The U.S. Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) named Arturo Cardenas as the agency’s Director of Programs, the agency announced in a Sept. 24 release.
Cardenas oversees all operations to process and pay benefits administered by the agency. He will also serve on the RRB’s Executive Committee responsible for day-to-day operations of the agency and making policy recommendations to the three-member Board.
A career public servant, Mr. Cardenas worked at the Social Security Administration (SSA) for more than 30 years before joining RRB. During that time, he worked in a variety of positions in SSA field offices, regional offices and headquarters units.
His appointment was effective Aug. 30. He replaces Crystal Coleman, who retired in April 2021 after 29 years of federal service.
Terri Poole Taylor Kerns, 52, of Local 1971 (Atlanta, Ga.) lost her life to COVID-19 on Friday, September 10. Diagnosed with COVID-19 on August 24, she was hospitalized Sunday, August 29 with severe chest pains. After suffering from cardiac arrest, she passed in the early hours of Sept. 10.
Graduating from high school in 1987, Kerns worked in the food industry before deciding on a career change. She hired out with Norfolk Southern, where she would work for 20 years, earning her engineer and conductor certifications and working her way up to the position of yardmaster.
In her free time Kerns enjoyed family vacations on the beach. Her true passion was spending time with her husband, children and grandchildren.
“Terri had a great love for her family. Family was everything to Terri, and she left an indescribable imprint on all of us,” her younger sister Joy Poole said.
She’s survived by her husband of 21 years, Paul Henry Kerns Jr. aka PJ; four children, Drew (Sadina) Kerns, Shadonna Kerns, Madison Kerns and Dominique Kerns; two grandsons, Ameer and Zelmeer Kerns; two sisters, Rhonda (James) Poole Farley and Joy (Greg Cowan) Poole; and many in-laws, nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles and cousins. Kerns is preceded in death by her parents, Oddis Theodore Poole Jr. and Patsy Mitchell Arey; grandparents; mother-in-law, Bonnie Jo Kerns; niece, Mariah Turner; nephew, Andrew Sifford; and great nephew, Xander Tucker.
SMART-TD offers their sincere condolences to all who knew and worked with Kerns, as well as her friends and family.
September 22, 2021 — The Rail Unions comprising the Coordinated Bargaining Coalition (CBC), negotiating together in the current round of National Negotiations, have issued the following statement:
“As we advised in January of 2021, the CBC and the nation’s rail carriers have been at the bargaining table since the beginning of 2020. Since January, CBC has continued to meet with the Rail Carriers, returning to in-person meetings in August. At that meeting, CBC made it clear to the Rail Carriers that neither our Bargaining Coalition, nor our collective memberships, would accept a concessionary agreement on a voluntary basis. The Carriers were told that our members have been asked to work as essential workers throughout the Pandemic, while being treated more like expendable workers. Our members are infuriated that they have worked through these conditions without a wage increase in over two (2) years and it is unacceptable that the Nation’s Rail Carriers continue to stonewall CBC Unions in our effort to settle our contract negotiations on a voluntary basis.
“In January, we said that ‘the Rail Carriers have not made any proposals worthy of consideration by the membership of the CBC Unions.’ No Carrier proposals have been received since our January 2021 update that would change the veracity of that statement. We will continue to negotiate in good faith, fully recognizing that it is our members who must ratify any voluntary agreement.”
The unions comprising the Coordinated Bargaining Coalition are: the American Train Dispatchers Association (ATDA); the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen / Teamsters Rail Conference (BLET); the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen (BRS); the International Association of Machinists (IAM); the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers (IBB); the National Conference of Firemen & Oilers/SEIU (NCFO); the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW); the Transport Workers Union of America (TWU); the Transportation Communications Union / IAM (TCU), including TCU’s Brotherhood Railway Carmen Division (BRC); and the Transportation Division of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, and Transportation Workers (SMART–TD).
Collectively, the CBC unions represent more than 105,000 railroad workers covered by the various organizations’ national agreements, and comprise over 80% of the workforce who will be impacted by this round of negotiations.
Local 313 (Grand Rapids, Mich.) member Chris Larson, a member of our union for seven years, wrote to the office of SMART-TD President Jeremy Ferguson asking the extent that members can go to support and show solidarity to an ongoing labor action by another labor union against an employer.
More than 1,000 members of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers (BCTGM) union have been striking for more than a month in locations in Portland, Ore.; Richmond, Va.; Norcross, Ga., and Chicago against Nabisco/Mondelez. Brother Larson suggested in a letter that unionized train operators stop deliveries to the company’s plants in a concerted effort in support of the strikes.
“Nabisco / Mondelz (sic) International will quickly notice when their raw inputs of flour, sugar, and other bulk commodities delivered by rail are no longer being delivered because SMART-TD is supporting the BCTGM strike,” Larson wrote. “I would like to encourage SMART-TD to quickly explore how our union can honor the BCTGM strike by not delivering raw inputs to Nabisco / Mondelz (sic) International by rail.”
While a strong and impactful suggestion by Larson, the federal Railway Labor Act limits when, where and why rail workers can engage in a work stoppage, as the union’s response noted.
“…it is important to note that the governing federal law (specifically the Railway Labor Act, as amended,) limits our ability to go on strike to very narrow and specific circumstances. Unfortunately, those circumstances do not include the secondary strike action you describe in your letter,” the TD office replied.
“We absolutely support the BCTGM workers in their fight for fairness and justice with Nabisco/Mondelez,” Ferguson said. “Our members and leadership will do what we can within the law through personal boycotts and outreach initiated by local members to show support from our union. We thank Brother Larson for speaking up and asking this question, and we appreciate his desire to act in solidarity with our fellow workers at BCTGM.”
Constitutionally, members can act in the interest of their personal safety in areas where a strike is taking place. According to Article 21B, Section 92 of the SMART Constitution:
When a strike of any other nationally recognized labor organization is in effect and danger to the safety of our members exists in or about the area affected by the strike, and/or if there exists any substantial present or potential threat of danger to the members enroute to or from their work, and/or to the members’ families, it is the policy of SMART to support its members in declining to enter the territory directly affected.
The strikes against Nabisco/Mondelez first began in August with BCTGM workers in Portland, then spread to the three additional locations during the month to protest the company’s outsourcing of U.S. jobs to plants in Mexico and the disproportionate hazard pay given to management when workers received only a $300 bonus.
Join one of the picket lines to give supplies or offer support at the following sites:
• Portland, Ore.: 100 N.E. Columbia Blvd.
• Aurora, Colo.: 17775 E. 30th Ave.
• Chicago, Ill.: 7300 Kedzie Ave.
• Norcross, Ga.: 6300 Brook Hollow Pkwy.
• Richmond, Va.: 6002 S. Laburnum Ave.
Twenty years after the shocking and devastating terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, we pause to remember the lives that were lost and irreversibly changed on that day.
Members of our union, as many other people did in Pennsylvania, New York City and Washington, D.C., performed great acts of heroism. Lives were saved when the doors were held open by conductors as the last PATH trains evacuated people from the World Trade Center site before the collapse of the Twin Towers. Bus operators in the area allowed people aboard for shelter and transported them away as they fled from harm. Their unselfish actions, along with those of many other responders who stepped up in a great time of need should be upheld and honored as true American heroes.
Like many of you, I can still vividly remember where I was that day as the tragic events took place in real time. I equally remember the feeling of immense pride shortly thereafter as Americans from all walks of life came together in solidarity during this unprecedented national emergency.
While these images remain seared into our memories, it is important that we take time on this 20th anniversary to honor those involved. We will never forget, and may God bless those lost and the families left behind.
Railroad Retirement benefits are based on months of service and earnings credits. Earnings are creditable, up to certain annual maximums, on the amount of compensation subject to Railroad Retirement taxes.
Credit for a month of railroad service is earned for every month in which an employee had some compensated service covered by the Railroad Retirement Act. (Local lodge compensation is disregarded for any calendar month in which it is less than $25. However, work by a local lodge or division secretary collecting insurance premiums, regardless of the amount of salary, is creditable railroad work.) Also, under certain circumstances, additional service months may be deemed in some cases where an employee does not actually work in every month of the year.
The following questions and answers describe the conditions under which an employee may receive additional Railroad Retirement service month credits under the deeming provisions of the Railroad Retirement Act.
1. What requirements must be met before additional service months can be deemed?
A service month can be deemed if an employee has less than 12 service months reported in the year, has sufficient compensation reported and is in an “employment relation” with a covered railroad employer, or is an employee representative, during that month. (An employee representative is a labor official of a non-covered labor organization who represents employees covered under the acts administered by the Railroad Retirement Board.)
For this purpose, an “employment relation” generally exists for an employee on an approved leave of absence (for example, furlough, sick leave, suspension, etc.). An “employment relation” is severed by retirement, resignation, relinquishing job rights in order to receive a separation allowance or termination.
2. How is credit for additional service months computed?
For additional service months to be deemed, the employee’s compensation for the year, up to the annual Tier II maximum, must exceed an amount equal to 1/12 of the Tier II maximum multiplied by the number of service months actually worked. The excess amount is then divided by 1/12 of the Tier II maximum; the result, rounded up to the next whole number, equals the maximum number of months that may be deemed as service months for that year. Fewer months may be deemed, if an employment relation, as defined in Question 1, does not exist.
3. An employee works seven months in 2021 before being furloughed, but earns compensation of $108,000. How many deemed service months could be credited to the employee?
The employee could be credited with five additional service months. One-twelfth of the 2021 $106,200 Tier II maximum ($8,850) times the employee’s actual service months (seven) equals $61,950. The employee’s compensation in excess of $61,950 up to the $106,200 maximum is $44,250, which divided by $8,850 equals five. Therefore, five deemed service months could be added to the seven months actually worked and the employee would receive credit for 12 service months in 2021.
4. Another employee works for seven months in 2021 and earns compensation of $85,200. How many deemed service months could be credited to this employee?
In this case, the excess amount ($85,200 minus $61,950) is $23,250, which divided by $8,850 equals 2.627. After rounding, this employee could receive credit for three deemed service months and be credited with a total of 10 months of service in 2021.
5. Another employee works for eight months in 2021 before resigning on August 15, but earns compensation of $91,000. How many deemed service months could be credited to this employee?
None. Since the employee resigned in August, there is no employment relationship for the remaining months and no additional service months may be deemed and credited.
6. Should an employee preparing to retire take deemed service months into account when designating the date his or her Railroad Retirement annuity begins?
An employee may wish to consider credit for deemed service months in selecting an annuity beginning date. For instance, in some cases, a designated annuity beginning date that considers deemed service months could be used to establish basic eligibility for certain benefits, increase an annuity’s Tier II amount, or establish a current connection, as illustrated in Questions 7, 8 and 9, respectively. It should be noted that service months cannot be deemed after the annuity beginning date.
7. What would be an example of using deemed service months to establish benefit eligibility?
An example would be an employee between the ages of 60 and 62 who might be able to use deemed service months to establish the 360 months of service needed to qualify for an unreduced age annuity prior to full retirement age.
For instance, a 60-year-old employee last performed service on May 15, 2021, and received $61,800 in compensation in 2021. She is credited with 358 months of creditable railroad service through May 2021. If the employee wishes to retire on age, she must wait until she is full retirement age, which ranges between 66 and 67 depending upon the employee’s year of birth, or age 62 if she is willing to accept an age-reduced annuity. She needs at least two additional months of service to establish eligibility for an unreduced annuity prior to full retirement age.
The employee’s excess amount ($61,800 minus $44,250) is $17,550, which divided by $8,850 equals 1.983. Therefore, two deemed service months could be added to the five months actually worked and the employee would receive credit for seven service months in 2021 for a total of 360 service months, allowing her to receive an unreduced annuity beginning July 2, 2021.
8. How could deemed service months be used to increase an employee’s Tier II amount?
An employee worked in the first five months of 2021 and received compensation of $59,500. He does not relinquish his rights until July 2, 2021, and applies for an annuity to begin on that date.
The excess amount ($59,500 minus $44,250) is $15,250, which divided by $8,850 equals 1.723, which yields two deemed service months for a total of seven service months in 2021. Had the employee relinquished his rights and applied for an annuity to begin on July 1, he would have been given credit for only six service months.
The employee received the maximum compensation in all of the last five years and had 360 months of service through 2020. The additional service and compensation increases his Tier II from $1,726.75 to $1,746.92. However, delaying the annuity beginning date past the second day of the month after the date last worked solely to increase the Tier II amount would not generally be to the employee’s advantage.
9. Can deemed service months help an employee establish a current connection?
Yes. For example, an employee left the railroad industry in 2002 and engaged in employment covered by the Social Security Act. In August 2020, she returned to railroad employment and worked through June 28, 2021. She received compensation of $53,650 in 2021. She does not relinquish her rights until July 2, 2021, and applies for an annuity to begin on July 2, 2021.
In this case, the excess amount ($53,650 minus $53,100) is $550, which divided by $8,850 equals 0.0621, which yields one deemed service month. Consequently, the employee is given credit for seven service months in 2021. With five months of service in 2020 and seven months in 2021, the employee establishes a current connection. Had she designated the earliest annuity beginning date permitted by law, she would not have met the 12-in-30-month requirement for a current connection. (An employee who worked for a railroad in at least 12 months in the 30 months immediately preceding the month his or her Railroad Retirement annuity begins will meet the current connection requirement for a supplemental annuity, occupational disability annuity or survivor benefits.)
10. Can an employee ever receive credit for more than 12 service months in any calendar year?
No. Twelve service months are the maximum that can be credited for any calendar year.
11. Where can an employee get more information on how deemed service months could affect his or her annuity?
Employees with questions about deemed service months can send a secure message to their local RRB office by accessing Field Office Locator at RRB.gov and clicking on the link at the bottom of their local office’s page. If a customer needs to talk to an RRB employee, they can call the agency’s toll-free number (1-877-772-5772). However, customers are asked to be patient because of the increase in call volume due to the closure to the public of RRB offices during the COVID-19 pandemic.
New Jersey State Legislative Director Ron Sabol met with federal Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg in Westfield, N.J., an encounter that was later featured in a video produced by the DOT and then shared on Buttigieg’s official Twitter account in conjunction with Labor Day on Sept. 6.
Sabol, of Local 1447 (Newark, N.J.), met Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Ind., on Aug. 9 and discussed his career as a freight rail conductor, remote-control operator and as a SMART-TD union officer.
“I got involved in my union right away, and that’s because of safety,” Sabol told Buttigieg. “Railroading is the most dangerous job in the country.”
A member of the SMART-TD National Safety Team, N.J. SLD since December 2016, and also his local’s president, Sabol reminded the Transportation Secretary of something that sometimes is lost among the public.
“Our railroads and bus operators, which we represent as well, they’re first responders,” he said.
Sabol recalled the efforts made by TD members to help evacuate people in tunnels during the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York City.
Sabol also said that the passage of infrastructure legislation will improve with an expansion of service, better accessibility to riders and improved safety for a number of TD members.
“The best part of my job is being able to help people,” Sabol said. “As you the mayor were able to help all those people, I do it at a different level with a different group of people.”
Buttigieg’s Department of Transportation and the Federal Railroad Administration will be increasingly important as regulatory efforts develop to make the Rule of 2 — a certified conductor and certified engineer — enforced on freight trains throughout the United States.
The Biden administration announced earlier in the year that FRA is revisiting the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking regarding freight train crew size and would be prioritized at some point in the autumn.
Great challenges are best faced together, and we have encountered many these past few months from those caused by the COVID-19 pandemic to carrier practices that place profits before safety, jeopardizing safe operations that affect the general public and our members.
This year on Labor Day, unity and solidarity is at the forefront of my mind as I am proud to have faced all of these adversities together as fraternal brothers and sisters. We are each other’s keepers.
I think about the “old heads” who take the time to teach the new hires the tricks of the trade and the traps to avoid the knowledge of which takes years of experience to acquire. Or the general or local chairperson who stands up for the member who has been unjustly charged; or just the friendly face of a union brother or sister offering a smile or a helping hand at just the right time when things are not going well.
These traits are summarized well in the overarching “I Got Your Back” campaign SMART has launched.
Members of the Transportation Division protect and support one another, consciously and unconsciously, all the time and on a daily basis. A little recognition of this goes a long way, making “I Got Your Back” a solid way to recognize and show support for those whose contributions sometimes are not given the appreciation or attention that’s so richly deserved.
In the July/August newspaper that is en route to you, General President Joseph Sellers Jr. encourages members to honor a mentor by taking a photo with a person who has served as an inspiration or a protector. If you email that along with a few words about the importance of that TD brother or sister in your career to firstname.lastname@example.org, that person can be recognized.
Truly, the strength of a union does not just come from the elected leaders. At its core, the power of a union comes from the membership and then travels to the leadership. There are only a handful of officers, yet thousands of members. The thousands, when united and energized, can do much more than what a single person can. That’s the power of a collective group. That’s the power of labor. That’s the power of a union!
Labor Day is about YOU. SMART-TD is about YOU. It will take all of us working together to overcome these obstacles we face now and those we will face in the future. However, I fear not as I have your back, and I know you have mine. Together we will face anything that comes our way … united. I am proud to serve alongside each and every one of you.
I do, however, want to take a moment and remember the fallen this Labor Day. We have lost way too many members, brothers and sisters, this past year who were unfortunately killed while performing their duties. Safety is our number one priority and as we work harder than ever toward changing the current culture, we must never lose sight of its importance. We must never forget the fact that our predecessor unions were founded on safety and we, as proud unified labor, will carry on in those same fights now more than ever.
Many of you will be working this Labor Day, and we thank you for your dedication while doing so. I will be out there proudly marching in one of the oldest Labor Day parades in the U.S., shoulder to shoulder with our brothers and sisters of Local 195 in Galesburg, Ill. I look forward to meeting them as I have already met many of you during my recent travels. It is my goal to try attend as many events as possible in efforts to get to know as many of my fellow fraternal brothers and sisters as possible.
May God bless you and keep you safe.
Jeremy R. Ferguson
President, Transportation Division
Jaime Garcia-Perez, 48, a member of our union for more than 15 years out of Local 23 (Santa Cruz, Calif.), passed away Sept. 3 from complications of COVID-19. He was an operator for the Santa Cruz Metro ParaCruz.
“Jaime, who worked at ParaCruz for nearly 17 years, had an unwavering work ethic and the utmost respect from everyone here at Metro. He was an integral part of ParaCruz from Day One,” GCA Vice General Chairperson Nathanael Abrego and General Chairperson James Sandoval said in a letter to membership. “A hard-working man and full of passion, integrity, and respect. When the workday got hard, we leaned heavily on the ‘Jaime Factor’ because he counted as two drivers. He was that good. You can always count on him to ensure our riders got to their destination on time.
“Jaime was loved by all who knew him. He will be missed.”
Brother Garcia-Perez is survived by his wife of 25 years, Dawn; daughter, Madison; and son, Kaden.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – This Labor Day, the SMART Transportation Division is proudly joining the AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department, (TTD), to recognize and thank frontline transportation workers for their service and sacrifice, and remind Americans that our transportation workers are #EssentialAlways.
During the darkest days of the COVID-19 pandemic, SMART-TD members were instrumental in keeping the American economy open and functioning by working throughout the pandemic delivering goods and materials and transporting essential workers to where they needed to be. While their heroic efforts during the pandemic undoubtedly saved lives, transportation labor unions want to remind America that their members, and the duties they perform, are essential always.
“I have the highest admiration for the dedication, courage, and drive all of our members displayed as they remained steadfast, working through the initial stages of the pandemic, doing the work that is often overlooked but essential in keeping our country on its feet. They did this during the uncertain initial stages of the pandemic, through lockdowns and beyond,” SMART Transportation Division President Jeremy R. Ferguson said. “The word ‘essential’ is the perfect description of all SMART-TD members and other transportation workers who keep our nation functioning and on the move. This campaign and the recognition we hope it brings is well-deserved and overdue.”
The #EssentialAlways campaign comes at a historic crossroads for this dedicated workforce. As the United States continues to grapple with the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic — which millions of frontline transportation workers have disproportionately shouldered — Congress and the Biden administration are pursuing transformational investments in infrastructure as part of the president’s build back better agenda. Highly skilled transportation workers, including SMART-TD members will be vital in achieving these goals and rebuilding our country.
“Frontline transportation workers power the most advanced economy in the world by operating, maintaining, and building the most complex transportation network on earth,” said TTD President Greg Regan. “Whether they’re helping people get to home, work, or school, moving the goods and raw materials we all rely on, delivering our mail, seeing us through a crisis, or building transportation projects of the future, these dedicated professionals have always been essential to the fabric of America, and they always will be.”
Transportation unions are encouraging the general public, elected leaders, and members of transportation and infrastructure community to join the campaign by following and engaging with the hashtag #EssentialAlways on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, and to watch and share this video explaining the important role transportation workers played before and during the pandemic, and the role they will play for years to come.
The SMART Transportation Division is primed to assist members in their time of need when disaster strikes.
Hurricane Ida hit Louisiana and Mississippi on Aug. 29 and tore a path through an area stretching from the Gulf Coast to the New York-New Jersey region, dropping torrential rain and affecting members’ lives with its massive flooding and wind damage.
Our members in the impacted area, both active and retired, face a long recovery and the painful task of rebuilding their homes and carrying on with their lives.
Furthermore, not only are they coping with the aftermath of a storm, they are doing so against the backdrop of the continuing COVID 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 TD members who have been affected by Ida.
Any donations will help lessen the struggle and bring real hope and relief to our 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
TD Members who have suffered damage or loss due to this storm can contact the SMART-TD office for an application for assistance by calling 216-227-5237.
The Pullman neighborhood in Chicago will be abuzz on Labor Day weekend 2021 for the grand opening of the Pullman National Monument Visitor Center and Pullman State Historic Site Factory Grounds. Pullman has been preparing for this moment for decades, and in earnest since President Barack Obama designated the Pullman National Monument in February 2015.
The public is welcome for a weekend of family friendly events on Saturday, Sept. 4, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday, Sept. 5, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., including:
tours of the new visitor center (free)
tours of the first floor of historic Hotel Florence (free)
programs under the tent at the factory site (free)
walking tours and self-guided tours of the historic community (free)
tours of historic Pullman-built rail cars, sponsored by Amtrak, Metra and the American Association of Private Railroad Car Owners
The Pullman National Monument and State Historic site is at 11001 S. Cottage Grove Ave., Chicago, IL 60628, the site of the former Pullman company town. The town was the vision of George M. Pullman, who founded it May 26, 1880. Pullman hoped that by building the town, he would attract skilled workers to build his luxury rail cars – known as the Pullman Sleeping Car, they were the first railcars in existence designed to accommodate overnight travelers.
Guests of the Pullman historic sites will find an exhibit chronicling the rise of the town and its role in labor history and the 1894 Pullman strike endorsed by labor leader Eugene Debs, a former secretary of one of SMART-TD’s predecessor unions, as well as the struggles of the black Pullman porters who formed the nation’s first black labor union – the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters.
The events this weekend are being managed by the Historic Pullman Foundation, which is led by former Federal Railroad Administration Administrator and retired UTU Illinois State Legislative Director Joseph C. Szabo, the president of the foundation.
“Historic Pullman Foundation is thrilled to help welcome the public to Pullman National Monument and Pullman State Historic Site, an incredible new cultural attraction in Chicago,” said Szabo. “On Labor Day weekend and through ongoing programming and exhibits at the Monument and its partner sites, visitors to Pullman have many opportunities to learn about the continuing American story that is Pullman.”