On behalf of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD), I am pleased to respond to the Federal Railroad Administration’s (FRA) notice of its intent to review a quiet zone located in Deerfield Beach, Pompano Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Oakland Park, Wilton Manors, Dania Beach, Hollywood, and Hallandale Beach, Florida. TTD consists of 37 affiliated unions representing the totality of rail labor, including rail workers who operate on these lines. For the reasons outlined below, we ask that the FRA end the current quiet zone order for this area to increase safety for workers and communities surrounding rail lines. Additionally, we endorse the comments of our affiliate, the Transportation Division of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, and Transportation Workers (SMART-TD).
With 34 serious incidents, including 22 fatalities in 2022, it is clear that this zone requires additional safety measures to mitigate risk. The most rapid plan would be to immediately discontinue the quiet zone and assess whether that provides a sufficient level of safety for workers and communities located near rail tracks. Following this period of study, there may be additional needs to increase safety. However, it is clear that there is a high level of risk presently, and it is simply unacceptable for rail operations to continue to injure and kill people.
We write to express concern that a previously rare and limited business model for air service, once confined to private jet charters, is expanding so rapidly that it threatens to take over a large part of the air services in the United States. Airlines selling passenger tickets on flights that are scheduled in all but name are operating under a combination of rules: the safety rules of 14 CFR Part 135, the economic rules of 14 CFR Part 298 for commuter air carriers, and 14 CFR Part 380 for public charters. Because of a loophole created by that combination of rules, these airlines are able to skirt safety and security regulations that your departments and agencies enforce. A pending application before DOT by a unit of SkyWest Airlines implicates this business model, as we will describe.
One such air carrier is branded as “JSX.” The operator is Delux Public Charter, LLC, d/b/a JSX Air, and the charterer and re-seller of seats is JetSuiteX, Inc. (collectively, JSX). Through this complex structure, JSX is providing scheduled passenger service between major airports available for purchase in a manner that — to the ordinary consumer — looks identical to buying a seat on a regular scheduled airline. This arrangement enables JSX to fly a self-described “hop-on jet service” with scheduled operations on aircraft limited to 30 passengers under Part 135, asserting a speedy path to the plane using “private terminals,” and “non-invasive security procedures.”
On behalf of the undersigned labor organizations representing employees of airlines and airline contractors, we write to declare in no uncertain terms our opposition to efforts to amend the Airline Deregulation Act (ADA) or otherwise statutorily preempt state and municipal labor and related policy for airline workers.
In 1978 Congress limited ADA preemption so as not to foreclose state and local regulation of traditional areas of state concern regarding labor and employee issues as applied to aviation workers. By expressly tailoring preemption of state law only to circumstances where the states directly regulate customer-centric prices, routes, and airline service, Congress balanced the industry’s need for uniformity in its relation to the traveling public while respecting the states’ traditional ability to protect and support its citizens. Our members, like workers throughout the economy, avail themselves of the benefits provided by state and local governments to care for sick spouses, children, and to address medical concerns outside the protections provided by their collective bargaining agreements. These long-established protections should not be arbitrarily foreclosed. As Congress recently observed in the railroad industry, transportation workers care significantly about matters unrelated to pay, and the flexibility to provide and care for oneself and family is necessary for a stable industry. Attempts to expand the intent and statutory framework of federal preemption or to swallow up and preclude these important state law rights will negate this significant progress.
On behalf of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD), I am pleased to respond to the Maritime Administration’s (MARAD) request for information concerning cargo preference. TTD consists of 37 affiliated unions representing U.S maritime workers offshore and onshore and dockworkers. Additionally, we endorse the comments of USA Maritime.
U.S.-flagged ships currently carry less than 2% of cargo in the U.S.-international trade. One way to increase the amount of cargo carried by U.S.-flag vessels is to stimulate demand by restoring and enhancing U.S.-flag cargo preference shipping requirements. In 2012, Congress arbitrarily reduced civilian cargo preference policies in the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act, slashing Cargo Preference or Ship-American requirements for international aid cargoes from 75% to 50%. This change has drastically reduced the size of our fleet and outsourced U.S. maritime jobs.
On behalf of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD), I am pleased to respond to the Federal Railroad Administration’s (FRA) notice of a recent joint request from 20 railroads to amend their positive train control (PTC) safety plans. TTD consists of 37 affiliated unions representing the totality of rail labor, including both passenger and freight rail workers. Additionally, TTD endorses the comments of our affiliate, the Transportation Division of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART-TD).
High-Hazard Flammable Trains
The joint PTC request for amendment (RFA) from 20 railroads that use Wabtec PTC systems would restrict operating speeds to 50 mph in all areas and 40 mph in “high-threat urban areas” for trains with tank cars that do not meet the enhanced tank car standards also laid out in a 2015 Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) final rule.
On behalf of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD), I am pleased to respond to the Federal Railroad Administration’s (FRA) notice of a recent petition for extension of a waiver of compliance from Norfolk Southern (NS) regarding its R-3 Dual Rail Gang. TTD consists of 37 affiliated unions representing the totality of rail labor, including both passenger and freight rail workers and maintenance of way workers who work with this equipment. We ask FRA to deny this petition for the reasons discussed below. Additionally, we endorse the comments filed by our affiliated union, the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes Division of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (BMWED).
The R-3 Gang is a system-level production gang of 78 employees and 40 roadway maintenance machines with the capability to remove both rails while simultaneously installing both new rails. During dual rail replacement, both rails are removed from the track structure and positioned on the ballast against the outside of the cross ties on the occupied track. In this position, the removed rail is nearly 16.75 inches closer to the adjacent controlled track than its normal gauge position on the crosstie. In this waiver, NS requests to continue using the removed rails of the occupied track as an envelope for on-ground work performed exclusively between these rails for the employees working on the R-3 Dual Rail Gang. Additionally, NS requests to allow up to four on-ground employees (when working with one adjacent controlled track) and up to eight on-ground employees (when working with two adjacent controlled tracks) of the R-3 Dual Rail Gang to break the plane of the outside rail to perform minor work.
Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO, President Greg Regan joined the America’s Work Force Union Podcast and spoke about the current battle between the TTD and railroad carriers, as the unions demand a stop to stock buybacks until improved safety measures are in place.
Recently, the TTD began a campaign that demands railroad companies not buy back their stock until the industry’s safety improves. Since 2015, the six publicly-traded U.S. freight rail companies spent over $165 billion on stock buybacks. That amount is at least $46 billion more than they invested in safety, as the ratio for derailments to every million miles traveled increased from 1.71 derailments in 2013 to nearly 2 in 2022, he added.
Fourteen unions representing more than 100,000 freight-rail workers have launched a campaign demanding that U.S. freight-rail corporations stop all stock buybacks until rail safety improves.
On the nostockbuybacks.org website, unions ask railroad executives to stop using the precision scheduled railroading business model and decrease the rate of safety accidents across the industry so that workers feel safe.
“Since 2015, the big six publicly traded U.S. freight rail companies spent more than $165 billion in stock buybacks, which is at least $46 billion more than they invested in safety,” the unions claimed in a press release.
Negotiations between U.S. Class I railroads and unions representing operating craft employees, such as locomotive engineers and train conductors, regarding sick leave and scheduling will likely last through summer, according to Jeremy Ferguson, president for the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers – Transportation Division (SMART-TD).
The unions and the railroads have been charged to hash out scheduling issues at the local level or the property level, as opposed to the national level. The Presidential Emergency Board, a three-person committee that had been appointed by President Joe Biden to help the railroads and the unions push through an impasse in national contract negotiations last summer, affirmed this course of action last year.
As the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee considers the Coast Guard Reauthorization Act of 2023, we write to express our views on a provision that would require the employment of U.S. workers in the development and operation of the emerging offshore wind industry.
Last Congress, the House of Representatives passed the Don Young Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2022, with overwhelming bipartisan support. Specifically, Section 518 of this legislation would require that foreign vessels utilize either U.S. mariners or citizens of the vessel’s flag state while operating in the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS). Similar to the current provision, this language represents an important policy discussion about the need for offshore wind developers to make long-term investments in hiring U.S. workers, particularly in the installation, operation, and maintenance of offshore wind turbines.