Archive for the ‘Bus Officer Columns’ Category

Now Is the Time

We are one month out from election day. Now is the time to get involved. Visit www.SMARTVote2016.org to sign up or text SMART to 90975 (message and data rates may apply).  Click on image to play the video.

 

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Working in a right-to-work state

Hughes

Hughes

Almost half of states in the United States today are right to work states. ‘Right to work’ is a statute or law that prohibits union security agreements between labor unions and employers. These laws govern the extent to which an established union cannot require an employee’s membership, payment of union dues or fees as a condition of employment either before or after hiring.

The Taft-Hartley Act created a law for this provision. It supersedes, but continues most of the provisions of the NLRB (National Labor Relation Board). In addition, it provides for an 80-day injunction against strikes that endanger public health and safety, and bans closed shops, secondary boycotts, jurisdictional strikes and certain other union practices. Since 2000, four states have become a ‘Right to work’ state.

These laws represent challenges for unions to promote the welfare of their members and workers in general. Some of our bus locals operate under these laws, which can make our work more difficult, but not impossible.

Organizing and representing our current and new membership is a common goal that we all can share in our locals. We should organize on a regular basis. As an officer, organizing can be an asset to the local’s membership. Keeping organizing at the forefront of membership makes everyone a part of the team.

Representation is critical. Let’s know our agreement and be prompt with answers to membership questions. As members, let’s talk about the importance of your union, (what it provides, working conditions, safety and what it has done for you). Be involved by attending union meetings and union functions that the locals may have. Encourage your brothers and sisters to attend as well. And most importantly, ask questions.

Some locals have adopted new-employee orientations. This gives employees a first-hand opportunity to meet their local representatives and for them to interpret the current collective bargaining agreement (CBA). Additionally, it gives representatives an opportunity to explain how the union works in an employee’s best interest.

Together, we are powerful with greater and engaged membership!

Treat members alike, represent the interests of all

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Studivant

By Calvin Studivant, 
Vice President – Bus – 

On behalf of the Smart Transportation Division officers, and especially the officers of the Bus Department, I would like to wish all of our members and their loved ones a safe, healthy and prosperous 2015.

Now that the elections for local officers are behind us, I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate all those who were successful in being elected to their new positions. I ask that they keep in mind that fair representation of their fellow brothers and sisters is the goal. Treat all members alike and strive to represent the interests of all. Attend all union meetings and encourage your fellow members to do likewise.

Also, my congratulations go out to all incumbent officers who won re-election. I trust they were re-elected to their positions on the merits of their service to their members.

Please know that we at the SMART International and Transportation Division offices stand ready to assist with the training of new officers, so that we can continue to provide our members with the best possible representation. We also stand ready to help our brothers and sisters with any labor disputes that they may be experiencing on their respective properties. We welcome your inquiries.

Both Bus Vice President Adhi Reddy and myself are committed to securing good labor agreements for our members and we will stop at nothing to ensure that our members are protected in the workplace.

We have attended meetings along with other unions and carriers to try to find the best means to eliminate assaults on bus operators and to also ensure that those who commit these assaults are punished severely.

The road ahead may be filled with potholes, but we will work with our Legislative Department in Washington to make sure our members’ voices are heard.

While our union’s Bus Department membership continues to grow, we must continue to be proactive and diligent in making it the strongest and most progressive union of all.

Please continue being the best drivers on the roads for your own safety, the safety of your passengers and that of the general public.

Officers are here to help, membership comes first

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Reddy

By Adhi Reddy, 
Transportation Division Vice President – Bus – 

The year 2015 is a special one for our organization because we left our First SMART Convention as a united membership. Together, with one voice, we are a stronger body throughout the nation.

All of our newly elected representatives from the 2014 conventions have now taken office and I congratulate each of them on their elections. I also ask each of them to always do what is best for the membership. Most of our local elections, and some of our general committee of adjustment elections, have been completed. To the officers that have been elected or re-elected, congratulations.

As officers, we must always remember to do what is the best for our membership. Not only are we officers, but we are the membership as well. So, we must always think like a member first, then as an officer. Our decisions should be in the best interest of all. Also, don’t be afraid to ask others for advice if you are struggling with a decision.

We, your vice presidents, are only a request away from visiting your property. Your general chairperson or your local president may send a request to our Transportation Division president so that we can assist you in a variety of issues, including preparing contract proposals, negotiations, arbitrations and grievances. Remember, your Transportation Division officers are here to help.

We are currently working on guidelines to reduce dues for members in locals where earnings are reduced and hours may not be 40 per week. I will keep you updated about this effort.

On the local level, many of us may not pay much attention to our Legislative Department, which plays a major role in lawmaking efforts. I ask you to pay attention to their efforts and support them, on the state level and the national level, up to the White House. Please see your treasurer to enroll in UTU PAC, an investment in our future.

In many workplaces, discipline policies are getting tougher and tougher to follow, with new managers straight out of college, that never worked the jobs many of us do. If you are experiencing this issue, please talk to your local chairperson as soon as possible.

Happy New Year and God bless.

Winter is here, so let’s be safe out there

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Hughes

By Alvy Hughes, 
Alternate Vice President – 

Although winter hasn’t arrived yet, many states have already seen winter conditions and record snowfall. It’s that time of the year that U.S. roads and highways can be hazardous for transportation.

According to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), more than 70 percent of the nation’s roads are located in snowy regions that receive more than five inches of average snowfall annually. Nearly 70 percent of the U.S. population lives in these snowy regions.

These conditions can be especially difficult for bus operators, as many people depend on us to get them to their destinations safely and on time.

We need to be extra cautious and prepared this season. Here are a few preventive measures you should practice to keep you and your passengers safe.

  • Facility lots and walk areas may be in horrible condition due to weather. Watch for slick spots – especially ice – when approaching your bus. Always take the safest path.
  • Make sure to do proper pre-trips. Checking tires, defroster, wiper blades, mirrors, lights and heating system are especially important in winter. If you discover any issues during your pre-trip, please write it up and report it to the proper company personnel. If your issues aren’t addressed, please contact your local union legislative representative.
  • Many companies have a “no idling” policy to save on fuel, but it’s very important that you take some time to warm-up your vehicle.
  • Be aware of the conditions around you at all times and remember that the posted speed limits are for normal road conditions.
  • Enhanced driving skills, alertness and reaction time are needed in wintry conditions. (Bridges freeze first, and many exit ramps can be challenging due to the fact they may receive less attention than main roads.)
  • Watch out for pedestrians.
  • Always buckle your seat belt.

Our main goal is to be safe. All operators should have buses that are equipped with the necessities to handle the winter weather. Make sure that you put yourself and your passengers in the safest position at all times.

Sleep apnea should not cost operators jobs or pay

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Studivant

Operators employed in the transit industry continue to experience difficult times in relation to obstructive sleep apnea, a potentially serious sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts during sleep.

Several types of sleep apnea exist, but the most common type is obstructive sleep apnea, which occurs when throat muscles intermittently relax and block your airway during sleep. The most noticeable sign of obstructive sleep apnea is snoring.

The National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Transit Administration have identified fatigue and undiagnosed sleep apnea as high-risk vulnerabilities for transit operators, and as an element of probable cause for numerous transit accidents.

In 2013, Congress enacted a law prohibiting the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration from implementing or enforcing requirements relating to sleep disorders unless adopted by a rule-making proceeding. However, it did not apply to any requirement in force before Sept. 1, 2013, at which time there were guidelines for screening and testing.

Many questions remain unanswered because it seems carrier medical review officers (MRO) are making determinations on employees based on their beliefs, as opposed to actual physical examinations. The only way a respiratory problem can be detected is through a sleep study and an MRO should request a sleep study if he or she believes there is a problem.

There is also the issue of the costs of medical examinations and who is responsible for payment. Physical examinations required by carriers based on Department of Transportation regulations should be paid for by the carrier. Also, a sleep study is no excuse for an operator to be put out of service.

We must seek a resolution to this problem and stand together, shoulder to shoulder, to ensure our members are not being put out of service and to ensure that the carriers assume the cost of any sleep studies performed.

After a sleep study is completed and the diagnosis is indeed sleep apnea, there are treatment options, including continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines, dental devices and surgical options.

As more information becomes available concerning this disorder and DOT guidelines, we will make sure that all of our members are well informed.

 

Thank you for your support, I am here to assist you

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Reddy

To each and every delegate of the SMART Transportation Division, I would like to thank you for electing me to the position of vice president of SMART’s bus department.

My request to all SMART members is to please work with all of your newly elected officers at all levels of the organization. Keep all of your officers informed regarding the issues you face on a daily basis so they can bring your issues to the table and together, we can get the best deals for our membership.

As a local officer, I was not only a member of this organization, but I also worked for the membership. I was, and remain, a middleman between our individual members and our entire SMART organization. I am here to serve.

We have a very powerful organization in SMART, with more than 130,000 active and retired Transportation Division members. We must continue to work together with our brothers and sisters – for our brothers and sisters – to keep our union strong. We – your officers – are ready to work for you if only you allow us to do so.

Knowledge is power. I ask each of you to try to attend all of your local meetings to stay informed and to educate yourself about your agreements and your fellow members. There are a lot of federal and state rules and regulations in the transportation industry, along with workplace policies. Change is happening all the time, so try your best to keep up with changes that affect you. It is easier to follow the rules by knowing them in advance than learning about them after you have been disciplined.

In our business, time limits are very important. If you feel your contract has been violated, contact your local officers immediately, or leave a note in the union mailbox. I have seen, too many times, members waiting too long to notify their local officers of violations and losing cases because they were not filed in a timely manner.

My telephone number is (216) 287-9324 and my email address is areddy@smart-union.org. I am here to assist you.

The holidays will be here before we know it, so I wish all of you and your families a very happy holiday season. Be “SMART” and be union! I hope to see all of you soon.

 

We must understand the meaning of solidarity

Morr, Bonnie.2011

Morr

By Bonnie Morr, 
Vice President, Bus – 

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines solidarity as a feeling of unity between people who have the same community of interests or goals based on certain objectives and standards. Is this not what our union, and all of organized labor around the world, is truly about?

The term “solidarity” became well-known in the early 1980s from a Polish shipyard-workers trade union, under the leadership of Lech Walesa. It grew into an anti-bureaucratic social movement, using methods of civil resistance to advance the causes of workers’ rights and social change.

Nearly 35 years later, solidarity is what we need more of today.

It is important that all of our union brothers and sisters understand the meaning of solidarity.

Think of solidarity as all of our working families and our future working families standing in unity for the protection of all working families. This applies to not only our fellow SMART members, but workers of all crafts in all labor unions.

As members of a union, we know the benefits of a union contract. Or do we? Do you think your employer provides you with the benefits you and your family have out of the goodness of his or her heart?

Those wages and benefits came about from our predecessors standing tall and strong in the face of adversity, and we must continue that stand.

We must remain active in protecting ourselves and our families from the assaults of groups and corporations that are trying to downsize us. We must stand together to support the team and be part of the team.

A recent article on the SMART Transportation Division website entitled “More Americans see middle class status slipping” notes that many Americans’ sense of belonging to the middle class is that they are no longer part of it.

Your union officers are working hard for you and are trying to do the best they can. They need you and they need your support. Stand together. Stand strong. Solidarity!

Send message to our politicians: ‘Improve our wages’

Morr, Bonnie.2011

Morr

By Bonnie Morr, 
Vice President, Bus – 

As I travel around the country working on grievances, arbitrations, negotiations and labor agreements, as well as the health and well-being of our locals and our members, one underlying issue is always present: wages.

Our wages are not keeping up with what our lives and our families’ livesare costing us. Food prices are up, the cost of milk is up, and gasoline and energy prices continue to rise.

But why are we losing our standard of living? Why am I shopping for food in Target? What happened to fresh food from our local grocery store? Why do I turn my heater down and wear a jacket in the house now? Why are energy companies seeing the highest profits that they have ever seen? Why is it costing so much more to do less than what I was doing 10 years ago?

Since 1997, according to the Economic Policy Institute, 100 percent of the wage growth in the American economy has gone to the top 10 percent of the income structure. The bottom 90 percent has seen income decline, adjusted for inflation. As the rich get richer, the working class continues to struggle. Economic inequality did not just happen accidentally or by an act of God.

At the AFL-CIO Executive Council meeting in Houston, I was told it is the predictable result of decisions made by people with power over the past generation. The key decision, the AFL-CIO says, was to use the power of government to help corporate America push down wages by destroying workers’ collective bargaining power. Those decisions can be reversed.

In Houston, I was told working people have the opportunity to shape the national conversation on this issue in ways that would really help workers win real economic improvements and build a true working class movement.

The AFL-CIO says the purpose of the labor movement is to give voice to working people, so we can improve our lives. All too often, people do not realize that they are voting against their own best interests. It is important that we work together, now, to spread the word. Support the union movement by joining together with a strong message to all our politicians: “Improve our wages!”

Morr: Stop privatization, keep our tax dollars here

Morr, Bonnie.2011

Morr

By Bonnie Morr, 
Vice President, Bus – 

In December, I attended a school bus summit in Washington hosted by the Transportation Trades Department of the AFL-CIO. Though the topics of discussion centered around school bus issues, many were pertinent to our global bus community.

Whether we are operating a tour bus, transit bus, school bus, van or shuttle, we are dealing with the same types of management and the same problems, concerns and health issues.

The one topic that really stirs my gut has to do with the practice of privatization. Privatization involves handing over control of public functions to private companies. The government pays a contractor to provide public services. Often, the contractors are foreign entities. Our tax dollars, that are used to fund public transit – rail or bus – that fund school bus systems and special-service transportation, are now going offshore. These contractors are running operations here and are doing it for a profit. How are they making a profit? Off of the backs of labor – by cutting wages and benefits. That’s how.

Our own tax dollars are being used to cheapen our labor, lowering the standard of living for our families and causing harm to our future and the futures of our sons and daughters. This is wrong – very wrong. We must have legislation that compels any company receiving one cent of public money to protect the employees and their families by providing decent wages and health benefits. And when they make a profit, so should the worker. Not one tax dollar should be used against the people that pay the taxes.

Through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Congress and the Obama Administration have provided transit agencies with opportunities to replace and expand vehicle fleets, restore and modernize aging infrastructure, and engage in procurements that had been deferred or cancelled due to the current economic situation. The goal of that act was to ensure that these purchases “preserve and create jobs and promote economic recovery.” Let’s apply the same principle to our service jobs and keep our tax dollars from going overseas. Let’s stop outsourcing our service jobs to foreign companies. It is time for our legislators to get to work on what is in the best interest of the American people.

Addition of new members brings additional responsibility

Calvin Studivant

Calvin Studivant

I hope this edition of the SMART Transportation Division News finds that all our members enjoyed a safe and happy holiday season.

The SMART TD has been successful in recent organizing campaigns, adding new members to our union in general, and the bus department in particular. With the addition of new members comes the task of getting good work agreements. I will work with the Bus Department to do just that.

When comparing our labor agreements with other organizations, I am proud to say the SMART TD has secured some of the very best agreements in the bus industry. We represent the finest operators on the roads today and with their help, we were able to secure those agreements. With the Republican Party’s continued assault on organized labor, now is the time for us to stand strong and deliver.

I want to thank our legislative officers in Washington, D.C., for staying abreast of the ever-changing regulations from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and for providing us with the necessary tools to make sure our members are some of the most well informed operators in our industry. I also want to thank the SMART TD leadership for providing the same.

With their support, now is the time to make this bus department bigger and stronger than ever. To achieve this goal, we must work harder and be wiser in getting our message out to our members. We will stand side by side and not be bullied by anyone trying to undermine the important contributions we make to the communities we serve.

I am proud to congratulate the entire negotiating committee of Local 1715 in Charlotte, N.C., where our membership recently ratified a new three-year agreement.

I am also proud to welcome the operators of First Transit in New Brunswick, N.J., who by more than a 90 percent margin, voted to join our bus family.

Brothers and sisters, thank you for all that you do to keep this union strong. It is you, the membership, whom we all serve.

AFL-CIO convention addressed issues that affect us

Morr, Bonnie.2011

Morr

By Bonnie Morr, 
Vice President, Bus – 

The AFL-CIO held its convention from Sept. 8-11, 2013. The International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers had a large delegation in attendance from both the Transportation Division and the Sheet Metal Division.

During the convention, many resolutions were passed, some of which will have a tremendous impact on our membership. One of the most important resolutions had to do with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), which will have an impact on the medical insurance coverage of many of our members.

Many of us negotiate our medical insurance directly with our employer. Our negotiations take into consideration the costs of the health care coverage, as well as the benefits these packages provide. Within the ACA, certain benefits have been set at lower levels than some of us currently have. The annual cap may be better, but the levels of coverage may be less.

General President Joe Nigro addressed the leadership and the entire delegation of the AFL-CIO, stating that what we want is the protection of every worker, their families and the Taft-Hartley Trusts. Following a standing ovation, the AFL-CIO National Convention Sept. 11 debated and passed two health care resolutions, one calling for a universal, single-payer health care system and another protecting and expanding Medicare benefits under the Affordable Care Act.

One amendment passed that should have an important impact for SMART members calls for AFL-CIO unions to cease raiding the membership of other affiliated unions. This was an actual amendment to the AFL-CIO Constitution. Other issues addressed included workers’ rights, raising wages, improving retirement security and expanding protection of our collective bargaining rights. Delegates also voted unanimously to protect 13(c) provisions that protect the right to negotiate all areas subject to one’s working relationship with an employer and protect wages and benefits when work is transferred to new employers.

Let’s all continue to work together to build a stronger labor force.