Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits for approximately 70 million Americans will increase 8.7% in 2023, the Social Security Administration announced. On average, Social Security benefits will increase by more than $140 per month starting in January.

The 8.7% cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) will begin with benefits payable to more than 65 million Social Security beneficiaries in January 2023. Increased payments to more than 7 million SSI beneficiaries will begin Dec. 30, 2022. (Note: some people receive both Social Security and SSI benefits). The Social Security Act ties the annual COLA to the increase in the Consumer Price Index as determined by the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“Medicare premiums are going down and Social Security benefits are going up in 2023, which will give seniors more peace of mind and breathing room. This year’s substantial Social Security cost-of-living adjustment is the first time in over a decade that Medicare premiums are not rising and shows that we can provide more support to older Americans who count on the benefits they have earned,” Acting Commissioner Kilolo Kijakazi said.

To view a COLA message from Acting Commissioner Kijakazi, please visit www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vgm5q4YT1AM.

Some other adjustments that take effect in January of each year are based on the increase in average wages. Based on that increase, the maximum amount of earnings subject to the Social Security tax (taxable maximum) will increase to $160,200 from $147,000.

Social Security and SSI beneficiaries are normally notified by mail starting in early December about their new benefit amount. The fastest way to find out their new benefit amount is to access their personal my Social Security account to view the COLA notice online. It’s secure, easy and people find out before the mail arrives. People can also opt to receive a text or email alert when there is a new message from Social Security — such as their COLA notice — waiting for them, rather than receiving a letter in the mail. People may create or access their my Social Security account online at www.ssa.gov/myaccount.

Information about Medicare changes for 2023 is available at www.medicare.gov. For Social Security beneficiaries enrolled in Medicare, their new higher 2023 benefit amount will be available in December through the mailed COLA notice and my Social Security’s Message Center.

The Social Security Act provides for how the COLA is calculated. To read more, please visit www.ssa.gov/cola.

Follow this link to view a fact sheet on the 2023 changes.

On Sept. 2, Calif. Gov. Gavin Newsom signed S.B. 957 into law, thus placing employees of the Santa Cruz Metro (SCM) under the umbrella of the state’s Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) to foster improved relations between public employees and management.

Members of TD Local 23 pose on Labor Day 2022 with an award given to them by the Monterey Bay Central Labor Council for their efforts in getting S.B. 957 signed into law.

The law takes effect Jan. 1, 2023.

The bill was introduced in the state Senate by Sen. John Laird (D) on March 17. The bill’s advance happened because of the dedicated 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).

“This was a long uphill battle,” GC Sandoval said. “Louie has put in so much work and helped our local along the way in getting this done. He would sit with me for nine hours some days waiting for our bill to come up just to say he supports it too and taking the time to teach me how the process works.” 

The tenacity in seeing the bill through into law resulted in representatives of Local 23 receiving a “Rock Solid” award on Labor Day from the Monterey Bay Central Labor Council for their efforts.

The law requires that employers and employees of SCM adjudicate complaints of specified labor violations before PERB as an unfair practice instead of in 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.

“It removes the fight of who has more money,” Sandoval said. “PERB jurisdiction gives 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.”

Members of the Santa Cruz Board of Directors, SEIU 521 and the Monterey Bay Central Labor Council were thanked for their support in a speech by GC Sandoval at the council’s Labor Day event.

Among the SCM board members thanked were Jimmy Dutra, Shebreh Kalantari-Johnson, Kristen Brown, Rebecca Downing, Manu Koenig, Donna Meyers and Ari Parker.

A final word of gratitude from GC Sandoval went to state Sen. Laird, author of the bill.

“He believed in us from Day 1 and he stuck it out with us and he carried it all the way through,” he said.

On the first day of the first-ever SMART Leadership Conference, Transportation Division President Jeremy Ferguson updated hundreds of SMART officers on the progress his administration has made in strengthening our union since his administration took office in 2019.

It was President Ferguson’s first opportunity to address a large, live assemblage of the union since the Second SMART General Convention in Las Vegas.

“We have accomplished so much together, much more than I ever imagined, with the new bonds that we have made and the promises to the delegates that we would unite this entire union for the betterment of all of our members,” he said.

He noted that the administration has made some rapid and meaningful progress, even with the challenges the membership as a whole has faced since 2019. He emphasized strides made in safety with the online Safety Condition Report introduced in early 2021, education and an accountability to membership.

Education-wise, the change from the old regional meeting model to a leadership summit such as the one in San Francisco and the regional training seminar models for a more locally-oriented experience was a shock to some, but the feedback has been largely positive from those who’ve attended.

“It was not easy to break from previous tradition, but I was adamant that we train to be the best. This week we are going to teach many important skills and values needed to be the best. We are going to lead the next generation to be better and more skilled than we are here today,” he said. “We are going to give them advantages that we were never afforded. That’s what true leadership does, they make it better for their successors.”

He noted that the years since his administration took office have been anything but normal.

“It’s been one challenge after another from court cases and other crises. There’s rail carriers’ implementation of PSR [Precision Scheduled Railroading] and refusal to reward their essential workers with a meaningful contract, brutal assaults on our bus and transit members, the supply-chain meltdown that’s followed, the exodus that is happening with good loyal workers being ground down by attendance policies and choosing to walk away from their hard-earned pensions just to have time with their family,” he said.

“Times have gotten tough here lately with such drastic shortages of bus drivers and railroad workers, but when things get tough, I know that the one thing we’re not afraid to do in the face of adversity is to show up and step up. We’re not fearful of the challenges that we see ahead after what we’ve been through.”

President Ferguson later in the day addressed a Transportation Division general session consisting of about 200 general committee and state board officers in attendance.

In it, he updated the audience on Presidential Emergency Board 250, saying that labor’s performance had the carriers on their heels. The railroads’ case essentially boiled down to “labor’s being greedy.”

“There’s no union on the outside. We’ve all got each other’s backs,” he said of the United Rail Unions, who pooled resources and stated labor’s case as a unified body before the PEB in July. “It is the best we could have done.”

Other topics included the in-progress relocation of the TD executive offices from North Olmsted, Ohio to a new site in Independence, Ohio. When the move is complete, that relocation will save a projected $2 million for the union over the new 10-year lease.

He urged officers to promote the benefits offered internally through the union, such as the TD Voluntary Short Term Disability and Discipline Income Protection programs rather than job insurance programs run by outside entities.

The cost of DIPP will decrease, effective Oct. 1, and more reductions will come in the future if the number of contributors to the program goes up.

“The more people we get in the fund, the lower we can go,” he said of the DIPP.

To close, the organizing department has been reinvigorated with new documents and an enthusiastic squad of people telling new hires why being a member of TD is the right choice. Chief of Staff Jerry Gibson heads up the department that has been inundated with new hires. “All our hard work is starting to pay off,” President Ferguson said.

LOS ANGELES, (August 4, 2022) — The efforts by the SMART-TD General Committee of Adjustment GO 875 negotiation team have resulted in a new agreement for the bus and rail operators of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LACMTA), which serves more than 10 million people in the nation’s most-populous county within a 1,433-square-mile service area.

On Friday, July 29, 2022, the California Mediation and Conciliation Service tabulated votes and reported 68.5% of voters had approved the agreement.

Bottom left: Office Secretary Rosana Santana; Operations Manager Maria Magallon; and Administrative Assistant Iveth Lopez. Top, from left, negotiation consultant Victor Baffoni; Local 1607 Chairperson Julio Mejia; GCA Secretary and Local 1564 Chairperson Andy Carter; General Chairperson John M. Ellis; Local 1608 Chairperson Edgar Menendez; Vice General Chairperson/Local 1565 Chairperson Quintin Wormley; Local 1563 Chairperson Robert Gonzalez and Local 1565 Chairperson (Rail) Johnny Cabanas celebrate the announcement of the LACMTA contract ratification by members.

General Chairperson John M. Ellis, Retired SMART-TD Vice President and Negotiation Consultant Victor Baffoni and Vice General Chairperson/Local 1565 Chairperson Quintin Wormley; GCA Secretary/Local 1564 Chairperson Andy Carter and Local Chairpersons Robert Gonzalez (1563), LCA-875B Chairperson John Cabanas (Rail), Julio Mejia (1607), Edgar Menendez (1608) and Operations Manager/Consultant Assistant Maria D.L. Magallon are proud to announce the bus and rail operators of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority voted overwhelmingly to accept the Authority’s proposed contract. The contract will be in effect for the next five years and contains a 26.6% wage increase through June 30, 2027, over the five-year period.

SMART obtained an appreciation pay for LACMTA members who worked through the COVID-19 pandemic. No changes were made to employee benefits, and the pool of full-time operators also has the opportunity to expand with the offering of full-time positions to any interested part-time operator, provided they apply by Aug. 15, 2022. The contract also modifies the carrier’s disciplinary procedures, allowing for a streamlined appeals and arbitration process. It also updates sick leave and modifications to work rules.

GC Ellis stated: “This is a historic, record-setting contract agreement. We believe that this new contract represents a significant improvement and protection in wages and benefits for our 4,600+ members and their families.” He noted that the overwhelmingly positive vote was a strong indicator that union members were pleased with the agreement and the new contract represents a monumental accomplishment.

“This agreement has rectified concerns from previous contracts and has paved the way to amend future matters that may arise,” Ellis said. “We are pleased to have been able to put together a contract that speaks volume, as powerful as this one in turbulent times such as these.”

SMART Transportation Division President Jeremy R. Ferguson said: “We’re very excited, extraordinarily proud and grateful for the efforts by SMART-TD GO 875 Committee’s dedication. In a recent visit to Los Angeles over the spring, it was a pleasure to encounter the spirit and solidarity of GO 875. I saw and heard firsthand about the great work that they do and had a chance to engage their membership as they voiced their concerns in a town hall meeting. This contract is a great step ahead and congratulations to all involved!”

GC Ellis also stated: “I appreciate the patience our membership showed during these past stressful years, and I thank every single one of our members for their support during this process.”

The contract will now be presented to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors for their consideration. The Board is expected to vote on the agreement in late August or in September.

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.”