The membership of the SMART Railroad, Mechanical and Engineering Department (SMART MD) has voted to ratify a tentative agreement with the carriers, after almost three years of negotiations between the union and the National Carriers’ Conference Committee (NCCC). The vote was passed with a 54% margin in favor of the negotiated contract.

The ratified contract includes historic wage increases, five annual service recognition payments, an additional paid day off and enhanced healthcare benefits. Members will immediately receive a 13.5% wage increase, and members will also receive retroactive pay and $3,000 in service recognition payments within 60 days.

“It was up to our members to decide whether to accept this agreement, and the members have made the decision to ratify a contract with the highest wage increases we have ever seen in national freight rail bargaining,” said Joseph Sellers, Jr., general president of SMART. “However, we hear the concerns of our members who may be disappointed in the outcome of this vote, and I promise that we will never stop fighting to ensure that they receive the wages, benefits and working conditions that they deserve for keeping the American economy running.”

njtransit2We are pleased to announce that SMART TD members on New Jersey Transit have ratified a new collective bargaining agreement.

Steve Burkert, SMART TD general chairperson; and Doyle Turner, SMART TD vice president; led the fight for a fair and equitable agreement while withstanding the unreasonable demands of NJT. After two Presidential Emergency Boards and numerous negotiating sessions, the SMART TD negotiating team reached an agreement that was overwhelmingly ratified by our members on NJT.

SMART TD President John Previsich said: “I want to commend General Chairperson Steve Burkert, SMART TD Vice President Doyle Turner, Alternate Vice President Anthony Simon and all of the members of the negotiating team for their efforts in bringing this round of negotiations to a satisfactory conclusion. The negotiating team, led by GC Burkert, was instrumental in carrying the wishes of our NJT members to the negotiating table and it is through their efforts that we were able to reach an agreement that was ratified by an overwhelming majority vote. It’s been a long battle for the New Jersey Transit members and now they will receive the wages and benefits to which they are entitled. This is a tremendous victory for NJT SMART TD members, and for our union brothers and sisters across the country.”

General Chairperson Burkert said: “It’s been a long, drawn-out process and I’m thrilled for my members and their families that we were successful in reaching an agreement that provides for financial stability going forward, especially during this very tough political time. I want to express my appreciation to the entire membership for their solidarity and support through this very difficult round of negotiations.”

SMART Transportation Division-represented trainmen and yardmasters employed by the Terminal Railroad Alabama State Docks have ratified a new six-year agreement by an overwhelming majority.

The new agreement provides for six, three percent annual general wage increases retroactive to April 1, 2012, with the final three percent general wage increase on April 1, 2017, resulting in a cumulative wage increase of 19.1 percent over the life of the agreement, with full back pay.

The agreement establishes a $5 certification pay for yard foreman; increases meal periods to thirty minutes with a one hour meal payment on certain assignments; provides a thirty minute training payment for yard foreman, helpers and yardmasters, and reduces the vacation qualifying years to 12 years for four weeks of vacation and 23 years for five weeks vacation.

The agreement provides for calculating paid military leave days as a start for five day work weeks and allows employees to bank up to 60 personal leave days.

Transportation Division Vice President Dave Wier, who assisted in negotiations, thanks General Chairperson Mark Cook (GO 898), Alabama State Legislative Director Neil Elders, Local 598 Chairperson Blake Kyser and Local 598 Vice Chairperson Billy Johns, “for putting forth exceptional effort in bringing the members’ concerns to the bargaining table and negotiating an agreement with substantial improvements in wages and working conditions.”

SMART Transportation Division-represented trainmen, engineers and yardmasters employed by Lake Terminal Railroad have ratified a new six-year agreement by a unanimous vote.

The agreement provides for six annual wage increases, beginning July 1, 2013, and rolls in previous cost-of-living adjustment increases, resulting in an 18.7 percent cumulative wage increase over the life of the contract.

It also includes lump sum back pay, establishes a $5 certification pay for conductors, engineers and remote control operators, increases carrier-matching contributions to 401(k) accounts to $1,300, and establishes an additional retirement account for new hires with a $75 monthly carrier contribution. There will be limits on employee health and welfare contributions to 12 percent of the plan costs and a freeze on co-pays and deductibles for the life of the contract.

SMART Transportation Division Vice President Dave Wier, who assisted with the negotiations, congratulates Lake Terminal General Chairperson Brad Elias and Local Chairperson Russ Tolson for “the exceptional effort put forth in bringing the members’ concerns to the bargaining table and negotiating an agreement with significant improvements in wages and working conditions.”

SMART Transportation Division-represented train and engine workers employed by Appalachian and Ohio Railroad have ratified a new five-year agreement by a unanimous vote.

SMART Transportation Division International Vice President Dave Wier said the agreement provides for substantial wage increases with full back-pay, provides certification pay for both conductors and engineers, freezes health and welfare contributions for the life of the contract, improves working conditions and seniority moves and provides for extra board regulation.

Wier, who assisted with the negotiations, congratulated Alternate Vice President and GO 433 General Chairperson R.W. “Red” Dare, Vice General Chairperson Danny Kautzman and Local 504 Chairperson David Currence for their efforts throughout the negotiating process.

“I laud the exceptional effort put forth by these officers in negotiating an agreement with dramatic improvements in wages and working conditions. The wage increases, coupled with the certification pay, provide these members with outstanding increases in their daily rates of pay,” Wier said.

The Appalachian and Ohio Railroad, owned by P&L Transportation, Inc., operates 158 miles of rail line between Grafton and Cowen, W. Va.

Its primary commodity is coal, transported from several mines that the railroad serves. It also moves logs, lumber and chemicals.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The 546 bus operators employed by Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS) have voted by more than a 2-1 margin to return to the United Transportation Union.

Calvin Studivant, alternate vice president of the UTU Bus Department, will now assist those bus operators in negotiating a new agreement. Studivant recently assisted in negotiating ratified agreements for UTU members employed by First Student in Buffalo, N.Y., and the Red Arrow Division of Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority in Philadelphia.

CATS mechanics and maintenance employees have long been represented by the UTU, and the drivers will return to representation under Bus Department General Committee TMM. A new local will be created for the drivers.

Working with UTU Director of Strategic Planning Rich Ross in the organizing drive were TMM General Chairperson Alvy Hughes; TMM Assistant General Chairperson Craig Patch; Local 1596 members Billy Belcher, Dwayne Cureton and Brenda Moore; Studivant and International organizers Mike Lewis and Billy Moye. Ross praised the team’s “tireless efforts and determination.”

Studivant and Lewis crafted a get-out-the-vote drive, culminating with almost 75 percent of the eligible drivers casting ballots. Lewis most recently led a successful organizing drive of maintenance-of-way employees on Georgia & Florida Railway.

CATS is the 22nd property organized by the UTU since International President Mike Futhey took office in January 2008 — 14 shortlines, three regional airlines, two commuter railroads, and three bus properties.

“Mike Futhey is to be commended for making resources available for this unprecedented string of successful organizing drives,” Ross said. “This commitment to organizing and contract negotiations has resulted in a phenomenal elevation of wages, benefits and working conditions for UTU Bus Department members in an extraordinarily difficult economic environment.”

In May, the North Carolina Public Transportation Association awarded the CATS Bus Operations Division top honors as the safest transit system in the state. The award is given annually to an urban transit system that travels more than one million miles a year and has excellent performance in traffic and passenger safety. CATS achieved a 27 percent reduction in its accident rate over the past three years.

A 17 percent pay increase, retention of the $200 monthly cap on health care cost-sharing, FRA certification pay, a faster process for new hires to reach full pay rates, and no rollback of the January 2011 cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) highlight the new five-year national rail agreement negotiated between the UTU and the National Carriers’ Conference Committee (NCCC).

Railroads represented by the NCCC include BNSF, CSX, Kansas City Southern, Norfolk Southern, Union Pacific and many smaller railroads. Some 38,000 UTU members, including yardmasters, are covered by the tentative new agreement.

UTU District 1 general chairpersons voted unanimously June 2 to submit the tentative agreement to the membership for ratification under the craft autonomy provisions of the UTU constitution. The general chairpersons also voted unanimously to recommend ratification.

General chairpersons now have until June 20 to submit questions regarding details of the tentative agreement. The questions will be submitted to the NCCC for answers. The agreed-upon questions and answers will become part of the tentative contract submitted to the membership for ratification.

Additionally, forums will be scheduled nationwide at which UTU International officers will brief members on the contract’s details and respond to member questions. A ratification vote will later be scheduled.

“In the 41-year history of the UTU, this wage increase is the highest in excess of the current and projected consumer price index,” said UTU International President Mike Futhey. The Consumer Price Index, or CPI, is a barometer of prices for goods and services as measured by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“Combined with the previous agreement this administration reached with the NCCC in January 2008, our members will realize a more than 40 percent increase in their base wages at the conclusion of this agreement, if it is ratified,” Futhey said. “A UTU member earning $80,000 in 2007 will be earning about $112,000 on the same job by 2015.”

The tentative agreement is retroactive to Jan. 1, 2010, and extends through Dec. 31, 2014. The contract provides that retroactive pay, commencing with the July 1, 2010, increase, will be made by the carriers within 60 days of the effective date of the final agreement.

The cap on employee health care cost contributions is a major provision of the tentative agreement. The $200 cap on monthly contributions compares with an average of more than $340 monthly paid by workers in other industries.

Without the negotiated $200 cap, and under provisions of current UTU agreements, UTU member health care cost contributions could soar to $355 monthly by 2015.

To retain the current $200 monthly cap, adjustments are made to copayments to reflect more economical ways to purchase medicines and reduce plan costs.

A new annual deductible is capped at $200 per individual ($400 per family), and an out-of-pocket maximum of $1,000 per individual ($2,000 per family) can be reached only if family medical costs exceed $40,000, which statistically affects only two percent of members.

The national rail agreement’s five-year entry rates provision has been amended to four years. Individuals under the five-year plan — as of May 1 and until the effective date of the final agreement — will receive a one-time $3,000 payment. Individuals on properties with modified service-scale rules will receive a one-time payment of $1,200. Individuals under entry-rate agreements that commence at 90 percent, and increase to 100 percent within two years, shall not receive a bonus payment.

Additionally, the tentative agreement provides that local agreements may be negotiated — not subject to binding arbitration if the sides cannot agree — for alternative compensation, compensated leave, compensation enhancement, and electronic bidding and bumping.

Yardmasters have essentially the same agreement, but with additional pay increases unique to their craft.

The UTU national negotiating team, in addition to Futhey, included Assistant President Arty Martin; National Legislative Director James Stem; UTU International Vice Presidents Robert Kerley and Delbert Strunk; and General Chairpersons John Lesniewski (CSX, GO 049), Pate King (NS, GO 680) and Doyle Turner (CSX, GO 347).

To read the tentative national agreements, select one of the links below:

To view a comparison of historic general wage increases to the Consumer Price Index, click here.

A tentative four-year agreement covering flight attendants employed by Great Lakes Airlines and represented by UTU Local 40 has been negotiated with the carrier. The agreement has been circulated for ratification, with votes to be counted May 17.

The UTU represents some 300 flight attendants and pilots on this regional airline based in Cheyenne, Wyo., and with hubs in Albuquerque, N.M.; Billings, Mont.; Denver; Kansas City; Los Angeles; Milwaukee; and Phoenix.

The agreement provides for wage increases, a signing bonus, a per diem rate, a doubling of the sick-leave accrual rate, improvements to the uniform allowance and relocation expenses, and enhancements in working conditions.

Also negotiated is a significant improvement in the discipline rule, which would require the carrier to hold an investigation, issue a formal decision, respond to an appeal of the UTU, and hold a conference, if requested. An agency shop rule also is included in the tentative new agreement.

UTU International Vice President John Previsich, who assisted with the negotiations, praised the efforts of Local 40 officers “for doing a good job of polling the membership to identify the needs and desires of the workgroup and for attending every session fully prepared and ready to negotiate.

“They did their homework, knew the contract inside and out, and did thorough research on industry-standard pay and rule provisions,” Previsich said. “Their efforts were essential in obtaining such a favorable contract at a time when the country and the airline industry struggles in a very challenging economic and political climate.” Previsich also thanked UTU International Vice President Paul Tibbit for his participation and “wise counsel.”

The UTU continues to negotiate on behalf of Great Lakes pilots, with negotiating sessions scheduled for June and July.

Great Lakes Airlines serves 48 of its destinations through the Essential Air Service program and is the nation’s largest provider of Essential Air Service. Great Lakes Airlines operates 30-passenger Embraer aircraft and 19-passenger Beechcraft airplanes.

MIAMI – By a four-to-one margin, UTU-member train and engine workers employed by Veolia Transportation — operator of South Florida Tri-Rail — have approved a new agreement. The UTU represents both sides of the cab on Tri-Rail.

The agreement includes pay increases retroactive to July 1, 2010, an increase in certification pay for engineers, certification-pay parity for conductors, overtime pay for employees assigned to training classes or examinations on rest days, improvement in bereavement leave, restrictions on the use of videos for purposes of discipline, a cap on health care insurance contributions, and the addition of a vision plan.

UTU International Vice President John Previsich assisted with negotiations. He congratulated the negotiating team, which included General Chairperson Roger Lenfest (Amtrak, GO 769), Local 30 (Jacksonville) Chairperson Andy D’Egidio and Vice Local Chairperson Steven Klemm for “an excellent job of bringing the membership’s wishes to the negotiating table.

“Because of their efforts, the negotiating team was successful in securing the excellent pay increases, certification pay and positive changes to the contract that the members desired,” Previsich said.

South Florida Tri-Rail operates over 71 miles for former CSX track linking West Palm Beach, Ft. Lauderdale and Miami, and is owned by the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority.

In January, employees of Tri-Rail’s operations center voted to be represented by the UTU.

Brakemen, conductors and engineers on Chicago South Shore & South Bend Railway (CSS), all represented by the UTU, have ratified a new five-year agreement by a four-to-one margin.

The contract, retroactive to Jan. 1, provides for hourly wage increases, a cap on health care contributions, productivity allowances and wage parity for those hired prior to Dec. 15, 2010.

The UTU retains the right, throughout the life of the agreement, to negotiate profit sharing in lieu of general wage increases.

UTU International Vice President John Babler, who assisted in negotiations, praised the skills of General Chairperson Anthony Wojasinski (GO CSS), Local 1526 Chairpersons Brian Krueger and Frank Fraser, and Local 1526 President John Higginbotham.

CSS, an Anacostia & Pacific short line, serves industries in northeast Illinois and northwest Indiana.