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Reps. Sheehy, Lepore-Hagan respond to 9th Circuit ruling in TRANSP. DIV. OF INT'L ASS'N-SMART V. FRA

Call for bipartisan, swift action on two-person crew rail safety legislation
February 26, 2021
Democrat Newsroom

State Reps. Michael Sheehy (D-Oregon) and Michele Lepore-Hagan (D-Youngstown) today responded to the 9th Circuit ruling in favor of labor unions representing rail workers and personnel, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) and the International Association of the Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, and Transportation Workers (SMART), in TRANSP. DIV. OF INT’L ASS’N-SMART V. FRA, litigation initiated in response to an order by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) purporting to adopt a nationwide maximum one-person crew rule and to preempt any state laws concerning that subject matter, a known unsafe practice.

“This court ruling highlights what we already knew: that requiring two-person crews on freight trains promotes the safety of railroad workers and the general public,” said Rep. Sheehy. “I am urging my colleagues to co-sponsor our legislation requiring two-person crews that will put rail workers’ safety over profits, and that they move the bill quickly through the legislature”

In its ruling, the 9th circuit found the FRA Order to be “arbitrary and capricious” and that the FRA’s basis for the order – that two-member crews were less safe than one-person crews – “did not withstand scrutiny.” Finally, the court found lacking the FRA’s explanation that similar safety objectives could be achieved with fewer personnel, going as far as saying that it was “not clear there is a sound factual basis for the Order’s suggestion that two-member crews are less safe than one-person crews,” and that it failed to address multiple safety concerns.  

“Protecting the rights and safety of workers is an essential part of the Ohio Promise. Ohioans are counting on us to keep them and their families’ safe,” said Rep. Lepore-Hagan. “We need our colleagues to take seriously this call for public safety and join us. The safe operation of trains requires two people at all times, and no bottom line is more important than their safety.” 

The two-person crew legislation has been introduced in several General Assemblies, receiving several committee hearings but never making it to the governor’s desk.