By Vic Baffoni
Vice President, Bus Department

I recently spoke with UTU Local 1785 (Santa Monica, Calif.) member William Alvarenga, who has driven a motor coach for more than 30 years and who has been commended for his safe and courteous driving record.

I asked Brother Alvarenga his recipe for success. “Put safety first and schedule second,” he said. “I treat passengers like I want to be treated, and I never, never let anything upset me while working.”


UTU bus members are the most dedicated and safe drivers in the country. They carry men and women to work, medical appointments, grocery stores and recreational outings. They also transport the most precious of cargos – children — to and from school.

Wise words. If we all strive to live by Brother Alvarenga’s simple rules, we will all succeed.

Not all is tranquil on our properties, however.

At many of our locations, we are experiencing an increase in disciplinary actions. Charges are being filed and harsher discipline is being assessed, along with more strict enforcement of work rules.

We have seen this before prior to and during contract negotiations.

Our remedy more strict enforcement of our contracts by our officers, and education of our members as to their rights under our contracts.

Your Weingarden Rights are very important. They take their name from a 1975 U.S. Supreme Court case (NLRB v. Weingarten) where the Court ruled that unionized employees possess a right to have a union representative present during investigatory interviews when a supervisor questions an employee to obtain information that might be used as a basis for discipline, or asks an employee to defend his or her conduct.

If an employee has a reasonable belief that discipline or other adverse consequences may result from what he or she says, the employee has the right to request union representation.

Never give up your right to be represented.

On a more pleasant note, congratulations are due those who worked so hard during recent representation elections, where workers voted, “UTU, yes.” The Bus Department will not work to deliver on our promises.

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

By UTU International President Mike Futhey

In spite of a federal court ruling Dec. 27 that UTU members were provided insufficient — and even misleading — information regarding the proposed merger with the Sheet Metal Workers’ union, seven current members of the UTU Board of Directors demanded in a letter to me Jan. 3 that I nonetheless support the merger and instruct the UTU Law Department to seek to overturn the court’s ruling.

In fact, the court’s ruling was supported by declarations from a majority of the previous board of directors who had voted to put the merger to a membership vote.

Now, seven current board members support the shotgun wedding of the UTU with the SMWIA that was boxed in secrecy and wrapped in a deception that would disenfranchise the craft and general-committee autonomy so cherished by our members.

The members of the Board of Directors who signed this demand are: John Babler, Vic Baffoni, Roy Boling, James Brunkenhoefer, J.R. Cumby, John Fitzgerald and Tony Iannone.

I was elected to protect our union’s cherished craft autonomy and this administration will not retreat from its obligations to the membership.

Assistant President Arty Martin, General Secretary and Treasurer Kim Thompson and I support providing the membership with full disclosure before asking them to vote on something so crucial to the future of this union, their careers and their families.

We ask Brothers Babler, Baffoni, Boling, Brunkenhoefer, Cumby, Fitzgerald and Iannone to explain why they don’t want to provide the membership with full and honest disclosure before seeking a vote on a merger with another organization.

Each of them committed in recent weeks that they were putting politics behind them and would work with this administration for the benefit of the entire union.

What, other than politics, would cause them to take the position they have taken? Indeed, in the face of indisputable evidence — validated by a federal court — that the membership did not have sufficient and factual information on which to vote, these seven brothers want that vote to stand.

Rumors are being circulated that unless we merge now — and under the recently disclosed and previously hidden terms that would disenfranchise our craft autonomy — the union is in danger of financial collapse. That is not true.

Former International President Paul Thompson said emphatically at our regional meetings in Kansas City and Pittsburgh, and our convention in Hollywood, Fla., that the union is “debt free.”

In fact, convention cost controls left us with a $1-million surplus from the convention. Moreover, the reduction of International vice president positions will save an additional $1 million annually, the $2 dues increase initiated by Paul Thompson will add another $1.5 million annually, and other cost controls being instituted will further improve our financial strength. Contrary to misinformation, this union is solvent and does not require a shotgun wedding to survive.

Meanwhile, the federal district court in Akron, Ohio, has extended until Feb. 8 the temporary restraining order halting implementation of the merger with the SMWIA creating SMART.

The 30-day extension was agreed to by parties so that we might explore all possibilities of resolution consistent with the interests of our members. I intend to use this period to clear up the lack of information and misinformation that previously was provided our membership.

Following is the form letter that was submitted to me separately by each of the seven brothers: John Babler, Vic Baffoni, Roy Boling, James Brunkenhoefer, J.R. Cumby, John Fitzgerald and Tony Iannone:

January 3, 2008

Mr. M. B. Futhey, United Transportation Union

14600 Detroit Avenue

Cleveland, OH 44107

Reference: UTU/SMWIA Merger

Dear Sir and Brother,

I understand that the UTU Board of Directors unanimously endorsed the merger of United Transportation Union (UTU) and the Sheet Metal Workers International Association (SMWIA). I also understand that on January 4, 2008, UTU will be represented in court in Akron, OH regarding a restraining order to permanently prevent the merger of the aforementioned Unions as outlined in the Merger Agreement between the parties.

As a member of the current UTU Board of Directors, I request that UTU’s legal position at the hearing support the merger of UTU and SMWIA as mandated by the Board of Directors and membership via their recent ratification vote. Furthermore, I request that any change(s), internal, legal or otherwise, regarding the merger of the UTU with SMWIA must have the concurrence of the UTU Board of Directors as set forth in the UTU Constitution. As a member of the UTU Board of Directors I so hold.

By Vic Baffoni
Vice President, Bus Department

As we enter the new year, we must be on the lookout for new opportunities to organize the unorganized, increase financial resources and gain political power.

We also must take advantage of new training and educational opportunities to aid our members.

The winds of unionism may have waned in recent years, but with strong leadership and dedication, and with increased resources, we can and will adjust the sails to improve our opportunities at the bargaining table, with federal regulatory agencies and lawmakers.

As we adjust to take advantage of every opportunity to better represent, serve and build our union, I will be meeting with each of our bus locals to address their concerns. I will schedule those locals with the biggest problems first and provide the attention and help they need.

One of the issues we will be watching closely is new school-bus safety standards being established by the U.S. DOT. Under the standards, scheduled to take effect within a year, school districts will have access to federal funds to equip buses with 24-inch seat backs, which is four inches higher than currently in use.

And within three years, all new smaller buses, which have an increased rollover risk, must have three-point seat belts instead of lap belts. School districts will also be encouraged to use federal funds to equip larger buses with seat belts. The new rules are available for inspection on the Internet at