Tuesday, February 10, 2015
Officers Present: Officers Excused:
President – Joseph M. Romeo Steward – S. Rollins
Secretary-Treasurer – John Campanella Steward – T. Simmons
Vice President – John H. Cooper Jr. Steward – M. Taylor
Delegate – Jami Lyles
Delegate – Brian Parks
Delegate – David Nickodemus
Steward – Jean Castor
Steward – Bruce Chew
Steward – Ben Davis
Steward – Corey Gallman
Steward – Robert Jackson
Steward – Deonne Moore
Steward – Anthony Morgan
Steward – Jerome Page
Steward – Felix Rogers
Call to Order: President Romeo opened the meeting at 7:30 p.m. and asked for a moment of silence for: Brother Elijah Brown, a Newton Ave. bus operator who passed away; Brother James Gentry, whose mother passed away; Sister Mary Figueroa, who is very ill and also lost her mother.
President Romeo announced that he wanted to conduct the arbitration cases first. There were no objections.
Arbitration Cases: President Romeo explained the circumstances surrounding Brother Marlon Walker’s case. Brother Marlon Walker explained his case to the members and all questions were answered. A motion to vote was made by Brother Gabe Sullivan and seconded by Brother Bruce Chew. Motion passed. The results of the vote were 22 yes votes and 26 no votes. This case was not approved for arbitration.
Brother Gildon Turner from the EHT garage told President Romeo that there was no motion to change the order of business and we must follow the order of business according to our bylaws. President Romeo said the order of business will be followed after the arbitration cases. Brother Turner disagreed. President Romeo told Brother Turner that he was out of order. Brother Turner said that he was not out of order. President Romeo said that we have three very important arbitration cases tonight and we are going to conduct them first and then we will continue with the order of business. Brother Turner called for a point of verification. President Romeo said that we will conduct the arbitration cases first and then we will continue with the order of business. Brother Turner asked if we are suspending the order of business according to the bylaws. President Romeo said that we are going to do the arbitration cases first.
President Romeo introduced EHT bus operator Zabar Shabazz and asked the members to hold off on all business, not related to the arbitration cases, until after the cases are concluded. It deters from our members presenting their cases. Brother Jerome Page made a motion to allow the arbitration cases to be presented and then come back to the agenda. President Romeo said that he already stated that we would. This motion was seconded. Brother Page asked the members in attendance if there are any questions on the motion. President Romeo told Brother Page that he (President Romeo) is running the meeting. Brother Campanella, who was out of the room during Brother Turner’s concerns, asked Brother Page if his motion meant that after the arbitration cases, we would open the floor for business. Brother Page responded yes. President Romeo stated that he already said that we would. Brother Page called for the vote from the members (all were in favor). Brother Page told Brother Shabazz he can continue with his arbitration case. President Romeo ruled Brother Page out of order. Brother Turner said that he is not out of order. President Romeo said Brother Page is out of order and that he (President Romeo) is running the meeting. Brother Turner said that he is not out of order according to the bylaws. Brother Campanella said that there was a motion on the floor and there was a second but the calling of the vote should not have come from Brother Page; it should have come from the president. President Romeo said that this arguing is taking away from the arbitration cases and apologized to Brother Zabar Shabazz for the distraction.
President Romeo explained the circumstances of Brother Shabazz’s cases. Brother Zabar Shabazz explained his case to the members and all questions were answered. A motion to vote was made by Brother Bruce Chew and seconded by Brother Robert Jackson. Motion passed. The results of the vote were 40 yes votes and 9 no votes. This case was approved for arbitration.
President Romeo explained the circumstances of Brother Gregory Harris Sr.’s case. Brother Harris explained his case to the members and all questions were answered. A motion to vote was made by Brother Gabe Sullivan and seconded by Brother Brian Crawford. Motion passed. The results of the vote were 27 yes votes and 23 no votes. Failing to meet the two-thirds requirement, this case was not approved for arbitration. Brother Jerome Page asked President Romeo to explain the two-thirds vote. President Romeo said that in order for this case to proceed to arbitration there must be a two-thirds vote, (Brother Page interrupted President Romeo by saying “where is that at?”), fifty votes were cast and 34 votes were needed to proceed to arbitration. Brother Page repeatedly asked the president if it is in the bylaws. President Romeo said the two-thirds was not met; this issue is done. Two members both said that the arbitration vote has been by two-thirds for many years. President Romeo thanked the members and said that Brother Page was a shop steward previously and is well aware of the two-thirds vote.
Minutes: President Romeo said that the minutes were posted in all locations and asked for questions. A motion to accept the minutes for January was made by Brother Corey Gallman and seconded by Brother Chris Walton. Brother Jerome Page said that the minutes do not reflect everything that was discussed regarding how much money was spent in December and the reasons why the dues must be increased by eight dollars. Brother Page said that Brother Campanella gave specific amounts as to the cost of vacations in December which is not reflected in the minutes. Brother Campanella said that he has never put specific numeric amounts in the minutes in the last twelve years. The financial report is posted and voted on at the meeting. Brother Campanella said that Brother Page sent a letter complaining about the minutes to the International Union over three years ago. Brother Campanella said that there are three pages in January’s minutes devoted to the financial report. The minutes are not a transcript of every word that has been said. Brother Campanella said that he tries to put plenty of information in the minutes for the benefit of the members who could not attend the meeting so they have an idea of what is happening. Brother Page said that the minutes do not reflect what was actually said to the ones that were present. Brother Page said that he is not talking about the financial report; he is talking about taking money out of another account to pay for vacations and the union election. Brother Page said that you never said how much the election cost. Brother Campanella said that at the meeting, he did report how much the election cost. Brother Bruce Chew said that every month the finances are posted on the wall and all Brother Page wants to do is keep pressing. President Joe Romeo said that dues increase was mentioned at previous meetings and Brother Campanella went to all three garages to discuss and answer questions about the dues increase. President Romeo said that the bylaws state that we should assess for our legal fees, but for twelve years this local union did not assess. Nobody talks about that, they only talk about the increase now. If we had assessed the members for twelve years, we would not be in this situation. We did notify everyone. Brother John Cooper said that the company should not see our financial reports because they will figure out ways to cost us more money. A member asked Brother Page what is being done differently since the last president was in office, because she sees nothing being done differently. Brother Page said that nothing is different, but the local union is not following the bylaws. A member asked if this has been done for so long, why he is bringing it up now. Brother Page said because it is coming up now. Brother Campanella said that he has been doing the minutes this way for twelve years. If Brother Page has a complaint he can address it with the International Union. Brother Campanella said that if the International Union instructs him to include the numbers, he will. Brother Campanella said that there has been a motion by Brother Corey Gallman and a second to accept the minutes. All were in favor with the exception of Brother Page. Motion passed.
Brother Campanella said that he asked President Romeo to change the order of business tonight because he did not want the financial report and the assessment to create a distraction for the members presenting their cases for arbitration.
Financial Report: Secretary-Treasurer John Campanella read the financial report for January, which was also posted on the bulletin board, and asked for questions. Brother Jerome Page asked if the travel expenses were based on reimbursements. Brother Campanella explained that the president received $870 for mileage for the month of January. Anyone working for the union was paid $10 for meals and $10 for mileage as stated in the bylaws. The State Council delegates are paid $20 for meals and $20 for mileage while on State Council business as stated in the bylaws. Brother Jerome Page asked if the $870 for the president was every month. Brother Campanella said yes. Brother Page asked where this issue is addressed in the bylaws. Brother Campanella told him where. Brother Page said that the wording says reimbursement and asked if the president is turning in receipts. Brother Campanella said no, the president is being paid the maximum mileage each month. Brother Page said that is not what the bylaws state. Brother Campanella said that this practice has been occurring for approximately 20 years. Brother Page said that he believes that when President Sullivan was in office, we increased it. Brother Campanella said that when President Sullivan was here a motion was made on the floor to increase his mileage by twenty-five cents per mile due to the high cost of gas. Brother Page said the when President Sullivan was here, we increased his mileage from $600 per month to $800. Brother Campanella said no, the mileage never changed. At a general membership meeting a member made a motion to increase the mileage by twenty-five cents per mile because the gas prices were well over three-dollars per gallon. It was voted on and approved. When the gas prices came back down, the additional twenty-five cents per mile was stopped. President Knestaut never received the additional twenty-five cents per mile. Brother Page asked if President Knestaut received the $800 per month for mileage. Brother Campanella said yes.
A motion to accept the financial report was made by Brother Dave Nickodemus and seconded by Sister Tina Flax. Brother Campanella asked if there were any additional questions. Brother Gildon Turner asked where the president travels in order to receive this $800 per month. Brother Campanella said that the president travels to North Jersey a minimum of twice per month, he travels for arbitration cases based on the need, he travels to North Jersey for special meetings called by Chairman Ray Greaves and he travels to the garages. President Romeo said that he has done a lot of traveling during his six weeks in office. Brother Campanella said that paying the maximum has been the practice and if Brother Page wants to make an issue of it, which he certainly can, we will have to address it in the bylaws. Brother Turner said that it is not an issue, he was just wondering because the only time he saw President Romeo was when he was campaigning. Brother Campanella said that President Romeo does not clear $870 per month because it is taxed. President Romeo has to settle up with the IRS by producing records when he files his tax return. The union’s accountant said that this was the easiest method for the union. Brother Campanella said that this practice occurred before he started, he continued the practice and the presidents have gotten the maximum. Brother Campanella said that the presidents beat the hell out of their cars; you can ask all three presidents. A member mentioned about buying a new car for the president. Brother Campanella said that some years back, some members suggested that the union buy the president’s car. Brother Ray Cappy asked what is the multiplier in determining the amount of payment. Brother Campanella said that the multiplier is the yearly IRS mileage rate and rounded up to the nearest penny according to the bylaws. Brother Jerome Page said that he had another comment. Brother Page said that the bylaws say that the president gets 20 hours per week added to his pay of 40 hours and the secretary-treasurer gets 15 hours per week added to his pay of 40 hours. Brother Page said the members are asking him why and he does not have the answer. Brother Campanella said that the bylaws state that the president is paid sixty-hours per week at the highest hourly rate in the contract book. The president does not get overtime; he is paid sixty-hours at straight-time. The secretary-treasurer is paid fifty-five hours at straight time. Brother Campanella stated that the bylaws do not mention forty and twenty hours or forty and fifteen hours; they say sixty hours for the president and fifty-five hours for the treasurer. Brother Page said that the bylaws say twenty hours for the president and fifteen hours for the treasurer added on to the forty hours. Brother Campanella asked Brother Page to show him where it says this in the bylaws; Brother Page could not. President Romeo said that since he took office he has been in the union hall on every weekend and five o’clock is not the end of most days. Brother Campanella read directly from the bylaws on page 3; article II – Officers and Delegates: “The president’s salary shall be adjusted to sixty-hours, at the top prevailing rate, and adjusted to the nearest dollar weekly. The secretary-treasurer’s salary shall be fifty-five hours, at the top prevailing rate, and adjusted to the nearest dollar weekly.” Brother Campanella said that he does not see any mention of twenty-hours or fifteen-hours. Brother Gabe Sullivan said that he does not have a copy of the bylaws with him, but asked if the bylaws mention holiday pay. Brother Campanella said that there is no mention of holiday pay in the bylaws. After reading the bylaws, Brother Page told Brother Campanella that he was correct regarding the president’s pay. Brother Campanella said that the bylaws really need to be rewritten but when you make changes to the bylaws, some members think it is being done to benefit the officers. We do need more clarification in our bylaws. Brother Campanella asked if there were any other questions before we approve the financial report. There were none. President Romeo said that there is a motion on the floor to approve the financial report. All were in favor. There were no objections. Motion passed.
Brother Campanella said that he apologizes for asking the president to change the order of business tonight but he thought it was for the best. Brother Corey Gallman asked if there was anything in our bylaws that would prevent the president from changing the order of business. Brother Campanella said no. Brother Gildon Turner said that under Roberts Rules of Order there is a process for changing the rules. Brother Turner said that he just wanted a point of clarification but he feels some animosity. Brother Turner said that Brother Page was simply asking questions that he asked Brother Page. We do not see anyone in Egg Harbor. We have a 99 mile round trip from EHT to attend the meeting. The financial report should be posted in every garage so the members can see it or at least give a copy to the shop stewards so they can explain it. Brother Turner said that he has a right to ask questions about the dues coming out of his check. Brother Turner said that he has been involved in enough organizations to know how meetings are conducted. If you want to change the order of business, you ask the members for a suspension of business with a motion from the floor. President Romeo said that he has been disrespected tonight. Brother Turner said that he has not disrespected President Romeo and gave his thoughts of a strong union. Brother Turner said that we all pay money in this union to have it run right so if someone has a question, we need to respect that. Give us the courtesy of answering our questions. Brother Campanella asked Brother Turner if he answered his questions. Brother Turner said yes. Brother Campanella asked Brother Page if he answered his questions. Brother Page said yes. Brother Turner said that rumbling of the members is presenting the problem. An argument among the members ensued. Brother Campanella again asked Brother Turner if he answered his questions. Brother Turner said yes. Again, some arguing among the members started and Brother Campanella said let’s move on and asked if there were any other questions. There were none.
New Business: President Romeo said that some seat alarms have been disconnected. The company is checking buses to see if any operators are disconnecting seat alarms. The company will start disciplining members. Do not disconnect any seat alarms.
President Romeo said that there is still nothing happening with the contract. There are no talks with the company regarding the contract. The company’s position is that they gave us their final offer. We are still willing to talk while we head towards arbitration. We have experts in place to defend our position and both parties are looking to have an arbitrator who is outside of the state’s arbitration pool. We do not want to use a state arbitrator or go through PERC.
President Romeo asked if there is any old business. Brother Jerome Page said that members who he represents in EHT are asking questions about the dues increase. Brother Page said everyone understands the three-dollar increase because of the per capita tax increase. But as for the five-dollars, the members want to know if there is any way that we review our budget to see if anything can be cut to bring the five-dollars down. If we look at the budget, we may find a lot a fat that can be trimmed to bring down the five-dollars. The members want to know if we will look at the budget and come up with a plan. The members also want to know if the five-dollars will cease when we recoup our funds or will the five-dollars continue and be used for something else. President Romeo said that the five-dollar assessment is for legal fees and we should have assessed every year for legal fees. President Romeo said that before he became the president, he was a shop steward and a delegate. The finances were run so well that for twelve years we did not need to assess. If we had assessed every year, we would not be discussing this issue tonight. Now we got to the point where we must assess because our funds have declined. We have done a fantastic job budgeting over twelve years. Brother Campanella said that there are always places we can look to cut – do we want to cut out the food at meetings? The members approved it. Do we want to cut out the retiree’s luncheon? The members approved it. There are always things we can look at and this is something that the executive board can review. A member said that it was not addressed about the five-dollar assessment. Will it continue forever? Brother Campanella said no. Once we recover the funds the assessment will cease. Then each year we will review our funds to determine if we need to assess for the legal fees. We cannot allow this union to go bankrupt because we are afraid that the members are going to be mad at us for assessing. Brother Gildon Turner said that according to our bylaws our dues should be $54 per month and asked if we are going to make that permanent when the assessment ends because we should be paying $54 per month. Brother Campanella said that the International Constitution says that the minimum dues are $54.25 per month. If our contract would have been settled in a reasonable timeframe, we would not have had this problem because everyone would have gotten their raises and we would have stayed ahead of the International minimum. We fell behind because no one has received a raise in six years. Again, we cannot allow NJ Transit to bankrupt us because we do not have a contract. We need money to defend the members. Brother Bruce Chew asked if it was true that Local 819 assesses their members for every arbitration case. Brother Campanella said that he does not know that to be a fact. President Romeo said that he does know that Local 819 sends every case to arbitration and they assess their members for every case. Brother Campanella said that we do not want to assess for every case because the amount would change each month. We need to see at the end of the year where we stand and assess accordingly. It would be an accounting nightmare for us and NJ Transit to track this. Brother Page said thank you for answering his question so he can take it back to the members.
Adjourn: A motion to adjourn was made by Sister Jami Lyles and seconded by Brother Chris Walton. Motion passed. Meeting adjourned at 9:01 p.m.
Note: The next general membership meeting will be held on Tuesday, March 10, 2015. Hope to see you there.