An outage has affected access to SMART’s computer network, including functions of the SMART app, TD Connect and Member Portal account creation. This message will be removed when system access has been restored.
Brother Richard Gulley, president of Local 1590 (Anaheim, Calif.) passed away on June 29, 2023.
“Brother Gulley was a beloved husband, father, grandfather, and friend,” said Bus Department Vice President Alvy Hughes. “As local president, Brother Gulley was instrumental in assembling one of our newest bus locals that represents operators and maintenance employees.
Hughes said Brother Gulley was well-respected by the members of his local and had a way of putting a smile on everyone’s face.
“He will be greatly missed,” Hughes said.
The SMART Transportation Division offers its sincere condolences to all in Local 1590 who worked in solidarity with Brother Gulley, as well as his family and his friends in this difficult time.
June 26, 2023, was the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) deadline for the public to respond to their Notice of Public Rule Making (NPRM) on forming new Public Transportation Agency Safety Plans (PTASPs.)
FTA requested public comments on how to keep bus operators safe on the job, and as a union SMART Transportation Division answered the bell.
The National Legislative Department would like to thank all of our bus members for their time, efforts, and the quality of the ideas shared while we were putting together our response. SMART-TD reached out to you, and you answered. We truly are an organization that can only be as strong as our members and your assistance was highly appreciated.
As a result of the feedback we received from multiple bus members, Bus Vice Presidents Calvin Studivant and Alvy Hughes, as well as Anthony Petty, representing our members from SEPTA in Philadelphia, Pa., SMART-TD’s team submitted a strong response.
Unlike many responses they received, ours was fueled by information and creativity that came straight from the front lines.
Thank you all for your efforts to keep yourself as well as your union brothers and sisters safe at work and both represented as well as respected in the PTASP development process.
On April 26, the Federal Transportation Agency (FTA) posted a Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) regarding public transportation agency safety plans. The agency is seeking feedback and suggestions from bus employees and other interested parties on what changes federal overseers can make in public transportation that would result in safety improvements for bus operators, riders and pedestrians alike.
The SMART Transportation Division intends to file a public comment on behalf of our bus members. We need our members in bus service to help us tell your story. The stakes get no higher than keeping you and your riders safe. We hope all our bus members take the time to consider and share what changes in regulations, training, maintenance practices and bus design would be most vital in keeping you as safe as possible as you do your incredibly valuable work.
SMART-TD’s National Legislative Department is working with both vice presidents of the Bus Department to build the best argument possible; however, SMART-TD is fully aware that you are ultimately the experts on this topic, and we are asking for your input and ideas on this project.
Topics currently being considered for inclusion in our NPRM response include the items listed below. These topics have not been decided on at this point and are in no way ordered by priority.
Changing the rearview mirror and camera placement to eliminate blind spots;
Addressing windshield design;
Addressing fare box placement to get them out of the operator’s line of sight;
Audible announcements telling pedestrians the bus is turning and in which direction.
Mandating the installation of driver barriers that do not have access points allowing riders to physically touch operators;
Having doors built into the left side of the bus allowing the operator to exit the bus separate from the riders;
Disallow transit companies from disciplining operators for leaving their seats in the case of an emergency or in the use of their de-escalation training;
Additional de-escalation training;
Public Address posters in the cab of all public transit vehicles describing elevated criminal penalties for assaulting transit workers.
Passenger education ad campaigns;
Announcements over loudspeakers at bus terminals;
Transit police funding for both large- and mid-sized markets;
Rider ambassador programs;
“Call 9-1-1” alerts to be displayed on destination or next stop signs.
Training and certification in repairing electric and alternative fuel buses safely;
Federal intervention on bus manufacturers voiding warranties when our mechanics make repairs.
Increased federal penalties for assaults on transit workers;
Federal requirements for all bus carriers to report rider incidents reported by operators, and FTA compiling these into reports made available at regular intervals.
If you would like to contribute additional topics for us to consider, please reach out to SMART-TD Government Affairs Representative Dan Banks by June 2. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone at (216) 227-5450. Please engage in this process and allow SMART-TD to fight for you armed with the best information and ideas possible.
The daughter of General Chairperson Richard Finley (GCA-RCL), Tori Brianna White, passed away at the untimely age of 28 on Feb. 26, leaving a huge void in the lives of Brother Finley, her mother, Stephanie L. Brown, and members of SMART Transportation Division Local 1558 in Bergenfield, N.J., in mourning.
GC Finley says Tori helped local members with run and vacation picks on many occasions and that, despite contending with illness and health issues for years, his daughter had lived a very full and happy life.
“Tori will be missed by all. Remembering Tori will always bring a smile to your face and warmth in your heart,” the family wrote in her obituary. “As God’s angel, she will watch over all of us.”
Tori was the youngest blessing born to Stephanie Brown and Harry White in Sacramento, Calif., on May 13, 1994. Her favorite pursuits included taking after her mom in a great enjoyment of karaoke. She was a huge fan of celebrity chef Bobby Flay and enjoyed watching both cooking and crime/suspense shows on television.
Brother Finley and Tori made it a point to spent time together, sit down and watch “The Masked Singer” as appointment viewing every week.
Tori is survived by her mother, Stephanie L. Brown; Brother Finley, who helped raise her since the age of 8; three grandparents; two brothers; four sisters; numerous nieces and nephews; dozens of cousins and so many friends. Tori also is survived by her pride, joy and life companion Lola, her Chihuahua, and Camron, the love of her life. Tori was looking forward to getting better and being with Camron.
She was preceded in death by her biological father, Harry White, who passed just three days prior to Tori; grandmother Betty Greer (Brown), grandfather Murray Finley, aunt Lanette M Alexander (Brown); and uncle Sam Taylor.
Prior to the lifting of an evacuation order for residents of East Palestine, Ohio, SMART officers and members pitched in to assist the displaced residents with supplies and other support.
Due to the massive Norfolk Southern derailment there on Friday, February 3, and the hazardous materials release, lives in the community were turned upside down with many having to relocate temporarily in community shelters.
SMART-TD Ohio State Legislative Director (SLD) Clyde Whitaker, along with representatives of SMART International went to one of the shelters to bring supplies and lend support. SLD Whitaker and the other members of SMART listened to the concerns of the residents at the Family Assistance Center that was set up at Abundant Life Fellowship Church in New Waterford, OH.
The scene at the shelter was not a memory that Whitaker will forget anytime soon. Concerns were voiced that ranged from the immediate needs of food, shelter and clothing to the long-term environmental condition of the soil, air, and water in the town. Much of the discussion focused on how the future would look in this proud community, and what kind of remediation effort they could expect to see from the carrier.
“This really hit home to a lot of us. It’s the biggest catastrophe that I’ve seen in my 23 years of railroading here in Ohio,” Whitaker said.
Some of the most heated discussions revolved around air quality concerns. The large-scale chemical fire that was the result of Friday’s derailment and Tuesday’s “controlled release” of chemicals by NS created more than just the pictures that have been circulated through both local and national news media. It also created serious health concerns. Though the residents have been assured throughout this process that testing continues to show that the air is safe to breathe, many of the people at the shelter Wednesday remained skeptical.
One of the East Palestinians SMART talked with was a mother who asked to be identified only as Britt. She is deeply concerned because of her daughter’s asthma. Britt gave details about her daughter’s condition having been well controlled, and that she had not had an episode in some time until the derailment. When Britt and her family attempted to evacuate, her daughter had an immediate flare up of her condition with the very limited exposure of walking from the family’s front door to their car in the driveway.
Stories like Britt’s as well as multiple accounts of fish and animals being affected by the current conditions have the community worried about the immune compromised as well as the long-term effects for their community as a whole.
NS, the NTSB and a few local churches also helped by establishing shelters for the displaced families.
SMART-TD would like to thank SLD Whitaker and his team for their commitment to community outreach, and we will continue to keep Britt’s family and all of East Palestine in mind as we advocate for safety measures throughout the rail industry.
Bus operators of SMART Local 1715 in Charlotte, N.C., on Saturday, Feb. 4, 2023, ratified a new collective bargaining agreement with a vote margin of 20 to 1.
The new contract for the operators for the Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS) calls for a significant wage increase, double-time for holidays and the additional holiday of Juneteenth. It also provides for night differential pay and an increase in the pension cap. There are also changes to the bidding of work process that favor operators who may be unable to bid when the process starts. All wage increases are retroactive to July 1, 2022.
“I would like to thank the negotiations committee consisting of General Chairperson Joseph Paglia, Vice General Chairperson and Local President Christy Kiser, Local Chairperson Stanley Valentine, Secretary & Treasurer Chris Johnson and Local Committee of Adjustment Secretary Sabrina White for their hard work and tireless effort to deliver a package that the members would accept,” SMART Transportation Division Bus Department Vice President Calvin Studivant said. “The negotiations took more than nine months to complete, but the committee stayed focused on the task at hand and they delivered.”
On November 4, 2022, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse published information titled “Pre-employment Investigations for Drug and Alcohol Program Violations.” The Clearinghouse notice (see below) is a reminder to certain employers regarding a change requirement that went into effect Jan. 6, 2023. On that date, three years of violation data will become available in the Clearinghouse and a pre-employment Clearinghouse query will satisfy the requirement to investigate whether a prospective driver had previous drug and alcohol program violations, as required by 49 CFR 391.23(e). This query will also satisfy the requirements of 49 CFR 40.25.
Please be aware the Clearinghouse contains only information about a driver’s drug/alcohol testing history when employed by FMCSA-regulated employers. If an employer is considering an applicant who was employed by an employer regulated by a DOT agency other than FMCSA (such as the Federal Railroad Administration, Federal Transit Administration, Federal Aviation Administration, etc.), that applicant’s information would not be reported to the Clearinghouse. In these situations, the employer still is required to directly request drug and alcohol violation information from those DOT-regulated employers in accordance with 391.23(e)(4)(ii) and 40.25.
Pre-employment investigations for Drug and Alcohol Program Violations
Beginning January 6, 2023, a pre-employment Clearinghouse query will satisfy the requirement to investigate a prospective driver’s previous drug and alcohol program violations, as set forth in 49 CFR 391.23(e)(4)and 382.413(b).
Employers of CDL drivers are required to conduct background investigations before hiring a driver. This process includes determining if the driver has violated the drug and alcohol regulations of any Department of Transportation (DOT) mode within the past three years (see 49 CFR 391.23(e)(1)-(3) and 382.413(a)). Currently, this requires employers or their designated consortia/third-party administrators (C/TPAs) to conduct both electronic queries in the Clearinghouse and manual inquiries with previous employers to meet the three-year time frame.
Beginning January 6, 2023, when three years of violation data is stored in the Clearinghouse, prospective employers must conduct a pre-employment query of the Clearinghouse, as set forth in § 382.701(a), to comply with the inquiry requirement in §§ 382.413(b) and 391.23(e)(4), as it pertains to FMCSA-regulated employers. Inquiries not conducted under § 382.701(a) will not satisfy these inquiry requirements.
NOTE: The Clearinghouse contains only information about drivers employed by FMCSA-regulated employers. If a prospective employee was employed by an employer regulated by a DOT agency other than FMCSA (such as the Federal Railroad Administration, Federal Transit Administration, Federal Aviation Administration, etc.) during the three-year time frame, prospective employers will still be required to directly request drug and alcohol violation information from those DOT-regulated employers in accordance with 391.23(e)(4)(ii) and 382.413(c), since this information is not reported to the Clearinghouse.
Annual query requirements have not changed.
Employers of CDL drivers must conduct a query in the Clearinghouse at least once a year for each CDL driver they employ (see § 382.701(b)). This annual query requirement applies on a rolling 12-month basis, which means that if you conducted your last annual queries in December 2021, it is time to conduct the next round of annual queries.
Employers must obtain general consent from CDL drivers they employ before conducting limited queries in the Clearinghouse to view these drivers’ information.
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.
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.
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.
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.