SMART Transportation Division National Legislative Director Greg Hynes and his department led the charge in our nation’s capital to get bus and transit members’ safety concerns in front of members of the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate.

This union, our Bus Department and the Bus/Transit Assault Prevention and Safety (BTAPS) committee have been advocating for Congress to act to end the startling growth of violent assaults on the nation’s public transit workforce.

President Biden’s administration and the Federal Transit Administration have begun to make moves to address shortcomings in security. SMART-TD and BTAPS are now taking our issues directly to Congress urging them to act on transit safety, which is a life-and-death issue for our brothers and sisters.

Hynes said he’s “fired up about how his team represented this union and the potential results of their great work.”

TD directly engages U.S. Congress and agency directors

“Our new BTAPS committee had a fantastic showing. All six members from across the country made the trip. Along with Bus Department VPs (Alvy) Hughes and (James) Sandoval, they brought the realities of the roads and rails with them into the halls of Congress today. Their message hit home with these officials because they were undeniably authentic.” Hynes said.

Hynes’ team, along with Christine Ivey, chairperson of BTAPS, and her team of bus and transit rail safety advocates met with the offices of 13 members of the House of Representatives, 2 U.S. senators, and the staff director of the House Subcommittee on Highways and Transit.

“I’m proud of the effort this union put forward today, and I have high expectations for the results. I want to thank Christine and the BTAPS members for making an important contribution to this union today and to the safety and well-being of our membership,” Hynes said.

Bus Department Vice Presidents Alvy Hughes, left, and James Sandoval, right, visit Capitol Hill at the Bus/Transit Day on the Hill.

In addition to our BTAPS members, SMART-TD was represented by Bus Department Vice Presidents Hughes and Sandoval, plus New Jersey State Legislative Director Ron Sabol as well as SMART-TD Auxiliary’s Monica Sandoval.

“We took a powerful step forward, but this is just the beginning,” VP Sandoval said. “We will not take our foot off the pedal until every transit worker is safe and secure. Only together will we make sure our voices and stories continue to echo through Capitol Hill.”

On a second day of meetings, Hynes led a team of SMART-TD leaders in a highly successful meeting with acting FTA Administrator Veronica Vanterpool. Administrator Vanterpool was highly receptive to the message and perspective SMART-TD had to share with her.

Administrator Vanterpool, who has a commercial driver’s license and four years of experience as a bus operator on her resume, quickly identified with the realities SMART-TD presented in their meeting. She is hoping FTA can partner with SMART-TD and our BTAPS committee in an effort to collect data on future assaults directly from our membership rather than depending on the transit agencies to self-report the information.

SMART-TD Alternate National Legislative Director Jared Cassity had this to say: “In talking with acting Administrator Vanterpool, it immediately became clear that she is eager to address the same safety issues as this union. She went into detail on the new property-specific safety committees that she and the Biden administration are instituting for our bus members and was engaged in dialogue with our people about how SMART-TD can play an active role in the success of their mission.”

Bus Department Vice President Alvy Hughes added, “I’ve been involved in this union and this Bus Department for a long time now. I can tell you that the meeting we had with Administrator Vanterpool and the work we put in on Capitol Hill the day before has been one of the most-productive projects I’ve had the opportunity to be involved in. This organization is stronger, and our members will be made safer through what we accomplished during this first-of-its-kind Bus/Transit Day on the Hill.”

Cecilia Lopez, the general chairperson representing Local 1701, announced that 28 months of uncertainty for her brothers and sisters have officially ended. The city of Montebello and SMART-TD have come to an agreement that has been ratified by a nearly unanimous vote by Local 1701 members. Lopez said the contract includes the largest pay increase she has seen in her career working for the city.

A fresh start for Montebello

GC Lopez made it clear that the city has turned a significant corner in how they treat our union members and its employees since they hired Raul Alvarez as city manager.

“It is hard to explain the difference in morale for our bus department since Alvarez came to Montebello,” she said. “Montebello’s Bus Department is now the place where people want to work.”

SMART-TD averts a crisis

Members of the SMART Transportation Division ratified a new agreement with the city of Montebello after more than two years of negotiations.

Since December 2021, the men and women of SMART-TD Local 1701 in Montebello, California, had been working without a contract. The team of Local Chairperson Betty Vasquez, GC Lopez and SMART-TD Vice Presidents Alvy Hughes and James Sandoval saw negotiations going down a dangerous path. At one point, 27 of our members were placed on administrative leave and faced termination, including Lopez and Vasquez.

 Thanks in part to their training and experience and with the help of a new administration in Montebello City Hall, the SMART-TD negotiating team was able to put both the city and Local 1701 on the road to a much brighter future.

Progress based on teamwork and mutual respect

When the dust settled, the Bus Department and SMART-TD Local 1701 stood together.

As GC Lopez put it, “Without Montebello Bus, there is no Montebello. This isn’t just a victory for us; it is a win for the people of this community.”

She said she’s very appreciative of the aid she received in this process from VPs Sandoval and Hughes, as well as the support her local received from Alternate Vice President Markeisha Hayes.  More than anything, she wanted to thank the men and women of Local 1701 for their continued support throughout this multi-year fight for a good contract.

“These men and women stuck together as a family, and they filled City Hall every time I asked them to,” she said. “I couldn’t be prouder to represent the people of Montebello’s Bus Department.”

Solidarity brings success

The success in Montebello is one example of the power of union solidarity. By working together, focusing on results and holding employers accountable, SMART-TD creates better lives and more secure futures for workers across the country.

Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love, has been known for being anything but loving when it comes to wage increases and quality of life benefits for its transportation professionals. First-year General Chairperson Anthony Petty of SMART-TD’s SPT General Committee announced the ratification by membership of a new one-year agreement that changes that for the better.

The agreement ratified includes both a 7% raise in base pay and a $3,000 bonus for our SMART-TD members working to provide SEPTA’s bus service. Petty and his general committee also brokered a deal increasing the carrier’s contribution to employee retirement funds by 5% in addition to the 7% raise in pay.

Not only will these members be receiving these financial benefits, but Petty and his committee of Bruce Cheatham, Wayne Vincent and Jeaneen Hand, along with new Bus Department’ Vice President James Sandoval, also negotiated for substantial gains in time off and quality-of-life for their brothers and sisters.

Standard practice at SEPTA for the past two decades has been that our members have worked six days a week at all times. In this new agreement, members will only be drafted (forced to work a sixth day in the week) once per month. They can take two days off per week for the remainder of the month. If they elect to do so, they will be allowed to volunteer to work a sixth day whenever they want, but the power to decide is now in the hands of each individual member.

Yet another quality-of-life improvement in this contract is that the extra board will now be divided into an a.m. list and a p.m. list so our members are only responsible for covering the work for 12 hours each day. They won’t be expected to cover shifts outside of their coverage times. For the first time at SEPTA, employees on the extra list will have a far better understanding of when they can expect to go to work. This will go a long way towards helping to balance work and homelife for our men and women and create some consistency for them.

In another new and creative addition to the agreement, Petty and his team got SEPTA to agree to a unique dialogue centering around the ongoing problem with assaults against our members. On December 19, SEPTA’s General Manager Leslie Richards will attend a town hall meeting held by union leaders to discuss the rise in violence our members deal with on the job.

As part of the agreement, SEPTA management will meet quarterly in an open forum with the union to discuss the scenario surrounding every assault that has taken place on SEPTA property since the prior meeting and to tell us what steps SEPTA will take to prevent similar incidents in the future. They will also listen to our members’ ideas on assault reduction and take questions from attendees.

This agreement is the product of aggressive and creative thinking on behalf of Petty, Sandoval and the General Committee.

Petty said that his team’s cohesion made the difference in getting the job done and done quickly at the bargaining table in the six months negotiations with the carrier were open.

“My committee of Vice Chair Wayne Benson, Jeaneen Hand and Bruce Cheatham along with SMART-TD Vice President James Sandoval had put so much work in on this before negotiations started that once it got going, they could sense our confidence,” he said. “They could see we were all on the same page. We were prepared to justify everything we asked for and they knew it. All in all, the negotiation only took four days.

“They knew we weren’t backing down, and in the end, we are proud of the agreement we brought back to our membership. I want to thank Vice President Sandoval. James has been working on this agreement with me since the day I met him. He was with us every step of the way, and we all appreciate his commitment to getting everything we could get to better the lives of our SEPTA members.”

SMART-TD as an organization congratulates the SPT General Committee on the remarkable work done to achieve this agreement for SEPTA members.

Senior Vice President of the Bus Department, Alvy Hughes pointed out that this was the first agreement negotiated by GC Petty and for VP Sandoval in his new role as a SMART-TD vice president.

Hughes wants all members of SMART to know that they did a great job, and that he is very proud of the effort they put in and what they accomplished for our men and women.