Employees of the Texas & Northern Railway Company this week were successful in their efforts to bring union representation to their property.

In separate elections held Feb. 6 and Feb. 7, the operating and non-operating employees at the northeast Texas railroad voted overwhelming for SMART Transportation Division representation.

Non-operating employees include maintenance-of-way workers, machinists and mechanics.

The railroad, based in Lone Star, Texas, provides rail transportation service to U.S. Steel’s Texas Tubular operations, as well as other customers on its line, including A&A Coating, Friedman Pipe and Lone Star Specialties .

The Class III railroad comprises 7.6 miles of the trackage and 32 miles of storage tracks. It interchanges with Kansas City Southern operations at Veals Yard.

SMART Transportation Division Director of Organizing Rich Ross lauded the efforts of International organizers James “Mike” Lewis and Calvin Studivant and International staff member Cara McGinty.

“I would like to personally thank Mike and Calvin for their work put forth in this victory. There was a lot of traveling and a lot of effort involved,” Lewis said.

Texas & Northern Railway is a subsidiary of Pittsburgh-based Transstar, which also operates the Union Railroad Company in Pennsylvania and Delray Connecting Railroad Company in Michigan.


Mike Lewis

In its latest organizing victory, the UTU now represents maintenance-of-way employees on Missouri & North Arkansas Railroad, a RailAmerica property.

Contract negotiations, led by UTU Alternate Vice President Doyle Turner, will begin shortly. Turner heads the UTU’s shortline outreach program.

Rich Ross, the UTU’s director of organizing, and International organizer Mike Lewis were commended by International President Mike Futhey for this 28th UTU organizing win over the past 48 months.

Missouri & North Arkansas Railroad operates some 530 miles of line in Arkansas, Kansas and Missouri, with trackage rights over Union Pacific and connections with BNSF and Kansas City Southern. Primary commodities include coal, grain, frozen foods, minerals, steel, chemicals and asphalt.

Rail and bus workers continue to call out to the United Transportation Union for representation in these troubling times.

The UTU’s ability to negotiate industry-leading contracts, process grievances and achieve workplace safety improvements are most often cited as the reason.

Over the past few weeks, the UTU was successful in three additional organizing drives, bringing to 27 the number of new properties added to the UTU family within the past 44 months.

Workers at Columbia & Cowlitz Railway (which includes Patriot Woods Railroad) in Longview, Wash.; Intermodal Services of America of Lorain, Ohio; and First Transit of Farmington, N.M., are now represented by the UTU.

Transportation and mechanical employees at shortline Columbia & Cowlitz Railway (which includes Patriot Woods Railroad for representation purposes) — both part of the Patriot Rail group and operating in southwest Washington state — voted unanimously for UTU representation, rejecting another labor organization. UTU Director of Organizing Rich Ross and Assistant President Arty Martin made presentations to the workers, leading to a unanimous show of support in the representation election.

Intermodal Services of America (ISA), which provides intra-plant switching for manufacturing and processing plants at numerous locations in the Midwest and Southwest, voluntarily recognized the UTU as its transportation employees’ bargaining representative. Ross, UTU Assistant General Counsel Erika Diehl, Illinois State Legislative Director Bob Guy and Local 1895 (Chicago) Local Chairperson and Regional Organizer Larry Grutzius were instrumental in the organizing drive.
At First Transit, a public transit operator and part of First Group America, former UTU member Steve Moots, now employed there, provided a testimonial on UTU representation abilities to his fellow then-unorganized workers. Bonnie Morr, alternate Bus Department vice president, was assisted in the organizing drive by Alternate Vice President John England, Columbia & Cowlitz Railway General Chairperson Sean Kibbee, New Mexico State Legislative Director Dennis Baca and Assistant President Arty Martin.

PERRIS, Calif. – In the 24th organizing victory in 43 months, the UTU has added representation of additional employees of Southland Transit here.

Following the lead of bus drivers and mechanics of Southland Transit, who voted “UTU, yes” in June, the company’s call center employees have now chosen the UTU as their bargaining representative. The newest UTU members include dispatchers, schedule editors and vaulters (who count and transfer farebox revenue).

All are now members of the newest UTU local, Local 1700.

The organizing drive was led by Bonnie Morr, alternate vice president, west, of the UTU’s Bus Department.

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.

WASHINGTON — Employers, including union and non-union bus companies, covered by the National Labor Relations Act must now post notices on bulletin boards informing employees they have a right under federal law to organize and be represented by a labor union.

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) issued that final ruling last week after concluding many workers are not aware of their rights under the National Labor Relations Act.

If employers communicate with employees regarding personnel issues via the Internet or an internal company Intranet, they must also post the notice on those sites, ruled the NLRB.

The New York Times reported that this is the first time, since passage of the National Labor Relations Act in 1935, that employers have been ordered to post notices about employee rights to organize.

“This rule ensures that workers’ rights are effectively communicated in the workplace,” said AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka. “It is necessary in the face of widespread misunderstanding about the law and many workers’ justified fear of exercising their rights under it.”

The ruling does not affect railroads or airlines as they are covered by the Railway Labor Act, which is administered by a separate federal agency, the National Mediation Board.

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.”

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.

Maintenance-of-way employees on Georgia & Florida Railway — where train and engine workers have been UTU members since 2006 — have voted unanimously in favor of UTU representation.

UTU organizer Mike Lewis, who has secured numerous previous organizing wins, led the organizing drive. Lewis thanked UTU International President Mike Futhey for “his continued strong commitment to organize non-union workers on railroads, transit and bus properties, and regional airlines.

“Since Mike Futhey was elected UTU International president in 2008, we have organized 21 properties — 14 shortlines, three regional airlines, two commuter railroads, and two bus properties,” Lewis said.

The UTU organizing department is headed by Rich Ross. In addition to Lewis, International organizers include Billy Moye, Carlos Wallace, Bonnie Morr, Ed Carney, Larry Grutzius and Calvin Studivant.

Georgia & Florida Railway, an OmniTrax property, is a 264-mile shortline serving southcentral Georgia, including the cities of Albany, Adel, Thomasville and Valdosta, and extending into Foley, Fla. It interchanges with CSX and Norfolk Southern. Its principal commodities include beer, wood pulp, ethanol and agricultural products.

By UTU International President Mike Futhey

We are a union on the move, growing stronger financially and adding new members through aggressive organizing.

In addition to organizing 300 pilots and flight attendants at Great Lakes Airlines recently, we have authorization cards from a majority of the 110 pilots at Lynx Aviation. We are talking with pilots and flight attendants at other airlines, as well as bus operators on unorganized properties and employees of short line railroads.

Indeed, we are a union on the move — in organizing, defending existing agreements, and having our voice heard in Washington and state capitols.

While the Rail Safety Improvement Act is not everything we sought, we were able to achieve conductor certification, a deadline for implementation of positive train control, and a provision for general chairpersons to negotiate a better balance between new hours-of-service limitations and earnings.

I have appointed a UTU team to work with the FRA, other labor organizations and carriers in drafting conductor certification standards.

I have created a UTU Rail Transportation Safety Team to deal directly with the FRA in the face of an unacceptable spike in on-duty employee fatalities and career-ending injuries. Jointly with the BLET, we filed a petition with the FRA seeking an emergency order prohibiting the use of one-person crews in conventional and remote-control operations.

We are working with others in transportation labor to gain legislation eliminating flight-crew fatigue and to bring flight attendants under protections of OSHA.

Through the AFL-CIO, we are pushing for changes in commercial driver’s license regulations that subject bus operators to loss of their jobs if they receive citations while operating personal automobiles. We also are working to gain legislation requiring improved crash-resistance buses, uniform driver-training standards, and required training in dealing with abusive and threatening passengers.

The UTU is growing financially stronger owing to new cost containment controls and conservative investment policies, with our general fund balance up 90 percent since January 2008. UTUIA earnings have been growing each quarter, and the UTUIA has a $23 million surplus. And our DIPP claims no longer exceed premiums.

Officers at every level are benefitting from iLink features, and the UTU University is providing members with online educational opportunities that will continue to be expanded.

This administration remains true to its pledge of two-way communication. We invite your comments and suggestions and we will continue to provide leadership messages posted at www.utu.org.

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.