SMART Transportation Division has a grand slam of a time planned at San Diego’s Petco Park for registered attendees of the 2019 Regional Meeting on the evening of Tuesday, July 2.
Food, fun and baseball will be the name of the game as registered meeting attendees watch the Padres take on the National League West rival San Francisco Giants at the Padres’ home field, a short walk from the host Hilton Bayfront Hotel.
Attendees can feast on summer favorites and ballpark classics from the grill, including barbecue chicken, hot dogs and more on the historic Western Metal Building rooftop (pictured above) in left field. Food and beverage service will begin one hour prior to first pitch at 7:10 p.m. Food service will be available for two hours, and beverages will be available through the seventh inning.
The game can be enjoyed from the Western Metal rooftop, the terrace-level sports bar “The Loft,” or from adjoining seats at “The Rail.” Traditional seats are also available in Sections 226 and 228.
Members will have a chance to mingle and make memories with their guests, families and union brothers and sisters during this exciting night at Petco.
Police now have a suspect in custody after members of the community identified the man in the video.
“On May 3rd, 2019, Montebello Detectives received information from several citizens who recognized the suspect from the video. Detectives were able to contact witnesses who positively identified the suspect. In an attempt to locate the suspect, Detectives discovered the suspect was currently in custody and being housed at the Los Angeles County Jail for an arrest for domestic violence which occurred on April 3rd, 2019,” Montebello police said in a statement on the department’s Facebook page.
“The Montebello police department will present this bus assault case to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office for filing consideration. The suspect has been identified as Vincent Eric Ramirez, 32 years of age. Ramirez is a Montebello resident.
“Thank you to the community for your help and efforts in solving this crime. Your support made the difference in this case.”
Police are asking for the help of the public in finding a man who brutally attacked another passenger as they both were exiting a Montebello bus March 12.
According to police and bus surveillance video, the suspect punched the victim in the back of the head as he got off the bus, knocking the victim unconscious. The attacker then kicked the man three times before walking away.
SMART Transportation Division represents bus operators and mechanics employed by Montebello Bus Lines in Local 1701 in Montebello, California.
The assailant could have easily turned and assaulted the bus operator as well, which is why SMART TD supports H.R. 1139 – the Transit Worker and Pedestrian Protection Act, which would protect bus operators from violent incidents like this one.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has launched a web page that provides information about the Commercial Driver’s License Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse, a database to be launched in early January 2020.
The database’s purpose is to track and identify “drivers who are not legally permitted to operate commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) due to drug and alcohol program violations,” the FMCSA said.
In 2012, Congress directed the secretary of transportation to establish a national clearinghouse containing commercial motor vehicle operators’ violations of FMCSA’s drug and alcohol testing program in Section 32402 of the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21). This rule implements that mandate and responds to recommendations of the National Transportation Safety Board.
FMCSA says on the website that registration with the database will open in the fall and all operators who hold a commercial driver’s license (CDL) or commercial driver’s permit (CLP) must comply with the requirement in order to continue working in a safety-sensitive role.
Registration is open for the 2019 SMART Transportation Division regional meeting to take place July 1 to 3 in San Diego, Calif., at the Hilton Bayfront Hotel.
Members can expect a full slate of informative workshops and many chances to build camaraderie with your fellow union brothers and sisters over the three-day meeting, which will be the lone regional meeting of the year because of the August SMART Transportation Division and general conventions.
A completed registration form and payment must be received by no later than June 17, 2019, to be considered pre-registered. The price for registration for pre-registered guests is $150 per guest. Registration for children ages 11 and under are complimentary. Registrations received after June 17 will be charged an on-site registration fee of $200. Additional fees apply for tours.
The registration fee covers all workshop materials, a welcome reception, three lunches and one evening meal. Those wishing to attend only the workshops do not need to register or pay the $150 fee.
You may cancel your meeting registration 10 days prior to the first day of the meetings without penalty. Call the Transportation Division at 216-228-9400 or email firstname.lastname@example.org immediately regarding changes or cancellations to your registration.
Disability Fund Shows Strong Improvement—Twenty Years
The Social Security Board of Trustees released its annual report on the long-term financial status of the Social Security trust funds. The combined asset reserves of the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance and Disability Insurance (OASI and DI) trust funds are projected to become depleted in 2035, one year later than projected last year, with 80% of benefits payable at that time.
The OASI trust fund is projected to become depleted in 2034, the same as last year’s estimate, with 77% of benefits payable at that time. The DI trust fund is estimated to become depleted in 2052, extended 20 years from last year’s estimate of 2032, with 91% of benefits still payable.
In the 2019 Annual Report to Congress, the trustees announced:
The asset reserves of the combined OASI and DI trust funds increased by $3 billion in 2018 to a total of $2.895 trillion.
The total annual cost of the program is projected to exceed total annual income, for the first time since 1982, in 2020 and remain higher throughout the 75-year projection period. As a result, asset reserves are expected to decline during 2020. Social Security’s cost has exceeded its non-interest income since 2010.
The year when the combined trust fund reserves are projected to become depleted, if Congress does not act before then, is 2035 – gaining one year from last year’s projection. At that time, there would be sufficient income coming in to pay 80% of scheduled benefits.
“The Trustees recommend that lawmakers address the projected trust fund shortfalls in a timely way in order to phase in necessary changes gradually and give workers and beneficiaries time to adjust to them,” said Nancy A. Berryhill, acting commissioner of Social Security. “The large change in the reserve depletion date for the DI fund is mainly due to continuing favorable trends in the disability program. Disability applications have been declining since 2010, and the number of disabled-worker beneficiaries receiving payments has been falling since 2014.”
Other highlights of the trustees’ report include:
Total income, including interest, to the combined OASI and DI trust funds amounted to just over $1 trillion in 2018. ($885 billion from net payroll tax contributions, $35 billion from taxation of benefits and $83 billion in interest)
Total expenditures from the combined OASI and DI trust funds amounted to $1 trillion in 2018.
Social Security paid benefits of nearly $989 billion in calendar year 2018. There were about 63 million beneficiaries at the end of the calendar year.
The projected actuarial deficit over the 75-year long-range period is 2.78% of taxable payroll – lower than the 2.84% projected in last year’s report.
During 2018, an estimated 176 million people had earnings covered by Social Security and paid payroll taxes.
The cost of $6.7 billion to administer the Social Security program in 2018 was a very low 0.7% of total expenditures.
The combined trust fund asset reserves earned interest at an effective annual rate of 2.9% in 2018.
The board of trustees usually comprises six members. Four serve by virtue of their positions with the federal government: Steven T. Mnuchin, secretary of the treasury and managing trustee; Nancy A. Berryhill, acting commissioner of Social Security; Alex M. Azar II, secretary of health and human services; and R. Alexander Acosta, secretary of labor. The two public trustee positions are currently vacant.
The U.S. Department of Transportation published a final rule April 23 that makes technical corrections to regulations governing drug testing for safety-sensitive employees to ensure consistency with recent amendments made to DOT’s “Procedures for Transportation Workplace Drug and Alcohol Testing Programs,” which recently added requirements for testing for oxycodone, oxymorphone, hydrocodone and hydromorphone.
According to the release from DOT, the new changes to the department’s regulations make it necessary to refer to these substances, as well as morphine, 6-acetylmorphine and codeine by the term “opioids” rather than “opiates.”
This final rule amends the term in the FAA, FTA and PHMSA regulations to ensure that all DOT drug testing rules are consistent with one another and the mandatory guidelines for the testing program.
A private equity firm has completed its acquisition of Coach USA and its subsidiaries, it was announced on April 15.
Both the bus carrier’s U.S. and Canadian operations was purchased for $271.4 million by Variant Equity from prior owner Stagecoach Group plc.
Coach USA operates intercity bus, public transit, employee transportation, campus shuttle and airport transportation services throughout the United States. It and Coach Canada has more than 4,500 employees and 2,200 buses throughout the United States and Canada.
The sons of member Byron Watson have been labeled as heroes after saving a 4-year-old girl from drowning while at a birthday party March 24 at the Santa Maria Beach in Santa Cruz, California.
The boys’ mother, Nicole, who was watching over her boys while they were swimming in the ocean, recounted the story.
“I was watching my boys, but I looked away for a second and missed the boys seeing her drown. Rhys – he’s 7 – said ‘I think that girl is drowning’ to Bryce, who is now 11, and Bryce said, ‘No she’s just playing.’ And Rhys said, ‘No, I saw her head go underwater.’ And that’s when Bryce jumped in the water. I saw my-then-10-year-old holding this girl above his head in the water and I saw this man, the girl’s father, running, and he patted her on the back and water started coming out of her mouth.”
Both Byron and Nicole are really proud of the action their boys took.
“I’m very proud of my boys. We try to instill in them the ability to care for others, and that’s what determined the actions that they took. They live that out daily,” Byron said.
“I’m super proud. I’m really proud of them and they’re really proud of each other. I’m really proud that they were able to remain calm — they get that from their father — and save the girl,” Nicole said. “Bryce has a new-found confidence in himself, so that’s really cool.”
The 4-year-old girl (her name has not been released) was expected to make a full recovery thanks to both boys.
Byron reports that both boys learned to swim when they were about 6 months old. Byron is a bus operator for the Santa Cruz Metropolitan Transit District and a member of Santa Cruz Local 23 since 2006.
The Watson family (from left): Byron, Kesia, 7; Bryce, 11; Rhys, 7; and Nicole. (Picture provided by Nicole Watson.)
Among other priorities, the coalition of transportation unions, of which SMART Transportation Division is a member, is calling for operators to remain on board automated vehicles to ensure safety, respond in emergencies and provide backup in case of technological failure, and for Congress to establish a fund that would supplement wages, health care costs and training or retraining programs of workers affected by automation.
“Driverless technology is coming at a time when the economy is balanced against working people, wages are stagnating, and workers are finding it harder and harder to get by. Not only do transit workers stand to see their jobs changed dramatically or automated away, but serious concerns about safety remain. So far, elected leaders do not seem to be taking these threats seriously,” said TTD President Larry I. Willis. “We cannot allow safety to be compromised or the good jobs in this sector to be steamrolled just so tech companies and Wall Street investors can have their way.”
The eight key policies are as follows:
Transit agencies must give workers advance notice before deploying automated vehicles (AVs).
The collective bargaining rights of transit workers must be preserved. Additionally, transit agencies must negotiate the use of automated technologies with their unions.
Automated transit vehicles must adhere to strict federal safety standards.
Drivers must remain onboard on automated vehicles, regardless of how far technology develops, to ensure safety, respond in emergencies and provide backup in case of technological failure.
Congress should establish a transportation workforce fund to help cover wages, health care costs, unemployment benefits and training or retraining programs for workers affected by driverless technology. This fund will be paid for through a mileage-based user fee of highly or fully automated transit vehicles.
Transit agencies wishing to use AVs must examine the impact they will have on transit workers and issue a report.
The U.S. Departments of Labor and Transportation should also examine the impacts automation has on transit ridership, capacity and employment. This includes examining the direct and indirect impacts automated ride-sharing or ride-hailing services have on transit services.
Before transportation agencies implement automated technology, they must issue a workforce training plan.
These policies on AVs and driverless technology were laid out at the TTD’s Executive Committee meeting in New Orleans.
SMART Transportation Division leaders support the Transit Worker and Pedestrian Protection Act (H.R.1139) introduced by U.S. Reps. Grace F. Napolitano (D – Calif.) and Congressman John Katko (R – New York) on Feb. 11 that would make the workplace safer for bus operators and commuter rail workers nationwide.
“While most interactions between SMART TD members and the passengers they serve are peaceful encounters, too often that is not the case,” SMART Transportation Division President John Previsich said. “Our members deserve the protections necessary to ensure their safety, health and well-being. This legislation will require transit agencies to develop risk-reduction programs to make bus and transit services safer for TD members, riders and pedestrians alike.”
Incidents of assault on public transit occur in the United States frequently and threaten the safety of SMART TD members, the riding public and pedestrians. Countless news reports involving violent acts by unruly passengers have left SMART TD bus operators and transit employees as victims of violence.
“You name it — our members have encountered it and have had to deal with these gruesome, violent occurrences. Yet we’ve seen little done about it. This legislation fulfills the need for adequate driver shields and mandatory de-escalation training,” said SMART TD National Legislative Director John Risch. “Thank you to Representatives Napolitano and Katko for refining this important piece of legislation and for being steady in their continuing commitment to making public transportation safer in the United States.
“Our pledge is to continue to work with Congress and the Administration to ensure transit workers and those who use public transit receive the protection they deserve.”
The Transit Worker and Pedestrian Protection Act requires that both rail and bus transit agencies (those not covered by the FRA) create risk-reduction plans to protect operators within two years of the bill’s passage and that the agencies submit those plans to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) for approval.
Some components of these plans could include physical barriers to prevent operator assaults, de-escalation training for workers, driver-assistance technology to reduce accidents, ergonomic improvements to prevent operator injuries and modified specifications or retrofits to reduce visibility impairments for operators.
The bill also requires that any assault on a transit or bus operator be reported to the DOT’s National Transit Database.
“There is no higher priority than operator safety. Too often we’ve seen reports of drivers getting assaulted and having their lives irreversibly changed simply because they were behind the controls doing their jobs,” said Calvin Studivant, SMART TD Bus Department vice president. “The risk-reduction programs and other safety requirements that this bill puts in place will help to keep our members safe.”
The Bus Operator and Pedestrian Protection Act (H.R. 6016), a similar bill introduced by Napolitano and Katko last year, picked up co-sponsors from both parties in the U.S. House and received the endorsement of SMART TD and other transportation unions. U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland introduced a companion bill to the 2018 legislation in the U.S. Senate and is doing the same with H.R. 1139.
The Transit Worker and Pedestrian Protection Act continues to build upon these efforts to eliminate bus and transit operator assaults, thus protecting workers, the riding public and pedestrians. It likewise receives SMART TD’s full backing.
Amplifon’s latest news release discusses a recent study conducted by researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital that indicates that chronic noise exposure may increase the risks for cardiovascular conditions.
The preliminary findings reveal that people with the highest levels of chronic noise exposure – such as highway and airport noise – had a three-fold increased risk of suffering cardiovascular events such as heart attacks and strokes, regardless of other factors known to increase cardiovascular risk.
A number of candidates to transportation-related oversight posts in the federal government whose nominations were returned to President Donald Trump in early January have been renominated to those posts.
Thelma Drake has been renominated to be the administrator of the DOT’s Federal Transit Administration (FTA) and Lynn Westmoreland, Joseph Gruters and Rick Dearborn are again under consideration for positions on the Amtrak board of directors.
SMART Transportation Division opposes the nomination of Westmoreland, whose voting record as a U.S. representative shows he has a long history of voting against Amtrak funding.
“As a longtime member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials, Westmoreland has a hostile voting record against Amtrak, which includes efforts to eliminate federal funding for Amtrak entirely. In addition, Westmoreland has been an original cosponsor of the ‘National Right-to-Work Act’ on multiple occasions, which would significantly weaken our ability to collectively bargain. For these reasons, we oppose his nomination as it would undermine the core mission of Amtrak and its employees,” we reported when his nomination was initially introduced in October 2017.
Also renominated by the president are Michelle Schultz to the Surface Transportation Board (STB), and Michael Graham and Jennifer Homendy to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). Homendy is currently serving a term on the board that runs out at the end of 2019.
Two nominations also were made to highway oversight positions — Heidi King to administer the National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Nicole Nason to administer the Federal Highway Administration (FHA).
These nominations will be considered by U.S. Senate subcommittees before potential advancement for consideration by the full Senate.