John Previsich has been elevated to the position of president of the Transportation Division of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers following the retirement of Mike Futhey.
Previsich becomes the second president of the SMART Transportation Division and the eighth leader of what was formerly the United Transportation Union. He is a member of Transportation Division Local 31 in San Jose, Calif.
According to the current UTU Constitution, Article 2 states that “Vacancies occurring in positions not subject to attrition shall be filled as follows: President – By the Assistant President.”
“It is with immeasurable pride and humility that I accept elevation to the position of president of the SMART Transportation Division. This is an honor that I do not take lightly,” Previsich said.
“I recognize the immense responsibility that comes with this office and I pledge to all of our members that I will continue, as I have always done, to serve in a transparent and effective manner, with the strong leadership that is essential to secure and protect the interests of our membership.”
Previsich began his railroad career with Southern Pacific Transportation Company, where he commenced work as a train service operations employee in San Francisco, Calif. He later transferred to engine service and achieved certification as both a railroad conductor and locomotive engineer.
Previsich started doing work as a local union officer in the 1980s. Thereafter, he moved into a system-wide position as a general chairperson in the early 1990s, followed by his election to International vice president in 2007. He was re-elected in 2011, elevated to the position of assistant president in 2012 and assumed the responsibilities of the general secretary and treasurer position on Jan. 1, 2013.
During the course of his career, Previsich has advocated on behalf of his members in mergers and consolidations in the rail and airline industries, 13(c) transactions, divestitures, national and local contract negotiations and countless arbitrations and mediations, securing and defending collective bargaining agreements on properties large and small.
Having a special interest in transportation-industry safety issues, Previsich is the SMART Transportation Division representative on the Federal Railroad Administration’s Rail Safety Advisory Committee and has served on numerous subcommittees associated with RSAC.
In addition, he was appointed by the secretary of the Department of Transportation to the National Freight Advisory Committee, a cabinet-level group that reports directly to the secretary on MAP-21, a program charged with assisting in the development of administration policy on a national freight plan for the 21st century.
At the conclusion of the SMART Transportation Division’s Boston regional meeting July 3, Futhey announced he would step down from office, pending resolution of arbitration proceedings regarding the union’s constitution. His retirement was effective Sept. 30.
By John Previsich, UTU Assistant President/ GS&T –
Discipline in the railroad industry is a curious business. I recall that when I first hired out, I was proud of my new employment. The railroad had selected me over other well-qualified applicants, and I was sent to school and provided extensive on-the-job training before being allowed to mark up.
I thought the railroad that hired and trained me actually valued a good, responsible employee who was loyal to the company and who wanted to give a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay.
And then I marked up. On my first trip for pay, we saw a burning fusee very close to the rail on the outside of the curve. Thanks to the engineer, we stopped short of the burning fusee, with plenty of room to spare. Nonetheless, two company officers climbed on board and told us we got lucky this time, but maybe next time the fusee would be a little harder to see or some other more difficult test might be coming our way. There was not a word of praise for the heads-up performance of the engineer or a welcome aboard to the new guy.
After the officers left, I asked the engineer what that was all about. He said those were the local managers and they were forced by their supervisors to perform a number of efficiency tests each month and that some portion of those tests were required to be failures — that some superintendents actually required a number of dismissals to ensure all of the other employees “got the message”.
He said if a manager refused to comply with the requirements, that manager would be looking for another job real soon – that managers sometimes were under pressure to produce test failures and dismissals without regard for the positive performance of the employees.
When asked how he knew about such matters, the engineer said he had been one of those managers, and as a result of his refusal to comply with such directives, he had been released back to the ranks. I shared my thoughts about having a good relationship with the company and that throughout the entire employment and training process all involved stressed repeatedly how much the company valued me and wanted to keep me around. The engineer said, “Kid, those were the guys who hired you and you won’t see them ever again. These are the guys that want to fire you, and they will be in your face every day until they are successful.”
That exchange occurred more than 30 years ago, and I never was fired. But I did become a union officer, and learned a great deal about how things work in a command and control environment.
To learn more about the UTU Discipline Income Protection Plan, click on the following link:
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.
We all know that drug and alcohol use can have a negative impact on users, fellow employees and the transportation industry.
That said, it must be emphasized that SMART members are to be commended for setting a compliance standard that places our airline, bus and rail members as leaders, second to none, in striving to achieve the drug and alcohol-free workplace that is essential to the safe and effective operation of our nation’s trains, planes and buses.
Data show that our members take very seriously the responsibilities of their employment – the incident-free transport of passengers and freight and the safety of co-workers and the public with whom we interact on a daily basis.
We do, however, see occasional spikes that are cause for concern. Although infrequent, our attention is too often drawn to the needs of a member who has failed a drug or alcohol test or who is in need of assistance due to personal struggles with substance abuse.
Sometimes it is an experienced worker who made an error in judgment. Other times, it is a newly hired employee who may be coping with personal issues. Longer term employees may remember a time, just like in society as a whole, that tolerances were different than they are today. But society has moved on, and so has our industry. There is no place in today’s transportation business for drug or alcohol use in violation of federal regulations or company policy.
We are all aware of the challenges we face daily — from unpredictable work requirements and unscheduled (or non-existent) off-days to being on-call 24/7. The ability to balance work and off time can be difficult, at best, if not downright impossible at times.
Poorly conceived availability policies often put pressure on employees to report for service at times they shouldn’t, and the absence of meaningful RedBlock-type programs on many carriers leave the employee who received the surprise call no choice but to report for service or be disciplined for laying off on the call. The industry needs to change and you can rest assured that your union is doing everything to promote that change in the quickest way possible, both at the local and national levels.
Our message to members who decide to experiment casually with illegal use of drugs, or with alcohol or legal use of drugs in a manner that conflicts with the requirements of their employment is one word – DON’T!
For a member who struggles with compliance, we strongly encourage you seek help immediately. Dependency is a medical issue and there are many avenues available to you. From utilization of your health plan for professional assistance, to family, friends, church and co-workers, help is just a phone call away. Please make that call now – the safety of you and your co-workers, your job and even the economic security of your family depends on it.
John Previsich has been elevated from International vice president to assistant president by the UTU Board of Directors, succeeding Arty Martin, who retires Sept. 1.
UTU International President Mike Futhey said of Martin’s departure, “It is difficult to lose a talent like Arty Martin with all the institutional knowledge he has gained through his years of service to UTU members. We certainly wish him and Cindy the best on their retirement adventure.
“In turn, we are truly fortunate to have someone like John Previsich willing to take on the responsibilities of assistant president,” Futhey said.
Previsich, age 58 and a member of UTU Local 31 (San Jose, Calif.), began his railroad service with Southern Pacific (now part of Union Pacific) in 1973, working in yard, road and engine service. He currently holds seniority as a switchman, brakeman, conductor, fireman and engineer on UP, and worked in commuter and long-distance passenger rail service for 10 years.
He was elected to numerous positions, including local chairperson, vice general chairperson and general chairperson — the latter to which he was elected five times by acclamation — representing brakemen, assistant conductors, conductors, firemen, hostlers, engineers and train dispatchers on short lines, passenger lines and Class I railroads.
As an elected Local 31 delegate, Previsich attended International conventions in 1991, 1995 and 1999. Additionally, he served on the peer support committee for UP’s Operation Red Block (1993 to 1998), UP’s Safety Assurance and Compliance Program, chairperson of the UTU’s Union Pacific General Chairperson Association for three terms (2002-2006), and as the UTU’s representative on Southern Pacific’s 401(k) Plan board of directors.
Previsich was elected an International vice president in 2007 and re-elected in 2011. His assignments have included assisting general committees on UP, BNSF, Kansas City Southern, CSX, CN/IC, Canadian Pacific, Delaware & Hudson, San Joaquin Valley Railroad, Kyle Railroad, Nebraska Central, Birmingham Southern, Amtrak, Progressive Rail, Connex, Terminal Railroad of St. Louis, Louisiana & Northwest Railroad, Dakota Minnesota & Eastern, Great Lakes Aviation and Lynx Aviation pilots’ group.
He also was assigned to assist the National Legislative Office in passage of the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008, and serves on behalf of the UTU on the act’s safety advisory committee, the FRA Medical Standards Working Group, the Positive Train Control Advisory Committee and the Close Call Reporting System (C3RS).
He and his wife, Kathy, have four children.
Arty Martin, age 66, is a fourth generation railroader, having been elected assistant president in 2007 and re-elected in 2011.
He signed on with Union Pacific in Pocatello, Idaho, in 1966 while attending Idaho State University, where he earned a degree in business administration, with a minor in labor law. An Air Force veteran, he also played minor league baseball as a catcher, including one professional season in Alaska.
Martin was promoted to engineer in 1975. Frustration over railroad treatment of employees encouraged him to run successfully in 1977 for UTU Local 78 vice local chairperson, representing engineers. He subsequently was elected vice general chairperson and general chairperson. In 1992, Martin merged the enginemen general committee with one representing conductors, brakemen and yardmen, and today that general committee represents more than 5,000 UP train and engine workers.
His mother, father and grandfather were UP employees, and his great-grandfather ran steam locomotives on New York Central Railroad (now part of CSX).
Martin and his wife, Cindy, have four children, including Brian who is a UTUIA field supervisor, and Dallas, who is a UP conductor in Portland.
Arty Martin, above, during his minor league baseball playing days.
After 53 fruitless mediated bargaining sessions stretching over almost three years between United Transportation Union-represented pilots and Great Lakes Airlines, the union has asked the National Mediation Board to declare an impasse in the talks, release the parties from mediation and make a proffer of binding arbitration.
Great Lakes Airlines pilots are members of United Transportation Union (UTU) Local 40 in Denver.
Great Lakes Airlines is based in Cheyenne, Wyo., and serves 48 of its destinations with assistance from federal subsidies provided by the congressionally created Essential Air Service program. The airline is the nation’s largest provider of Essential Air Service and those federal subsidies assure air service to communities in rural areas that are without easy access to the nation’s transportation network.
In seeking the release from mediation and a proffer of binding arbitration, UTU International President Mike Futhey told the NMB that despite the 53 mediated bargaining sessions in which the UTU has sought to bargain in good faith, “the airline has refused even to discuss an acceptable offer, thus creating an impasse.”
Airlines, as railroads, are governed by the Railway Labor Act (RLA), which puts the National Mediation Board (NMB) in control of negotiations until such time as the NMB determines there is an impasse and releases the parties from mediation. If either side rejects a proffer of binding arbitration, the Railway Labor Act provides for a series of cooling-off periods, during which the White House may appoint a Presidential Emergency Board (PEB) to make non-binding recommendations for a settlement.
If the sides cannot reach a voluntary settlement based on those recommendations, or if a PEB is not appointed – and PEBs are rare in stalled airline negotiations — then either side becomes free to engage in self-help, which could include a work stoppage by pilots.
UTU International Vice President John Previsich, who is assigned to assist in the negotiations, said, “Self-help from either party is not UTU’s desired outcome for this process as it would have a significant negative impact on the Essential Air Service provided by Great Lakes Airlines. The UTU’s desire is that the parties reach a mutually satisfactory agreement and avoid any interruption to the Essential Air Service.”
From the onset of negotiations with Great Lakes Airlines in October 2009, the UTU has presented evidence that the current contract – which the UTU seeks to amend under provisions of the RLA – is substandard in terms of working conditions and wages that daily puts pressure on Great Lakes pilots whose highest priority is to fly passengers safely.
Under the current contract with Great Lakes Airlines, pilots are among the lowest paid of any scheduled passenger airline in the United States.
On Great Lakes Airlines, a first officer can expect to make less than $15,000 in the first year.
The carrier’s latest offer provides that first officers will continue to make less than the flight attendants with whom they are working. In addition, the airline proposed a reduction of 15 percent in the monthly guarantee for all pilots.
These pilots are professionals with extensive training and expertise, and some of them are paid less than entry-level retail and food service jobs.
Difficult negotiations with Great Lakes Airlines are not rare. Great Lakes Airlines flight attendants, now represented by the UTU and also members of UTU Local 40, were in negotiations with the airline for 10 years (initiated prior to the selection of UTU as their bargaining representative in 2009) before a new agreement was reached and ratified.
The UTU-negotiated contract for flight attendants is the only ratified agreement the carrier has received with any labor organization since the first contracts were negotiated in the 1990s.
The pilots fly 30-passenger Embraer and 19-passenger Beechcraft aircraft, serving airports in Arizona, California, Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Michigan, Minnesota, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming, and with crew bases in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, North Dakota, Minnesota, South Dakota and Wyoming.
And the result, according to the Federal Railroad Administration, is a significant reduction in rail workplace derailments that too often lead to serious injury and death — plus, as a bonus, better labor/management relationships and improved operational performance.
We’re talking about four pilot projects called Confidential Close Call Reporting System (C3RS), whose core value is that railroaders don’t intentionally make mistakes, and the most effective means of correcting workplace errors that have the potential to cause death, injury and accidents is to investigate the cause in a non-judgmental environment.
In a review of C3RS pilot projects on Amtrak, Canadian Pacific, New Jersey Transit and Union Pacific, the FRA also determined they result in supervisors becoming “more fair and cooperative” and placing a greater value on safety relative to productivity, fewer discipline cases, and workers more willing to raise safety concerns with management.
C3RS is a collaborative effort involving the FRA, carriers, the UTU and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen.
The pilot projects encourage engineers, conductors, trainmen and yardmasters to report — without fear of discipline or FRA enforcement action, even if rules violations are involved — close calls that may have resulted in accidents or injuries.
All C3RS reports by employees are collected anonymously and kept confidential. With names and locations masked, a C3RS peer review team recommends corrective action, such as improved training, changes in physical plant, changes in existing federal safety laws or regulations, changes in carrier operating rules, and improved training and/or education.
Examples of close calls include varying levels of risk, such as leaving pieces of equipment unsecured, improper blocking, operating trains beyond track authority, or violating operating rules.
UTU International Vice President John Previsich spearheads the UTU involvement in the four C3RS pilot projects – systemwide on Amtrak and New Jersey Transit, and at CP’s Portage, Wis., yard, and UP’s North Platte, Neb., yard.
At UP, which has the most experience with C3RS, the pilot project has led to reformatting track warrants so they are easier to read, and with a UP officer observing that C3RS “is helping UP move from a blame culture to one that bridges communication gaps between employees and management.”
MINNEAPOLIS — The United Transportation Union and Progressive Rail have finalized a first-time collective bargaining agreement for Progressive Rail train and engine workers represented by the UTU.
Progressive Rail is a shortline with four locations around Minneapolis, interchanging with major railroads.
UTU International Vice President John Previsich, who assisted in the negotiations – aided by a mediator with the National Mediation Board – said the agreement “provides for significant wage increases with pay classifications equal for all, a grievance process and a seniority preference for assignments and bidding. Overall, this is an excellent first agreement that dramatically improves wages, rules and working conditions for Progressive Rail employees.”
Previsich said the agreement received “overwhelming approval by the covered employees, who are to be commended for their solidarity and perseverance through a long and drawn-out negotiating process.
Praised were the negotiating efforts of General Chairperson James Nelson (GO 261), “who was instrumental in obtaining the fair and equitable agreement that the Progressive Rail employees deserve,” Previsich said. “Also deserving of recognition are Minnesota State Legislative Director Phil Qualy and the officers and members of UTU Local 911, all of whom supported the negotiating effort during every step of the process.”
In preparation for a new operator of Caltrain commuter service in Northern California, the UTU has moved to protect its members who choose to transfer from Amtrak to the new operator.
Caltrain operates south from San Francisco to San Jose and Gilroy.
TransitAmerica Services, Inc. (TASI), a subsidiary of Herzog Transit Services, will replace Amtrak as operator of Caltrain beginning May 26, following a rebid process by the Joint Powers Board that controls the commuter operation. Amtrak has operated Caltrain since 1992. TASI won a five-year operating agreement that begins in May.
The UTU has reached an agreement with TASI, recognizing the UTU as the representative of conductors and assistant conductors who will be hired by TASI. The agreement governs rules, rates of pay and working conditions for conductors and assistant conductors on TASI, giving first right of hire to Amtrak employees who are working in the service as of May 25.
In the event that the number of Amtrak conductors and assistant conductors who apply for employment on TASI — and who are hired — exceeds the number of positions available at startup, such applicants will be placed on hiring pool list for subsequent employment.
UTU-represented conductors and assistant conductors in Amtrak Zone CS-2 on May 26 will, as a result of the change in operators, have no Amtrak positions left to work, and will be placed in home terminal/displaced status under provisions of Rule 8 of the current collective bargaining with Amtrak.
Conductors and assistant conductors have rights to flow to other Amtrak zones as provided under the Amtrak agreement.
If those rights are not exercised within a five-day period beginning May 26, the Amtrak Zone CS-2 conductors and assistant conductors will become home terminal furloughed, as provided by Rule 9 of the Amtrak agreement. Conductors and assistant conductors under home terminal furlough who accept employment with TASI will continue to maintain seniority and employment rights with Amtrak until such time as recalled to service by Amtrak.
Amtrak conductors and assistant conductors working outside Zone CS-2 may submit an application to TASI for employment, but must be aware that if non-Zone CS-2 conductors or assistant conductors choose to leave active status with Amtrak for employment with TASI, Amtrak will not grant a leave of absence and those individuals will terminate their employment rights and seniority with Amtrak.
Before making a decision on whether to apply for employment with TASI, the UTU recommends you review the TASI/UTU implementing and working agreements, which are available for inspection by clicking on the following link:
This agreement is modeled after the current Amtrak collective bargaining agreement, with some modifications and enhancements to reflect the new operator and the current round of negotiations with Amtrak.
The agreement preserves and enhances current crew consist and productivity allowances and retains years of service for vacation entitlement of Amtrak employees who are employed by TASI. In addition, the agreement provides for health and welfare benefits equivalent to those in the current Amtrak contract.
The negotiating team consisted of GO 769 Chairperson Dirk Sampson and Vice General Chairperson Charlie Yura. They were assisted by UTU International Vice President John Previsich.
“Chairpersons Sampson and Yura are to be commended for their leadership role in securiing for their members a first right-of-hire with the new operator, while maintaining for all of TASI’s UTU-represented employees wages and working conditions that are equal to, or exceed, those currently in place on Amtrak,” Previsich said.
Amtrak General Chairperson Dirk Sampson (GO 769), issued the following update on wage, benefits and work rules negotiations with Amtrak:
“In continuing contract talks with Amtrak, we are striving to obtain an equitable agreement for our members.
“We recently sent a letter to Amtrak President Joseph Boardman and Amtrak Vice President of Labor Relations Charles Woodcock outlining our position.
“Certification pay and the interpretation of single days continue to be the obstacles holding us up. I remain confident that with the efforts of our UTU negotiating team, we will be able to obtain an agreement that will be beneficial to the Amtrak members.”
Negotiating with Sampson is Amtrak General Chairperson Bill Beebe (GO 663), assisted by International Vice President John Previsich.
Dirk Sampson, now acting general chairperson for Amtrak GO 769, issued the following update on wage, benefits and work rules negotiations with Amtrak following the death of General Chairperson Roger Lenfest.
Sampson will join with Amtrak General Chairperson Bill Beebe (GO 663) to lead those negotiations, with International Vice President John Previsich continuing to provide assistance.
Said Sampson: “We are continuing negotiations with Amtrak with a goal of obtaining an equitable agreement for our members. Certification and the interpretation of single days are important issues to Amtrak conductors and assistant conductors.
“With the continued efforts of both the general committees, and the assistance of International Vice President John Previsich, we will obain an equitable agreement.”
Sampson said the next negotiating session with Amtrak is tentatively scheduled for July 22.
General Chairperson Roger Lenfest (Amtrak, GO 769), age 65, died July 10 following a short illness.
Lenfest, of Sicklerville, N.J., succeeded Al Suozzo as general chairperson following Suozzo’s death in March 2010.
Assistant General Chairperson Dirk Sampson becomes acting general chairperson for GO 769. Suozzo had held the post almost 18 years.
A member of UTU Local 898 (Boston), and a native of Vermont, Lenfest held UTU membership since March 1971. Earlier in his UTU officer career, Lenfest was a general chairperson on Boston & Maine (now part of Pan Am Railways).
GO 769 represents UTU conductors and assistant conductors on Amtrak (New York City south to Washington, D.C., and on non-Northeast Corridor Amtrak passenger trains nationwide), as well as on Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad, Virginia Railway Express, South Florida Tri-Rail and Los Angeles MetroLink.
In March, Lenfest and Sampson led negotiations with MBCR that resulted in a ratified agreement, and in May Lenfest led successful negotiations toward a new ratified agreement with South Florida Tri-Rail.
Most recently, Lenfest has been negotiating with Amtrak for a new agreement on wages, benefits and work rules. Sampson will succeed Lenfest at the negotiating table, joining General Chairperson Bill Beebe (Amtrak, GO 663) to lead those talks with Amtrak. UTU International Vice President John Previsich will continue to assist in those Amtrak negotiations.
Lenfest is survived by his wife, Debra, two sons, six brothers, a sister and three grandchildren.
Prayer service at noon Tuesday, July 19, with a calling time from 10 a.m. to noon at the Ingersoll-Greenwood Funeral Home, 1201 Central Ave., North Wildwood, N.J. In lieu of flowers the family requests memorials in his name to the Our Lady of Angels Church, 35 E. Mechanic Street, Cape May Court House, NJ 08210.