By UTU Assistant President Arty Martin

Early in our lives, we learn that success — whether it be graduation, being selected for a church choir, earning a spot on a sports team, or being hired to drive a bus, fly a plane or switch rail cars — requires preparation, following rules, and attention to the job.

Our union is structured to assure each of us the opportunity and right to guide our future under our collective bargaining agreements. Our responsibility is to understand our agreements, and learn to document carrier violations.

This is because we cannot expect the local chairperson, general chairperson or an International officer to know everything that is happening on a daily basis at each location.

Local officers, upon learning of your problems, have the responsibility to inform the general chairperson and/or state legislative director (the latter where safety issues are concerned). These officers then have the option, if necessary, of seeking assistance from the International.

The UTU constitution is very strong in preserving the autonomy of each local, with succeeding levels (general committees, state legislative boards and the International) prepared to assist in ensuring you obtain proper pay, benefits and working conditions as provided by your agreements.

At the International, we have one of the strongest and most successful law departments among labor organizations. History shows that the UTU does not hesitate to go to the court house on your behalf to enforce agreements.

We also work to build coalitions with other labor organizations, and often through the AFL-CIO, which carries the banner for almost 12 million working families.

The UTU’s membership in AFL-CIO — along with the UTU PAC — is a powerful tool for electing a labor-friendly candidates and influencing the passage of labor-friendly laws. I take pride that UTU International President Mike Futhey was just elected a vice president of the AFL-CIO, and named to its ruling Executive Committee.

I am reminded of the famous Norman Rockwell paintings of four basic freedoms: Freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear.

These freedoms are the soul of union brotherhood and sisterhood, as working men and women from diverse backgrounds and cultures come together to fight for individual and collective respect and workplace rights.

I also recall reading a famous speech by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, in which he proposed a Second Bill of Rights to guarantee a job with a living wage, freedom from unfair competition and monopolies, a home, medical care, education and recreation.

Much progress has been made, but more must be achieved. Together, through preparation and hard work, we must continue — with fire in the belly — the fight for what is right.

At the local level, members have the responsibility to fight for these rights also, beginning with identifying and properly documenting situations that hinder our very basic rights to a safe workplace, free of intimidation and harassment.

By Richard Deiser
Vice President, Bus Department

Kudos to Alternate Bus Vice President-East Calvin Studivant and Alternate Bus Vice President-West Bonnie Morr for being chosen as delegates to the AFL-CIO convention in Pittsburgh, where a highlight was President Obama’s speech that may be viewed on the UTU Web site at www.utu.org.

Calvin reports that he shook the president’s hand!

Congratulations also to UTU International President Mike Futhey on his election as an AFL-CIO vice president and his appointment to the federation’s Executive Council.

Several bus locals have been involved in contract negotiations, and the trend is towards shorter agreements in the hope that the economy will improve in the near future.

If that becomes reality, we will be able to negotiate wages and benefits from a far stronger position than in the current recession.

General Chairperson James Williams (Local 1564, Los Angeles) reports his members have ratified a new one-year agreement with the LACMTA after hard work and patience of all the committee members.

General Chairperson Nelson Manzano (Local 710, Elizabeth, N.J.; One Bus) praised the work done by Vice General Chairpersons James Powell and Jose Rivera in reaching a one-year agreement with Coach USA, holding the cost-sharing for health care.

Local 1558 in Westwood, N.J., (Rockland Coaches) reached a similar accord under the direction of General Chairperson Keith Mack, assisted by Mike Byrne, Helaine Parsons, Ed Pollard, Bob Panarotti and Abe Tsay.

Calvin Studivant’s Local 759 in Paramus, N.J., (Community Transit) won an important arbitration, which resulted in an employee being restored to work status with full back pay and benefits.

Also, General Chairperson Bill Koehn (Local 1670, Laredo, Texas; Laredo Metro) is keeping a watchful eye on bus inspections at the Mexican border.

The U.S. DOT has significantly reduced the number of buses inspected, leading to worries about safety, operator fatigue and equipment maintenance on these bus lines that operate far into the U.S. American companies cannot compete effectively when confronted by cheap labor, shoddy maintenance and falsified driver logs.

By Vic Baffoni
Vice President, Bus Dept.

The Bush Administration did it again.

Secretary of Transportation Mary E. Peters extended the right of foreign-operated trucking and transit companies to operate across the U.S. border without requiring them to even have a minimum of safeguards for U.S. citizens on U.S. roads.

The U.S. Department of Transportation requires U.S. licensed drivers to be tested, certified and comply with numerous laws and rules.

Yet foreign drivers do not have to abide by any of these requirements.

Equipment inspection, certification of ability to operate equipment, drug testing and hours of service requirements have made our roads safer.

The UTU has protested loudly and has a commitment from Rep. Jim Oberstar (D.-Minn.), who chairs the House Transportation Committee, to overturn Ms. Peters’ action. We are committed to our members and the riding public to keep the roads safe for them and their families.

The UTU Bus and Legislative Departments continue to fight the mandated changes to drug testing (observed testing).

We have joined with the Transportation Trades Department of the AFL-CIO to make a concerted effort to protect our members’ personal rights.

To contact me, call the UTU International headquarters at (216) 228-9400, Monday through Friday, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., EDT.

Send e-mail to me at v_baffoni@utu.org