A bill under consideration in the California Legislature would place employees of the Santa Cruz Metro under the umbrella of the state’s Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) to foster improved relations between public employees and management.

S.B. 957 was introduced in the state Senate by state Sen. John Laird (D) on March 17. The bill’s advance has happened in part thanks to the work of members of SMART-TD Local 23 in Santa Cruz, California State Legislative Board Director Louie Costa and General Chairperson James Sandoval (GC-SCM).

“The bill will protect Santa Cruz Metro workers from unfair labor practices moving forward,” Sandoval said. “It’s been a two-year project, and we still got work to do. This is absolutely huge.”

S.B. 957 would require employers and employees of the district to adjudicate complaints of specified labor violations before PERB as an unfair practice instead of in the superior court. By requiring the district to adjudicate claims before PERB, the bill would impose a state-mandated local program that would serve to harmonize relations between SCM management and labor.

“PERB jurisdiction will give us free oversight to make sure Metro bargains with our union in good faith during negotiations and gives us recourse in the event Metro commits unfair labor practices,” Sandoval said.

Members of the Santa Cruz Board of Directors received the appreciation of TD Local 23 and SEIU Local 521, which also represents some Santa Cruz Metro employees, for their support in getting the bill moved into consideration.

Among the supporters thanked were Kristen Petersen, Shebreh Kalantari-Johnson, Jimmy Dutra, Ari Parker, Manu Koenig, Rebecca Downing, Donna Meyers, Alta Northcutt and Laird.

“After a period of discord under the prior CEO, the support from the board has helped this bill advance along,” Sandoval said. “We’re going to do our best to make sure it gets fair consideration by state lawmakers.”

The bill is under review by the Senate’s Labor, Public Employment and Retirement Committee and is scheduled to be heard by the committee on April 18 at 3:00 p.m. The Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hear the bill on April 26 at 1:30 p.m.

FTA has not yet implemented worker safety provisions in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

WASHINGTON – Today, 20 labor organizations representing transit drivers and other transportation workers urged Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg and Federal Transit Administration (FTA) Administrator Nuria Fernandez to immediately implement the safety provisions in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) to protect transit workers from assault.

Four months after the passage of the BIL, the FTA has yet to implement these safety provisions. Meanwhile, transit workers continue to face danger on the job.

Assaults against transit workers have long been a concern but dramatically increased during the last three years of the pandemic, as did assaults on other frontline transportation workers like airline and airport workers.

Labor unions representing frontline transit employees have responded to this crisis over the years through legislative and regulatory measures, most recently securing several provisions in the BIL to protect transit workers.

Because of the BIL, the FTA is now statutorily required to collect accurate data on transit workforce assaults, to reform its Public Transportation Agency Safety Plan (PTASP) process to include worker voices and incorporate measures to reduce the risk of assault in every transit system, and to update its national safety plan to address the risk of assault and public health concerns.

The unions wrote: “Our members include bus and rail transit operators, station agents, car cleaners, mechanics and other frontline workers, all of whom are at risk of assault and worse each day they arrive at work. President Biden committed to protecting these workers and that promise was enshrined into law as part of the BIL. Before, and particularly during the COVID19 pandemic, these workers have laid their lives on the line every day to ensure Americans have access to safe, reliable transportation, and we must not turn our backs on them another day.”

Signers of the letter include the Transportation Trades Department of the AFL-CIO (TTD) and the nation’s largest transit unions, including the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU), Transport Workers Union of America (TWU), International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers–Transportation Division (SMART-TD), International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT), and Transportation Communications Union/IAM (TCU).

The letter was also signed by the following unions: Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), American Train Dispatchers Association (ATDA), Association of Flight Attendants–CWA (AFA), Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes–IBT (BMWED), Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen (BRS), International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW), International Brotherhood of Boilermakers (IBB), International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA), International Organization of Masters, Mates & Pilots (IOMM&P), International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT), National Conference of Firemen & Oilers, SEIU (NCFO), Office and Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU), and Professional Aviation Safety Specialists (PASS).

Read the letter here.

Local 759 (Paramus, N.J.) President and Legislative Representative Rafael Becerra met with Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Tom Carper and Gov. John Carney on Friday, March 4, in Wilmington, Del., as part of an event promoting the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL), formerly known as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

Pictured, from left, U.S. Sen. Tom Carper, Local 759 (Paramus, N.J.) President/Legislative Representative Rafael Becerra, Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Delaware Gov. John Carney pose for a photo during an event at the DART First State facility in Wilmington, Del., on Friday, March 4.

Brother Becerra, a veteran bus operator for Community Coach based out of New Jersey, frequently travels the main thoroughfares between the states and has been a SMART-TD member since November 1984.

“It was a great honor in meeting Transportation Secretary Buttigieg, Gov. Carney and Sen. Carper,” Becerra said. “The infrastructure law will accomplish a big transformation in our nation — not just the conditions of our roads and bridges — but in how people get around via bus and transit.”

Becerra has been a bus driver for nearly four decades and helped to evacuate people in conjunction with the Jan. 7, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., and to transport soldiers to defend the area for President Biden’s inauguration. His experience was chronicled in the March/April 2021 SMART-TD News on Page 7.

“All of our bus members here in New Jersey and from coast to coast take extreme pride in doing their job safely day after day,” said New Jersey State Legislative Director Ron Sabol, who also attended the event. “For decades, President Becerra has served as a dependable bus operator, and he’s helping the membership in two roles as an elected officer. I’m very proud of his work and his leadership.”