On behalf of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD), I am pleased to respond to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Request for Information regarding Buy America Requirements for Construction Materials, De Minimis Costs, Small Grants, and Minor Components. TTD consists of 37 affiliate unions representing workers in construction and manufacturing who are directly impacted by Buy America policies. TTD endorses the comments submitted by our affiliate, the United Steelworkers (USW).
TTD credits the Biden administration for expanding and strengthening the reach and application of domestic content preferences, both in its support for the Build America, Buy America Act (BABA) in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) and in executive actions such as Executive Order 14005, Ensuring the Future is Made in All of America by All of America’s Workers, among others. We are appreciative of the DOT’s continued work to implement the BIL and prioritize BABA.
The Air Line Pilots Association again has raised objections to what it calls airlines’ improper use of U.S. work visas to recruit foreign temporary pilots and shift flying away from U.S. aviation workers. The most recent complaint stems from the removal of a clause in the Department of Transportation’s approval of a joint venture agreement between Delta Air Lines and LATAM that ALPA claims ensured U.S. pilots and other workers “a fair and equitable share of growth in flying.”
In a statement released Tuesday, ALPA cited an “alarming” increase in pilot positions certified by the Department of Labor to allow employer sponsorship of H1-B and E-3 visas for “specialty occupations.” The “specialty occupation” designation denotes a minimum of a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent in the specialty as a prerequisite for employment. According to ALPA, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Administrative Appeals Office has repeatedly determined that the piloting profession does not qualify as a specialty occupation.
More than half of freight rail workers will vote on proposed contracts next week amid a highly organized effort by some of their colleagues to urge a “no” vote.
It’s the biggest test yet of the Biden administration’s push to avert an economically crippling rail strike after it helped a dozen unions broker a compromise with freight carriers in September. A rebel group, Railroad Workers United, is stoking opposition among members who believe the compromise green-lit by union leaders doesn’t go far enough to address working conditions that have led to severe attrition at the nation’s largest carriers.
Reported by Zachary Halaschak for the Washington Examiner.
The risk of a disruptive strike is growing after another union voted down a labor agreement between rail workers and railroads that would end months of negotiations over pay and working conditions. The deadline for the agreement’s approval is just weeks away.
Workers at a dozen unions involved in the railroad negotiations have until Dec. 9 to approve the agreement (which has already been approved by both the unions’ leadership and the railways), or the United States could face the prospect of rail strikes that would devastate the country’s supply chains and create economic chaos right before one of the busiest times of the year. That date is when a so-called “cooling off” period ends and workers are allowed to strike.
A rail labor union coalition has proposed that Congress require federal regulators to conduct an annual “stress test” that would determine whether the Class I railroads have enough people, equipment, and infrastructure capacity to meet freight demand.
The recommendation, made Nov. 10 by the Transportation Trades Department (TTD) of the AFL-CIO, comes amid ongoing rail service problems due to crew shortages at the big four U.S. Class I railroads, BNSF Railway, CSX Transportation, Norfolk Southern, and Union Pacific.
Our nation’s freight rail system has existed for more than 150 years because it has historically been viewed – both by the federal government and the companies that operate on it – as a long-term asset that requires regular investments in order to continue its vitality. These regular investments have been made both by the federal government and freight railroads as part of an enduring long-term partnership. That partnership includes a duty on the railroads to provide rail service in a way that benefits this country.
In recognition of the freight railroads’ importance to the U.S. economy and the American people, Congress imposed a common carrier obligation on the railroads that requires railroads to “provide reasonable service for a reasonable rate upon a reasonable request from a shipper.” This common carrier obligation continues today in federal law and is a bedrock principle of our rail system. To enforce this obligation and ensure that the railroads were not engaging in unfair practices, Congress created in 1887 the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC), which was the first regulatory commission in the history of the United States. Today, the Surface Transportation Board (STB) is the modern successor to the ICC and is the federal agency responsible for enforcing the common carrier obligation of the railroads.
The federal infrastructure law made the largest-ever investment in passenger rail in America, paving the way for a historic expansion of passenger rail service in nearly every state. Now, as federal grants are available to every state to expand passenger rail service, it’s never been more urgent to require grant recipients to comply with laws that protect passenger rail workers who are adversely affected by the grants. Failure to do so could result in displacement of passenger rail workers when we need a robust workforce to meet this planned national expansion of service.
We call on the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to close a long-standing loophole that allows recipients of federal passenger rail grants to displace workers’ jobs and wages with no recourse. This long overdue action would ensure that passenger rail workers do not lose their jobs because of federally-funded passenger rail projects and would bring these workers into parity with freight rail and public transit workers, who receive similar protections when their jobs or wages are displaced.
For more than a decade, railroad workers’ hard-earned Railroad Unemployment and Sickness Insurance program benefits have been subject to indiscriminate and reckless cuts made by Congress in the 2013 budget sequestration. Railroaders are the only workers in the entire country whose unemployment insurance program is subject to these cuts. The unemployment insurance program often provides the only long-term sickness benefit that most rail workers get when they miss work for an extended period of time. As freight rail workers have spent the last three years negotiating with their employers over short-term sick leave, stagnant wages, and other important benefits, there is no excuse for the federal government to continue to arbitrarily suppress lifeline unemployment and sickness benefits. It’s long past time for Congress to act.
We implore Congress to pass the Railroad Employee Equity and Fairness Act, S.545/H.R.2900, to permanently restore these benefits by exempting the Railroad Unemployment Insurance program from budget sequestration.
In November 2021, President Biden’s promise to enact historic infrastructure investment legislation became a reality when the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) became law. The $1.2 trillion bill was precisely the scale of investment that is long overdue in this country.
In addition to directing record levels of investment in infrastructure, the BIL also enshrined into law many of transportation labor’s key priorities, including strengthened worker protections that support high wages and safe jobs, and powerful domestic content requirements that now must be implemented.
Air traffic controllers keep our skies safe as they efficiently move thousands of aircraft every day throughout the National Airspace System (NAS). Their professional standards are rigorous: new hires undergo extensive training for at least 18 to 36 months depending on their facility assignment. Controllers worked throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and without their ongoing efforts, air travel could not have rebounded as quickly as we have seen in recent months.
Unfortunately, over the last decade, the total number of certified professional controllers (CPCs) and the total controller workforce (including those in training to be air traffic controllers) have not kept up with attrition. There are 1,000 fewer CPCs today than 10 years ago, and over 10 percent of the CPC workforce is eligible to retire. This has led to staffing shortages at certain facilities and some controllers working six days per week.