Tuesday, September 8, 2015
Officers Present: Officers Excused:
President – Joseph M. Romeo Steward – J. Castor
Secretary-Treasurer – John Campanella Steward – C. Gallman
Vice President – John H. Cooper Jr. Steward – A. Morgan
Delegate – Jami Lyles Steward – J. Page
Delegate – Brian Parks Steward – S. Rollins
Delegate – David Nickodemus Steward – T. Simmons
Steward – Bruce Chew
Steward – Ben Davis
Steward – Robert Jackson
Steward – Deonne Moore
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 members: Sister Kathy Lannon, whose father passed away; Brother Cesar Gallegos, whose father passed away; Sister Dorothy Neal, whose brother passed away; Brother Fred Bohnberger, whose father passed away; Sister Jami Lyles, whose aunt passed away; Pensioner Arnold Lyles, whose sister passed away. A moment of silence was also requested for EHT bus operator Ronald Trusty, who was severely assaulted while working.
President Romeo explained that Operator Trusty was assaulted by a passenger who had given Operator Trusty a hard time when boarding. Operator Trusty felt uncomfortable transporting this passenger and relayed his concerns to a regional supervisor. The regional supervisor told Operator Trusty to take the passenger. The regional supervisor did not follow the bus to check on the bus operator. When there was no one else on the bus, the passenger assaulted Operator Trusty to such an extent he was found lying by the side of the road. Egg Harbor Twp. Mechanic Willie Houston happened to be driving by and stopped to assist Operator Trusty. When Brother Houston approached the bus the assailant ran away. Brother Houston’s presence most likely saved Operator Trusty from further injuries.
President Romeo said that he expressed to the company his concern about the rising number of assaults on bus operators. President Romeo said that he made State Council Chairman Ray Greaves aware of the assault. Brother Greaves is seeking Congressman LoBiondo’s help in fighting for the safety of our bus operators. President Romeo said that he has been in contact with Operator Trusty and will aggressively pursue this issue with NJT. President Romeo said that he wants to thank Brother Willie Houston for helping Operator Trusty. (Applause for Brother Houston)
President Romeo thanked Brothers Brian Parks, Omar Higgs, and Edwin Rivera for helping with the season ending barbeque. (Applause)
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 August was made by Brother Ben Davis and seconded by Brother Robert Jackson. Motion passed.
Financial Report: Secretary-Treasurer John Campanella read the financial report for August, which was also posted on the bulletin board, and asked for questions. There were none. A motion to accept the financial report was made by Brother Robert Jackson and seconded by Sister Jami Lyles. Motion passed.
Brother Campanella also reported that the union received $4,840 in August from the assessment for legal fees. This brings the balance to be collected down to $8,455.31.
Arbitration Case: President Romeo explained the circumstances surrounding Brother David Mendez III’s discharge case and turned the floor over to Brother Mendez. Brother Mendez explained his case and all questions were answered. A motion to vote was made by Sister Jami Lyles and seconded by Brother Dave Nickodemus. Motion passed. The results of the vote were 59 yes votes and 1 no vote. This case is approved for arbitration.
New Business: President Romeo turned the floor over the State Council Chairman Ray Greaves for an update on our contract. Chairman Greaves thanked the members for supporting Brother Mendez tonight with the arbitration vote. This is what unions do – protect one another.
Chairman Greaves told the members that the union has already presented 7 hours of testimony in the contract arbitration case. We will finish up on September 30th with another 2 hours of testimony. At that point, the company will have 45 minutes of rebuttal, and then they will have 9 hours to present their case. The union will have 45 minutes of rebuttal. Then both sides will issue closing arguments. These time limits will force both sides to stick to the core issues. The union is addressing wages, retro, sick days, benefits and a few other issues in the arbitration. Once the arbitration is completed, the arbitrator has 30 days to write his decision. So by early November our contract should be decided. There are some issues that the company will be looking for, but we will not know what they are until they present their case to the arbitrator. The contract could go either way. A member asked if Chairman Greaves thinks there will be a buyout. Chairman Greaves said no. The union is asking for higher wages than offered by the company in the contract proposal. We are comparing wages to the national average. A member asked how long the governor has to approve the contract. Chairman Greaves said that the governor has 30 days to approve any contract. A member asked if it was possible that we do not have a contract by November. Chairman Greaves said yes, if the governor appeals the decision. The contract arbitration will be expensive for the union but it will be money well spent. A member asked - what is a TA? Chairman Greaves said the “TA” is the tentative agreement that was rejected by the membership. A member asked about retro pay. Chairman Greaves said that the union is asking for full retro pay back to 2010. A member asked if there will be any outstanding issues, such as the attendance policy, after the arbitration. Chairman Greaves said that the arbitrator will decided all issues. A member asked if there is any consideration for pension increases for the retirees. Chairman Greaves said yes, the retirees were considered early in negotiations, but increases for the retirees will not be presented in arbitration. NJT would not agree to negotiate raises for the retirees. We need the right person in Trenton in order to negotiate better conditions for our members in the future. We are in the fight of our lives right now to survive with the current political climate. The union needs to help put the right people in office. Chairman Greaves said that he does not see the support from union members to fight for these important issues. The union movement is falling apart in this country and unions are being taken advantage of on many issues. We need to step up and fight back.
Chairman Greaves told members that the ATU union is trying to convince politicians to put money for bus operations back into the transportation budget. We have operators being assaulted and the federal government is not putting money in the budget to protect bus operators. We are having a hard time getting politicians to open their eyes. We need to start holding them accountable because we are their constituents. Money is being taken out of the bus operations budget and it is being used for capital projects. The union is fighting some big issues. We need the members to get involved. We also need the members to keep pressure on us to make sure we are doing our part. We are offering training for union officers. There will also be upcoming membership training. A member asked if the union endorses candidates. Chairman Greaves said yes the union does endorse candidates. We recently had a rally for respect in Newark. At the rally we had Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop present. Mayor Fulop has attended many of our rallies. Our hope is that Mayor Fulop runs for governor because he will be good for unions. He has been there for teachers, hospital workers, turnpike workers and he has been there for us. We have a very good relationship with Mayor Fulop. We need to start building coalitions of advocacy groups.
Chairman Greaves said that the union is presenting a proposal in contract arbitration to start a maintenance committee. We need to work on issues for the mechanical employees. We are not getting money for buses. We need to fight for money for maintenance. We need to fight for new classifications in maintenance. We are losing jobs through attrition. Maintenance is a priority. Please support your union officers they are doing a great job. (Applause)
President Romeo thanked Chairman Greaves for coming down to Local 880 and giving an update on the contract. President Romeo opened the floor for questions.
A member asked if there have been any rulings recently on arbitration cases. President Romeo said that he and Brother Campanella have been working on many cases since January. Brother Julio Borrero has been reinstated without arbitration. President Romeo said that we have worked very hard since January. Brother Campanella said that President Romeo was successful in having 15 discharged union members reinstated since January. Also, we had a backlog of approximately 120 cases in the grievance procedure where President Romeo and Labor Relations were able to come to an agreement of probably 60 cases in the union members’ favor. President Romeo said that there are cases that he has been able to settle without arbitration which saves the union money. Brother Campanella said that the union officers have done a lot of work since January that the members might not be aware. There is a ton of work in this union hall every day. The grievance procedure has been changed so the members are not waiting months and months for decisions. Again, a lot has been done by this union.
A member said that he would like to make a motion to remove a bus operators’ shop steward from the Egg Harbor Twp. garage. This member said that he feels the shop steward is working with the company rather than the union members. Chairman Ray Greaves said that there is a process in the bylaws that addresses the issue of removing an officer. The process in the bylaws needs to be followed. Members cannot just have an officer removed at the union meeting. Chairman Greaves said that it is very hard to remove a union officer unless there is gross negligence. There has to be a very severe violation for an officer to be removed. This member said that 90% of the garage feels that same way he does. President Romeo said that he is aware of the situation in Egg Harbor Twp. and he has been very aggressive in dealing with the problem. President Romeo said that a complaint was sent to the head of the company and President Romeo was told that Labor Relations would now handle the issue. President Romeo said that the bylaws and international constitution must be followed and if there is merit, then something can be done. It is a very long and difficult process. A member said that if there are problems - what is the common denominator? President Romeo said that he tried to address the situation and the director tried to address the situation. Local management tried to address the situation. Now, the members involved are not satisfied, so someone sent a letter to upper management. Once that happens, the company must act on the complaint. It is out of the union’s hands now because upper management has stated that they alone will deal with the issue. This member said that it makes for a very complicated situation in EHT because of this person. President Romeo said that he has been down to EHT on multiple occasions to address the problem. President Romeo said Sister Moore can verify that he has been down to EHT to address the problem. Upper management is handling this issue. Brother Campanella said that there is zero tolerance all across the country for violence in workplace. If someone sends a letter to upper management saying that they were threatened, management must act, because if something happens and they did not take action, they will face a lawsuit. It is the company’s obligation to provide a safe working environment. A member asked how we can keep this shop steward out of the office. President Romeo said that the shop steward was elected by the membership to represent them. President Romeo said that if they do not want to be represented by this shop steward, they can request another shop steward or vice president John Cooper. A member said that she reported a problem to the union and the shop steward told management that the members should have been fired. President Romeo said that he took care of that issue. This member said that we pay dues every month and our shop steward goes to the company against the members. Chairman Greaves said that this issue will not be settled tonight. Let the union do the investigation and the members need to read the constitution to learn what their rights are regarding situations like this one. Chairman Greaves said that once this member sent the letter to upper management, he put the problem in their hands. There may be disciplinary action taken. However, the members tonight have a policy issue and it needs to be addressed correctly. The union cannot just pull someone’s union card. However, if enough members approach this shop steward and ask him to resign, then maybe he will. Members were heard saying that the president should remove him. Brother Campanella said that the president must follow the process in the international constitution. Brother Campanella said that if anyone wants to read about the process, he will give them international constitution books after the meeting and show them what sections address removing union officers. If the union takes any action that is not correct, the union can be sued. We all need to do our homework and follow the appropriate steps. Chairman Greaves said that the union officers have a fiduciary responsibility to the entire membership. A member said that the problem will get worse if it is not addressed. Brother Campanella said that the president has been to EHT multiple times and been on the phone multiple times over this issue.
A member said that if everyone is having a problem with the same individual, why can’t the union do anything about it. Brother Campanella said that there are over 200 bus operators in EHT and only 15 at tonight’s meeting. A member said that there are 150 drivers that feel the same way and the union is acting like they don’t care. Brother Campanella said that we are not acting like we don’t care. A member said that the union can put people out of service if they do not pay their initiation fees or union dues. This member said - pull this member’s union card. Brother Campanella said that this member is paying his dues. This member said that the building trades pull union cards. Brother Campanella said that many of the building trades actually hire the employees and they work for the union. We do not hire the employees at NJT. This member said that if members do not pay their initiation fee, they cannot work. Brother Campanella said that this shop steward paid his initiation fee. Brother Campanella also said that he gets in hot water because he allows members extra time to pay their initiation fees because they claim that they are having financial difficulty. This member said that we have to work together, but the union must weed out officers that do not bring anything to the table. The union is weak because we cannot strike. The rail threatened to strike and now they are going to have a contract. This member said we should join together with other unions for strength because there is no unity. Chairman Greaves said that for there to be unity, there has to be respect for your organization. The union cannot just pull a member’s union card. If the union does not like you - should they pull your card? It does not happen that way. Chairman Greaves said that there is a process and you need to respect your organization and the process. What you are suggesting is a mob mentality. If we did not have rules or laws then there would be chaos. We cannot get rid of members just because some members do not like him. This member said that 90% of the members do not like him. Chairman Greaves said let the union follow the process. To have respect for the organization, you need to follow the constitution. If you are dissatisfied with something in the constitution, then there is a process to change the constitution. It is a democracy here; not a dictatorship. Chairman Greaves said President Romeo has to follow the rules and the bylaws. President Romeo simply cannot just take the members’ cards. There is a process laid out in the constitution. This is not the OK Corral where 50 members can just walk in and take someone’s union card away. We are not bullies here. This is a democracy here and we must follow the constitution. A member said that this shop steward is using the system to hurt them, then we must use the system to get rid of him. Brother Campanella said that the official way is through the constitution. A member said that we will use the same system to get rid of him.
A member from the EHT shop asked if the constitution and bylaws are based on interpretation. Brother Campanella said that everything is based on interpretation. There is interpretation of the international constitution and our bylaws. There is also interpretation of the constitution of the United States. Brother Campanella said that if the members went through this whole process and the member was removed. Then he would appeal the decision to the international union and they have the power to uphold or overturn the decision.
Another member from the EHT shop said that they have a member who has been in the shop for 22 years and knows nothing. He was awarded a mechanic’s position and failed out. The union should have asked the shop members if the member got a fair shot; nothing happened. This member said that the member cannot do the job and no one likes him. Our union wants to fight for the member and now the company is not going to post the position, which screws 9 members out of the chance for the job. President Romeo said that he has an obligation to represent every member in this union. There were a lot of circumstances in this member’s complaint that he thought was valid. In the end, he was disqualified. But this member has the right to go through the grievance process like every other member. Chairman Greaves told this member that if he wants to change things, he should run for president. Chairman Greaves said that he attends a lot of union meetings in all the local unions, and he sees union officers being attacked. When a union president goes out into the field to represent a member who was disqualified from a job, he should be commended for doing his job. This member said that the disqualified member has been there 22 years and knows nothing. President Romeo said that he disagrees.
Chairman Greaves said that we know that there needs to be better training in the mechanical department, such as apprentice programs. Your president or secretary-treasurer may not be from the mechanical department but the union has mechanical delegates and shop stewards who understand the issues. We need to upgrade our skills because technology is changing daily. Chairman Greaves said that he wants our union to start doing the warranty work because we can do it better. But we need our mechanical members to have better training. We are spending a lot of time on mechanical issues because it is important. This member said that the 22 year member was trained in towing but now says he does not know how to tow. Chairman Greaves said that he is looking at the big picture and you are only talking about one member. Brother Campanella said that he did not qualify so can we move on. This member said that the company has not filled the spot. Brother Campanella said the position was awarded to the next person in line. Another member said that the company has not filled three positions. President Romeo said that we have open positions in every shop and he has been on the phone many times with Director Carl Harris asking when these positions are going to be filled. Director Harris said that it is in the works to fill these positions. The union is trying to address these positions not being filled. As far as the issue with the disqualified mechanic, he had the right to be represented by the union. President Romeo said that he will represent every member. One day just come to the union hall and sit here for eight hours. You will see how much this union does for every member. Chairman Greaves said that the company has the right not to fill the positions; they have the right to manage the workforce. A member said that work in the EHT garage is being shipped out to other garages. Delegate Brian Parks said that he investigated why the work was being shipped out because some members complained to him. Brother Parks said that there is not enough workspace area in the EHT garage to handle the work. He is being told that buses that need repairs are just sitting. A member said that they can handle the work but the company is sending the work to Newton Ave. President Romeo said that not filling the positions is happening across the entire state. Chairman Greaves said that if they are doing the work at Newton Ave., at least it is being done in Local 880. If the work is being sent outside Local 880, then we have a strong grievance. Chairman Greaves said to let the president work on this issue, but he cannot guarantee that the company will fill all three positions. Our goal is to get more work; to bring more work into the garages. The union will address some of these issues in some upcoming campaigns. We have been working under these classifications for probably 50 years. We need to start thinking outside the box and start preparing for the changes in technology.
Brother Campanella said that a group of EHT bus operators came here tonight with a problem that we tried to address. There is also a group of EHT mechanics here tonight with some problems. Let’s get a list of the complaints from the EHT shop and President Romeo will address these concerns with Director Carl Harris. Brother Campanella said that no one from the EHT shop has called the union hall with these complaints; this is the first time we have heard them. Give us a chance to get you some answers. President Romeo said that Director Carl Harris has told him that he is going to be more aggressive. He is going to come down and walk the shops because he knows he has problems. He also knows that the employees are upset about the unfilled positions. When Director Harris comes into your locations, let him hear your complaints as well. President Romeo said that he will also address the issues when he becomes aware of them.
Brother Campanella said that this has been a good meeting tonight. Let’s get everything out. Brother Ben Davis said that he has been in the union hall many times and the phone does not stop ringing. He said that President Romeo, and Brothers Campanella and Parks are always addressing issues. If you have a problem just call the union hall. Brother Campanella said that we have 1,450 union members and only two full-time union officers.
A member asked about his issue that he brought to the union regarding the one-year qualification period. Delegate Brian Parks said that disqualified employees must wait for a bid. This member said that he only read in the contract about availability of school. It does not say anything about waiting for a bid to open. Brother Campanella said that we are talking about interpretation again, but one would think that there has to be an opening before sending someone to school. This member said that he would still lose out to a senior member. Brother Campanella said absolutely, it goes by seniority. President Romeo said that Delegate Parks has been fighting this one-year qualification period for some time now. Brother Parks believes that the disqualification period should be six months. This member said that it is not going anywhere. President Romeo said that you are wrong; it is going somewhere. This issue has been presented to the State Council. Chairman Greaves said that this issue has been presented to President Rich Stark, who is the chairman of the maintenance committee. Chairman Greaves said that he does not have a problem with it because it benefits both sides. Chairman Greaves said that this issue will be presented in arbitration and if all three arbitrators agree, then we may get it the actual arbitration award. If not, then we go back to the drawing board and try to work on a side agreement. This member said that he was told that he hurt someone in another garage for filing a grievance. Chairman Greaves said he is not aware of this issue, but the issue of the disqualification period will be addressed. Brother Campanella said that Delegate Brian Parks started the fight on this issue. This was not an issue for the last nine years. Sad to say, Brother Parks received abuse from other union officers who did not agree with him. This member said that Brother Parks is the one who told him to drop the grievance and he is the one who told him that I hurt another union member’s chance. Brother Campanella told this member that he did not have a grievance and the other member did not have a grievance. The other member should not have been awarded the job because his disqualification period was not over. However, the company awarded him the job by mistake. Brother Campanella said that a month before the company’s mistake, he made a mistake by not requesting a second step for a warning for attendance within the time limit. The company told the union that they must eat the mistake. So when the company made this mistake in awarding this job, the union requested that the company eat their mistake. Talks ensued with the company over this mistake that the company said that they were willing to honor the mistake but the grievance filed in the EHT shop changed their minds. If they award this job then there will be more grievances from members thinking that they do not have to wait one year for the disqualification period to end. Keep in mind, this member had no grievance because he was still under his disqualification period. However, if the company wants us to eat our mistakes, then we want them to eat their mistakes. This was about a mistake and not a contractual matter.
Adjourn: A motion to adjourn was made by Sister Jami Lyles and seconded by Brother Marvin Taylor. Motion passed. Meeting adjourned at 9:15 p.m.
Note: The next general membership meeting will be held on Tuesday, October 13, 2015. Hope to see you there.