On behalf of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD), I am pleased to respond to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Proposed Temporary Waiver of Buy America Requirements for Construction Materials. TTD consists of 37 affiliate unions representing workers in construction and manufacturing who are directly impacted by Buy America policies.
The waiver would provide relief from Buy America requirements for 180 days, beginning May 14, 2022. During this time, DOT expects states, industry, and other partners to begin the compliance process in conjunction with the new Made in America standards that were included in the Build America, Buy America (BABA) title of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). These requirements include that all of the iron, steel, manufactured products, and construction materials used in federally-assisted infrastructure projects are produced in the United States.
On behalf of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD), I urge you to vote YES on H.R. 2499, the “Federal Firefighters Fairness Act of 2022,” when it is considered this week.
Federal firefighters risk their lives every day protecting the American people, property, and the environment. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), fire suppression activities involve recurring exposure to high heat, smoke, stress, and hazardous substances, all of which can lead to a host of chronic illnesses. Despite the well-documented occupational risks of firefighting, federal firefighters who fall ill must provide specific details about the exposure that caused their occupational illness when filing a claim for federal workers’ compensation. For a federal firefighter with a cancer diagnosis, a leading cause of death among firefighters, this requirement can prove to be particularly onerous, given the difficulty in identifying the time, location, and duration of exposure to carcinogenic substances. While nearly every state offers presumption of occupational illness to local and state firefighters, no such federal law currently exists for federal firefighters.
On behalf of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD), I urge you to vote YES on H.R. 903, the “Rights for the TSA Workforce Act of 2022” when it is considered next week.
Every day, thousands of Transportation Security Officers (TSOs) show up to work to keep our aviation system, mass transit networks, and large public gatherings safe and secure for transportation workers and the general public. However, since the creation of the TSA, its dedicated and skilled employees have been denied many of the basic federal worker rights and protections enjoyed by other federal workers, including those in the Department of Homeland Security. There is no justification for the ongoing mistreatment of the men and women of the TSO workforce, and H.R. 903 takes critical steps to ensure that they have the workplace rights they have earned and deserve.
On behalf of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD), representing 37 affiliate unions across all modes of transportation, I urge you to oppose S. Con. Res. 37 and 38, led by Senators Coons and Ernst, that would eliminate Ship American “cargo preference” rules essential to our U.S. Merchant Marine and U.S.-flag shipping industry. These unnecessary resolutions would waive a requirement that 50% of U.S. food-aid exports must be shipped on U.S.-flagged ships, which waives Ship American rules worldwide.
On behalf of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD), I am pleased to respond to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) proposed rule regarding the Addition of Oral Fluid Specimen Testing for Drugs. TTD consists of 37 affiliate unions representing workers across all modes of transportation.
The proposed rule would allow the use of oral fluid specimens to be used for drug testing programs. In 2019, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) approved the use of oral fluid drug testing, and this proposed rule would align DOT’s regulations with the new Mandatory Guidelines for Federal Workplace Drug Testing Programs using Oral Fluid already finalized by HHS. In addition to the establishment of oral fluids as an accepted specimen, DOT also proposes to make a number of changes to its drug testing regulations beyond the scope of the addition of a new specimen.
On behalf of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD) and our 37 affiliated unions, including the totality of rail labor, I first want to thank Chairman Oberman and the other Members of the Surface Transportation Board for the opportunity to speak before the Board today on the issues facing our freight rail network. The employees represented by TTD-affiliated unions are on the front lines of these challenges and have been sounding the alarm on the state of the freight rail industry for years. It is deeply unfortunate, but also completely predictable, that we would find ourselves here today. As both railroad employees and customers sit before you today to express a shared simple fact – that today’s freight rail network is simply not working for anyone other than railroad investors – we hope that the Board embraces this opportunity to effectuate positive change for rail employees, shippers, and the American public.
On behalf of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD) and the totality of rail labor as represented by our affiliated unions, I write in support of the sentiments raised by the National Grain and Feed Association’s (NGFA) March 24th letter to the Board. NGFA describes service disruptions its members are facing on the Union Pacific (UP), Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) and Norfolk Southern (NS), in both picking up and delivering grain and feed products. As NGFA discusses, this presents not only financial challenges for its members, but ultimately threatens the ability of the nation’s farmers to feed their livestock. The notion that our nation’s food supply chain is threatened by the continued negligence and intransigence of the railroad industry is both stunning and unacceptable.
On behalf of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD), I am pleased to respond to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) notice regarding the Non-Traditional and Emerging Transportation Technology (NETT) Council’s request for comments. TTD consists of 37 affiliate unions representing workers across all modes of transportation. Those unions, and the millions of workers they represent, bring a critical perspective to the questions put forward in this notice.
As you know, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) tasked the NETT Council with resolving jurisdictional and regulatory gaps or inconsistencies associated with nontraditional and emerging transportation technologies and coordinating DOT’s response to nontraditional and emerging transportation technology projects. While TTD supports an agency-wide approach to evaluating the regulatory challenges presented by new and emerging technologies, the agency’s success in meeting these challenges will hinge squarely on the direct involvement of labor unions. History has proven that strong unions and worker engagement are essential to mitigate the harms inherent in rapid technological changes to industries, and this is particularly true in the transportation sector, which has enjoyed relatively strong union density over the past century.
For years, fatigue has persisted as one of the single greatest threats to railroad safety. An inability to concentrate, decreased situational awareness, and reduced reaction times when tasked with the operation of freight trains — including those carrying explosive, radioactive, and flammable cargoes — can turn deadly with a moment’s notice. Despite this, Class I railroads have continued to pursue abusive and punitive attendance policies that push employees past their physical limits, forcing them to choose between their livelihoods and performing their jobs safely. Union Pacific’s recent adoption of a draconian attendance policy followed by BNSF’s adoption and deployment of its “Hi-Viz” policy are the most recent and egregious entries into this race to the bottom. BNSF’s Hi-Viz, and other policies like it are not compatible with safe railroad operations, and it is essential that their existence does not persist.
Since President Biden assumed office a little more than a year ago, the Biden administration has taken several actions to review and address current U.S. supply chain disruptions caused in large measure by a global pandemic and compounded by years of failure on the part of our government to develop and implement a realistic national maritime policy. As the federal government and the commercial maritime industries work to build a more resilient supply chain, TTD urges Congress and the administration to implement a national maritime strategy that includes, among other things, core policies that increase the size of our U.S.-flag fleet and the amount of America’s trade carried by U.S.-flag ships, enhance and strengthen U.S.-flag cargo preference laws, fully fund the maritime and tanker security programs, and categorically reject flag-of-convenience and open registry schemes.