SMART - TD Local 306

Sioux City, Mason City & Eagle Grove on UPRR Former C&NW Lines


Safe, secure rail operations require two-person crews - 7/18/2014

Safe, secure rail operations require two-person crews

A message from President John Previsich, SMART Transportation Division:

This office is receiving numerous inquiries regarding two tentative agreements recently proposed by a general committee for its members on a portion of Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway. One of the agreements addresses crew consist issues and the other is a wage proposal contingent upon successful ratification of both proposed agreements.

While crew consist and wage proposals such as these are within the authority of each general committee to negotiate and propose to its members, it must be noted that it is the membership working under the jurisdiction of the respective committees who have final approval in accordance with the ratification requirements of our constitution. The proposed agreements, if approved by the affected members, will apply only to the members working under the jurisdiction of the negotiating BNSF General Committee of Adjustment GO 001.

It is noteworthy that the crew consist provisions of the proposed agreements can be implemented only in the event that regulatory authorities permit one-person train crews to operate on our nation’s railroads. Accordingly, the position of the SMART Transportation Division is not affected by the agreement proposals – simply stated, the only safe and secure operation of any train includes a minimum of two people on each and every crew. Issues of predictability, fatigue, task saturation, operating requirements, crossing separation for emergency reasons, security and other issues remain at the forefront of any discussion regarding crew size, and to date, all such concerns remain unresolved.

Although technology has produced many benefits for our industry and clearly aids in improving the safe movement of trains, it is imprudent for anyone to assert that technology can replace the safety and security of a two-person train crew. Operations requirements cause it to be necessary that crews perform a number of tasks concurrently while operating the train. This can result in what the National Transportation Safety Board calls “task saturation.” There are so many things to do that one of them falls off the radar screen.

No one would permit an airliner to fly with just one pilot, even though they can fly themselves. Trains, which cannot operate themselves, should be no different. The check, double check, extra set of eyes and ears watching both sides of the train and division of tasks are safety measures that cannot be duplicated by written rule or technology. Every safety professional knows this and to remove the second person is to compromise safety.

The dangers are great and not confined to trains carrying hazardous materials (review the runaway train wreck in San Bernardino in the 1990s where a loaded rock train left the rails with catastrophic results).

We as a society don’t permit corporate profits to compromise safety in food products, pharmaceuticals, hospitals and other industries and transportation should be held to the same standard. We will continue our efforts in every forum to secure legislative and/or regulatory action to protect the safety of our members, other employees and the general public.

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Victory on Long Island - 7/17/2014

Victory on Long Island

I am pleased to report that SMART members at the Long Island Rail Road, along with their brothers and sisters at allied Unions, have finally attained a hard earned and fair contract.

These members have sacrificed much during these past five years while never faltering in servicing the traveling public with their unmatched professionalism and dedication. This is not a fight they chose but, nevertheless, they fought tooth and nail to ensure a fair contract to fulfill the fair day’s pay for the fair day’s work they contribute day in and day.

I would like to personally thank GCA 505 Chair Anthony Simon, who served as the leader of the Union coalition, for his tireless leadership and patience during this crisis.  He is not only a credit to this organization, but a valuable leader with a bright future in this organization and within the American Labor Movement.  I would also like to recognize General Chairman John McCloskey who represents railroad sheet metal mechanical and engineering workers at the LIRR.  I would also like to thank Transportation Division President John Previsich who stood side by side with us in support of the members working at the Long Island Rail Road.  Governor Cuomo and the bipartisan delegation of leaders across Long Island who stood with us also are deserving of praise.

Our work is not yet done.  Members of this organization, sheet metal workers across the United States and Canada, conductors, engineers, rail road mechanics, aviation workers, sign workers and everyone in between, stood shoulder to shoulder in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Long Island.  Your calls to the governor, your email messages and activism helped make a difference.  It is time to apply our strengths everywhere else - the strength that comes from the solidarity of this membership and working families across this country.     

Fraternally,

 

Joseph Nigro

SMART General President

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FRA’s Szabo addresses SMART Convention delegates - 7/11/2014

FRA’s Szabo addresses SMART Convention delegates

Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph C. Szabo spoke to attendees at the First Transportation Division Convention of the International Association of the Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers in San Diego, Calif., July 1, 2014. His speech, as prepared, is below.

Good morning, everyone. It is great to be here with you today.

I am joined by Bob Lauby, FRA’s Chief Safety Officer, and Mike Lange, our chief track inspector here in California. I’d like to acknowledge all of our inspectors at FRA for the tremendous job they do every day to keep all of you safe, and to achieve higher levels of safety.

I know I say this every time I see you all of you: But five years into this job, I still am incredibly humbled to be the first FRA Administrator to have come out of the ranks of rail labor.

A while back, I was looking at some old safety statistics from 1967, the year the Federal Railroad Administration was formed. And what I saw – back then in 1967 – a rail worker was killed on the job nearly every other day.

Think about that: nearly one employee on-duty fatality every other day.

People with families. People who worked hard every day to move this nation’s freight and economy, and get travelers to jobs and other places. People like us – one of them not going home every other day.

And, if you think about it, at that time there were no guarantees that this industry, and these jobs, would continue being there in the future.

When I hired out in 1976, one-third of the nation’s railroads were in bankruptcy; one- third were on the edge of bankruptcy; and the remaining third were barely making a profit.

Conditions were so bad, we had standing derailments. The tracks would simply give out beneath cars sitting in the yard.

While on-duty injuries and fatalities continued to occur at a frightening pace, rail was a dying mode: rapidly losing freight to trucks and passengers to air and auto.

Thankfully, this great union has always lived by the motto that working men and women – when united together – have great power to make positive change.

Rail workers have fought through difficult conditions, and through years when funding for Amtrak and commuter rail was threatened to be cut, if not outright eliminated.

And an industry has emerged from that struggle that is now uniquely positioned to help our transportation system move more people and more goods as we grapple with climate change – an industry that is stronger and is safer.

In 2013, the number of rail workers killed on the job – instead of one every other day – was down to approximately one a month. Still too many, but a remarkable improvement.

And so far in 2014 we’ve only had two fatalities in the first six months. Yet again, remarkable improvement.

Train accidents have decreased to new lows for five straight fiscal years now, part of a nearly 50 percent reduction since Fiscal Year 2004. During that time, employee fatalities have declined by 59 percent.

Amtrak is now the nation’s fastest-growing major travel mode, with ridership records set in 10 out of the last 11 years.

And the freight rail industry is now in a better position than ever to meet the nation’s growing transportation needs.

But I’m not satisfied with any of this – not even close. Because that was still 14 unnecessary deaths in 2013 – and two so far in 2014.

And, while record investments have been made in passenger rail during this Administration, we have yet to succeed in our goal of securing predictable, dedicated rail funding: the resources we need for rail to achieve parity with other modes of transportation.

As we look towards the year 2050, we know freight railroads are going to play a growing role in moving more than 4 billion more tons of freight across the network, and a much greater role in meeting this nation energy’s needs.

So we have to work harder than ever to create a framework that will ensure these goods move safely, reliably and efficiently. We have to drive continuous safety improvement, protect communities, and see that every railroader goes home safely.

This is what President Obama, Secretary Foxx, and I are all fighting for.

And that is why we recently sent to Congress a bill that will tackle these challenge.

It is called the GROW AMERICA Act.

As the title implies, the GROW AMERICA Act will grow federal investments in all surface transportation modes – including rail – and it will advance safety.

For all of you, that means a safe workplace, and job growth.

GROW AMERICA will provide FRA with $19 billion in funding to advance a high- performing freight and passenger rail network and advance rail safety.

But it does even more.

For the first time ever, rail will achieve predictable, dedicated funding – like all other transportation modes – and allow it to grow as a safe, cost-effective, environmentally friendly, and efficient way to move people and goods.

Let me talk about the rail development side of our proposal.

GROW AMERICA will invest in both a Current Passenger Rail Service Program – meeting Amtrak’s needs – and a Rail Service Improvement Program to allow the system to grow.

The Current Passenger Rail program will fully fund Amtrak: ensuring a state of good repair system-wide, replacing obsolete equipment, and bringing stations into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

To continue the development of a high-performing passenger rail network, the Rail Service Development Program will provide grants to build new corridors – with service levels and speeds targeted to the market – improve existing corridors, and address chokepoints that delay passenger services.

To enhance safety, communities will be eligible for grant funding for projects such as rail-line relocation efforts, and grade-crossing improvements, and projects that seal off corridors by building over-passes and underpasses – things that create a safer operating environment.

And GROW AMERICA will enable us to both improve and expand rail options while driving continuous safety improvement.

New records in safety have not been achieved by mistake. They are due largely to railroad workers’ individual and collective commitment to safety – and to the success of FRA’s data-based oversight and enforcement program.

But human error continues to be our most vulnerable safety area, contributing to nearly 40 percent of accidents last fiscal year.

And there are limits to what our data-driven oversight and enforcement program can achieve. This was proven by the series of accidents on Metro-North and the tragedy with the crude oil train in Quebec.

In neither case did the data indicate an imminent tragedy.

This means we need to continue to empower you to undertake honest yet non-punitive assessments of human factors – the goal being to truly understand root causation.

Ultimately, these proactive approaches to safety, overlaid above our traditional oversight and enforcement program, is how we’ll reach the next generation of safety.

And GROW AMERICA supports this evolution.

For one, our proposal calls for a nationwide rollout of the Confidential Close Call Reporting System: a partnership between FRA, labor, and the carriers that our Risk Reduction Program Division has been testing through a series of pilot projects.

It allows us to learn from mistakes that were close calls instead of accidents – and take corrective actions before any harm occurs.

It is an important turn away from the old culture of waiting for an accident to happen, then punishing an employee for being human.

So far, our pilot projects have had remarkable results, including a 70 percent reduction in certain types of accidents and a 90 recent reduction in discipline. Just as important, it has developed a positive and proactive safety culture.

GROW AMERICA will reduce confusion and create a safer working environment by harmonizing railroad operating rules in terminals with multiple operations.

And – critically – it will give us authority to establish new hours-of-service regulations that are based on fatigue science.

That way, we can address what all of us know is the root cause of fatigue for over-the- road freight train crews: those unpredictable work schedules.

The time for meaningful action, to prevent work fatigue, and to require more predictable work schedules, is now.

There are two others areas of safety I want to talk about that are not covered by the GROW AMERICA Act, but that are very important.

The NTSB has made multiple recommendations regarding the use of inward- and outward-facing cameras in controlling locomotives.

And we recently asked the Railroad Safety Advisory Committee – which your union is a part of – to develop standards that ensure these devices are used to enhance safety and not as a tool to discriminate or violate employee privacy.

I know what can happen every day out on there on the property. I’ve been that union officer who was subject to “special attention” by an overly aggressive supervisor. I’ve walked in those shoes.

So I’ll repeat what I said to the committee, which is: we owe it to everyone – the public and rail workers – to get this right. And I know we can.

Some of you are involved in the transport of significantly higher volumes of crude oil.

In partnership with the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, or PHMSA, FRA is examining the entire system for the safe delivery of crude oil.

There is not one silver bullet to solve this complex problem. It requires a comprehensive approach to evaluate risk and develop effective strategies to mitigate that risk.

As part of that, it is a fundamental premise of safety – and a tenet of the design of fail- safe systems – to never allow a single point of failure.

Safety science speaks repeatedly to the need for appropriate redundancy.

As you know, after the accident in Lac Megantic, Canada, we called the Railroad Safety Advisory Committee together for discussion on the subject of single-person crews.

But the Secretary made clear to me — the working group would either reach consensus by April 1, or FRA was to use its authority to move forward with a regulation on its own.

As you know, after six months of deliberations, the RSAC did not reach a consensus on this issue. But, as expected, we learned a great deal from the stakeholders.

The point I’m trying to make is, we understand the challenges, opportunities and potential effects of regulations – and have a responsibility to all parties to get this right.

It cannot be about job preservation, but must be solely driven by ensuring safety.

And so, we look forward to putting out proposed rulemaking language that is soundly developed, well-reasoned and balanced. And we look forward to your continued input during the comment period.

This union has supported its members and helped to build a safer, stronger industry. The next generation of railroaders – in many ways – will have you to thank.

And I think, the next generation of railroaders, looking back on this time, will say: “this is when we changed the conversation.”

Five years ago, there was no passenger rail development program, and we were just beginning to move forward with Rail Safety Improvement Act mandates that are now starting to lead an evolution in railroad safety culture.

But rail still has yet to achieve funding parity with other modes. And regarding safety, the loss of even one rail worker is just one too many.

The ideas we are fighting for in GROW AMERICA will move us forward. This is where we go beyond changing the conversation to changing history.

So I need all of you to get involved in this issue.

I need you raising your voices in unison – through your union – to let Congress know what this could mean for rail safety, for our nation’s economy, and for jobs.

So, look out for each other out there. Take no shortcuts in your duties and continue to be engaged in peer-to-peer efforts like SOFA and Confidential Close Calls reporting.

As we grow the role rail will play in moving people and goods, you have the power to continue to raise the professionalism of this industry; to ensure dignity and respect for craft employees by supporting a culture change in this industry; and, to create a safer operating environment.

And if Congress supports GROW AMERICA – together – that’s exactly what we’ll do. Thanks so much.

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One year after tragic Lac-Megantic accident - 7/8/2014

One year after tragic Lac-Megantic accident

The Transportation Trades Department of the AFL-CIO issued the following statement on the train accident in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, that happened one year this week:

This week marks the one year anniversary of a tragic rail accident – a runaway train carrying 72 cars of crude ran into Lac-Megantic, Quebec killing 47 people and demolishing an entire town. While millions of carloads and containers traverse the country safely each year, too many accidents have occurred lately both in the freight and passenger sector. While the causes of these accidents vary and many investigations are ongoing, what is known is that more must be done to ensure that rail transportation is as safe and secure as possible for employees and the public.

For starters, too many rail workers, especially those responsible for operating trains and maintaining safety-sensitive equipment, are forced to report to work tired and fatigued. TTD has long called for federal rules to be changed to ensure that employees are given proper notice of when they will need to report to work and predictable schedules so that adequate rest can be secured.

Congress must also step in to stop rail companies from only “counting” certain hours that signal employees work as a way to get around federal rules limiting on-duty time. Let’s just say that there are some rail executives using creative calculating when it comes to adding up “covered work.” The problem is that this isn’t a game, and it is jeopardizing safety.

Congress must also adopt a mandated minimum crew size for freight train operations. Last year’s accident in Lac-Megantic, caused by a train that was operated by a single crew member, is a tragic reminder of the dangers posed by risky one-person rail operations. A freight train is massive – up to 19,000 tons and a mile and a half long – that simply should not be operated by one individual, especially given the myriad operating rules and regulations that must be followed. And while two-person crews are the norm on U.S. freight lines, crew size is often an issue determined by collective bargaining rather than federal mandate. Safety should not be bartered at the negotiating table. And by the way, the public agrees with us on this, with a series of polls showing that up to 9 out of 10 Americans believe #2crewtrains should be a national standard.

Fortunately, some lawmakers are taking steps to address rail safety. Reps. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Jim Himes (D-CT), Elizabeth Esty (D-CT) and Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY) introduced legislation (H.R. 4576) earlier this year that mandates predictable and defined work and rest schedules and Congressman Michaud (D-ME) introduced a bill (H.R. 3040) requiring a minimum crew size for freight trains. We also applaud the Department of Transportation and its Federal Railroad Administration for moving on a new proposed rule on two-person train crew requirements. Strong federal action is needed because we know from experience that the rail lobby will dismiss and downplay these dangerous operating practices.

In addition, first responders require the necessary tools and training to effectively respond to rail accidents, particularly those involving hazardous materials. Domestic oil production has boomed and the amount of crude oil being shipped by rail has increased 70-fold in the last decade. Despite that fact, many firefighters receive an inadequate level of training that does little more than teach them to call for help in the case of a hazardous materials incident. Congress must direct adequate resources to states and localities for first responder training but also ensure that the level of training is sufficient.

This week’s anniversary of the tragedy in Lac-Megantic is a glaring reminder that it’s not just the workers on these trains that are endangered by unsafe rail industry practices. The neighborhoods and cities through which these trains travel should care just as much. Congress and the Administration must take strong, immediate action to close gaps in rail safety that expose too many to unnecessary risks.

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Union seeks proposals for Section 6 notices - 6/25/2014

Union seeks proposals for Section 6 notices

The SMART Transportation Division is beginning the process of formulating Section 6 notices to be served on rail carriers negotiating under the umbrella of the National Carriers’ Conference Committee (NCCC), which will include proposals to increase wages, benefits and improve working conditions.

As mandated by the Railway Labor Act and the current national agreement, these Section 6 notices will be served on most of the nation’s rail carriers on or about Nov. 3, 2014, to become effective no earlier than Jan. 1, 2015.

The serving of the Section 6 notices is the first step in reaching a new national agreement with railroads represented by the NCCC.

The carriers represented by the NCCC also have been working on their own wage and rule notices that they will serve at or about the same time the SMART TD notices are served.

All officers and members are invited to submit proposals for the Section 6 notices to the SMART TD headquarters.

The proposals submitted by members will be catalogued during the months of August and September.

A committee of general chairpersons from the Association of General Chairpersons, District No. 1, will review the proposals submitted and begin to fine-tune those suggestions into the notices to be served on the carriers.

The full Association of General Chairpersons, District No. 1, will then be convened to review and finalize the union’s Section 6 notices.

Soon thereafter, the Section 6 notices will be reproduced and mailed to all U.S. general chairpersons for serving on the affected railroads on or about Nov. 3.

“All affected members will be kept informed regarding the Section 6 notices and developments in negotiations, when possible, through the SMART Transportation Division News and the SMART TD website,” Transportation Division President John Previsich said.

Under the Railway Labor Act, the current national agreement between the SMART TD (UTU) and NCCC will remain in effect until a new agreement is reached.

As specified in the current national agreement, a three-percent general wage increase will be paid on Jan. 1, 2015.

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SMART UTU Local 306

Your Local Officers are here to protect you - help us all by calling when you need assistance!  Don't settle for the carrier's attitutude toward you - get involved!

 

YOUR Union Meetings are:

Eagle Grove - 2nd Wednesday of each Month; Godfather's Pizza at 8:00 pm

Mason City - 3rd Wednesday in January, April, July, October; Pizza Ranch at 7:30 pm

Sioux City - As Needed 

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