News Posts

High-speed rail is a win-win for America

China’s CRH high-speed trains sit on tracks at a maintenance base in central China’s Hubei province in 2012. (AP)

Across the country, overcrowded highways are bottling up our cities and choking economic life. At the same time, oil-fueled cars and planes are pumping masses of carbon and toxic pollution into the atmosphere, polluting vulnerable communities and accelerating global warming.

As three former secretaries of transportation, we believe that high-speed rail is the single most effective way to move America’s transportation system into the 21st century. A robust network of high-speed rail corridors with high-performance connections is the most powerful strategy to dramatically reduce climate pollution while reducing traffic congestion and improving intercity travel.

The interstate highway system, which began decades ago as a fast and efficient means of travel, is now fueling climate disaster and undermining our ability to compete at home and abroad. Congestion cost our economy $179 billion in 2017, according to the Texas A&M University Transportation Institute’s 2019 Urban Mobility Report. Highway congestion is expected to cost us $237 billion in 2025. Americans waste 105 million weeks per year in their cars, and enough fuel to load 58 supertankers to the brim.

High-speed rail provides a systemic solution to our climate, pollution and congestion woes. Powered by electricity, high-speed trains can run on renewable energy. Throughout the world, bullet trains have reduced demand for polluting highways, short-haul flights and single-occupancy vehicles. They also move huge numbers of people efficiently, with a proposed single highspeed rail line in California matching the capacity of six highway lanes, 91 airport gates and two new runways.

Compared with highways, high-speed rail lines are a bargain. According to a study by the Washington State Department of Transportation, a proposed high-speed rail line between Eugene, Oregon, and Vancouver, Canada, would cost $42 billion while generating $355 billion in economic benefits — a nearly 10-to-1 return on investment. By contrast, widening the I-5 highway between the cities by one lane in each direction would cost $108 billion and do nothing to relieve congestion.

The question is: If we build it, will they come? The answer, without question, is yes.

History has shown that as soon as a country inaugurates a high-speed rail line, the public demands more. That happened after Japan opened its Tokyo-to-Osaka line in 1964. After France opened its Paris-to-Lyon line in 1981, not only France but all of Europe wanted one.

Why? High-speed trains are convenient and comfortable. They depart and arrive in city centers instead of remote airports, and do not require TSA checkpoints. They have legroom for all and Wi-Fi that actually works. Want to stretch your legs? You can get up and wander.

Thirty-two nations currently have operating high-speed rail systems. French, German, Italian and Japanese travelers have enjoyed bullet trains for decades. With a fraction of America’s gross domestic product, Morocco began operation on a 201-mile line between Casablanca and Tangier in 2018.

There’s one simple reason we have fallen so far behind the rest of the industrialized world when it comes to high-speed rail. You get what you pay for, and since World War II, Washington has prioritized funding for highways and aviation over passenger rail. Since 1949, Congress has invested over $2 trillion in highways and over $777 billion in aviation. Meanwhile, Congress has provided roughly $100 billion toward passenger rail, with just $8 billion dedicated solely to high-speed rail development, according to a report from the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.

Since 2008, China has invested a mind-boggling $525 billion in high-speed rail. The result? The Chinese now operate about 23,500 miles of state-of-the art high-speed rail safely carrying millions of people around their nation at rapid speeds. These farsighted investments helped pull the Chinese economy out of the global financial crisis and create an entirely new domestic export industry.

To compete in the 21st century, America needs high-speed rail. The infrastructure debate in Washington provides a historic opportunity for us to catch up with the rest of the industrialized world and build the transportation infrastructure of the future.

In order to spark the second great American rail revolution Biden has called for, Congress should provide a minimum of $20 billion in dedicated funds for high-speed rail operating at speeds above 186 mph in the budget reconciliation bill winding through the House and Senate. These funds should include the robust labor standards outlined in the American High-Speed Rail Act. Congress should also establish a Rail Trust Fund to provide a reliable, dedicated funding source for rail development and a High-Speed Rail Development Authority within the Department of Transportation to plan and coordinate the development of a national high-speed rail network.

To this end, we are serving as co-chairs of the U.S. High-Speed Rail Coalition, a new alliance of business and labor leaders calling on Washington to finally get serious about high-speed rail. This is our moment to make high-speed rail a reality across America. Let’s not waste it.

The authors all served as U.S. secretaries of the Transportation Department: Ray LaHood and Anthony Foxx in the Obama administration and Norman Mineta in the George W. Bush administration.


NCFO logo
Washington, DC

August 10th, 2021                                                                  


“Today, the Senate voted 69 to 30 in favor of passing the H.R. 3684, INVEST in America Act. Though it is one step away from reaching the oval office as it must also pass back through the House, the $1 trillion bill includes $550 billion in new investments on the nation’s roads, public transit, water and broadband. This directly translates to millions of good paying union jobs over the next ten years and will benefit current and future generations of Americans across the country. It isn’t as aggressive as the original bill that passed the House, but it is a giant leap in the right direction towards growing the economy, enhancing our competitiveness, and making our economy more sustainable, resilient, and just. The NCFO and our rail labor partners will continue to work with Congress to ensure the final bill stands to benefit our rail workers across all Unions.

President Biden is about to make history as presidents over the last few decades have tried and failed to pass an infrastructure package. He ran on the “Build Back Better” platform with improvements to infrastructure being the centerpiece of his agenda. He vowed to reach across the aisles to get America back on track, and this bill is a prime example of his efforts as both Republicans and Democrats worked together on the bipartisan bill and got it passed. Let this be an example of how we all need to put politics aside and work together for the greater good of our nation.”

The NCFO is an affiliate of 32BJ SEIU, the Service Employees International Union, which has 2.1 million members dedicated to raising industry standards, making life better for working families and our communities, and building a fair economy.



NCFO logo
Washington, DC

August 5th, 2021                                                                    

On behalf of the National Conference of Firemen & Oilers, SEIU 32BJ, President Dean Devita issues a statement regarding the untimely passing of President Richard L. Trumka of the AFLCIO.

“Today we mourn the loss of a true legend in the labor movement. President Richard Trumka dedicated his life to uplifting the working class for nearly 50 years starting as a young staff attorney with the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) in 1974. A third-generation coal miner himself, he was an outspoken advocate for social and economic justice and lead the labor movement’s efforts to create an economy based on broadly shared prosperity. He believed in holding employers and political leaders accountable to our working families. It is incumbent upon us to follow his example of exemplary leadership in fighting for workers’ rights.”

NCFO President Dean Devita

President Richard L. Trumka passed away today at age 72. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family & friends during this time, as well as the many people whose lives he has impacted throughout time as a leader.

The NCFO is an affiliate of 32BJ SEIU, the Service Employees International Union, which has 2.1 million members dedicated to raising industry standards, making life better for working families and our communities, and building a fair economy.


NCFO Press Release

NCFO logo
Washington, DC

It was announced on May 19, 2021 that Jennifer Homendy would be President Biden’s pick to serve as Chair of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the governing body responsible for making transportation safer by conducting independent accident investigations, advocating safety improvements, and deciding certification appeals for pilots & mariners. The National Conference of Firemen & Oilers, SEIU 32BJ (NCFO) stands behind this nomination and urges the Senate to quickly advance her appointment to the board.

Jennifer Homendy has served as a member of the National Transportation Safety Board since August 2018. Prior to her appointment to the Board, Homendy served more than 14 years as Democratic Staff Director for the Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure in the U.S. House of Representatives. She previously held positions with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO, and American Iron and Steel Institute.

With more than 25 years of experience in transportation safety, you could not find a more suitable candidate than Jennifer Homendy. Her documented expertise and unwavering efforts to advocate for safety should earn her another unanimous confirmation by the Senate as they did 3 years ago. We applaud President Joe Biden for this nomination and look forward to welcoming Jennifer Homendy as the new Chair of the NTSB.“

NCFO President Dean Devita

The NCFO believes that Member Homendy has the knowledge, skills, qualifications, and the record to prove she will be a distinguished leader at the National Transportation Safety Board, and we proudly support her confirmation.

The NCFO is an affiliate of 32BJ SEIU, the Service Employees International Union, which has 2.1 million members dedicated to raising industry standards, making life better for working families and our communities, and building a fair economy.


NCFO Press Release

NCFO logo
New York, NY


Dean Devita, President of the National Conference of Firemen & Oilers, SEIU 32BJ (NCFO) announced today that the Executive Board of the National Conference of Firemen & Oilers unanimously voted to join the U.S. High-Speed Rail Coalition Executive Committee. The Committee is comprised of passenger and high-speed rail stakeholders, proponents and supporters.

The Committee’s campaign will focus on educating both the public and all levels of elected officials on the benefits of investing in the expansion of high-speed rail services.

Goals of the Campaign

  • A minimum of $205 billion for true high-speed rail
  • The establishment of a Rail Trust Fund
  • Formation of a High-Speed Rail Development Agency within USDOT
  • Maintaining the robust labor standards outlined in the American High Speed Rail Act

The U.S. High-Speed Rail Coalition is chaired by three former secretaries of the Department of Transportation. Through their fierce efforts advocating for more high-speed rail funding, the High-Speed Rail Coalition has increased the funding from $20 billion to $30 billion over five years in the INVEST ACT.  The Coalition hopes to increase high-speed rail funding even more in the next few months during reconciliation.

High-Speed Rail means jobs for all rail partner unions. As well as members in SEIU, the building and construction trades, steel workers and plumbers.  The Buy America provisions will help revitalize our domestic manufacturing and steel production.  Increasing high-speed rail funding opens up an avenue for new union members in this new transportation sector.  It is the future of those unions, especially the rail unions, and most of all the members of the NCFO, SEIU and our rail union partners.

NCFO President Dean Devita issued the following statement:

“If not today, when will our Nation address the desperate need for High-Speed Rail? TODAY is the opportunity to rebuild our transportation infrastructure. The NCFO is proud to join the High-Speed Rail Executive Committee. Together WE will make sure America rebuilds, rides and prosperous because of High-Speed Rail.”

NCFO Secretary-Treasurer Robert Smith stated:

The NCFO is excited about this opportunity, for commuters, NCFO members and for the entire Labor Movement.”   

The NCFO is are an affiliate of 32BJ SEIU, the Service Employees International Union, which has 2.1 million members dedicated to raising industry standards, making life better for working families and our communities, and building a fair economy. The NCFO represents members employed in the Commercial Sector and Freight Railroads, Amtrak, Commuter Rail and short line railroads.



NCFO logo
Washington, DC


Yesterday, the National Conference of Firemen & Oilers in conjunction with our Labor Partners provided video messages in support of an infrastructure bill to finally rebuild America. Today, President Biden announced his support for the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework, the largest long-term investment in our infrastructure and competitiveness in nearly a century – an investment that will make our economy more sustainable, resilient and just”. President Devita continued, “finally a true investment for our Nation, one that will directly make a difference in our transportation infrastructure, but most importantly this agreement will address many important issues that will benefit our Nation”.

Statement From the White House

 The President came into office promising to find common ground to get things done – and he’s delivering on that promise. The $1.2 trillion Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework is a critical step in implementing President Biden’s Build Back Better vision. The Plan makes transformational and historic investments in clean transportation infrastructure, clean water infrastructure, universal broadband infrastructure, clean power infrastructure, remediation of legacy pollution, and resilience to the changing climate. Cumulatively across these areas, the Framework invests two-thirds of the resources that the President proposed in his American Jobs Plan. President Biden believes that we must invest in our country and in our people, creating good-paying union jobs, tackling the climate crisis, and growing the economy sustainably, and equitably for decades to come. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework is a critical step in accomplishing these objectives. President Biden believes that we are at inflection point between democracy and autocracy. At this moment in our history, President Biden believes we must demonstrate to the world that American democracy can deliver for the American people. Today, the President is showing that democracy can deliver results. The Framework will position American workers, farmers, and businesses – small and large alike – to compete and win in the 21st century. Still, there is more work to do – to grow our economy, create jobs, improve living standards, reduce climate pollution, and ensure more Americans can participate fully and equally in our economy. President Biden remains committed to the comprehensive agenda laid out in the American Jobs Plan and American Families Plan. He will work with Congress to build on the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework in legislation that moves in tandem, and he is encouraged that both the House and Senate are working on budget plans that would do so. But democracy requires compromise. The historic Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework will make life better for millions of Americans, create a generation of good-paying union jobs and economic growth, and position the United States to win the 21st century, including on many of the key technologies needed to combat the climate crisis. That’s what President Biden and Vice President Harris were elected to do. The President calls on Congress to pass the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework and send it to his desk, and pass a budget resolution and legislation that makes his full Build Back Better vision a reality.

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework will:

  • Improve healthy, sustainable transportation options for millions of Americans by modernizing and expanding transit and rail networks across the country, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The Plan is the largest federal investment in public transit in history and is the largest federal investment in passenger rail since the creation of Amtrak.
  • Repair and rebuild our roads and bridges with a focus on climate change mitigation, resilience, equity, and safety for all users, including cyclists and pedestrians. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework is the single largest dedicated bridge investment since the construction of the interstate highway system.
  • Build a national network of electric vehicle (EV) chargers along highways and in rural and disadvantaged communities. The largest investment in EV infrastructure in history, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework will accomplish the President’s goal of building 500,000 EV chargers.
  • Electrify thousands of school and transit buses across the country to reduce harmful emissions and drive domestic manufacturing of zero emission vehicles and components.
  • Eliminate the nation’s lead service lines and pipes, delivering clean drinking water to up to ten million American families and more than 400,000 schools and child care facilities that currently don’t have it, including in Tribal nations and disadvantaged communities. The Plan is the largest investment in clean drinking water and waste water infrastructure in American history.
  • Connect every American to reliable high-speed internet, just as the federal government made a historic effort to provide electricity to every American nearly one hundred years ago. The Framework will also drive down prices for internet service and close the digital divide.
  • Upgrade our power infrastructure, including by building thousands of miles of new, resilient transmission lines to facilitate the expansion of renewable energy, including through a new Grid Authority. The Plan is the single largest investment in clean energy transmission in American history.
  • Create a first of its kind Infrastructure Financing Authority that will leverage billions of dollars into clean transportation and clean energy.
  • Make the largest investment in addressing legacy pollution in American history, a cleanup effort that will create good-paying union jobs and advance environmental justice.
  • Prepare more of our infrastructure for the impacts of climate change, cyber-attacks, and extreme weather events. The Framework is the largest investment in the resilience of physical and natural systems in American history.

The Framework, which will generate significant economic benefits and returns, is financed through a combination of closing the tax gap, redirecting unspent emergency relief funds, targeted corporate user fees, and the macroeconomic impact of infrastructure investment

This bipartisan infrastructure framework will usher our Nation’s infrastructure into the 21st century. It would represent the largest infrastructure investment in American history. The plan includes

$579 billion in new spending to rebuild America’s roads and bridges, improve public transit systems, expand passenger rail, upgrade our ports and airports, invest in broadband infrastructure, fix our water systems, modernize our power sector and improve climate resilience. The plan would be paid for in part by closing the tax gap, redirecting unspent emergency relief funds, and other offsets.

Roads, bridges, major projects$109
Public Transit$49
Passenger and Freight Rail$66
EV infrastructure$7.5
Electric Buses / Transit$7.5
Reconnecting Communities$1
Ports & Waterways$16
Infrastructure Financing$20
Other Infrastructure$266
Water Infrastructure$55
Broadband Infrastructure$65
Environmental Remediation$21
Power Infrastructure (incl. grid authority)$73
Western Water Storage$5
Total$579 billion
*New spending + baseline (over 5 years) = $973B
*New spending + baseline (over 8 years) = $1,209B

Proposed Financing Sources for New Investment

  • Reduce the IRS tax gap
  • Unemployment insurance program integrity
  • Redirect unused unemployment insurance relief funds
  • Repurpose unused relief funds from 2020 emergency relief legislation
  • State and local investment in broadband infrastructure
  • Allow states to sell or purchase unused toll credits for infrastructure
  • Extend expiring customs user fees
  • Reinstate Superfund fees for chemicals
  • 5G spectrum auction proceeds
  • Extend mandatory sequester
  • Strategic petroleum reserve sale
  • Public private partnerships, private activity bonds, direct pay bonds and asset recycling for infrastructure investment
  • Macroeconomic impact of infrastructure investment

The NCFO is an affiliate of 32BJ SEIU, the Service Employees International Union, which has 2.1 million members dedicated to raising industry standards, making life better for working families and our communities, and building a fair economy.



Commemorating 156 Years of Celebrating the Emancipation of African American Slaves

The first flag that represented Juneteenth was created in 1997 by Ben Haith. Lisa Jeanne Graf “fine tuned” the original version three years later, resulting in the flag we see today. On June 19th, 2000, Haith led the holiday’s initial flag raising ceremony in Boston’s Roxbury Heritage Park.

The red, white & blue flag you see pictured commemorates the day that Union Major General Gordon Granger and 2,000 federal troops arrived on the island of Galveston, Texas and told the last enslaved African Americans “…that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free.” Though the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect on January 1st, 1863, it took 2½ years for this declaration of independence to happen because the Civil War had been ongoing and had not ended until May 9th, 1865. Southern slaves under confederate rule were not freed until federal troops marched though towns to enforce the emancipation of slaves in 1865. That lead them to Galveston on June 19th, or Juneteenth, to free the last slaves in America. African Americans have celebrated Juneteenth as an unofficial national independence day ever since that day in 1965.

Texas became the first state in the nation to make Juneteenth an official state holiday. The oldest known celebration of the end of slavery receives its first official recognition on June 7, 1979, as the Texas Legislature passes a bill declaring Juneteenth a state holiday.

The flag, created in 1997 by Ben Haith, the founder of the National Juneteenth Celebration Foundation (NJCF), has the same American flag COLORS meant to show that the formerly enslaved people and their descendants are free Americans too. The ARC bordering the red and blue represents a new horizon – fresh opportunities and promising futures for African Americans. The STAR is not only a nod to the Lone Star State where Juneteenth was first celebrated in 1865, but it also stands for the freedom of every African American in all 50 states. The BURST surrounding the star is meant to reflect a nova— or new star—which represents a new beginning for all Americans. What is most unfortunate is that Juneteenth, a day of jubilee celebrated all over the country for more than 150 years, was not widely know in the United States prior to the movements of 2020. Juneteenth represents the end of horrible exploitative crimes against humanity for people of color, and it is important for us to acknowledge and grow from our sins of the past. It’s also a hard pill to swallow that the U.S. was one of the last countries to abolish slavery after the Civil War, a war 25 times more deadly than the American Revolutionary which bore Independence Day.

June 19th, 2021 – President Joe Biden signs a law making Juneteenth a federal holiday celebrating the end of slavery in the United States. Present at the signing and standing left of Vice President Kamala Harris was Opal Lee, a 94-year-old activist from Fort Worth, Texas. This was momentous for Opal, a.k.a. the “Grandmother of Juneteenth”, as she spent decades tirelessly working to make Juneteenth a nationally recognized, federal holiday.

We at the NCFO agree that the Juneteenth National Independence Day bill signed into law yesterday was long overdue. We lock arms with our brothers & sisters of all races and stand up for civil rights of all Americans, and Juneteenth marks the true beginning in the fight for civil rights for African Americans.

Happy Juneteenth from President Dean Devita, Secretary Treasurer Bob Smith, and everyone here at the NCFO!



NCFO logo

Ashland, KY


“The National Conference of Firemen & Oilers, support the INVEST in America Act of 2021, which has passed the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.

The legislation includes immensely important provisions for National Conference of Firemen & Oilers’ members and all of Rail Labor. Included in the bill is the Transforming Rail by Accelerating Investment Nationwide Act – “TRAIN ACT.”

The bill would provide $32 billion over five years in grants to support Amtrak on the Northeast Corridor (NEC) and the National Rail Network. It provides another $25 billion over five years to both the Passenger Rail Improvement Modernization and Expansion grant program and the Bridges, Stations, and Tunnels.

This is very important to the members of the National Conference of Firemen & Oilers because the bill amends current Amtrak contracting limitations to clarify that Amtrak cannot contract out the work performed by an employee, if such employee has been laid off and has not been recalled to perform such work. It also clarifies that Amtrak is not authorized to contract out work if prohibited to do so in an agreement entered into with its workers. The bill also requires the FRA to increase the number of safety inspectors by 20 percent over five years.

Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing (RRIF), provides direct loans and loan guarantees to finance development of railroad infrastructure.

The bill will allow the FRA secretary to study the safety impacts of trains composed of more than 150 railcars and it will require two-person crews on Class 1 railroads and for all trains carrying dangerous hazmat or added length, regardless of railroad classification.

This action is good for the members of the National Conference of Firemen & Oilers, but it is even better for the citizens of the United States of America.”

The NCFO is an affiliate of 32BJ SEIU, the Service Employees International Union, which has 2.1 million members dedicated to raising industry standards, making life better for working families and our communities, and building a fair economy.

NCFO Member Spotlight: Rayne Johnson

Rayne Johnson took a job as a railroad mechanic after high school, and he maintains that job today as a Chapter 578 member all while performing anywhere and everywhere with a stage. Proving his work ethic is unparalleled, Rayne hustled for more than a decade thriving in his full-time career while pursuing his passion for music. Rayne actually learned guitar from an older co-worker during their downtime and gleamed the basics on a used Ovation Celebrity. The railroader has now generated over 55 million streams as an independent artist and received acclaim from CMT and Taste of Country who crowned him “a smooth operator”.

The Fairfield, Ohio singer/songwriter amplifies traditional country tales through soulful vocals bolstered by rock energy and a twist of R&B flavor. His self-titled 2020 EP made the Top 10 on the iTunes Country Album chart, and his debut single, “Front Seat”, is the only independent record to break the country airplay Top 40 on Billboard in the past 5 years. Rayne is truly a super star in the making.

To show his support and solidarity with our Union, Rayne Johnson has an exclusive link for NCFO members to preview his new single before it’s debut! Do yourself a favor and click the link below to support our brother:

Follow him on Instagram & Twitter @RayneJohnson

Follow him on YouTube @RayneJohnsonMusic


NCFO logo

Ashland, KY


“The NCFO sends our condolences to the families, co-workers and friends of the men and women who lost their lives due to an act of violence at the Valley Transportation Rail Yard in San Jose, CA.

We send our solidarity to our labor partners, the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) President John A. Costa as well as the ATU officers, staff and most of all the ATU members.

Every union wants their members to return to their family safe, happy and healthy after they complete their tour of duty. It is heartbreaking that these ATU members will no longer be able to be with their loved ones.

God Bless these brave men and women. God, please protect all workers.”

The NCFO is an affiliate of 32BJ SEIU, the Service Employees International Union, which has 2.1 million members dedicated to raising industry standards, making life better for working families and our communities, and building a fair economy.