By Richard Deiser
Vice President, Bus Department

It was gratifying to see the large number of Bus Department local and committee officers and legislative representatives in attendance at the regional meeting in New Orleans. There were many long-time experienced veterans and many new faces.

President Futhey’s emphasis on organizing efforts will no doubt increase the need for training new officers in the future. The regional meetings continue to be a primary source of training for new and old. In New Orleans, we had seminars on what constitutes a grievance and preparing for arbitration by Dr. Francis X. Quinn.

Ernie Martinez (Local 1607), ably assisted by David Ojeda, conducted a two-part discussion on accident investigation.

The class on duties of local officers, taught by the International’s Director of Strategic Planning John Nadlin, was attended by an overflow crowd, as was the first-responder class directed by UTU organizer Billy Moye.

In addition, we had an open forum during which attendees had opportunity to discuss items of interest at their local and gather suggestions.

Everyone agreed that they came away having learned something new. I urge all the bus locals to send at least one officer to one of next year’s regional meetings. The few dollars you spend on training now can save thousands later.

Training also is available over the Internet through the UTU’s iLink connection to the UTU University.

The International also has booklets available, such as a manual for Bus Department chairpersons, and “Progress through Unity,” which is a compilation of materials from a number of previous regional seminars. 

By Richard Deiser, Vice President, Bus Department
Bonnie Morr, Alternate Vice President, Bus Department

The Surface Transportation Authorization Act, introduced by House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Jim Oberstar (D-Minn.), includes provisions of interest to bus operators. The proposed law would:

  • Require interstate motor coach carriers to demonstrate knowledge of safety, accessibility and financial responsibility prior to being granted operating authority, and place a priority on safety audits.
  • Require safety fitness determinations, assignment of safety ratings, regular monitoring of safety performance, and annual inspection programs for motor coaches.
  • Require electronic on-board recorders to track hours-of-service compliance.
  • Require minimum driver training requirements, including behind-the-wheel instruction. We would also like to see required training in dealing with passenger threats and hazardous driving conditions.
  • Establish unique medical exams and certification forms for commercial drivers.

President Futhey also has directed our National Legislative Office to support H.R. 1135, the Bus Uniform Standards and Enhanced Safety Act, which would require increased bus-roof strength and fire suppression.

We are also seeking improvements to that bill to set window glazing requirements, construction standards to protect against hazards from alternative fuels, and authority of school bus drivers to discipline unruly students. And we are pushing for appropriate funding. 

By Vic Baffoni
Vice President, Bus Dept.

It’s a new year. We have a new administration in Washington and a larger labor-friendly majority in the House and Senate. It is a time of new hope.

It will not be easy. The deteriorating economic conditions in this country are serious and will take time to solve. There are no quick fixes.

With the unfortunate death of National Legislative Director James Brunkenhoefer, we have suffered a serious loss.

As the new Congress organizes itself in January and February, our focus– with assistance from the AFL-CIO — will be to gain Senate confirmation for labor-friendly cabinet and regulatory agency heads nominated by President Obama. Updates on nominees and the confirmation process will be reported at Members should visit the UTU Web site regularly to check on updates.

President Futhey, Assistant President Martin and Alternate National Legislative Director James Stem will be working to educate new members of the House and Senate — on both sides of the aisle — about the rail industry and transportation labor’s past and present role in improving productivity and safety.

During difficult economic times, UTU members are fortunate to have good benefits, good working conditions and a strong union to provide them and their families with protections.

Even so, it is not going to be easy. Many of our locals will be entering contract negotiations in 2009 and management is going to point to the financial crisis as reasons to seek givebacks.

Your union officers and representatives will be doing their jobs, which is protecting your rights. This union has a proud history in times of crisis, and I am confident that our strengths will be evident in 2009.

By Vice Baffoni
Vice President, Bus Dept.

Congratulations to Community Transit General Chairperson Calvin Studivant in Newark, N.J., whose members in Local 759 ratified a new contract providing an across-the-board wage increase, an extra holiday with pay, an increase in vacation pay and pension benefits, and no givebacks.

Assisting in the bargaining were Local 759 President David Deleon, Local Chairperson John Bladek, Secretary Antonio Ortiz, and Legislative Rep. Kaleem Muhammad. Assisting in the successful bargaining was New Jersey State Legislative Director Dan O’Connell.

Take note that all UTU locals are in the election cycle. I strongly encourage any member who wishes to serve the members to run for office.

Those who run for office must recognize that they have an obligation to know what their responsibilities to the membership will be, and understand that they must be prepared to sacrifice regarding their personal life.

A union office is much more than a title. It is serving the membership, knowing it is often without compensation, or even a thank you. True union leaders are rewarded by the knowledge that they are serving their membership to the best of their ability.

The UTU is blessed in having countless dedicated men and women who serve their membership in an exemplary manner.

When you, as a member, vote for your local officers, please remember to consider and vote for those individuals who have demonstrated dedication, integrity and a record of serving the membership.

If you elect individuals of this caliber, you will elect a team of officers that will always put you and your brother and sister members first – and that strengthens your local. Have a happy Thanksgiving.

By Vic Baffoni
Vice President, Bus Department

Negotiations for improved wages, benefits and working conditions are Bus Department priorities in 2008.

Negotiations are underway in Locals 710 (Newark, N.J.), 1589 (New Brunswick, N.J.) and 1670 (Laredo, Texas).

Agreements held by six other locals expire this year: Local 1582 (Albany, N.Y.) in April; Locals 172 (Darby, Pa.), 1741 (San Francisco), and 1785 (Santa Monica, Calif.) in June; Local 23 (Santa Cruz, Calif.) in September; and Local 1596 (Charlotte, N.C.) in December.

In all cases, we seek affordable health-care benefits and preservation of work rules. Also important is protection from layoffs and contracting out.

The UTU International will be assisting, as requested. The sooner we start working in unison on these issues of crucial importance, the sooner management will recognize and respect the unity and determination of the UTU to negotiate equitable agreements on behalf of its members.

We received a letter from Hillary Rodham Clinton, whom the UTU supports for president, asking that our bus members note the following:

If elected president, she promises:

  • To preserve labor protection for all federally funded transit programs;
  • To push for passage of the Employee Free Choice Act, ensuring workers have a fair chance to join a labor union;
  • To expand access to paid leave, permitting workers a better balance of work and family commitments.