Progress Through Unity

On Track Protection

In light of a recent event we want to send a message about the importance of requesting and receiving on track protection or foul time whenever it is necessary to cross, occupy, or foul a main track.

Whether it will be a quick move or prolonged for inspection, repair, rescue, or passenger assist. Please call dispatcher and ask for protection as per NORAC rule 140, whenever you will be on a live track.

We do a dangerous job and becoming complacent can cost us and our coworkers our lives.


House of Representatives passed an anti-worker bill

Brothers and Sister,

Earlier this week, the House of Representatives passed an anti-worker billed misguidedly labeled as the “Working Families Flexibility Act” (H.R. 1180). This harmful legislation would let employers give workers paid time off instead of being required to pay one and a half times their regular rate of pay for hours worked beyond 40 in a work week.

H.R. 1180 encourages employers to require excessive hours because overtime work would become cheaper and allow the employer to determine when the compensatory time off is allowed. This anti-worker bill would result in longer hours, less pay and more unpredictable work schedules for those who are not fortunate enough to have a union contract to protect them.

During a time when our nation’s elected leaders should be focused on creating good paying American jobs, H.R. 1180 does nothing more than provide employers with an opportunity to cheat their employees out of their earned overtime pay.

Attached is a letter I sent to every Member of Congress urging them to vote NO on this anti-worker bill. You can find out how your elected representatives voted by clicking the link below.

In solidarity,
John Risch
National Legislative Director
SMART Transportation Division


RRB Analysis: Trump’s budget to gut Amtrak would be disastrous for ALL rail workers

If signed into law, President Trump’s 2018 budget proposal would eliminate Amtrak’s long distance train service. The immediate fall out would be significant for all American rail workers resulting in the loss of 10,000 non-Northeast Corridor Amtrak jobs by the end of this year.

According to a recent report by the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) Actuary, the impact of such job losses would result in a long-term decrease in Railroad Retirement benefits and overall increase in taxes.

Impact on RRB benefits & trust funds if 10,000 Amtrak jobs cut

While RRB accounts could absorb the loss of 10,000 Amtrak jobs, the cumulative impact of losses in the rail industry, including approximately 30,000 jobs that have been lost in just the last two years, will take a significantly negative toll on the entire system. Attached you will find the RRB’s detailed projection in loss of jobs, loss of benefits, and major increase in railroad unemployment benefits projected for 2017 and 2018.

The time to act is NOW

We must urge fellow members, friends and family to call, email and write our national elected officials  to OPPOSE any budget that would cut 10,00 Amtrak jobs, eliminate commuter rail service and irreparably harm the retirement benefits that all railroad members worked for a lifetime to secure.

Click here to urge your elected representatives to oppose any budget cuts to Amtrak’s long-distance train service via the Legislative Action Center (LAC).

In solidarity,
John Risch
National Legislative Director
SMART Transportation Division


Amtrak Said to Weigh Extended Track Closings for Penn Station Repairs


SMART-TD New Jersey Voters: Register to Vote by May 16th

Did you know that 81 percent of all New Jersey SMART TD and UTU retirees who are registered to vote did so in the 2016 election? In fact, this is 9 percentage points higher than the New Jersey public as a whole. This trend underscores our union’s long-standing tradition of high voter participation.

Voter Turnout Rates by Local

 60       81%
710      83%
759     86%
800     78%
1390    81%
1413    83%
1445    77%
1447    74%
1558    80%
1589    78%
Retired 84%

While we just finished a major presidential election last year, you have an opportunity to elect a new governor in 2017 right here in New Jersey. Below are upcoming dates to keep in mind.

Upcoming New Jersey Election Dates
** May 16 – Last day to register to vote in the Primary Election
** June 6 New Jersey Statewide Primary Election Day
** November 7 – New Jersey Statewide General Election Day

We’ve all heard the phrase “elections have consequences”, but sitting on the sidelines and letting others decide our future is a consequence we can avoid. The first important decision you can make this year is to ensure you and your family members are registered to vote at your current address. Use the link below to verify or update your voter registration status.

Click HERE to verify or update your voter registration by May 16th.

If you have any questions about registering to vote or the upcoming election, please contact Ron Sabol at the New Jersey State Legislative Board at (609) 396-1994.

The deadline to update your records for the June 6th primary election is May 16, 2017.

In solidarity,
John Risch
National Legislative Director
SMART Transportation Division


Information available from SMART-TD

Download (PDF, 152KB)

GP Sellers February Video Message: Our Meeting With President Trump

Message from our National Legislative Director

Dear Stephen,

I wanted to share a video with you by former U.S. Secretary of Labor Robert Reich that explains why so-called “right to work” laws are wrong and are only intended to undermine labor unions. Currently, 28 states have enacted “right-to-work” laws and that number is only expected to grow including recent efforts in the United States Congress to pass a national “right-to-work” law that would threaten the Railway Labor Act.

While “right-to-work” sounds good on paper, it lets your co-workers enjoy a union contract and representation without paying any dues at your expense. This weakens your ability to negotiate with your employer and threatens wages, benefits, and your right to a safe workplace.

Click HERE to watch “Robert Reich: Why “Right to Work” is Wrong for Workers”

In solidarity,
John Risch
National Legislative Director
SMART Transportation Division

New Jersey Transit faces a widening examination of its safety practices

New Jersey Transit faces a widening examination of its safety practices after federal regulators discovered hundreds of potential work-hour violations, including altered duty logs and shifts longer than permitted.

Federal Railroad Administration inspectors recommended penalties in September after they found timekeeping irregularities by a small sample of engineers and other on-board crew, according to material obtained by Bloomberg in response to a public-records request.

The lapses, the inspectors wrote, allowed employees “to work longer or more preferred jobs” at the nation’s third-largest mass-transit operator, a crucial link to New York City. The broadening review comes as lawmakers question safety and finances at the agency, which in the 1990s was a model for innovation and service, only to suffer increased breakdowns and more crowded rush hours as the state provided less budget aid.

“Hours-of-service laws are not foolish,” Martin Robins, New Jersey Transit’s deputy executive director when the agency was founded in 1979, said in an interview. “They’re set up for a reason: to protect the public.”

State Assemblyman John McKeon, a Democrat from West Orange who is co-leading public hearings on the agency, requested details Wednesday afternoon of New Jersey Transit’s scheduling practices and any documents authorizing excess hours.

The reports are crucial to combating fatigue, a factor in deadly train wrecks in recent years in Connecticut, Arkansas and Iowa. In response to a fatal New Jersey Transit crash and a Long Island Rail Road wreck in Brooklyn that injured more than 100 people, five U.S. senators this month urged the National Transportation Safety Board to review railroads’ testing procedures among engineers for sleep disorders.

In the matter of New Jersey Transit’s duty logs, inspectors reviewed two days of handwritten records in June, and alleged 246 instances of improper documentation, including alterations to 42 signed records and 34 instances of insufficient rest time between shifts.

Nancy Snyder, an agency spokeswoman, said most lapses were “record-keeping clerical issues,” and that the agency is considering switching to an electronic system to avoid such errors.

“New Jersey Transit routinely reviews employees’ hours of service to ensure they are in compliance with federal regulations,” Snyder wrote in an e-mail. “Trains are not routinely staffed by individuals working hours beyond what regulations allow.”

Handwritten System

Still, disciplinary action has been taken against one employee and proceedings are pending against 35 others, Snyder said. Now, while regulators consider whether to seek penalties against the railroad, federal examiners are looking for widespread discrepancies among handwritten logs submitted daily by New Jersey Transit’s 1,600 engineers and other on-board crew.

McKeon, in a letter to Steve Santoro, the agency’s executive director, requested two years of conductors’ and engineers’ work schedules and all approvals for hours beyond what the law allows. He also asked for names of employees overseeing staffing hours, storage locations for handwritten records and results of any internal audits to ensure timekeeping protocol are followed.

“What actions has NJ Transit taken to ensure that it can manage employee hours, specifically concerning employees with fatigue risks?” McKeon wrote.

The Federal Railroad Administration’s “audit and our enforcement actions remain ongoing,” Matthew Lehner, a spokesman for the U.S. Transportation Department, said in an e-mail. No hours-of-service violation notices have been issued.

The New Jersey Transit workers whose duty logs raised red flags are among the train personnel nationwide at greatest risk of fatigue and most likely to exceed monthly work-hour limits, according to a 2013 report by the Federal Railroad Administration. Sleep disorders, including apnea, also appear to occur at a higher rate among railroad employees than other U.S. workers, the report found.

Earlier research by the federal agency found that crew fatigue had a role in about 25 percent of train accidents attributed to so-called human factors, such as inattentiveness and poor judgment.

Commuter Headaches

New Jersey Transit, with 90 million passengers annually, has been beset in recent years by crowding, more frequent breakdowns and unreliable service. Rail service Tuesday was returning to normal a day after a wind-driven storm took down electrical wires along tracks in Linden, suspending New Jersey Transit and Amtrak trains for hours along the Northeast Corridor, the nation’s busiest line.

Snyder said the railroad is cooperating with the expanded railroad administration inquiry, which began in June.

A separate review of operations and finances is under way by New Jersey lawmakers in response to a September wreck in Hoboken that killed a woman on a platform and injured more than 100 passengers. The train’s engineer had undiagnosed sleep apnea, his lawyer has said.

Cash Crunch

At a hearing in Trenton in November, Santoro said lack of funding is at the root of many of New Jersey Transit’s troubles.

From 1990 through fiscal 2017, New Jersey Transit used $7.1 billion intended for capital improvements to cover day-to-day expenses. Forty-two percent of those diversions took place under Republican Governor Chris Christie, more than any other governor.

From January 2011 through July 2016, New Jersey Transit logged the most train accidents and the highest safety-violation fines of any U.S. commuter railroad, federal data show.

At the November hearing, Santoro disclosed instances of forbidden mobile-phone use, locomotives left unattended and missing emergency equipment, all documented by federal inspectors. In response, he said, the railroad was stepping up enforcement and expanding training. He also committed to fully staffing a safety office that was operating without a deputy chief and about a dozen others.

In some cases, the records were missing documented days off or such details as travel time to assignments, which counts toward maximum hours. Each penalty carries a fine of as much as $25,000, though those amounts typically are negotiated down.

McKeon said the Railroad Administration’s findings on duty logs, if proven, are “intolerable to the thousands of people who rely on New Jersey Transit every day.”

“Whether mismanagement or lack of personnel or outright violating of federal safety rules, the FRA being involved, with all its heft, can only help,” he said in an interview.

HOS Q Forms

Please be aware the Carrier is approaching members about HOS Q forms. There are certain things that you must remember about filling out missing or corrected Q forms.

1) These forms can ONLY  be filled out while you are at work and on duty, they are considered ” Covered Service”

2) If you have no break in your job they may be filled out at the conclusion of your assignment.

3) If you fill them out on your swing you must  have the required time “Off Duty” to comply with HOS.

4) Please contact me if anyone was threatened with a fine from the FRA, this is FALSE, unless the contents are purposely fraudulent.

5) Any time that you spent correcting the forms, fill out a time card that must be signed by NJT manager. If they refuse to sign, email me.

6) You are responsible for the information on this form, nobody can change the info but you. You are signing it, the info must be your own.

Please email me if you have concerns, have already filled them out without a time card, or were not comfortable with the information that was provided to you concerning this issue.


Stephen J. Burkert

General Chairman