Thompson to SMART reps: “You have hit a grand slam”

Written by William C. Vantuono, Editor-in-Chief
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In a July 20, 2014 letter to SMART-Transportation Division International Representative John W. Babler and General Chairperson Randall S. Knutson, former United Transportation Union International President Paul C. Thompson expresses his support for the tentative agreement on one-person train crews reached by BNSF Railway and SMART General Committee 001:

“I have had the pleasure of reading the proposed Crew Consist Agreement and Wage and Rule Settlement recently negotiated on a large portion of BNSF Railway. Both of you along with the various Assistant and Associate Chairpersons are to be congratulated on an agreement that goes beyond any protection agreement that I have observed.

“Over the past several years there has been an outpouring from numerous groups, including our Legislative Department, promoting Positive Train Control (PTC). The BNSF has taken the lead in installing this equipment on many of its territories. Instead of waiting and then having to be reactive in trying to salvage any damage that could come from this new technology, each of you has been very proactive and addressed the situation head-on in order to protect the membership you represent. That is true leadership that is hard to find in this day and age.

“I recognize that in addition to supporting PTC, our union is also trying to obtain legislation for a minimum of a two-person crew. This fact in and of itself recognizes that with PTC comes a serious threat to the possibility of losses to SMART-represented jobs. While everyone hopes to see such legislation, the fact remains that with the current Congress and the action of our government in Washington, D.C., nothing is getting addressed, let alone anything that would be of favor to working families.

“Each of you has been successful in negotiating the better of two worlds. Should legislation pass for the requirement of two-person crews, in Article VII, your Agreement provides for a Snap-Back back to your original Agreements. That is covering all bases.

“We all do not like changes, but such will always come about. It wasn’t that long ago that each train crew had 5 and sometimes 6 crewmembers along with a caboose. First the railroads went after the firemen’s craft, and through legislation the carriers were successful in eliminating all firemen with less than 10 years seniority. I was one of those firemen and realized then that you cannot count on legislation to protect your jobs. Then came the first generation of crew consist [agreements] followed by second, third, and sometime fourth generation of crew consists, all with the intent of the carriers eliminating more crews. This was followed by first eliminating the cabooses, thus placing the rear brakeman and conductor on the head end. Again, the carriers took advantage of this situation to eliminate more positions.

“Don’t think for a minute that the carriers are not looking down the road to take the same advantage of PTC technology. You each have seen the future and rightfully have jumped ahead of the game for the benefit of our membership.

“No doubt there will be those that criticize your efforts, but what are their options? You have eliminated all entry rates, provided protection for all your current ground service employees, obtained a Scope Rule for the future and restored jobs that had been previously lost, and provided a Snap-Back if two-person crews are legislated. You each have not only hit a home run, you have hit a grand slam.

“I am very proud of each of you, for your willingness to do what is right for SMART members, and while there will be changes to some jobs, they will belong to SMART employees with full protection.”

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