The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) posted its 2021 drug and alcohol testing rates in the Federal Register Nov. 24. According to the notice, the minimum random drug testing rate will remain at 50%, while the random alcohol testing rate will remain at 10% for the year. The notice applies to employers subject to 49 CFR part 655. The rates are effective January 1, 2021.
Archive for the ‘Bus news’ Category
SMART representatives had a front-row seat as Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden spoke Oct. 24 at Bristol Community College in Bristol, Pa.
SMART-TD New Jersey State Legislative Director Ron Sabol and Gregg Weaver, a retired TD Local 838 member and former Local 1390 officer who served as a conductor for many Amtrak rides taken by Biden, were in the front row at the “drive-in” rally that was broadcast live on CNN from the town outside Philadelphia.
“What we heard from Joe Biden today was a concrete plan,” Sabol said. “He has a strategy to address the virus. He has a plan to repair the economy. He has ideas and has a strategy to make things better going forward with a focus on transportation and infrastructure.”
Weaver, who worked the rails on both the passenger and freight side with Conrail for 42 years, said Biden has proven his concern for the working people. Weaver’s son, Blake, a Local 838 member, followed in his father’s path and has been an Amtrak conductor for more than 16 years.
“Everybody wants to talk to him (Joe Biden) after the speech – there were politicians, the big-money donors who have millions,” Weaver said. “He didn’t go after the big donors. He picked a blue-collar working man to come talk to him. He has time for us.”
Biden addressed the COVID pandemic at the outset, mentioning that the country had set a record for daily cases with more than 80,000. The Biden campaign has observed social-distancing and mask protocols at its rallies to avoid the transmission of COVID-19. Most of the attendees participated in the rally from their cars, honking their horns in unison to show appreciation during the speech.
“I will shut down the virus, not the economy,” Biden said. “We can build back better.”
With just days until Election Day, Biden’s speech touched upon a number of union-related issues, such as infrastructure, the gigantic $1.5 trillion corporate tax cuts in late 2017 that remain the signature legislative accomplishment of the current administration and the worsening COVID-19 pandemic.
“This guy’s not on the level. He thinks Wall Street built thus country,” Biden said. “You and I know who built this country … working people built it — the middle class, and unions built the middle class.”
In the April 2018 SMART Transportation Division News reported how Class I rail carriers reaped great benefits from those Republican tax cuts.
Union Pacific (UP) received a $5.8 billion boost. CSX saved $3.6 billion, Norfolk Southern (NS) about $3.48 billion and Kansas City Southern (KCS) $488 million. BNSF, a Berkshire Hathaway subsidiary, reported in its Form 10-K filing to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission that it received a tax benefit of $7.4 billion. Savings for the two Canadian-based Class I railroads also increased, reported at $1.4 billion (U.S.) for Canadian National (CN) and about $406 million (U.S.) for Canadian Pacific.
“Vice President Biden understands where working people are coming from. He’s been there. He knows what kind of struggle the working people of country are going through,” Sabol said. “With Biden, SMART members, labor and the middle class will absolutely have a seat at the table.”
Today, thousands of SMART members and other unionized essential frontline employees still are waiting for additional assistance and protections that are being blocked by the Republican-controlled Senate. For others, enhanced unemployment and sickness benefits that were in effect and a lifeline early in the pandemic have expired.
“How many [parents] a day can look at their kids and say with confidence, ‘everything’s going to be OK’ and mean it?” Biden asked. “Times are hard. Unemployment is way up. Folks are worried about making their next rent or mortgage payment, whether their health care will be ripped away in the middle of a pandemic. Worried about sending their kids to school … worried about not sending them to school.
“They see folks at the top doing much better while the rest are wondering who’s looking out for me. That’s Donald Trump’s presidency.”
Legislation to help union workers such as the HEROES Act and the Moving Forward Act has been stopped by Trump and his Republican allies, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in the Senate.
Weaver reminds his SMART-TD brothers and sisters that railroaders especially need to keep in mind that their benefits are vulnerable to the whims of Capitol Hill.
A vote for Trump and for his Republican allies is opening the door for workers’ health care, jobs and pensions to be targeted, he said. Children would be off their parents’ health coverage at age 18 instead of being covered until age 26 under the Affordable Care Act.
Weaver said a vote for Democrats would protect union jobs and railroaders. Biden would not be hostile to Amtrak, whereas Trump and Republicans have habitually tried to cut funding for the national passenger rail network.
“Joe Biden has got their backs. He’s not going to make things worse for them,” Weaver said. “There will be a lot less fighting with the Democrats than with the Republicans.”
Biden gave a brief outline of his economic recovery plan — taxes would not be raised on any family making less than $400,000, while making corporations pay their fair share.
“It’s time for working people and the middle class to get tax relief,” Biden said.
He also said his administration would focused on job creation and education.
“We’re going to create millions of union jobs modifying the infrastructure to modernize it, “ he said.
Biden also emphasized in the speech that he is not banning fracking, an accusation leveled by Trump lately on the campaign trail.
In a letter Sept. 28, Local 1741 President Sharon Chappill and General Chairperson Jadier Castano told the San Francisco Unified Schools and First Student that they are courting a school bus driver shortage whenever district schools reopen if they go through a plan to cut off health care coverage and lay off school bus drivers starting Oct. 1 prior to the reopening of in-person learning.
“If nothing is done, there is no question in our mind that there will be a driver shortage, as drivers and staff are compelled to look elsewhere for work to pay their rent and provide for their families,” they wrote. “We think the youth and families of San Francisco deserve better.”
“As we near a point-of-no-return, we are urging that (the San Francisco Unified School District and First Student) come together and find a way to provide for these vital components of a child’s education: school bus drivers.”
They asked supporters in the Bay Area to contact the school district to get them to find another solution.
“We hope that you will reach out and raise your voice in any way you can,” Chappill and Castano said.
Local 1741 leaders have organized rallies and encouraged activism at the virtual board meetings. In their letter, Chappill and Castano suggested that the drivers could help bridge the gap for students and families hit hard by the economic crisis, perhaps by providing food deliveries for those who need assistance.
“Please do not drive us away by cutting off our health care,” they wrote. “Please don’t throw our drivers under the bus.”
On Sept. 14, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy signed into law S-2380, which retroactively protects the state’s essential workers, including SMART Transportation Division bus members, during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Essential employees’ workers compensation claims are routinely rejected by employers because the employees can’t prove they contracted COVID-19 at their place of work. This law shifts the burden of proof to the employer in state workers’ compensation claims for essential workers who interact with the public and contract COVID-19 during the declared state of emergency.
“This is the strongest law in the country for essential workers,” said New Jersey State Legislative Director Ron Sabol, who worked in conjunction with the state AFL-CIO in order to get legislators to pass and Murphy to sign the bill. “The governor and state legislators have taken strong action to protect TD members and all of our essential workers who were and continue to face the risk of being exposed to COVID during the course of doing their jobs.”
Most of the laws that were booked in states involving protecting essential workers nationwide were simply executive orders — limited in scope covering just police, fire and medical workers. The CARES Act passed in the early months of the pandemic only included financial coverage of testing for the virus. The New Jersey law covers all workers who are out of work because of COVID-19 who miss an extended period of time from their job, Sabol said.
“It covers the medical part of everything,” Sabol said. “If you had a person who got sick from COVID and you were out for weeks, it’s now covered by workers’ compensation.”
The bill covers the period from March 9, when Gov. Murphy declared a state emergency because of the coronavirus pandemic.
S-2380/A-3999 was sponsored by Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-3rd District, Sens. Nick Scutari, D-20th District, Robert Singer, R-30th District, and Linda Greenstein, D-14th District, and by Assemblymen Thomas Giblin, D-34th District, and John Burzichelli, D-3rd District, and Assemblywomen Carol Murphy, D-7th District, and Joann Downey, D-11th District.
A second bill — S-2476 — is being considered that enhances death benefits for workers who passed from COVID-19.
The SMART Transportation Division is primed to assist members in their time of need when disaster strikes.
Hurricane Laura hit Louisiana, Texas and Arkansas in late August. According to reports from the ground, the storm has inflicted extensive damage to many homes — particularly in the Lake Charles, Louisiana area — and some residents in Louisiana may have to wait weeks or months in order to have power again.
Our members in the impacted area, both active and retired, are faced with a long recovery and the painful task of rebuilding their homes and lives.
Furthermore, not only are they coping with the aftermath of hurricane, they are doing so against the backdrop of an unprecedented global pandemic.
We are asking the SMART-TD family to heed the call and give what you can so that the difficult task of starting over and rebuilding can begin for any members who have been affected by the fury of the storm.
In addition, based on information from affected members, a list of needed supplies has been compiled on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SMARTDisasterRelief
This list will be updated as needs evolve.
Any donations will help lessen the struggle and bring real hope and relief to SMART-TD members who are suffering after this great loss. SMART-TD will administer donations sent to the SMART TD Disaster Relief Fund.
Contributions may be sent and made payable to:
SMART TD Disaster Relief Fund
24950 Country Club Blvd.
North Olmsted, OH 44070-5333
Union Plus grant program
Union Plus also has disaster relief grants of $500 available to help participants in the Union Plus credit card, insurance or mortgage programs who are facing financial hardship due to severe weather. The money does not have to be repaid.
Union Plus mortgage holders may also be eligible to receive payment extensions or other special help.
To qualify for a Union Plus disaster relief grant, the union member must:
- Have been a victim of severe weather in counties designated by FEMA as qualifying for individual assistance.
- Have experienced a significant loss of income or property due to the disaster.
- Have had a Union Plus credit card, Union Plus insurance policy or Union Plus mortgage for at least 12 months, with the account or policy up to date in payments.
- Describe his or her circumstances and document the income or property loss.
To apply for a disaster relief grant, eligible union members should call:
Union Plus credit card: (877) 761-5028
Union Plus mortgage: (800) 472-2005
Union Plus insurance: (800) 472-2005
Go to https://www.unionplus.org/hardship-help/disaster-relief-grants
In reaction to the San Francisco Unified School District’s (SFUSD) decision to lay off about 260 school bus drivers effective Aug. 31 on the cusp of the new school year, SMART-TD Local 1741 plans a massive protest in front of City Hall this week.
Drivers, dispatchers and staff were given little notice about the sudden cuts and plan to assemble at 4:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 20 to speak out against the cuts, local union leaders say.
“This is unconscionable. Despite preserving the wages and benefits for drivers and staff since shelter-in-place began in March, it is at this critical point that SFUSD has decided they will no longer pay until the buses are rolling again,” Local 1741 President Sharon Chappill said. “The chaos as drivers scramble to maintain health care coverage for themselves and their families, and then switch coverage back a few months later when they return to work, is completely unnecessary and a preventable catastrophe.
“Other school districts in the state recognize the importance of covering their transportation contracts until students are safely phased back to in-person. But here in San Francisco, drivers are expected to wait with no wages and no health care until routes start up in a few months.”
Chappill points out that in addition to the wages and benefit loss for the 260 workers, required training and safety certification for drivers will also be halted and that the school district is using the pandemic to resort to underpaid, non-union workers.
“The district has already given transportation contracts to Zum, a rideshare company much like Uber and Lyft. It is a company that profits off of miscategorizing their drivers as contractors who are unable to unionize,” Chappill said. “The layoffs of certified unionized drivers is an excuse to bring in more underpaid, non-unionized workers. This is another blow to the proud union town of San Francisco.
“We are graduates, parents and grandparents of graduates from SFUSD. We are immigrants. We are working families representing the entire spread of diversity found in the Bay Area. We have served the city of San Francisco for 50 years. And we do not think it too much to ask that the city find a way to provide for us for a few months so that we are able to return to the job that we are proud to do.”
Chappill urges people to assemble Thursday to support the workers whose jobs have been jeopardized by the district’s actions.
“We hope you will join us as we raise our voices to defend the school bus drivers of this city.”