June 1, 2015

SPRINGFIELD (June 1)–A bill providing basic privacy protections for railroad crews in contract-carrier vans has passed the Illinois House of Representatives by a unanimous
vote of 112-0.

Senate Bill 1834, which was introduced at the request of the SMART-TD Illinois Legislative Board, sailed through the House a little over a month after passing the Senate 57-0 on April 23.

SMART-TD Illinois Legislative Director Robert W. Guy said the solid, bi-partisan support the bill attracted in both chambers reflected both the essential reasonableness of its language and the trust the union has earned among legislators in Springfield.

“Number one, members of both political parties agreed the language of the bill was fair and necessary,” Guy said.

“The legislation recognizes that video event recorders are an increasingly utilized tool to assure that drivers operate their contract-carrier vans in a safe manner, but it also recognizes that monitoring should be confined to the driver and that activity or dialogue among the railroad crew members riding in the van must not be used by rail carriers to ‘shadow’ their own employees or ‘catch’ them in language or conduct that might subject
them to discipline.

“We worked hard to make sure every legislator in Springfield understood the real purpose and the need for this kind of legislation,” Guy said. “They got it. In some cases it took
repeated visits to their offices, but all of them now realize that over-zealous managers remain a problem in the railroad industry and that video recorders installed to monitor the behavior of van drivers could be corrupted to monitor the language and opinions of railroad crews being carried as passengers.”

Guy noted that SB 1834 “does a couple of important things” that give the legislation “teeth.”

“First it would require any contract-carrier vehicle equipped with a video event recorder to have a notice posted in a visible location stating that a passenger’s conversation may be recorded,” he said.

“That notice will provide our members and other crew members a valuable reminder to watch what they say and do while being transported in the course of their employment by a contract-carrier vehicle.

Additionally, the bill stipulates that any data recorded by a video event recorder shall be the sole property of the registered owner or lessee of the contract-carrier vehicle.

“That should help in any attempts by aggressive managers to gain access to those recordings for disciplinary purposes,” Guy said.

Guy also recognized those members and legislative representatives who brought the issues posed by video event recorders to the forefront.

“I received many calls of concern associated with the proliferation of these VERs, and I thank all members who did so,” Guy said. “Especially SMART-TD Local #432 LR Grady Crippin, who provided some very telling photographs of this equipment in use. They were invaluable when telling our story to legislators and staff.”

Guy thanked all members who contacted their senators and representatives to advocate passage of the bill.

“An explanatory visit from a member of the Legislative Board followed by phone calls, faxes and e-mails from members is a very powerful motivator for most legislators,” Guy said. “First they hear about the need for the legislation. Then they hear their own constituents demanding it.

“This approach wins hearts and minds,” he said. “The Board is grateful to all members—and members of their families—who reached out to their legislators and asked for a yes vote on SB 1834.”

SB 1834 will now go to the Governor for his signature, joining HB 439, another SMART-TD initiative. That makes two important pieces of legislation introduced and passed on behalf of the members of SMART-TD this legislative session.