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.

Local 1701: There are very few moments in someone’s career when the power of a union comes into play more than when they have been targeted and fired as a result of private, union-protected conversations about a pending contract.

This is exactly what happened to 27 bus operators and mechanics out of Local 1701 in Montebello, California, this year. With a bus department made up of roughly 100 operators, service workers and mechanics combined, the city of Montebello has so far failed to negotiate a new contract with SMART-TD. Because of this, our members in Local 1701 have been working without a contract since December 21, 2021.

UNION-BUSTING INTERROGATIONS

Obviously, this is a cause of concern for all our brothers and sisters on the property. Our members have been discussing the matter among themselves at local meetings and have been reaching out to their local officers. In early 2023, the city of Montebello, nervous about what was being said, resorted to an old-school union-busting technique straight from the 1800s and brought in private investigators to aggressively interview many of Local 1701’s members.

After allowing five months or more to go by, they brought the investigators back to the property to re-interview the same men and women they had harassed last fall. They interrogated our members with the same questions as the first round, and if any of their answers didn’t match up exactly, they put them on administrative leave pending termination for dishonesty and insubordination.

SMART MEMBERS PUT ON LEAVE, PENDING TERMINATION

All in all, TWENTY-SEVEN of our brothers and sisters were put on administrative leave, and not coincidentally, they outright terminated Betty Vasquez, who is the local chairperson and vice general committee chair, along with placing General Chairperson Cecilia Lopez on administrative leave and serving her with intent-to-terminate paperwork.

All this was put in place as they and SMART-TD Vice President Alvy Hughes were fighting the city to get a fair contract that Montebello officials weren’t willing to sign.

SMART-TD FILES CHARGES, CONFRONTS CITY

When VP Hughes found out about Montebello’s blatant bullying and illegal tactics, he didn’t hesitate to get the TD office involved. VP Hughes filed an unfair labor practice charge against the city and assigned recently elevated fellow SMART-TD Bus Department Vice President James Sandoval to go to Montebello to represent and defend the members who were being interrogated by the private investigator and the city.

Once on the ground, Sandoval got into the details of the interviews and intimidation the city was using, and he also filed a separate unfair labor practice charge against Montebello, which stopped the interviews from continuing. General Chairperson Lopez and Vice Chairperson Vasquez, who have remained heavily involved in this fight even while facing their terminations, filed three additional charges of their own.

All told, SMART-TD officials levied five charges of unfair labor practices against the city and its leadership. In addition, they filed multiple information requests and reached out to many local politicians as well as the local labor council in Los Angeles for help.

VP Sandoval took one of the charges to a Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) hearing, which resulted in a settlement agreement where the city agreed to not violate our members’ right to protected activity moving forward.

27 members are reinstated and contract negotiations resume, marking another victory for SMART-TD.

ALL CHARGES DROPPED

Apparently, the points made in these charges hit home with the city. After SMART-TD’s show of support for Local 1701, they dropped the ridiculous charges on all 27 of our members and brought them all back to work. For the record, all were paid for the time they were out on the bogus charges. The city also requested a meeting with our union to settle the rest of the unfair labor practice charges, which resulted in a larger settlement agreement.

ALL WE WANT IS A FAIR CONTRACT

SMART-TD is grateful for the hard work and persistence of the men and women of Local 1701. We are beyond excited that everyone came back and nobody lost pay. But there is work left to be done. These 27 members and all their co-workers are still working with no contract!

These men and women were on the front lines, pulling the city through the COVID-19 pandemic. They continue to move their local economy despite the ongoing surge of violent assaults on public transit.

It is not acceptable that they bear this burden without the respect and peace of mind that comes with a ratified contract.

OUR WORK CONTINUES

After the city was forced to do the right thing by our people and brought them back to work, they may have thought they were done hearing from SMART-TD for a while. THEY WERE WRONG.

At a recent Montebello City Council meeting, Local 1701 had a great show of force when many of their members came together at City Hall to demand good-faith negotiation of their contract. Joining them in their demonstration was VP Sandoval, as well as SMART-TD Bus Department Alternate Vice President of the Bus Department Markeisha Hayes.

Local 1701 has stood together throughout this multi-year ordeal, and absolutely nothing has or will change that. If Montebello wants SMART-TD to back off and stop stepping to the microphone in their boardroom, they need to negotiate a fair contract that reflects the hard work our members of Local 1701 have put in and give them the respect they deserve.

SMART-TD’s office thanks our members in Local 1701, especially GC Lopez and Vice Chairperson Vasquez, for continuing this fight. We want you to know that we are with you for the long haul. Keep standing up for this union, and most importantly, keep standing up for one another. Together, we will prevail.

SMART continues to place the needs of transit workers front and center with a first-of-its-kind exclusive training session. Bus and transit officers shared strategies and learned new techniques at the Transportation Division Albuquerque Regional Training Seminar (RTS) that wrapped up March 7.

Bus Department Vice President James Sandoval (Local 23, Santa Cruz, Calif.) led the class.

“We went over all the basics,” VP Sandoval said. “Empowering our officers to stand up and protect their contracts, defending our members from employer overreach, effective communications, transparency.” All things union officers need to know to help SMART-TD members thrive.

The regional training model was established in 2021 to widen training opportunities across the union. Officers who participate report substantial boosts in members’ win rates on claims against the carriers.

By focusing on bus and transit, SMART-TD is able to emphasize and address the hazards faced by the thousands of our members who work in passenger transport.

Christine Ivey, chair of SMART-TD’s newly formed Bus and Transit Assault Prevention and Safety (BTAPS) Committee said the focus on how the union functions will be essential going forward. Ivey also serves as vice local chairperson of Local 1785.

[More about BTAPS]

“It was insightful and really showed how all the units work together in the organization – how we work together but at times have our own separate individual concerns on our properties,” Ivey said. “I enjoyed it immensely.”

“People are super happy with what they learned,” VP Sandoval said. “As long as we have enough participants, this will continue at other RTS and the National Training Seminar. It’s a great foundation for local officers.”

Bus Department Alt. Vice President Markeisha Haynes and General Chairperson Justin Schrock also presented in Albuquerque.

SMART-TD represents numerous bus and transit properties in Los Angeles, other locations across California, New Jersey, Philadelphia, and Chicago, among others. The next National Training Seminar will be held in the union’s home base of Cleveland, Ohio, July 9-11, 2024.

Members may register or learn more about the event on the RTS Information Page.

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.

After a long and distinguished career fighting for the rights and well being of SMART Transportation Division Bus Department members, Vice President Calvin Studivant retired on Sept. 30.

“It’s been a pleasure serving with Brother Calvin in many capacities going back many years,” SMART-TD President Jeremy Ferguson said. “I am very happy for Calvin and his wife and wish them well and thank him for all his years of service.”

Brother Studivant had served as a vice president for the Bus Department since Oct. 1, 2014, and had the following message to share:

“It has been an honor and privilege to serve you, as I embark on this next chapter of my life, please know that I will continue to pray that you all will be able to do your jobs without the fear of being assaulted. I know that TD President Jeremy Ferguson has the Bus Department’s best interests at heart and will supply the necessary resources to ensure your safety.

“I hope that I represented you well. My only interest was ensuring that you were treated with dignity and respect and received the compensation you deserved. I will always be proud of the bus operators, because I, too, am one, and I know all too well the challenges that you face daily. I pray that God will continue to bless you all. I thank you for that opportunity. SMART forever.”

Fellow Bus Department Vice President Alvy Hughes said that Studivant has been a stabilizing force in the progress the department has made.

“He has always put the Bus Department’s membership first,” Hughes said. “His sacrifice and leadership to this organization have been second to none.

“I have had the pleasure of knowing Brother Studivant since my union career began, and he has been a great mentor, brother, and true friend. I salute him for all he’s done. He will be truly missed.”

Studivant, a member of Local 759, Newark, N.J., served in the U.S. Army from 1982 to 1986, then moved to Clifton, N.J. He was employed at Community Coach starting in June 1993.

He was named alternate vice president — bus-East by the United Transportation Union’s Board of Directors in August 2009 and re-elected in 2011. He was elevated to vice president — bus by the Transportation Division Board of Directors Oct. 1, 2014. At the Second SMART TD Convention on August 11, 2019, he was elected again by acclamation.

Studivant is married to Michelle, and the couple has three children and two grandchildren.

His commitment to the union fulfilled, he said he will now enjoy time with his family in his retirement years.

The SMART Transportation Division wishes Brother Studivant a long and happy retirement.

James Sandoval, who has served as an alternate vice president of the SMART-TD Bus Department, joined Hughes as a vice president Oct. 1 after being elevated by the SMART-TD Board of Directors.

Brother Sandoval has been a bus operator at the Santa Cruz Metropolitan Transit District for more than a decade.

James Sandoval, a member of SMART-TD Local 23, was elevated to Bus vice president on Sunday, Oct. 1, 2023, following the retirement of Calvin Studivant.
James Sandoval of Local 23 was elevated from alternate vice president to become vice president of the Bus Department on Oct. 1.

He’s been intensely engaged with labor efforts after joining SMART-TD as a member of Local 23 in Santa Cruz, first as a local officer then at a national level.

He assumed his first officer roles as general chairperson of GCA-SCM, alternate legislative representative and local chairperson of LCA-SCM in January 2019.

In February 2022, he assumed the position of Local 23’s legislative representative.

Brother Sandoval joined the California State Legislative Board as a legislative chairperson in June 2022, became an organizer in January 2021, and in August 2022 became alternate vice president of the Bus Department-West.