Archive for the ‘Bus news’ Category

FTA announces 2021 drug and alcohol testing rates

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.

Click here to read the posted notice in the Federal Register.

SMART out at Biden rally in Pennsylvania

SMART-TD retiree Gregg Weaver, left, and his wife Carol wear SMART “Blue Collar Biden” shirts as they watch Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speak Saturday, Oct. 24, in Bristol, Pa.

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.

Gregg Weaver, a retiree from TD Local 838, and his son Blake, a member of TD Local 838 and an Amtrak conductor, attend Joe Biden’s rally on Saturday, Oct. 24.

“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.

Attendees of the Joe Biden rally in Bristol take a group photo before the former vice president’s speech. From left are Mary Kate Weaver; Carol Weaver; TD Local 838 retiree Gregg Weaver; Tyler Hutchinson; SMART-TD New Jersey State Legislative Director Ron Sabol and TD Local 838 member Blake Weaver.

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.

Showing their pride as election approaches

SMART members are sending in their photos showing their support for Joe Biden, the presidential candidate who has been endorsed by your union. To submit your photos in support of candidates endorsed by SMART, email news_TD@smart-union.org.

To get involved, text SMART Army to 21333 and for voting information, text SMART vote to 21333.

From left, local chairperson Edgar Menendez; vice local chairperson Herminio Hernandez; member Emmerett Watson; member Silvena Cazares; and Legislative Representative Latonia Martinez of TD Local 1608 show their support. Photo submitted by SMART-TD California State Legislative Director Louis Costa.

Front row, from left: Rosana Santana, executive secretary; Maria Magallon, operations manager; and Iveth Lopez, administrative assistant. Back row, from left: Local 1608 Chairperson Edgar Menendez; Local 1563 Chairperson Robert Gonzalez; Local 1565 Chairperson Quintin Wormley; Local 1564 Chairperson Andy Carter; GO-875 General Chairperson John M. Ellis; Local 1563 Vice Local Chairperson Jaime Delgadillo; and Local 1564 Vice Local Chairperson Greg Smith. Photo submitted by TD GC Ellis.

Local 72 (Battle Creek, Mich.) Alternate Legislative Representative Ray Sones shows his support for SMART-endorsed presidential candidate Joe Biden.

President Ferguson: This election is pivotal

The following article appeared in the August/September 2020 edition of the SMART Transportation Division News and is referred to by President Ferguson in the video above.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

With the 2020 general election right around the corner, we are dedicating a large portion of this edition of the SMART-TD News to what may be the most-critical question we’ve ever been faced with: Who should serve as President of the United States for the next term?

Divided and contentious as this subject can be, I am asking that you take the time to read through with an open mind, and think critically about what we have riding on the outcome of this election as unionized essential transportation workers.

In determining who SMART and its Transportation Division should endorse, first and foremost we listened to what our members had to say. I want to sincerely thank each and every one of you who responded to our surveys and emails, called our office, and wrote to us to express your viewpoints. Your opinion matters to us above all else. With that being said, we also considered external sources and blocked out those that misrepresented the candidates and their intentions, or were biased towards one end of the political spectrum or the other.

Problem is, there is an abundance of misinformation coming from all directions. In a world where it’s difficult to trust virtually every source of information, where should we turn?

Fortunately, in this election we have a race where both candidates have set precedent in the White House; President Trump as the incumbent with nearly four years of experience under his belt, and Joe Biden with eight years of experience as our former Vice President. We also examined the promises that each candidate has made on the campaign trail, and compared those to their actions while holding elective office. As the saying goes, actions speak louder than words.

Below are some examples that you can trust, because they are based on objective fact – no conjecture, no spin, no bias, and no BS:

Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) appointments

In March 2009, the Obama/Biden administration nominated Joseph C. Szabo for the position of FRA administrator; a career railroader, SMART-TD member and Illinois State Legislative Director. Brother Szabo was the first FRA administrator to come from a rail labor background, and he served until 2015 when the Obama/Biden administration appointed Sarah Feinberg to the position.

Under Szabo’s tenure, accidents, injuries, and fatalities dropped to record-low levels, and the FRA improved its rules pertaining to fatigue mitigation and training requirements. Under Feinberg’s tenure, the FRA issued notice of a proposed rulemaking which would have required two-person train crews.

In July 2017, the Trump/Pence administration nominated Ronald Batory, the former CEO of Consolidated Rail Corporation, for the position of FRA administrator. Within one year of Batory’s nomination, the FRA had begun allowing Kansas City Southern to utilize Mexican train crews to cross our southern border and operate trains into Laredo, Texas.

SMART-TD and other rail labor unions had to sue the FRA to rectify this issue – a process which took more than two years to resolve.

During that time, the Trump administration ignored rail labor’s pleas to secure our southern border and prevent American jobs from being lost to foreign countries; both of which were campaign promises of his.

In May 2019, the FRA withdrew its proposed two-person crew rulemaking, claiming that research didn’t support implementing such a rule, and that two-person crews would unnecessarily impede the future of rail innovation and automation.

More on two-person train crews, and National Mediation Board (NMB) appointments

With Mr. Batory leading the FRA and its withdrawal of the proposed two-person crew rule, the nation’s rail carriers saw opportunity and in October 2019, eight (8) railroads filed a lawsuit against SMART-TD, attempting to force us to bargain over crew consist on a national level. To better their chances, the railroads filed their lawsuit in the Northern District of Texas, which is notoriously one of the least labor-friendly courts in the country.

The case was assigned to a Trump-appointed judge who in February 2020 ruled in favor of the rail carriers and ordered us to negotiate over crew consist, despite the fact that moratoriums are in place barring such negotiations.

At the same time they filed the above lawsuit, the railroads turned to the NMB, requesting that they begin the process of forcing SMART-TD into binding arbitration over the same crew-consist issues. The NMB is controlled by a 2/3 majority of Trump-appointed members, as follows:

■ Mr. Gerald W. Fauth III, a former consultant and president of a company that railroads hire for mergers, acquisitions, time studies, cost analyses and traffic analyses.
■ Ms. Kyle Fortson, a former labor policy director for Republicans on the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee.

Despite SMART-TD’s objections, in January 2020, the NMB granted the railroads’ requests and voted by a 2/3 majority in favor of moving forward with the binding arbitration process.

In stark contrast to the above, Joe Biden has met with SMART’s leadership and committed to defending two-person crews. For more than 30 years, Biden commuted for several hours per day on Amtrak. To this day, he remains on a first-name basis with some of our members.

With respect to the NMB, the lone Obama/Biden appointee, Linda Puchala, is the former president of the Association of Flight Attendants. In the crew-consist binding arbitration
decision, Ms. Puchala wrote nearly three pages in dissent objecting to the NMB’s decision.

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) appointments

Similar to the other regulatory agencies mentioned in this article, the FMCSA’s stated purpose is to establish policies governing carriers and ensure their compliance, thereby reducing accidents and protecting our bus members and the passengers we carry.

Under the Trump administration, the post of FMCSA administrator was vacant until February 2018, when Raymond P. Martinez was nominated and confirmed by the U.S. Senate. Martinez’s nomination was lauded by carrier-sponsored lobbying groups such as the American Trucking Associations, the American Bus Association and the United Motor Coach Association.

In October 2019, Martinez resigned as FMCSA administrator and Jim Mullen assumed the position of acting administrator. Mullen served in that capacity until his resignation in August 2020, which left Wiley Deck to act as FMCSA administrator.

This frequency in turnover has largely resulted in an agency without clear direction or leadership.

However, there has been one consistent theme over the last few years; the FMCSA has lent a sympathetic ear to the carrier-sponsored lobbying groups that endorse President Trump, while largely ignoring organized labor and the general public. This is evidenced by the FMCSA’s waiving of hours-of-service requirements for Mexican carriers, which already have inadequate regulations when compared to their U.S.-based counterparts. FMCSA has also turned a blind eye to carriers’ efforts to eliminate drivers’ breaks, including meal and restroom breaks, and they have allowed outsourcing of school bus drivers to third-party rideshare companies with questionable practices for conducting the requisite, thorough background checks for drivers.

National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) appointments

Similar to the NMB’s structure, the NLRB is required to have five members with a simple majority appointed by the president. To clarify the importance of these positions, these are the individuals who are in charge of investigating and remedying unfair labor practices with the carriers, as nominated by the Trump/Pence administration:

■ John F. Ring (chairman), a former management and labor relations attorney, appointed in 2018.
■ Marvin E. Kaplan, former chief counsel of the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission, whose 2017 appointment was supported by a number of business special-interest groups.
■ William Emanuel, a former labor law attorney for transportation, logistics, and manufacturing companies, who was appointed in 2017.

With respect to the other two NLRB seats normally held by minority party appointees, President Trump has stated his intention to re-appoint Lauren McFerran, although he has yet to follow through. It is also apparent that he intends to leave vacant the seat that had been occupied by Democratic appointee Mark Gaston Pearce, resulting in a board with three Republican members and no or perhaps eventually a
single minority party member.

Since the law requires only three NLRB members for a quorum to conduct its business, the agency has pressed forward with its two vacant seats and issued a series of decisions, rulemakings and initiatives that
heavily favor corporations and repeal myriad existing worker protections. Under President Trump’s direction, the NLRB has acted on every single item on a top-10 corporate interest “wish list” that was published by the Chamber of Commerce in early 2017.

Department of Labor (DOL) appointments

President Donald Trump’s decision to nominate Eugene Scalia as the new labor secretary is driving wide rifts among HR and benefits professionals, with some praising his industry knowledge as a boon to businesses. Others decried the choice, saying he’d hurt the American worker. Scalia has spent his career fighting for the interests of financial firms, corporate executives and shareholders rather than the interests of working people.

In another example of stark contrast, in 2009 the Obama/Biden administration nominated Hilda Solis for the position of labor secretary. At the same time, Solis joined Vice President Biden’s Middle Class Task Force, and pressed ahead with a clear and unapologetic agenda to aggressively enforce workplace protection laws, and enact new rules and regulations intended to grant more power to unions and workers. Corporate interest groups, antiunion organizations, and Republican Congress members adamantly opposed Solis’s nomination. Following Solis’s resignation in 2013, the Obama/Biden administration praised her accomplishments and chose Tom Perez, a former civil rights attorney who dedicated much of his efforts to increased protections for the elderly, war veterans, and labor unions, as her successor. Perez was known for regularly making house calls and onsite trips to obtain personal feedback from workers.

Legislation affecting all TD members

In July 2020, SMART-TD and other rail labor unions were successful in getting the U.S. House of Representatives to pass H.R. 2, which contains:

■ Two-person freight crew requirements;
■ Bus and transit operator safety measures;
■ Blocked rail crossing enforcement measures;
■ Cross-border solutions;
■ Hours of service requirements for rail yardmasters;
■ Additional funding for Amtrak;
■ Requirements for carriers to meet CDC guidelines for providing personal protective equipment and cleanliness standards for essential employees.

When passed to the U.S. Senate as a part of the Moving Forward Act, President Trump threatened to veto the bill. Following suit, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell called the bill “nonsense,” “absurd,” “pure fantasy,” and vowed that it will die before ever getting to the White House.

As previously noted, Joe Biden has met with SMART leadership and pledged his support for these issues.

Handling of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic

Beginning in February 2020, before it was known that the virus had reached this country, we began making myriad preparations for a worst-case scenario, including modifications to our Health & Welfare Plans and a legislative agenda that make sure our members are protected. As a part of those efforts, in early March when there were fewer than 200 confirmed cases in the U.S., we wrote to the railroads, the FRA, the FMCSA, OSHA, and the Department of Transportation demanding that mandates be issued requiring essential employers to comply with basic CDC guidelines for COVID-19 cleanliness, including providing essential employees with the proper protective equipment and social-distancing measures.

As you can probably surmise by now (if you are not already aware) the response from the rail carriers, bus carriers and transit agencies was that the responsibility of adhering to CDC guidelines was entirely up to the employee. In the instances where a few regulatory agencies, such as the FRA, bothered to respond, we were told that they essentially trust the carriers to do the right thing, and in their
view, it isn’t necessary or appropriate to issue mandates.

Instead, we had to take matters into our own hands by cataloging the carriers’ violations and shortcomings via an online reporting tool, which continues to serve its purpose to this day.

What about the booming economy and increased rail traffic?

As is usually the case, over the last decade the number of carloads originated by U.S. Class I railroads has fluctuated with the economy, usually varying by single-digit percentages from year to year. Despite this relative consistency, the railroads’ operating ratios and revenues have gone up by double-digit percentages, while at the same time tens of thousands of rail labor employees have been furloughed.

This is mostly due to the fact that Wall Street investors have taken an interest in our nation’s railroads, and they are obsessed with so-called “Precision Scheduled Railroading” practices, which have resulted in (among other detrimental effects) the doubling and tripling of train length and tonnage, and thus, the reduction of crews.

Under the Trump administration, the White House, FRA, Department of Transportation and other regulatory authorities have refused our requests to mandate the train length limitations and issue safety regulations that we, and the general public, deserve.

It’s also worth noting that, according to the Association of American Railroads, there has been no significant increase in coal shipments from 2016 to today. President Trump’s promises to revive this business would have been hugely beneficial to our brothers and sisters whose livelihoods depend on these shipments, and it was a part of Trump’s policy that had our full support.

Instead, we’ve been handed broken promises.

But my 401(k) is at an alltime high, doesn’t that count for anything?

Of course it does. However, more important than the inevitable ebb and flow of the stock markets is the very real threat of bus and rail automation, train crew consist changes, reduction of federal subsidies for certain carriers such as Amtrak, and the funding and administration of the Railroad Retirement Board and Social Security Administration.

Every single budget from the Trump administration proposed the reduction or elimination of funding that not only employs our members, but protects their retirement and health & welfare benefits. If not for the hard work of our Legislative Department and the support of certain members of Congress, Amtrak would have gone bankrupt under the Trump administration. This single event would deal a devastating blow to the solvency of our Railroad Retirement benefits.

In addition to the above, automation of trains and buses, and the elimination of crew members and operators alike would have compounding effects that reach far beyond the obvious unemployment issues and the solvency of our retirement funds. As we all know, furloughs tend to hit our youngest members (not just in seniority, but also in age) the hardest. From a healthcare and benefits perspective, these are our healthiest members with the lowest frequency of major medical, dental, vision, short-term disability and long-term disability claims. There is a direct correlation between extensive furloughs and the already difficult-to-manage rising cost of our benefits.

The downstream consequences of Trump’s policies can easily extend to our higher seniority members who are immune to furlough.

We’re all in this together!

In conclusion

While this edition of SMART-TD News might not change your mind about who you’re going to vote for this November, we certainly hope it will help to shed some additional light on the importance of this election and what we all have at stake. When casting our ballots, we’re making the choice between better protections and job security for our members, or leaving our regulatory agencies in control of the very Wall Street investors, CEOs and corporations that they are intended to protect us from.

We’re making the choice between tough bargaining with the nation’s rail carriers that leads to the best possible deal in our next contract, or risking letting President Trump make carrier-friendly appointments to a Presidential Emergency Board that will determine our fate.

We’re making the choice between protecting our working class or continuing on our path of worshipping the almighty dollar, while throwing caution and safety to the wayside.

One thing is certain — on our current trajectory the rich will continue to get richer, while unionized labor and other hard-working citizens are left behind to pick up the scraps.

So, I ask all of you today: Are you ready to stand up to the abuse we’ve been dealt for these last several years? Are you prepared to cast a vote that will help to ensure that your family and future generations have the ability to earn a living wage, with choice health-care and retirement benefits? Are you ready to begin rebuilding an America that works for all of us, and not just our most wealthy and elite citizens?

Regardless of the outcome, I pledge that we will continue to fight for the protections, pay, benefits and retirement that we deserve. Without your support, however, this becomes exponentially more difficult, if not impossible. It’s going to take ALL of us to make this happen.

Thank you, and God bless.

Fraternally,
 

 

 

 

Jeremy Ferguson
President — Transportation Division

DIPP Assessments reduced effective January 2021

The SMART Transportation Division Discipline Income Protection Program (DIPP) is decreasing its monthly assessments from 96 cents to 81 cents per $1 of daily benefits, effective January 1, 2021.

Participants in the Plan may elect to increase their benefit level or modify their coverage at any time by submitting the appropriate form to the Transportation Division office. Next month, SMART-TD will be communicating these reduced assessments to Local Treasurers so that the necessary changes are made to payroll deductions.

This announcement is informational and no action is required on the part of plan participants at this time.

DIPP trustees are SMART General President Joseph Sellers Jr., SMART General Secretary-Treasurer Joseph Powell and SMART-TD President Jeremy R. Ferguson.

Follow this link to view the updated SMART TD DIPP Schedule of Maximum Benefits.

TD veterans: We need your help

Oct. 5, 2020

Brothers and Sisters:

Shortly before I joined the union in the mid 1990s, I served with the U.S. Army for three years in service to our country. I know I am not alone in this distinction as many of our union brothers and sisters in the SMART Transportation Division served in the military, and some continue to bravely serve.

Sharing that bond with the veterans in our union, and long before I was elected president of our union, I noticed that some recognition of our veterans’ service was long overdue. SMART-TD has not accumulated any definitive records about our members who have served in the military — whether they served, what branch they served, when they served. This is an oversight we are looking to correct by asking our members to update their veteran’s status by using a new Member Info Update form on the union website.

The link is: https://webapps.utu.org/WebSiteForms/MemberUpdateRequest.aspx

By updating your information, as a veteran, you will be eligible for future exclusive programs and information focused on veterans. The first step of this process was taken April 20 of this year with the addition of a Veteran Services page to the TD website. There will be more steps to come, but we first need to record who our veterans are in order to get the information out there and to better target our communications.

This project is close to my heart and a long time coming. I hope you will voluntarily participate by updating your information. Your union wants to recognize the sacrifices of all of our veterans and to better serve all those who served our country.

Thank you for your time. Thank you for your service. And please stay safe!

Fraternally,

Jeremy R. Ferguson
President – Transportation Division
U.S. Army: 1988-1991

Local 1741 leadership says workers reaching “point of no return”

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.”

Nomination rules, election procedures for fall local elections have been released

SMART Transportation Division members are reminded that elections are scheduled to be held this autumn to fill the three-year Local officer positions described by the SMART Constitution’s Article 21B, Section 56.

Positions include President, Vice President, Secretary and Treasurer, Collector (where applicable) and the three-member Board of Trustees. In addition, any existing vacancies (except for those in the positions of Delegate or Alternate Delegate) should be addressed during these elections.

As per the Constitution’s Article 21B, Section 57, nomination meetings are held in October, with election tabulations conducted in November. Special instructions are provided below for Locals unable to hold a nomination meeting due to COVID-19 related restrictions.

Winning candidates assume their offices on January 1, 2021. If they are filling a vacancy, however, they take office immediately.

Candidates must garner a simple majority of valid votes cast to win election to any elective Transportation Division office. (A simple majority can be thought of as 50 percent of votes, plus at least one more vote.)

The process begins

For the Local’s Secretary or Secretary-Treasurer, the election process begins with an effort to update the membership roster, ensuring accurate addresses are on file for each member. Our Constitution’s Article 21B, Section 49, requires each member to keep the Local Secretary and Treasurer advised of his or her current home address. At the same time, U.S. Department of Labor regulations and the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA) require the Local to take steps to update addresses in advance of an election.

Members can update their address by contacting their Local Secretary, or can do so on the Transportation Division’s website.

Even if your Local conducts a floor election, where voting takes place at a physical location rather than by mail, it’s important that your address is up to date. Your Local Secretary (or Secretary-Treasurer, as the case may be) needs to mail a notice to all active members of the local to advise them, at least 15 days in advance of tabulation, that an election is to take place. The notice will indicate when and where voting will take place. (Postcards for this purpose are available for purchase from the Transportation Division’s Supply Department.)

If the Local is conducting its election by mail, the ballot itself must be mailed out at least 15 days in advance of the date of tabulation, as the ballot serves as the notice of the election.

Nominations

The Secretary must post a notice at least 10 days in advance of the October nomination meeting indicating when and where nominations for affected positions will take place. They need not mail this notice directly to members.

Nominations may be made by any member in good standing from the floor at the nomination meeting. Nominations do not require being seconded. Any member eligible to vote may self-nominate. If a member wishes to self-nominate or nominate someone else, but can’t attend the meeting, nominations can be entered through a petition. A nomination petition must state the name of the nominee, the position for which the member is being nominated, and must carry at least five signatures of members in good standing. No nominations can be accepted following the close of the nomination meeting.

When a nomination meeting cannot be held due to COVID-19-related restrictions, a notice of nominations must still be posted at all locations where the Local’s members report for duty a minimum of ten (10) days prior to the deadline for nominating petitions to be submitted. Instead of including information pertaining to the time and location of a nomination meeting, the notice should set a specific date and time whereby nominations will be closed, and must include the Local Secretary’s pertinent contact information along with instructions for submitting written nominations. In situations where nomination meetings cannot be held, it is permissible for the Secretary to accept nominations submitted in writing, via hand delivery, text, email, and/or USPS mail.

With respect to choosing a deadline for nominations, typically, this would be determined by the members present at a regular or special meeting of the Local. Where it is not feasible to hold such a meeting, the Local President, Secretary, and Treasurer should all agree on a nomination deadline that works best. As noted, the minimum mandatory notice for nominations is ten (10) days. However, given the circumstances, we recommend giving more notice. Most Locals choose a time period that is closer to thirty (30) days in advance.

If only one member is nominated for a position, that member can be declared elected by acclamation.

The scheduled elections held this autumn offer an opportunity to fill other vacancies which may exist. If the vacant position is a Local Committee of Adjustment (LCA) position, only members of that LCA are eligible to make nominations for the position and to vote in that election. In locals having more than one LCA for different crafts, the secretary will provide a separate ballot for all eligible voters of each craft working under the jurisdiction of the committee involved. Any member in good standing with seniority in one of the crafts represented by the LCA may be a candidate for an office in that LCA.

Eligibility

To be eligible to vote, all dues and assessments must be paid within the time frame specified by the constitution. Article 21B, Section 49, indicates dues are to be paid in advance, before the first day of the month in which they are due. Eligibility to make nominations or to be nominated is similar. This means, for example, if the nomination meeting is in October, the nominator and the nominee must have paid all dues obligations prior to October 1. To vote in November, the voter must have paid all dues obligations prior to November 1.

Those in so-called E-49 status are eligible to run for office, but they cannot make nominations and they cannot vote. If elected, acceptance of pay from the company or the union creates a dues obligation.

Elections

As previously noted, candidates must garner a simple majority of valid votes cast to win election.

When it comes to handling elections for the Board of Trustees, instructions on the ballot should be included above the candidates’ names telling the voter: “Vote for three candidates.” Each member of the three-member Board of Trustees must be elected by a majority of votes cast, a requirement which frequently results in the need for runoff elections. The rule of thumb in such runoffs is that for each open position, which must be filled, two candidates will compete.

For example, if nine candidates run for a position on the Board of Trustees, and 200 valid ballots have been cast and counted in the first round of the election, each successful candidate must receive at least 101 votes. If no candidate receives at least 101 votes, a runoff must be held.

The runoff would include two candidates for each open position. In the above example, this means the three candidates with the lowest vote totals are dropped from the ballot, and the names of six candidates appear on the runoff ballot. In the runoff, if only one candidate attains a majority of votes that means one of the three positions was filled, and there remain two Trustee positions to fill, with five remaining candidates. Of those five remaining candidates, the candidate with the lowest vote total would be dropped from the ballot, and another ballot would be issued with four candidate’s names (because there are two positions to be filled).”

More information

Members are encouraged to consult Article 21B of the SMART Constitution for information regarding elections. Unless an item within Article 21B directs you to a further stipulation outside of Article 21B, only the provisions found within Article 21B are applicable to Transportation Division elections. The Local election process is addressed directly by Article 21B, Section 57.

Election information and guidelines have been distributed to all Transportation Division Local Presidents and Local Secretaries, as well as to General Chairpersons, State and District Legislative Directors and Transportation Division International Officers.

Members can consult their Local officers to examine this information, or they can visit the Transportation Division’s Local Toolbox and click on “Elections.”

Special Circular No. 35 describes the constitutional provisions involved in the local elections this autumn, and the pamphlet entitled “How to Hold Elections for Local Officers” gives practical, hands-on election guidance and includes samples of nomination and election notices that can be posted. The leaflet entitled “Special Instructions Related to COVID-19” provides guidance when gathering restrictions are in place.

Local officer positions

The following is a brief description of the duties of the various Local officer positions.

The Local President presides at all meetings of the Local, enforces the provisions of the Constitution and bylaws of the Local and exercises general supervision over the Local’s affairs. The President ensures that Local officers respond to inquiries from the International, and with the Secretary and/or Treasurer, files all reports required by federal, state or local laws. The President may speak on any subject before the Local, but may not vote except, in case of a tie vote, casts the deciding ballot.

The Local Vice President succeeds the Local President and fulfills the remainder of the three-year term if the Local President resigns, retires, becomes incapacitated, dies, or for some reason cannot fulfill the requirements of the position. Also, if the Local President cannot attend a Local meeting, the Vice President presides at regular Local meetings.

In most Locals, the offices of Secretary and Treasurer have been combined. The Local Secretary keeps an accurate record of all Local proceedings, receives all communications, conducts correspondence and is in charge of the Local seal and Local records. The Secretary performs the duties of the Local Treasurer in Locals that do not provide for the separation of the offices of Secretary and Treasurer.

The Treasurer receives all monies due to be collected by the Local and provides receipts, except in cases where the Local maintains the office of collector. The treasurer holds and keeps secure all Local funds and is bonded. The Treasurer also keeps an accurate account of all receipts and expenditures of the Local on forms provided for that purpose. The Treasurer shall also remit all monies due the International to the General Secretary-Treasurer each month.

In a few instances, Locals of 50 or more members maintain the office of Collector. The Local Collector receives all money due the Local and provides receipts. Prior to the first day of each month, the Collector reports to the Local Treasurer all the money received during the current month and gives the amount collected to the Local Treasurer.

The Local Board of Trustees supervises the financial affairs of the Local. Upon approval by the Local, the Board has authority to rent, lease, or purchase property, office equipment or other necessary supplies. The Board meets in January of each year for the purpose of auditing the annual report of the Treasurer and verifying bank balances and cash on hand.

Questions?

There are many provisions not covered by this article, including those that address candidates’ rights and permitted means of campaigning. Those with election questions are urged to call the Transportation Division President’s Department at 216-228-9400. It’s always easier to address issues in advance than after the fact.

Elimination period waiver for VSTD extended into November

Dear Member:

As many of you may recall, the SMART Voluntary Short Term Disability Plan temporarily suspended the Elimination Period for COVID-19 (Coronavirus) disabilities. In an announcement to you dated April 15, 2020, we communicated that the Elimination Period was being waived for any COVID-19 (Coronavirus) disabilities beginning in the months of March, April and May 2020. In an announcement dated June 17, 2020, we advised that the Plan would be extending the waiver for three (3) more months through August 2020.

We are pleased to announce that the waiver of the elimination period is extended through November 30, 2020. So, effective with all diagnosed COVID-19 (Coronavirus) disabilities beginning in the months of March through November 2020, the Plan’s Elimination Period will be waived. Members must usually be disabled for 21 days before benefits will begin on the 22nd day. This is known as the Elimination Period or Waiting Period. We are waiving this Waiting Period for positive COVID-19 (Coronavirus) disabilities. This change will expedite and increase benefits for approved applicants so that you will have immediate access to money. The Waiting Period will be reinstated for COVID-19 (Coronavirus) disabilities beginning on and after December 1, 2020.

We are pleased that the Plan can take this action on your behalf. We wish you and your family health and wellness during these trying times.

Sincerely,
Board of Trustees
Mr. Joseph Sellers Jr.,
General President SMART

Mr. Jeremy Ferguson,
President-SMART Transportation Division

Mr. Joseph Powell,
General Secretary-Treasurer SMART

The SMART Voluntary Short Term Disability Plan is administered by:
Southern Benefit Administrators, Incorporated
P.O. Box 1449
Goodlettsville, Tennessee 37070-1449
Toll-Free: (844) 880-1071, Fax: (615) 859-0201

View this announcement in PDF form.

Gov. signs bill protecting N.J. SMART-TD bus members during pandemic

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.

Read the Assembly Committee statement about the bill.

Read S-2380

Disaster relief donations sought in Hurricane Laura aftermath

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.
Suite 340
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

Local 1741 San Francisco school bus drivers plan protest after district announces mass layoff

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.”

Read coverage about the layoffs on KPIX TV-5.