SMART Transportation Division Local 61 (Philadelphia, Pa.) has experienced the loss of a second member from the novel coronavirus.
Brother Stephen McFadden, 51, of Philadelphia, and a SEPTA conductor, died April 30 from COVID-19. He had been a member of the union since September 1991.
“I saw him at every union meeting we had – and sometimes he was the only person there,” said Bernard Norwood, general chairperson of GO-STA. “Stephen was very committed to the union. He was a really nice guy.”
Using money out of his own pocket, Brother McFadden donated to the local’s annual holiday party without fail, Norwood said.
McFadden was a very passionate Phillies fan – sometimes catching part of the game during the down time he had during a shift and filling in his union brothers and sisters on what was going on – and making sure the game was on the TV in the crew room. He also was a very particular lottery player, schooling people to scratch from the bottom up and letting them know the range of numbers they should snag when considering a scratch-off ticket purchase.
Another tradition he was known for was on pay weeks – when the system processed the payroll and employees knew they were going to get their deposits, he’d greet his brothers and sisters with a cheery “Happy Wednesday!”
“That’s going to be missed a lot, especially today,” Norwood said. (He was interviewed on May 6 — a Wednesday morning.)
On April 14, McFadden’s Local 61 brother Michael A. Hill, 58, of Glassboro, N.J., died of COVID-19. Norwood says he’s received reports of 35 positive coronavirus cases and 135 SEPTA workers have been in quarantine. Seventy-two are back on the job.
Norwood said it’s been an uphill fight to get the carrier to mirror some of the sanitizing practices being adopted in New York and in New Jersey, to provide personal protective equipment and to adhere to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention measures.
“We’re still fighting for temperature checks and to get marks on the floors for social distancing,” Norwood said, although he said he’s seeing some progress.
To date, SMART-TD nationally has lost at least eight members and retirees to the pandemic, according to reports submitted to the union.
On April 15, SMART Transportation Division Local 61 (Philadelphia, Pa.) announced that conductor Michael A. Hill, 58, of Glassboro, N.J., died from the coronavirus.
Local 61 Legislative Representative Nichelle Miles poses with member Michael Hill. It was announced April 15 that Brother Hill passed away from COVID-19.
Brother Hill was a 30-year member of SMART-TD and worked for the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority (SEPTA). He is the second active member fatality for SMART-TD from the virus following New Jersey Transit conductor Joseph Hansen, whose death was reported a week ago.
SMART Transportation Division President Jeremy Ferguson called General Chairperson Bernie Norwood to offer the condolences of all of SMART to the Hill family and Local 61. General Chairperson Norwood relayed to him that “Brother Hill was a great member that was no nonsense and always had a smile on his face. He really enjoyed being with his co-workers, attending football games for the Philadelphia Eagles and playing cards. Brother Hill will surely be missed.”
General Chairperson Norwood was also thankful for the assistance of UTUIA Field Supervisor Chris Malley, who is working with the family to ensure the fraternal UTUIA life insurance benefits Brother Hill had are handled quickly.
Brother Hill was on the front lines moving passengers as an essential employee and was doing so without all the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) that should have been provided by SEPTA. As news of this second fatality reached him, Ferguson participated in an AFL-CIO-hosted conference call to news media April 15 taking to task federal agencies that he said have not gone nearly far enough in protecting workers during the coronavirus pandemic, even as our union’s death toll from COVID-19 increases.
The union has sent letters to the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) seeking emergency orders that establish definitive regulations to protect employees. The FRA has only issued a safety advisory when they have the power to regulate, while FTA Acting Administrator K. Jane Williams did not even respond to a letter sent by SMART-TD, which is a slap in the face to labor, President Ferguson said during the call.
“I’m appalled that we can’t even get a response. It is not like we are asking for anything extravagant. Just what the CDC has stated is the bare requirements to ensure a safe work environment for both our members and the general public that use these services.” Ferguson said. “It’s paramount that we get this fixed at all levels of transportation, and quickly. Enough is enough.”
Other labor leaders participating in the conference included Transport Workers Union of America President John Samuelson, Amalgamated Transit Union President John Costa and AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department President Larry Willis.
Twenty two months ago, SMART Transportation Division Local 61 (Philadelphia, Pa.) train service members working at SEPTA ratified their contract from the previous round. Now, for the first time in recent memory, these same members have ratified a new agreement governing the rates of pay and working conditions of conductors and assistant conductors on that property prior to their next scheduled wage increase. A vast majority of those voting, 87 percent, voted to ratify the agreement. The short-term pact runs through June 4, 2017 and includes general wage increases, increased instructor allowance, increased uniform allowance and same sex spousal benefits amongst its provisions.
Transportation Division Vice President John Lesniewski, who assisted with negotiations, expressed his gratitude to General Chairperson Bernard Norwood, as well as his negotiating committee consisting of Vice General Chairpersons A. J. Bright, Michael Stevens, Raymond Boyer and General Secretary Nelson Pagan for their professionalism, tenacity and commitment to finding an equitable agreement in a timely manner for the benefit of our Local 61 members.
The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) is a metropolitan transportation authority that operates various forms of public transit—bus, subway and elevated rail, commuter rail, light rail, and electric trolley bus—that serves 3.9 million people in and around Philadelphia. General Chairperson Norwood and his committee represent approximately 350 active rail members on this property.
The Federal Railroad Administration Feb. 10 will hold a public hearing before ruling on a waiver request by Southeastern Pennsylvania Metropolitan Transportation Authority (SEPTA)?to extend its current waiver of hours of service provisions for on duty points.
SEPTA has asked FRA to renew a waiver that the transit agency has had in effect for the past two years.
The rule in question involves the time employees spend traveling from home to start work somewhere other than their usual designated location. At issue is whether this time is considered as part of their hours of service.
In its written comments to FRA prior to this hearing, the SMART? Transportation Division said it “opposes SEPTA’s request because granting it would reduce much needed rest periods for operating employees and will put the traveling public and SEPTA employees at increased risk of fatigue related accidents.
“Fatigue related accidents are a particular concern because of SEPTA’s claim that it serves 3.8 million people and is the sixth largest U.S. commuter rail system, averaging approximately 127,000 daily weekday riders. Given the large amount of passengers that SEPTA carries, granting this waiver request will place crew members and the public in increased likelihood of fatigue-related accidents to help solve what are essentially crew scheduling issues.
“According to SEPTA, only seven assignments start at a location different than the regular reporting location for extra board employees. We estimate this waiver is a fix for less than five percent of SEPTA’s total jobs. Again, this is a crew scheduling issue and in no way justifies a waiver from minimal hours of service rules. If SEPTA needs help in managing crew availability and scheduling concerns, we would be happy to assist them.
“The SMART Transportation Division believes deadhead transportation to an on duty assignment should be counted as time on duty for SEPTA operations, just as it is counted as on duty for every other railroad in the country. The reason is simple, whether an employee is working on an assignment or driving to an assignment, they are still not receiving needed rest. There is no guarantee SEPTA will keep this system if given this waiver. It would clearly benefit SEPTA to remove it if this waiver is approved.
“The Metro-North accident in November 2013, resulting in the death of four people, was found to be caused by an engineer that ‘nodded off’ before the accident. The engineer had recently changed from an afternoon to morning shift, which could have impacted his internal clock. This should have been a wake-up call for SEPTA.
“In the interest of public safety and in the interest of preserving minimal hours of service standards, the SMART Transportation Division asks that the FRA decline this waiver request.
“In its petition, SEPTA states it has the support of the SMART Transportation Division for this waiver. This claim, along with much of SEPTA’s claims in this request, is inaccurate. We oppose this waiver request and ask that it be denied in its entirety.”
Transportation Division Pennsylvania Paul Pokrowka attended the Feb. 10 hearing.
“In October 2014, I attended SEPTA Local 61’s meeting and the membership unanimously asked me to fight this issue. This is of major concern for us due to safety of our members and the riding public. Fatigue related accidents are a huge concern to the Pennsylvania Legislative Board. SEPTA has chosen to spend their resources circumventing the system rather than working with this office for a proper resolution,” Pokrowka said.
The public hearing was scheduled for 10 a.m. at Baldwin Tower at 1510 Chester Pike in Crum Lynne, Pa.
Local 61 Legislative Rep. Keith English, Pokrowka, Local 1373 Legislative Rep. Kyle Brightbill and SEPTA General Committee of Adjustment Vice Chairperson Michael Stevens attend the Feb. 10 waiver request hearing before the Federal Railroad Administration.
The SMART Transportation Division (UTU) general committee of adjustment representing conductors and assistant conductors employed by Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) has reached a tentative contract with the commuter railroad.
The agreement calls for wage increases totaling 11.5 percent over the five-year life of the contract that are similar to increases the carrier agreed to with the Transport Workers Union in 2009. TWU represents bus and subway operators and mechanics employed by SEPTA.
Approximately 390 conductors and assistant conductors are represented by SMART Transportation Division (UTU) Local 61 in Philadelphia.
Local 61 Treasurer Elliott D. Cintron said contract ballots, which have been mailed to all affected members, will be tabulated after April 24.
The tentative agreement must also be approved by SEPTA board members.