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 Vic Baffoni
Vice President, Bus

Congratulations to Local 1900 Chairperson Albert Collie and President Juan Ucanan at Parsec in Florida on their success in winning four of five grievances.

Kudos also go to Local 172 Chairperson Theresa Costantini and Trustee Kathleen Sitongia at Delco Transportation in Pennsylvania. They successfully resolved contract grievances resulting in reinstatement of a member and assurances for others of pay for lost work.

A special commendation goes to the New Jersey State Legislative Board and State Legislative Director Dan O’Connell for their efforts in helping to gain passage of legislation — signed by Gov. Jon Corzine — providing up to six weeks of paid family leave. They worked with the New Jersey State AFL-CIO and many community organizations to secure the legislation after 13 years of previously unsuccessful efforts.

Because of continued strong employer opposition, a compromise was required to gain legislative passage of the new law. Thus, the worker requesting family leave first must use two weeks of vacation or sick leave. This benefit will be paid out of New Jersey’s Temporary Disability Income Fund, with employees paying $33 annually to ensure the coverage.

The New Jersey Legislative Board unsuccessfully sought to gain coverage for rail workers in the state, but because they do not pay into the disability income fund, they were not included in coverage. The new benefit will commence July 1, 2009.

Our Organizing Department is in contact with bus operators and mechanics on numerous properties around the nation who have shown interest in representation by the UTU. If you know of unorganized workers seeking representation, please let me know, or call our Organizing Department at (216) 228-9400.