While this year’s Memorial Day will be different — the parades may be canceled, the family picnics and social gatherings pushed back because of the pandemic — yet it remains important to pause in respect and in remembrance for those members of the U.S. military who have made the ultimate sacrifice.
Our servicemen and -women, past and present, no longer with us and still living, have made and continue to make immeasurable sacrifices on behalf of our country. This holiday draws attention to those whom we have lost. Let them never be forgotten, and let us remember them this weekend for their selflessness in fighting for the simple freedoms we take for granted.
Those freedoms exist because of our brothers and sisters of the United States Armed Forces who served our country.
Be safe and thank you.
Jeremy R. Ferguson
President, Transportation Division
Dustin R. Wyatt, most recently a member of SMART Transportation Division Local 1574 (Portland, Ore.), was injured May 18 in a roadside collision in the Bonnet Carre Spillway near New Orleans as he stopped to provide roadside assistance during an automobile crash and is now fighting for his life.
The 31-year-old husband and father of two is listed in critical condition in a Louisiana hospital after he was struck in a second collision and hurled him 50 feet down from a bridge into a marshy area, breaking multiple bones.
“It is truly a miracle that he has survived,” his wife, Samantha Wyatt, wrote in a message on a GoFundMe post. “Although in critical condition, we do believe he will push through this. We have been faced with an event that will change Dustin’s life forever, threatening the career he has worked so hard for and many other goals in the future that he had his eye on.”
Brother Wyatt has been a member of SMART-TD since November 2018 and works as a trainman/brakeman for Union Pacific. He and his family had recently moved from Washington state to Lafayette, Louisiana. He was in the process of transferring into a new home local when the accident occurred.
He has been on and off a ventilator in the days since the accident and has a number of surgeries and therapy ahead once his condition is stabilized, Samantha Wyatt wrote.
“Please help donate to the cause. All money will be used for medical bills and rehabilitation,” she wrote. “Please pray for Dustin and our family during this really difficult time.”
FROM MINNESOTA STATE LEGISLATIVE DIRECTOR PHILLIP QUALY:
Please call or email our friends in the Minnesota Republican House and Senate and ask them to vote for the House Capital Bonding Bill, H.F. 2529, with all railroad safety and passenger rail service provisions included. Please make your calls today and until Sunday, May 17th.
You can call and leave a message and/or send email. Your call will only take a few minutes. We need hundreds of railroad labor calls in support of H.F. 2529 to each Legislator below asking to vote for the House Capital Bonding bill.
At a time our state needs to go back to work when interest rates will never be lower and Minnesota has an AAA Bond Rating, this $2.5 billion jobs bill will stimulate our economy. We want to make sure our railroad safety and state corridor passenger rail expansion is included in the Senate bill.
At a time we are losing coal train jobs, state corridor passenger rail service with dual-carrier seniority can bring more railroad jobs in the future. As a reminder, when we have a strong constriction economy, railroad labor is hauling the lumber, cement, asphalt, solvents, steel, etc. With this bill, we are asking you to call for more railroad work.
William “Bill” J. DeBaun, a retiree from SMART Transportation Division Local 1532 and a former vice chairperson and legislative representative for the Kansas City, Kan., local, passed away late last month.
Brother DeBaun was 73 years old.
A yardman out of Argentine Yard in Kansas City, in addition to his service to Local 1532’s membership, Brother DeBaun also worked as a new hire training coordinator, helping those workers just starting out on the Atchison, Topeka Santa Fe Railway/BNSF. Many of those he had trained later asked about how Brother DeBaun and his wife of 34 years, Carol, were doing after his retirement from the railroad in 2005.
His work as vice local chairperson was “invaluable” to the members of LCA 1532, said SMART-TD Vice President Joe M. Lopez.
“Bill spent countless hours researching and processing time claims on behalf of the membership. Much of that work was done on his accord, without the members having to spend a second of their own time writing up the claim(s), while Bill sacrificed countless hours each month of his own time securing monies on their behalf,” Lopez said. “Bill was also an effective legislative representative for Local 1532. Bill’s efforts at taking on the carrier for safety violations were very effective.”
Lopez said that as a local chairperson, he and his predecessor, Doug Schlosser, benefited greatly from DeBaun’s impeccable organizational skills, as did the members who had their claims paid out.
“I believe I can safely speak on Doug’s behalf when I say both of us were extremely lucky to have worked with Bill. During our many years of working together, on the second Wednesday of every month, Bill and I would attend our regularly scheduled claims conference with local management and at the onset of each of those conferences Bill would hand me a large stack of claim dockets neatly organized and with an abundance of supporting documentation, which more often than not, led to a successful conference,” Lopez said. “The quality of Bill’s work as both a vice local chairperson and legislative representative has been unmatched and likely never will be. Bill made me a better local chairperson.”
Brother DeBaun was a veteran of the U.S. Navy. He is survived by his wife, Carol, nephews John & Shawn Strange and a number of other relatives.
SMART Transportation Division offers its sincere condolences to his family, his Local 1532 union brothers and sisters and all who knew Brother DeBaun.
CLEVELAND, Ohio (April 21, 2020) – Unfortunately, due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, including the state of Ohio’s orders regarding distancing and banning meetings, we have had to cancel the 2020 SMART Transportation Division Regional Meeting.
Accordingly, please disregard the registration information printed in the February/March SMART Transportation Division News. That particular edition of the News was published prior to the decision to cancel.
For anyone who has already registered, you will be receiving a refund of the registration fees. Those who had registered electronically will have a full refund automatically returned to the card that was used to make their registration. If you paid for the registration by a method other than credit card, you will also receive a refund in the near future.
As a reminder, please note that members are responsible for the cancellation of their personal travel and hotel reservations.
After nearly four decades of service to members and numerous administrations in various roles in both SMART Transportation Division’s Public Relations and President’s Department, Senior Administrative Assistant to the President John Horvath is calling it a career.
Starting May 1, the office won’t echo with his impassioned readings of Article 21B of the SMART Constitution as he provides guidance to those in need, and his gregarious conversations throughout the office will be missed.
“John has certainly left an enduring mark on how this union has been run,” said SMART Transportation Division President Jeremy R. Ferguson. “His experience as a communicator and his constitutional expertise provided a great depth of institutional knowledge. He’s going to be missed tremendously.”
Horvath started out with the then-United Transportation Union on Jan. 5, 1981, in the Public Relations Department after getting a journalism degree from The Ohio State University. For 14 years in the department his special focus was on the alumni program, including multiple rebrandings. He also helped produce communication vehicles for the union, including the UTU News and UTU calendars, through five presidents’ administrations — from Fred Hardin to Paul C. Thompson, always focusing on members’ stories and what mattered most to them.
“In my own past, I had some difficult jobs – I saw the need for dignity and a fair shake for the worker,” Horvath said. “I felt it was the ideal job for me. I wasn’t looking for a job, I was looking for a career, and that’s what I got.”
In 2007, he moved on to the President’s Department where his primary focus became the union’s constitution. His communications role already had allowed Horvath to acquire in-depth knowledge about union operations, and it was easy for him to adjust to the new role.
On the cutting edge of organizational functions in the President’s Department, Horvath was able to provide steady guidance to his co-workers across multiple departments. When confronted with a question regarding Local governance, Horvath always was able to provide the evidence to resolve the situation with his trusty copy of the constitution at hand, occasionally with the flair of an orator.
“John is a brilliant person and working with him was a valuable experience. I was truly fortunate to have someone so knowledgeable to learn from,” said Ralph Leichliter, an administrative assistant in the President’s Department, who worked alongside him. “He truly cares about our members and set high standards for the support we provide. I look forward to continuing our friendship and I wish him a retirement that’s as gratifying as his years here at SMART.”
“I am very fortunate to have had the opportunity to learn from John, and I am honored to have worked alongside him for the last five years” said Administrative Assistant Jeff Brandow. “His passion for the union labor movement and his dedication to our members is absolute, and I am certain that many of our members will agree when I say we owe John a debt of gratitude for imparting some of his knowledge to us. It’s going to be quite an adjustment not having him in the office every day.”
In retirement, Horvath said he has no immediate plans other than to spend time with his wife of 37 years, Cheryl, and to continue to play guitar as long as his health allows — he’s been known to gig around the Cleveland area on occasion.
The SMART Transportation Division wishes John the very best and a long, happy and healthy retirement.
Members of Local 23 in Santa Cruz, Calif., are mourning the passing of Transportation Division retiree Domingo Tovar on April 14 from COVID-19.
Brother Domingo Tovar of SMART-TD Local 23 in Santa Cruz, Calif., passed away last week from COVID-19. He was 68 years old.
Brother Tovar, 68, served two stints with Santa Cruz Metro as a bus operator starting in 1982, then leaving for another carrier before returning to Santa Cruz in 1987. He was involved in the initial contract talks with the carrier as well as a 37-day strike against in 2005.
He served a year as secretary and treasurer for Local 23.
“He had many friends. He was a happy person,” said retired Local 23 member Serena Tovar, Brother Tovar’s wife of more than 43 years and a 30-year SMART-TD member. “Domingo remained the same type of person the day she met him to the day he passed. He was always happy. He just loved life and had no regrets. He was very proud of his kids and was always there for his family.”
Brother Tovar retired in 2016 after 29 years of continuous union service. Transportation was in his blood, though — he had begun driving at age 25, had driven charter buses and had even obtained his pilot’s license. After his Santa Cruz Metro retirement, he kept working as a shuttle bus driver for the University of California — Santa Cruz until his passing.
He was remembered fondly by Local 23 brother Mario Espinoza.
“I could confide in Domingo about any issue and l knew that what we talked about always stayed between us,” said Espinoza, who worked alongside Brother Tovar for years. “Domingo was someone you could trust.”
Brother Espinoza said that his and Brother Tovar’s families became close over the years as they continued to work together and that Domingo was generous with his time and his technical expertise that bailed out co-workers many times.
“He was very helpful with a number of drivers that had problems with their computers, phones or any electronic device. He would solve the issue in no time or give you advice on resolving the issue,” Espinoza said. “He never wanted anything in return. His satisfaction was you being happy your problem was solved.
“He was just beginning to enjoy his retirement when this virus took his life. I am still in shock and can’t comprehend this and will take some time to cope with this,” Espinoza said. “So with a heavy heart l say, Domingo, you will be missed. Rest in peace, brother.”
In addition to his wife, Serena, Brother Tovar is survived by a daughter, Mandy; son, Damien; and two grandchildren — Damien and Sasha Tovar Page.
Railroad Retirement benefit recipients who have a qualifying child and didn’t file a 2018 or 2019 tax return have a limited window to register to have $500 per eligible child added automatically to their soon-to-be-received $1,200 COVID-19 payment, the Internal Revenue Service said Monday.
A quick trip to a special non-filer tool on IRS.gov by noon Eastern time, Wednesday, April 22, may help put all of their eligible Economic Income Payment into a single payment, the agency said in a news release.
“We want to ‘Plus $500’ these recipients with children so they can get their maximum Economic Impact Payment of $1,200 plus $500 for each eligible child as quickly as possible,” said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig. “They’ll get $1,200 automatically, but they need to act quickly and register at IRS.gov to get the extra $500 per child added to their payment. These groups don’t normally have a return filing obligation and may not realize they qualify for a larger payment. We’re asking people and organizations throughout the country to share this information widely and help the IRS with the Plus $500 Push.”
If the Wednesday deadline is missed, RRB beneficiaries who don’t normally file a tax return and do not register with the IRS by April 22, will still be eligible to receive the separate payment of $500 per qualifying child. Their payment at this time will be $1,200 and, by law, the additional $500 per eligible child amount would be paid in association with a return filing for tax year 2020. They will not be eligible to use the Non-Filer tool to add eligible children once their $1,200 payment has been issued, the IRS said.
WASHINGTON, DC – The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) today announced an interim enforcement response plan for the coronavirus pandemic. The response plan provides instructions and guidance to OSHA area offices and compliance safety and health officers (CSHOs) for handling coronavirus-related complaints, referrals and severe illness reports.
During the coronavirus outbreak, OSHA area offices will utilize their inspection resources to fulfill mission essential functions and protect workers exposed to the disease. The response plan contains interim procedures that allow flexibility and discretion for field offices to maximize OSHA’s impact in securing safe workplaces in this evolving environment.
“OSHA is committed to protecting the health and safety of America’s workers during this challenging time in our nation’s history,” Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Loren Sweatt said. “Today’s guidance outlines commonsense procedures for investigating complaints related to the coronavirus, while also ensuring the safety of workers, employers and inspectors.”
The response plan outlines procedures for addressing reports of workplace hazards related to the coronavirus. Fatalities and imminent danger exposures related to the coronavirus will be prioritized for on-site inspections. The response plan contains procedures and sample documentation for CSHOs to use during coronavirus-related inspections. Workers requesting inspections, complaining of coronavirus exposure or reporting illnesses may be protected under one or more whistleblower statutes and will be informed of their protections from retaliation.
This memorandum will take effect immediately and remain in effect until further notice. It is intended to be time-limited to the current public health crisis. Check OSHA’s webpage at www.osha.gov/coronavirus frequently for updates.
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to help ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit www.osha.gov.
The mission of the Department of Labor is to foster, promote and develop the welfare of the wage earners, job seekers and retirees of the United States; improve working conditions; advance opportunities for profitable employment and assure work-related benefits and rights.
Alternate National Legislative Director Jared Cassity shared a tip about the type of bleach that should be used for disinfecting work areas while trying to prevent spread of the coronavirus.
Be sure to check the label for the sanitization properties of bleach inside. “Splashless” bleach is not useful in creating a disinfecting solution and says so on the bottle.
Bleach water should be created with a tablespoon of bleach per gallon. The bleach used to mix the solution should not have additional scent added to it, according to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
Also, the “splashless” variety of bleach neither sanitizes nor disinfects, Cassity said.
“Be sure to purchase regular bleach,” said Cassity, who verified the information through Clorox representatives.
A bipartisan group of 14 members of Congress — seven Democrats and seven Republicans — pledged support to SMART Transportation Division’s petitions to the administrators of the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) seeking protection for railroad and transit workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Our transit and rail workers are essential to the health, safety, security and transport of people within and between our communities along with the transport of critical goods and freight across the country,” the legislators wrote. “It is important that steps are taken to mitigate against the spread of the virus within the workforce, minimize exposure while workers are performing their duties, and ensure sufficient staffing.”
U.S. Reps Greg Stanton, a Democrat from Arizona, and Brian Fitzpatrick, a Republican from Pennsylvania, were the lead signatories.
“As you work to identify additional measures to protect these essential transportation workers, we ask that you consider and give full and fair consideration to the recommendations SMART-TD outlined in its petitions for worker protections and sanitation standards to protect against the virus,” the representatives wrote.
The members of Congress who signed the letter also included U.S. Reps Tom Malinowski (D-N.J.); David B. McKinley (R-W.Va.); Grace F. Napolitano (D-Calif.); Christopher H. Smith (R-N.J.); Sharice L. Davids (D-Kan.); Rodney Davis (R.-Ill.); Jesus G. “Chuy” Garcia (D-Ill.); Fred Upton (R-Mich.); John Garamendi (D-Calif.); Mike Bost (R-Ill.); Adriano Espaillat (D-N.Y.); and Don Bacon (R-Neb.).
On March 20, SMART-TD President Jeremy Ferguson called on FRA Administrator Ron Batory and FTA Acting Administrator K. Jane Williams to make the carriers regulated by their agency implement sanitation and preventive measures in accordance with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines.
“These members of Congress recognize that SMART-TD members and others in transportation labor continue to fill an essential role as the United States copes with the coronavirus pandemic,” SMART-TD National Legislative Director Gregory Hynes said. “Their continued support is appreciated where others seem not to be interested in protecting these essential workers.”