Archive for the ‘Alumni Association News’ Category

Texas-area members invited to Houston solidarity rally

Local 1892 invites union members to the fourth-annual Houston Solidarity Rally that is scheduled noon to 8 p.m. Sept. 24 at the SPJST Lounge, 1435 Beall St. in Houston.

The event is open to all and has previously drawn members from 16 locals/divisions/lodges from multiple unions around Texas and the Gulf Coast.

It features BBQ, guest speakers, prize drawings, vendors and informational booths.

“Someone best described it as a ‘mini-regional’ for our area,” said Local 1892 S&T Robert Maldonado.

For more information, visit https://www.railrally.com/

We’re a week away from the 2020 calendar photo submission deadline

SMART Transportation Division is seeking quality railroad, bus and airline photos taken by members for placement in the annual SMART TD Alumni Association calendar and for other uses. We are especially looking for photos from our bus members!

High-resolution horizontal digital photographs should be emailed to news_td@smart-union.org. Printed photographs should be mailed to SMART TD News, 24950 Country Club Blvd., Suite 340, North Olmsted, OH 44070.

To be considered for the 2020 calendar, photos must be received by 5 p.m. Friday, Sept. 20. Be sure to include the photographer’s name and local number, the name(s) of the person(s) featured in the photograph (left to right) and any other pertinent information, such as the date and location where the photograph was taken. If your photo is chosen for inclusion in the calendar, you will receive some copies for your own personal use.

Due to federal or state regulations, or company restrictions on employees’ use of personal electronic devices, including cameras, on company property or while on duty, all members are advised to never take photos while on duty and to only take photos from a clear point of safety and in compliance with all applicable company rules. All photographs submitted become property of SMART Transportation Division.

Ohio SLD, members testify before state House for rail safety legislation

COLUMBUS – Proponents of H.B. 186, a comprehensive railroad safety bill being considered in the Ohio Legislature, stated their case in force Sept. 10 during a meeting of the state House’s Transportation and Public Safety Committee.

Representatives from SMART Transportation Division, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) and others testified before committee members for more than two hours about why legislators should back the bill.

“I cannot discuss our effort to secure H.B. 186 — the two-person crew, proper lighting, proper walkways within rail yards and blocked crossing legislation in Ohio without addressing safety,” Ohio State Legislative Director Stu Gardner told the committee. “The safety of my members and the people who live in the communities that our rail yards are located in and through which our trains travel and operate will always be my top priority.”

Gardner and nine others discussed the safety implications of the bill and the fact that technology would never substitute for the presence of two people in the cabs of freight trains, especially as the rail industry continues to embark on a strategy of lengthening trains while deferring on reinvestment for the sake of increasing the returns of Wall Street investors.

H.B. 186, sponsored by Ohio Reps. Mike Sheehy, a retired rail worker and member of the SMART TD Alumni Association, and Brent Hillyer covers the following safety issues:

  • Two-person freight train crews
  • Proper walkways in railroad yards
  • Railroad yard lighting safety
  • Blocked crossings

Terry Forson, whose experience with a runaway train in Ohio helped to inspire the movie “Unstoppable,” testifies on Sept. 10, 2019, before the Ohio House Committee on Transportation and Public Safety.

Terry Forson of Local 1397 in Columbus, whose experience with the infamous 2001 “Crazy 88s” runaway incident in Ohio helped to inspire the 2010 Hollywood film “Unstoppable,” testified that having two people in the cab avoided a catastrophe on May 15, 2001.

“If there had not been two crewmembers on my train that day, we would not have been able to stop the runaway train; and, given the fact that we were also hauling hazardous materials, who knows how many deaths would have resulted from the train’s ultimate derailment?” he said. “The nightmare scenario has happened.”

Ohio Alternate State Legislative Director Clyde Whitaker of Local 145 in Columbus went into more detail about a conductor’s role, especially when describing the tasks performed during a rail emergency, as well as the hazards posed by inadequate lighting and perilous walkways in the state’s rail yards.

“We’re not asking for a golf course,” he said. “Railroads have always been an out-of-sight-out-of-mind type of industry. You never know that we’re there until we make the six o’clock news.

“This is a common-sense piece of legislation — it would ensure the safety of communities and co-workers.”

And while the adoption of technology, especially Positive Train Control (PTC), has the potential to help the industry, it just has not functioned as advertised.

Ryan Fitzpatrick, another Local 1397 member who also is an Operation Lifesaver volunteer, said he has witnessed problems with PTC not engaging until thousands of feet after a signal has been passed.

“There’s a lot to be desired with Positive Train Control,” he said.

He testified as well about seeing a train blocking a crossing for more than 12 hours while he was driving past.

“We need to address these things,” he said. “We need to understand that these situations can be life or death for some people.”

Also appearing at the hearing were Jair Torres of Local 138 (Lima, Ohio); William Darling of Local 1376 in Columbus; Bob Hagan, a former Ohio senator and representative who now works for the BLET in its Washington legislative department; Timothy Price, the BLET’s Ohio state legislative director; and adjunct professor of management and leadership John Nadalin, who teaches at Franklin University in Columbus, was a rail worker for four decades, a former UTU director of strategic planning and a current Alumni Association member.

“Rail carriers are kind of vain to take responsibility of their own mismanagement,” Nadalin, a stockholder in CSX, said. “As an investor and a proponent for safe operations as previously discussed, I really don’t like what I see today: Making changes that put employees and the public in general at risk should never be allowed.”

H.B. 186 will receive a third hearing to feature testimony from opponents of the bill before the legislation is considered by the committee for advancement to the full Ohio House of Representatives.

To watch the entire hearing, visit this link to The Ohio Channel.

Railroad Retirement Board seeks feedback on online services in survey

A contractor working with the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) on the board’s information technology initiatives, including RRB’s online services, is seeking feedback from active railroad workers and retirees that will direct its future plans.

Accenture has set a Sept. 20 deadline for responding to the anonymous and voluntary survey.

The RRB will use the results gained from the survey to help drive future strategic plans for online offerings that will assist railroad workers and retirees alike.

Visit https://survey.us.confirmit.com/wix/p3092699632.aspx?csr=rrb to participate in the survey.

Ohio rail safety bill scheduled for hearing; testimony needed

State Legislative Director Stu Gardner reports that proponent testimony has been scheduled for 11 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2019,  in House Hearing Room 114 in the Ohio Statehouse, 1 Capitol Square in Columbus, regarding H.B. 186, a comprehensive railroad safety bill under consideration in the state’s House of Representatives.

“This is the SMART TD and BLET members, friends and concerned citizens’ opportunity to let the House Transportation and Safety committee know and understand the reasons why HB 186 – a comprehensive railroad safety bill — is important to us and the communities that our trains pass through, and where those railroad yards are located throughout the state of Ohio,” Gardner said.

H.B. 186 covers the following safety issues:

  • Two-person freight train crews
  • Proper walkways in railroad yard safety legislation
  • Railroad yard lighting safety legislation
  • Blocked crossings

The bill is sponsored by Ohio Reps. Mike Sheehy, a retired rail worker and member of the SMART TD Alumni Association, and Brent Hillyer.

Proponent testimony must be provided to Matthew Taylor in Committee Chairman Doug Green’s office (Matthew.Taylor@ohiohouse.gov.)  with the deadline for electronic submission of both written and in-person testimony and witness slip being 3 p.m. Sept. 9, the Monday before the hearing. On the day of the hearing, witnesses have the option of presenting their testimony in person before the committee if they have submitted the testimony and required witness slip by the deadline.

Gardner said that he plans to be at the Statehouse at 9 a.m. the day of the hearing.

“My hope is we have a large turnout (even if you are not giving testimony) to demonstrate our solidarity on these important rail safety issues,” he said.

If the volume of testimony warrants, Gardner said that subsequent committee hearings could be scheduled for the legislation so that all witnesses are heard.

“Please advocate and give testimony in support of H.B. 186,” Gardner said. “Thank you for your support.”

Instructions for those wishing to testify before the committee:

Prior to committee:

  • The House Transportation and Public Safety Committee is scheduled to meet on Tuesday mornings at 11 a.m. in House Hearing Room 114 in the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus.
    • The committee notice typically goes out on Friday afternoon. The notice will confirm that H.B. 186 is up for a hearing and when and where the committee will convene.
    • The Ohio SLB will work with the chairman’s office and our policy team to get as much of an advanced notice as possible
  • Testimony is to be electronically submitted to the chairman’s office by 3 p.m. Monday afternoon.
  • A witness slip (fillable PDF) is to be completed prior to the committee meeting and should also be submitted electronically to the chairman’s office.
  • Testimony and the witness slip can be submitted at the same time and there is no need to send multiple emails.
  • Materials may be submitted to Matthew Taylor in Chairman Doug Green’s Office at (Matthew.Taylor@ohiohouse.gov.)

Day of committee:

  • When the committee notice is distributed, SLD Gardner will make sure to relay the information and will draw attention to any changes that have been made to the committee’s location and start time.
  • Folks may arrive any time before the committee hearing begins.
  • There is no need to check in with staff so long as testimony was submitted properly.
  • Attendees may take a seat in the audience.
  • As committee begins, the chairman will announce the hearing of bills. As testimony begins on H.B. 186, the chairman will call each individual up by the name submitted on the witness slip.
  • After testimony has been given, the individual may remain in the committee room for the duration of the hearing.

Instructions for those wishing to submit written-only testimony:

  • Written-only testimony is for those who may not be able to attend the committee hearing to testify in person, or for those who may want to attend committee but do not wish to verbally testify.

Written-only testimony:

  • Testimony is to be electronically submitted to the Chairman’s Office by 3 p.m. Monday afternoon, the day before the scheduled hearing.
  • The witness slip is to be completed prior to the committee hearing and should also be submitted electronically to the Chairman’s Office.
  • Testimony and the witness slip can be submitted at the same time, and there is no need to send multiple emails.
  • Materials may be submitted to Matthew Taylor in Chairman Doug Green’s Office at (Matthew.Taylor@ohiohouse.gov.)

Members invited to big Labor Day marches

All SMART members are invited to participate in annual Labor Day parades.

On Monday, Sept. 2, in Galesburg, Ill., Transportation Division Alternate National Legislative Director-elect Jared Cassity is scheduled to be in attendance to march alongside members of TD Local 195 and all other members who attend the 127th edition of the parade, a tradition that recognizes the sacrifice and contribution that workers have made in building our nation.

“Galesburg holds the title for the second-oldest consecutive Labor Day parade in America,” said Local Chairperson Bryan Roberts (LCA 001E) of TD Local 195. “We will have a photo with everyone before the parade begins and a float available to ride in the parade.”

Roberts said participants should meet between 8 and 9 a.m. at the TD Local 195 union hall in the basement of the Bondi Building, 311 E. Main St., lower level. There is an access door off Kellogg Street as well that leads downstairs to the union hall in addition to the building’s main entrance.

Roberts said there will be a picnic with food and drink provided immediately following the parade at Lake Story, Pavilion 3, 1572 Machens Drive in Galesburg. The pavilion is immediately to the left when turning off Lake Story Road toward the Main Pavilion across from the softball fields, Roberts said. Alcohol is prohibited on site.

All members in Galesburg and the surrounding area are invited to participate.

“We hope to see everyone there,” Roberts said.

In Nebraska, food and fun are on the schedule at the membership feed 5 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 1, the night before the big parade in Omaha.

Parade T-shirts will also be distributed at the Sheet Metal Workers Hall, 3333 S. 24th St., in Omaha.

Line-up for the parade takes place at 9 a.m. the following day at the northeast corner of 17th and Mike Fahey streets. Attend the feed or contact State Legislative Director Bob Borgeson for more details on participating at smartdirector@cox.net.

And members, if you attend this or any other Labor Day event, please send in your photos to news_td@smart-union.org for consideration in the next edition of the TD News!

RRB announces schedule for Fall pre-retirement seminars

Thinking of retiring soon?

Designed for railroad employees and spouses planning to retire within five years, the pre-retirement seminars offered by the Railroad Retirement Board are designed to familiarize attendees with the retirement benefits available to them, and also guide them through the application process. Sponsored by the Office of the Labor Member, seminars are held at a number of locations annually. Registration is required to attend.

Pre-Retirement Seminar Booklet  PDF icon

RRB field service representatives conduct each pre-retirement seminar using a slide presentation covering the various benefits provided retired rail workers and their families. Attendees receive a program booklet of this presentation with detailed side notes and fact sheets. In addition to the program booklet, seminar attendees receive a retirement kit full of informational handouts and other helpful materials. Online and downloadable versions of items included with seminar kits are available on the RRB’s Educational Materials webpage.

Schedule and registration

Registration is required to ensure accommodations and materials for all attendees.

  • Unless otherwise noted, pre-retirement seminars begin at 8:30 a.m. and are held over the course of 4 hours. (Doors open for attendees 30 minutes before the seminar start time.)
  • Security screening is required for seminars hosted inside any Federal buildings. Bring a current, valid photo ID (issued by State/Federal Government); no weapons permitted.
  • Parking fee for seminars marked with *.
  • Attendees are encouraged to bring original records (or certified copies) of documents required in order to file a railroad retirement application (such as proof of age, marriage or military service), along with an additional copy of each item to leave with field service staff.
  • Please let the RRB know if you sign up for a seminar and become unable to attend.

Can’t join the RRB for a seminar, but still interested in learning about the railroad retirement program and application process? Please contact the RRB via Field Office Locator or by calling toll-free (1-877-772-5772) for pre-retirement information or to schedule an appointment for individual retirement counseling at your local RRB field office.

To RSVP on paper instead, print a registration form to complete, then mail or fax to your local RRB field office.

New officers chosen at Second TD Convention

SMART Transportation Division President-elect Jeremy R. Ferguson addresses the Second SMART TD Convention on Sunday, Aug. 11, in Las Vegas.

LAS VEGAS – SMART GEC Member and Transportation Division (TD) Vice President Jeremy R. Ferguson of Local 313 (Grand Rapids, Mich.) was elected President – Transportation Division of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers, shortly after the opening August 11th of the union’s Second Transportation Division Convention at the Mirage Resort in Las Vegas.

Ferguson was challenged for the office by fellow TD Vice President John England (Local 1674, Los Angeles, Calif.) and Robert “Bob” Keeley, former general chairperson of GCA 342 (CSX – Northern District) out of Local 1951 (Albany, N.Y.). Ferguson received 380 votes of the 440 ballots cast.

“Get ready to go to work … It’s going to take the upmost dedication and determination, but we will fight the injustices to the end,” Ferguson said. “We will stand shoulder-to-shoulder, and I will lead from the front. Your voices will be heard, and you will hear my voice.

“General chairpersons, state directors – you deserve more from us, and we will deliver.”

Alternate National Legislative Director Gregory Hynes (Local 1081, Phoenix, Ariz.) was elected National Legislative Director, defeating Utah State Legislative Director F. Jay Seegmiller (Local 166, Salt Lake City, Utah) in a 255-to-185 vote. Hynes will succeed John J. Risch III, who previously announced he would not seek re-election.

SMART TD National Legislative Director-elect Gregory Hynes addresses delegates Aug. 11 at the Second SMART TD Convention in Las Vegas.

Incumbent TD Vice Presidents Brent Leonard (Local 202, Denver, Colo.), Calvin Studivant (Local 759, Newark, N.J.) and John D. Whitaker III (Local 1106, Rocky Mount, N.C.) were returned to office by acclamation.

Also elected TD Vice President by acclamation were Alternate TD Vice President Chadrick Adams (Local 331, Temple, Texas), Executive Board Member and GCA 049 General Chairperson Jamie Modesitt and Joe M. Lopez, general chairperson of GCA 009 (BNSF).

Additionally, General Chairperson D.B. Wier, Jr., (GCA 919, Terminal Railroad Association of St. Louis) of Local 469 was elected TD vice president, defeating General Chairperson Tom Pate (GCA 20, BNSF), president of Local 1081 in Glendale, Ariz., and General Chairperson Billy Moye (GCA CSX-SCL) of Local 1971 in Atlanta, Ga.

Meanwhile, Alternate Vice President Bus – East Alvy Hughes (Local 1596. Charlotte, N.C.) defeated Bonnie Morr (Local 23, Santa Cruz, Calif.) and incumbent Vice President Bus Adhi Reddy (Local 1785, Santa Monica, Calif.) for TD Vice President Bus.

Article 21B, Section 35, of the SMART Constitution provides for a successor to the president of the Transportation Division in the event a vacancy occurs between conventions. To provide for such a contingency, delegates chose TD Vice President-elect Leonard to that position.

Kentucky State Legislative Director Jared Cassity was elected Alternate National Legislative Director. Waverly Harris, TD Alternate Vice President Bus – East, was elected to that position by acclamation.

Alternate Vice President Bus – West Guillermo Rosales was returned to that office, defeating Erskins Robinson, general chairperson of GCA SMB, out of Local 1785.

Among five candidates for four TD alternate vice president positions, Scott Chelette, Gary Crest, Larry Miller Jr. and Christopher Bartz were elected.

SMART TD Board of Appeals members elected by acclamation are Tim Flynn (engine services), Tessa Collins (road service), Rick Pauli (commuter), and Brenda Moore (bus).

Incumbent Kevin Smith won an election and will return as the Board of Appeals yard representative.

Elected to the TD Executive Board by acclamation were California Assistant State Legislative Director Mike Anderson, Dale Gerkin, John Dunn, Rex Allen and New York State Legislative Director Sam Nasca.

Ohio State Legislative Director Stu Gardner was elected Alternate to the Executive Board by acclamation.

The newly elected officers assume their roles officially on Oct. 1.

RRB appoints director of programs

The U.S. Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) has named Crystal Coleman as its director of programs.

As a result, Ms. Coleman will be responsible for overseeing all operations to process and pay benefits administered by the agency. She will also be a member of the RRB’s executive committee, which is responsible for day-to-day operations of the agency and for making policy recommendations to the three-member board.

At the time of her appointment, Ms. Coleman had served as the RRB’s deputy director of programs since November 2015. In that position, she served as the agency’s second in command on all program-related issues and operations to Dr. Michael A. Tyllas, who retired in December 2018 after more than 37 years of federal service.

Prior to her appointment as deputy director of programs, Ms. Coleman was the deputy regional director of the employee benefits security administration (EBSA) in Dallas. As the number-two official in the regional office, she supervised senior staff and assisted in planning, developing, implementing and evaluating EBSA programs in the region. An agency within the U.S. Department of Labor, the EBSA assures the security of retirement, health and other workplace-related benefits of workers and their families.

An EBSA employee for 24 years, Ms. Coleman previously served as both a supervisory and senior investigator in both Chicago and Los Angeles, as well as the Senior Advisor for Criminal Enforcement in Chicago, before assuming the deputy regional director position in October 2013. Before entering Federal service in 1991, she spent about 18 months as an economic development coordinator for the City of Chicago.

A native and current resident of Chicago, Ms. Coleman attended Illinois State University in Normal, Ill., receiving a bachelor’s degree in communications (1982), and subsequently earned a master’s degree in business administration (1991) from Roosevelt University in Chicago.

Her appointment was effective July 29.

Application deadline extended for pair of FRA vacancies

The deadline has been extended for interested applicants to submit materials to fill two open high-level Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) safety positions: Director, Office of Safety Analysis and Deputy Associate Administrator for Railroad Safety.

With the addition of a two-week extension, the application deadline is now Aug. 26.

The Director, Office of Safety Analysis serves as primary adviser for the FRA safety regulatory program and assists the Associate Administrator and the Deputy Associate Administrator within the Office of Railroad Safety in formulating program and technical policies, monitoring integrated programs, establishing goals for organizational components and tracking the progress of projects and programs. The incumbent serves as the primary adviser for the FRA safety regulatory program and works closely with executives in the FRA, the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Office of Management and Budget, and the Government Accountability Office and in various other executive agencies to ensure effective and consistent coordination on rail-safety regulatory development and evaluation efforts.

This position is located in Washington, D.C. The vacancy announcement details and instructions on how to apply can be found at the following USAJOBS link: https://www.usajobs.gov/GetJob/ViewDetails/538902000.

The Deputy Associate Administrator for Railroad Safety supports the Associate Administrator for Railroad Safety and Chief Safety Officer in advancing the mission of FRA with regard to railroad safety. As a senior member of the FRA leadership team, the Deputy Associate Administrator is a primary source of executive advice and leadership for Office of Railroad Safety operations and safety standards as well as policy development. The Deputy Associate Administrator is responsible for planning and ensuring the execution of FRA safety policies, programs and activities and advancing overall organizational excellence within the Office of Railroad Safety.

This position is located in Washington, D.C. The vacancy announcement details and instructions on how to apply to this position can be found at the following USAJOBS link: https://www.usajobs.gov/GetJob/ViewDetails/538901700.

RRB: unemployment and sickness benefits for railroad employees

The Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) administers the Railroad Unemployment Insurance Act, which provides two kinds of benefits for qualified railroaders: unemployment benefits for those who become unemployed but are ready, willing and able to work; and sickness benefits for those who are unable to work because of sickness or injury. Sickness benefits are also payable to female rail workers for periods of time when they are unable to work because of health conditions related to pregnancy, miscarriage or childbirth. A new benefit year begins each July 1.

The following questions and answers describe these benefits, their eligibility requirements and how to claim them.

1. What are the eligibility requirements for railroad unemployment and sickness benefits in July 2019?

To qualify for normal railroad unemployment or sickness benefits, an employee must have had railroad earnings of at least $3,900 in the calendar year 2018, counting no more than $1,560 for any month. Those who were first employed in the rail industry in 2018 must also have at least five months of creditable railroad service in 2018.

Under certain conditions, employees who do not qualify on the basis of their 2018 earnings may still be able to receive benefits in the new benefit year. Employees with at least 10 years of service (120 or more months of service) who received normal benefits in the benefit year ending June 30, 2019, may be eligible for extended benefits, and employees with at least 10 years of service (120 or more months of service) might qualify for accelerated benefits if they have rail earnings of at least $4,012.50 in 2019, not counting earnings of more than $1,605 a month.

In order to qualify for extended unemployment benefits, a claimant must not have voluntarily quit work without good cause and not have voluntarily retired. To qualify for extended sickness benefits, a claimant must not have voluntarily retired and must be under age 65.

To be eligible for accelerated benefits, a claimant must have 14 or more consecutive days of unemployment or sickness; not have voluntarily retired or, if claiming unemployment benefits, quit work without good cause; and, when claiming sickness benefits, be under age 65.

2. What is the daily benefit rate payable in the new benefit year beginning July 1, 2019?

Almost all employees will qualify for the maximum daily benefit rate of $78. Benefits are generally payable for the number of days of unemployment or sickness over four in 14-day claim periods, which yields $780 for each two full weeks of unemployment or sickness. Sickness benefits payable for the first 6 months after the month the employee last worked are subject to tier I railroad retirement payroll taxes, unless benefits are being paid for an on-the-job injury. (Claimants should be aware that as a result of a sequestration order under the Budget Control Act of 2011, the RRB will reduce unemployment and sickness benefits by 6.2 percent through September 30, 2019. As a result, the total maximum amount payable in a 2-week period covering 10 days of unemployment or sickness will be $731.64. The maximum amount payable for sickness benefits subject to tier I payroll taxes of 7.65 percent will be $675.67 over two weeks. Future reductions, should they occur, will be calculated based on applicable law.)

3. How long are these benefits payable?

Normal unemployment or sickness benefits are each payable for up to 130 days (26 weeks) in a benefit year. The total amount of each kind of benefit which may be paid in the new benefit year cannot exceed the employee’s railroad earnings in calendar year 2018, counting earnings up to $2,015 per month.

If normal benefits are exhausted, extended benefits are payable for up to 65 days (during seven consecutive 14-day claim periods) to employees with at least 10 years of service (120 or more cumulative service months).

4. What is the waiting-period requirement for unemployment and sickness benefits?

Benefits are normally paid for the number of days of unemployment or sickness over four in 14-day registration periods. Initial sickness claims must also begin with four consecutive days of sickness. However, during the first 14-day claim period in a benefit year, benefits are only payable for each day of unemployment or sickness in excess of seven which, in effect, provides a one-week waiting period. (If an employee has at least five days of unemployment or five days of sickness in a 14-day period, he or she should still file for benefits.) Separate waiting periods are required for unemployment and sickness benefits. However, only one seven-day waiting period is generally required during any period of continuing unemployment or sickness, even if that period continues into a subsequent benefit year.

5. Are there special waiting-period requirements if unemployment is due to a strike?

If a worker is unemployed because of a strike conducted in accordance with the Railway Labor Act, benefits are not payable for days of unemployment during the first 14 days of the strike, but benefits are payable during subsequent 14-day periods.

If a strike is in violation of the Railway Labor Act, unemployment benefits are not payable to employees participating in the strike. However, employees not among those participating in such an illegal strike, but who are unemployed on account of the strike, may receive benefits after the first two weeks of the strike.

While a benefit year waiting period cannot count toward a strike waiting period, the 14-day strike waiting period may count as the benefit year waiting period if a worker subsequently becomes unemployed for reasons other than a strike later in the benefit year.

6. Can employees in train and engine service receive unemployment benefits for days when they are standing by or laying over between scheduled runs?

No, not if they are standing by or laying over between regularly assigned trips or they missed a turn in pool service.

7. Can extra-board employees receive unemployment benefits between jobs?

Yes, but only if the miles and/or hours they actually worked were less than the equivalent of normal full-time work in their class of service during the 14-day claim period. Entitlement to benefits would also depend on the employee’s earnings.

8. How would an employee’s earnings in a claim period affect his or her eligibility for unemployment benefits?

If a claimant’s earnings for days worked, and/or days of vacation, paid leave or other leave in a 14-day registration period are more than a certain indexed amount, no benefits are payable for any days of unemployment in that period. That registration period, however, can be used to satisfy the waiting period.

Earnings include pay from railroad and nonrailroad work, as well as part-time work and self-employment. Earnings also include pay that an employee would have earned except for failure to mark up or report for duty on time, or because he or she missed a turn in pool service or was otherwise not ready or willing to work. For the benefit year that begins July 2019, the amount is $1,560, which corresponds to the base year monthly compensation amount used in determining eligibility for benefits in each year. Also, even if an earnings test applies on the first claim in a benefit year, this will not prevent the first claim from satisfying the waiting period in a benefit year.

On the other hand, earnings of no more than $15 a day from work which is substantially less than full-time and not inconsistent with the holding of normal full-time employment may be considered subsidiary remuneration and may not prevent payment of any days in a claim. However, a claimant must be sure to report all full and part-time work on each claim, regardless of the amount of earnings, so the RRB can determine if the work affects benefits.

9. How does a person apply for and claim unemployment benefits?

Employees can apply for and claim unemployment benefits online or by mail.

Individuals who have established an account at RRB.gov can log in to conveniently file their applications and their biweekly claims online. Employees are encouraged to establish their accounts while still working to expedite the filing process for future unemployment benefits, and for access to other online services.

To apply by mail, claimants must obtain an Application for Unemployment Benefits (Form UI-1) from RRB.gov, any RRB field office, their labor organization or employer. The completed application should be mailed to the local RRB office as soon as possible and, in any case, must be filed within 30 days from the date the claimant became unemployed or the first day for which he or she wishes to claim benefits. Benefits may be lost if the application is filed late. Claimants who know in advance that they will be filing an unemployment application or claim late should include a signed statement explaining why they are unable to meet the required time frame.

The local RRB field office reviews the completed application, whether it was submitted online or by mail, and notifies the claimant’s current railroad employer, and base-year employer, if different. The employer has the right to provide information about the benefit application.

After processing the application, biweekly claim forms are made available on the RRB’s website and are mailed to the claimant, as long as he or she remains unemployed and eligible for benefits. Claim forms should be signed and sent on or after the last day of the claim. This can be done online or by mail. The completed claim must be received by the RRB within 15 days of the end of the claim period, or within 15 days of the date the claim form was made available online or mailed to the claimant, whichever is later. Claimants must not file both an online and a paper claim form for the same period(s). Once an individual submits a claim online, all subsequent claim forms will be made available online only, and will no longer be mailed.

Only one application needs to be filed during a benefit year, even if a claimant becomes unemployed more than once. However, a claimant must, in such a case, request a claim form from the RRB within 30 days of the first day for which he or she wants to resume claiming benefits. These claims may then be filed online or by mail.

10. How does a person apply for and claim sickness benefits?

An Application for Sickness Benefits (SI-1a) can be obtained from RRB.gov, any RRB field office, railroad labor organizations or railroad employers. An application including a doctor’s statement of sickness is required at the beginning of each period of continuing sickness for which benefits are claimed. Claimants should make a special effort to have the doctor’s statement of sickness completed promptly since claims cannot be paid without it.

The RRB suggests that employees keep an application for sickness benefits on hand, and that family members know where the form is kept and how to use it. If an employee becomes unable to work because of sickness or injury, the employee should complete the application and then have his or her doctor complete the Statement of Sickness (SI-1b). If a claimant receives sickness benefits for an injury or illness for which he or she is paid damages, it is important to be aware that the RRB is entitled to reimbursement of either the amount of the benefits paid for the injury or illness, or the net amount of the settlement, after deducting the claimant’s gross medical, hospital and legal expenses, whichever is less.

If the employee is too sick to complete the application, someone else may do so. In such cases, a family member should also complete a Statement of Authority to Act for Employee (Form SI-10), which accompanies the statement of sickness.

After completion, the forms should be mailed to the RRB’s headquarters in Chicago within 10 days from when the employee became sick or injured. However, applications received after 10 days but within 30 days of the first day for which an employee wishes to claim benefits are generally considered timely filed if there is a good reason for the delay. Upon receipt, the RRB will process the application and determine if the employee is eligible for sickness benefits.

After processing the application, the RRB provides biweekly claims to the qualified employee as long as he or she is eligible for benefits and remains unable to work due to illness or injury. Biweekly claims are made available for completion online (by those with an account at RRB.gov) and mailed to the claimant. Completed claim forms must be received at the RRB within 30 days of the last day of the claim period, or within 30 days of the date the claim form was made available online or mailed to the claimant, whichever is later. Benefits may be lost if an application or claim is filed late. Claimants who know in advance that they will be filing a sickness application or claim late should include a signed statement explaining why they are unable to meet the required time frame.

As with claims for unemployment benefits, once a claim for sickness benefits is submitted online, all subsequent claims will be made available online only, and will no longer be mailed.

Claimants are reminded that while claim forms for sickness benefits can be submitted online, applications must be mailed to the RRB. Statements of sickness may be mailed with the sickness application or faxed directly from the doctor’s office to the RRB at 312-751-7185. Faxes must include a cover sheet from the doctor’s office.

11. Is a claimant’s employer notified each time a biweekly claim for unemployment or sickness benefits is filed?

The Railroad Unemployment Insurance Act requires the RRB to notify the claimant’s base-year employer each time a claim for benefits is filed. That employer has the right to submit information relevant to the claim before the RRB makes an initial determination on the claim. In addition, if a claimant’s base-year employer is not his or her current employer, the claimant’s current employer is also notified. The RRB must also notify the claimant’s base-year employer each time benefits are paid to a claimant. The base-year employer may protest the decision to pay benefits. Such a protest does not prevent the timely payment of benefits. However, a claimant may be required to repay benefits if the employer’s protest is ultimately successful. The employer also has the right to appeal an unfavorable decision to the RRB’s Bureau of Hearings and Appeals.

The RRB also conducts checks with other Federal agencies and all 50 states, as well as the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, to detect fraudulent benefit claims, and it checks with physicians to verify the accuracy of medical statements supporting sickness benefit claims.

12. How long does it take to receive payment?

Under the RRB’s Customer Service Plan, if a claimant files an application for unemployment or sickness benefits, the RRB will release a claim form or a denial letter within 10 days of receiving his or her application. If a claim for subsequent biweekly unemployment or sickness benefits is filed, the RRB will certify a payment or release a denial letter within 10 days of the date the RRB receives the claim form. If the claimant is entitled to benefits, his or her benefits will generally be paid within one week of that decision.

However, some claims for benefits may take longer to handle than others if they are more complex, or if an RRB office has to get information from other people or organizations. If a claimant does not receive a decision notice or payment within the specified time period, he or she may expect an explanation for the delay and an estimate of the time required to make a decision.

Claimants who think an RRB office made the wrong decision about their benefits have the right to ask for a review and to appeal. They will be notified of these rights each time an unfavorable decision is made on their claims.

13. How are payments made?

Railroad unemployment and sickness insurance benefits are paid by direct deposit. With direct deposit, benefit payments are made electronically to an employee’s bank, savings and loan, credit union or other financial institution. New applicants for unemployment and sickness benefits will be asked to provide information needed for direct deposit enrollment.

14. How can claimants get more information on their railroad unemployment or sickness claims?

Claimants with online accounts at RRB.gov can log in to view their individual railroad unemployment insurance account statement. This statement displays the type and amount of the claimant’s last five benefit payments, the claim period for which the payments were made, and the dates that the payments were approved. Individuals can also confirm the RRB’s receipt of applications and claims.

In addition, claimants can call the agency toll-free at 1-877-772-5772 to access the RRB’s automated HelpLine service which provides information about the status of unemployment and sickness claims or payments 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Individuals with questions about unemployment or sickness benefits, or who need information about their specific claims and benefit payments, can also contact an RRB office by calling the toll-free number.

Persons can find the address of the RRB office serving their area by visiting RRB.gov and clicking on Field Office Locator, or by calling the RRB’s HelpLine service and selecting the appropriate option from the automated menu. Most RRB offices are open to the public on weekdays from 9:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., except on Wednesdays when offices are open from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. All RRB offices are closed on Federal holidays.

RR Medicare: the transition to new numbers ends December 31

Last July, the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) mailed approximately 450,000 new Railroad Medicare cards with new Medicare Numbers. The new Medicare Numbers, which are unique to each person with Railroad Medicare and do not contain Social Security Number (SSNs), replace the former Health Insurance Claim Numbers (HICNs). Providers can bill claims to Medicare with either a HICN or a new Medicare Number through December 31, 2019.

At this time, approximately 70% of the Railroad Medicare claims received are submitted with Medicare Numbers. Beginning January 1, 2020, all providers will be required to file claims with Medicare Numbers only.

When it’s time for a doctor’s appointment or other Medicare service, be sure to take your new card with you. Your provider’s office knows everyone should have a new Medicare Number, and they will need to keep a record of your Medicare Number so they can bill Railroad Medicare correctly.

If your provider does not have a copy of your card, they may be able to look up your information with their local Medicare Administrative Contractor (MAC) or with Palmetto GBA Railroad Medicare through our online provider portals. These portals give authorized providers access to claims history, eligibility and more. The portals also contain a tool that allows providers to look up a Medicare Number with the following patient information:

  • Last Name
  • First Name
  • Date of Birth
  • Social Security Number

Please note that in order to use the tool to look up your Medicare Number, a provider must have your Social Security Number. If you do not want to give a provider your SSN, allow them to have a copy of your card or verbally give them your Medicare Number. If you have not used your card yet, you are making it much more difficult for your providers to file claims timely. One of the reasons for having the new cards was to give protection from identity theft. One way to do that is to be very selective when giving your personal information to a trusted entity (your doctor, insurers, etc.).

When verbally giving your Medicare Number to a provider, or to a Customer Service Advocate when you call Railroad Medicare, make sure to read it correctly. Medicare Numbers have 11 characters and contain numbers and uppercase letters only. They do not contain the letters S, L, O, I, B or Z. Characters one, four, seven, 10 and 11 will always be a number. The second, fifth, eighth and ninth characters will always be a letter. The third and sixth characters will be a letter or a number.

Sample RRB Medicare Card:

If you are enrolled in a Medicare Advantage Plan, your new Medicare card does not replace your plan’s identification card. You will continue to use your plan’s ID card to receive your Medicare benefits.

If you did not receive your new Medicare Card with your new Medicare Number, you can call Palmetto’s Beneficiary Contact Center at 800-833-4455 or the Railroad Retirement Board at 877-772-5772.

Have questions?

If you have questions about new Medicare cards or Medicare Numbers, please call Palmetto GBA’s Beneficiary Contact Center at 800-833-4455, Monday through Friday, from 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. ET. You are encouraged to sign up for email updates. To do so, click ‘Listservs’ on the top banner on the Palmetto website at www.PalmettoGBA.com/RR/Me. You are also encouraged to use the beneficiary portal, MyRRMed, which is located at www.PalmettoGBA.com/MyRRMed.