UTU Assistant President and International Vice President John Previsich has been named to the additional post of UTU general secretary and treasurer (GS&T) by the UTU Board of Directors.
Previsich also will continue handling assignments as an International vice president, but those assignments will be pared down given his new duties.
Previsich succeeds GS&T Kim Thompson, who retired Dec. 31. UTU International Vice President Delbert Strunk had been elevated to that post, effective Jan. 1, but Strunk chose, instead, to retire Dec. 31.
The UTU Board of Directors made additional appointments:
* UTU Alternate Vice President Troy Johnson becomes an International vice president, succeeding International Vice President Paul Tibbit, who retired Dec. 1.
* UTU Alternate Vice President John England becomes an International vice president, filling a position vacated by Strunk.
* Vice General Chairperson Jeremy Ferguson (CSX, GO 049) and General Chairperson Brent Leonard (Union Pacific, GO 953) become alternate vice presidents, filling the positions of alternate vice president vacated by Johnson and England.
Additionally, the United Transportation Union Insurance Association (UTUIA) Board of Directors elected Bruce Feltmeyer as general secretary and treasurer of UTUIA, succeeding Kim Thompson in that position. Feltmeyer also holds the position of director of staff at the UTU Headquarters in North Olmsted, Ohio.
Biographies of the new officers are available – or will become available in the case of Ferguson and Leonard – at http://www.utu.org/ by clicking on “About the UTU,” then clicking on “officers” and scrolling down to the names.
Feltmeyer’s biography is available at http://www.utu.org/ by clicking on “About the UTU,” then clicking on “UTU/UTUIA Staff” and scrolling down to his name.
UTU International Vice President Delbert Strunk, who recently was selected by the UTU Board of Directors to succeed Kim Thompson as International general secretary & treasurer Jan. 1, chose, instead, to retire Dec. 31.
Thompson previously announced his Dec. 31 retirement.
The UTU Board of Directors will meet to determine another successor to Thompson.
Kim Thompson, general secretary & treasurer of the UTU International and the UTU Insurance Association since 2008, will retire Dec. 31.
The UTU Board of Directors has elected International Vice President Delbert Strunk to succeed Thompson Jan. 1. Strunk will retain his position as an International vice president.
Also, International Vice President Paul Tibbit will retire Dec. 1, but the UTU board has not yet elected a successor.
UTU International President Mike Futhey praised Thompson as “one of the most dedicated union officers I have had the honor and privilege to work with. Kim’s stewardship of UTU and UTUIA finances is a principal reason both organizations have meaningfully improved their bottom lines in spite of this lengthy economic downturn.
“Delbert Strunk is one of the most loyal and hardworking of International officers,” Futhey said. “His experience at all levels and facets of this organization will ensure a seamless transition.
“The retirement of Paul Tibbit will be felt throughout the UTU, as his assistance to general committees in negotiating contracts and successfully pursuing grievances has earned him deep respect from all who have benefited from his expertise and advice,” Futhey said.
Thompson, who will be 65 in January, began his railroad career in 1966 as a brakeman on the Moberly Division of the former Wabash Railway (later merged into Norfolk & Western, and now part of Norfolk Southern). He was promoted to conductor in 1972 following four years of U.S. Navy service.
In 1975, Thompson was elected president and chairperson of Local 226, Moberly, Mo., representing conductors, brakemen and yardmen, and was elected by his local as a delegate to two UTU conventions. He was elected legislative representative of his local in 1976.
In 1985, Thompson was elected a full-time vice general chairperson (GO 719, merged in 1998 into GO 687), and elected general chairperson of GO 719 in 1989, representing conductors, brakemen, yardmen, firemen and engineers on the former Wabash lines of Norfolk Southern.
Thompson was elected to the UTU International’s Executive Board in 1987, and served as board chairperson for eight years. In 1995, he was elected UTU International first alternate vice president for the South; and elevated to UTU International vice president in 1997.
He served as vice president until he was elected general secretary & treasurer at the UTU International convention in 2007. He took office Oct. 1, 2007, upon the retirement of GS&T Dan Johnson.
From 1988 through 1997, Thompson served on the board of the Wabash Memorial Hospital Association in Decatur, Ill.
“My impending retirement comes with mixed feelings,” Thompson said. “There is always another task to do. There is always someone in need of help. But I have learned that there is someone to step up as I once did and the time comes for them, just as it did for me.
“I am indebted to Jim Oliver, former Local 881, Montpelier, Ohio, a vice general chairperson who taught me that preparation fosters success. I am also thankful for Tom DuBose, who taught me to take care of business and the rest will take care of itself. And I will forever be thankful to Mike Futhey for his leadership through the most challenging time faced by this organization.
“I am thankful for the love and support of my bride, Connie, and her sacrifices in following my dream and I look forward to our time being ours.”
Thompson and his wife, Connie, have five children and five grandchildren.
Strunk, 62, began his career in 1973 as a brakeman on the Cleveland Division of New York, Chicago & St. Louis (Nickel Plate, which later merged into Norfolk & Western and is now part of Norfolk Southern.) He was promoted to conductor in 1977.
In 1975, Strunk was elected legislative representative of Local 225, Bellevue, Ohio, which represents conductors, trainmen, yardmen and engineers. Over the next 35 years, Strunk held the offices of vice local chairperson, local chairperson, alternate legislative representative, legislative representative, general secretary (GO 687) and delegate to the 2007 UTU convention.
In 1983, Strunk was elected as general secretary of GO 687; he was elected full-time general chairperson of the general committee in 1989. Strunk served as general chairperson, representing conductors, trainmen, yardmen and engineers, for the next 20-plus years.
In 1998, Strunk merged GO 719 (former Wabash) into GO 687 (former Nickel Plate), forming what is now one of the largest general committees on Norfolk Southern. Strunk was elected alternate vice president-East in 2007, was elevated to International vice president in July 2009 and was re-elected International vice president in 2011.
He was elected as vice chairperson for the District No. 1 General Chairpersons’ Association and was elevated to the position of chairperson when the former chairperson retired.
Strunk has been appointed to the last three UTU national negotiating committees, as well as appointed to the National Wage and Rules Panel. He served as chairperson of the 2007 UTU Constitution Committee and is a member of the UTU Board of Directors.
Strunk and his wife, Diane, have four children and 16 grandchildren.
Paul Tibbit, 65 and from Texarkana, Tex., is a member of Local 331 at Temple, Tex.
He served in the U.S. Navy from 1965 to 1968 and began his rail career with Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe (now part of BNSF) in 1971.
He has served the UTU as a local secretary & treasurer, local chairperson and general chairperson of GO 393.
Tibbit was elected alternate vice president-West in 2007, elevated to International vice president in 2009, and elected an International vice president at the 2011 quadrennial convention.
UTU members employed by New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) and working in numerous crafts on Staten Island Railway have a new agreement retroactive to January 2007, following an award by a state arbitrator.
Negotiations had dragged for nearly six years, leading to the arbitration award. Under New York State’s Taylor Law guiding public-employee labor relations, strikes are not permitted.
The arbitrator, appointed by the state, rejected a request for a six-year agreement, meaning the almost 42-month agreement he imposed is already ripe for amendment, and UTU officers on the railroad are preparing to begin a new round of wage, benefits and rules negotiations even as members await retroactive pay under the arbitrated agreement.
“The MTA fought us every step of the way, throwing obstacle after obstacle in our path, such as filing unwarrented charges of bad-faith bargaining against the union when we filed for arbitration after 44 fruitless negotiating sessions,” said General Chairperson Tom Wilson (GO SIR).
Affected by the arbitration award are conductors, engineers, track maintenance, third-rail power, equipment maintenance, signal and electrical craft employees, all represented by the UTU.
Wilson and International Vice President Delbert Strunk, who assisted in negotiations and the arbitration, said the award includes full retroactive wage increases, additional sick days, union release time, night and weekend differentials, pension plan improvements, and a new grievance and arbitration procedure.
Wilson and Strunk praised former UTU Local 1440 President Jaime Brownell and all local and general committee officers — including General Committee Secretary Joe Palmieri and Local 1440 Secretary and Treasurer Vincent LaBella — for “truly tireless and unrelenting efforts during this difficult negotiating and arbitration process.” Wilson said that “the members of Local 1440 can hold their heads high as proud members of a union that will climb into the trenches and battle for their members. Delbert rolled up his sleeves and jumped in to show the might of the UTU International.”
Strunk also thanked UTU members who made contributions to a fund benefiting the financially and emotionally devastated family of his niece, Tori Swoape, who died in May.
Strunk said the outpouring of support, including cards, letters, phone calls and emails, helped “not only Tori’s family, but gave me a needed boost while away from family members during this emotionally difficult time while I worked on the arbitration award. In every way, on the job and away from the property, UTU members take care of their own, which makes the United Transportation Union America’s preeminent labor organization,” Strunk said.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority was created by the New York legislature in 1968, and took over control and operation of the passenger service of Staten Island Railway in 1971 from Baltimore & Ohio Railroad (now part of CSX).
Tori Nakol Swoape, a niece of UTU International Vice President Delbert Strunk, was, according to friends, a “beautiful” and “very bubbly” 15-year old high school sophomore.
Tori committed suicide in May, the victim, say friends and family, of relentless physical and verbal bullying in her new school in Bloomington, Ind.
This is news not because Tori was Delbert’s niece. It is news because one in-four students has become a victim of bullying, according to statistics, with the result that thousands of children awake afraid to go to school – and too frequently some, tormented beyond their mental capacity to cope, tragically choose to end their lives.
As most states have anti-bullying laws, and most schools have strict policies to combat bullying, victims of bullying – or their parents or friends – should report bullies to school guidance counselors or teachers.
Following her tragic death, Tori’s friends created a Facebook page, “Stop Bullying,” and participated in various high-profile community activities intended to make the problem of bullying better recognized. “Tori is going to make a difference in so many people’s lives, I just know it,” said her grandmother, Vicki Swoape.
“This ordeal is simply heart wrenching and there are no words that we can say to the family that can ease the pain of losing a child or grandchild,” said Strunk. “If this article can save one child from harming themselves, then we have made a difference.”
Adding to the pain is that Tori’s single mom, Lana, in addition to struggling with the details of this inconsolable tragedy, is straining to pay for Tori’s funeral.
If you would like to help, contributions may be sent to:
Fund for Tori Nakol Swoape
3301 S. Madison Street
Muncie, IN 47302