Siemens, an international engineering firm with its U.S. headquarters in Washington, D.C., and plants throughout the United States, is hungry to build high-speed train sets for a proposed Florida high-speed rail line.

Tampa Bay online ( reports that Siemens, which has built high-speed trains in Austria, Belgium, China, France and Germany, has erected a billboard in Tampa showing one of its trains and proclaiming, “More Speed. Less Gas. With Siemens’ Answers for Florida High-Speed Rail.”

Florida is intent on completing a high-speed rail line between Tampa and Orlando by 2015 – and Miami by 2018 — and some $3 billion is in play for winning bidders, says Tampa Bay online. A lead contractor will be chosen within the next year.

Actually, 40 companies are showing an interest in the project, reports Tampa Bay online.

If the Florida project proceeds as its Department of Transportation expects, Florida’s 88-mile line between Tampa and Orlando will be America’s first, says Tampa Bay online.

“The Federal Railroad Administration has created a set of strict ‘Buy America’ standards for high-speed rail contracts being financed through the Obama administrations $8-billion nationwide high-speed rail program,” reports Tampa Bay online, and Siemens points to its California plant that has built rail equipment in the U.S. for a quarter century.

Florida already has received $1.25 billion in federal money for its project – nearly half the total projected cost for the Tampa-Orlando line.

By James A. Williams
General Chairperson, LACMTA

Contract negotiations are underway between the UTU and the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LACMTA).

As required by California law, the parties exchanged proposals prior to April 1, and, as also dictated by state law, began bargaining April 30.

The proposals exchanged were basically the same as those that resulted in the current one-year contract.

As usual, the MTA is crying poor; and in its proposed guidelines for the agency’s 2011 budget, there is absolutely no money for labor union members.

We also expect that the agency will be looking for some give-backs, but our negotiating committee is determined that despite the economic climate, we will preserve what our members already have, and explore every possible avenue to see what improvements might be made, monetarily or otherwise.

Unfortunately, the political atmosphere is not favorable because the majority of MTA board members represent the City or County of Los Angeles, whose employees have a wage freeze.

The safety and well being of our members depends on this union strongly enforcing the provisions of our labor contract, and I am proud of the job this general committee’s members and officers are doing in this regard.

It is not going to be easy, but this general committee has the strength and determination to bring our members a contract that protects them and their families.

Our members deserve nothing less.

By Retired UTU GS&T Dan Johnson

In the February issue of UTU News, it was explained that the Railway Labor Act (RLA) is purposely designed to encourage both sides to reach a mutually acceptable solution that keeps the trains running.

Railroad contracts have no expiration date, but do contain a moratorium prohibiting either side from seeking amendments until an agreed upon date when the contract may be reopened for amendment.

The current national rail contract between the UTU and most of the nation’s major railroads was reopened for amendment on Jan. 1. There is no time limit during which the negotiating process must be completed. While some contract amendments have been negotiated within a few months, some negotiations have stretched on for years.

The RLA defines numerous steps rail labor and management must take in negotiating amendments to contracts covering wages, rules and working conditions. These steps include intervention by the National Mediation Board (NMB), whose experts seek to guide the parties toward a productive outcome.

While the NMB cannot force an agreement on either party, it has the authority to keep the negotiators at the bargaining table, indefinitely, plus other numerous tools to help cool tempers during stressful periods.

In January 2008, within 30 days of taking office, President Futhey and his negotiating team reached a tentative agreement with the carriers that was overwhelmingly ratified by the membership. This tentative agreement concluded several years of hostile bargaining between the previous administration and the railroads.

The moratorium on that agreement expired Dec. 31, 2009; prior to this date, the UTU and carriers exchanged desired amendments. A list of those desired amendments — as well as updates on contract negotiations — may be viewed on the UTU Web site by clicking on the “National Railroad Contract” link in the lower right-hand corner of the home page.

The current UTU negotiating team, led by President Futhey, has had initial meetings with the carriers, and those meetings will continue periodically to explain each side’s desired amendments, exchange data supporting each side’s position, and move both sides closer to a tentative agreement.

President Futhey subscribes to a progressive negotiating process known as “interest-based bargaining,” by which each side explains to the other why they are seeking each contract amendment — in fact, joint problem solving.

By the sides’ exploring each other’s problems, and mutually suggesting a range of trade-offs, negotiations typically jell into mutually acceptable solutions. This is in contrast to each side simply announcing demands and contentiously seeking surrender of the other side — a process that, more often than not, results in Congress forcing both sides to a settlement neither fully desires.

If the parties, notwithstanding the efforts of the NMB, cannot reach a voluntary settlement, the RLA provides for binding arbitration (which must be accepted by both parties) or investigation by a White House appointed presidential emergency board (PEB).

If the recommendations of the PEB do not lead to a settlement, the RLA has run its course and the carriers may unilaterally impose their desired contractual changes and/or labor can strike. Because of economic and national security concerns, Congress has rarely allowed a railroad work stoppage to continue more than a few days. Typically, this translates into Congress imposing, through a back-to-work order that serves as an amended contract, the recommendations of the PEB.

First and foremost, the RLA is a law designed to avoid railroad strikes and lockouts and the resultant interruption of interstate commerce.

With that said, and with the parties at the negotiating table since early January, what is next? That will be the subject of next month’s column.


(Dan Johnson was UTU International GS&T from 2001 until his retirement in 2007. He hired on as a Southern Pacific trainman, Tucson Division, in 1966.


He was elected vice local chairperson, local chairperson and legislative representative for Local 807, and was Arizona State Legislative Board chairperson from 1975-1983. He was vice general chairperson and general chairperson for Southern Pacific/Union Pacific Western Lines from 1981-1997; and a UTU International vice president from 1997 until his election as GS&T in 2001.

Brother Johnson earned an undergraduate degree in government and history from the University of Arizona, where he also did graduate studies.)

By Richard Deiser
Vice President, Bus Department

Kudos to Alternate Bus Vice President-East Calvin Studivant and Alternate Bus Vice President-West Bonnie Morr for being chosen as delegates to the AFL-CIO convention in Pittsburgh, where a highlight was President Obama’s speech that may be viewed on the UTU Web site at

Calvin reports that he shook the president’s hand!

Congratulations also to UTU International President Mike Futhey on his election as an AFL-CIO vice president and his appointment to the federation’s Executive Council.

Several bus locals have been involved in contract negotiations, and the trend is towards shorter agreements in the hope that the economy will improve in the near future.

If that becomes reality, we will be able to negotiate wages and benefits from a far stronger position than in the current recession.

General Chairperson James Williams (Local 1564, Los Angeles) reports his members have ratified a new one-year agreement with the LACMTA after hard work and patience of all the committee members.

General Chairperson Nelson Manzano (Local 710, Elizabeth, N.J.; One Bus) praised the work done by Vice General Chairpersons James Powell and Jose Rivera in reaching a one-year agreement with Coach USA, holding the cost-sharing for health care.

Local 1558 in Westwood, N.J., (Rockland Coaches) reached a similar accord under the direction of General Chairperson Keith Mack, assisted by Mike Byrne, Helaine Parsons, Ed Pollard, Bob Panarotti and Abe Tsay.

Calvin Studivant’s Local 759 in Paramus, N.J., (Community Transit) won an important arbitration, which resulted in an employee being restored to work status with full back pay and benefits.

Also, General Chairperson Bill Koehn (Local 1670, Laredo, Texas; Laredo Metro) is keeping a watchful eye on bus inspections at the Mexican border.

The U.S. DOT has significantly reduced the number of buses inspected, leading to worries about safety, operator fatigue and equipment maintenance on these bus lines that operate far into the U.S. American companies cannot compete effectively when confronted by cheap labor, shoddy maintenance and falsified driver logs.