|Posted by Thad Krawczyk on January 20, 2015 at 10:15 AM|
U.S Transportation Secretary Foxx Names Sarah Feinberg Acting Administrator of FRA
Office of Public Affairs,
PRESS RELEASE NUMBER: FRA 01-15
CONTACT: FRA Public Affairs Office
SUBJECT: Railroad System Oversight
ABSTRACT: U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced today that Department of Transportation Chief of Staff Sarah Feinberg will serve as Acting Administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA). She succeeds Joseph C. Szabo who was appointed and confirmed as the agency’s twelfth Administrator is 2009. Szabo stepped down as the agency’s head last Friday.
WASHINGTON – U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced today that Department of Transportation Chief of Staff Sarah Feinberg will serve as Acting Administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA). She succeeds Joseph C. Szabo who was appointed and confirmed as the agency’s twelfth Administrator is 2009. Szabo stepped down as the agency’s head last Friday.
“Sarah has been my partner and served as my closest advisor during her tenure as Chief of Staff at the U.S. Department of Transportation. With her ability to bring clarity, focus and direction to complex challenges, she has become a proven leader within our agency,” said Secretary Anthony Foxx. “Sarah has the right mix of experience and skills to adeptly lead the FRA as it continues its important work to ensure the safe, reliable and efficient movement of people and goods.”
Feinberg becomes the second woman to lead the agency since its founding in 1966.
Since 2013 Feinberg has served as the Chief of Staff for the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT), managing the agency’s ten modal departments, and spearheading the agency’s legislative, policy, and communications efforts. Feinberg provided strategic advice and counsel to the Secretary regarding operational and legislative initiatives across all modes of transportation, as well as leading the department’s efforts on its $302 billion surface transportation reauthorization plan, sent to the U.S. Congress last year.
During her time as Chief of Staff, Feinberg worked closely with Secretary Foxx and each agency in the Department to ensure that they are continuously raising the bar on safety. As Acting Administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration, Feinberg will work to strengthen the culture of safety across the railroad industry.
The FRA is the Nation’s chief safety regulator for the passenger and freight rail industries. The agency has a $1.6 billion budget and employs nearly 900 people in Washington, D.C. and eight regional offices across the country. It establishes and enforces safety rules for the rail industry as well as manages a $20 billion rail investment portfolio.
|Posted by Thad Krawczyk on September 23, 2014 at 12:35 PM|
SMART TD supports Senate rail crew provision
September 11, 2014
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Surface Transportation, and U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) introduced railroad safety legislation Sept. 10 that continues dialogue on the nation’s rail safety laws.
S. 2784, the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2014, contains language that requires freight trains be crewed with at least one federally certified conductor and one federally certified engineer. The Transportation Division of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers fully supports that requirement.
The issue of single-person train operations has gained national prominence recently when BNSF Railway proposed a contract to some of their operating employees that would remove conductors from trains, a proposal that was voted down this week by the affected employees. BNSF had a substantial train accident in Casselton, N.D., involving a crude oil train Dec. 30 where two-person crews played a vital role in working with first responders to protect the public.
SMART Transportation Division President John Previsich has cautioned that one-person train operations are unsafe. “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,” he said.
Legislation requiring a minimum of two persons on trains, H.R. 3040, is pending in the House of Representatives. This bill was introduced by U.S. Reps. Michael Michaud (D-Maine) and Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) last year and has 80 co-sponsors.
“We thank Sen. Blumenthal for including this provision which maintains current practices. While America’s railroads generally operate with a minimum of one conductor and one engineer, there are a handful of rogue operators who are operating unsafe, single-person trains. This legislation will put an end to that unsafe practice,” Previsich said.
The legislation also requires Class I and passenger railroads to install audio and image recording devices in locomotive cabs. “We plan to work with the Senate to try to get this unwarranted proposal removed from the bill,” Previsich said.
|Posted by Thad Krawczyk on April 12, 2014 at 1:30 AM|
FRA to issue proposed rule on minimum train crews
April 9, 2014
FRA_logo_wordsWASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Railroad Administration April 9 announced its intention to issue a proposed rule requiring two-person train crews on crude oil trains and establishing minimum crew size standards for most main line freight and passenger rail operations. The FRA also intends to advance a rulemaking on train securement and recommends a rulemaking on the movement of hazardous materials.
“Safety is our highest priority, and we are committed to taking the necessary steps to assure the safety of those who work for railroads and shippers, and the residents and communities along shipping routes,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “The proposed rulemaking on crew size is the latest effort in our comprehensive strategy to ensure crude oil is transported as safely as possible.”
The announcement follows the deliberations of three Railroad Safety Advisory Committee (RSAC) Working Groups on Appropriate Train Crew Size, Securement and Hazardous Materials Issues. All three working groups were created at DOT’s request last summer in response to the Lac-Mégantic derailment. The emergency meeting was held to evaluate and consider wide-ranging proposals to further enhance railroad safety including the safe shipment of crude oil by rail. Two of the working groups produced recommendations that were adopted by the full RSAC for consideration in future rulemakings. In light of the working group’s failure to reach consensus on crew size, the FRA took action today to move forward with a rule-making.
“We believe that safety is enhanced with the use of a multiple person crew – safety dictates that you never allow a single point of failure,” FRA Administrator Joseph C. Szabo said. “Ensuring that trains are adequately staffed for the type of service operated is critically important to ensure safety redundancy. We commend the RSAC’s efforts and will use the valuable input received to formulate a proposed rule that protects the public and recognizes the nuance of railroad operations.”
“The FRA’s RSAC process confirmed that rail operational safety is enhanced with the use of a multiple-person crew,” said SMART Transportation Division President John Previsich. “Both the conductor and locomotive engineer are certified and licensed under federal regulations and work cooperatively as a team. During this working group process, the committee also confirmed that there are many required tasks that are performed by our train crews each day in normal operations that a single crew member cannot perform by themselves.
“It takes two skilled and qualified employees to perform a normal brake test, to separate a train at a highway-rail crossing, to receive and acknowledge mandatory directives while moving, to make routine pick up and set out of cars from the train, and also to act as a first responder for indicated defects in equipment, derailments, unexpected application of brakes, and highway-rail crossing collisions.”
While existing FRA regulations do not mandate minimum crew staffing requirements, current industry practice is to have two-person crews for over-the-road operations. The notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) will most likely require a minimum of two-person crews for most mainline train operations, including those trains carrying crude oil. It is also expected to include appropriate exceptions.
“Safety is good business in the rail industry. We are very disappointed that the Association of American Railroads and some short line railroads continue to keep their head in the sand when confronted with critical safety concerns. AAR continues to ignore the preventable accident that occurred less than 20 miles north of our border,” Previsich added.
FRA plans to issue an additional NPRM based on the consensus recommendations of the Securement Working Group and approved by the full RSAC that would prohibit certain unattended freight trains or standing freight cars on main track or sidings and require railroads to adopt and implement procedures to verify securement of trains and unattended equipment for emergency responders. It would also require locomotive cabs to be locked and reversers to be removed and secured. Railroads would also be required to obtain advance approval from FRA for locations or circumstances where unattended cars or equipment may be left.
The full RSAC also approved four recommendations of the Hazardous Materials Issues Working Group relating to identification, classification, operational control and handling of certain shipments. The four recommendations, directed to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), include amending or revising the definitions of “residue” and “key train,” and clarifying its regulatory jurisdiction over the loading, unloading and storage of hazmat before and during transportation. PHMSA continues to advance a rulemaking addressing the integrity of DOT Specification 111 tanker cars and the safe shipment by rail of flammable materials such as crude oil.
On Aug. 29, 2013, the first-ever emergency session of the RSAC was held in response to the July 6, 2013, derailment of an unattended Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway freight train containing crude oil in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, Canada. Building upon Foxx’s February agreement with the rail and petroleum industries, the FRA’s Emergency Order 28 and Safety Advisory 2013-06, PHMSA’s Operation Safe Delivery, Safety Alerts and a DOT Emergency Order, the three RSAC working groups reviewed existing regulations and standards to identify and mitigate the risks posed by such shipments and prevent future accidents.
“The unfortunate tragedy in Lac-Mégantic highlighted the need for sanity in intercity rail operations,” said SMART Transportation Division National Legislative Director James Stem. “Operating a long freight train through the communities that our industry serves with only one person on a crew is not only unsafe, but is also unsustainable.
“The safety improvements in our industry are directly linked to the training and certification of the two professionals on the locomotives and the other professional employees and their managers that are operating, repairing and maintaining our rail network throughout the United States. Our rail industry today is enjoying record profits, record productivity, and every stock broker is recommending a ‘buy’ on all railroad stocks. There is no argument that the current regulatory scheme in place today is a critical component of that productivity, and thus the high level of profitability.”
|Posted by Thad Krawczyk on January 15, 2014 at 2:50 PM|
SMART presents its first constitution and ritual
January 14, 2014
We are pleased, as your general president and transportation division president, to present the first SMART Constitution and ritual to our membership.
This is a milestone for both the former Sheet Metal Workers’ International Association and the United Transportation Union, that have merged to become the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers. While our merger has been complete for some time, this document solidifies this great union and its membership under a single constitution.
It is impossible to speak to the success in completing this constitution without acknowledging both the hard work and the frustration of those who participated in the creation of the document and the membership who have waited patiently throughout this long and difficult process.
The path has led both of us to take positions on interpretation of our separate constitutions and the merger agreement. In getting there, as would be expected of your leadership, we examined and debated every constitutional section thoroughly before agreement. At times, it required the help of an outside arbitrator to clarify a particular issue. While this slowed the process, it must be remembered the parties were tasked with blending 100 years of separate cultural and operational methods into a single constitution that would govern our organization.
Throughout this process, both of us have recognized that, in the end, what matters is the importance of having a document that serves the best interests of all the membership of SMART.
So, we are jointly resolved to move forward as an organization under one constitution and ritual, with a single focus. We, as your leadership, are dedicated to working collectively to provide a transparent and accountable organization that will strive to provide fair and reasoned representation to our membership and the efficiency of operation necessary to expand work opportunities for our members.
Fraternally and in solidarity,
Joseph J. Nigro,
President, Transportation Division
|Posted by Thad Krawczyk on December 10, 2013 at 8:10 PM|
Whistleblowers can now file complaints online with OSHA
Agency launches online form to provide workers a new way to file retaliation complaints
WASHINGTON – Whistleblowers covered by one of 22 statutes administered by the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration will now be able to file complaints online. The online form will provide workers who have been retaliated against an additional way to reach out for OSHA assistance online.
"The ability of workers to speak out and exercise their rights without fear of retaliation provides the backbone for some of American workers' most essential protections," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. "Whistleblower laws protect not only workers, but also the public at large and now workers will have an additional avenue available to file a complaint with OSHA."
Currently, workers can make complaints to OSHA by filing a written complaint or by calling the agency's 1-800-321-OSHA (6742) number or an OSHA regional or area office. Workers will now be able to electronically submit a whistleblower complaint to OSHA by visiting www.osha.gov/whistleblower/WBComplaint.html.
The new online form prompts the worker to include basic whistleblower complaint information so they can be easily contacted for follow-up. Complaints are automatically routed to the appropriate regional whistleblower investigators. In addition, the complaint form can also be downloaded and submitted to the agency in hard-copy format by fax, mail or hand-delivery. The paper version is identical to the electronic version and requests the same information necessary to initiate a whistleblower investigation.
OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of 22 statutes protecting employees who report violations of various securities laws, trucking, airline, nuclear power, pipeline, environmental, rail, public transportation, workplace safety and health, and consumer protection laws. Detailed information on employee whistleblower rights, including fact sheets and instructions on how to submit the form in hard-copy format, is available online at www.whistleblowers.gov.
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA's role is to ensure these conditions for America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit www.osha.gov.
|Posted by Thad Krawczyk on November 19, 2013 at 5:20 PM|
Ask your lawmakers’ support for two-person crews
November 19, 2013
Members of the SMART Transportation Division and all of rail labor have the opportunity to make it federal law to have two qualified persons working on all freight trains operating in the United States a reality.
Now is the time to contact your legislators in the House of Representatives and ask them to co-sponsor and support H.R. 3040.
Introduced in the House Aug. 2 by U.S. Reps. Michael Michaud (D-Maine) and Chellie Pingree (D-Maine), this legislation will require that “no freight train or light engine used in connection with the movement of freight may be operated unless it has a crew consisting of at least 2 individuals, one of whom is certified under regulations promulgated by the Federal Railroad Administration as a locomotive engineer … and the other of whom is certified under regulations promulgated by the Federal Railroad Administration as a conductor pursuant to section 20163.”
“This legislation is not only about the safety of the American public and the safety of railroading operating crews, it is an opportunity to prevent what in my opinion is an unsafe operating practice – having only one crew member aboard a train,” said SMART TD President John Previsich. “This measure will not only protect our communities, it will protect our jobs.”
The legislation reflects heightened concerns over crew size arising from the tragic July 6 derailment of a Montreal, Maine & Atlantic fuel train in Lac Mégantic, Quebec, which killed 47 and destroyed the center of the town. The MM&A train was crewed by a single person.
The Association of American Railroads (AAR) and the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association (ASLRRA) recently sent memos to Capitol Hill opposing this important piece of legislation, stating in part: “H.R. 3040 mandates freight trains operate with a certified locomotive engineer and a certified conductor without taking into consideration the realities of current industry practices and the overall rail safety record in the United States.”
In surveys conducted by DFM Research on behalf of the SMART Transportation Division, 78 percent of citizens in five congressional districts in Pennsylvania, Iowa, Kansas and Colorado and the state of Kentucky, support a federal law requiring freight trains to operate with a crew of two.
In a recent letter to all members of Congress, the SMART TD’s Legislative Office wrote: “The reality is that 99+ percent of America’s trains already operate with two federally-certified crew members. It was the recent July 6, 2013, accident at Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, where 47 people lost their lives and a town was destroyed, that gave rise to this legislation.
“That accident happened because a crew member, working alone, had his train roll away causing horrific death and devastation.
“There are many tasks that must be performed by the crew of a freight train that one person cannot accomplish alone.
“Under current Federal Railroad Administration regulations and railroad operating rules: a single person crew cannot make a Class I air brake test; one person cannot act as a first responder when a collision at a road crossing occurs; one person cannot inspect his or her train when it breaks in two or derails, including when there is the possible release of hazardous materials; and one person cannot inspect his or her train when cars in that train become defective.
“Another reality is that freight train crews work long hours, day and night, with few set shifts, and are on call 24/7. With as little as 1 hour and 15 minutes’ notice, we are required to report to work for a 12-hour shift, often operating trains laden with hazardous materials. Fatigue in the freight railroad industry is our number one safety problem, and having two crew members is the main way that we help mitigate fatigue. Having two crew members is also the best way to assure compliance with our complex operating rules. Rules such as properly securing your train so it doesn’t roll away and destroy a town.
“H.R. 3040 – the Safe Freight Act – is a bipartisan bill that will ensure that trains are operated safely everywhere in America. We respectfully ask that you support this important bill and consider becoming a co-sponsor.”
To send a message to your House and Senate representatives to co-sponsor and support this legislation, visit www.utu.org and select the “H.R. 3040 Two-person Crew Bill” tile at the bottom right corner of the homepage.
By entering your ZIP code and street address, a webpage prepared by the South Central Federation of Labor (of Wisconsin) will identify your representatives in both the House and Senate. After entering your email address, the website will send a prepared message to your legislators that reads, in part: “I am writing to you today to ask you to support H.R. 3040, the Safe Freight Act, which will improve railway safety by eliminating the risky practice of single-person train crews. It would ensure each train is operated by a crew of at least two people, including a certified engineer and a certified conductor.”
The SCFL webpage link was established by SMART TD Wisconsin State Legislative Director Craig Peachy.
Find Your Representative: http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/
Ask Your Lawmakers: http://act.aflcio.org/c/246/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=7241
|Posted by Thad Krawczyk on November 19, 2013 at 3:45 PM|
Previsich Now President of Transportation Division
October 1, 2013
John Previsich has been elevated to the position of president of the Transportation Division of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers following the retirement of Mike Futhey.
Previsich becomes the second president of the SMART Transportation Division and the eighth leader of what was formerly the United Transportation Union. He is a member of Transportation Division Local 31 in San Jose, Calif.
According to the current UTU Constitution, Article 2 states that “Vacancies occurring in positions not subject to attrition shall be filled as follows: President – By the Assistant President.”
“It is with immeasurable pride and humility that I accept elevation to the position of president of the SMART Transportation Division. This is an honor that I do not take lightly,” Previsich said.
“I recognize the immense responsibility that comes with this office and I pledge to all of our members that I will continue, as I have always done, to serve in a transparent and effective manner, with the strong leadership that is essential to secure and protect the interests of our membership.”
Previsich began his railroad career with Southern Pacific Transportation Company, where he commenced work as a train service operations employee in San Francisco, Calif. He later transferred to engine service and achieved certification as both a railroad conductor and locomotive engineer.
Previsich started doing work as a local union officer in the 1980s. Thereafter, he moved into a system-wide position as a general chairperson in the early 1990s, followed by his election to International vice president in 2007. He was re-elected in 2011, elevated to the position of assistant president in 2012 and assumed the responsibilities of the general secretary and treasurer position on Jan. 1, 2013.
During the course of his career, Previsich has advocated on behalf of his members in mergers and consolidations in the rail and airline industries, 13(c) transactions, divestitures, national and local contract negotiations and countless arbitrations and mediations, securing and defending collective bargaining agreements on properties large and small.
Having a special interest in transportation-industry safety issues, Previsich is the SMART Transportation Division representative on the Federal Railroad Administration’s Rail Safety Advisory Committee and has served on numerous subcommittees associated with RSAC.
In addition, he was appointed by the secretary of the Department of Transportation to the National Freight Advisory Committee, a cabinet-level group that reports directly to the secretary on MAP-21, a program charged with assisting in the development of administration policy on a national freight plan for the 21st century.
At the conclusion of the SMART Transportation Division’s Boston regional meeting July 3, Futhey announced he would step down from office, pending resolution of arbitration proceedings regarding the union’s constitution. His retirement was effective Sept. 30.
|Posted by Thad Krawczyk on November 17, 2013 at 6:30 PM|
Cooperation Will Bring Stronger, Brighter Future For All
November 7, 2013
By Joe Nigro, SMART General President
Last month, delegates from both the SMART Transportation and Sheet Metal Divisions stood together united as one on the floor of the AFL-CIO convention. SMART’s message to our brothers and sisters in the labor movement was simple. We demanded that organized labor, as a whole, hold national, state and local elected leaders accountable for their actions – regardless of their party label and irrespective of any promises they may have made in the past.
The last six years have been difficult for working people. The Great Recession, caused through no fault of our own, was devastating to millions of working families. Making the pill even more bitter and harder to swallow was the fact that when working people asked for a hand up, we were ignored and our hard-earned tax money was diverted to bail out the same Wall Street banks and CEOs who created the mess in the first place.
For those who work in the private sector, whether in construction or transit, the harm done was further exacerbated when we asked to be treated in the same manner as companies like Wal-Mart, who received a one-year waiver from the rules that will be set for administering the Affordable Care Act.
SMART, as well as the rest of the labor movement, supports the goal of better access to quality, affordable health care for all Americans. However, many union health care funds are multi-employer plans, designed to pool the resources of union employers in order to reach the best possible deal on health care benefits for members. Rather than treat these plans in the same way larger employers like Wal-Mart are treated, they were instead pushed out of the exchanges and, in effect, will be undermined by the government subsidies available through the health care exchanges. Amazingly, Obamacare will be undercutting and destroying the very health care plans of its staunchest supporters in order to cut the health care costs of America’s largest corporations. That is outrageous, and another example of why it is important, regardless of who is in office, to remain vigilant – to vote based on issues and not party identification or empty promises.
Let me point to a specific action that illustrates the power of unified action in fighting for workers’ rights on the political front. Adren Crawford, the SMART Transportation Division’s Tennessee State Legislative Director, worked with the SMART Sheet Metal Division Locals 4, 5, 177 and 555 to fight attacks on workers’ compensation and prevailing wage laws in that state. SMART’s transportation members now have a stronger legislative offensive to protect transportation members when they are being transported from point to point at work in that state, as well as support in securing prevailing wage rates for sheet metal construction workers. We see, in this joint effort, how the legislative experience and connections on the transportation side of our union combines with the sheet metal membership strength to show the benefits of the merger.
A similar experience is occurring in Illinois, where the SMART Transportation Division’s state legislative board met with Sheet Metal Local 73 to begin planning joint activities in that state. In Southern California, local unions have come together and worked on joint organizing projects, such as at Bombardier Inc., which manufactures and services passenger rail equipment and serves as an integral piece of the rail transportation pipeline in North America. Earlier this summer, workers at Bombardier overwhelmingly chose to join SMART and we anticipate future organizing efforts at other locations to prove just as successful.
When I hear about these joint efforts, it gives me a sense that the levels of trust and cooperation have increased. To some extent, credit has to be given to the transparency of our operations. We have in place a system of checks and balances that ensure, starting with the General Executive Council, SMART is financially viable. Leaders from both the Transportation and Sheet Metal Divisions serve on that council and we share information to make sure our decisions represent the best interests of our members. In this way, we are accountable for our actions and answerable to the membership.
I want you to remember that this is YOUR union. My job is to work for you. I only ask that you become more involved on the “union side” of being a member. Our union is only as strong as we make it and the stronger it becomes, the more it benefits you and your family. I encourage everyone to take part in their union meetings, campaigns and events. We need you to join SMART’s Facebook pages, either at www.facebook.com/smartunion or by searching “SMART Transportation” in the Facebook search bar. You can also join the SMART Action Team to stay abreast of action alerts and other news items via www.smartaction.org.
SMART is working for you and building a stronger and brighter future for this organization and for our families.
Joseph J. Nigro,
SMART General President