Tuesday, April 14, 2015
Officers Present: Officers Excused:
President – Joseph M. Romeo Steward – B. Davis
Secretary-Treasurer – John Campanella Steward – A. Morgan
Vice President – John H. Cooper Jr. Steward – S. Rollins
Delegate – Jami Lyles Steward – TJ Simmons
Delegate – Brian Parks
Delegate – David Nickodemus
Steward – Jean Castor
Steward – Bruce Chew
Steward – Corey Gallman
Steward – Robert Jackson
Steward – Deonne Moore
Steward – Jerome Page
Steward – Felix Rogers
Steward – Marvin Taylor
Call to Order: President Romeo opened the meeting at 7:30 p.m. and asked for a moment of silence for the following: Brother Robert Elliot, a pensioner who passed away; Brother James Patten, a pensioner who passed away; Brother Frederick McGriff, a pensioner who passed away; Brother John Sims, a pensioner who passed away; Brother Rob Kelly, whose mother passed away; Brother Jeffrey Lake, whose father-in-law passed away; Brother Stando Outterbridge, whose father passed away; Brother Claybrook Lindenmuth, whose brother passed away; Sister Loretta Woods, a pensioner whose husband passed away; our members who are ill, our troops.
Minutes: President Romeo said that the minutes were posted in all locations and asked for questions. There were none. A motion to accept the minutes for March was made by Brother Corey Gallman and seconded by Brother Marvin Taylor. Motion passed.
Financial Report: Secretary-Treasurer John Campanella read the financial report, which was also posted on the bulletin board, and asked for questions. There were none. A motion to approve the financial report for March was made by Sister Jami Lyles and seconded by Brother Corey Gallman. Motion passed.
Brother Campanella also reported on the assessment. In March we received $5,954 from the assessment leaving a balance of $36,846.31 to be collected for legal fees in 2014.
Arbitration Cases: President Romeo explained the circumstances of Brother Robert Douglas’s arbitration case and turned the floor over to Brother Douglas. Brother Robert Douglas explained his case to the members and answered all questions. A motion to vote was made by Brother Marvin Taylor and seconded by Brother Robert Jackson. Motion passed. The results of the vote were 15 yes votes and 16 no votes with 1 void. This case is not approved for arbitration.
President Romeo explained the circumstances of Sister Lynda Kachnik’s case and turned the floor over to Sister Kachnik. Sister Lynda Kachnik explained her case to the members and answered all questions. A motion to vote was made by Brother Marvin Taylor and seconded by Brother Robert Jackson. Motion passed. The results of the vote were 20 yes votes and 10 no votes. This case met the two-thirds requirement and is approved for arbitration.
New Business: President Romeo told members that officials from Camden County are issuing fines to NJ Transit for bus operators idling their buses over three minutes. The fine for the first operator was $250, the fine for the second operator was $500 and the fine for the third bus operator was $1,000. Every fine from this point on will be $1,000 because the fines are cumulative. President Romeo said that the union’s attorney and the State Council chairman are working on this issue. We believe that it is unfair that our bus operators must pay $1,000. Do not idle your buses more than three minutes. The fines were issued at the Avandale Park & Ride, Lindenwold PATCO, and a Wawa. Please follow the law. A member said that some customers who are waiting on the buses during layovers ask the operators for heat or air conditioning. The customers are on the layover buses because the company instructed the bus operators to let them on. A member who was fined explained what occurred. Sister Jami Lyles said that two years ago officials were at the Cherry Hill Mall giving out literature about idling buses. Sister Lyles also said that NJT has the capability to see whether operators are idling their buses more than three minutes. A member said that he researched this issue and operators cannot idle their buses for more than fifteen minutes when loading and unloading passengers or they will receive a fine. President Romeo said that the operators should not be forced to pay the fines. This issue was discussed further. President Romeo said just be aware that Camden County officials are out there checking.
President Romeo said that there is a campaign by the NJ State Police to give written warnings to our bus operators for going over the speed limit by 1 to 5 mph. It seems ridiculous but the police have stopped many of our bus operators. To make things worse for our operators, NJT management is disciplining bus operators for these ridiculous warnings. President Romeo said that he was successful getting the discipline removed from the operators’ records because of a Title 39 agreement between the union and the company. But now, NJT is using different wording for the same offense to circumvent the agreement. Be aware of the police monitoring your speed.
President Romeo said that an arbitrator has finally been selected to handle the arbitration for our contract. The arbitrator is an independent arbitrator who was selected out of a pool of five arbitrators. The union’s attorney said that the arbitrator selected is the best one out of the five. Now we need to get some dates for the arbitration to begin. In the meantime, maybe the company will make another offer that will be fairer to our members. We are ready to proceed to arbitration.
President Romeo said that the union and the company negotiated a new grievance procedure which took place on April 1st. This new procedure will be beneficial to our members because cases should move through the four steps of the grievance procedure within 100 days.
President Romeo said that the second part of the 70 hour arbitration case has been decided in the union’s favor and everyone who was affected will be paid. The checks will be coming out this month. Brother Felix Rogers asked if operators who did not file grievances will be paid. President Romeo said yes. President Romeo said that he kept track of all the grievances for both the first and second part of the 70 hour arbitration to avoid members being left out. Also Brother Dave Nickodemus kept an excellent record of all the bus operators in Washington Twp. who were entitled to be paid. President Romeo said that he had some help from some shop stewards as well. Brother John Campanella said that President Romeo handled the grievances and record keeping for both halves of this arbitration case. President Romeo got many operators paid on the first part of the case by aggressively tracking violations, filing grievances and holding the hearings. For the second part of this case, President Romeo again did the same thing to make sure everyone who was affected was paid. Credit to President Romeo. (Applause) President Romeo said that he had help also and thanked everyone who was involved.
Brother Jerome Page asked if the new grievance procedure is part of the contract. President Romeo said it is a signed agreement between the union and the company so it is part of the contract. Brother Page asked if it can be part of negotiations in the next contract. President Romeo said yes. President Romeo said that we went into contract negotiations with a very small list of issues such as wages, pension and medical issues. There is a lot of language in the contract that needs addressing.
President Romeo reminded members that voting will be conducted tomorrow on whether to keep the RX-65 prescription plan for our retirees or eliminate it. Voting yes means you are in favor of eliminating the plan. Voting no mean you are in favor of keeping the plan and paying a higher contribution. President Romeo said that NJT has generously agreed to pick up the spouses under 65 and dependents at no cost. When the plan was created Medicare D was not in existence. But now, our retirees over 65 can obtain prescription coverage. There was a deficit of nearly $3 million in 2007 which the company absorbed if the union agreed to give up the Local 819 print shop. Now, the plan is nearly $2 million in the hole and has become unsustainable. The union made sure that no one is being left without coverage. We will have companies in the union hall helping our retirees obtain coverage. The debt will have to be paid off, but once it is paid off the deductions will stop.
A member asked about the old grievances before new grievance procedure took effect. President Romeo said that all cases before April 1st will be considered backlogged cases and will not be affected by the new grievance procedure. However, the company and the union have aggressively worked to clear up these backlogged cases.
A member said that he was very disappointed with the letter that Executive Director Ronnie Hakim put out regarding our contract. President Romeo said that we were disappointed as well. The State Council filed an unfair labor practice over this letter. It was a ploy to cause dissention in the union and make the company out to be the “good guy.”Anyone who has worked for this company for any length of time knows that the company is not the good guy in this issue.
A member said that she was bitten by bed bugs on the buses several times. She said that she notified Brother Campanella, the foremen, her supervisor, some mechanics and noted it on her defect cards. She said that she was bitten multiple times up and down one side of her body. She said that she was told that she is the first person to report bed bugs on Newton Ave.’s buses. She said that is not true because she reported a problem with bed bugs four months ago. President Romeo said that he believes that the company exterminates the buses when they become aware of any bugs. President Romeo said that this is a very important issue. President Romeo said that in the future he would like members to contact him anytime there are bugs on the buses, fumes on the buses or any other issue that affects the members’ health. President Romeo said that he will act on it immediately. Brother Brian Parks asked for a bus number. This member said that she was on bus 5929. Brother Campanella said that anytime a member reports an incident such as this, an email is sent to the superintendent, but we need the bus numbers. President Romeo asked this operator to supply him with a list of all the buses affected.
A member asked if the time limits are the same between the different steps in the new grievance procedure. President Romeo said that he does not have the new procedure in front of him but everything will be triggered by the first step decision. The first step must be held within 30 days where all parties are available. The member can request one postponement but when the second hearing is scheduled, the member must be present or he or she will be held out of work until the hearing is held. The decision must be rendered by the company in 10 days, if not the union’s side wins. The second step must be held in 30 days. Now both sides are accountable. Copies of the new grievance procedure have been given to the stewards.
Brother Jerome Page said that if a member misses two dates where the hearing is scheduled then they are put out of work until the hearing is held. President Romeo said that is correct. Brother Page said that there is a problem with the new grievance procedure for non-preventable accidents. If a member misses his or her hearings for non-preventable accidents, then they are placed out of service for an accident that is not their fault. President Romeo said that he wants to be notified immediately if anyone is placed out of service for non-preventable accidents.
Brother Bruce Chew asked what ever happened to all the vinyl seats that were supposed to be put in the Nabi buses. President Romeo said that the vinyl seats have been contracted out. Brother Chew that the shop has seat covers that are not being put in the buses. Brother Chew also said that all the Hamilton buses, with cloth seats, being sent to the Southern Division have bed bugs and fleas in them. President Romeo said that this is the first time he has heard about this and he should have been told about this before tonight’s union meeting.
A member said that the company does not seem to care about the bus operators by the way they are setting these seat alarms. Bus operators cannot use seat cushions because the seat alarm will sound. This can cause health issues for our bus operators. President Romeo said that he is currently working on this issue. A member said that she was told that she cannot even use a piece of paper between her and the seat because the seat alarms sense body temperature. President Romeo said that he is not convinced about body temperature but he was told the same thing. President Romeo said that he needs to know these things are occurring before the union meetings. Please notify him immediately when there is a problem.
A member asked if the buses can be sprayed at least once a month for bugs. Mechanical Delegate Brian Parks said that a bed bug problem was reported recently in the Newton Ave. cruisers. NJT had all the cruisers exterminated. Brother Parks said that he is not sure if the Nabi’s were also exterminated. Brother Parks said that the buses are exterminated on a regular basis for bugs such as roaches. However, buses will only be exterminated for bed bugs if there is a reported problem because bed bugs require a different treatment. President Romeo asked the members to report all sightings of bugs on buses to the union hall immediately.
Adjourn: A motion to adjourn was made by Brother Marvin Taylor and seconded by Sister Jami Lyles. Motion passed. Meeting adjourned at 9 PM.
Note: The next general membership meeting will be held on Tuesday, May 12, 2015. Hope to see you there.