Local 1594: Our brothers and sisters working on the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority (SEPTA) recently won a new level of job security.

SEPTA is the only property where SMART-TD members operate commuter rail, bus, and trollies. These three classifications have different job duties, each with unique challenges. Unfortunately, our men and women working for SEPTA could be reassigned to any of the three crafts without a say in the matter.

If they didn’t pass the tests after being trained for a new job, the employee got fired. Even if you were a great employee for two years in the bus department, if you didn’t pass the exam after training to operate rail or a trolley, you got let go.  

There is no justice in this practice. Until now, General Chairperson Anthony Petty of Local 1594, which represents our SEPTA members, set out to change this.

GC Petty and Bus Department Vice President James Sandoval were aware that the contract was not under negotiation, but they were determined to change the policy. They refused to let this problem fester until the following contract was hashed out, and neither wanted to tie the outcome of this request to the conditions of a larger negotiation.

They took the fight directly to SEPTA as a stand-alone issue and got the win they were after! SEPTA sent GC Petty a formal side letter on March 18 informing him that language had been added to Local 1594’s contract stating that any employee outside of their initial training who “fails the rail portion of training will be permitted to transfer to bus operations.”

This might sound minor, but this is a victory for our Bus Department that will directly preserve our men and women’s careers. Our SEPTA bus operators now have a safety net ready to catch them when their boss orders them to learn how to be railroaders in the middle of their careers as bus operators. Now there’s a safety net courtesy of Brothers Sandoval, Petty and the amazing team at Local 1594.

SMART-TD honors the work, creativity, and persistence demonstrated by our officers in solving this problem for their fellow members. If your manager introduces a policy that seems unjust or threatens the security of your livelihood contact your local union officers. Together we can reverse unfair decisions and defend your right to a just and secure workplace.

By Calvin Studivant,

Alternate vice president, Bus Department

December marked 55 years since Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Ala., bus — “an act that challenged the moral conscience of an entire nation,” said President Obama in honoring her legacy.

Most historians date the beginning of the modern civil rights movement in the United States to Rosa Parks’ act of courage on Dec. 1, 1955.

The Montgomery bus boycott lasted 382 days and brought Parks to the attention of the world. The Supreme Court subsequently struck down the Montgomery ordinance under which Parks had been fined, and outlawed racial segregation on public transportation.

President Obama said the Montgomery bus boycott “marked a turning point in American history…and the eventual outlawing of racial segregation and discrimination.”

Continued President Obama, “Rosa Parks and the many other leaders and foot soldiers in that struggle for justice championed our founding principles of freedom and equality for all. As we commemorate the anniversary of the Montgomery bus boycott, I encourage all Americans to honor their legacy — the legacy of Americans who marched bravely, worked tirelessly, and devoted their lives to the never-ending task of making our country a more perfect union.”

In 1996, President Clinton presented Parks with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. She received a Congressional Gold Medal in 1999.

After her death in 2005, at age 92, Parks’ casket was placed in the rotunda of the United States Capitol for two days — making her the only woman and second African-American in American history to lie in state at the Capitol.

And congratulations to the brothers and sisters of Local 23 in Santa Cruz, Calif., who, under the leadership of Sister Sharon Hightower Toline, helped to organize a historical presentation of Rosa Parks and her legacy. On Dec. 1, the transit district reserved the front seat on buses as a dedication.

On another note, I am happy to report that Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority employee Rhonda Taylor (Local 1594, Upper Darby, Pa.) had her termination case overturned in arbitration. Sister Taylor, out of work since February 2010, was reinstated with full back pay, minus 30 days for suspension, and the discipline will be expunged from her record. General Chairperson Waverly Harris, Vice General Chairperson Brian Caldwell, and members Curtis Fulmore and David Stinsman presented the case. I was honored to have provided assistance.