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COVID-19 VACCINE MANDATES AND UNEMPLOYMENT AND SICKNESS BENEFITS UNDER THE RAILROAD UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE ACT (RUIA)

COVID-19 Vaccine Mandates and Unemployment and Sickness Benefits Under the Railroad Unemployment Insurance Act (RUIA) | RRB.Gov

The RUIA provides for payment of unemployment insurance (UI) benefits to eligible employees for days of unemployment and for the payment of sickness insurance (SI) benefits for days of sickness. Provided below are some frequently asked questions regarding those situations in which an employer’s vaccine mandate has adversely affected an employment situation. Please note that the answers to these questions are based on the assumption that the employee meets all necessary eligibility requirements. Instructions on filing for benefits are provided following the questions and answers.

Suspended or Furloughed Due to Rules Violations

1. Q: If my employer furloughs me, am I eligible to receive UI benefits under the RUIA?

    A: Yes. An employee furloughed by his employer is eligible for UI benefits.

2. Q: If my employer offers me the option to go on voluntary furlough, will I be eligible to receive UI benefits under the RUIA?

    A: No. In order to be eligible for UI benefits, an employee must not have left work voluntarily.

3. Q: I have been furloughed, suspended or terminated because I refused to comply with my employer’s vaccine mandate. Am I eligible for UI benefits?

    A: Yes. In this case, the employee has not voluntarily left work and may be eligible for UI benefits.

4. Q: If I was disciplined for failure to comply with my employer’s vaccine mandate before being suspended or terminated, does it affect my eligibility for UI benefits?

    A: No. Having been disciplined for not complying with an employer’s vaccine mandate will not prevent eligibility for UI benefits.

5. Q: I attempted to comply with my carrier’s vaccine mandate, but failed to meet the deadline due to the 14-day waiting period following the final dose and have consequently been furloughed or suspended. Am I eligible for UI benefits?

    A: Yes. The employee may be eligible for UI benefits since (s)he did not voluntarily leave work.

6. Q: What if I have the option to accept a voluntary furlough under a negotiated agreement with my rail employer and rail union?

    A: If your employer and union have negotiated a special COVID-19 relief plan that you are eligible to join that delineates rights of furloughed employees, you may be eligible for UI benefits.

7. Q: How does the RRB determine whether employees will be eligible for UI under a negotiated plan?

    A: The RRB will consider an employee to be eligible for UI while the employee is furloughed under a negotiated plan if the negotiated plan is the only alternative to an employer-imposed furlough. In other words, where an employee chooses to participate in a COVID-19 negotiated plan that includes a period of furlough, rather than be subject to an employer-imposed furlough, the furlough under the negotiated plan will be considered to be an involuntary furlough for purposes of determining eligibility for UI benefits. Whether a negotiated plan may allow for UI eligibility for employees is fact-specific and determined by the RRB. If you are involved in negotiating a plan and would like to submit it for review, please send it to: LAWGroupMailbox@rrb.gov. Please remember, even if a negotiated plan may allow for UI benefits, the employee must still meet all other eligibility requirements for UI benefits, including not using any paid vacation days or personal days for the period claimed.

Religious and Other Accommodations

8. Q: If I have requested a religious or moral accommodation request from my carrier and have been placed on unpaid leave of absence, am I eligible for UI benefits?

    A: Yes. The employee in this case has not voluntarily left employment and may be eligible for UI benefits.

9. Q: What if I have requested religious or moral accommodation request from my carrier and have been placed on paid leave, am I still eligible for UI benefits?

    A: No. If an employee is getting full paid leave from his/her employer, the employee is ineligible for RUIA benefits. However, if the employer is paying benefits under an approved supplemental plan, the employee may still be eligible for RUIA benefits. See your employer’s HR representative if you are unsure if your paid leave is from an approved supplemental plan.

10. Q: I have been placed on an unpaid leave after being granted a medical accommodation request from my employer, but I have no medical evidence of an inability to work. Am I eligible for SI benefits?

       A: No. An employee must provide medical evidence of inability to work from an accepted medical provider to be eligible for SI benefits. In this case, the employee should apply for UI benefits.

11. Q: My employer denied my request for religious or moral accommodation from the vaccine mandate and as a result, I have been suspended or furloughed. Am I still eligible for UI benefits?

      A: Yes. In this case, the employee has not voluntarily left employment and may be eligible for UI benefits.

12. Q: My employer denied my request for medical accommodation request from the vaccine mandate and as a result, I have been suspended or furloughed. Am I still eligible for UI benefits?

       A: Yes. The employee has not voluntarily left employment and may be eligible for UI benefits. However, if the employee is or becomes unable to work due to a diagnosed medical issue, the employee instead becomes eligible for SI benefits. An employee must provide medical evidence of inability to work from an accepted medical provider to be eligible for SI benefits.

13. Q: If I decide to self-quarantine due to concerns about possible exposure to COVID-19, but am not experiencing any symptoms and have not been told by my employer to refrain from reporting for work, am I eligible for UI benefits?

       A: No. Among the eligibility requirements for UI benefits, an employee must be available for work. An employee who opts to self-quarantine is not available for work. However if the employee later becomes unable to work due to a diagnosed medical issue, the employee may then be eligible for SI benefits. An employee must provide medical evidence of inability to work from an accepted medical provider to be eligible for SI benefits.

Medical Leave/Medical Diagnosis

14. Q: If I test positive for COVID-19 am I eligible for SI benefits?

       A: Yes. If you test positive for COVID-19, you are eligible for SI benefits. Documentation of the positive test should be submitted with your SI application/claim and SI benefits will be payable until your doctor releases you to return to work.

15. Q: If my employer instructs me to quarantine and not to report for work due to exposure or possible exposure to COVID-19, will I be eligible for benefits?

       A: Yes. An employee who is quarantined is not available for work, and therefore not eligible for UI. However, if due to exposure or potential exposure to COVID-19, the employee is instructed to quarantine, the employee would be eligible for SI benefits. A copy of the instruction from the employer will serve as proof of the medical restriction. If the employee does not have a copy of the instruction from his/her employer, or if the instruction was not written, the employee may submit a completed RRB Form G-93 describing the direction received from the employer.

16. Q: If I report for work but am sent home by my employer because of possible exposure to COVID-19 through a coworker, but I am experiencing no symptoms, will I be eligible for benefits?

       A: Yes. See the answer to Question 15.

17. Q: If I am experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and I am subject to instructions from a health care provider or public health official to quarantine, am I eligible for SI benefits during the period of the quarantine?

       A: Yes. An employee unable to work due to sickness is eligible for SI benefits. A copy of the quarantine instruction will be acceptable proof. If the employee does not have a copy of the instruction, or if the instruction was not written, the employee may submit a completed RRB Form G-93 describing his or her symptoms, and the instruction. The completed RRB Form G-93 will only be sufficient proof for one claim period. After the initial claim period, the employee will need to provide a copy of the quarantine instruction.

Filing Applications/Claims for Benefits during the National Emergency due to the COVID-19 Virus

  • Railroad employees should sign up for online access through myRRB at RRB.gov. Employees can file for unemployment benefits as well as complete claims for both sickness and unemployment benefits online.
    • Employees can create a myRRB account by visiting https://rrb.gov/Benefits/myRRB and clicking on the button labeled “Sign in with LOGIN.GOV”.
      • Establishing a myRRB account gives workers a head start in the event that RRB unemployment or sickness benefits are needed by railroad workers in the case of carrier furloughs or illness. A myRRB account permits users to have instant access to: Apply for unemployment benefits, claim unemployment benefits, view Railroad Unemployment Insurance Act account info, claim sickness benefits, and view service and compensation.
      • The following information is needed to create a myRRB account through login.gov:
        • A current, state-issued ID;
        • An email address;
        • Enabling two-step authentication;
        • Providing basic information such as name, address, and phone number;
        • Social Security Number (SSN);
        • Address verification.
      • Once the user’s personal information is verified, login.gov will provide a personal key that will be needed to gain access and make changes to the account. This key should be written down and stored in a safe place.
  • Employees who need to apply for sickness benefits can print the necessary forms. The Application for Sickness Benefits (Form SI-1a) must be submitted with the first claim. In lieu of the Statement of Sickness (Form SI-1b), employees may submit a copy of the quarantine instruction or a completed RRB Form G-93 describing the quarantine instruction. The documents should be mailed as directed below, or as noted, may also be faxed.
    • If mailed, the completed forms should be mailed to:

U.S. Railroad Retirement Board
PO Box 10695
Chicago, IL 60610-0695

  • Due to the unique circumstances we are faced with, the RRB will accept sickness applications via fax, which will be reviewed on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The fax number is: 312-751-7185.

*****IMPORTANT NOTE******

Employees who are filing or claiming via paper forms through the mail and are experiencing significant delays should contact the RRB by phone at 877-772-5772 or by using the public e-mail address SicknessandUnemploymentbenefits@rrb.gov. Please note: Do not include personally identifiable information, such as an SSN, as this e-mail box is not secure.

NCFO PRESS RELEASE

NCFO logo
Falls Church, VA

House passes historic $1.2 Trillion infrastructure bill

The National Conference of Firemen & Oilers applauds the House of Representatives on the passing of the H.R. 3684 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. In a 228-206 vote on Friday night where 6 Democrats voted against and 13 Republicans voted in favor, the House hands Biden a major legislative victory within his first year in office.

The bipartisan bill may be a triumph for the President, but it is a huge win for all Americans. The spending package would provide $550 billion of new federal investments in bridges and roads, as well as energy systems and mass transit programs. It would create a program aimed at building and repairing bridges in rural communities, and one to expand internet connectivity in Tribal and rural communities. It would further provide funding to protect water systems, particularly in low-income communities. This bill will create millions of union jobs and improve the lives of working families across the country.

NCFO President Dean Devita stated, “This is the largest significant investment in transportation in 60 years. Especially for Amtrak, freight and commuter railroads. This action will finally kick the door down for investment into high-speed rail.

We are grateful for the leadership from our President and the resolve of our Congress members to get this bill passed, and we look forward to working with our political partners on the implementation of this historic infrastructure deal.


The NCFO is an affiliate of 32BJ SEIU, the Service Employees International Union, which has 2.1 million members dedicated to raising industry standards, making life better for working families and our communities, and building a fair economy.


NCFO PRESS RELEASE

NCFO logo
Falls Church, VA

NCFO ENDORSES MURPHY FOR GOVERNOR

MURPHY HAD THE BACKS OF THE NCFO MEMBERS AT NJT; THE NCFO HAS HIS BACK!

The National Conference of Firemen & Oilers, 32BJ, SEIU (NCFO) is proudly endorsing Phil Murphy for Governor of the State of New Jersey.
We have had an opportunity to observe Murphy’s service as Governor of the State of New Jersey and Governor Murphy’s commitment and loyalty to the state, communities and citizens is undeniable.

“NCFO members must remember that it was Governor Murphy who has invested in New Jersey Transit, it was Governor Murphy who stood by our side concerning the Federal Employees Liability Act and it was Governor Murphy who just recently agreed to terms on a new collective bargaining agreement with the NCFO, it’s time for the NCFO members to vote for a true friend.”

– NCFO President Dean Devita


“In such unprecedented times, New Jersey is in immediate need of a representative that exudes strong, principled leadership. I’m confident in his leadership to both protect and improve the lives of working families in the great State of New Jersey.”

– NCFO New Jersey Transit Chapter President Darren Lionakis


Ultimately, our endorsement was acquired from our shared values of the working class and unions. We’re pleased to endorse a candidate who will partner with us to fight for quality and affordable healthcare, consumer rights, government, environmental standards, education, infrastructure and transportation.


The NCFO is an affiliate of 32BJ SEIU, the Service Employees International Union, which has 2.1 million members dedicated to raising industry standards, making life better for working families and our communities, and building a fair economy.

Rail Workers’ Right to Choose Medical Network Upheld

WASHINGTON, D.C.

An arbitrator has rejected the railroad industry’s attempt to utilize a never-before-used contract clause imposed by Congress 30 years ago to reduce the healthcare networks available to over 250,000 railroad workers and family members on the National Healthcare Plan for Railroad Employees. The decision is a major victory for railroad workers covered by national agreement health care plans, as their bargained-for right to choose their own medical network remains intact.

In early July of 2020, just over eight months after the current round of national bargaining had begun, the carriers’ representative — the National Railway Labor Conference (NRLC) — proposed reconfiguring the National Plan’s network structure in a way that would force many railroad worker into the cheapest area medical network immediately and then on a continual 3- to 5-year schedule without formal bargaining. 

The Cooperating Railway Labor Organizations (CRLO), which is the Rail Labor umbrella group that oversees plan administration in concert with the NRLC, rejected the proposal, stating that this was an issue for negotiations and pointing out that the carriers had made an identical proposal at the bargaining table. In late July, the NRLC demanded that the Unions agree to the proposal, and threatened to use the binding deadlock neutral process found in the 1991 National Agreement settlement to resolve the dispute.

This threat led the 12 Unions to file suit against the nation’s Class I railroad carriers in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, asking the court to force the carriers to bargain in good faith with the unions over mandatory subjects of bargaining, such as their network structure proposal. The carriers’ defense was that this was a “minor” dispute under the Railway Labor Act, as it involved an administrative matter under the National Plan and, therefore, could be resolved by the “deadlock neutral” process that was included in national agreements for all unions that were imposed by Congress — and signed into law by President George H. W. Bush — in order to stop a national strike in 1991.

At an August 31, 2021 hearing before a Special Board of Adjustment chaired by Arbitrator Joshua M. Javits, the Unions documented the history of health care network development in the railroad industry, showing that the carriers’ proposal was anything but administrative in nature. They also showed the adverse impact the proposal would have on over a quarter million plan participants. The carriers countered that no “right to choose” existed in any national agreement, and that the deadlock neutral had the authority to decide the matter if the parties couldn’t agree.

In upholding the Unions’ position on the key question of network choice, Chairman Javits’ October 20 Award found

“that the Carriers’ proposal – in as far as it relates to the selection of network vendors – is an administrative matter. However, those elements of the Carriers’ proposal that reduce choice for Plan participants and result in only a single network vendor being available to Plan participants, constitutes a change in Plan design and, thus, is outside the deadlock neutral’s jurisdiction.”

The leaders of the prevailing Unions issued the following statement concerning this decision:

“This is a significant victory for the men and women covered by the national plans, and for their families. The carriers have been dragging their feet at the bargaining table while this dispute wound its way through the system. All the while, our members — essential employees, one and all — have continued to keep the country moving despite the Pandemic.

To the carriers, whose profits continued to flow in unabated, we say ‘The time for delay is over. Your workers have earned and deserve a new national agreement, one that reflects their true contribution to your bottom line.’ We remain ready to negotiate that agreement, and urge you to devote as much energy to that task as you invested in your failed effort to deprive your workers of their choice of medical networks.”

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The unions involved in the dispute are: the American Train Dispatchers Association; the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen; the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes; the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen; the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers; the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers, Mechanical Division; the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers, Transportation Division; the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers; the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers; the National Conference of Fireman & Oilers District, Local 32BJ, SEIU; the Transportation Communications Union/IAM; and the Transport Workers Union.

NCFO PRESS RELEASE

NCFO logo
Falls Church, VA

On behalf of the National Conference of Firemen & Oilers, SEIU 32BJ, President Dean Devita issues a statement regarding the untimely passing of former Secretary of State Colin Powell

“Today we mourn the loss of a truly great American. Colin Powell, a Vietnam War veteran, served under four consecutive presidents at the very top of the national security establishment, first as deputy national security adviser and then as national security adviser. The native New Yorker born to Jamaican immigrants was appointed as both the youngest and the first African American Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the senior ranking member of the U.S. armed forces and top military adviser to the president. He was also the first African American ever to hold the position of Secretary of State. Colin Powel is one of only two people to have ever earned the Presidential Medal of Freedom twice. There are not many people in history as trusted, accomplished, decorated, and renowned as Colin Powell. He will be sorely missed. “

NCFO President Dean Devita

Colin Powell, who was fully vaccinated, passed away at the age 84 of COVID-19 complications because of his compromised immunity due to multiple myeloma, a cancer of the blood cells. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family & friends during this time, as well as the many people whose lives he has influenced throughout his remarkable career.

The NCFO is an affiliate of 32BJ SEIU, the Service Employees International Union, which has 2.1 million members dedicated to raising industry standards, making life better for working families and our communities, and building a fair economy.

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NCFO PRESS RELEASE

NCFO logo
Newark, NJ

Newark, NJ – The National Conference of Firemen & Oilers, SEIU 32BJ (NCFO), announced today that a Tentative Agreement with New Jersey Transit (NJT), has been reached.

On December 1, 2019, pursuant to Section 6 of the Railway Labor Act (RLA), the NCFO served formal notices for changes in current rates of pay, rules and working conditions.

This agreement provides solid wage increases during a National Emergency Pandemic for the NCFO members and all New jersey Transit employees, who have continued to provide professional service for NJT during this crisis.”

NCFO President Dean Devita

“Because of the pandemic, never in the history of NJT have the NCFO members needed a wage increase more and this increase is well deserved. The NCFO members must be treated with dignity and respect for their action during this National Emergency.”

NCFO Assistant to the President Michael Pistone

We look forward to presenting the Tentative Agreement to the NCFO membership for their consideration.

The Ratification process will take place in the very near future.

The NCFO is an affiliate of 32BJ SEIU, the Service Employees International Union, which has 2.1 million members dedicated to raising industry standards, making life better for working families and our communities, and building a fair economy.

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Railroad Enrollment Services

2022 BENEFITS OPEN ENROLLMENT

Between Oct. 1-31, 2021, you can enroll in or change your Medical or Flexible Spending Account (FSA) benefit selections for the 2022 benefit year. For more information about the FSA, please visit yourtracktohealth.com or ytth.com. Note that you must enroll in the FSA program each year to participate.


Your Track to Health is your online enrollment site – it provides the ability to view your personal information, update dependent information, view enrollment materials, or opt out of coverage. Go to yourtracktohealth.com or ytth.com to learn more. If you need further assistance or require a paper enrollment kit, please call Railroad Enrollment Services at 1-800-753-2692, Mon-Fri 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM (EST).

NCFO PRESS RELEASE

NCFO logo
Washington, DC

On behalf of the National Conference of Firemen & Oilers, SEIU 32BJ, President Dean Devita issues a statement regarding the Amtrak derailment in north-central Montana.

“The NCFO would like to send our condolences to the loved ones of those who passed away and well wishes to those who are still recovering from injuries after the tragic accident this past weekend. At around 4 p.m. mountain time on Saturday, Sept. 25, the Amtrak Empire Builder passenger train 7/27, heading west from Chicago, IL to Seattle, WA, derailed operating on the Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) tracks near Joplin, MT. Eight of the ten train cars came off the tracks. There were approximately 160 people onboard including crew members. Sadly, three people lost their lives, and more than 40 were injured. Five people were hospitalized, two of which remain intensive care. We are hopeful that the survivors all recover from this horrific and unlikely event, and we expect a full investigation will uncover the cause of the derailment. It’s imperative that we determine the problem to prevent this from happening again. Rail safety is the utmost priority for our railroad brothers & sisters and the passengers who opt to take a train over other travel options.

To the family & friends of the victims of this tragedy, words aren’t enough, but we hope you can find strength during this difficult time. We all share in your sorrow with love, support, and kindness.”

– NCFO President Dean Devita

The NCFO is an affiliate of 32BJ SEIU, the Service Employees International Union, which has 2.1 million members dedicated to raising industry standards, making life better for working families and our communities, and building a fair economy.

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COORDINATED BARGAINING COALITION

The Rail Unions comprising the Coordinated Bargaining Coalition (CBC), negotiating together in the current round of National Negotiations, have issued the following statement:

“As we advised in January of 2021, the CBC and the nation’s rail carriers have been at the bargaining table since the beginning of 2020. Since January, CBC has continued to meet with the Rail Carriers, returning to in-person meetings in August. At that meeting, CBC made it clear to the Rail Carriers that neither our Bargaining Coalition, nor our collective memberships, would accept a concessionary agreement on a voluntary basis. The Carriers were told that our members have been asked to work as essential workers throughout the Pandemic, while being treated more like expendable workers. Our members are infuriated that they have worked through these conditions without a wage increase in over two (2) years and it is unacceptable that the Nation’s Rail Carriers continue to stonewall CBC Unions in our effort to settle our contract negotiations on a voluntary basis.

“In January, we said that ‘the Rail Carriers have not made any proposals worthy of consideration by the membership of the CBC Unions.’ No Carrier proposals have been received since our January 2021 update that would change the veracity of that statement. We will continue to negotiate in good faith, fully recognizing that it is our members who must ratify any voluntary agreement.”

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The unions comprising the Coordinated Bargaining Coalition are: the American Train Dispatchers Association (ATDA); the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen / Teamsters Rail Conference (BLET); the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen (BRS); the International Association of Machinists (IAM); the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers (IBB); the National Conference of Firemen & Oilers/SEIU (NCFO); the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW); the Transport Workers Union of America (TWU); the Transportation Communications Union / IAM (TCU), including TCU’s Brotherhood Railway Carmen Division (BRC); and the Transportation Division of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, and Transportation Workers (SMART–TD).

Collectively, the CBC unions represent more than 105,000 railroad workers covered by the various organizations’ national agreements, and comprise over 80% of the workforce who will be impacted by this round of negotiations.

Help Secure Federal Funding for High-Speed Rail Projects

NCFO logo
Washington, D.C.

Dean Devita

President

Robert Smith

Secretary Treasurer

NCFO Brothers and Sisters:

The NCFO is a proud partner of the U.S. High-Speed Rail Coalition

Building high-speed rail in multiple regions is one of the most transformative ways our nation can build back better. High-speed rail is a remarkable, proven technology that can address multiple challenges simultaneously, including the revival of domestic manufacturing, creation of strong, Union jobs, increased interconnections between rural and urban areas and climate change mitigation through the reduction of inefficient trucks on our highways.

To help secure federal funding for high-speed rail projects, we are asking all NCFO members to call the legislators in Washington, D.C. at 1-877-206-1846. Below is a script you can recite to help with our pitch:

Hello, my name is {{NAME}}, and I live and vote in {{LOCATION}}. I’m asking you to make sure that we include major funding and strong labor standards for high-speed rail in the budget reconciliation bill.
 
High-speed rail will create strong stable union jobs and boost local economies with increased good-paying employment opportunities.
 
High-speed rail also connects communities, while highways have a history of by-passing neighborhoods, leaving behind small businesses and the people living in those communities.
 
To compete in the 21st century, we need to build high-speed rail across America. But the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill won’t fund even one new high-speed rail line. We are woefully behind other countries when it comes to high-speed rail and this decision to cut funding is a huge strategic error.
 
We need to go big on high-speed rail funding in budget reconciliation. Will you commit to passing a budget reconciliation bill that dramatically increases funding for high-speed rail and includes strong labor standards?

Please join us in securing rail as a prominent and vital American infrastructure project. We need to insist that rail be a focal point in this country – now and into the future.