December 5, 2016

Chicago (December 5)- When the Labor member’s office of the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) reached out to SMART-Transportation Division and other rail labor groups for assistance in a project to train their disability examiners, the International assigned the Illinois Legislative Board to assist.

It was mid-2015 and the RRB was in the planning stages of developing a program to have their disability examiners trained by rail labor organizations and their members. The goal was to expose the trainers to the actual job duties that railroaders perform on a daily basis. This would give the trainers a more realistic picture of the demands of the jobs that railroaders perform.

“I was happy to accept the assignment on behalf of our Board,” said SMART-TD Illinois Legislative Director Robert W. Guy.

“Our members understand that one of the greatest benefits we enjoy through our railroad retirement system is the Occupational Disability annuity that is available if needed,” Guy said. “It’s one of the many benefits that separate’s our system from the Social Security system.”

“But, like so many of the benefits we’ve fought for and deserve, there are those who would like to diminish or outright eliminate the Occupational Disability annuity from RRB,” Guy said.

“We can’t let that happen,” Guy said. “That’s why it’s so important to reconnect with the RRB examiners who determine eligibility when our members, who can’t physically perform their duties any longer, have to apply.”

The Illinois Legislative Board team got busy by documenting what duties our members, both freight and passenger, perform on a daily basis. Highlighting the facts about the unique environment in which our members work and the physical and mental requirements involved on a day-to-day basis is crucial to educating the examiners on exactly what those job duties entail.

From the importance of a conductor being an instant responder, to a switchman working the lead, to a passenger conductor in charge of a 1,000 or so passengers on a single trip, the RRB examiners need to understand that there are extensive requirements when SMART-TD members perform their work.

“Ours are not 9-to-5 jobs in temperature controlled environments with ‘limited work’ opportunities,” Guy said. “The safety critical nature of our industry demands workers be 100% physically, but a career spent walking on uneven ballast next to heavy rolling equipment can take its toll, and that’s why Occupational Disability was created and why it should remain.”

The SMART-TD team assembled included Director Guy, Asst. State Director Joe Ciemny, Board Chairman John O’Brien and Board Secretary Dennis Nee. Together they produced a “draft” presentation for the Labor member’s office.

The initial presentation was given to the Labor member and his staff last week by Brothers Ciemny and O’Brien, with Director Guy in attendance as well.

“The Labor member wants the training to be given by active railroaders, so Brothers Ciemny and O’Brien presented our draft to his office last week,” Guy said. “It went great, the Labor member was very impressed and pleased with the content, so the next step should be to provide the actual training to examiners starting sometime next year.”

“I want to thank Joe, John and Dennis for their hard work in putting together our presentation,” Guy said. “We appreciate SMART-TD International for the assignment and having the confidence in our Board to represent SMART-TD membership nationwide in an effort to protect RRB Occupational Disability.”