By Bonnie Morr
Vice President, Bus Department – 

Sen. Patty Murray, a Democrat from Washington State, is the new chairperson of the Senate Budget Committee, which makes decisions on how much of the annual federal budget is available for transit.

As chairperson, Sen. Murray will set the agenda and tone of Senate Budget Committee hearings and have substantial influence on committee’s Democratic majority.

We know Sen. Murray as a strong proponent of transportation investments, and a friend of organized labor. One Capitol Hill insider commented that being committee chairperson “will put her in a very powerful position to craft the entire federal budget.” A veteran Seattle transportation journalist said Sen. Murray has a 20-year history in the Senate of supporting federal transportation appropriations for local transportation projects.

Sen. Murray has consistently won endorsements from the UTU, and National Legislative Director James Stem and Alternate National Legislative Director John Risch have a close working relationship with her and her senior staff.

In this era of tight federal budgets and assaults on transit funding by conservative lawmakers, we will depend on labor friendly and transit friendly lawmakers such as Sen. Murray to defend and advance funding for local, state, regional and national transit funding.

November elections increased the number of labor-friendly members of the Senate and the House, and much of the credit goes to UTU members who contributed to the UTU PAC and who participated in get-out-the-vote drives nationwide.

By Bonnie Morr
Vice President, Bus Department

As we approach year end, I wish everyone happy holidays and a healthy and prosperous new year.

During 2012, we have had wonderful success negotiating 11 new contracts, and others are in the negotiating process.

I could not be more proud of the negotiating and educational skills demonstrated by general chairpersons who protected our members, and efforts of our alternate vice presidents who assisted in some of the negotiations.

As we prepare for 2013, we face seven agreements due to expire next year.
Also during 2012, we organized several new properties, and look forward to organizing more bus properties in 2013.

Also on the positive side, public transit ridership has risen substantially as gasoline prices have increased. Agencies nationwide are planning for even more riders in 2013, which will mean more public transit jobs.

Our National Legislative Office, with assistance from state legislative directors, will be working to educate lawmakers at the national, state and local levels to obtain necessary funding for new equipment and routes.

Many localities already are tackling the challenge of finding new sources of public transit revenue in their communities. We can also count on MAP-21 (Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century), which passed Congress in 2012 and was signed into law by President Obama. That law provided a new two-year federal funding stream for mass transit and means more jobs.

As we move forward in 2013 under the new banner of SMART, we will benefit by having a stronger voice in Congress and access to the SMWIA’s numerous training facilities throughout the United States.

As you plan for 2013, keep in mind our regional meetings (July 1-3 in Boston; July 29-31 in Anaheim, Calif.) that will feature improved workshops for local officers and members seeking to improve negotiating, organizing and grievance skills.

<img class="alignleft size-full wp-image-13182" style="margin-top: 4px; margin-bottom: 4px; margin-left: 12px; margin-right: 12px; border-width: 1px; border-color: black; border-style: solid;" title="Morr, Bonnie.2011" src=" How Do I Make My Ex Want Me Back After I Broke Up With Her r-Bonnie.2011.jpg” alt=”” width=”150″ height=”150″ />By Bonnie Morr
Vice President – Bus Department

The UTU regional  meetings in Portland, Ore., and Memphis, Tenn., provided hands-on workshops – led by experts from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS) — designed to improve skills of members and officers in pursing grievances where members’ rights have been violated.

Experts from the NLRB summarized and explained federal labor law, including the process for filing unfair labor practices complaints and governance of union representation elections under the National Labor Relations Act.

FMCS mediator Connie Weimer led workshops in the process of mediation and development of mediation skills – especially how to get to a “yes” and past a “no” at the bargaining table. Included was an interactive presentation on protecting the rights of the collective bargaining process and the importance of labor unions in the workplace.

A mock negotiating session was provided in Memphis by FMCS mediator Luther Bennet, with members in attendance playing the role of management. Needless to say, we were brutal as managers, which helped participants better understand the dynamics of negotiations.

One of the most well-attended sessions was led by attorney Steve Young and arbitrator Frank Quinn. A Power Point presentation is available that I will send to members via e-mail upon request. My e-mail address is at the top of this column.

The value of workshops at regional meetings cannot be overemphasized, and it is not too early to begin making plans to attend one of the 2013 regional meetings – in Boston, July 1-3, and Anaheim, Calif., July 29-31. Details and registration information will become available early in 2013.

As Election Day approaches, it is important for members and their families to be registered to vote and to vote. At the UTU home page at that is a box titled, Are You Registered? Clicking on that box takes you to an interactive page where you and family members can verify that your voter registration is current. If it isn’t, you can register to vote at that site. You may use that site to register to vote via absentee ballot.

The October issue of the UTU News will contain a listing of congressional candidates, by state, identified as labor friendly.

How Do I Make My Ex Want Me Back After I Broke Up With Her

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. — UTU-represented members employed as bus operators by the Santa Cruz Metropolitan Transit District have become “the highest-paid bus operators in America” following ratification of a new three-year labor agreement, said Bonnie Morr, vice president of the UTU Bus Department.

UTU Local 23 members ratified two agreements – the one by bus operators, and a second affecting drivers who perform services for the disabled.

Leading the negotiations were General Chairperson Eduardo Montesino and Vice Chairpersons Jason Andrews, Daniel Zaragosa, Todd Pinsky and Sergio Tabag. Morr provided negotiating assistance.

“These negotiations brought a balance to a workforce that had a 37-day strike in 2005 in order to obtain benefits that been denied them over the years,” Morr said.

Train and engine employees on Colorado short line San Luis & Rio Grande Railroad have voted to be represented by the UTU.

This is the 30th organizing win in 53 months for the UTU. International Vice President Bonnie Morr led the organizing effort.

The 150-mile San Luis & Rio Grande – one of three rail properties owned by Iowa Pacific Holdings – is headquartered in Alamosa, Colo., and runs west from a connection with Union Pacific at Walsenburg, Colo., over the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in southern Colorado.

The highest point on the railroad, which primarily hauls grain, minerals and specialty rock products, is at La Veta Pass – 9,242 feet above sea level.


More than 170 bus operators, mechanics, service employees and store keepers employed by the Los Angeles area Montebello (Calif.) Bus Lines are now UTU members after overwhelmingly voting, “UTU, yes.”

In the Los Angeles area, the UTU also represents employees of Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LACMTA) and Santa Monica Municipal (Big Blue) Bus Lines.

Montebello Bus Lines transports some eight million passengers annually in the communities of Alhambra, Bell Gardens, Boyle Heights, Commerce, downtown Los Angeles, East Los Angeles, La Mirada, Montebello, Monterey Park, Pico Rivera, Rosemead, South Gate and Whittier.

UTU Alternate Vice President John England said, “Since International President Mike Futhey took office in January 2008, the UTU has set a record in organizing, with 29 new air, bus and rail properties organized and two raids on UTU properties turned back.”

England was joined in the organizing drive by Bus Department Vice President Bonnie Morr and Bus Department Alternate Vice President Brian Donald, along with Sheet Metal Workers International Association (SMWIA) organizers Manuel Gonzalez and Ernesto Tolentino. The UTU and SMWIA are now merged as the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation (SMART) Workers.

Praised for their efforts in organizing fellow Montebello Bus Lines employees were bus operators Rachel Burciaga and Frank Garcia. “Rachel and Frank were an integral part of making this organizing campaign a success and it would not have been possible without their assistance,” England said.

By Bonnie Morr
Vice President, Bus Department

Many of our bus locals have responded to a survey focusing on the health conditions of bus operators. This is a very important step in identifying some of the health issues that we face while on the job.

The Transit Bus Operator Workplace Health and Wellness Survey, sponsored by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), is an effort to understand health, safety and wellness issues faced by bus operators, and to learn how employers and labor unions are addressing these challenges.

Also responding to the survey were more than 200 transit companies.

Specifically, the survey sought responses on:

* The current state of bus operator health and wellness.

* Health promotion programs and policies.

* The union local’s perspectives on bus operator wellness and workplace health promotion programs, policies and activities.

* Identification of who does what to contribute to bus operator health promotion.

* Opinions on how health promotion and wellness affect the work environment, driver retention and transit operations.

All information gathered in this survey will remain confidential, and the results will not indicate specific locals, employers or employees.


By Bonnie Morr
Vice President, Bus Department

The UTU has gained a new First Transit property in Farmington, N.M., which is now in Local 1687 out of Albuquerque. Contract negotiations have begun.

We also are in the initial stages of organizing some 200 workers on a transit property and a light rail property in Southern California.

I am currently assisting Local 1741, whose members are employed by First Student in San Francisco as they prepare for two arbitrations, including a discipline issue and a workers’ compensation issue. In both cases we are seeking reinstatement of the members.

With assistance from the International Law Department, we recently completed a trial at the National Labor Relations Board over an unfair labor practice at a UTU property in Riverside, Calif., which had been closed without holding negotiations.

We are seeking from the NLRB a severance package for the 135 members who lost their jobs. Final briefs are due in mid-February.

Alternate Vice President Calvin Studivant has been working with Waverly Harris, general chairperson at Local 1574 (Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority) on numerous grievances where they have settled seven of 10 without having to go to arbitration.

At Local 1715, which represents drivers employed by Charlotte Area Transit System, a driver was reinstated with full back pay after Calvin Studivant defended the driver in arbitration.

In Washington, we are facing a battle with legislation introduced by the House Republican majority attacking transit operating assistance and pushing for privatization that would permit foreign-based operators to enter the U.S. market and access federal transit aid.

This legislation also attacks 13(C) protections of the Federal Transit Act that we worked so hard to protect. They require continuation of collective bargaining rights, and protection of transit employees’ wages, working conditions, pension benefits, seniority, vacation, sick and personal leave, and other conditions of employment, as well as paid training or retraining, when federal funds are used to take over a transit operation.

The UTU National Legislative Office and other transit unions are working to halt this attack, and donations to the UTU PAC will provide additional assistance in this election year.

By Bonnie Morr
Alternate Vice President – Bus Department

Operating a bus may be the most stressful job in America.

Early in November, 100 Detroit bus operators walked off the job after repeated passenger assaults. In New York, a study found a pattern of physical and verbal assaults on drivers.

Add to the fear of being assaulted the long hours spent in congested traffic and passengers interfering with bus operation with repeated questions and complaints, and one shouldn’t be surprised that the mental toll on drivers is significant. An article in Slate calls it “a potent stress cocktail.”

Driving a bus, according to The Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, is “a high stress occupation.” One psychologist said bus drivers face two unacceptable choices: Make the schedule by driving recklessly, or drive safely and irritate passengers who are too often likely to assault or otherwise abuse the driver.

And it’s not just city buses. The number of physical and verbal assaults on school bus operators has been increasing.

Increasingly, bus operators suffer from high blood pressure, heart disease, sleep apnea and gastrointestinal disorders traceable to job stress.

As cash-strapped transit agencies reduce service and raise fares, the pressures on drivers is only going to increase.

While lawmakers and regulators frequently focus on improved safety standards for bus manufacture, cell phone bans, and tougher qualifications for bus operators, they too often ignore management pressure to adhere to schedules, overtime demands and a refusal to install bus-operator safety shields.

These are issues we continue to make known to lawmakers and regulators, and we will continue doing so until acceptable legislation and regulations are imposed.

A bill now before Congress, the Local Flexibility for Transit Assistance Act (H.R. 3200), introduced by Rep. Russ Carnahan (D-Mo.) and Steve LaTourette (R-Ohio), is a step in the right direction. It would allow local transit systems in areas with more than 7 percent unemployment or substantially higher gasoline prices to gain access to federal funds to maintain service and return furloughed employees to work.

The UTU will continue to keep lawmakers informed on problems faced daily by bus operators, while the UTU PAC will continue to support candidates who demonstrate an understanding of our problems and a determination to take legislative action to solve the problems. 

Alternate Vice President, Bus Department

As some in Congress seek to slash spending on public transit – the only affordable means for millions of Americans going to and from work – ridership is soaring.

The American Public Transit Association says more than five billion trips were taken via public transit during the first six months of 2011 – up sharply from the same period a year earlier. In fact, transit ridership is at its highest level in more than half-a-century as Americans continue to abandon the expensive automobile commute in favor of convenient and more affordable public transit.

Public transit is also shown by researchers to be a beneficial to local economies. In many communities without effective public transit options, small business has difficulty in recruiting workers for service jobs as many cannot afford automobiles to take them to and from work.

The American Public Transit Association says that for each $1 billion invested in public transportation, 36,000 jobs are supported and created.

A study released by the University of Wisconsin found that cuts to bus service in Milwaukee made 40,000 jobs at 1,700 employers inaccessible by public transit. And, concluded the study, proposed new cuts in public transit budgets would put 13,000 jobs out of the reach of workers not owning automobiles.

“The very people perhaps most in need of jobs would face another barrier to getting a job,” concluded the study. “That’s no way to rebuild an economy.”

The UTU continues to deliver to Congress the message that public transit is an essential service deserving of full funding support. I encourage members to email and phone their congressional representative with the same positive message.

Budget cuts also are adversely affecting public transit workers, and our UTU organizers are seeing a surge of interest among the unorganized to be represented by a strong labor union such as the UTU.

With demand for public transit soaring in the midst of layoffs, drivers are being asked to work more overtime, limiting their ability to obtain sufficient rest between shifts and spend quality time with their families.

We will continue to reach out to the unorganized. Over the past 43 months, the UTU has organized 24 separate properties.