery in Prescott.
Click here to leave condolences for the family.