Morr, Bonnie.2011

By Bonnie Morr, 
Vice President, Bus – 

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines solidarity as a feeling of unity between people who have the same community of interests or goals based on certain objectives and standards. Is this not what our union, and all of organized labor around the world, is truly about?

The term “solidarity” became well-known in the early 1980s from a Polish shipyard-workers trade union, under the leadership of Lech Walesa. It grew into an anti-bureaucratic social movement, using methods of civil resistance to advance the causes of workers’ rights and social change.

Nearly 35 years later, solidarity is what we need more of today.

It is important that all of our union brothers and sisters understand the meaning of solidarity.

Think of solidarity as all of our working families and our future working families standing in unity for the protection of all working families. This applies to not only our fellow SMART members, but workers of all crafts in all labor unions.

As members of a union, we know the benefits of a union contract. Or do we? Do you think your employer provides you with the benefits you and your family have out of the goodness of his or her heart?

Those wages and benefits came about from our predecessors standing tall and strong in the face of adversity, and we must continue that stand.

We must remain active in protecting ourselves and our families from the assaults of groups and corporations that are trying to downsize us. We must stand together to support the team and be part of the team.

A recent article on the SMART Transportation Division website entitled “More Americans see middle class status slipping” notes that many Americans’ sense of belonging to the middle class is that they are no longer part of it.

Your union officers are working hard for you and are trying to do the best they can. They need you and they need your support. Stand together. Stand strong. Solidarity!

Morr, Bonnie.2011

By Bonnie Morr, 
Vice President, Bus – 

As I travel around the country working on grievances, arbitrations, negotiations and labor agreements, as well as the health and well-being of our locals and our members, one underlying issue is always present: wages.

Our wages are not keeping up with what our lives and our families’ livesare costing us. Food prices are up, the cost of milk is up, and gasoline and energy prices continue to rise.

But why are we losing our standard of living? Why am I shopping for food in Target? What happened to fresh food from our local grocery store? Why do I turn my heater down and wear a jacket in the house now? Why are energy companies seeing the highest profits that they have ever seen? Why is it costing so much more to do less than what I was doing 10 years ago?

Since 1997, according to the Economic Policy Institute, 100 percent of the wage growth in the American economy has gone to the top 10 percent of the income structure. The bottom 90 percent has seen income decline, adjusted for inflation. As the rich get richer, the working class continues to struggle. Economic inequality did not just happen accidentally or by an act of God.

At the AFL-CIO Executive Council meeting in Houston, I was told it is the predictable result of decisions made by people with power over the past generation. The key decision, the AFL-CIO says, was to use the power of government to help corporate America push down wages by destroying workers’ collective bargaining power. Those decisions can be reversed.

In Houston, I was told working people have the opportunity to shape the national conversation on this issue in ways that would really help workers win real economic improvements and build a true working class movement.

The AFL-CIO says the purpose of the labor movement is to give voice to working people, so we can improve our lives. All too often, people do not realize that they are voting against their own best interests. It is important that we work together, now, to spread the word. Support the union movement by joining together with a strong message to all our politicians: “Improve our wages!”

Morr, Bonnie.2011

By Bonnie Morr, 
Vice President, Bus – 

In December, I attended a school bus summit in Washington hosted by the Transportation Trades Department of the AFL-CIO. Though the topics of discussion centered around school bus issues, many were pertinent to our global bus community.

Whether we are operating a tour bus, transit bus, school bus, van or shuttle, we are dealing with the same types of management and the same problems, concerns and health issues.

The one topic that really stirs my gut has to do with the practice of privatization. Privatization involves handing over control of public functions to private companies. The government pays a contractor to provide public services. Often, the contractors are foreign entities. Our tax dollars, that are used to fund public transit – rail or bus – that fund school bus systems and special-service transportation, are now going offshore. These contractors are running operations here and are doing it for a profit. How are they making a profit? Off of the backs of labor – by cutting wages and benefits. That’s how.

Our own tax dollars are being used to cheapen our labor, lowering the standard of living for our families and causing harm to our future and the futures of our sons and daughters. This is wrong – very wrong. We must have legislation that compels any company receiving one cent of public money to protect the employees and their families by providing decent wages and health benefits. And when they make a profit, so should the worker. Not one tax dollar should be used against the people that pay the taxes.

Through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Congress and the Obama Administration have provided transit agencies with opportunities to replace and expand vehicle fleets, restore and modernize aging infrastructure, and engage in procurements that had been deferred or cancelled due to the current economic situation. The goal of that act was to ensure that these purchases “preserve and create jobs and promote economic recovery.” Let’s apply the same principle to our service jobs and keep our tax dollars from going overseas. Let’s stop outsourcing our service jobs to foreign companies. It is time for our legislators to get to work on what is in the best interest of the American people.

Morr, Bonnie.2011

By Bonnie Morr, 
Vice President, Bus – 

The AFL-CIO held its convention from Sept. 8-11, 2013. The International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers had a large delegation in attendance from both the Transportation Division and the Sheet Metal Division.

During the convention, many resolutions were passed, some of which will have a tremendous impact on our membership. One of the most important resolutions had to do with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), which will have an impact on the medical insurance coverage of many of our members.

Many of us negotiate our medical insurance directly with our employer. Our negotiations take into consideration the costs of the health care coverage, as well as the benefits these packages provide. Within the ACA, certain benefits have been set at lower levels than some of us currently have. The annual cap may be better, but the levels of coverage may be less.

General President Joe Nigro addressed the leadership and the entire delegation of the AFL-CIO, stating that what we want is the protection of every worker, their families and the Taft-Hartley Trusts. Following a standing ovation, the AFL-CIO National Convention Sept. 11 debated and passed two health care resolutions, one calling for a universal, single-payer health care system and another protecting and expanding Medicare benefits under the Affordable Care Act.

One amendment passed that should have an important impact for SMART members calls for AFL-CIO unions to cease raiding the membership of other affiliated unions. This was an actual amendment to the AFL-CIO Constitution. Other issues addressed included workers’ rights, raising wages, improving retirement security and expanding protection of our collective bargaining rights. Delegates also voted unanimously to protect 13(c) provisions that protect the right to negotiate all areas subject to one’s working relationship with an employer and protect wages and benefits when work is transferred to new employers.

Let’s all continue to work together to build a stronger labor force.

Morr, Bonnie.2011

By Bonnie Morr, Vice President, Bus – 

I was recently informed of the passing of one of our best bus vice presidents. Kenny Moore was the vice president that helped us at Local 23 to become part of this great organization. Kenny Moore was my mentor. He was active in Washington, D.C., and on the state and local levels on all issues pertaining to the Bus and Transit Departments. He was what every vice president should be. I am honored that I had the opportunity to know him. He will be missed, and I will never forget what he stood for. Rest in peace, Kenny Moore. Our condolences to his family.

I would like to thank all the people that attended the 2013 regional meetings. For those that were unable to attend, the Bus Department had a very unique set of presentations regarding the health and well-being of operator and transit workers.

In Boston, the presenters were from both the medical field and the Transportation Learning Center. They presented information on how our health is impacted by our work. Both Dr. June Fisher, M.D., and Robin Gillespie talked about the health issues so many of us are dealing with on a day-to-day basis: long hours sitting, the lack of restroom breaks, and the inability to access good food on the road. The discussions hit home for many of us.

In Anaheim, Dr. Fisher discussed health issues in transit and transportation, both here and around the world. Dr. Peter Schnall, along with Marnie Dobson, led an interactive workshop on stress in transit and its impact on our health. Amy Calvin and John Tatman from the Los Angeles MTA presented a wellness program that they created and discussed results of the program they have seen at the MTA in Los Angeles. These workshops had some of the best attendance by our brothers and sisters that I have seen in a long time. We had between 30 and 60 participants at workshops in Anaheim and about 25 in Boston.

President Mike Futhey came to our open bus workshop in Anaheim. He spoke with the bus members, answered their questions and spoke about the involvement of SMART in our Bus Department. It was an honor. We received updates from our members on what is happening on their properties and spoke about how we could get stronger. If anyone wants information from the workshops, please contact me and I will be more than happy to provide it. My email address is

Conservative Republicans Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are committed to repealing the Affordable Care Act.

Conservative Republicans also are committed to privatizing Social Security and turning Medicare into a voucher program with more costs coming out of retirees’ pockets. By contrast, President Obama is committed to preserving Social Security and Medicare as we know it.

When it comes to collective bargaining rights, conservative Republicans Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have publicly congratulated the conservative Republican governors of Wisconsin and Ohio who pushed to curtail and eliminate those rights – especially for public employees. Contrast that attack on collective bargaining rights with the Democratic Party platform position, which is also the Obama/Biden position:  

“Democrats believe that the right to organize and collectively bargain is a fundamental American value; every American should have a voice on the job and a chance to negotiate for a fair day’s pay after a hard day’s work. We will continue to fight for the right of all workers to organize and join a union.”

We in the transit industry have held our own in these difficult economic times because the Obama administration and our labor-friendly allies in Congress – labor-friendly Republicans as well as Democrats — fought to preserve transit funding. We know what would happen to transit funding if conservative Republicans control the White House and Congress, as they have made clear they would reduce transit funding.

Had conservative Republicans been the majority in the Senate as well as the House, many of our bus operations would have been privatized, our collective bargaining rights would have been curtailed, and our wages, benefits and work rules would be in jeopardy.

All brothers and sisters in organized labor face attack by conservative Republicans. On Election Day, we must take the time and effort to cast our ballots – and encourage others to cast their ballots – to return President Obama and Vice President Biden to the White House and cast ballots for the labor-friendly candidates. A listing of labor friendly candidates is provided by clicking the following link and scrolling down to “Congressional endorsements”:

This election is about saving our middle class. Let us stand strong against those corporate-backed candidates who want to destroy labor unions and curtail worker collective bargaining rights. Our job security, pay checks, health care and retirement are at stake.

Bonnie Morr

PERRIS, Calif. – Bus drivers and mechanics of Southland Transit here have voted “UTU, yes” by an almost four-to-one margin.

This is the 23rd organizing victory – air, bus and rail — for the UTU since January 2008, an average of almost one new property organized every seven weeks.

“In these difficult economic times, it takes courage to vote against management’s wishes,” said UTU Bus Department Alternate Vice President Bonnie Morr, who led the organizing drive. “These 136 dedicated and previously unorganized workers reached out to the UTU and we will provide the resources necessary to negotiate a wage, benefits and working conditions contract they can be proud of.”

Southland Transit is a community transit operation serving the disabled and elderly in the Southern California counties of Riverside and San Bernadino, providing transportation on demand and over fixed routes.

John England

Working with Morr on the organizing drive were General Chairperson (BNSF, GO 20) John England, UTU Local 1496 Secretary and Treasurer and Vice Local Delegate Chris Hubbell, and UTU Local 23 Vice Local Chairperson and Delegate Eduardo Montesino.

Assisting was Southland Transit employee Gary Miller, whom Morr said “worked tirelessly and with great determination to organize his fellow workers and bring home this victory.

“This was a very difficult process,” Morr said. “It was a second election following a successful appeal to the National Labor Relations Board that the employer had engaged in improper conduct during the first vote. The workers persevered.”