By John Previsich, President, SMART Transportation Division

SMART TD President John Previsich
John Previsich, President, SMART Transportation Division

It is said that two things to never discuss at a family gathering are religion and politics and for the most part that is very good advice. But I’m going to break that rule here–I view my brothers and sisters in the labor movement as family, but I cannot stay silent while the consequences of the upcoming national elections may have such a severe impact on the working men and women of this country.
Let’s look first at our industry – those of us who work in the transportation field are very much affected by decisions made in Washington, D.C. by a number of Federal agencies. Without exception, the people who lead these agencies and have final say over such decisions are appointed by the President of the United States.
For example, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) are entities that have a direct impact on all of us, every day that we go to work. These agencies make the rules that govern our licenses and certifications. They enact the rules and regulations that govern our safety and well-being while working on the job.
Our members in the air and rail industry negotiate their collective bargaining agreements and enforce their contractual rights under the auspices of the National Mediation Board (NMB), while such activities for our bus members are governed by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).
The Surface Transportation Board (STB) has jurisdiction over rail mergers and abandonments. This is the board that decides not only when mergers can happen, but also which line consolidations and which abandonments will occur–and whether labor protection will be imposed as a requirement of the transaction. And 13c labor protective conditions are a requirement of Federal law when Federal funds are used to enhance bus or rail operations.
Retirement, occupational disability, unemployment compensation and sickness benefits for rail workers are governed by the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB). If you’re a railroad worker and you get sick, you receive Railroad Retirement sickness benefits. If you get furloughed, you receive Railroad Retirement furlough benefits. When you are old enough to retire and enjoy the hard-fought and hard-earned retirement that you’re due, that’s through the RRB.
If you are a rail worker injured while working, the Federal Employers’ Liability Act governs the recovery of lost wages and pain and suffering for you and your family.
If you are a rail worker with 20 years of service and are disabled from working in your regular occupation, the RRB will grant you an occupational disability with full retirement benefits. This occupational disability benefit is something unique to the railroad industry. It exists nowhere else and there are people in Congress today, each and every session, that try to take those benefits away from us – including the Republican candidate for Vice President, Mike Pence.
It’s a fact – Mike Pence, governor of Indiana and former Congressman (R-Ind.), voted against labor’s interests 95 percent of the time while in congress. He voted in 2001 against the railroad retirement revisions that gave us full retirement at age 60 with 30 years of service. During his tenure from 2001 to 2013, there was not a single person in congress with a worse labor record than Pence. The Republican nominee for President has stated that he wants to freeze and roll back regulations, including ones that may affect our safety. Mike Pence has a well-documented history of trying to do just that.
It’s a fact – The Republican nominee for President is Donald Trump, a man without any experience in elective office. Some believe that may not be a bad thing, but it forces us to look at the actual record of Trump’s statements and accomplishments to ascertain his fitness for the highest office in the land.
First, let’s look at Trump’s position on coal, an issue that’s very important to our members. Anyone who watched the Republican convention may have noticed the signs in the audience, “Trump digs coal.” But a review of the facts shows that Trump has no credible plan to return the coal business to profitability, a requirement for increased production. The downturn in coal comes from a number of factors connected to global economics and cheaper alternative fuels such as natural gas. While Trump makes empty promises, Democratic Nominee Hillary Clinton is actually meeting with workers and labor leaders in the coal industry to develop strategies to support and assist the impacted workers.
It’s a fact – Now, what about Mr. Trump’s promise to bring manufacturing back to America? Another simple statement without any credible plan for actually accomplishing that objective, so once again we are compelled to look at the record. Here we find that Mr. Trump says that he will bring the jobs back but in the next breath he declared that the reason we’re not competitive in the global market is because America’s wages are too high. And the record also shows that every product with Trump’s name on it is currently manufactured in a low wage foreign country.
It’s a fact – Trump supports a national right-to-work rule. We all know what that means. Workers can freeload. They can have a union represent them, and they don’t have to contribute a nickel. They don’t have to support the union, they don’t have to support the effort, they don’t have to support the cause. They can even work against the union and their fellow workers and still get the benefit of your leadership and your activities in the day-to-day ensuring of agreement compliance and a safe workplace.
In an interview with the Washington Examiner, Trump said he favors states with right-to-work laws because, “it is better for the people to not have to pay union dues if they don’t want to…It gives great flexibility to the companies.”
It’s national right-to-work for less, and nothing more than a Republican-led tactic to take away worker’s rights and bust the unions, because that is exactly what will happen. Unions will weaken, and fade away—the exact intent and design behind right-to-work laws that, if implemented, will result in reduced wages for all workers.
It’s a fact – Trump’s companies have been investigated numerous times by the National Labor Relations Board for unfair labor practices. His companies have been sued by government agencies and his own employees after refusing to pay overtime and benefits rightfully due the employees. He has bankrupted companies to avoid paying contractors who in turn could not afford to pay their employees. He takes pride in not living up to the contracts he signs and has even suggested that is a good tactic for use when he is elected President.
It’s a fact – Presidential appointments impact union workers.
Earlier in this column we discussed the importance of federal agencies to workers in the transportation industry. One need only review the recent history of this labor union and Presidential Emergency Boards to see an example of how Presidential appointees directly impact our members.
On both Long Island Railroad and New Jersey Transit, management came into the most recent rounds of negotiations firm in their positions that there would be zero percent wage increase over many years while imposing draconian changes to health benefits that would force our members to pay more and receive less. Your union refused to entertain such offers and after negotiation and mediation the carriers still refused to budge from their opening positions. The National Mediation Board released the parties, and President Obama appointed a Presidential Emergency Board for each railroad. Those two Boards ruled overwhelmingly in favor of the employees. Both railroads requested a second PEB, with new members appointed by the President. The two new Boards again ruled in favor of the employees and as a result our members are currently enjoying new contracts with industry-standard wage increases and health care benefits.
We are currently in negotiations on a national rail contract with the freight carriers and a system-wide contract with Amtrak, where the carriers have taken a similar position–insignificant wage increases coupled with draconian cuts to our health care benefits. Who would you rather see appoint the next Presidential Emergency Board to decide these contracts–a Democratic President who supports labor or a Republican President who has stated for the record that he believes American workers are overpaid, supports right to work for less and refuses to pay his own employees the compensation to which they are entitled?

This election: A critical moment in history

This Presidential election is a watershed moment in the labor movement and in the history of our country. Make no mistake – the anti-labor Republican agenda is intended to reduce workers’ pay and benefits while improving the “flexibility” of the companies for whom we work. The so-called “flexibility” that Trump admires is just a euphemism for the reduction if not outright elimination of worker’s rights. While “Make America Great Again” means different things to different people, it is clear that Trump’s version is not good for our members.
The facts matter – and we’re going to do everything we can to educate our members, and we want your help. We want you to communicate these facts to your union brothers and sisters, your friends, family, neighbors and acquaintances. Let them know that this is a big deal. Let them know that Trump and Pence will work to take away from our families the hard-fought benefits, protections and securities that our predecessors worked so hard to secure.
Let’s work together to protect our jobs and our families.

Dear Member,

How often have you heard the phrase, “this is the most important election in our lifetime?” Plenty, I’m sure. The truth is, every election is vote_button_2important, with the stakes being higher in a presidential election year — especially for rail, transit and airline workers and retirees who are directly impacted by administration regulations and Congressional votes.

There is still plenty of time to scrutinize the candidates and determine who will best represent our members, retirees and their families on our issues of concern. But now is the right time to ensure that you and your family are registered to vote at your current address, especially if you moved recently.

One of the simplest ways to verify your voter registration, or register to vote, is to visit the SMART TD Legislative Action Center. The following link will take you directly to the voter information page; just click on your state for complete information:

I am proud to say that SMART TD members are more likely to be registered to vote, and more likely to vote, than the general public. Research shows that members consistently have a turnout rate of 10 to 20 percentage points higher than the average American worker or retiree. That means power at the ballot box. Although we are doing better than most, we still have room for improvement.

That is where you come in. If you are registered to vote, make a commitment to get your entire family registered; and if not currently registered to vote, make the commitment to register to vote – the future of working families may depend on it.

 In Solidarity,

 John Risch

National Legislative Director
SMART Transportation Division


missouri_mapSMART Transportation Division’s Missouri State Legislative Board has released the names of candidates that it is endorsing for the 2014 midterm elections. The state of Missouri is holding primary elections Tuesday, Aug. 5.

For a list showing all candidates and the board’s recommendations, click here. Candidates that are marked as “no” on the list have repeatedly voted against labor in the past and have shown that they do not support the goals of the Missouri State Legislative Board. Candidates on which the board expresses no opinion are listed as “open.”

The board asks that all members from Missouri vote their paycheck by voting for the endorsed candidates.

If you are unsure of the voting district in which you reside, click here.

Candidates being endorsed by the Missouri State Legislative Board are as follows:

Lacy ClayU.S. Representative1
Nate IrvinU.S. Representative4
Emanuel Cleaver IIU.S. Representative


Joe KeavenyState Senator4
Maria Chappelle-Nadal State Senator14
Jill SchuppState Senator24
Robert StuberState Senator34
Mike WaltemathState Representative 2
Nate WalkerState Representative3
Robert HarringtonState Representative6
Jim NeeleyState Representative8
Pat ConwayState Representative10
Galen Hidgon Jr.State Representative11
Sandy Van WagnerState Representative12
Jon Carpenter State Representative 15 
Mark Ellebracht State Representative 17 
Kevin Garner State Representative 18 
John Rizzo State Representative 19 
John Mayfield State Representative 20 
Ira Anders State Representative 21 
Brandon Ellington State Representative 22 
Randy DunnState Representative 23 
Judy Morgan State Representative 24 
Jeremy LaFaver State Representative 25 
Gail Beatty State Representative 26 
Bonnaye MimsState Representative27
Tom McDonaldState Representative28
Noel TorpeyState Representative29
Sheila SolonState Representative31
Jeanie LauerState Representative32
Donna PfautschState Representative33
Kenneth DuvallState Representative35
Kevin McManusState Representative36
Joe RunionsState Representative37
Dan DildineState Representative41
Bart KormanState Representative42
Ed LockwoodState Representative43
Kip KendrickState Representative45
Stephen WebberState Representative46
John WrightState Representative47
Gracia BackerState Representative49
Gary GrigsbyState Representative51
Henry GrubbState Representative53
Patty JohnsonState Representative56
William GrimesState Representative57
Tom SmithState Representative61
Anne ZerrState Representative65
Tommie PiersonState Representative66
Sylvester Taylor IIState Representative67
Keith EnglishState Representative68
Margo McNeilState Representative69
Bill OttoState Representative70
Sue MeredithState Representative71
Mary NicholsState Representative72
Courtney CurtisState Representative73
Sharon PaceState Representative74
Rochelle Walton GrayState Representative75
Joshua PetersState Representative76
Kimberly GardnerState Representative77
Penny HubbardState Representative78
Michael ButlerState Representative79
Mike ColonaState Representative80
Jacob HummelState Representative81
chele Kratky
State Representative82
Gina MittenState Representative83
Karla MayState Representative84
Clem SmithState Representative85
Joe AdamsState Representative86
Stacey NewmanState Representative87
Tracy McCreeryState Representative88
Deb LavenderState Representative90
Jeanne KirktonState Representative91
Genise MontecilloState Representative92
Bob BurnsState Representative93
Vicki Lorenz EnglundState Representative94
John McCahertyState Representative97
John CallahanState Representative102
Michael SwyersState Representative102
Kyle SchlerethState Representative103
Kathie ConwayState Representative104
Matt JudkinsState Representative105
Chrissy SommerState Representative106
Ron HicksState Representative107
Bobbie BollmannState Representative109
Michael FrameState Representative111
Robert ButlerState Representative112
T.J. McKennaState Representative114
Elaine GannonState Representative115
Kevin EnglerState Representative116
Linda BlackState Representative117
Ben HarrisState Representative118
Dave HinsonState Representative119
Ethan NewmanState Representative125
Charlie NorrState Representative132
Angie FilbeckState Representative135
Don PhillipsState Representative138
Paul FitzwaterState Representative144
Charles ElrodState Representative145
Duston StoneState Representative148
Diedra FreemanState Representative149
Walter DearingState Representative149
Ryan HolderState Representative151
Hugh ShieldsState Representative161



By UTU International President Mike Futhey
and SMWIA General President Joe Nigro – 

We are just months from one of the most important Election Days in our careers.

Not in our lifetimes has organized labor been under attack as we are today from corporate-funded anti-worker conservatives in state legislatures and Congress who are attacking collective bargaining rights, workplace safety laws and regulations and the ability of workers to finance their union activities.

They want to turn Medicare into a voucher system and slash payments, raise the age for benefits under Railroad Retirement, eliminate Amtrak and reduce funding for public transit.

We will not back down in defense of what labor has achieved for working families.

The UTU PAC and the SMWIA PAL are collaborating to support worker-friendly candidates at the state and federal levels.

We also point with pride to the successful roles played by the UTU Collective Bargaining Defense Fund as well as get-out-the-vote efforts by members of the UTU and the SMWIA.

These activist brothers and sisters helped achieve a ballot-box defeat of an Ohio law that would have curtailed collective bargaining rights, and engineered the recall of anti-union senators in Wisconsin, restoring control of the Senate to a labor-friendly Democratic majority. They also succeeded in forcing the Wisconsin governor — the architect of that state’s legislation to scrap collective bargaining rights for public employees — to face a recall election.

While we cannot match the dollars of the corporate elite who are funding anti-worker candidates, we have a more potent weapon – the steadfast eagerness of working families to knock on doors and make phone calls to get out the vote on Election Day.

The men and women in the American labor movement vote in greater numbers than most any other group of voters, and if we are to stop this attack on workers on Election Day, we must energize even more of our friends and family members to register to vote and go to the polls on Election Day in support of worker-friendly candidates.

The UTU website provides a button that, with one click, takes you to a website allowing you to verify your voter registration and to register to vote if you are not registered:

Your job security, good wages, benefits and workplace safety laws and regulations are directly related to political action by working families. Together, we can defeat the corporate-fueled attack on workers.

Within the UTU and the SMWIA, now is the time for each of us to ensure we are registered to vote, to pledge at least $1 a day to our respective UTU PAC and SMWIA PAL, and commit our time and energy in helping to get out the vote on Election Day.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The 546 bus operators employed by Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS) have voted by more than a 2-1 margin to return to the United Transportation Union.

Calvin Studivant, alternate vice president of the UTU Bus Department, will now assist those bus operators in negotiating a new agreement. Studivant recently assisted in negotiating ratified agreements for UTU members employed by First Student in Buffalo, N.Y., and the Red Arrow Division of Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority in Philadelphia.

CATS mechanics and maintenance employees have long been represented by the UTU, and the drivers will return to representation under Bus Department General Committee TMM. A new local will be created for the drivers.

Working with UTU Director of Strategic Planning Rich Ross in the organizing drive were TMM General Chairperson Alvy Hughes; TMM Assistant General Chairperson Craig Patch; Local 1596 members Billy Belcher, Dwayne Cureton and Brenda Moore; Studivant and International organizers Mike Lewis and Billy Moye. Ross praised the team’s “tireless efforts and determination.”

Studivant and Lewis crafted a get-out-the-vote drive, culminating with almost 75 percent of the eligible drivers casting ballots. Lewis most recently led a successful organizing drive of maintenance-of-way employees on Georgia & Florida Railway.

CATS is the 22nd property organized by the UTU since International President Mike Futhey took office in January 2008 — 14 shortlines, three regional airlines, two commuter railroads, and three bus properties.

“Mike Futhey is to be commended for making resources available for this unprecedented string of successful organizing drives,” Ross said. “This commitment to organizing and contract negotiations has resulted in a phenomenal elevation of wages, benefits and working conditions for UTU Bus Department members in an extraordinarily difficult economic environment.”

In May, the North Carolina Public Transportation Association awarded the CATS Bus Operations Division top honors as the safest transit system in the state. The award is given annually to an urban transit system that travels more than one million miles a year and has excellent performance in traffic and passenger safety. CATS achieved a 27 percent reduction in its accident rate over the past three years.

Employees of four railroads in Alabama and Florida have chosen the UTU as their bargaining representative.

On South Florida Tri-Rail, a commuter railroad where the UTU already represents both sides of the cab, employees of the operations center have chosen the UTU as their bargaining representative.

In Alabama, train and engine workers on Conecuh Valley Railroad, Three Notch Railroad, and Wiregrass Central Railroad voted “UTU, yes.” All are owned by shortline holding company Gulf and Ohio Railways.

UTU organizer Mike Lewis worked with employees of both railroads to explain the UTU’s history, structure and representation strength. Lewis praised the efforts of Local 762 (Montgomery, Ala.) Chairperson Toby Mullins and UTU Florida State Legislative Director Andres Trujillo for their assistance. 

South Florida Tri-Rail operates over 71 miles for former CSX track linking West Palm Beach, Ft. Lauderdale and Miami. Owned by the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority, Tri-Rail is operated by Veolia Transportation. 

Conecuh Valley Railroad operates over former Central of Georgia (now Norfolk Southern) track between Troy, Ala., and Gadsden, Ala. 

Three Notch opeates from Andalusia, Ala., to Georgiana, Ala. over former CSX track.

Wiregrass Central operates between Enterprise, Ala., and Newton, Ala., over former CSX track.

By International President Mike Futhey

What do the Nov. 2 congressional election results mean for UTU members and their families?

Consider these facts that are not always obvious:

  • While it is true that organized labor has more friends among Democrats, many of the Republicans elected Nov. 2 are friends of working families, and they received UTU PAC support and were on our voting recommendations list.
  • The UTU is a bipartisan union, historically and consistently looking beyond party labels to reward each and every friend of working families.
  • Among our Republican friends, for example, are Rep. Don Young of Alaska, and Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah. Republican Sen. Hatch is one of the strongest congressional defenders of the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA), while Republican Rep. Young has been one of the UTU’s most ardent supporters in the House of Representatives.
  • One of the most important congressional committees to UTU members — airline, bus and rail — is the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, where most legislation affecting the transportation industries originates. Among Transportation & Infrastructure Committee members, more than 66 percent — Democrats and Republicans — who were endorsed by the UTU won re-election Nov. 2.
  • In all congressional races Nov. 2, more than 60 percent of UTU endorsed candidates won election or re-election. Imagine if you could win a poker hand more than 60 percent of the time, or hit safely six of 10 times at bat as a major league ballplayer.
  • Despite the change in party control in the House of Representatives, UTU recommended candidates are still a majority, meaning the UTU National Legislative Office can continue to work successfully on issues that matter to our members — job security, safety, health care and retirement benefits, as well as adequate public funding for Amtrak and public transit.
  • Key regulatory agencies, such as the Federal Railroad Administration, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, Federal Aviation Administration, National Mediation Board, and National Labor Relations Board, will continue to have labor-friendly majority control.
  • The UTU’s GOTV — “get out the vote” — effort this election year resulted in thousands of UTU members and families, who were not previously registered or hadn’t voted in the previous (2006) non-presidential election, registering to vote and casting ballots in congressional races.
  • In states where early voting is permitted, preliminary polling by GOTV shows that as many as 20 percent of UTU members and spouses who cast an early ballot had not voted in the 2006 non-presidential election. This proved important in close races.
  • On behalf of the UTU, GOTV — in partnership with UTU state legislative directors and the UTU Auxiliary — made more than 210,000 unique member contacts in 28 states via the postal service, e-mail and telephone calls, urging UTU members and their families to register to vote and to vote in this election.
  • By encouraging a higher percentage of UTU members to register to vote and to vote, we demonstrate to candidates the power of UTU endorsements — and, especially, that in close races, a UTU endorsement has great value to a candidate.
  • Candidates remember their friends in the same manner organized labor remembers its friends.
  • As the proverb says, “It’s not the will to win, but the will to prepare to win that makes a difference.” What the UTU PAC and GOTV demonstrate to candidates of all political stripes is that the UTU is a friend worth having.
  • The UTU has always had a great legislative program, but what we have accomplished this election through GOTV sets a new standard and benchmark to measure future advances.
  • When the new Congress is seated in 2011, we will be working closely with our old and new friends to continue advancing the UTU legislative agenda on behalf of our members.

By Bonnie Morr
Alternate Vice President – Bus Department

Right now in our country, economics is spelling out what transit and transportation will look like now and in the future.

The UTU Bus Department has been following the trends for funding that are necessary for passenger and public transportation to meet the needs of an aging population and growing automobile congestion.

It does not look good. 

In every town and community, hard decisions must be made — and we want those decisions made by lawmakers who understand the importance of adeuate, reliable and safe public transportation, including transportation of school children by bus.
We have a responsibility to our families, children and community to make sure that the funding for public transportation stays in place. We can do that with our votes on Election Day, Nov. 2.

When we say, “vote your paycheck,” keep in mind that the jobs of UTU Bus Department members depend on adequate, reliable and safe funding for public transportation.

We need to get out the vote for labor-friendly candidates who support adequate, reliable and safe public transportation.

Think jobs, because there are candidates out there who are coming after our jobs.

When you cast your ballot on Election Day, support candidates who will do the right thing when it comes to funding and ensuring adequate, reliable and safe public transportation.

I am a laborer. I drive a bus. I want the labor protections that labor-friendly candidates will honor with laws and regulations that my mother fought for as an organizer for the Ladies Garment Workers Union.

We have protections as union bus operators, and we want to extend those protections to the unorganized.

Let us all support candidates who are pledged to increased funding for public transportation, job security, safe working conditions and an environment that respects working families.

To view the list of labor-friendly candidates, click on the following link:

By James Stem
UTU National Legislative Director

Alfred E. Newman, the not-very-bright Mad magazine character, had an expression shared today by too many Americans: “I am not sure who is running, and my vote won’t make a difference anyway.”

It is doubtful those harboring that opinion would give up their right to vote.

Our war for independence from Britain was about self-government. More recent struggles among women and minorities for the right to vote were equally hard fought.

Today, it is apathy among middle-class workers — not foreign troops, not intimidation at the polls, not laws — that threatens American democracy.

The wealthy and business leaders are more likely to vote than working families. By not going to the polls, working families put at risk their job security, workplace safety, paychecks, access to affordable health care and pensions.

If you are concerned that your work schedule or other conflict will hinder your ability to vote on Election Day, Nov. 2, most states allow you an option to vote early.

You can be sure that the wealthy and business leaders will vote — and vote for candidates who would undermine the financial security of working families.

Our ballot is equal to the ballot of every anti-labor business leader, but it is equal only if we vote.

I am asking you to pay attention to the economic well-being of your family and workplace safety. Ask your UTU local LR and UTU state legislative board for information on local, state and national candidates’ positions toward working families.

In the centerfold of the October issue of UTU News (which you should have received at your home) is a listing, by state, of labor-friendly candidates endorsed by the UTU. This listing is the result of months of research by state legislative boards, the UTU National Legislative Office and the AFL-CIO — based on interviews with the candidates and their responses to written questions.

The list of labor friendly candidates is also available by clicking the link at the end of this column.

Be proud of the middle class lifestyle your UTU contract supports, and consider voting for candidates who will put the interests of working families first.

If you have further questions, contact the UTU National Legislative Office via e-mail at, or call us at (202) 543-7714.

Don’t allow others to determine your future. Vote!

To view the list of labor-friendly candidates, click on the following link: