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 Americans Concerned Over Union Decline

A Pew Research Center survey shows that a decline in union membership — from 20.1% in 1983 to 10% in 2023 — worries most Americans, with 54% viewing it as bad for the country and 59% believing it harms workers. The gap in opinion is stark between parties: 69% of Democrats see the decline negatively for the nation, compared to 40% of Republicans. Views within parties vary by age, income, and education among Republicans, and by education and ethnicity among Democrats. Ideologically, conservative Republicans are more likely to view the decline positively, unlike their moderate and liberal counterparts. This reflects deep divisions in how the decline in unions is perceived across American society.

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The BRS endorses four labor-friendly Republicans for their reelection campaigns. Representative Don Bacon, Representative Brian Fitzpatrick, Congresswoman Lori Chavez-DeRemer, and Congressman Marc Molinaro.

Click HERE to read full endorsement   

Surface Transportation Board Chairman Martin Oberman is concerned about the potential of activist investors succeeding in their effort to replace Norfolk Southern Corp.'s top leadership in favor of a short-term strategy of cost-cutting and workforce reductions to boost profits.

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The existing waiver allows BNSF, CPKC, and CSX to test extending the air flow method (AFM) test intervals from 92 days to 184 days on locomotives equipped with the New York Air Brake (NYAB) CCB–II and Fastbrake air brake systems. The most recent petition requests that the relief granted under the existing waiver be extended to CN and UP. In addition, BNSF is requesting that this relief be made permanent.

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The Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen has become the first rail labor union to come out against the activist investor group that’s plotting to oust Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw and gain control of the railroad’s board.

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Standing Against Short-Sighted Changes at Norfolk Southern

FRONT ROYAL, February 22, 2024 — The Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen (BRS) expresses grave concern over the activist investor group Ancora's intentions to significantly alter the operational and leadership structure at Norfolk Southern (NS), particularly plans to reduce headcount, a move that poses a direct threat to the safety and well-being of both our workforce and the communities we serve.

Under the current leadership, NS has embarked on a forward-looking journey, emphasizing safety, innovation, and long-term sustainability over short-term gains. This approach has contributed to an overall rise in employee morale. The recent Signal Safety Collaboration between NS and the BRS fosters a culture of trust and collaboration, crucial for the railroad's success and its vital role in national transportation. An investor like Ancora will likely abort and prevent such collaborations as a means of up-front cost savings.

Ancora's proposed strategy, centered on drastic cost-cutting and prioritizing short-term profits, threatens to undermine these achievements. The potential reduction in workforce will not only damage employee morale but also jeopardize the recruitment and retention of skilled workers, critical for maintaining safe and reliable service. Such a shift towards a short-term profit maximization model risks leaving a lasting negative impact on NS, its employees, and the communities and businesses it serves. Ancora’s tactics are demonstrative of the risks to safe rail operations, with further inaction by Congress to implement a comprehensive Rail Safety Bill, any safety gaps created by wolves of wall street could cause another rail catastrophe.

The BRS, therefore, calls on all stakeholders to consider the long-term implications of Ancora's proposed changes. We are committed to opposing actions that compromise the rail industry's integrity and safety standards. We stand ready to protect the interests of our members, the rail community, businesses, and the many towns and cities that depend on NS for safe and efficient rail service.
Our collective future depends on sustainable practices that balance economic objectives with the safety and well-being of communities and the workforce. The BRS urges a reconsideration of any strategy that sacrifices these principles for short-term gains.

One year after the train derailment in East Palestine and Congress has yet to take action on bills that would increase safety requirements for railroads. President of the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen Michael Baldwin says the delay is detrimental.

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OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — About 1,000 engineers and conductors who work for Norfolk Southern will soon be able to report safety concerns anonymously through a federal system without any fear of discipline.

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The railroad industry spent $69.47 million on lobbying in 2021, 2022 and 2023, according to Open Secrets, a group that tracks money in politics.  

Union Pacific Corp., BNSF Railway, CSX Corp, and Norfolk Southern, the last of which operated the train the derailed in Ohio, have donated $1.44 million to Republican and Democratic candidates so far this election cycle, according to Open Secrets. Republican candidates have collected $923,000 of the donations, or about 64 percent.  

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The U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) on Jan. 8 declined to consider Ohio’s bid “to enforce a state law that penalizes railroads if their trains block grade crossings for more than five minutes, turning away a case that sought further clarity on the scope of federal preemption concerning rail regulations,” according to Law360 Senior Reporter Linda Chiem.

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With specialized training and dangerous work, railroad workers choose a high-risk lifestyle, not a job.

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A high-speed rail line between the state’s two biggest cities has been discussed—and abandoned—for decades. But recently its fortunes may have changed.

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WASHINGTON– Greg Regan and Shari Semelsberger, President and Secretary-Treasurer of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD), issued a statement regarding the closure of two freight rail crossings on the U.S.-Mexico border

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FRONT ROYAL, VA, DECEMBER 8 ,2023 – On December 6, 2023, the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen (BRS) endorsed President Joseph Biden, Jr. for his second term as President of the United States.

The BRS, established in 1901, is a nationally recognized trade union that represents roughly 10,000 railroad signal employees throughout the United States and Canada. These professionals play a crucial role in the safety and efficiency of rail systems by installing, repairing, and maintaining signaling systems, including warning mechanisms at railroad-highway intersections.

President Biden has delivered on his promise to be a champion for unions and workers, resulting in the highest level of union support in over 50 years. The Administration’s focus on pro-worker policies has contributed to a 3.5% increase in inflation-adjusted income, with the lowest-paid workers experiencing the largest wage gains. Additionally, the unemployment rate is at a 50-year low, demonstrating a thriving job market. The Biden-Harris Administration’s actions underscore its ongoing efforts to support the middle and bottom tiers of the economy, a fundamental principle of “Bidenomics”.

President Biden achieved the largest investment in our country’s infrastructure in decades through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. With President Biden’s announcement of $3 billion for the construction and future operations of what will be America’s first high-speed rail line, Brightline West, from Las Vegas, Nevada, to Southern California, he is ushering in an emerging industry that will transform the way Americans travel in the future. 

Under the umbrella of “Bidenomics”, emerging industries, such as high-speed rail, are creating high-quality, well-paying jobs, aligning with the President’s continuous advocacy for fair pay and the right to join a union. The recent announcements reinforce the Administration’s commitment to workers by emphasizing investments in infrastructure, workforce development, pathways to union jobs, and the importance of unions in promoting fair wages and benefits.

The BRS recognizes the President’s vision of rebuilding America, not just for labor, Democrats, or friendly voters/constituents, but for everyone, regardless of their political beliefs. All communities across the country will get a share of the infrastructure money and benefit from his policies.

The Administration’s initiatives include:

  • $66 billion in historic investments in rail infrastructure, including more than $6 billion for High-Speed Rail,
  • Advancing paid sick leave for all workers,
  • Fostering the Union advantage, and
  • Overtime protections.

These actions build on the Administration’s historic support for workers and unions, including wage increases, protection of workers’ pay, empowerment through education, disclosure of anti-union activities by federal contractors, and significant investments in workforce development.

President Biden’s commitment to union values and workers’ rights has been unwavering, making him a strong advocate for the growth of the Rail industry, safety regulations for Signalmen and Roadway Workers. This endorsement is grounded in a track record of tangible results for the working class and the union movement.  

[November 13, 2023]
Dear President Biden:

On behalf of the undersigned national rail labor unions, we write to unanimously recommend and support Johnathan D. Bragg to be re-nominated to serve as the Labor Member on the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB). He has demonstrated excellent service on the Board for the last four years since his confirmation in early 2019, and we request that he be nominated for another term to serve on the Board.

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[November 17, 2023, SACRAMENTO, Calif.] – The California High-Speed Rail Authority and 13 rail labor unions announced today that they have entered an agreement that ensures the hard-earned gains in federal labor laws will be applicable to the operations of the nation’s first high-speed rail project. 

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The Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen (BRS) participated alongside 37 affiliate unions in the Transportation Trades Department (TTD), AFL-CIO Fall 2023 Executive Committee Meeting, addressing critical issues in the Transportation Industry. These included political considerations, safety concerns, congressional budget and appropriations, and the funding of transportation projects, among others.

During this meeting, the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA) urged fellow TTD affiliates to unite by signing a letter opposing S.1838: Credit Card Competition Act (CCCA). This legislation, if enacted, would eliminate points programs associated with airline cards, potentially ending union plus benefits.

To learn more about S.1838: Credit Card Competition Act (CCCA), visit CLICK HERE.

In response, the BRS is mobilizing its members, encouraging them to reach out to their State Legislators and express opposition to this Act. Your voice is instrumental, and your continued support for the broader labor community is highly valued. CLICK HERE to contact your Representative.

ABOUT THE TTD: The Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO, is a coalition of 37 member unions representing a total of 775,381 members. The TTD serves as a powerful advocate for workers in all modes of transportation, both in the private and public sectors, devoted to safeguarding middle-class jobs, expanding collective bargaining, and ensuring modern, safe, and secure transportation operations and infrastructure.

Visit About TTD to learn more!

The entirety of rail labor stands in opposition to the proposed draconian funding cuts in the legislation that would devastate U.S. passenger and freight rail networks and the dedicated rail workers that run them. 

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Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD) President Greg Regan last week wrote to U.S. Rep. Eric Burlison (R-Mo.) to oppose the lawmaker’s bill that would eliminate a federal provision that gives Amtrak trains the "right of preference" over freight trains on freight-owned track.

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A truck driver was killed when a train derailed near Pueblo, Colorado, and caused a railroad bridge to collapse onto a major highway — crushing the semitruck, spilling coal and mangled rail cars across the roadway and shutting down traffic indefinitely, authorities said Monday.

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"Grissom [president of the Brotherhood of Railway Carmen union] said his union has had three members die in incidents involving remote control trains since 2015. He said Anderson’s death, combined with fiery derailments that have happened across the country this year, reinforce the need for stronger railroad safety regulations."

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“The CRISI grants announced today will help launch new and expanded service, advance critical safety and reliability improvements, and provide opportunities for the workforce, marking another big milestone as we continue to advance a new era of passenger rail,” said Amtrak CEO Stephen Gardner.

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This strike should make one thing clear: the era of corporate greed is over. Workers and unions are united in the fight against corporate greed. And we will win.

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After a delay driven by last year’s turmoil in the bond market, Fortress Investment Group-backed Brightline will kick off its service to Orlando International Airport on Sept. 22. The service will allow connections between Orlando and South Florida destinations, including Miami, Boca Raton and West Palm Beach, the not-yet-profitable rail operator announced Wednesday.

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After a derailment last March in Southwest Minnesota, 5 INVESTIGATES found BNSF had repeatedly been sanctioned or admonished in court for destroying evidence or retaliating against employees.

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The sticking point between railroads and rail worker unions over a federal hotline for reporting safety concerns is how to ensure rail employees don’t misuse the system to avoid discipline, the head of the railroads’ trade group said in a letter Thursday to government officials.

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In the wake of the disastrous East Palestine, Ohio, train derailment, Norfolk Southern is back to spending millions in Congress — and a paper trail indicates that it’s lobbying for weaker regulation and rewarding members of Congress who play along.

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The Association of American Railroads on March 2 said the Class I freight railroads would join the program, which allows railroaders to report “close call” safety incidents without fear of discipline or reprisal.

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Sometime this fall, a first-of-its-kind train, known as Brightline, will depart Southern Florida for a “magical” destination 236 miles north.

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This report documents FRA’s findings, recommendations, and methodologies resulting from the 60-Day
Supplemental Safety Assessment of Norfolk Southern Railway (NS) that the Department of Transportation
(Department or DOT) announced on March 7, 2023.

View Report

On May 31, 2023, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on certification of signal employees. The proposed rule, or Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), is the official document that announces and explains the agency’s plan to address a problem or accomplish a goal. All proposed rules must be published in the Federal Register to notify the public. The proposed rule and the comments received on it form the basis of the final rule.

Currently, the NPRM on certification of signal employees is in the comment period. Following the comment period and review, it is expected that the FRA will issue a final rule and put that final rule into effect. 

The BRS will be submitting comments as an organization to ensure signal professionals in the field have their voices heard and issues raised. If you have any questions or issues, please contact BRS Director of Research, Chris Hand, at c.hand@brs.org

Below is a link to the NPRM

NPRM- Certification of Signal Employees

Six months after life was upended in East Palestine, little has changed.

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AAR, ASLRRA and TTD urged the Congress members to “remove this draconian limit on RRB’s administrative funding and support the limitation in the Senate bill.

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The proposed fiscal 2024 transportation budget would cut two major grant programs and impose restrictions on how certain funds could be used.

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Amtrak announced Monday that it is applying for $7.3 billion in federal grants to execute 14 projects on the Northeast Corridor and more than $700 million for 16 projects outside the Northeast Corridor.

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House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Ranking Member Rick Larsen (D-WA), Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials Donald M. Payne, Jr. (D-NJ), Vice Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials Valerie Foushee (D-NC), Rep. Emilia Sykes (D-OH) and 26 additional T&I Members sent a letter urging the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Chair Graves to promptly schedule a hearing on rail safety.
“We write today to again request a Transportation & Infrastructure Committee hearing on rail safety,” the Members wrote, noting that waiting on the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigation to complete its work on the Norfolk Southern derailment in East Palestine, Ohio is unacceptable given the dozens of existing NTSB rail recommendations that remain unanswered: “…We disagree that the Committee should wait to advance rail safety legislation until after the [NTSB] concludes its investigation into the derailment in East Palestine. Accidents continue to occur, placing additional communities and rail workers at risk.”
“Earlier this month, the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee approved the Railway Safety Act of 2023 by bipartisan vote,” the Members continued. “The House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure must meet its responsibility to conduct critical oversight of the rail industry by holding a hearing on rail safety. Our constituents and communities deserve this basic consideration.”

Today’s letter comes more than two months after Ranking Member Larsen first called for a rail safety hearing to be scheduled and shortly after the Senate Commerce, Science & Transportation Committee advanced their rail safety legislation out of Committee on a bipartisan vote. The House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure has not held a hearing examining rail safety following the Norfolk Southern derailment in East Palestine, OH.

The full letter can be found here

The BRS congratulates BRS members on Amtrak on the new Agreement.

The Paid Parental Leave Rule is the third Paid Parental Leave Agreement negotiated for BRS members and provides the most benefits with up to ten (10) weeks of paid time off, which can be taken in two (2) week increments, for up to one year from the date of birth or adoption.

A Paid Time Off (PTO) plan was negotiated to replace the National Vacation Agreement which provides for significantly more time off with less years of service and an accrual method that permits an employee to accrue PTO even if they do not meet the one hundred (100) day threshold of the National Vacation Agreement. Additionally, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day was added as a holiday, there were improvements to Bereavement Leave, the incentive allowance for certain Gang positions was increased from $0.65 per hour to $1.20 per hour, and a Paid Parental Leave Rule was negotiated.

On May 5, 2023, BRS members working at Amtrak ratified a new collective bargaining agreement. The seven (7) year Agreement was reached after nearly 18 months of negotiations and provided for general wage increases of 28.5% with full retroactivity to 2022 (compounded 32.3% over the term of the Agreement), frozen monthly health and welfare cost sharing portions for employees under the Amplan II plan and monthly cost sharing decreases for employees under the Amplan III throughout the term of the Agreement with improvements in dental coverage, vasectomy coverage, fertility treatment, and hearing aid coverage.

Page Last Updated: Apr 16, 2024 (11:48:15)
Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen
917 Shenandoah Shores Road
Front Royal, VA 22630
  (540) 622-6522

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