In this communication, my first to you as president of this great organization, I will begin by saying that I am honored by the opportunity to serve in this capacity. One of my goals for this administration is to be transparent in every way, allowing you, the membership for whom we work, to be aware and informed of the issues that affect you and your union.
Accordingly, I want to update you on a number of initiatives that are currently in progress at our offices in Cleveland and Washington. To begin, I will address the merger between Sheet Metal Workers International Association and United Transportation Union, an issue first and foremost in the minds of members at every meeting that I have had the opportunity to attend.
The merger agreement provided that the constitutions of the UTU and the SMWIA were to be combined into a single constitution for the new International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers’ union (SMART). Both the merger agreement and the subsequent arbitration award pertaining to implementation directed the parties to meet and resolve conflicts between the constitutions of the two organizations.
Accordingly, the parties met for extended periods on numerous occasions throughout 2012 and 2013 and have made excellent progress in reconciling conflicts between our respective constitutions. Nonetheless, in mid-2013, it became apparent to all involved that although we had accomplished much of the necessary work, additional direction from the arbitrator was needed in order to finalize the remaining issues. The parties submitted their respective views on the items still unresolved to the arbitrator and, at the time of this writing, are still awaiting an award that will offer guidance to move us to conclusion.
In order to meet all of the constitutional and regulatory requirements that apply to the two organizations, the former UTU – now SMART Transportation Division – convention originally scheduled for 2015 will be held June 30 – July 2, 2014, in San Diego, Calif. This will be followed by the first SMART convention to be held Aug. 11-15, 2014, in Las Vegas. Details regarding the two conventions are still being finalized and additional information will be distributed as soon as it becomes available.
Of course, the day-to-day business of representing our members continues without interruption. Among countless other initiatives, we are working hard in Washington to advance H.R. 3040, legislation that is intended to require two-person crews on trains. The Affordable Care Act and the recent Supreme Court decisions on same-sex spousal benefits require careful handling to ensure compliance, without negatively impacting the benefits enjoyed by our members who are currently a part of the National Health and Welfare Plan. And, our Organizing Department is continuing to lead all others in successfully organizing properties where the employees have sought union representation.
In matters of negotiations, we are assisting general chairpersons in contract negotiations with numerous bus companies and passenger and short line railroads around the country. In addition, we have recently requested proffers of arbitration from the National Mediation Board on two properties, one rail and one air. We have received and rejected the proffer on the rail property and are hopeful that the proffer requested on behalf of our brothers and sisters on the airline property will soon be granted by the NMB. Once received, a proffer may then be rejected and the parties advance to the next level in the process of getting to self-help.
The foregoing is a brief update on just some of the many efforts underway to protect and improve the working conditions of our members. In future articles, I will expand on each of these items and also discuss what’s ahead in 2014.