The meeting came to order at 0915. President Bolesta appointed Brother Bill Yates as the Chaplin and the opening prayer was read by Brother Yates.
The meeting was attended by 18 regular members, 1 retiree, 3 local officers and 6 General Committee members.
Our first guest to speak was Mr. Gary Williams, Mr. Williams is an investigator with Moody Law Firm and they are one of our designated legal counsel for FMLA. If you have an on the job injury, please make sure you call your Local Chairman or one of our designated counsel before you do anything, if possible. The worst thing you could do is take advice from the company claims agent.
Our second guest to speak was Scott Copeland. Scott is the state manager with LECMPA. The LECMPA stands for Locomotive Engineers Conductors Mutual Protective Association and they offer job insurance at a reasonable price. Mr. Copeland spoke on about the benefits of LECMPA and what they can do for you if you’re ever in a situation where you may have broken a rule and are being given time off for said violation. For more information on this voluntary benefit offered, or to find your local representative in your area, please visit their website at: WWW.LECMPA.ORG
Our third guest to speak was the Railroad Retirement Board representative, or also referred to as “RRB”. They spoke about what benefits we have through the RRB. Not only is this our retirement “which is very good” but also serves to administer our sickness benefits if you are out short term or long term with a sickness or injury. If you’re injured or sick, please make sure you fill out the paperwork in a timely manner. You must be out at least 7 days for the benefits to begin and it takes a few weeks to start these benefits if any of the paperwork is delayed. You can go ahead and enroll for full online access to the RRB website www.rrb.gov by applying for a PIN from the RRB “I would seriously suggest this since it makes applying for your benefits much easier and a timelier payment as well”. You can also use this pin to get an estimate on what your retirement will be for you and your spouse. This concluded our guests. After a short recess we returned to the meeting for normal business. We started with the roll call of the officers.
District 1 Construction North Local Chairman Chris Hettle: Present
Brother Hettle: A lot of the craft and management experience is leaving due to attrition and this is going to cause a problem with lack of experience. There will be a new batch of younger and less experienced managers coming up to bat. At our annual safety certification all of the managers spoke about vehicle accidents. First day back to work we had two vehicle accidents, signal construction system gangs got on a mandatory safety call with the new Assistant Chief Engineer Carl Walker. He was a Division Engineer with communications prior to taking this position. There was quite a stir created by Mr. Walker’s actions, attitude, and comments on the call, which we deemed were very inappropriate. Gus is working on getting a resolution for this incident with new Chief Engineer Jody Cox. Gus is confident that we can get this addressed.
PTC is offering plenty of work and we currently have no claims.
District 2 North Carolina & Virginia Local Chairman Roger Allen II: Present
Brother Jason Skidmore: Brother Skidmore spoke on behalf of Brother Allen since this position was vacated by the retiring of Brother Darrell Allen in October 2015 after 43 years of service. President Bolesta named a new appointee and we would like to welcome Brother Roger D Allen II as the new Local Chairman; we only hope that Roger will have a long and exciting career as the new District 2 Local Chairman. “You have some big shoes to fill.” There is one claim outstanding, Brother Andrew Stancil has a shunt claim waiting to be paid other than that nothing new.
District 3 South Carolina Local Chairman Rex Grant: Present
Brother Grant: Management is looking to cut costs in all areas there has been a massive budget cut and there is no more unnecessary overtime and there are no reports of claims outstanding.
District 4 N. Georgia and N. Alabama Local Chairman Jason Skidmore: Present
Brother Skidmore: There have been rumors of selling certain lines on the Georgia Road and other lines on the Atlanta division. The speed has been reduced to 25 mph on the Georgia subdivision from Augusta to Atlanta. This is supposedly a money saving move to keep from having to maintain the track. Our brothers in maintenance of way have also had a downturn. Half of both sections gangs on this line have been cut. Tim Lally is off sick and not slated to return until April.
District 5 South Georgia & South Alabama Local Chairman David Ussery
District 6 Central FL Local Chairman Randy Bolesta: Present
Brother Bolesta: We have some people out of service medically after telling their manager that they didn’t feel mentally efficient to work. Do not do this in frustration, only if it is truly the case because you will be removed from service. We have many great insurance benefits, use them, do not go to the company and tell them that you don’t feel right once you do this it is a process to get you back to work.
District 7 Jacksonville ESS Dispatch Centers Local Chairman Wiley Yates: Present
Brother Yates: We have some outstanding claims for relocation that have been passed up to Grand Lodge for mediation for moving package claims for ESS that moved to the Jacksonville office.
District 8 Savannah Signal Shop Ken “Country” Lamb: Present
Brother Lamb: We do not have much work in the Shop at this time, please send any and all switch carcasses, cards, or equipment in rather than letting it build up. I am hearing that some managers are telling the membership not send off any equipment to the Shop and that it needs to be sent to an outside party! This is not the case, please send us these items this is our work and should be worked on in our Shop. There have been rumors of cutoffs in the Shop if this trend continues. We’ve had 2 members pass away recently; Brother David Whitfield and Brother Jeff Cassidy Brother Cassidy. Please keep them and their families in your prayers.
District 9 Construction South Local Chairman Bobby Cooper: not present.
District 10 South Florida Local Chairman Marlon Soto: not present
This concluded the Local Chairman’s report.
Brother Brian Jahay presented a Local financial report. Brother Jahay stated we are doing well and are in good standing. We are where we need to be in order to attend Convention in 2018.
General Chairman’s report
Brother Gus Demott, our General Chairman, gave a report on some issues that are important to our organization at this time.
Gus Demott: CSX states it is experiencing an economic downturn. CSX has over 1700 transportation employees sitting at home after many lines were shut down in the recent past due to a huge drop in coal in the Appalachian and lower Midwest areas. SCL Signals is the only Department/Craft and Line of road hiring at this time, as far as we know. One reason for this is that we do not generate coal, we only receive it and pass it through to the port, also our main freight in this area are phosphates, minerals, and intermodal containers. Erwin TN and Corbin KY shut down a majority of their offices and this has affected over 480 employees; both labor and management. The correlation of these shut downs leads me to believe that wherever there are coal routes, look to see more layoffs. A large portion of some Subdivision’s will be reducing the line speed to 25 mph to curtail expenses on Maintenance, Materials and Labor costs. A few of these, for example, are the line from Montgomery AL to Waycross Ga (Bow Line) and the Georgia Sub from Augusta to Atlanta. CSX made the decision on the Clichfield to essentially take the middle of railroad out of service, this would afford them the opportunity to no longer have to test the assets on this line. We absorbed 4 of these members that were on furlough and it looks as though they are here to stay. The company has advertised a few positions on the Florence Division which could be filled with furloughed signalman from other line of roads. These members will have the option of returning to their former line of road if things pick up and the railroad starts bringing labor back, until then they will have to start their seniority over on our line of road. It looks as though there will be some holes in the northern areas of our district. While this has been an inevitable fact the company as usual have not kept up their hiring practices to account for attrition. Vacation claims are still and have always been a viable course of action. We need to ensure that any members that are being directed by management to do work on territories being vacated by these retiring brothers that are taking their vacation. Keep up with your time. The process for filing a good, winnable vacation claim is as follows. When your supervisor instructs you to go do whatever work is necessary on said territories make sure you make a note of it in your log book. You will need to log the time that you crossed over onto the territory, how long you worked and what time you left, and again what time you crossed over the border of the territory when finished. Once you get this information call your Local Chairman and give them this information. Management is watching your GPS and will expect your times to match up with what is being claimed, this is why it is imperative that you have logged the correct information. Let’s make sure that we file those claims, this is your right and its money laying on the table. Labor Relations has been paying these claims and we have won many of them in the past.
There is no reason for you to have to do extra work and rush through any tests. You are paid by the hour and you need to do what you are paid to do; we have to be a very skilled craft, this is what we do, and it is important to do it right. Please, for your own good, keep detailed logs! I cannot stress this enough, too many times things fall through the cracks and you must have a way to verify to the company and sometimes even the FRA. Enterprise Asset Management (EAM) has a new feature which now includes the logging of times on FRA tests. It looks like it could easily be misused as a tool for management to cut jobs off and extend job limits. When you are doing tests keep very accurate records minute by minute. If you keep a good detailed log book this can be the difference between losing your job, not to mention potential fines and imprisonment. The Railroads are taking no prisoners when it comes to discipline. Do not have a vehicle accident, commit rules violations, and do not falsify tests for any reason. If you lie you can go to jail; our jobs are governed by federal law and if something happens and death or injury occurs, and you have not performed proper and timely tests, you could possibly go to prison. We survive because we do quality work let’s keep it going. We believe we are the best department on the Railroad without a doubt. There are serious discussions concerning FRA certification but a final rule might be at least 4 years away. It is coming, and it will put some contractors out of business if they don’t have certified signalmen. We will always have to make sure we are provided proper training by the railroad for certification. Make sure you are in compliance with the rules and regulations. One of the rules in the Operating rule book is you must be conversant in all the rules, take the time to read the SR&I, Operating Rules, General Safety Rules, train bulletins, and anything else that would apply. You are not paid to read them at home so do this in conjunction with your regular duties. If you have a question call someone, be it a Local Chairman, Vice General Chairman, or General Chairman. You need to know your agreement and know your rules, these rules can protect you like a coat of armor.
GPS is still a big issue so be on your P’s & Q’s. Burlington Northern Santa Fe has begun using inward facing cameras and listening devices and we never know when this could become a reality for us. Do your job be wear your supposed to be give them the work they are paying for. GPS is a tool that the railroad is using to keep tabs on everyone from truck to phone, you must stay on the railroad, if you must leave the railroad make sure that it is for a valid reason, i.e. a bathroom break, since bathrooms are not provided in your vehicle, you have the choice to go where you wish, within reason, but be vigilant and don’t stay for an inordinate amount of time. Staying on the railroad property is the best way to cover yourself with regard to GPS. When we updated our Scope Rule in 2006 we updated it to read all Defect Detector systems and devices are included as Scope covered work. AEI readers will be installed in the future and they will be attached with our DD systems, which is our work and we will install, maintain, and troubleshoot.
We have been talking with CSX about merging agreements with other line of roads for quite some time now. We have 11 different BRS agreements on CSX. We suggest to go from 11 to 5 with the smaller roads, i.e. RF&P, Monon, B&OCT, and the Clichfield will be merged onto one of the larger line of roads. We wish to merge with the Clichfield since it is identical to the A&WP and the GA Road. We have maintained communications equipment with the GA Road and the A&WP and the lines between comms and signals has blurred so it only makes sense to merge. We continue to meet regarding National Negotiations with no real progress. I have been taking our Vice General Chairman Bill Yates to negotiations to learn about this process.
There is still a lot of PTC work left before the completion date of 2018. It is possible that they will not be done in time. Our PTC agreement ran out Dec 31, 2015 and there has been some discussions connected with extending it.
The Flexible Spending Account (FSA) is a great benefit and we do not want to lose this. We were graced with the ability to keep it, even though we did not achieve the numbers required in our craft to continue this we were allowed to continue because other crafts did reach the mark required to continue. We really need to get our membership to use this very helpful benefit. Even if you only use the minimum it is only $120 a year. I am sure everyone has spent at least that much on healthcare costs sometime in a year’s period.
Always remember that the most powerful bargaining tool for us is a group of signalmen that sticks together. You are the union, not just the officers, so know and protect your work.
Thank you all in solidarity.
Next we had the request for members that are off sick or in distress.
Brother Tim Lally is out sick and Brother Bill McCall is off also.
Note from the President: The RRB representatives will be attending all Local 16 meetings this year for any questions and sign up. If you have a question or would like to get any info or sign up for your benefits, attend a local meeting in your area or feel free to call them or visit their website.
First Vice President Rex Grant made a motion on the floor that new officers be sworn in. That motion was seconded and voted on and carried. General Chairman Demott swore in Bother Randy Bolesta as President, Brother Rex Grant as 1st Vice President, Brother Jason Skidmore as Local Recording Secretary, Brother Ken “Country” Lamb and Brother Chris Hettle as Trustees, and Brother Roger Allen as Local Chairman NC District 2.
Our next Local Meeting will be held at the ???????? in La Grange, GA on March 19, 2016. The hotel contact information is ………………..