Local 0872


Survivor Benefits - 2/25/2015

Railroad Retirement explain survivor benefits

RRB_seal_150pxMonthly benefits may be payable under the Railroad Retirement Act to the surviving widow(er), children, and certain other dependents of a railroad employee if the employee was “insured” under that act at the time of death. Lump-sum death benefits may also be payable to qualified survivors in some cases.

The following questions and answers describe the survivor benefits payable by the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) and the eligibility requirements for these benefits.

1. What are the general service requirements for railroad retirement survivor benefits?

With the exception of one type of lump-sum death benefit, eligibility for survivor benefits depends on whether or not a deceased employee was “insured” under the Railroad Retirement Act. An employee is insured if he or she has at least 120 months (10 years) of railroad service, or 60 months (5 years) performed after 1995, and a “current connection” with the railroad industry as of the month the annuity begins or the month of death, whichever occurs first.

Generally, an employee who worked for a railroad in at least 12 months in the 30 months immediately preceding the month his or her railroad retirement annuity begins will meet the current connection requirement. If an employee dies before retirement, railroad service in at least 12 months in the 30 months before the month of death will meet the current connection requirement for the purpose of paying survivor benefits.

If an employee does not qualify on this basis, but has 12 months of service in an earlier 30-month period, he or she may still meet the current connection requirement. This alternative generally applies if the employee did not have any regular employment outside the railroad industry after the end of the last 30-month period which included 12 months of railroad service and before the month the annuity begins or the date of death.

Full or part-time work for a nonrailroad employer in the interval between the end of the last 30-month period including 12 months of railroad service and the beginning date of an employee’s annuity, or the month of death if earlier, can break a current connection.

Self-employment in an unincorporated business will not break a current connection; however, self-employment can break a current connection if the business is incorporated.

Working for certain U.S. Government agencies – Department of Transportation, National Transportation Safety Board, Surface Transportation Board, Transportation Security Administration, National Mediation Board, Railroad Retirement Board – will not break a current connection. State employment with the Alaska Railroad, so long as that railroad remains an entity of the State of Alaska, will not break a current connection. Also, railroad service in Canada for a Canadian railroad will neither break nor preserve a current connection.

A current connection can also be maintained, for purposes of supplemental and survivor annuities, if the employee completed 25 years of railroad service, was involuntarily terminated without fault from his or her last job in the rail industry on or after Oct. 1, 1975, and did not thereafter decline an offer of employment in the same class or craft in the rail industry, regardless of the distance to the new position.

Once a current connection is established at the time the railroad retirement annuity begins, an employee never loses it no matter what kind of work is performed thereafter.

2. What if these service requirements are not met?

If a deceased employee did not have an insured status, jurisdiction of any survivor benefits payable is transferred to the Social Security Administration and survivor benefits are paid by that agency instead of the RRB. Regardless of which agency has jurisdiction, the deceased employee’s railroad retirement and social security credits will be combined for benefit computation purposes.

3. What are the age and other eligibility requirements for widow(er)s?

Widow(er)s’ benefits are payable at age 60 or over. They are payable at any age if the widow(er) is caring for an unmarried child of the deceased employee under age 18 or a disabled child of any age who became permanently disabled before age 22. Widow(er)s’ benefits are also payable at ages 50-59 if the widow(er) is totally and permanently disabled and unable to work in any regular employment. The disability must have begun within 7 years after the employee’s death or within seven years after the termination of an annuity based on caring for a child of the deceased employee. In most cases, a 5-month waiting period is required after the onset of disability before disability payments can begin.

Generally, the widow(er) must have been married to the employee for at least nine months prior to death, unless she or he was the natural parent of their child, the employee’s death was accidental or while on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces, the widow(er) was potentially entitled to certain railroad retirement or social security benefits in the month before the month of marriage, or the marriage was postponed due to State restrictions on the employee’s prior marriage and divorce due to mental incompetence or similar incapacity.

4. Can surviving divorced spouses and remarried widow(er)s also qualify for benefits?

Survivor benefits may also be payable to a surviving divorced spouse or remarried widow(er). Benefits are limited to the amount social security would pay and therefore are less than the amount of the survivor annuity otherwise payable by the RRB. However, a former spouse may be paid a court-ordered partition amount.

A surviving divorced spouse may qualify if she or he was married to the employee for at least 10 years, and is age 60 or older (age 50 if disabled). A surviving divorced spouse who is unmarried can qualify at any age if caring for the employee’s child and the child is under age 16 or disabled, in which case the 10-year marriage requirement does not apply. A widow(er) or surviving divorced spouse who remarries after age 60, or a disabled widow(er) or disabled surviving divorced spouse who remarries after age 50 may also receive the portion of a survivor annuity equivalent to a social security benefit (Tier I); however, remarriage prior to age 60 (or age 50 if disabled) would not prevent eligibility if that remarriage ended. Such social security level benefits may also be paid to a younger widow(er) or surviving divorced spouse caring for the employee’s child who is under age 16 or disabled, if the remarriage is to a person entitled to railroad retirement or social security benefits or the remarriage ends.

5. When are survivor benefits payable to children and other dependents?

Monthly survivor benefits are payable to an unmarried child under age 18, and to an unmarried child age 18 in full-time attendance at an elementary or secondary school, or in approved homeschooling, until the student attains age 19 or the end of the school term in progress when the student attains age 19. In most cases where a student attains age 19 during the school term, benefits are limited to the two months following the month age 19 is attained. These benefits will be terminated earlier if the student marries, graduates or ceases full-time attendance. An unmarried disabled child over age 18 may qualify if the child became totally and permanently disabled before age 22. An unmarried dependent grandchild meeting any of the requirements described above for a child may also qualify if both the grandchild’s parents are deceased or disabled.

Monthly survivor benefits are also payable to a surviving parent at age 60 who was dependent on the employee for at least half of the parent’s support. If the employee was also survived by a widow(er), surviving divorced spouse or child who could ever qualify for an annuity, the parent’s annuity is limited to the amount that Social Security would pay (Tier I).

6. How are railroad retirement widow(er)s’ benefits computed?

The Tier I amount of a two-tier survivor benefit is based on the deceased employee’s combined railroad retirement and social security earnings credits, and is computed using social security formulas. In general, the survivor Tier I amount is equal to the amount of survivor benefits that would have been payable under social security.

December 2001 legislation established an “initial minimum amount” which yields, in effect, a widow(er)’s Tier II benefit equal to the Tier II benefit the employee would have received at the time of the award of the widow(er)’s annuity, minus any applicable age reduction.

However, such a Tier II benefit will not receive annual cost-of-living increases until such time as the widow(er)’s annuity, as computed under prior law with all interim cost-of-living increases otherwise payable, exceeds the widow(er)’s annuity as computed under the initial minimum amount formula.

The average annuity awarded to widow(er)s in fiscal year 2014, excluding remarried widow(er)s and surviving divorced spouses, was $1,976 a month. Children received $1,294 a month, on the average. Total family benefits for widow(er)s with children averaged $3,771 a month. The average annuity awarded to remarried widow(er)s or surviving divorced spouses in fiscal year 2014 was $1,104 a month.

A widow(er) who received a spouse annuity from the RRB is guaranteed that the amount of any widow(er)’s benefit payable will never be less than the annuity she or he was receiving as a spouse in the month before the employee died.

7. Are survivor benefits subject to any reduction for early retirement or disability retirement?

A widow(er), surviving divorced spouse or remarried widow(er) whose annuity begins at full retirement age or later receives the full Tier I amount unless the deceased employee received an annuity that was reduced for early retirement. The eligibility age for a full widow(er)’s annuity is gradually rising from age 65 to age 67. The maximum age reductions will range from 17.1 percent to 20.36 percent, depending on the widow(er)’s date of birth. For a surviving divorced spouse or remarried widow(er), the maximum age reduction is 28.5 percent. For a disabled widow(er), disabled surviving divorced spouse or disabled remarried widow(er), the maximum reduction is 28.5 percent, even if the annuity begins at age 50.

8. Are these benefits subject to offset for the receipt of other benefits?

Under the Railroad Retirement Act, the Tier I portion of a survivor annuity is subject to reduction if any social security benefits are also payable, even if the social security benefit is based on the survivor’s own earnings. This reduction follows the principles of social security law which, in effect, limit payment to the highest of any two or more benefits payable to an individual at one time.

The Tier I portion of a widow(er)’s annuity may also be reduced for the receipt of any Federal, State or local government pension based on the widow(er)’s own earnings. The reduction generally does not apply if the employment on which the public pension is based was covered under the Social Security Act throughout the last 60 months of public employment. However, most military service pensions and payments from the Department of Veterans Affairs will not cause a reduction. For those subject to the public pension reduction, the Tier I reduction is equal to 2/3 of the amount of the public pension.

A survivor annuitant should notify the RRB promptly if she or he becomes entitled to any such benefits.

9. What if a widow(er) was also a railroad employee and is eligible for a railroad retirement employee annuity as well as monthly survivor benefits?

If both the widow(er) and the deceased employee started railroad employment after 1974, the survivor annuity payable to the widow(er) is reduced by the amount of the employee annuity.

If either the deceased employee or the survivor annuitant had some service before 1975 but had not completed 120 months of railroad service before 1975, the employee annuity and the Tier II portion of the survivor annuity would be payable to the widow(er). The Tier I portion of the survivor annuity would be payable only to the extent that it exceeds the Tier I portion of the employee annuity.

A special guaranty applies if either the deceased employee or the survivor annuitant completed 120 months of railroad service before 1975. In effect, the widow, or dependent widower, would receive both an employee annuity and a survivor benefit, without a full dual benefit reduction.

10. What types of lump-sum death benefits are payable under the Railroad Retirement Act?

A lump-sum death benefit is payable to certain survivors of an employee with 10 or more years of railroad service, or less than 10 years if at least five years were after 1995, and a current connection with the railroad industry if there is no survivor immediately eligible for a monthly annuity upon the employee’s death.

If the employee did not have 10 years of service before 1975, the lump sum is limited to $255 and is payable only to the widow(er) living in the same household as the employee at the time of the employee’s death.

If the employee had less than 10 years of service but had five years after 1995, he or she must have met social security’s insured status requirements for the lump sum to be payable.

If the employee had 10 years of service before 1975, the lump sum is payable to the living-with widow(er). If there is no such widow(er), the lump sum may be paid to the funeral home or the payer of the funeral expenses. These lump sums averaged $1,013 in fiscal year 2014.

The railroad retirement system also provides, under certain conditions, a residual lump-sum death benefit which ensures that a railroad family receives at least as much in benefits as the employee paid in railroad retirement taxes before 1975. This benefit is, in effect, a refund of an employee’s pre-1975 railroad retirement taxes, after subtraction of any benefits previously paid on the basis of the employee’s service. This benefit is seldom payable.

11. How does a person get an estimate of, or apply for, survivor benefits?

Active or retired employees who are concerned about the amount of benefits which would be payable to their survivors may receive estimates from the nearest RRB field office.

Applications for railroad retirement or survivor benefits are generally filed at one of the RRB’s field offices, or with an RRB representative at one of the office’s Customer OutReach Program (CORP) service locations, or by telephone and mail. Persons can contact an office of the RRB by calling toll free at (877) 772-5772 or at www.rrb.gov. Most agency offices are open to the public from 9:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, except on federal holidays.

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SMART Constitution - 11/29/2014

SMART Constitution available online, officers elevated

SMART_CONSTITUTION_FINAL_11-11-2014_cover_webThe official SMART Constitution, as amended by SMART delegates at the first SMART General Convention, is now available on both the SMART website at www.smart-union.org and the Transportation Division website at www.utu.org.

In January 2014, the SMART Sheet Metal and Transportation Division officers completed constitutional modifications required by the terms and conditions of the merger between the two predecessor organizations. That document incorporated the former UTU Constitution into the former SMWIA Constitution as Article 21B of the merged document. At that time, all conflicts between Article 21B and the remainder of the constitution were resolved in order to effectuate the merger.

Earlier this year, delegates to the Transportation Division convention proposed recommendations for amendments to the constitution. At the first SMART General Convention held Aug. 11-15, those amendments were debated and resolved.

The August proceedings in Las Vegas closed with a show of unity, cooperation and newfound strength.

Of significance to SMART’s Transportation Division membership, the amended constitution contained provisions for the addition of a second vice president to the division’s Bus Department and the addition of a member of the Aviation Department to the division’s board of appeals.

The Transportation Division’s board of directors selected former Alternate Vice President – Bus Calvin Studivant to serve as the division’s second bus vice president to serve the Bus Department’s growing membership.

A member of Local 759 at Newark, N.J., Studivant was born June 18, 1960. He served his country in the U.S. Army from 1982 to 1986. He has been employed at Community Coach Transportation in New Jersey since June 1993, where he served his local as both a general chairperson and delegate. He also served as a Transportation Division organizer.

To fill the vacant office of alternate vice president– bus, the board of directors elevated former board of appeals member Alvy Hughes to that position.

Hughes began his transportation career with Charlotte Transit in 1995. As a member of Local 1596 at Charlotte, N.C., Hughes has served as local vice president and as both secretary and general chairperson of General Committee of Adjustment GO TMM.

On Oct. 23, the Transportation Division’s board of directors selected Charlotte Transit GO TMD Vice General Chairperson Brenda H. Moore (1715) to fill the open bus position on the board of appeals.

The board also chose Great Lakes Airlines Local 40 (Denver) President John Nolan to fill the position of aviation representative to the board of appeals.

The complete constitution, as amended, can be viewed here.

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Minimum Crew Size - 6/16/2014

FRA to issue proposed rule on minimum train crews

FRA_logo_wordsWASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Railroad Administration April 9 announced its intention to issue a proposed rule requiring two-person train crews on crude oil trains and establishing minimum crew size standards for most main line freight and passenger rail operations. The FRA also intends to advance a rulemaking on train securement and recommends a rulemaking on the movement of hazardous materials.

“Safety is our highest priority, and we are committed to taking the necessary steps to assure the safety of those who work for railroads and shippers, and the residents and communities along shipping routes,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “The proposed rulemaking on crew size is the latest effort in our comprehensive strategy to ensure crude oil is transported as safely as possible.”

The announcement follows the deliberations of three Railroad Safety Advisory Committee (RSAC) Working Groups on Appropriate Train Crew Size, Securement and Hazardous Materials Issues. All three working groups were created at DOT’s request last summer in response to the Lac-Mégantic derailment. The emergency meeting was held to evaluate and consider wide-ranging proposals to further enhance railroad safety including the safe shipment of crude oil by rail. Two of the working groups produced recommendations that were adopted by the full RSAC for consideration in future rulemakings. In light of the working group’s failure to reach consensus on crew size, the FRA took action today to move forward with a rule-making.

“We believe that safety is enhanced with the use of a multiple person crew – safety dictates that you never allow a single point of failure,” FRA Administrator Joseph C. Szabo said. “Ensuring that trains are adequately staffed for the type of service operated is critically important to ensure safety redundancy. We commend the RSAC’s efforts and will use the valuable input received to formulate a proposed rule that protects the public and recognizes the nuance of railroad operations.”

“The FRA’s RSAC process confirmed that rail operational safety is enhanced with the use of a multiple-person crew,” said SMART Transportation Division President John Previsich. “Both the conductor and locomotive engineer are certified and licensed under federal regulations and work cooperatively as a team. During this working group process, the committee also confirmed that there are many required tasks that are performed by our train crews each day in normal operations that a single crew member cannot perform by themselves.

“It takes two skilled and qualified employees to perform a normal brake test, to separate a train at a highway-rail crossing, to receive and acknowledge mandatory directives while moving, to make routine pick up and set out of cars from the train, and also to act as a first responder for indicated defects in equipment, derailments, unexpected application of brakes, and highway-rail crossing collisions.”

While existing FRA regulations do not mandate minimum crew staffing requirements, current industry practice is to have two-person crews for over-the-road operations. The notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) will most likely require a minimum of two-person crews for most mainline train operations, including those trains carrying crude oil. It is also expected to include appropriate exceptions.

“Safety is good business in the rail industry. We are very disappointed that the Association of American Railroads and some short line railroads continue to keep their head in the sand when confronted with critical safety concerns. AAR continues to ignore the preventable accident that occurred less than 20 miles north of our border,” Previsich added.

FRA plans to issue an additional NPRM based on the consensus recommendations of the Securement Working Group and approved by the full RSAC that would prohibit certain unattended freight trains or standing freight cars on main track or sidings and require railroads to adopt and implement procedures to verify securement of trains and unattended equipment for emergency responders. It would also require locomotive cabs to be locked and reversers to be removed and secured. Railroads would also be required to obtain advance approval from FRA for locations or circumstances where unattended cars or equipment may be left.

The full RSAC also approved four recommendations of the Hazardous Materials Issues Working Group relating to identification, classification, operational control and handling of certain shipments. The four recommendations, directed to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), include amending or revising the definitions of “residue” and “key train,” and clarifying its regulatory jurisdiction over the loading, unloading and storage of hazmat before and during transportation. PHMSA continues to advance a rulemaking addressing the integrity of DOT Specification 111 tanker cars and the safe shipment by rail of flammable materials such as crude oil.

On Aug. 29, 2013, the first-ever emergency session of the RSAC was held in response to the July 6, 2013, derailment of an unattended Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway freight train containing crude oil in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, Canada. Building upon Foxx’s February agreement with the rail and petroleum industries, the FRA’s Emergency Order 28 and Safety Advisory 2013-06, PHMSA’s Operation Safe Delivery, Safety Alerts and a DOT Emergency Order, the three RSAC working groups reviewed existing regulations and standards to identify and mitigate the risks posed by such shipments and prevent future accidents.

“The unfortunate tragedy in Lac-Mégantic highlighted the need for sanity in intercity rail operations,” said SMART Transportation Division National Legislative Director James Stem. “Operating a long freight train through the communities that our industry serves with only one person on a crew is not only unsafe, but is also unsustainable.

“The safety improvements in our industry are directly linked to the training and certification of the two professionals on the locomotives and the other professional employees and their managers that are operating, repairing and maintaining our rail network throughout the United States. Our rail industry today is enjoying record profits, record productivity, and every stock broker is recommending a ‘buy’ on all railroad stocks. There is no argument that the current regulatory scheme in place today is a critical component of that productivity, and thus the high level of profitability.”

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Current Connections - 10/11/2013

Importance of a current connection for RRB benefits

RRB_seal_150pxUnder the Railroad Retirement Act, a “current connection” with the railroad industry is one of the eligibility requirements for occupational disability annuities and supplemental annuities, and is one of the factors that determine whether the Railroad Retirement Board or the Social Security Administration has jurisdiction over the payment of monthly benefits to survivors of a railroad employee.

The following questions and answers describe the current connection requirement and the ways the requirement can be met.

1. How is a current connection determined under the Railroad Retirement Act?

To meet the current connection requirement, an employee must generally have been credited with railroad service in at least 12 months of the 30 months immediately preceding the month his or her railroad retirement annuity begins. If the employee died before retirement, railroad service in at least 12 months in the 30 months before death will meet the current connection requirement for the purpose of paying survivor benefits.

However, if an employee does not qualify on this basis, but has 12 months of service in an earlier 30-month period, he or she may still meet the current connection requirement. This alternative generally applies if the employee did not have any regular employment outside the railroad industry after the end of the last 30-month period which included 12 months of railroad service and before the month the annuity begins or the month of death.

Once a current connection is established at the time the railroad retirement annuity begins, an employee never loses it, no matter what kind of work is performed thereafter.

2. Can nonrailroad work before retirement break a former railroad employee’s current connection?

Full or part-time work for a nonrailroad employer in the interval between the end of the last 30-month period including 12 months of railroad service and the month an employee’s annuity begins, or the month of death if earlier, can break a current connection.

Self-employment in an unincorporated business will not break a current connection. However, if the business is incorporated, self-employment may break a current connection.

Federal employment with the Department of Transportation, the National Transportation Safety Board, the Surface Transportation Board, the National Mediation Board, the Railroad Retirement Board, or the Transportation Security Administration will not break a current connection. State employment with the Alaska Railroad, as long as that railroad remains an entity of the State of Alaska, will not break a current connection. Also, railroad service in Canada for a Canadian railroad will neither break nor preserve a current connection.

3. Are there any exceptions to these normal procedures for determining a current connection?

A current connection can be maintained for purposes of supplemental and survivor annuities if the employee completed 25 years of railroad service, was involuntarily terminated without fault from his or her last job in the railroad industry, and did not thereafter decline an offer of employment in the same class or craft in the railroad industry, regardless of the distance to the new position.

If all of these requirements are met, an employee’s current connection may not be broken, even if the employee works in regular nonrailroad employment after the 30-month period and before retirement or death. This exception to the normal current connection requirements became effective Oct. 1, 1981, but only for employees still living on that date who left the rail industry on or after Oct. 1, 1975, or who were on leave of absence, on furlough, or absent due to injury on Oct. 1, 1975.

4. Would the acceptance of a buy-out have any effect on determining whether an employee could maintain a current connection under this exception provision?

In cases where an employee has no option to remain in the service of his or her railroad employer, the termination of the employment is considered involuntary, regardless of whether the employee does or does not receive a buy-out.

However, an employee who chooses a buy-out instead of keeping his or her seniority rights to railroad retirement employment would, for railroad retirement purposes, generally be considered to have voluntarily terminated railroad service, and consequently would not maintain a current connection under the exception provision.

5. An employee with 25 years of service is offered a buy-out with the option of either taking payment in a single lump sum or of receiving monthly payments until retirement age. Could the method of payment affect the employee’s current connection under the exception provision?

If the employee had the choice to remain in employer service and voluntarily relinquished job rights prior to accepting the payments, his or her current connection would not be maintained under the exception provision, regardless of which payment option is chosen. Therefore, nonrailroad work after the 30-month period and before retirement, or the employee’s death if earlier, could break the employee’s current connection. Such an employee could only meet the current connection requirement under the normal procedures.

6. What if the buy-out agreement allows the employee to retain job rights and receive monthly payments until retirement age?

Then the RRB considers the buy-out to be a dismissal allowance. When a monthly dismissal allowance is paid, the employee retains job rights, at least until the end of the period covered by the dismissal allowance. If the period covered by the dismissal allowance continues up to the beginning date of the railroad retirement annuity, railroad service months would be credited to those months. These railroad service months could provide at least 12 railroad service months in the 30 months immediately before the annuity beginning date and maintain a regular current connection. They will also increase the number of railroad service months used in the calculation of the railroad retirement annuity.

7. Could the exception provision apply in cases where an employee has 25 years of railroad retirement coverage and a company reorganization results in the employee’s job being placed under social security coverage?

The exception provision has been considered applicable by the RRB in cases where a 25-year employee’s last job in the railroad industry changed from railroad retirement coverage to social security coverage and the employee had, in effect, no choice available to remain in railroad retirement covered service. Such 25-year employees have been deemed to have a current connection for purposes of supplemental and survivor annuities.

8. Where can a person get more specific information on the current connection requirement?

Railroaders and former employees can contact a field office of the RRB for more information by calling toll-free at 1-877-772-5772. They can also find the address of the RRB office serving their area by calling this number or by visiting www.rrb.gov. Most RRB offices are open to the public from 9:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, except on federal holidays.

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New Emergency Order - 10/11/2013

FRA issues emergency order on train car movement

FRA_logo_wordsWASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) August 2 issued an emergency order and safety advisory to help prevent trains operating on mainline tracks or sidings from moving unintentionally. The FRA’s announcement was made in response to the July 6, 2013, derailment in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, Canada, as it awaits additional data once the investigation into the crash is complete.

The actions announced today build on the success of FRA’s rigorous safety program, which has helped reduce train accidents by 43 percent over the last decade, and made 2012 the safest year in American rail history.

The emergency order is a mandatory directive to the rail industry, and failure to comply will result in enforcement actions against violating railroads.

“Safety is our top priority,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “While we wait for the full investigation to conclude, the department is taking steps today to help prevent a similar incident from occurring in the United States.”

The emergency order outlines measures that all railroads must undertake within the next 30 days:

•No train or vehicles transporting specified hazardous materials can be left unattended on a mainline track or side track outside a yard or terminal, unless specifically authorized.

•In order to receive authorization to leave a train unattended, railroads must develop and submit to FRA a process for securing unattended trains transporting hazardous materials, including locking the locomotive or otherwise disabling it, and reporting among employees to ensure the correct number of hand brakes are applied.

•Employees who are responsible for securing trains and vehicles transporting such specified hazardous material must communicate with the train dispatchers the number of hand brakes applied, the tonnage and length of the train or vehicle, the grade and terrain features of the track, any relevant weather conditions, and the type of equipment being secured.

•Train dispatchers must record the information provided. The dispatcher or other qualified railroad employee must verify that the securement meets the railroad’s requirements.

•Railroads must implement rules ensuring that any employee involved in securing a train participate in daily job briefings prior to the work being performed.

•Railroads must develop procedures to ensure a qualified railroad employee inspects all equipment that an emergency responder has been on, under or between before the train can be left unattended.

•Railroads must provide this emergency order to all affected employees.

View the complete emergency order here.

For guidance on Emergency Order 28 implementation, click here.

“Today’s action builds upon a comprehensive regulatory framework we have had in place for some time,” said FRA Administrator Joseph C. Szabo. “The safe shipment of all cargo is paramount and protecting the safety of the American public is fundamental to our enforcement strategy and we are encouraged by the industry’s willingness to cooperate with this approach going forward.”

“This is an important step being taken by the FRA as the issue of the consists of crews is now in the public debate,” said SMART Transportation Division President Mike Futhey. “As a result of the actions taken by the FRA, coupled with the legislation entered by U.S. Reps. Michael Michaud (D-Maine) and Chellie Pingree (D-Maine), this provides our organization with the opportunity to ensure that train operation, as it pertains to the consists of crews, is performed in correlation with public safety.

In addition to the emergency order, the FRA, together with the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), issued a safety advisory detailing a list of recommendations railroads are expected to follow.

U.S. DOT believes that railroad safety is enhanced through the use of multiple crew members, and the safety advisory recommends railroads review their crew staffing requirements for transporting hazardous material and ensure that they are adequate. Other recommendations in the safety advisory include: conducting system-wide evaluations to identify particular hazards that may make it more difficult to secure a train or pose other safety risks and to develop procedures to mitigate those risks. A copy of the safety advisory can be viewed here.

“When PHMSA talks about the transportation of hazardous materials, safety is a prerequisite to movement,” said PHMSA Administrator Cynthia Quarterman. “We are taking this action today and we will be looking hard at the current rail operating practices for hazardous materials to ensure the public’s safety.”?

As FRA continues to evaluate safety procedures following the recent crash, it will convene an emergency meeting of its Railroad Safety Advisory Committee to consider what additional safety measures may be required. FRA plans to develop a website that will allow the public to track industry compliance with the emergency order and safety advisory issued today. FRA has developed a plan that outlines six major actions that have occurred or will occur to further ensure that our regulatory response to the Canadian rail accident remains transparent.

Under current DOT regulations, all freight railroads are required to develop and implement risk assessments and security plans in order to transport any hazardous material, including a plan to prevent unauthorized access in rail yards, facilities and trains carrying hazardous materials. Railroads that carry hazardous materials are required to develop and follow a security protocol while en route; railroad employees are subject to background checks and must complete training. Training programs and protocols are reviewed and audited by the FRA routinely and generally designed to be progressive so as the level of risk increases so does the level of security required. A description of past, present, and proposed FRA actions on this issue can be found here.

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Welcome to Local 872 Omaha, Nebraska

 

Our Union Meetings are held on every fourth Wednesday of the month at the Sheet Metal Workers International Association at 3333 S. 24th St. Omaha, NE, 68108 the phone number is 402 330 3383.

FRA denies one-person crew ban
WASHINGTON – The Federal Railroad Administration has denied a joint UTU/BLET petition for an emergency order prohibiting the use of one-person crews in conventional and remote control yard switching operations.

 

In denying the joint UTU/BLET petition, the FRA, while acknowledging the high-priority safety concerns raised, said it had "no factual evidence to support the prohibition against one-person crew operations at this time. Switchmen, trainmen, and RCOs routinely perform tasks alone, even when on a two-person or three-person crew," said the FRA.

Although the UTU has collective bargaining agreements in force with most railroads requiring at least one conductor on each train start, there currently are no federal safety regulations prohibiting use of one-person crews in yard or road operations.

Said the agency in denying the joint UTU-BLET petition, which was filed in early June:

"FRA does recognize that, since these particular one-person operations are new, we have no prior data with which to compare conventional operations and have little prior experience with these operations. Accordingly, we intend to monitor these operations very closely. While there may be operations where a one-person crew can function safely, there may be other operations that are unsuitable for such operations.

"As technology advances, FRA is also aware that the transfer of certain additional tasks and responsibilities to a single individual may result in ‘information overload’ and/or diminished ‘situational awareness.’ We believe these conditions should be considered when changing work assignments or adding new technology. In this vein, FRA recommends that safety impact studies be conducted prior to implementing such changes.

"FRA understands that fatigue may play a role in human-factor caused accidents. As the duty tour unfolds, employees tire and may become less coherent. As a consequence, FRA has encouraged the development of fatigue mitigation programs.”

The FRA also said that the conductor certification requirement, part of the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008, “when implemented, will provide additional support for the training and qualification of [remote control operators.]”

Concluded the FRA, “Because of the advances in technology, we are seeing significant changes in operations – many that never existed before. FRA will continue to look very closely at these changes when we occur.”

UTU International President Mike Futhey said the fight against one-person crews “will remain the UTU's top priority – before the FRA and before Congress. We know, and the BLET agrees, having stated jointly with us in the petition for the emergency order, that no conditions exist where one-person operations are safe.”

Click here to read the FRA letter denying the joint UTU/BLET petition for an emergency order banning one-person crews.

November 20, 2009

Answers to Some Questions You May Have

Q: What union will I belong to?
A: The United Transportation Union. We represent over 125,000 active and retired rail, bus and airline employees in the U.S. and Canada.

Q: What does the union do for me?
A: We work to win major battles. We know that if one employee loses, then all are threatened. We win rights. Then we protect them.

Q: Why should I be a member?
A: If we were not united as employees, we would not have as much strength to win a good contract or settle grievances fairly. When everyone belongs, itmakes us strong and enables us to meet the company on a level playing field.

Q: Why do we need a union?
A: Labor unions are an important part of this country's history. They grew from humble beginnings and many workers have sacrificed, even died, for the rights you now enjoy. While employers promise fair and equal treatment, the reality all too often is that the almighty dollar comes before job security, decent wages, dignity and humane working conditions.

 

Your Union and the Law

The law provides for workers to self-organize, to form, join, or assist labor organizations; and to bargain collectively as well as to act together for purposes of mutual aid or protection. It is against the law for your employer to interfere with, restrain, or coerce employees in the exercise of the rights guaranteed them under law.

The union contract under which you work addresses matters of employment including:

  • Seniority
  • Wages
  • Grievance handling
  • Personal leave

The contract is important because it is a legal agreement between all workers in your bargaining unit and the company, including you. The contract protects workers and without it you can be treated unfairly and arbitrarily disciplined. Under your contract, the company is required to afford you "due process" in resolving problems in the workplace.

You have a voice in deciding your demands before the next one is negotiated and will get a chance to vote on whether or not to accept a contract offer.