Brothers and sisters:
It’s hard to believe that we’re three-quarters of the way through 2021. With the changing of the seasons into autumn, it seems like an opportune time to outline a few of the positive changes we’re making to better serve you.
Responsiveness to members’ safety concerns is something my administration prioritizes as the most important function of our union. We were founded on safety. Both our TD Safety Condition Report and Technology Event Report are fully integrated and go directly from members to officers. If you find that there is a safety risk, COVID-related or otherwise on your property, remember to fill out a confidential Safety Condition Report on our website or through the SMART app. No time is lost when routing these reports directly from members — once it’s submitted, it will be acted upon by the officers of jurisdiction. Truly, there is no time to waste when it comes to serving the membership, especially when it comes to safety.
Responsiveness to members’ safety concerns is something my administration prioritizes as the most important function of our union.
I myself am trying to make up for time lost with the initial COVID lockdowns, travel restrictions and everything else that limited our ability to safely gather. The pandemic was declared in March 2020, about five and a half months into my presidency. All the plans we’d made for local visits, regional meetings and other events got put on hold right then and there. We began to formulate ways to 1) Ensure that our membership was as safe as possible in the evolving situation of the pandemic; and 2) Try to transform the operations of a national labor union in such a way to ensure that we could continue to meet the needs and serve members with minimal disruption.
Much of the union’s focus was drawn to those challenges. But these missions eventually were accomplished thanks to the tremendous efforts and collaboration of our members, our officers and the capable staff at the Cleveland office.
I agree with the statement made by Minnesota SLD Nick Katich regarding the mini regional meeting he recently held, there really is no substitute for getting out and engaging face-to-face (even with masks and social distancing).
My opinion is that the job of being president of a proud national transportation union is not done properly from behind a desk. I enjoy nothing more than getting to meet and know my fellow brothers and sisters of SMART from coast to coast and craft to craft, hearing firsthand their triumphs as well as their issues and concerns so that we can work together on the solutions.
Merriam-Webster defines a labor union as: an organization of workers formed for the purpose of advancing its members’ interests in respect to wages, benefits and working conditions.
SMART is a labor union and the union at its core is you. A union, as defined, is all about banding together for common well-being— united. So as TD President, visiting you where you are is a great priority of mine. COVID slowed that down, but just recently I have made numerous visits in several states attending meetings both big and small to get input from you about the goals and direction that SMART-TD should take in safety, contract and organizational matters all the while providing factual answers and updates to questions asked. I find these discussions energizing and enlightening as we develop new ideas to make SMART-TD the best transportation union it can be for all members now and into the future.
Looking ahead, there will be more member-focused improvements. A long-planned revamp of the union website coming next year will not only offer a new look and added content, but enhanced features so that the information members need can be attained faster. While we recently made another update on the SMART App, we continue to look into additional membership suggestions in our continuing efforts of making it a vital tool for members.
We are also past the design and developmental stages of the new SMART University. We are currently finalizing the educational materials and content that will be available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. SMART U will be an online learning and resource center focused on improving our members’ and officers’ knowledge and skills, bringing information and workshops that in the past have only been accessible by attending an annual in-person meeting.
Member input is the lifeblood of a dynamic, ever-improving union, and I encourage you all to speak out and be the change that you would like to see at every level of the organization.
I’m excited to present these initiatives to you, and your union leadership is always open to hearing about how it can improve. Member input is the lifeblood of a dynamic, ever-improving union, and I encourage you all to speak out and be the change that you would like to see at every level of the organization. The first step can be just as easy as attending your local meeting and encouraging others to use the tools your union provides for the benefit of the whole.
For those of you who want to become more involved, running for an elected local position is a great way to start. Next year, 2022 local committee elections (local chairperson, vice local chairperson and LCA secretary) are held while 2023 brings elections for local officers (president, VP, secretary, treasurer, legislative representative, ALR, trustee and delegate) Both provide members an opportunity to get more involved. If there is a vacancy at your local, perhaps you may wish to step up and fill the position.
Every union officer, including myself, did not step into the job knowing everything. Some of us were lucky enough to have mentors like Herm Boruta, while others learned as they went. While there is not a substitute for experience, it starts with asking for help when it is needed. It’s not a sign of weakness to ask a question, but rather of strength. Someone somewhere in SMART-TD will have an answer as they most likely experienced or dealt with the same thing. Mentoring the next generation of officers is yet another important function that we need to focus on and is something that we are working diligently on improving, starting with the aforementioned initiatives.
The power we can exert when we as a group of fraternal brothers and sisters are united, engaged and all working toward the same goals can be so powerful yet is often underutilized. Let’s tap into that power and energy of unity at all levels. We all must remember, even when in disagreement, there are things that bind us together as SMART-TD that we must work hand-in-hand on: wages, benefits and working conditions for the benefit of us all.
Please stay safe and God bless!
President, Transportation Division
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