Archive for the ‘News’ Category

URGENT NOTICE AND INSTRUCTIONS TO ALL BNSF EMPLOYEES REPRESENTED BY THE SMART TRANSPORTATION DIVISION

On Tuesday, January 25, 2022, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas issued a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) prohibiting both BLET and SMART-TD from authorizing, encouraging, permitting, calling, or otherwise engaging in any strikes, work stoppages, picketing, slowdowns, sickouts, or other self-help against BNSF or its operating rail subsidiaries over any dispute relating to BNSF’s new Hi Viz attendance policy and the standards in the policy. A copy of the Court’s Order is attached to this Notice.

Pursuant to the Court’s Order, SMART-TD is hereby instructing all of its members employed by BNSF that they must NOT engage in any self-help against the railroad. This means that members must NOT engage in any strikes, work stoppages, picketing, slowdowns, sickouts, or any other activity intended to disrupt the operations of the railroad in response to BNSF’s Hi Viz attendance policy.

Further, pursuant to the Court’s Order, SMART-TD is notifying and instructing all members who are now or who may in the future engage in any strike, work stoppages, picketing, slowdowns, sickouts, or any other activity intended to disrupt the operations of the railroad to immediately cease and desist all such activity and to immediately cease and desist all exhortations or communications encouraging same upon pain of fine, suspension, or other sanction by SMART-TD. This means that any member who continues to encourage other employees on social media, or in any other forum, to engage in a strike, work stoppages, picketing, slowdowns, sickouts, or any other activity intended to disrupt the operations of the railroad MUST immediately stop doing so. Members who continue to do so risk fine, suspension, or other sanction by SMART-TD.

Further, pursuant to the Court’s Order, this Notice and Instructions is being posted on SMART-TD bulletin boards at all BNSF locations where such bulletin boards exist and is also posted on SMART-TD’s website.

Your Union will continue to challenge BNSF’s Hi Viz policy in court and will seek to have the Court’s Order lifted. However, so long as the Order remains in place, all SMART-TD members must comply. We are a nation of laws and will abide by those laws, and we expect each and every one of our members to do the same.

Jan. 25, 2022 notice to BNSF employees and court order. (PDF)

FTA transit safety training registration open

U.S. DOT’s Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has announced that registration is open for National Transit Institute (NTI) and Transportation Safety Institute (TSI) safety training courses for transit personnel.

See the table below for some of the courses being offered by NTI.

FTA courseFTA course descriptionCourse dates & times offered
Assault Awareness and Prevention for Transit Operators (direct delivery)The goal of this course is to give bus operators in the transit industry the knowledge and skills needed to reduce the likelihood of assault incidents from occurring.
Prevention methods covered include defining assault, discussing the types of incidents that could be considered assault and recognizing key vulnerability factors. Prevention strategies focus on communication and response skills, and the value of reporting incidents. In addition, the training includes information on the importance of seeking assistance to recover from assault incidents.
02/17/2022

1:00 p.m. & 4:30 p.m.
Assault Awareness and Prevention for Transit Operators (Train-the-Trainer)This course will provide transit agency instructional staff with the support necessary to deliver the Assault Awareness and Prevention course within their agencies. Train-the-Trainer course participants review the direct delivery course curriculum and discuss strategies to utilize NTI course materials and activities to deliver in-house training. When delivered to staff at your agency, the goal of Assault Awareness and Prevention for Transit Operators is to provide transit bus operators the knowledge and skills needed to reduce the likelihood of assault incidents during revenue service. Prevention methods covered include: defining assault, discussing the types of incidents that could be considered assault, and recognizing key vulnerability factors. Prevention strategies focus on communication and response skills, and the value of reporting incidents. The training also includes information on the importance of seeking assistance to recover from assault incidents.03/09/2022

1:00 p.m. & 4:30 p.m.
Violence in the Transit Workplace – Prevention, Response and Recovery (Train-the-Trainer)The goal of this course is to provide participants with knowledge and skills to deliver training to transit agency personnel on how to prevent, respond to and recover from workplace violence. Prevention methods covered include implementing system and personal security measures, recognizing and reporting the warning signs of potentially violent behavior and using effective interpersonal skills for dealing with different, difficult and dangerous people. Response strategies focus on self-preservation and the importance of accurate reporting. The recovery module addresses the stress associated workplace violence and what employees can do to address the impact of it on themselves and co-workers.02/10/2022

1:00 p.m. & 4:30 p.m.
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03/10/22

1:00 p.m. & 4:30 p.m.

The mission of the NTI is to provide training, education and clearinghouse services in support of public transportation and quality of life in the U.S. The classes listed above are currently only offered in a virtual learning setting and are free to attend. Each course lasts 3.5 hours. Click here for a listing of all courses being offered by NTI and to register (register by clicking on the course link).


TSI supports FTA’s mission by providing economical, timely, state-of-the-art training and educational opportunities to the transit industry. TSI assists FTA in meeting its federal training mandate by developing, managing and delivering innovative instruction through instructor-led course offerings and e-learning technologies. All training is designed specifically to meet the needs of today’s changing transit industry, its regulations and safety best practices.

Some TSI courses are multi-day, while others may be less than an hour long. The cost of attendance varies and ranges from $0 to $145. Courses are offered at different locations throughout the United States and some virtually. Click here and then click on “Public Transportation Safety (FTA) in the gray box to view a list of courses being offered.

Rail labor’s largest coalition reaches dead end on path to voluntary agreement

The Coordinated Bargaining Coalition (CBC) released the following statement on January 24, 2022:

After more than two years of bargaining with the major U.S. Class 1 railroads, discussions completely stalled last week. Accordingly, pursuant to the terms and conditions of the Railway Labor Act, top leaders of 10 rail unions applied to the National Mediation Board (NMB) for the assignment of a federal mediator to assist in our negotiations.

The Carriers represented by the National Carriers’ Conference Committee (NCCC) simply are not bargaining in good faith. This development is very frustrating, as the Unions in the Coordinated Bargaining Coalition have been at the negotiating table since November 2019. Throughout that time, despite our best efforts, the carriers have not made a comprehensive settlement proposal that we believe our members would even remotely entertain. In fact, the Carriers’ latest proposal is worse than bad faith; it is insulting.

After carrying our nation through the pandemic, and as the carriers have posted record-breaking profit margins due to their implementation of so-called “Precision Scheduled Railroading” practices, our members have earned, and rightfully expect, a substantial contract settlement that recognizes the sacrifices they and their families make each day. Instead, the Carriers continue to push proposals that fail to even catch up to the cost of living. From the beginning of this round of negotiations, the CBC has adamantly refused to accept any type of concessionary agreement. Instead, the railroads continue to demand extreme changes to our members’ current benefits and attempt to unilaterally impose work rule changes that would further erode our members’ already-taxed standard of living.

We anticipate that the involvement of the NMB will cause the industry to refocus on addressing the legitimate needs of the men and women whose labor generates their positive financial returns. In an effort to bring all affected members up to speed, the CBC’s latest proposal can be found at:

CBC bargaining proposal (SMART-TD)

Additional information will be provided as developments warrant. We appreciate your continuing support, and we look forward to working with the NMB to reach a settlement that we can be proud of.

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The unions comprising the Coordinated Bargaining Coalition are: the American Train Dispatchers Association (ATDA); the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen / Teamsters Rail Conference (BLET); the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen (BRS); the International Association of Machinists (IAM); the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers (IBB); the National Conference of Firemen & Oilers/SEIU (NCFO); the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW); the Transport Workers Union of America (TWU); the Transportation Communications Union / IAM (TCU), including TCU’s Brotherhood Railway Carmen Division (BRC); and the Transportation Division of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, and Transportation Workers (SMART–TD).
Collectively, the CBC unions represent more than 105,000 railroad workers covered by the various organizations’ national agreements, and comprise over 80% of the workforce who will be impacted by this round of negotiations.

Read this release in PDF form.

SMART-TD member loses home in fire

On January 9, 2022, tragedy struck in the form of a fire for Alaska Railroad conductor and SMART-TD Local 1626 (Anchorage, Alaska) member Danielle Gallagher. Gallagher and her two children lost their home near Palmer, Alaska, that night, reports Local 1626 Secretary & Treasurer Justin Voss.

Gallagher family

The local has rallied around Gallagher and Alaska SLD and Local Legislative Representative Darren Toppin has set up a GoFundMe account to help her with expenses as the family works to recover from the fire.

“Danielle is a conductor for the Alaska Railroad and a very dedicated employee. She loves her job! Not only is Danielle a great coworker, she is also [a] great friend. She is always willing to reach out and lend a hand and helps anyone in need. No matter the situation,” Toppin said on the GoFundMe page. “This is now our chance to help her and her awesome kids and say, thank you for always having our backs.”

In addition to the loss of their home, some of the family dogs were lost in the fire. The farm animals, including horses and cattle and other livestock, were not harmed.

Click here to make a donation to the fund to help Gallagher and her kids.

 

Remembering Martin Luther King’s legacy

SMART-TD shares with the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. the dream that men and women should be judged not by the color of their skin, their nationality or religious beliefs, but by the content of their hearts.

King’s brilliance, vision, leadership and ultimate personal sacrifice shifted the course of American history by shedding light and bringing hope to a nation marred by racism, ignorance and inequality.

King’s work and his words brought the promise of justice, hope and freedom to people of color and to the oppressed everywhere. His words still ring as powerfully, relevant and true today as they did more than 50 years ago:

“And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

–- From Martin Luther King’s historic speech delivered Aug. 28, 1963, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C.

Read King’s “I Have a Dream” speech in its entirety here.

Watch highlights of King’s speech.

Read an article about King and his connections with labor.

Former VP Donald Carver passes away

Former Vice President Donald Carver, who led the United Transportation Union Yardmasters Department from 1987 until his retirement in 2003, passed away January 11, 2022, one day prior to his 79th birthday, his family announced.

Carver

Brother Carver had a 41-year career on the railroad that began when he hired out in April 1962 as a switchman on the Louisville & Nashville Railroad. He joined UTU predecessor union the Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen (BRT) in May 1962 before becoming a yardmaster and an officer in the Railroad Yardmasters of America (RYA), rising to general chairperson and a national vice president in the 1970s in that union before its merger with UTU.

In 1987, Carver was elected UTU assistant to the president/yardmasters and he served in that capacity before being elevated to vice president in 2003. In total, 29 of Carver’s 41 years were as a union officer.

The late Jim “J.R.” Cumby, Brother Carver’s immediate successor in leading the Yardmasters Department, wrote a tribute to Carver in an issue of the UTU News published after Carver’s retirement in September 2003:

“Don was an indefatigable road warrior. When the carriers raised the qualifying days worked to seven for carrier-paid insurance, Don went to bat for our part-time officers. With assistance from the negotiating committee, Don ensured all our part-time officers working on the railroad at least one day per month retained carrier-paid insurance benefits,” Cumby wrote in the November 2003 UTU News.

Carver left “some mighty big shoes” to fill in representing the union’s members, Cumby wrote.

Carver’s role with the union hadn’t closed quite yet. In 2004, he served on a blue-ribbon committee to shape union technological efforts for the union as it headed into the 21st century.

After announcing his retirement, Brother Carver closed his final farewell column to the membership with a traditional Irish blessing:

“May the road rise up to meet you, May the wind be always at your back, May the sun shine warm upon your face, And the rain fall soft upon your fields. And until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of His hand.”

He is survived by his wife of 59 years, Dianna Mae, and two children, the Rev. Dr. Richard Carver Jr. (Stephanie) and Marla Sanders (Chris); five grandchildren; three great-grandchildren; and his brother, David. He was preceded in death by his parents, Rev. Dr. Edward and Alene Carver, and his sister Beth Ostercamp.

A celebration of Brother Carver’s life will take place 12:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 17, 2022, at Schoppenhorst Underwood & Brooks Funeral Home, 123 Winning Colors Dr., Mt. Washington, Ky. Interment will follow at Bethany Memorial Cemetery, 10917 Dixie Hwy., Louisville.

The SMART Transportation Division offers its sincere condolences to the Carver family, his friends and the union brothers and sisters who knew him.

Click here read Carver’s full obituary or to leave condolences.

Union officers’ efforts yield better protections for N.J. transportation workers

SMART Transportation Division Bus Department Vice President Calvin Studivant and New Jersey State Legislative Director Ron Sabol spent a significant time brainstorming ways to protect members in Sabol’s state last year.

The ongoing coronavirus pandemic had added even more potential risk to our members working on New Jersey Transit (NJT) and other carriers. Beyond their daily duties of keeping things moving, the need for workers to enforce COVID safety measures increased the potential for conflict and violent incidents with dangerous outcomes for workers, riders and even the public.

Two assaults on NJT workers drew headlines through the autumn. A union tracking violence against NJT workers reported more than 130 instances of workers being attacked. Something needed to be done.

In response, Studivant and Sabol, in conjunction with SMART-TD legislative and legal leadership, developed and presented what became the Motorbus and Passenger Rail Service Employee Violence Prevention Act.

On Jan. 10, that legislation was signed into law by Gov. Phil Murphy.

“I’m very proud of what this law accomplishes in protecting transportation workers in our state,” Sabol said. “It took the help of many people on both our side, including National Legislative Director Greg Hynes and TD Designated Legal Counsel Safety Coordinator Larry Mann, the persistence of other labor organizations, and a receptive, bipartisan group of legislators to get this done.”

Assemblyman Daniel R. Benson (D-Dist. 14) and state Sen. Patrick J. Diegnan Jr. (D-Dist. 18) were the driving forces behind the versions of the Motorbus and Passenger Rail Service Employee Violence Prevention Act that ran concurrently in rapid fashion through both chambers of the New Jersey Legislature. On the Republican side, State Sen. Robert R. Singer (R-Dist. 30) also championed the bill that gained massive support from both parties in the Senate.

The Senate version, S-4071, passed unanimously Dec. 20 on a 39-0 vote. The Assembly version, A-6013, passed unanimously with a 76-0 vote the same day.

“We cannot thank Assemblyman Benson enough for his diligence and his amazing effort in putting in the time to make this legislation succeed,” Sabol said after the bill’s signing. “He spent hours engaging fellow legislators with in-depth discussions as he proposed and helped to advance the legislation. The same goes again with state Sens. Diegnan and Singer, who were instrumental in initiating and retaining the overwhelming bipartisan support the law gained, and, of course, Gov. Murphy.”

The Motorbus and Passenger Rail Service Employee Violence Prevention Act upgrades the penalty for all assaults on a motorbus or autobus operator, the operator’s supervisor and a rail passenger employee. It also empowers NJT, motorbus companies and all rail passenger service providers to ban riders from their transportation services for up to one year if the person commits an assault on a motorbus operator, the operator’s supervisor or a rail passenger employee.

If a deadly weapon was used during the assault, the rider may be banned for life.

“Transportation workers are far too often subjected to vicious attacks by irate passengers for simply doing their jobs,” said Benson, who serves as chairperson of the Assembly Transportation and Independent Authorities Committee. “Our bus and rail employees must be protected as they fulfill their critical duties on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of commuters in our state.”

“This bill, while long overdue, is right on time,” Vice President Studivant said. “The collaborative efforts to secure this piece of legislation is a testament to the men and women who face adverse conditions on a daily basis for simply doing their jobs of moving the people of N.J.”

“Congratulations to Vice President Studivant, SLD Sabol and the New Jersey State Legislative Board for their outstanding work, and thanks to Larry Mann for his guidance in this victory,” National Legislative Director Greg Hynes said. “This legislation could be a great blueprint for other states to follow suit.”

Of note, Gov. Murphy also signed S.771, a second piece of legislation expanding workers’ compensation coverage to include injuries that occurs in employer parking lots. Both SMART-TD and the New Jersey Council of Safety and Health (COSH) supported the bill.

RRB: Retirees may need to increase tax withholding at age 62

Certain portions of a Railroad Retirement annuity are treated differently for federal income tax purposes. The following questions and answers explain these differences and address the importance of individuals establishing accurate tax withholding from their annuities. Certain beneficiaries, including those retiring at age 60 with at least 30 years of service, and some occupational disability annuitants, need to pay close attention to changes in tax withholding when they turn age 62.

1. How are annuities paid under the Railroad Retirement Act treated under federal income tax laws?

A Railroad Retirement annuity is a single payment comprised of one or more of the following components, depending on the annuitant’s age, the type of annuity being paid, and eligibility requirements: a Social Security Equivalent Benefit (SSEB) portion of Tier I, a non-Social Security Equivalent Benefit (NSSEB) portion of Tier I, a Tier II benefit and a supplemental annuity.

In most cases, part of a Railroad Retirement annuity is treated like a Social Security benefit for federal income tax purposes while other parts of the annuity are treated like private pensions for tax purposes. Consequently, most annuitants who are U.S. citizens or residents are sent two tax statements from the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) each January, even though they receive only a single annuity payment each month. While non–resident aliens also receive a single monthly annuity payment from the RRB, they are only sent one tax statement from the RRB.

2. What information is shown on the Railroad Retirement tax statements sent to annuitants in January?

One tax statement, Form RRB-1099 (only sent to U.S. citizens or residents), shows the SSEB portion of Tier I or special minimum guaranty payments made during the tax year, the amount of any such benefits that an annuitant may have repaid to the RRB during the tax year, and the net amount of these payments after subtracting the repaid amount. The amount of any offset for workers’ compensation and the amount of federal income tax withheld from these payments are also shown.

The other tax statement, Form RRB-1099-R (also only sent to U.S. citizens or residents), shows the NSSEB portion of Tier I, Tier II and supplemental annuity paid to the annuitant during the tax year, and may show an employee contribution amount. The NSSEB portion of Tier I along with Tier II are considered contributory pension amounts and are shown as a single combined amount in the Contributory Amount Paid box (Item 4) on the statement. The supplemental annuity is considered a noncontributory pension amount and is shown as a separate item on the statement.

Non–resident aliens are sent one tax statement, Form RRB-1042S, which shows the information included on both Form RRB-1099 and Form RRB-1099-R.

3. Can annuitants request federal income tax withholding from their benefit payments?

Yes. Annuitants may request that federal income tax be withheld from their annuity payments. To add or change federal income taxes withheld from SSEB payments, an annuitant must complete Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Form W-4V, Voluntary Withholding Request, and send it to the RRB. To add or change the amount of federal taxes withheld from NSSEB payments, annuitants must file Form RRB W-4P, Withholding Certificate for Railroad Retirement Payments, (available at the RRB’s website, RRB.gov) and send it to the RRB. If an annuitant does not file a Form RRB W-4P with the RRB and the taxable annuity components exceed the IRS minimum mandatory withholding amount, taxes will automatically be withheld as if the annuitant were married and claiming three allowances. Railroad Retirement benefits are not taxable by any state, so state tax withholding from Railroad Retirement payments is not possible. Annuitants that wish to add or change federal tax withholding from their annuity payments may contact an RRB field office for assistance. While the RRB may provide the necessary forms for withholding, it is the annuitant’s responsibility to determine how much federal income tax withholding is needed. Annuitants are encouraged to discuss the amount of withholding needed with a tax adviser or the IRS.

4. Which Railroad Retirement benefits are treated like Social Security benefits for federal income tax purposes?

The SSEB portion of Tier I – the part of a Railroad Retirement annuity equivalent to a Social Security benefit based on comparable earnings and included on Form RRB-1099 (or Form RRB-1042S for nonresident aliens) – must be reported on an individual’s federal income tax return, and is treated for tax purposes the same way as a Social Security benefit. The amount of these benefits that may be subject to federal income tax, if any, depends on the beneficiary’s income. (To determine if any amount of the SSEB portion is taxable, please refer to IRS publication 915, Social Security and Equivalent Railroad Retirement Benefits.) If part of the SSEB is taxable, how much is taxable depends on the total amount of a beneficiary’s benefits and other income. Usually, the higher that total amount, the greater the taxable part of a beneficiary’s benefit.

5. Which Railroad Retirement benefits are treated like private pensions for federal income tax purposes?

The NSSEB portion of Tier I, Tier II benefits, and supplemental annuities – which are included on Form RRB-1099-R (or Form RRB-1042S for nonresident aliens) – are all treated like private pensions for federal income tax purposes. In some cases, primarily those in which early retirement benefits are payable to retired employees and spouses between ages 60 and 62, some occupational disability benefits, and other categories of unique RRB entitlements, the entire annuity may be treated like a private pension. This is because Social Security benefits based on age and service are not payable before age 62, Social Security disability benefit entitlement requires total disability, and the Social Security Administration does not pay some categories of beneficiaries paid by the RRB.

6. How are 60/30 annuity payments taxed?

A railroad employee with 30 or more years of creditable rail service is eligible for a regular annuity based on age and service the first full month he or she is age 60. The employee’s spouse is also eligible for an annuity the first full month he or she is age 60. These “60/30” annuity payments are taxed as follows:

  • 60/30 annuity payments before the employee or spouse is age 62: All benefits paid to an employee before age 62 are considered NSSEB and are fully taxable and reported on Form RRB-1099-R (or Form RRB-1042S for nonresident aliens). This includes all Tier I and Tier II benefits and any supplemental annuity that might be payable. Spouse benefits are also fully taxable and reported on Form RRB-1099-R (or Form RRB-1042S for nonresident aliens) until both the employee and spouse are age 62.
  • 60/30 annuity payments after the employee is age 62:  Once the employee turns age 62, part of the Tier I benefit is still considered NSSEB, but some is now considered SSEB because equivalent Social Security benefits are payable at age 62. Since these equivalent Social Security benefits paid at age 62 would be reduced for early retirement, while 60/30 benefits are not reduced, the RRB computes the portion of the Tier I benefit comparable to that payable under Social Security, and reports the SSEB amount on Form RRB-1099 (or Form RRB-1042S for nonresident aliens). The SSEB portion of spouse benefits is calculated the same way, except the employee and spouse must both be at least 62 for spouse benefits to be considered SSEB.
  • WARNING for 60/30 annuitants who begin receiving annuities before age 62:  As noted previously, when the employee turns age 62 (or the spouse turns age 62, provided the employee is also at least age 62) the taxability of Tier I benefits changes from all private pension-equivalent benefits to a split between SSEB and NSSEB portions. For many annuitants, this means that the tax withholding in place will automatically decrease, and sometimes this change is significant. This is because any Form RRB W-4P on file with the RRB will not consider the SSEB portion of Tier I in the withholding calculation. In many cases, the SSEB portion will be subject to taxation because of the total amount of the annuitant’s income, and the decrease in withholding may result in an insufficient amount of taxes being withheld. Notices are released to annuitants advising of the change in the withholding amount, and they are encouraged to discuss the issue with a tax adviser or the IRS to determine the correct amount of withholding for them. Annuitants often need to file a new tax withholding election form with the RRB to increase withholding following this change, otherwise they may face a larger tax liability than expected when filing federal income tax returns the following year.

7. Are occupational disability annuitants subject to the same change in tax withholding at age 62?

Those occupational disability annuitants not qualified for a period of disability (also known as a “Disability Freeze”) as defined under the Social Security Act will similarly see the taxability of Tier I benefits change at age 62.

8. Where can an annuitant find more information about the taxability of Railroad Retirement annuities?

More information regarding the taxability of Railroad Retirement benefits can be found in RRB booklets TXB-25, Tax Withholding and Railroad Retirement Payments, and TXB-85, The Taxation of Railroad Retirement Act Annuities. These booklets are available at RRB.gov, or by contacting the RRB toll free at 1-877-772-5772.

Information is also available on the IRS website at www.irs.gov. To learn more about how SSEB payments, repayments and tax withholding amounts should be reported to the IRS, refer to IRS Publication 915, Social Security and Equivalent Railroad Retirement Benefits. For additional information about how pension payments, repayments and tax withholding should be reported to the IRS, or how NSSEB contributory amounts paid are taxed, refer to IRS Publication 575, Pension and Annuity Income, and/or IRS Publication 939, General Rule for Pensions and Annuities.

Bill enhancing punishment for assaulting transit workers on desk of N.J. gov.

Legislation championed by the SMART Transportation Division that toughens penalties on passengers who do harm to transportation workers has passed both chambers of the New Jersey Legislature and has been sent to Gov. Phil Murphy’s (D) desk for his signature.

Assemblyman Daniel R. Benson (D-Dist. 14) and state Sen. Patrick J. Diegnan Jr. (D-Dist. 18) were the driving forces behind the versions of the Motorbus and Passenger Rail Service Employee Violence Prevention Act that ran concurrently in rapid fashion through both chambers of the New Jersey Legislature.

“Transportation workers are far too often subjected to vicious attacks by irate passengers for simply doing their jobs,” said Benson, who serves as chairperson of the Assembly Transportation and Independent Authorities Committee. “Our bus and rail employees must be protected as they fulfill their critical duties on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of commuters in our state.”

On the Republican side, State Sen. Robert R. Singer (R-Dist. 30) also championed the bill in the Senate.

“Unfortunately, there have been many instances where bus and train operators are assaulted by unruly passengers. People who engage in such abhorrent behavior are not only putting the lives of the operators at risk, but also the lives of all the passengers,” he said. “This legislation will significantly increase the penalty for such assaults, and act as a deterrent for future altercations.”

The legislation was crafted in response to incidents when two New Jersey Transit (NJT) employees were assaulted this past year. The Senate version, S-4071, passed unanimously Dec. 20 on a 39-0 vote. The Assembly version, A-6013, passed unanimously with a 76-0 vote on the same day.

While testifying as a proponent of the bills in both chambers, N.J. State Legislative Director Ron Sabol made it clear that it’s past time to toughen enforcement, especially after the on-the-job assaults by passengers on NJT employees.

“We thank legislators for their overwhelming support of this legislation,” Sabol said. “They’ve seen those heinous attacks on our members doing their jobs, stepped up and have done the right thing to protect transportation workers and the public.”

The bill upgrades the penalty for all assaults on a motorbus or autobus operator, the operator’s supervisor and a rail passenger employee. It also empowers NJT, motorbus companies and all rail passenger service providers to ban riders from their transportation services for up to one year if the person commits an assault on a motorbus operator, the operator’s supervisor or a rail passenger employee.

If a deadly weapon was used during the assault, the rider may be banned for life.

“It’s a great bill and could be a blueprint for other states,” National Legislative Director Greg Hynes said. “Congratulations to SLD Sabol and the New Jersey State Legislative Board for their outstanding work.”

Fundraiser established for family of late member of Local 1730

An online fundraiser has been established for the family of Local 1730 (Richmond, Calif.) member Charles F. “Chuck” Reiring, who passed away suddenly Dec. 14 at age 41.

Brother Charles F. “Chuck” Reiring passed away Dec. 14, 2021, at age 41. He is survived by his daughter, Dixie (pictured), his wife and son Charles III.

Brother Reiring joined our union in January 2018 and worked as a conductor for BNSF.

Fellow SMART-TD member Gary Brunt Jr. of Local 1544 (Maywood, Calif.) has established a memorial fund on GoFundMe in memory of Brother Reiring, with whom Brunt had trained when both hired on as BNSF conductors.

“There wasn’t a time he didn’t speak of how much he would want for his daughter, son, or wife, Angie to have. He will forever be remembered for his sacrifice, duty, and love for his family,” Brunt wrote.

Brother Reiring is survived by his wife of 18 years, Angie Vierra; his daughter, Dixie; and his son, Charles III.

Click here to visit the online fundraiser.

Member’s family hit hard by the effects of COVID-19

Michelle Mitchell

August 31st was a day that would forever change the lives of member David Mitchell (Local 937 in Mart, Texas) and his family. It was the day that he would come home with a diagnosis of COVID-19. By September 7, Mitchell’s wife, Michelle, would begin to show symptoms, and on September 13, she was hospitalized with severe COVID pneumonia. By Sept. 14, all four of the Mitchell kids had been diagnosed as well.  

Although David and his kids recovered quickly from COVID-19, Michelle did not. Her health continued to decline and on Oct. 5, she had to be intubated.  

“Oct. 6th after picking up my son from Timberview High School following an active shooter at his school, as if I wasn’t under enough stress already, I walked into my wife’s ICU room and touched her leg and her heart stopped,” David said. “Michelle was revived, and shortly after that her kidneys failed and her liver failed.” 

Although Michelle’s breathing slowly began to improve, other parts of her did not. The doctors took her off of sedation for three days, but she did not wake up. The doctors then decided to run a CT scan and MRI on both sides of her brain and discovered that Michelle had had multiple strokes on both sides. 

David reports that Michelle’s organs are back in working order and that she is recovering slowly. The strokes have caused left-side paralysis and her motor skills have been affected as well. Her largest hurdle is learning to walk again at the rehab facility. 

“She still is extremely weak and has paralysis on her left side and needs lots of rehab to get all of her motor skills back. And that’s a fight she’s ready to take on headfirst,” David said. 

Alternate Vice President and GCA-927 General Chairperson Scott Chelette, who brought Brother Mitchell’s situation to SMART-TD’s attention, has gotten together with local chairpersons to provide Christmas gifts for David’s children. 

“Brother Mitchell was especially appreciative of the fact that the International and the President’s office cared enough to want to help in any way they could. I explained to him that this is what an organization should do for each other, and he and every other member will see us getting back to that way of thinking,” Chelette said. 

Local 569 Local Chairperson Lawrence Perkins is collecting Christmas gifts for the family. Gifts can be mailed to Perkins at 412 Rocky Creek Drive, Mansfield, Texas, 76063-8800. Brother Mitchell has three boys — ages 6, 9, and 16; and one daughter, age 14. 

During this time, Brother Mitchell has been off work just trying to take care of his family. As a result, finances are tight with him not working, coupled with hospital and rehab bills. A GoFundMe has been set up by David to help the family during this difficult time. Click here to donate. 

Senate confirms Deidre Hamilton to NMB

The U.S. Senate in a 52-48 vote Dec. 7 confirmed labor attorney Deidre Hamilton to the National Mediation Board (NMB), shifting control of the the government body that facilitates labor-management relations in the aviation and rail industries to a 2-to-1 Democratic margin.

Hamilton

Nominated by President Joe Biden in April, Hamilton bring more than two decades of labor expertise to the NMB. She has significant experience before the federal courts and the NMB on a wide range of legal issues including union elections, mediation, contract enforcement, and major and minor dispute claims, and has amassed an in-depth knowledge of the Railway Labor Act. Her most recent experience has been in the legal department of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters where she began working with the Airline Division in 2014.

The two other current NMB members, Democrat Linda Puchala and Republican Gerald Fauth, were nominated to new four-year terms by Biden in July. Their nominations have not yet been considered by the Senate.

Two Republican senators crossed party lines to vote with the 50 Democrats to approve Hamilton’s nomination.