Archive for the ‘Secretary & Treasurer’ Category

GCA-953 organizing educational sessions

Attendees participate in an educational session in Topeka, Kan., on June 23. (Photo courtesy Zach Nagy)

The leadership of GCA-953 (Union Pacific) have kicked off a slate of educational sessions for local officers and members.

The first of six sessions took place June 22 and 23 in Topeka, Kan., with General Chairperson Luke Edington, Associate GC Ian Reynolds and Sr. Vice GC Zach Nagy hosting and teaching the classes.

The curriculum included training on serving as a union officer, an overview of officer duties, website training, filing a proper time claim, writing a discipline appeal and a mock arbitration session.

Transportation Division President Jeremy Ferguson made a guest appearance through Zoom, Vice President Brent Leonard spoke in person and Larry Romine from Reliable Retirement spoke through Zoom.

“We had attendees including local presidents, local chairpersons, vice local chairpersons and secretary/treasurers from four states in attendance,” Nagy said.

The GCA  has plans for five more sessions in Omaha, Cheyenne, Salt Lake City, Portland and Waukesha, Wis., as the summer progresses.

For more information about time and locations, email Nagy at znagy@utu953.org.

DIPP offering new daily benefit level beginning in September!


SMART Transportation Division and the Trustees of the Discipline Income Protection Program (DIPP) are pleased to announce a new maximum daily benefit level for program participants beginning Sept. 1, 2021.

Participants will now have the option to elect a $250 daily benefit at a cost of $202.50 per month.

As always, participants in DIPP have the choice to choose the level of protection they want, currently from $6 to $200 per day. The duration of the coverage period (days), ranges from 200 to 365 days and depends on how long a participant has been enrolled in the program. The new maximum daily benefit will provide yet another level of financial protection and peace of mind when a member’s income is at risk. DIPP has a long tradition of shielding SMART-TD members if they are suspended, dismissed or removed from service by the carrier for alleged violation of rules or operating procedures and pays out millions of dollars to participants annually.

If interested in joining DIPP or increasing your existing daily benefit level, TD members should contact their Regional Insurance Manager / Field Supervisor or email DIPP_TD@smart-union.org or write to Discipline Income Protection Program, 24950 Country Club Blvd., Ste. 340, North Olmsted, OH 44070-5333.

For more information on DIPP, visit us on the web at www.smart-union.org/td/dipp.


Did you know that any member in good standing with SMART-TD can be appointed to the position of DIPP Representative and be compensated from the Plan for any direct sales?

If interested, please contact your Regional Insurance Manager / Field Supervisor or email DIPP_TD@smart-union.org for further details.

Big updates in new version of SMART app

SMART is proud to announce to TD members the launch of a new upgrade in the union’s mobile app.

Packed with enhanced and new features, the SMART app is now, more than ever, an essential resource for TD members to stay up to speed with important information and another way that your union is putting technology to work for you.

These new improvements for TD members in this latest version of the app include:

  • A new electronic membership card accessible to TD members.
  • Easy access to current membership information, including your union membership status, where your local meeting is, and info about benefit enrollment.
  • A page dedicated to your Local with up-to-the-minute info and access to Local leadership’s contact info at your service.
  • A direct messaging feature that Local union leadership, including chairpersons, legislative representatives, presidents and secretary and treasurers, can use to get in touch with you quickly with what you need to know via push notifications and alerts.
  • Quick links to the TD Safety Condition Report and the TD News.
  • Full access to info so you can take advantage of the benefits your union provides such as the SMART Membership Assistance Program.

The upgraded SMART app is available for download by following the QR code accompanying this article or visit the mobile app page on the SMART website.

If members with a previous version of the SMART app installed on their devices have automatic updates enabled, the new version of the app — Version 4.1.12 — will be installed with no action needed on the part of the user. If automatic updates are not turned on, members will have to visit the Apple App Store or Google Play (or visit the link above) to install this new update manually. For all users, if not prompted to log in, please log out, then log back in manually for the new update to take effect.

Download a flier to post at your worksite about the app.

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

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.

Feedback sought for revisions/refinements to time books

To Local Treasurers, Local Presidents and Local Chairpersons,

As you are aware, we are presently accepting orders for the 2021 time books and while these orders are being processed we are also reviewing the materials contained in the current booklet.

This booklet is utilized by you, the membership. As such, we are soliciting your ideas and feedback on how this office may update the booklet to greater serve the membership’s needs/requirements.

Due to publishing requisites, you must submit any feedback by Sept. 4, 2020, to be reviewed by the committee.

Please send your submissions to Dora Wolf via email: dwolf@smart-union.org for consideration prior to the deadline stated above.

SMART – Transportation Division

RRB Q&A: Unemployment and Sickness Benefits for Railroad Employees

The Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) administers the Railroad Unemployment Insurance Act (RUIA), which provides two kinds of benefits for qualified railroaders: unemployment benefits for those who become unemployed but are ready, willing, and able to work; and sickness benefits for those who are unable to work because of sickness or injury. Sickness benefits are also payable to female rail workers for periods of time when they are unable to work because of health conditions related to pregnancy, miscarriage or childbirth. A new benefit year begins each July 1.

The following questions and answers describe these benefits, their eligibility requirements, and how to claim them. In addition, it details how the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act, affects the RRB’s administration of benefits under the RUIA.

1.      What are the eligibility requirements for railroad unemployment and sickness benefits in July 2020?

To qualify for normal railroad unemployment or sickness benefits, an employee must have had railroad earnings of at least $4,012.50 in calendar year 2019, counting no more than $1,605 for any month. Those who were first employed in the rail industry in 2019 must also have at least five months of creditable railroad service in 2019.

Under certain conditions, employees who do not qualify on the basis of their 2019 earnings may still be able to receive benefits in the new benefit year. Employees with at least 10 years of service (120 or more months of service) who received normal benefits in the benefit year ending June 30, 2020, may be eligible for extended benefits, and employees with at least 10 years of service (120 or more months of service) might qualify for accelerated benefits if they have rail earnings of at least $4,137.50 in 2020, not counting earnings of more than $1,655 a month. (Please see Question 4 for information on provisions for extended unemployment benefits under the CARES Act.)

In order to qualify for extended unemployment benefits, a claimant must not have voluntarily quit work without good cause and not have voluntarily retired. To qualify for extended sickness benefits, a claimant must not have voluntarily retired and must be under age 65.

To be eligible for accelerated benefits, a claimant must have 14 or more consecutive days of unemployment or sickness; not have voluntarily retired or, if claiming unemployment benefits, quit work without good cause; and, when claiming sickness benefits, be under age 65.

2.      What if I’m not eligible for railroad unemployment benefits under the criteria listed in Question 1?

You may be eligible for benefits under a new temporary federal program called Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), which was created under the CARES Act. In general, PUA provides up to 39 weeks of unemployment benefits to individuals not eligible for regular unemployment compensation or extended benefits, including those who have exhausted all rights to such benefits. The PUA program is administered by individual states, not the RRB. For eligibility information, and to find the application process in each state, please visit careeronestop.org, and under the Find Local Help tab, select Unemployment Benefits Finder.

3.      What is the daily benefit rate payable in the new benefit year beginning July 1, 2020?

Almost all employees will qualify for the maximum daily benefit rate of $80. Benefits are generally payable for the number of days of unemployment or sickness over four in 14-day claim periods, which yields $800 for each two full weeks of unemployment or sickness. Sickness benefits payable for the first 6 months after the month the employee last worked are subject to Tier I Railroad Retirement payroll taxes, unless benefits are being paid for an on-the-job injury.

Claimants should be aware that as a result of a sequestration order under the Budget Control Act of 2011, the RRB will reduce unemployment and sickness benefits by 5.9 percent through September 30, 2020. As a result, the total maximum amount payable in a 2-week period covering 10 days of unemployment or sickness will be $752.80. The maximum amount payable for sickness benefits subject to Tier I payroll taxes of 7.65 percent will be $695.21 over two weeks. It is expected that sequestration will force a 5.7 percent reduction in unemployment and sickness benefits beginning October 1, 2020. Future reductions, should they occur, will be calculated based on applicable law.

In addition, under the CARES Act, the amount of an unemployment benefit is increased by $1,200 per 2-week period. This increased amount, which is not subject to sequestration, is applied to any 2-week registration periods that began on or after April 1, 2020, through July 31, 2020. (Sequestration is not applied to benefit payments issued under the CARES Act.) The CARES Act includes a separate appropriation of $425 million to pay for this added “recovery benefit.” If this fund is exhausted, the new provision will no longer apply.

4.      How long are these benefits payable?

Normal unemployment or sickness benefits are each payable for up to 130 days (26 weeks) in a benefit year. The total amount of each kind of benefit which may be paid in the new benefit year cannot exceed the employee’s railroad earnings in calendar year 2019, counting earnings up to $2,073 per month.

If normal benefits are exhausted, extended benefits are payable for up to 65 days (during 7 consecutive 14-day claim periods) to employees with at least 10 years of service (120 or more cumulative service months).

The CARES Act also authorizes payment of extended unemployment benefits to rail workers who received unemployment benefits from July 1, 2019, to June 30, 2020. Under the legislation, railroad workers with less than 10 years of service may be eligible for up to 65 days of extended benefits within 7 consecutive 2-week registration periods. Workers with 10 or more years of railroad service, who were previously eligible for up to 65 days in extended benefits, may now receive benefits for up to 130 days within 13 consecutive 2-week registration periods. No extended benefit period under this provision will begin after December 31, 2020.

5.      What is the waiting period requirement for unemployment and sickness benefits?

There is a 7-day waiting period requirement, prior to any benefits becoming payable under the RUIA. During the first 14-day claim period, benefits are payable for every day claimed in excess of seven days. Subsequent claims are paid for the number of days of unemployment or sickness over four in each 14-day registration period. Initial sickness claims must also begin with four consecutive days of sickness. If an employee has at least five days of unemployment or five days of sickness in a 14-day period, he or she should still file for benefits in order to satisfy the waiting period for the current benefit year. Separate waiting periods are required for unemployment and sickness benefits. However, only one seven-day waiting period is generally required during any period of continuing unemployment or sickness, even if that period continues into a subsequent benefit year.

Under the CARES Act, the 7-day waiting period required before railroad workers can receive unemployment or sickness benefits is temporarily eliminated. This applies to any 14-day registration period that began on or after March 28, 2020, and ends on or before December 31, 2020. (Please note that this is the only provision of the CARES Act that applies to both unemployment and sickness benefits.) Employees who previously submitted claims during this time and were charged with the 7-day waiting period will receive retroactive payments of these additional monies once our systems are ready to pay them. The legislation provides $50 million to cover the cost of eliminating the waiting period, and, as with the recovery benefit paid under the CARES Act, if this fund is exhausted, the new provision will no longer apply.

6.      Are there special waiting period requirements if unemployment is due to a strike?

If a worker is unemployed because of a strike conducted in accordance with the Railway Labor Act, benefits are not payable for days of unemployment during the first 14 days of the strike, but benefits are payable during subsequent 14-day periods.

If a strike is in violation of the Railway Labor Act, unemployment benefits are not payable to employees participating in the strike. However, employees not among those participating in such an illegal strike, but who are unemployed on account of the strike, may receive benefits after the first two weeks of the strike.

While a benefit year waiting period cannot count toward a strike waiting period, the 14-day strike waiting period may count as the benefit year waiting period if a worker subsequently becomes unemployed for reasons other than a strike later in the benefit year.

7.      Can employees in train and engine service receive unemployment benefits for days when they are standing by or laying over between scheduled runs?

No, not if they are standing by or laying over between regularly assigned trips or they missed a turn in pool service.

8.      Can extra-board employees receive unemployment benefits between jobs?

Yes, but only if the miles and/or hours they actually worked were less than the equivalent of normal full-time work in their class of service during the 14-day claim period. Entitlement to benefits would also depend on the employee’s earnings.

9.      How would an employee’s earnings in a claim period affect his or her eligibility for unemployment benefits?

If a claimant’s earnings for days worked, and/or days of vacation, paid leave, or other leave in a 14-day registration period are more than a certain indexed amount, no benefits are payable for any days of unemployment in that period. That registration period, however, can be used to satisfy the waiting period.

Earnings include pay from railroad and non-railroad work, as well as part-time work and self-employment. Earnings also include pay that an employee would have earned except for failure to mark up or report for duty on time, or because he or she missed a turn in pool service or was otherwise not ready or willing to work. For the benefit year that begins July 2020, the amount is $1,605, which corresponds to the base year monthly compensation amount used in determining eligibility for benefits in each year. Also, even if an earnings test applies on the first claim in a benefit year, this will not prevent the first claim from satisfying the waiting period in a benefit year.

Earnings of $15 or less per day from work which is substantially less than full-time and not inconsistent with the holding of normal full-time employment may be considered subsidiary remuneration and may not prevent payment of any days in a claim. However, a claimant must report all full and part-time work on each claim, regardless of the amount of earnings, so the RRB can determine if the work affects benefits.

10.    How does a person apply for and claim unemployment benefits?

Employees can apply for and claim unemployment benefits online or by mail. Individuals who have established an account through myRRB at RRB.gov can log in and file their applications and their biweekly claims online. Employees are encouraged to establish their accounts while still working to expedite the filing process for future unemployment benefits, and for access to other online services.

To apply by mail, claimants must obtain an Application for Unemployment Benefits (Form UI-1) from RRB.gov, or their labor organization or railroad employer. The completed application should be mailed to the local RRB office as soon as possible and, in any case, must be filed within 30 days from the date the claimant became unemployed, or the first day for which he or she wishes to claim benefits. Benefits may be lost if the application is filed late. Claimants who know in advance that they will be filing an unemployment application or claim late should include a signed statement explaining why they are unable to meet the required time frame.

Persons can find the address of the RRB office serving their area by visiting RRB.gov and clicking on Field Office Locator, or by calling the agency toll-free at 1-877-772-5772 and selecting the appropriate option from the automated menu.

The local RRB field office reviews the completed application, whether it was submitted online or by mail, and notifies the claimant’s current railroad employer, and base-year employer, if different. The employer has the right to provide information about the benefit application.

After processing the application, biweekly claim forms are made available on the RRB’s website, or are mailed to the claimant, as long as he or she remains unemployed and eligible for benefits. Claim forms should be signed and sent on or after the last day of the claim. This can be done online or by mail. The completed claim must be received by the RRB within 15 days of the end of the claim period, or within 15 days of the date the claim form was made available online or mailed to the claimant, whichever is later. Claimants must not file both an online and a paper claim form for the same period(s). Once an individual submits a claim online, all subsequent claim forms will be made available online only, and will no longer be mailed.

Only one application needs to be filed during a benefit year, even if a claimant becomes unemployed more than once. However, a claimant must, in such a case, request a claim form from the RRB within 30 days of the first day for which he or she wants to resume claiming benefits. These claims may then be filed online or by mail.

11.  How does a person apply for and claim sickness benefits?

An Application for Sickness Benefits (SI-1a) can be obtained from RRB.gov, a railroad labor organization, or a railroad employer. Applications for sickness benefits must be submitted to the agency by mail, or by fax at 312-751-7185. Subsequent claims may be completed online by those with myRRB accounts.

An application including a doctor’s statement of sickness is required at the beginning of each period of continuing sickness for which benefits are claimed. Claimants should make a special effort to have the doctor’s statement of sickness completed promptly since claims cannot be paid without it.

The RRB suggests that employees keep an application for sickness benefits on hand, and that family members know where the form is kept and how to use it. If an employee becomes unable to work because of sickness or injury, the employee should complete the application and then have his or her doctor complete the Statement of Sickness (SI-1b). If a claimant receives sickness benefits for an injury or illness for which he or she is paid damages, it is important to be aware that the RRB is entitled to reimbursement of either the amount of the benefits paid for the injury or illness, or the net amount of the settlement, after deducting the claimant’s gross medical, hospital, and legal expenses, whichever is less.

If the employee is too sick to complete the application, someone else may do so. In such cases, a family member should also complete a Statement of Authority to Act for Employee (Form SI-10), which accompanies the statement of sickness.

After completion, the forms should be mailed to the RRB’s headquarters in Chicago within 10 days from when the employee became sick or injured. However, applications received after 10 days but within 30 days of the first day for which an employee wishes to claim benefits are generally considered timely filed if there is a good reason for the delay. Upon receipt, the RRB will process the application and determine if the employee is eligible for sickness benefits.

After processing the application, the RRB provides biweekly claims to the qualified employee as long as he or she is eligible for benefits and remains unable to work due to illness or injury. Biweekly claims are made available for completion online (by those with an account at myRRB) or mailed to the claimant. Completed claim forms must be received at the RRB within 30 days of the last day of the claim period, or within 30 days of the date the claim form was made available online or mailed to the claimant, whichever is later. Benefits may be lost if an application or claim is filed late. Claimants who know in advance that they will be filing a sickness application or claim late should include a signed statement explaining why they are unable to meet the required time frame.

As with claims for unemployment benefits, once a claim for sickness benefits is submitted online, all subsequent claims will be made available online only, and will no longer be mailed.

Claimants are reminded that while claim forms for sickness benefits can be submitted online, applications must be mailed to the RRB. Statements of sickness may be mailed with the sickness application or faxed directly from the doctor’s office to the RRB at 312-751-7185. Faxes must include a cover sheet from the doctor’s office.

12.  Is a claimant’s employer notified each time a biweekly claim for unemployment or sickness benefits is filed?

The RUIA requires the RRB to notify the claimant’s base-year employer each time a claim for benefits is filed. That employer has the right to submit information relevant to the claim before the RRB makes an initial determination on the claim. Benefits may not be paid at this time but the employee will receive a notice and have the right to appeal. In addition, if a claimant’s base-year employer is not his or her current employer, the claimant’s current employer is also notified. The RRB must also notify the claimant’s base-year employer each time benefits are paid to a claimant. The base-year employer may protest the decision to pay benefits. Such a protest does not prevent the timely payment of benefits. However, a claimant may be required to repay benefits if the employer’s protest is ultimately successful. The employer also has the right to appeal an unfavorable decision to the RRB’s Bureau of Hearings and Appeals.

The RRB also conducts checks with other federal agencies and all 50 states, as well as the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, to detect fraudulent benefit claims, and it checks with physicians to verify the accuracy of medical statements supporting sickness benefit claims.

13.  How long does it take to receive payment?

Under the RRB’s Customer Service Plan, if a claimant files an application for unemployment or sickness benefits, the RRB will release a claim form or a denial letter within 10 days of receiving his or her application. If a claim for subsequent biweekly unemployment or sickness benefits is filed, the RRB will certify a payment or release a denial letter within 10 days of the date the RRB receives the claim form. If the claimant is entitled to benefits, his or her benefits will generally be paid within one week of that decision.

If a claimant does not receive a decision notice or payment within the specified time period, he or she may expect an explanation for the delay and an estimate of the time required to make a decision.

However, some claims for benefits may take longer to handle than others if they are more complex, or if an RRB office has to get information from other people or organizations, or under special circumstances such as the current pandemic.

Regarding the payments authorized under the CARES Act, after making necessary programming changes to claims processing systems, the RRB started paying extended unemployment benefits and unemployment recovery payments on May 11, and May 28, respectively. As for payment of the additional monies related to the elimination of the 7-day waiting period, the agency hopes to complete the needed programming changes for this provision in the near future. The RRB will initially make retroactive payments to individuals eligible for the payments listed above who had previously submitted unemployment claims before moving on to processing new claims.

Claimants who think an RRB office made the wrong decision about their benefits have the right to ask for review and to appeal. They will be notified of these rights each time an unfavorable decision is made on their claims.

14.  How are payments made?

Railroad unemployment and sickness insurance benefits are paid by direct deposit. With direct deposit, benefit payments are made electronically to an employee’s bank, savings and loan, credit union or other financial institution. New applicants for unemployment and sickness benefits will be asked to provide information needed for direct deposit enrollment.

15.  How can claimants get more information on their railroad unemployment or sickness claims?

Claimants with online myRRB accounts can log in to view their individual railroad unemployment insurance account statement. This statement displays the type and amount of the claimant’s last five benefit payments, the claim period for which the payments were made, and the dates that the payments were approved. Individuals can also confirm the RRB’s receipt of applications and claims.

In addition, claimants can call the agency toll-free at 1-877-772-5772 to access information about the status of unemployment and sickness claims or payments 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Individuals with questions about unemployment or sickness benefits, or who need information about their specific claims and benefit payments, can send a secure email to their local 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 absolutely 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.

VSTD COVID-19 Elimination Period Waiver is Extended

June 17, 2020

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.

We are pleased to announce that the Plan will be extending this waiver for three (3) more months through August 2020. So, effective with all diagnosed COVID-19 (Coronavirus) disabilities beginning in the months of March through August 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 September 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.

RRB Labor Member: Testing underway, enhanced benefit payments expected in a week

From RRB Labor Member John Bragg:

In my last update, I explained that Phase 2 of the Railroad Retirement Board’s (RRB) CARES Act implementation plan was targeted for completion by the end of May.  Phase 2 of the RRB’s plan provides for the additional $1,200 per registration period for claims beginning April 1, 2020, or later.  I am happy to report that final testing is underway as I draft this message.  Barring any unforeseen complications, we anticipate making the first payments under Phase 2 within a week.  I am grateful for the commitment of RRB employees who have worked tirelessly to implement computer programming changes to issue these payments, in recognition that they are crucial to our brothers and sisters in the railroad community.

RRB Labor Member John Bragg

Recently, we have been receiving inquiries regarding railroad employees filing for unemployment insurance (UI) benefits with the RRB while being compensated for work as union representatives.  Employees must report all full-time and part-time work to the RRB when filing for benefits, including work as a union representative.  If pay is received for a particular day, the employee should not claim the day as a day of unemployment.  Instead, the employee should report the pay on the claim form with the appropriate code (for example, ‘E’ for a day employed, or ‘P’ for a vacation day or holiday pay).  There are certain conditions where part-time work does not affect entitlement to benefits.  In general, if the pay is no more than $15 a day for work which is substantially less than full-time and not inconsistent with the holding of full-time employment, it may be considered “subsidiary remuneration” and will not affect payment of UI benefits.  Employees should keep in mind that the RRB must make a determination in advance of whether benefits are payable for days where part-time work was performed.  Following are 2 examples provided for illustrative purposes:

Example 1:  A claimant receives a salary of $350 per month for serving as secretary-treasurer of the local lodge of his union.  He performs a variety of duties at his own convenience while holding down a full-time railroad job in his craft.  The average payment per day is not more than $15 and therefore it will likely be determined to be subsidiary remuneration.  If the claimant is laid off from his full-time railroad job but still receives $350 per month union salary, he should contact the RRB to see if unemployment benefits may be paid to him.

Example 2: A claimant receives a salary of $500 per month for serving as secretary-treasurer of the local lodge of his union.  He performs a variety of duties at his own convenience while holding down a full-time railroad job in his craft.  The average payment per day is more than $15 and therefore it will likely be determined not to be subsidiary remuneration.  If the claimant is laid off from his full-time railroad job but still receives $500 per month union salary, it is likely no UI benefits would be payable as UI benefits would only be payable if the amount he was paid for the union work was subsidiary remuneration.

Additional guidance on the effects of part-time work and whether the compensation paid for such work meets the definition of subsidiary remuneration can be obtained by contacting the RRB at 1-877-772-5772.

SMART-TD, BLET announce launch of Information and Communications Technology survey

CLEVELAND, Ohio, (May 20) — The U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT) Volpe National Transportation Systems Center (Volpe), in partnership with the SMART Transportation Division (SMART-TD) and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET), is launching a survey in mid-May to learn more about Information and Communications Technology (ICT), which relates to the technology and tools that railroaders use to share, gather and communicate information. The purpose of the survey is to understand how best to communicate important safety-related information to union members and across the railroad industry.

The ICT survey, approved by both SMART-TD and BLET leadership, is being sent to a randomly selected sample of active train, yard, and engine railroaders. Everyone included in this sample is strongly encouraged to respond.

“We support this effort because we believe it will help us to better serve our members. We are collaborating with the Volpe team to reach our members for this survey. Please make time to complete the ICT questionnaire if you receive it,” SMART-TD President Jeremy R. Ferguson and BLET President Dennis R. Pierce explained.

Participation is voluntary and means only completing the questionnaire, which should take no more than 20 minutes. Unique codes for each questionnaire are assigned randomly to participants to keep responses strictly confidential.

Interested parties can learn more about the ICT Survey by contacting Dr. Heidi Howarth, the Volpe project lead, at heidi.howarth@dot.gov or 617-494-2522. This project is sponsored by the Office of Research, Development, and Technology of the Federal Railroad Administration.

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The U.S. DOT established Volpe in 1970 to serve as a federal resource positioned to provide world-renowned, multidisciplinary, multimodal transportation expertise on behalf of U.S. DOT’s operating administrations, the Office of the Secretary, and external organizations.

The SMART Transportation Division is comprised of approximately 125,000 active and retired members of the former United Transportation Union, who work in a variety of crafts in the transportation industry.

The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen represents nearly 58,000 professional locomotive engineers and trainmen throughout the United States. The BLET is the founding member of the Rail Conference, International Brotherhood of Teamsters.