Effective April 25, 2022, the U.S. Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) is offering in-person appointments at its nationwide network of 53 field offices.
Individuals can schedule appointments by calling the agency’s toll-free telephone number, (877) 772-5772, and speaking to a representative. If they experience a lengthy wait time on this call, they may be given the option of receiving a return call, although this feature is not available at all times due to large call volume. RRB representatives are available between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. each weekday, except for Federal holidays. For planning purposes, please note that the agency’s busiest times are early in the week and during the first part of each month.
Customers can also reach out to individual offices by mail or fax, as well as by sending a secure message using the link on each field office’s web page at RRB.gov. Using the “Field Office Locator” tab at the top of the home page allows someone to access each office’s web page and contact information.
While most business with the RRB does not require in-person service, but can be handled by telephone or in writing, the agency has also added secure lockboxes or door slots at the office entrances for customer convenience. These can be used if someone needs to quickly drop off documents without needing to communicate with a representative and will be checked on a daily basis.
Other options for obtaining services 24 hours a day without the need to talk to an agency representative include the automated menus available through the toll-free number and the myRRB system on the agency website. The following services are accessible through these avenues.
Duplicate most recent tax statement (1099, 1099-R);
General benefit information;
Unemployment/sickness benefit application/claim status and payment information; and
RRB field office addresses.
For certain automated phone services, an individual’s social security number and/or railroad retirement claim number are required. In addition, for certain unemployment or sickness application/claim information, a person must provide their social security number and the benefit PIN printed on the back of the provided claim form.
Railroad employees who have established a myRRB account can login and complete the following actions:
Apply for and claim unemployment benefits;
Claim sickness benefits;
Check the status of their unemployment or sickness benefit claims;
View their railroad service and compensation history; and
Get an estimate of retirement benefits.
RRB offices have been closed to the public since March 16, 2020, three days after the coronavirus pandemic was declared a national emergency. Since that time, services have been limited to telephone and electronic communication, with agency employees continuing to process benefit applications and incoming mail.
August 31st was a day that would forever change the lives of member David Mitchell (Local 937 in Mart, Texas) and his family. It was the day that he would come home with a diagnosis of COVID-19. By September 7, Mitchell’s wife, Michelle, would begin to show symptoms, and on September 13, she was hospitalized with severe COVID pneumonia. By Sept. 14, all four of the Mitchell kids had been diagnosed as well.
Although David and his kids recovered quickly from COVID-19, Michelle did not. Her health continued to decline and on Oct. 5, she had to be intubated.
“Oct. 6th after picking up my son from Timberview High School following an active shooter at his school, as if I wasn’t under enough stress already, I walked into my wife’s ICU room and touched her leg and her heart stopped,” David said. “Michelle was revived, and shortly after that her kidneys failed and her liver failed.”
Although Michelle’s breathing slowly began to improve, other parts of her did not. The doctors took her off of sedation for three days, but she did not wake up. The doctors then decided to run a CT scan and MRI on both sides of her brain and discovered that Michelle had had multiple strokes on both sides.
David reports that Michelle’s organs are back in working order and that she is recovering slowly. The strokes have caused left-side paralysis and her motor skills have been affected as well. Her largest hurdle is learning to walk again at the rehab facility.
“She still is extremely weak and has paralysis on her left side and needs lots of rehab to get all of her motor skills back. And that’s a fight she’s ready to take on headfirst,” David said.
Alternate Vice President and GCA-927 General Chairperson Scott Chelette, who brought Brother Mitchell’s situation to SMART-TD’s attention, has gotten together with local chairpersons to provide Christmas gifts for David’s children.
“Brother Mitchell was especially appreciative of the fact that the International and the President’s office cared enough to want to help in any way they could. I explained to him that this is what an organization should do for each other, and he and every other member will see us getting back to that way of thinking,” Chelette said.
Local 569 Local Chairperson Lawrence Perkins is collecting Christmas gifts for the family. Gifts can be mailed to Perkins at 412 Rocky Creek Drive, Mansfield, Texas, 76063-8800. Brother Mitchell has three boys — ages 6, 9, and 16; and one daughter, age 14.
During this time, Brother Mitchell has been off work just trying to take care of his family. As a result, finances are tight with him not working, coupled with hospital and rehab bills. A GoFundMe has been set up by David to help the family during this difficult time. Click here to donate.
In the memo, General Counsel Abruzzo indicated that while situations on work properties vary on a case-by-case basis, “employers covered under the National
Labor Relations Act (NLRA) have decisional bargaining obligations regarding aspects of the ETS that affect terms and conditions of employment-to the extent the ETS provides employers with choices regarding implementation.”
OSHA’s ETS, implemented Nov. 5, ordered employers of 100 or more employees to “develop, implement, and enforce a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy, with an exception for employers that adopt a policy requiring employees to either get vaccinated or elect to undergo regular COVID-19 testing and wear a face covering at work in lieu of vaccination.”
A U.S Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit has since issued a temporary stay on the ETS, asking for further briefing by the parties. The General Counsel’s memo indicates that she favors a nuanced and bargained approach between labor and employers in implementing COVID policies rather than a unilateral approach on the part of employers.
“The employer also has an obligation to bargain over the effects of this policy,” Abruzzo said in the memo.
The memo’s guidance would mainly affect TD members on bus and some transit properties.
Below is a press release from the NLRB General Counsel and a link to the memo that was released.
November 12, 2021
In a memo issued on November 10th, Acting Associate General Counsel for the National Labor Relations Board Joan Sullivan provided information to all field offices on the recent Department of Labor Emergency Temporary Standard to Protect Workers from Coronavirus (ETS).
The memo explains that although General Counsel Jennifer Abruzzo does not offer advisory opinions and each case stands on its own facts, the General Counsel’s position is that employers covered by the National Labor Relations Act have decisional bargaining obligations regarding aspects of the ETS that affect terms and conditions of employment—to the extent the ETS provides employers with choices regarding implementation.
Although an employer is not obligated to bargain where a specific change in terms and conditions of employment is statutorily mandated, the employer may not act unilaterally when it has some discretion in implementing those requirements. To the extent elements of the ETS do not give covered employers discretion, leaving aside decisional bargaining obligations, the employer is nonetheless obligated to bargain about the effects of the decision.
“The ETS clearly affects terms and conditions of employment—including the potential to affect the continued employment of workers who become subject to it—and gives covered employers discretion in implementing certain of its requirements. In those circumstances, a decisional bargaining obligation is required. The employer also has an obligation to bargain over the effects of this policy,” said General Counsel Jennifer Abruzzo. “While our country recovers from COVID-19, workers should know they have the right to a safe workplace and to have their voices heard.”
Recently, Amtrak, Union Pacific and Norfolk Southern announced that they will require their employees, including those represented by SMART Transportation Division, to be vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus. It is anticipated that many of the remaining, if not all Class I rail carriers, will eventually implement similar policies, citing their status as government contractors and federal mandates as their reasons. In accordance with current guidelines, the deadline for Amtrak employees to be fully vaccinated is November 22, while the deadline for Union Pacific and Norfolk Southern employees is set for December 8. In order to be considered fully vaccinated, a 14-day period must transpire following the administration of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, or the second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines. Under certain circumstances, some carriers are allowing regular testing as an alternative to vaccination, although federal law, guidelines and most collective bargaining agreements do not require them to do so. SMART-TD has taken the position that beyond the applicable deadlines, all carriers should allow unvaccinated employees to provide proof of regular testing as an acceptable alternative. In every instance to date, the carriers implemented their policies without first meeting with SMART-TD to bargain over the provisions of their mandates. In attempts to correct and address these exclusions, SMART-TD President Jeremy Ferguson advised all SMART-TD general committees of adjustment to schedule meetings with the carriers to discuss the implementation of any new, planned or existing policies. In his letter, he also noted that federal law provides exemptions for certain circumstances where individuals have religious objections or medical conditions that prevent them from being vaccinated. Based on initial conversations, it was determined that additional methods of appeal would be required. Due to the unilateral actions of Union Pacific, on October 15, 2021, SMART-TD filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, challenging the carrier’s attempt to avoid its obligation under the Railway Labor Act to bargain over terms and conditions of employment. While this action at Union Pacific is likely to set precedent for other carriers, it does not prevent SMART-TD from taking similar action against other like-minded carriers, including Amtrak and Norfolk Southern. While each policy will have nuances that the affected organizations will have to navigate, respond to, and appeal on an individual basis, SMART-TD has made it clear that any attempt by the carriers to circumvent their obligations under the Railway Labor Act will be met with strong resistance. “While vaccinations are not a collective bargaining issue, as they have not been negotiated into our agreements, we still believe that the carriers must engage with us about these policies prior to any implementation and we, in an effort of good faith, will continue our attempts to do so. We believe this is the best approach,” said President Ferguson. “We are going to let the outcome of those meetings and the advice of our general chairpersons guide our next steps. However, when these conversations with the carriers prove to be unsuccessful, then we must appeal our issues to the courts.” President Ferguson also stated “SMART-TD is a very diversified union, encompassing members of different ethnicity, age, religion, gender, sexual orientation, political affiliation and viewpoints. We are proud of that diversity and represent all members regardless of these distinctions. We lead from the front, keeping emotions in check while evaluating every issue and concern along the way. We also must research the potential outcome of these actions prior to making any formal decisions. With that being said, I will continue to encourage our members to get vaccinated, however, I respect those who have pointed out that it is a personal choice. Whatever your beliefs or vaccine status is, I want to make it clear to our members that you will be represented to the fullest extent of our authority.” As additional information becomes available and this situation continues to evolve, SMART-TD will continue to evaluate and assess its position on these issues. Updates will continue to be posted to the SMART-TD website at smart-union.org/td.
CLEVELAND, October 15, 2021 — The Transportation Division of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, and Transportation Workers (SMART-TD) and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) are jointly taking on Union Pacific Railroad (UP) over a series of unilateral and unlawful actions taken by the carrier recently. SMART-TD President Jeremy Ferguson and BLET National President Dennis Pierce issued the following joint statement regarding their action:
“Over the past two weeks, the Union Pacific Railroad seems to have forgotten that it is not Walmart. The railroad has unilaterally changed pay provisions for vaccinated employees who experience a breakthrough COVID infection due to workplace exposure. It has ordered all UP employees to report that they are fully vaccinated by December 8th, or risk being medically disqualified from work. And, instead of negotiating with us as the law requires, the Carrier is directly dealing with its employees by offering a ‘financial incentive’ for compliance with its unilateral mandate.
“We generally support our members getting the vaccine. However, we have several objections to UP’s unilateral implementation of their policies mandating them and illegally dealing directly with its represented employees. The members of our Unions — including members who already are vaccinated — are irate over UP’s outrageous conduct.
“We have been in contract negotiations with UP since November of 2019, and federal law absolutely bars railroads from changing rates of pay, rules and working conditions while negotiations are ongoing. Not only is UP in violation of the law, it has explicitly spurned our demands that these matters be bargained. We have filed suit today in the United States District Court for Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, in an effort to stop UP’s lawlessness in its tracks.”
The SMART Transportation Division is comprised of approximately 125,000 active and retired members of the former United Transportation Union, who work in a variety of crafts in the transportation industry. The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen represents nearly 57,000 professional locomotive engineers and trainmen throughout the United States. The BLET is the founding member of the Rail Conference, International Brotherhood of Teamsters.
Terri Poole Taylor Kerns, 52, of Local 1971 (Atlanta, Ga.) lost her life to COVID-19 on Friday, September 10. Diagnosed with COVID-19 on August 24, she was hospitalized Sunday, August 29 with severe chest pains. After suffering from cardiac arrest, she passed in the early hours of Sept. 10. Graduating from high school in 1987, Kerns worked in the food industry before deciding on a career change. She hired out with Norfolk Southern, where she would work for 20 years, earning her engineer and conductor certifications and working her way up to the position of yardmaster. In her free time Kerns enjoyed family vacations on the beach. Her true passion was spending time with her husband, children and grandchildren. “Terri had a great love for her family. Family was everything to Terri, and she left an indescribable imprint on all of us,” her younger sister Joy Poole said. She’s survived by her husband of 21 years, Paul Henry Kerns Jr. aka PJ; four children, Drew (Sadina) Kerns, Shadonna Kerns, Madison Kerns and Dominique Kerns; two grandsons, Ameer and Zelmeer Kerns; two sisters, Rhonda (James) Poole Farley and Joy (Greg Cowan) Poole; and many in-laws, nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles and cousins. Kerns is preceded in death by her parents, Oddis Theodore Poole Jr. and Patsy Mitchell Arey; grandparents; mother-in-law, Bonnie Jo Kerns; niece, Mariah Turner; nephew, Andrew Sifford; and great nephew, Xander Tucker. SMART-TD offers their sincere condolences to all who knew and worked with Kerns, as well as her friends and family. Click here to leave condolences for the family.
Jaime Garcia-Perez, 48, a member of our union for more than 15 years out of Local 23 (Santa Cruz, Calif.), passed away Sept. 3 from complications of COVID-19. He was an operator for the Santa Cruz Metro ParaCruz. “Jaime, who worked at ParaCruz for nearly 17 years, had an unwavering work ethic and the utmost respect from everyone here at Metro. He was an integral part of ParaCruz from Day One,” GCA Vice General Chairperson Nathanael Abrego and General Chairperson James Sandoval said in a letter to membership. “A hard-working man and full of passion, integrity, and respect. When the workday got hard, we leaned heavily on the ‘Jaime Factor’ because he counted as two drivers. He was that good. You can always count on him to ensure our riders got to their destination on time. “Jaime was loved by all who knew him. He will be missed.” Brother Garcia-Perez is survived by his wife of 25 years, Dawn; daughter, Madison; and son, Kaden. An online fundraiser has been established to assist Brother Garcia-Perez’s family. SMART-TD expresses its sincere condolences to the family and friends of Brother Garcia-Perez and his brothers and sisters of Local 23.
The SMART Transportation Division is mourning two union brothers who have died in recent weeks because of COVID-19.
Member Thurman Wheeler, 47, of Local 1348 (Centralia, Wash.) passed away on April 30 after being hospitalized for nearly two weeks with the virus. He was a Union Pacific conductor on the Portland east to Hinkle, Ore., pool. “Thurman was liked and loved by all, and his loss is being felt very hard here in Portland,” said member Jeff Cubley of Local 1574. “He was an excellent person to work with, and he worked his tail off to provide for his family.” An online fundraiser has been established for Brother Wheeler’s family by Local 1574 member David Patterson. Condolences also can be sent to Brother Wheeler’s wife: Victoria Wheeler 19945 NE Clackamas Court Portland, OR 97230
SMART Transportation Division Local 225 (Bellevue, Ohio) is mourning the passing of its president, Jason Ruffing, from COVID at age 40 on April 21.
Brother Ruffing was the local’s president for more than six years, served as LCA-687C secretary and was a past trustee of the local. He hired out with Norfolk Southern as a conductor in 2003 and was a certified remote control operator before becoming an engineer. “Jason was well respected from his peers and the membership,” Local Chairperson Michael Bishop said. “Jason absolutely enjoyed helping anyone whether they needed it or not. He was the type of guy who would drop what he was doing to come help you out at any time. Jason will be missed dearly by his railroad brothers and sisters. Godspeed, Jason.” President Ruffing loved to cook and grill during the local’s annual picnic, and never shared the secret ingredients of his special recipe spice mix. A favorite pastime was camping at Tall Timbers campgrounds in Port Clinton, Ohio, and he taught CCW classes in his spare time, his obituary stated. He served as a volunteer firefighter in Willard and Attica, was a supporter of Second Amendment rights and of the rights and freedoms we all have as Americans. Brother Ruffing is survived by his parents, sisters, brothers and a number of other relatives. Click here to leave condolences for the Ruffing family.
The SMART Transportation Division offers its heartfelt condolences to the families of Brother Wheeler and Brother Ruffing, to their union brothers and sisters in Locals 1348 and 225 and to all those who knew them.
As the COVID-19 pandemic raged across the nation, nearly all intercity passenger transportation ceased almost overnight. In 2020, air carriers ferried their fewest passengers in three decades, registering months with as much as 96% fewer boardings compared to the prior year. Amtrak saw its ridership decrease 97% as business travel along the profitable Northeast Corridor evaporated. As many as 800 motorcoach companies shuttered, and cruise lines ceased all operations in compliance with CDC orders. While the federal government has taken important steps to mitigate the devastation caused to transportation services, employees and communities, in many corners of the nation these effects have been catastrophic. As we emerge from the pandemic, it is imperative that we begin flying, riding and traveling again—and that we do so safely. Our national economic recovery, and the livelihoods of millions of transportation workers, depends on it. The most essential factor in the restoration of passenger transportation is the promise that travel will be safe and that COVID-19 risks have been properly mitigated for passengers and frontline transportation workers. We wholeheartedly applauded President Biden’s common-sense Executive Order on Promoting COVID-19 Safety in Domestic and International Travel, which came during one of the darkest stages of the pandemic. At a time when new daily COVID-19 cases averaged over 150,000 and the vaccines were not available to the vast majority of Americans, this order mandated the wearing of masks on many forms of transportation for both workers and passengers. While enforcement has proven to be challenging at many transportation operations, this standard must remain in place until COVID-19 has been defeated. Perhaps more important is the ongoing need to complete the most ambitious mass-vaccination campaign in world history. While mask usage and current levels of inoculation have begun to bear fruit in terms of passenger volume, many more vaccinations are required before travel across modes returns to pre-COVID levels. In this regard, there are three tenets of vaccination efforts that must be realized. First, transportation workers, including flight crews, conductors, drivers and other at-risk employees must have access to vaccines. As of April 21, 2021, all states are allowing any adult to receive a vaccine, but in many cases rollouts have been uneven, and challenges have persisted particularly for employees who are frequently away from their place of residence where they qualify for vaccines. States and employers should continue to focus on making sure that the workers who put their lives on the line each day to keep intercity transportation running have the ability to receive vaccines, and should pursue remedies where challenges in doing so have arisen. Secondly, to further stimulate demand for domestic travel, it is essential that efforts to vaccinate the population broadly continue unabated. We are encouraged by the rates at which Americans are currently being vaccinated and we are optimistic for the sustained upward trajectory required for a return to normalcy. Finally, such a return will also require international efforts. For both the safety of flight crews who travel through foreign airports and cities, and for renewed demand for international business and tourist travel, conquering the virus globally is also essential. This effort must not be neglected. Over the last year, Congress recognized the crisis looming for intercity passenger transportation and its workforce, implementing a series of programs and emergency spending intended to keep workers on payroll and connected to critical benefits like healthcare, and to prevent against an economic collapse triggered by a wave of bankruptcies of major U.S. companies. These measures have been a vital lifeline and their continuing implementation will be instrumental in the return of intercity passenger service. For airlines and airline contractors, the Payroll Support Program (PSP) has been extremely successful in protecting employees from the brunt of the rapid drop in air travel due to the pandemic, and hundreds of thousands of employees have continued to be able to pay their bills and seek medical care due to the program. Treasury should continue to disperse funds appropriated for the PSP, including through the American Rescue Plan, and continue to observe the firewall between government assistance and employee collective bargaining agreements included in the CARES Act and the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021. Amtrak has also received substantial funding through COVID legislation, which will ensure that the rail carrier and its workforce are prepared to respond to increased demand as the pandemic abates. The American Rescue Plan required Amtrak to restore its long-distance service and recall all furloughed employees within 90 days — smartly ensuring that relief was directed to employees and service maintenance. The restoration of long-distance service, reduced to three times a week from pre-COVID daily service on most routes revitalizes critical connections between urban hubs and rural communities, and promotes the future of these lines by underscoring their reliability and consistent presence to the riders who rely on them. The recall of approximately 1,200 furloughed employees and prohibitions on further furloughs will not only benefit workers on the unemployment lines, but is required to meet the service demands that we hope and expect to see shortly. Amtrak must act to restore its service and employees in an expeditious manner, and should seek to comply with statutory requirements well in advance of Congress’ deadlines. In the second COVID relief bill, H.R. 133, Congress wisely included the CERTS Act, which sought to provide funding to transportation entities that had previously received aid, including school bus contractors, non-transit ferry services and motorcoach operators. Despite its passage on December 27 of last year, the Trump administration Treasury took no actions to make the grants available to entities that badly needed them. We call on the Treasury to dispense these grants as soon as possible. This is particularly necessary given the dire straits the motorcoach industry currently finds itself in. Motorcoach operators previously provided over 500 million passenger trips per year, serving both urban and rural travelers. However, given how many companies have already closed their doors, or are on the precipice of doing so, if aid is not promptly dispersed, the post-COVID economy may find itself deeply lacking in critical intercity passenger bus service. While Congress correctly did not provide direct aid to cruise line operators who have chosen to flag their vessels in foreign countries, the resumption of cruise line service is important for the recovery of cruise port cities like Miami, and the thousands of longshore workers who prepare these vessels for voyage. We call on the CDC to only revise its No-Sail Order when it is deemed safe to do so. We also urge the CDC to consider the health and safety of longshore workers in any future guidance on the resumption of cruise line travel. Finally, one of the most impactful actions the federal government can take to restore intercity passenger transportation is passing legislation that makes bold investments in our nation’s infrastructure, which this body has consistently called for. There is a real opportunity right now for the federal government to make the types of generational investments into our transportation systems that will not only help us recover economically and restore passenger transportation to pre-COVID levels, but also to build a system that can once again be the envy of the world. We can modernize and upgrade across every mode, and expand service throughout the country, especially to communities that have historically been underserved. In doing so we can rebuild our economy, create jobs and support the millions of transportation workers who keep America moving.
### The Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO, (TTD) is a coalition of 33 member unions, including the SMART Transportation Division, that provides a bold voice for workers in every mode of transportation – both in the private and public sector – and is devoted to protecting middle-class jobs, expanding collective bargaining, and ensuring modern, safe, and secure transportation operations and infrastructure.
Hillside, Ill. – SMART SM Local 73 is partnering with Proviso Township and Jewel-Osco to provide added capacity for COVID-19 vaccine distribution efforts, with its union hall functioning as a vaccine injection site. More than 1400 vaccines were administered today between 9am and 4pm at the local hall in Hillside, just west of downtown Chicago, for residents of any of the 15 villages in Proviso Township.
“This wouldn’t be happening in Hillside today without Local 73 stepping up and helping out,” said Hillside Mayor Joseph Tamburino, who was at the vaccination site throughout the day. “They set the room up and did everything we asked them to do and it’s fantastic. Their facility is just perfect for this.”
The union hall effectively functioned as a one-day pop-up vaccine clinic. The site was thoroughly cleaned and prepped ahead of time and a sanitation crew will be coming Monday night and doing a deep clean of the space.
“This wouldn’t be happening in Hillside today without Local 73 stepping up and helping out.”
– Hillside (Ill.) Mayor Joseph Tamburino
“We are proud to partner with Proviso Township, Jewel-Osco and Mayor Tamburino to provide a safe, convenient location for members of our community to receive their vaccine,” said Local 73 President and Business Manager Raymond Suggs. He added that the local is looking to help with additional vaccination days in coming weeks, depending on vaccine availability.
Nationally, SMART is part of a coordinated effort by U.S. building trades unions to make their facilities available to President Biden’s COVID-19 Relief Task Force for U.S. vaccine distribution. In February, the Governing Board of Presidents of North America’s Building Trades Unions (NABTU) voted unanimously to offer more than 5,000 union halls and training centers to the vaccine distribution effort.