Cheryl Sneed, who worked in the office of the United Transportation Union for nearly four decades, including as an executive administrative aide in the President’s Department, passed away on Nov. 25, 2019.
She was 66 years old.
Cheryl started with the UTU in 1975 in the Word Processing Department, then progressed to the Legal Department and Bus and Yardmaster departments. She later handled correspondence and scheduling for former UTU President Mike Futhey and coordinated matters for the Board of Directors and Board of Appeals.
Among her many duties, she also helped to administer the union’s disaster relief fund before retiring in 2014.
A Mass of Christian Burial is scheduled for 10 a.m. Dec. 7, 2019 in St. Ambrose Catholic Church, 929 Pearl Road, Brunswick, OH 44212. Inurnment will be in Holy Cross Cemetery 14609 Brookpark Road, Cleveland, OH 44142.
A link to her death notice is here.
SMART-TD offers its sincere condolences to Cheryl’s family and friends.

By UTU International President Mike Futhey – 
For many of our brothers and sisters in the Northeast, much was washed away by Hurricane Sandy – but not their hope, their pride or their sense of duty.
Despite the flood devastation that stole irreplaceable possessions, homes and automobiles – as it also devastated rail track, tunnels, passenger stations, signals, streets, power stations and rolling stock – UTU members on the front lines found their way to work to help protect equipment and restore service.
As their brothers and sisters, we should not ignore their hardship as they did not ignore the hardship of UTU brothers and sisters previously affected by Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Isaac.
Helping each other is the core value of the union movement. As we march together, fight together and vote together for our job security, wages, benefits and working conditions, we also help each other in hours of need.
Almost $100,000 has been contributed so far by active and retired members, locals, general committees, state boards and the UTU International to the relief fund, which bears the name of 2005 Hurricane Katrina — a relief fund in place for this and future disasters affecting UTU members.
While the Sandy disaster is fading from the headlines, the needs of so many of our members remain, and additional donations are needed.
Consider some of the hardships.
Long Island Rail Road suffered significant damage from surging tides and high winds, with hundreds of our members losing possessions. Yet they showed up for work to move equipment to higher ground and restore service. For many UTU families, power and heat was non-existent for weeks after the storm, and precious hours were spent searching for functioning gasoline stations and waiting in line.
For members employed by Port Authority Trans Hudson (PATH), many had automobiles that were flooded, damaged and destroyed. Still, they reported for work and helped restore service.
Members employed by New Jersey Transit had roofs blown from their houses and apartments, and suffered home and auto flood damage. Yet they did whatever was necessary to restore commuter service.
Members employed by Conrail in Northern New Jersey similarly suffered home and water damage, yet they also reported for work.
UTU-represented bus operators equally suffered, but were back behind the wheel when conditions permitted.
Incredibly, many of our members, personally devastated by the storm, reached into their own pockets to help purchase replacement toys for children in their communities who lost everything.
Let us now reach into our own pockets to help our brothers and sisters in distress who never abandoned their responsibilities to keep the region moving by bus and train.
Contributions should be sent to: Hurricane Katrina Relief Fund, United Transportation Union, Suite 340, 24950 Country Club Blvd., North Olmsted, OH 44070-5333.
More information on the relief fund may be found on the UTU website home page at www.utu.org

RRB logo; Railroad Retirement Board For rail workers furloughed as a result of Hurricane Sandy, the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) advises those victims may qualify for railroad unemployment benefits.

Following a request by UTU International President Mike Futhey to RRB Labor Member Walt Barrows, the RRB has agreed to waive a time-consuming requirement that claims be verified by the carrier, thus expediting the claims procedure for members adversely impacted by Hurricane Sandy.

Those furloughed in the wake of Hurricane Sandy may thus file claims by telephone or electronically via the Railroad Retirement Board’s website.

To file claims for benefits, affected railroaders should call the RRB’s toll-free telephone number at 877-772-5772, or visit its website at www.rrb.gov/

To qualify for normal railroad unemployment benefits in the benefit year that began July 1, an employee must have had railroad earnings of at least $3,325 in calendar year 2011, counting no more than $1,330 for any month. Those who were first employed in the rail industry in 2011 must also have at least five months of creditable railroad service in that year.

Railroad unemployment benefits are normally paid for the number of days of unemployment over four in 14-day registration periods. The maximum daily benefit rate is currently $66, so maximum benefits for biweekly claims will total $660.

In addition, during the first 14-day claim period in a benefit year, benefits are payable for each day of unemployment in excess of seven, rather than four, which basically creates a one-week waiting period.

To file an application for benefits online via the website, a furloughed worker must have an Internet Services Account with the RRB. For security purposes, first-time users must obtain a unique password, which they can do by clicking on the link for requesting a Password Request Code (PRC) in the Benefit Online Services login section at www.rrb.gov

Individuals who have already established an Internet Services Account and password can go online to file applications and claims for biweekly unemployment benefits.

Delivering on the theme of the 2012 regional meetings – “We will not back down” – UTU International President Mike Futhey told more than 1,000 attendees at the Memphis meeting how the UTU is using every tool available – negotiations, legislative and legal — to defend its members’ jobs and workplace safety.

* On the Belt Railway of Chicago, where the carrier is demanding contract changes to permit one person crews at carrier discretion, the UTU has asked the National Mediation Board to declare a bargaining impasse. Belt Railway General Chairperson Chris Votteler’s negotiating team, assisted by International Vice President Delbert Strunk, faces a carrier that refuses to take crew consist changes off the table – three years following start of negotiations — even though the carrier is party to a moratorium on the issue.

“We will take every action necessary to protect our members’ jobs. We will not stand down on crew consist,” Futhey said.

* As to conductor certification — mandated by Congress and put into regulatory language by the Federal Railroad Administration – Norfolk Southern has filed an FRA-required certification plan without discussion and coordination with general chairpersons.

The NS proposed plan seeks to provide a pilot for remedial training only for conductors who have not traveled over a territory for 36 months, rather than the 12 months required in current agreements; and then seeks to place the burden of notification solely on the conductor rather than tracking the time period electronically. Additionally, the NS plan does not discuss procedures it will follow in an investigation even though FRA regulations require railroads to provide all documents and the list of witnesses prior to a hearing.

Futhey said the UTU will not permit “a tortured interpretation” of congressional and FRA intent, and will work to ensure every railroad follows the letter and intent of the law and regulations prior to the required Sept. 1 deadline for certifying conductors.

* In Pennsylvania, Norfolk Southern is attempting to disregard state safety laws and regulations through federal preemption affecting workplace safety at hump yards. “We will take every action necessary to prevent railroads from weakening workplace safety protections, whether at the state or federal level,” Futhey said.

* Pointing to millions of dollars in fines assessed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration against railroads that have harassed, intimidated, disciplined and fired workers for reporting injuries and workplace safety concerns, Futhey reminded members that UTU designated legal counsel is pledged to assist in bringing and pursuing such complaints. Information on filing these complaints is available at the UTU website at www.utu.org by searching “OSHA.”

“We are not going to allow carriers to continue their pattern of harassment and intimidation of workers who are injured on the job,” Futhey said. “The FRA and OSHA recently signed a letter of intent to investigate jointly all complaints of carrier harassment and intimidation, and the FRA has informed each carrier of its intent to work with OSHA to end the long-standing practice of carriers disciplining injured workers “where the facts fail to support the charges. We are lawyered up, too, and will take this to wherever we must to protect the interests of our members.”

* Recalling the horrific murder of a UTU-member bus driver in Los Angeles, the fatal shooting of a train-crew member near New Orleans, and assaults on bus operators and intrusions into locomotive cabs by armed robbers elsewhere, Futhey said the UTU is working with lawmakers and regulators to implement better safeguards for its air, bus and rail members. The FRA recently imposed a requirement that all new and remanufactured locomotive cabs be equipped with secure cab locks.

“I promise every member that the UTU will stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our members to ensure their safety. Our voice will be heard,” Futhey said.

As to the state of the union, Futhey said the International’s general fund balance is improving as carriers bring back furloughed workers, that the UTU Insurance Association now has a $28 million surplus and is financially strong, and the Discipline Income Protection Plan (DIPP) is financially sound with more than $10 million in assets.

Futhey emphasized that while competing plans often seek ways to deny payment of claims, the UTU’s DIPP is aggressive in paying claims. Futhey cited an example of two workers on the same assignment on CSX – one covered by the UTU’s DIPP and the other by a competing plan – who were both suspended. “Where the competing plan denied the claim, DIPP paid the claim. End of story.”

As for the UTU’s disability insurance plan covering bus and rail members, Futhey said it has paid out more than $22 million in disability benefits for off-duty injuries and is proving to be a valuable benefit.

As to organizing, Futhey said that since January 2008, when he took office, the UTU has an unprecedented record of organizing one new property every seven weeks. One of the first post-merger coordinations has been the joint strengthening with the Sheet Metal Workers International Association of organizing efforts, which makes greater resources available for organizing transportation, building trades and production workers.

Futhey also explained how the UTU negotiating strategy in national handling has already paid off for rail members covered by the national rail contract.

“When we entered  national rail contract negotiations, our strategy was to hold the monthly cost sharing premium under $200 — rather than allow it to escalate to $300 or more — in exchange for somewhat higher copays,” Futhey said. “The Affordable Care Act now eliminates many of those copays, saving affected members out-of-pocket for many health care services while those members enjoy one of the lowest cost-sharing premiums in the public and private sectors.”

UTU International President Mike Futhey

By UTU International President Mike Futhey
and SMWIA General President Joe Nigro – 

We are just months from one of the most important Election Days in our careers.

Not in our lifetimes has organized labor been under attack as we are today from corporate-funded anti-worker conservatives in state legislatures and Congress who are attacking collective bargaining rights, workplace safety laws and regulations and the ability of workers to finance their union activities.

They want to turn Medicare into a voucher system and slash payments, raise the age for benefits under Railroad Retirement, eliminate Amtrak and reduce funding for public transit.

We will not back down in defense of what labor has achieved for working families.

The UTU PAC and the SMWIA PAL are collaborating to support worker-friendly candidates at the state and federal levels.

We also point with pride to the successful roles played by the UTU Collective Bargaining Defense Fund as well as get-out-the-vote efforts by members of the UTU and the SMWIA.

These activist brothers and sisters helped achieve a ballot-box defeat of an Ohio law that would have curtailed collective bargaining rights, and engineered the recall of anti-union senators in Wisconsin, restoring control of the Senate to a labor-friendly Democratic majority. They also succeeded in forcing the Wisconsin governor — the architect of that state’s legislation to scrap collective bargaining rights for public employees — to face a recall election.

While we cannot match the dollars of the corporate elite who are funding anti-worker candidates, we have a more potent weapon – the steadfast eagerness of working families to knock on doors and make phone calls to get out the vote on Election Day.

The men and women in the American labor movement vote in greater numbers than most any other group of voters, and if we are to stop this attack on workers on Election Day, we must energize even more of our friends and family members to register to vote and go to the polls on Election Day in support of worker-friendly candidates.

The UTU website provides a button that, with one click, takes you to a website allowing you to verify your voter registration and to register to vote if you are not registered: https://smart-union.org/td/voter-registration-guide/

Your job security, good wages, benefits and workplace safety laws and regulations are directly related to political action by working families. Together, we can defeat the corporate-fueled attack on workers.

Within the UTU and the SMWIA, now is the time for each of us to ensure we are registered to vote, to pledge at least $1 a day to our respective UTU PAC and SMWIA PAL, and commit our time and energy in helping to get out the vote on Election Day.

By UTU International President Mike Futhey – 

Railroaders should not lose sleep over a rumor that Congress will cut Railroad Retirement benefits.

The rumor began after language was inserted in a budget report by conservative Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) suggesting the federal deficit could be cut by eliminating certain Railroad Retirement benefits. He did not understand how Railroad Retirement is funded.

The UTU, SMWIA and other rail union legislative departments, along with carriers and the Railroad Retirement Board, immediately contacted congressional offices to remind lawmakers there are no federal funds used to pay Railroad Retirement Tier I benefits. Every penny of Railroad Retirement Tier I benefits is funded by payroll taxes on railroads and their workers.

Thus, there can be no savings to the federal government by tinkering with Railroad Retirement. As National Legislative Director James Stem said, “We are all confident that Rep. Ryan’s unfortunate draft language will disappear from consideration in Congress.”

This reminds us all to be ever vigilant in protecting Railroad Retirement, and the importance of participating in the UTU PAC.

Railroad Retirement, along with Social Security – which covers virtually all other private sector workers – originated with President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal during the Great Depression.

Railroad unions gained from Congress a guarantee that Railroad Retirement would never provide less in monthly benefits than Social Security. In fact, Railroad Retirement today pays considerably more than Social Security — the additional cost borne entirely by railroads and their workers.

For Railroad Retirement Tier I, the payroll taxes on employers and workers are the same as for Social Security, but Tier I allows railroaders with at least 30 years of service to retire at age 60 with full benefits for themselves and spouse. The cost of early retirement is funded by Tier II payroll taxes, which also fund additional Railroad Retirement benefits similar to private-sector pension plans where they still exist.

The average Railroad Retirement benefit paid current retirees is some $1,700 more monthly than paid to Social Security recipients, while the Railroad Retirement spouse benefit is some $500 more than paid spouses under Social Security.

Carriers pay the bulk of the additional Railroad Retirement taxes – 12.1 percent on payroll up to $81,900 per employee, while employees pay 3.9 percent on the same earnings. This significant pension benefit is what the railroads rely on to keep our professional workforce on the job until retirement.

For more information on Railroad Retirement, visit the Railroad Retirement Board website by clicking on the following link: https://secure.rrb.gov/

By UTU International President Mike Futhey – 

It has been said that the comfort of the rich depends upon an abundant supply of the poor.

Working families today feel the pain of that comment. Most are struggling to keep their heads above water as the gap between the middle-class and the rich continues to widen.

In decades past, labor unions forged America’s middle-class, fighting for livable wages, employer-paid benefits including health-care insurance, seniority rights and prohibitions against discrimination in the workplace.

Today, we are seeing a vicious assault on labor unions by conservative lawmakers — helped into office through political contributions of large employers and other anti-union forces – whose objective is to eradicate collective bargaining rights and labor unions.

In Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin and other states, anti-union legislation has been advanced – and, in some cases, passed. In Congress, the House of Representatives has advanced legislation to weaken the ability of unions to organize and bargain collectively.

As our nation grapples to recover from a long and deep economic recession, many of those finding new employment must accept minimum wage — or only slightly more — in jobs providing no health-care insurance or other employer-paid benefits that are the foundation of building a solid middle class.

We have heard about the top 1 percent in America, whose earners make more than $700,000 annually. Middle-class families earn considerably less, and the little wealth they have acquired – in home equity and modest retirement savings – has been whittled away during this recession. Almost one-in-four home owners now owe more on their homes than they are worth, while most of the remaining home owners have seen the value of their homes decline as much as 40 percent.

A study out of the University of California (Los Angeles) concluded: “Never in the history of the United States has there been such a concentration of wealth in the hands of a small elite.”

During the 1940s, as America’s middle-class grew and prospered, 40 percent of American private-sector workers belonged to labor unions. Today, that figure is below 12 percent. Anti-labor forces wish to make that percentage even smaller.

Yet, as Washington Post columnist Harold Meyerson recently observed: “When it comes to elections, unions are still the most potent mobilizers.” As shown in the centerfold of the March UTU News, UTU members go to the polls and larger numbers than most any other grouping of voters. And that is true for all labor union members.

The November general elections – at the state and federal levels — could spell doom for organized labor and millions of middle-class Americans whose job security, wages, benefits and working conditions depend on collectively bargained contracts. It needn’t be so if families in the labor movement, and others in the middle class, vote to end the war on labor.

We can make a difference this November. We must make a difference this November. Our job security, wages, benefits and working conditions hang in the balance.

As Benjamin Franklin observed when signing the Declaration of Independence, we must all hang together or assuredly we shall all hang separately. For America’s middle class, the words ring as true today as they did in 1776.

By UTU International President Mike Futhey – 
Congratulations go to Art Rayner, the United Transportation Union Insurance Association’s man of the year for 2011.

Art Rayner

Art was recognized for his sales and leadership performance – attributes that helped propel the UTUIA last year to one of its strongest financial performances.

The competition Art faced from our other dedicated and determined field service representatives demonstrated that the UTUIA is financially strong and growing. And the UTUIA will grow even stronger as our merger with the Sheet Metal Workers International Association into SMART eventually allows 150,000 additional trade unionists to join the UTUIA through purchase of insurance and investment products.
For 2011, the UTUIA’s assets grew by $3 million, its annual revenue topped $17 million, and it produced a surplus (net income after costs are deducted) of almost $2 million.
The UTUIA’s investment portfolio is generally conservative, primarily invested in government and corporate bonds and companies with the highest credit ratings, with just 15 percent of assets invested in stocks and real estate.
Our field supervisors have been provided with new technology that better helps them provide insurance advice, while the number of UTUIA insurance products has increased.
The UTUIA is working to determine what changes in its constitution are required to make its products available to our new SMWIA brothers and sisters (the current constitution limits sales to transportation workers). The key to improving further the UTUIA’s financial performance is growing sales volume, and inclusion of non-transportation workers represented by the SMWIA is essential.
As the UTUIA’s financial performance improves from inclusion of SMWIA’s 150,000 members and increased sales, product offerings can be widened.
As it has been for 135 years, the mission of the UTUIA, an insurance company owned by its trade-union members, remains the same. It is to promote the general welfare of its members; disseminate information about life, health and annuity products that provide for the security of its members and their families; provide uncompromising service quickly, efficiently and professionally; and engage in volunteer activities through its local units.
The UTUIA recognizes its obligations to its members and shall constantly strive to live up to the ideals of the fraternal benefit system.
For more information on the UTUIA and its products, including links to UTUIA field service representatives, click on the following link:
www.utuia.org.

By UTU International President Mike Futhey

“Stay calm and carry on” has always been the best advice during challenging times.  It is appropriate advice for UTU members and employees as we move forward following the October 10 merger arbitration award.

That arbitration ruling makes the merger look very similar to the merger we were initially promised — the merger the UTU membership and I voted for in 2007.

The arbitrator recognized that maintaining the historical governance of the UTU was important by ruling that the UTU’s cherished craft autonomy, along with general committee autonomy, be preserved post-merger; and that changes to the UTU Constitution not be unilaterally made by the SMWIA executive council.

As required by the arbitration decision, I met with new SMWIA General President Joe Nigro, who took office July 1. The meeting was productive and positive.

At a meeting in early November of all incoming UTU International officers — a meeting traditionally held between a quadrennial convention and those officers being seated — we discussed the events of the past four years. 

We agreed unanimously that UTU members’ interests have been vigorously defended, and it is now time to move forward — discussing with the SMWIA the rights and traditions of both organizations, and to collaborate constructively in finding the most efficient and equitable means of resolving any further outstanding differences, including pending litigation.

I know that I speak for Joe Nigro, as well, when I say that the leadership of both the UTU and the SMWIA has, as our highest priority, the delivery to our members of the wages, benefits and working conditions they expect and deserve.  We also share a commitment to our loyal employees, who serve our members on a daily basis.

In the meantime, I assure you that our United Transportation Union and our United Transportation Union Insurance Association are each financially strong and are continuing to grow stronger notwithstanding this deep and lengthy recession.

As we put substantial merger-related litigation expenses behind us, and continue managing our other costs wisely, the UTU’s monthly surplus will continue to grow and allow for improved member representation.

The UTU and its predecessor unions have persevered and prospered for nearly a century and a half by being resolute in representing our members and flexible in the face of changing demands and events. It is a formula that has served our members well and will continue to serve us well.

HOLLYWOOD, Fla. – Mike Futhey was elected to his second four-year term as president of the United Transportation Union Aug. 8 during the UTU’s 11th quadrennial convention here.

Futhey was re-elected by a vote of 453-34 against challenger Scott Cole, delegate from UTU Local 278.

Also re-elected Aug. 8 — by acclamation — were Assistant President Arty Martin, General Secretary & Treasurer Kim Thompson and National Legislative Director James Stem.

Election results for Aug. 9 include:

* Robert Kerley, Dave Wier, John Previsich and Delbert Strunk were all returned by acclamation as International vice presidents.

In other International vice president elections:

* Paul Tibbit defeated John Babler, 371-117.

* John Lesniewski defeated J.R. “Jim” Cumby, 420-68.

* Bonnie Morr defeated Calvin Studivant, 274-213.

Additionally, Alternate National Legislative Director John Risch was re-elected, defeating Jay Seegmiller, 378-105.

Also:

* Calvin Studivant was elected alternate vice president-east, Bus Department, by acclamation.

* Brian Donald was elected alternate vice president- west, Bus Department, with 337 votes, defeating Adhi Reddy (75 votes) and Robert Gonzalez (74 votes).

* Larry Barrilleaux,  R. W. “Red” Dare, John England, Troy Johnson, Doyle Turner and Daniel Young were elected alternate vice presidents, receiving a majority of votes (and more than 50 percent of ballots) among nine candidates for six alternate vice president positions. Defeated were Carl Farnie, Kevin King and Charles Piland.

Also:

* Dale Barnett was elected “Engine Service Member” on the Board of Appeals, defeating Daniel O’Connell, 369-116.

* Donald Seyer was elected, by acclamation, “Road Service (Train Service) Member” on the Board of Appeals.

* Dale Welch was elected, by acclamation, “Yard Service (Train Service) Member” on the Board of Appeals.

* Dirk Sampson was elected, by acclamation, “Commuter Authority Member” on the Board of Appeals.

* Alvy Hughes was elected “Bus Department Member” on the Board of Appeals, defeating Adhi Reddy, 379-106.

Also:

* Steve Dawson, Mike Anderson, Steven Mavity, George Millward and Robert Resendez were elected, by acclamation, to the Executive Board. Phil Craig defeated Harry Garvin, 346-140, in election for alternate to the Executive Board.

Terms of elected officers and alternates begin Jan. 1, 2012.

Per an arbitrator’s ruling in the pending litigation and arbitration of whether the merger agreement between the UTU and the Sheet Metal Workers International Association (SMWIA) is an enforceable agreement, a parallel election is being held for officers of the Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation (SMART) Workers Union.

Each of those elected Aug. 8-10 to a UTU position was also elected to the same-named position in SMART.

As to the parallel SMART election, Arbitrator Michael Gottesman required that “if SMWIA so requests,” the UTU convention will hold separate elections for officers of UTU and of SMART. SMWIA General President Joe Nigro has so requested. Accordingly, after nominations for each UTU officer position are closed and the election completed, nominations and elections for the corresponding SMART officer positions are being opened.

Arbitrator Gottesman said the required vote on SMART-officer positions should in no way suggest he has reached a decision.

The holding of the convention and procedures for election are provided for in the UTU Constitution. It is available for viewing by clicking on the following link:

https://static.smart-union.org/worksite/PDFs/UTU_Constitution_012710.pdf