Archive for the ‘Bus Officer Columns’ Category

Our regional meeting workshops were a success

Morr, Bonnie.2011

Morr

By Bonnie Morr, Vice President, Bus – 

I was recently informed of the passing of one of our best bus vice presidents. Kenny Moore was the vice president that helped us at Local 23 to become part of this great organization. Kenny Moore was my mentor. He was active in Washington, D.C., and on the state and local levels on all issues pertaining to the Bus and Transit Departments. He was what every vice president should be. I am honored that I had the opportunity to know him. He will be missed, and I will never forget what he stood for. Rest in peace, Kenny Moore. Our condolences to his family.

I would like to thank all the people that attended the 2013 regional meetings. For those that were unable to attend, the Bus Department had a very unique set of presentations regarding the health and well-being of operator and transit workers.

In Boston, the presenters were from both the medical field and the Transportation Learning Center. They presented information on how our health is impacted by our work. Both Dr. June Fisher, M.D., and Robin Gillespie talked about the health issues so many of us are dealing with on a day-to-day basis: long hours sitting, the lack of restroom breaks, and the inability to access good food on the road. The discussions hit home for many of us.

In Anaheim, Dr. Fisher discussed health issues in transit and transportation, both here and around the world. Dr. Peter Schnall, along with Marnie Dobson, led an interactive workshop on stress in transit and its impact on our health. Amy Calvin and John Tatman from the Los Angeles MTA presented a wellness program that they created and discussed results of the program they have seen at the MTA in Los Angeles. These workshops had some of the best attendance by our brothers and sisters that I have seen in a long time. We had between 30 and 60 participants at workshops in Anaheim and about 25 in Boston.

President Mike Futhey came to our open bus workshop in Anaheim. He spoke with the bus members, answered their questions and spoke about the involvement of SMART in our Bus Department. It was an honor. We received updates from our members on what is happening on their properties and spoke about how we could get stronger. If anyone wants information from the workshops, please contact me and I will be more than happy to provide it. My email address is bmorr@smart-union.org.

Morr: The union voice allows us to be heard

Bonnie Morr

As I work with our members from around the country I hear about struggles that we are facing.

Whether it is discipline where our members may be losing their jobs, or a legislative issue that will impact our work, the union voice is there. 

All of us deal with negotiations. Some negotiations are for our labor agreements, some are with our supervisors about which job I will have that day. Some negotiations deal with our pay claims, but whatever the situation, we are always negotiating.

There is nothing better or stronger than the collective voice. We have seen that around the country as we fight for the rights of workers, health and safety issues and pensions.

I am thankful that we have the union voice to get our message out and to let our voices be heard. If we did not have the union voice, things would be a lot different. The people would not be heard and our needs would go unmet.

Because we have the union voice, we can negotiate for things such as better working conditions, raises and time off.

I get calls from our membership asking about how we can assist them in various situations with the resources we have.

With the union voice I can reach out to many different areas, both in our organization and to other unions and government agencies to get the answers our members need and deserve.

When we come together we have the union voice and we are all stronger.

Bus companies target sleep apnea

Calvin Studivant

By Calvin Studivant, 
Alternate Vice President, Bus –  

Sleep apnea is a serious ailment and certainly one that should not go untreated. But it also should not be used to discriminate against our members, which it appears some carriers are doing.

There are reports from some of our locals that their carriers are more likely to try and get some of our members who have greater body mass index (BMI) to go for sleep studies as opposed to our slimmer brothers and sisters. The carriers who are doing this are certainly practicing discrimination and we will not stand by and allow this practice to continue.

Here are a few of the risk factors for sleep apnea: having a small upper airway; having a large neck (usually more than 17 inches for men and 16 inches for women.) and smoking.

A few of the symptoms of sleep apnea are: loud snoring; gasping and/or choking while sleeping; irritability or depression, or excessive daytime sleepiness.

Federal law clearly states that if, while doing your physical exam, the medical examiner detects a respiratory problem, he can request a polysomnography (sleep study) which is the only accurate way to diagnose sleep apnea and its severity.

In the event that you are diagnosed with sleep apnea, the following are treatment options: Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP), which means wearing a mask over the nose during sleep so air pressure will keep the throat from collapsing; oral appliances, or devices that open the airway by bringing the lower jaw and tongue forward; surgery, which involves some risk.

Another important note is that states sets their own regulations when it pertains to sleep apnea. Each state has its own authority to suspend a commercial drivers license if the holder has sleep apnea. There are three levels of sleep apnea: mild, moderate or severe, and you must have moderate to severe to be disqualified.

I hope this answers some of your questions regarding this dreadful ailment. If more information is needed, we at the UTU are always ready to assist our membership.

Transit friend to head Senate Budget Committee

By Bonnie Morr
Vice President, Bus Department – 

Sen. Patty Murray, a Democrat from Washington State, is the new chairperson of the Senate Budget Committee, which makes decisions on how much of the annual federal budget is available for transit.

As chairperson, Sen. Murray will set the agenda and tone of Senate Budget Committee hearings and have substantial influence on committee’s Democratic majority.

We know Sen. Murray as a strong proponent of transportation investments, and a friend of organized labor. One Capitol Hill insider commented that being committee chairperson “will put her in a very powerful position to craft the entire federal budget.” A veteran Seattle transportation journalist said Sen. Murray has a 20-year history in the Senate of supporting federal transportation appropriations for local transportation projects.

Sen. Murray has consistently won endorsements from the UTU, and National Legislative Director James Stem and Alternate National Legislative Director John Risch have a close working relationship with her and her senior staff.

In this era of tight federal budgets and assaults on transit funding by conservative lawmakers, we will depend on labor friendly and transit friendly lawmakers such as Sen. Murray to defend and advance funding for local, state, regional and national transit funding.

November elections increased the number of labor-friendly members of the Senate and the House, and much of the credit goes to UTU members who contributed to the UTU PAC and who participated in get-out-the-vote drives nationwide.

Transit jobs, retirement at stake Election Day

Conservative Republicans Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are committed to repealing the Affordable Care Act.

Conservative Republicans also are committed to privatizing Social Security and turning Medicare into a voucher program with more costs coming out of retirees’ pockets. By contrast, President Obama is committed to preserving Social Security and Medicare as we know it.

When it comes to collective bargaining rights, conservative Republicans Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have publicly congratulated the conservative Republican governors of Wisconsin and Ohio who pushed to curtail and eliminate those rights – especially for public employees. Contrast that attack on collective bargaining rights with the Democratic Party platform position, which is also the Obama/Biden position:  

“Democrats believe that the right to organize and collectively bargain is a fundamental American value; every American should have a voice on the job and a chance to negotiate for a fair day’s pay after a hard day’s work. We will continue to fight for the right of all workers to organize and join a union.”

We in the transit industry have held our own in these difficult economic times because the Obama administration and our labor-friendly allies in Congress – labor-friendly Republicans as well as Democrats — fought to preserve transit funding. We know what would happen to transit funding if conservative Republicans control the White House and Congress, as they have made clear they would reduce transit funding.

Had conservative Republicans been the majority in the Senate as well as the House, many of our bus operations would have been privatized, our collective bargaining rights would have been curtailed, and our wages, benefits and work rules would be in jeopardy.

All brothers and sisters in organized labor face attack by conservative Republicans. On Election Day, we must take the time and effort to cast our ballots – and encourage others to cast their ballots – to return President Obama and Vice President Biden to the White House and cast ballots for the labor-friendly candidates. A listing of labor friendly candidates is provided by clicking the following link and scrolling down to “Congressional endorsements”:

https://smart-union.org/news/vote-on-november/

This election is about saving our middle class. Let us stand strong against those corporate-backed candidates who want to destroy labor unions and curtail worker collective bargaining rights. Our job security, pay checks, health care and retirement are at stake.

Regional meeting workshops improved skills

<img class="alignleft size-full wp-image-13182" style="margin-top: 4px; margin-bottom: 4px; margin-left: 12px; margin-right: 12px; border-width: 1px; border-color: black; border-style: solid;" title="Morr, Bonnie.2011" src="http://utu.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/Mor How Do I Make My Ex Want Me Back After I Broke Up With Her r-Bonnie.2011.jpg” alt=”” width=”150″ height=”150″ />By Bonnie Morr
Vice President – Bus Department

The UTU regional  meetings in Portland, Ore., and Memphis, Tenn., provided hands-on workshops – led by experts from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS) — designed to improve skills of members and officers in pursing grievances where members’ rights have been violated.

Experts from the NLRB summarized and explained federal labor law, including the process for filing unfair labor practices complaints and governance of union representation elections under the National Labor Relations Act.

FMCS mediator Connie Weimer led workshops in the process of mediation and development of mediation skills – especially how to get to a “yes” and past a “no” at the bargaining table. Included was an interactive presentation on protecting the rights of the collective bargaining process and the importance of labor unions in the workplace.

A mock negotiating session was provided in Memphis by FMCS mediator Luther Bennet, with members in attendance playing the role of management. Needless to say, we were brutal as managers, which helped participants better understand the dynamics of negotiations.

One of the most well-attended sessions was led by attorney Steve Young and arbitrator Frank Quinn. A Power Point presentation is available that I will send to members via e-mail upon request. My e-mail address is at the top of this column.

The value of workshops at regional meetings cannot be overemphasized, and it is not too early to begin making plans to attend one of the 2013 regional meetings – in Boston, July 1-3, and Anaheim, Calif., July 29-31. Details and registration information will become available early in 2013.

As Election Day approaches, it is important for members and their families to be registered to vote and to vote. At the UTU home page at www.utu.org that is a box titled, Are You Registered? Clicking on that box takes you to an interactive page where you and family members can verify that your voter registration is current. If it isn’t, you can register to vote at that site. You may use that site to register to vote via absentee ballot.

The October issue of the UTU News will contain a listing of congressional candidates, by state, identified as labor friendly.

How Do I Make My Ex Want Me Back After I Broke Up With Her

Rails created early bus lines

By Calvin Studivant, 
Alternate Vice President, Bus Department – 

The relationship between railroads and bus companies has a long history not known by many UTU members.

Beginning in the early part of the 20th century, railroads began acquiring or creating infant bus lines to extend their passenger networks to where rails didn’t reach.

In 1926, Great Northern Railway (now part of BNSF) acquired control of a Minnesota bus line that had begun earlier in Hibbing with a seven-passenger Hupmobile whose capacity was actually 18 as passengers often stood on running boards and sat on fenders.

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority bus operation, where the UTU represents workers, traces its origin to early bus operations of Southern Pacific (now part of Union Pacific) and its former Pacific Electric subsidiary. 

In fact, the formation of the Greyhound and Trailways brands began with railroad ownership:

* Baltimore & Ohio (now part of CSX) operated West Virginia Transportation, which became a Greyhound brand.

* Great Northern (now part of BNSF) operated Northland Greyhound.

* New York Central (now part of CSX) operated Central Greyhound.

* New York, New Haven & Hartford (later part of Conrail, which was split between CSX and Norfolk Southern) operated New England Greyhound.

* Pennsylvania Railroad (now part of Norfolk Southern) operated Pennsylvania Greyhound.

* Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac (now part of CSX) operated Richmond Greyhound.

* St. Louis Southwestern (now part of Union Pacific) operated Southwestern Greyhound.

* Southern Pacific (now part of Union Pacific) operated Pacific Greyhound.

* Union Pacific operated Union Pacific Stages, which became Overland Greyhound.

As the Greyhound system grew, other railroads — Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe, Chicago Burlington & Quincy, and St. Louis-San Francisco (all now both part of BNSF); and Denver & Rio Grande Western (now part of Union Pacific) – created the National Trailways System as a competitor to Greyhound.

By the 1960s, railroads had sold off their interests in bus lines.

However, when railroads turned over their rail-passenger operations to the federally owned Amtrak, Amtrak became a partner with many bus lines across the nation. Today, many Amtrak tickets include onward transportation via bus from Amtrak stations to cities not on the Amtrak route system.

And in some cities, publicly owned transportation companies now operate bus and commuter rail service, such as the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, where the UTU has representation on the railroad and a portion of the bus/trolley operation outside Philadelphia.

Bus locals respond to survey

By Bonnie Morr
Vice President, Bus Department

Many of our bus locals have responded to a survey focusing on the health conditions of bus operators. This is a very important step in identifying some of the health issues that we face while on the job.

The Transit Bus Operator Workplace Health and Wellness Survey, sponsored by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), is an effort to understand health, safety and wellness issues faced by bus operators, and to learn how employers and labor unions are addressing these challenges.

Also responding to the survey were more than 200 transit companies.

Specifically, the survey sought responses on:

* The current state of bus operator health and wellness.

* Health promotion programs and policies.

* The union local’s perspectives on bus operator wellness and workplace health promotion programs, policies and activities.

* Identification of who does what to contribute to bus operator health promotion.

* Opinions on how health promotion and wellness affect the work environment, driver retention and transit operations.

All information gathered in this survey will remain confidential, and the results will not indicate specific locals, employers or employees.

What are these conservative lawmakers thinking?

By Calvin Studivant
Alternate Vice President, Bus Department

When reading about the conservatives’ attack on mass transit in the House of Representatives, all I can ask is, “What are they thinking?”

With gas prices rising to record levels, even low-wage workers who own an automobile can’t afford to drive to work; and for the millions of low-wage workers without an automobile, their only means of going to and from their jobs is by mass transit.

Yet mean-spirited conservatives in the House of Representatives are pushing legislation that would scale back federal funding for mass transit. Moreover, they want to prevent transit systems from using a portion of the federal funds they do receive — and which previously were earmarked for new equipment — for retention of curtailed service that would bring furloughed employees back to work.

Equally mean-spirited is legislation encouraging transit-system privatization, which would open the door for non-union operators eager to pay substandard wages and eliminate employee health care insurance and other benefits.

One conservative lawmaker is seeking to remove any requirement for shuttle-van operators whose vehicles cross state lines from paying even minimum wage or overtime. We can be sure that if this provision is enacted into law, an effort would follow to apply the legislation to bus and transit operators.

Congratulations go to the UTU’s District of Columbia Legislative Director Willie Bates, a member of an Obama administration Transit Rail Advisory Committee , who is working to draft language creating standardized federal safety regulations for transit system nationwide – an effort staunchly opposed by congressional conservatives.

Never in my career have I witnessed such mean-spiritedness by members of Congress. Our National Legislative Office is working diligently to educate more moderate Republicans on the potential danger to public safety and the economic well-being of working families from these harmful legislative attempts.

Each of us has an obligation to help in this effort, by encouraging our coworkers, families and friends to register to vote and vote in November in favor of labor-friendly candidates. UTU members also can make a difference by joining the UTU PAC, or increasing our donations to the UTU PAC. 

We must make our voices heard on Capitol Hill – for the sake of our jobs, our economic security and the millions of Americans who depend on public transportation to take them to and from work.

Big pride in bus, transit victories

Morr

By Bonnie Morr
Vice President, Bus Department

The UTU has gained a new First Transit property in Farmington, N.M., which is now in Local 1687 out of Albuquerque. Contract negotiations have begun.

We also are in the initial stages of organizing some 200 workers on a transit property and a light rail property in Southern California.

I am currently assisting Local 1741, whose members are employed by First Student in San Francisco as they prepare for two arbitrations, including a discipline issue and a workers’ compensation issue. In both cases we are seeking reinstatement of the members.

With assistance from the International Law Department, we recently completed a trial at the National Labor Relations Board over an unfair labor practice at a UTU property in Riverside, Calif., which had been closed without holding negotiations.

We are seeking from the NLRB a severance package for the 135 members who lost their jobs. Final briefs are due in mid-February.

Alternate Vice President Calvin Studivant has been working with Waverly Harris, general chairperson at Local 1574 (Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority) on numerous grievances where they have settled seven of 10 without having to go to arbitration.

At Local 1715, which represents drivers employed by Charlotte Area Transit System, a driver was reinstated with full back pay after Calvin Studivant defended the driver in arbitration.

In Washington, we are facing a battle with legislation introduced by the House Republican majority attacking transit operating assistance and pushing for privatization that would permit foreign-based operators to enter the U.S. market and access federal transit aid.

This legislation also attacks 13(C) protections of the Federal Transit Act that we worked so hard to protect. They require continuation of collective bargaining rights, and protection of transit employees’ wages, working conditions, pension benefits, seniority, vacation, sick and personal leave, and other conditions of employment, as well as paid training or retraining, when federal funds are used to take over a transit operation.

The UTU National Legislative Office and other transit unions are working to halt this attack, and donations to the UTU PAC will provide additional assistance in this election year.

MLK advocated economic opportunity, trade unions

By Calvin Studivant
Alternate Vice President, Bus Department

As we follow the demonstrations of the 99 percent against the greed and wealth of America’s
top one percent, I am reminded of a 1967 speech by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in which Dr. King advocated a transformation “from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society.”

Each day jobs are exported from our shores, layoffs are announced, health care insurance is cancelled or scaled back, and pension plans are eliminated, I feel the pain of the millions of fellow Americans who are fit, willing and able to work, yet unable to find jobs — or, if they do, cannot earn enough to support a family, much less afford adequate medical care. They, and we, are rightfully angry when corporate profits become the most important objective.

Unemployment numbers hardly reflect the full pain in America, because unemployment numbers do not reflect the millions more who, after years of searching for a job, simply gave up looking, or the millions more in part-time employment without benefits because they are unable to find full-time jobs.

How much more painful it is to realize that employers, emboldened by the worker pain of our times, are using economic hardship to frighten those with jobs against voting “union, yes” in the workplace.

In Congress, we see lawmakers more interested in protecting tax breaks for the very wealthy than passing stimulus measures to put Americans back to work; and proposing legislation making it more difficult to join labor unions.

It is unconscionable that Congress eliminated funding for high-speed rail construction that could relieve the intolerable congestion at airports and on highways and create thousands of new jobs.

It is equally unconscionable that Congress resists requests for more flexible transit funding to allow a shift in budgets from buying new equipment to using some of those funds to retain and expand existing service that would end transit system layoffs.

As we celebrate Dr. King’s legacy this month, let us realize that he advocated not only racial harmony, but economic opportunity and trade unionism.

In response to anti-union politicians and employers, Dr. King preached: “In our glorious fight for civil rights, we must guard against being fooled by false slogans, as ‘right-to-work.’ It provides no ‘rights’ and no ‘works.’ Its purpose is to destroy labor unions and the freedom of collective bargaining. We demand this fraud be stopped.”

As we approach Election Day this November, let us unite in support of labor-friendly candidates. Let us support our UTU Collective Bargaining Defense Fund and our UTU PAC. Let us do this in the non-violent but aggressive spirit of Dr. King.

The strength of working families today is at the ballot box. There is so much at stake, for ourselves, for our families and for the millions of Americans seeking a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work. United in solidarity we can make a difference with our votes. There is  no better, more productive and more effective way to honor Dr. King’s legacy.

Driving a bus ‘a potent stress cocktail’

By Bonnie Morr
Alternate Vice President – Bus Department

Operating a bus may be the most stressful job in America.

Early in November, 100 Detroit bus operators walked off the job after repeated passenger assaults. In New York, a study found a pattern of physical and verbal assaults on drivers.

Add to the fear of being assaulted the long hours spent in congested traffic and passengers interfering with bus operation with repeated questions and complaints, and one shouldn’t be surprised that the mental toll on drivers is significant. An article in Slate calls it “a potent stress cocktail.”

Driving a bus, according to The Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, is “a high stress occupation.” One psychologist said bus drivers face two unacceptable choices: Make the schedule by driving recklessly, or drive safely and irritate passengers who are too often likely to assault or otherwise abuse the driver.

And it’s not just city buses. The number of physical and verbal assaults on school bus operators has been increasing.

Increasingly, bus operators suffer from high blood pressure, heart disease, sleep apnea and gastrointestinal disorders traceable to job stress.

As cash-strapped transit agencies reduce service and raise fares, the pressures on drivers is only going to increase.

While lawmakers and regulators frequently focus on improved safety standards for bus manufacture, cell phone bans, and tougher qualifications for bus operators, they too often ignore management pressure to adhere to schedules, overtime demands and a refusal to install bus-operator safety shields.

These are issues we continue to make known to lawmakers and regulators, and we will continue doing so until acceptable legislation and regulations are imposed.

A bill now before Congress, the Local Flexibility for Transit Assistance Act (H.R. 3200), introduced by Rep. Russ Carnahan (D-Mo.) and Steve LaTourette (R-Ohio), is a step in the right direction. It would allow local transit systems in areas with more than 7 percent unemployment or substantially higher gasoline prices to gain access to federal funds to maintain service and return furloughed employees to work.

The UTU will continue to keep lawmakers informed on problems faced daily by bus operators, while the UTU PAC will continue to support candidates who demonstrate an understanding of our problems and a determination to take legislative action to solve the problems.