Posts Tagged ‘Vinnie Tessitore’

In hard-hit NYC, TD members rise up to COVID challenges

What is SMART-TD on Long Island, N.Y., doing during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Sheet Metal Local 137 manufactured signs thanking TD members who continue to work on Long Island Rail Road through this pandemic. “Thanks to Dante Dano and Pete Scaglione,” said General Chairperson Anthony Simon. “They have been so supportive to the TD LIRR, I cannot express enough how we are all in this together.”
“Thank you to GC John McCloskey for his help and support in getting signs and with locations. The partnership is just unbelievable and appreciated,” Simon said. The reaction from the membership after the signs went up has been overwhelming

New York City and its bordering suburbs and counties have been among the hardest-hit in the nation by the coronavirus due to its density and the demands of the city’s economic engine driven by the financial and business districts.

Like most transportation systems, the Metropolitan Transit Authority’s Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) has been deemed an essential service for health care workers, emergency responders, police officers, firefighters, city and state essential workers and countless other professions.

A Long Island Rail Road conductor works during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Here are some of the ways union leadership on Long Island and SMART members continue to deliver.

  • While required to continue working, tremendous safety efforts have been achieved through the issuance of proper Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), manpower manipulations to allow for social distancing, constant disinfecting efforts to protect work locations, paid administrative sick leave to accommodate the hundreds of positive tested members and associated quarantines, and so many additional safety precautions to protect workers.
  • Members have been working around the clock cleaning and sanitizing over 1,000 train cars on an aggressive schedule, and our maintenance of equipment workers are continuing to inspect and repair our equipment to all of the standards outlined by federal authorities.
  • Engineering forces in the track and building and bridge ranks are continuing to build and maintain the system during this health crisis. Huge projects such as the over $11 billion East Side Access project to allow service to New York City’s Grand Central Station in addition to three other major city terminals continue. The mainline third track expansion continues along the central corridor of Long Island to add to the over 700 miles of track and 124 stations.
  • Front-line train crews are continuing to provide a modified essential service plan requiring flexibility, dedication and sacrifice working in vulnerable conditions. They are providing safe service and collecting whatever fares possible as safely as they can during the pandemic.
  • Union officials are providing administrative support to the varying work locations hit hardest by the virus to ensure crew dispatching, payroll and PPE issuance are all expedited appropriately.
  • After more than 60 COVID-19-related deaths at the MTA, the governing agency of the LIRR, SMART leadership has negotiated an additional $500,000 death benefit package to include health benefits for the beneficiary of any COVID-19 related deaths within our membership.
  • Union leadership has worked closely with agency heads and management to provide whatever benefits possible during this extremely troubling time, such as priority COVID testing, relaxed and paid sick leave rules, relaxed time keeping and travel arrangements, etc.
  • Union leadership is lobbying for additional federal funding needed to recoup billions of dollars of revenue lost during this crippling time.
  • General Chairperson Anthony Simon has worked closely with General Chairperson John McCloskey on the mechanical side in achieving protections and benefits for all SMART workers.

Long Island Rail Road workers pose for a picture after cleaning a car during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Those are some of the collective efforts of GCA-505 in Babylon, N.Y., which represents SMART-TD’s workers on LIRR in a region hit hard by the coronavirus with tens of thousands of deaths reported there.

But the GCA’s leaders insist it’s just what they do, and what members expect from them.

“During catastrophic times is when leaders need to step up, lead and not hide,” said Vice General Chairperson Vinnie Tessitore. “Under General Chairperson Anthony Simon’s leadership, and through a dedicated team of union officials, we are out front making tough decisions and demands to secure and protect our workforce.”

Simon, also a SMART-TD alternate vice president, said it has taken a total team effort and cooperation from all to continue to endure the challenges of the coronavirus.

“I could not be prouder of our elected union officials and our membership for their hard work and sacrifices during this pandemic,” Simon said. “I am out in the field every day with our railroad family as they continue to work through this crisis, and my foot will remain on the gas to achieve what they have earned for their heroic efforts.”

Long Island Rail Road workers tend to the track during the coronavirus pandemic.

SMART Transportation Division President Jeremy Ferguson said that those efforts are shining through by protecting both employee and public alike and minimizing disruption.

“It’s a relief to finally receive some good news! On a normal day and in normal times, SMART-TD’s members and leadership in the New York City/New Jersey area have demands placed on them that often can exceed those of other metropolitan areas just because of the size of the agencies we serve and the population, but as always, our SMART-TD membership and our officers on the LIRR never cease to amaze me.” Ferguson said. “They are the toughest and most resilient Brotherhood that, I, too, am so very proud to have the opportunity to work with and represent as President of the Transportation Division. SMART-TD on the LIRR is leading the way on every front and thankfully giving the membership a solid footing to defend themselves from this disaster.

“Anthony Simon and Vinnie Tessitore have stepped up to make sure LIRR keeps trains clean and running for public and the workers alike so that what is considered ‘essential’ stays running. They’re an example of what solidarity can do — for all of labor to see. I do want everyone to know we’re with you in this, and we will all be there together to the end.”

GO 505 delivers gift for autism services

Officers and members of SMART Transportation Division General Committee of Adjustment GO 505 on the Long Island Rail Road Dec. 18 delivered a $5,000 check to support a program for autistic children in the Town of Islip, N.Y.

The donation adds to the committee’s yearly commitment to autism services in the local community, which it is proud to serve with reliable and safe transportation.

As reported earlier this year, GO 505 sponsors a golf outing annually to raise funds for Autism Speaks and autism services in Long Island, N.Y. Autism Speaks is a leading autism science and advocacy organization dedicated to funding research into the causes, prevention, treatments and a cure for autism.

While supporting research to assist in the continued efforts to aid families affected by autism, SMART leadership of the committee was determined to set additional funds aside to give to families in the local community, General Chairperson Anthony Simon said.

Simon, Vice General Chairperson Vinnie Tessitore and Local Chairperson Michael Denn met with Town of Islip Councilman Anthony Senft Jr. to learn about a new program in the community called Inclusive Sports and Fitness (ISF). The program, founded and managed by Alexander Lopez, utilizes mentoring and therapeutic principals inherent in sports to foster positive personal, social, and physical growth in an inclusive way for all children.

“On behalf of our railroad union members, we are pleased to assist in getting this program expanded to assist more children in our community. SMART members are proud to give back to the neighbors we serve,” Simon said.

lirr_autism_services 

SMART Transportation Division GO 505 officers Anthony Simon, Vinnie Tessitore and Michael Denn
present a check to Alexander Lopez, with the support and appreciation of Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and Town of Islip Councilmen Senft and Flotteron. Also pictured are Inclusive Sports and Fitness volunteers and children enrolled in the program.

Conductor certification now a reality

WASHINGTON – It’s now official. Conductor certification, mandated by the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008, became effective Jan. 1.

In a final rule, published by the Federal Railroad Administration Nov. 9, railroads were ordered to implement, by Jan. 1, a formal training program for certifying conductors and a formal process for training prospective conductors, thus ensuring job competency.

The FRA’s final rule on conductor certification follows many of the provisions of locomotive engineer certification, with a number of improvements the UTU, joined by the BLET, was able to obtain.

Following are highlights of the final rule, which ran almost 300 pages in the Nov. 9 Federal Register.

* While the railroad and its employees must comply with the final rule, there is no limitation on any rights the employee may have under a collective bargaining agreement

* Conductors currently employed will be grandfathered for from one to three years, with one-third of those conductors required to be tested for certification in 2012, 2013 and 2014. Beginning in 2015, one-third of the total conductor workforce will be recertified each year.

* Each railroad, in submitting its proposed certification program to the FRA for approval, must simultaneously submit it to the presidents of the UTU and BLET, which will have 45 days to comment. The intent is to encourage coordination by carriers with local union officers in formulating the certification program, and to gain a supporting statement from the general committee of jurisdiction.

* A conductor losing certification may work as an assistant conductor, brakeman, yard helper, switchman or utility employee, but cannot work as a locomotive engineer. If that individual holds both conductor and engineer certification, and the engineer certification is revoked, they may not work as a conductor.

* If the conductor certificate is revoked because of failing to control a train, violation of train speed, violation of brake test requirement, occupying main track without proper authority, tampering with safety devices, or an alcohol or drug violation, the decertified conductor may not work as a locomotive engineer. However, if the decertification is for violation of a rule covering shoving or pushing movements, or equipment left out to foul track, switches and derails, the decertified conductor may work as a locomotive engineer.
 
* The conductor must be trained by a qualified person on the territory over which that conductor will operate. If the certified conductor lacks territorial qualification, and has never been qualified on main track physical characteristics, that conductor shall be assisted by a person who is a certified conductor qualified on the territory, and NOT a member of the crew.

* If the conductor has been previously qualified over the main track territory, and the time limits have expired on their qualification, the conductor may be assisted by any knowledgeable person, including a member of the crew, other than the locomotive engineer on the crew, so as not to conflict with other safety sensitive duties.

* If the conductor lacks territorial qualification on other than main track, the conductor, where practical, shall be assisted by a certified conductor meeting the territorial qualifications. Where this is not practical, the conductor shall be provided an appropriate job aid, which includes maps, charts or other visual aids of the territory. This applies to all tracks on each territory.

* Territorial qualification is not required for short movements of one mile or less where track speed is 20-mph or less and movement is required to be at restricted speed, and the track grade is less than 1 percent.
 
Prior to revoking conductor certification, a railroad must:

* Provide notice of the reason for suspension, and an opportunity for a hearing before a person other than the investigating officer. Written confirmation of the notification shall be in accordance with the collective bargaining agreement. Additionally, the hearing shall be in accordance with the collective bargaining agreement, but shall be convened within 10 days after the certificate is suspended, unless the conductor asks for a delay.

* Provide, no later than convening the hearing and notwithstanding any collective bargaining agreement, a copy of the written information and a list of the witnesses the railroad intends to present at the hearing. The railroad shall grant a recess if the information is provided just before the hearing. If the information is provided through written statements of an employee, the railroad shall make that employee available for examination during the hearing.

* Not revoke certification or recertification if there is sufficient evidence that an intervening cause prevented or materially impaired the conductor’s ability to comply with requirements.

Additionally, with regard to conductor certification:

* The appeal procedures largely mirror engineer certification regulations.

* The training requirements for new conductors are significantly improved from current requirements. In addition to improved initial training, this rule requires recurrent training for all conductors every three years during the recertification process. The recurrent training must be identified in the certification plan filed with FRA, including changes in operating rules, operating practices, new federal regulations and new equipment in service.

“The implementation of conductor certification enhances the skills and safety performance of freight and passenger conductors, provides a federal license ensuring proper training of conductors, and establishes a new basis for resisting management pressure to violate operating rules and federal regulations,” said UTU International President Mike Futhey.

The final rule is a result of input from all affected parties, including labor, through the FRA’s Rail Safety Advisory Committee (RSAC).

The UTU was represented on this RSAC Conductor Certification Working Group by Local 645 Chairperson Vinnie Tessitore, Local 1470 Chairperson David Brooks, General Chairperson (GO 049) John Lesniewski, Local 528 Legislative Representative Ron Parsons, Alternate National Legislative Director John Risch, National Legislative Director James Stem, and UTU Rail Safety Coordinator for Designated Legal Counsel Larry Mann.

Click here to read the 278-page final rule on conductor certification.

Click here for more information on conductor certification.