Progress Through Unity

Archives for December 1, 2017

Railmen for Children train ride
A train leaves Hoboken en route to Newark, picking up students from different schools along the way. They’re all ready to meet Santa Claus and, of course, get some presents.Railmen for Children is the organization behind the group of conductors, engineers and other NJ Transit employees who decided in 1983 to give back with the extra money they collected on the train.

All are volunteers, including a retiree who helped found the organization and who also served as one of its first Santas.

“We wanted to take the kids that weren’t going to have a Christmas a ride from Hoboken. We started and now we get kids from all over,” said Joseph Phalon, co-founder and retired NJ Transit conductor.

The 2017 Santa Claus is actually his son, who says many of the 300 plus students on the trip have special needs or are from underprivileged homes.

“We buy them whatever they want. They write down a list and we go out and by all the stuff for them, wrap everything, put it on the train,” said Michael Phalon, Santa Claus and NJ Transit conductor, who has participated in the special event for the past 29 years.

Moving from car to car, you meet students and teachers from different schools.

“They come from all over Essex County and they’re in a program called Transition Center. We do community-based instruction so they’re out, they’re learning how to travel, they have bank accounts,” said Marianna Caballo, teacher at Essex Regional School in Newark.

Jilah, one student on the train, said, “For Christmas, I want new clothes and an Amazon gift card.”

Another student, Monique, said, “I have fun and I make my teacher proud.”

“It makes my heart melt. I love these kids, and like I said, I’ve been working with them for a while and they need us as much as I need them in my life. So, it was good to be able to celebrate the holidays with them,” said Michelle Brewer, also a teacher at Essex Regional School.

As the presents are handed out, noise and excitement fill the air.

One little Islander fan, Matt, was happy to get some hockey cards.

He said, “I don’t celebrate Christmas, I celebrate Hannukah, but I got a gift so it’s good.”

Riding through New Jersey and spreading some holiday cheer.

General Chairman Burkert’s Weekly “HOT TOPICS” News

In an effort to better communicate information as quickly as possible to the Local 60 Membership, here is the ” HOT TOPICS” for this week.

A) After a request that I put forth to the Carrier, President Jerome Johnson, will be allowed to perform his duties as Local Chairman in the aspect of Hearings and Waiver consultations effective as of today. Brother Johnson may be dismissed as per NJT but his Union officer duties are still in effect and I made sure that the Carrier respected his elected position.

B) There are 3 new batches of gas mileage checks processed and in the mail to Members. If you have a problem with the amount of the check or any missing information please file it electronically on our Local 60 website as you would a payroll shortage.

C) I attended Labor Relations meeting this week to deal with members claims and to clean up outstanding issues. There will be claims paid, and mailed out to Members before the end of the month.

D) I was in the NY Penn Station crew base on Thanksgiving Day speaking with crews working the holiday. I met with Members in NY again on Wednesday after an appeal hearing. I listened to the members concerns and answered their questions. I want to thank the members for taking the time to speak with me and let me know what are the current issues that concern them.

E) I want to thank all of our Members from both Divisions, and other departments that assisted the RAILMEN for CHILDREN Santa Train that took place this morning. I was in Hoboken at 530AM this morning and there was already finishing touches being done to the equipment. There will be 330+ children in need, along with over 200 adult chaperones, that got to meet Santa and Mrs Claus today along with a large group of other costumed characters. Every child received the special gift that they requested from Santa. NJ Transit provided the train for this very special event. Job well done by all departments for making a child’s holiday very special.

F) This week we also made substantial progress in the Monocular Vision Acuity Testing. Matt Darby, SMART TD DLC, took a deposition from NJT Medical Review Officer at NJT HQ. This was in conjunction with the FRA process of trying to get a field test for monocular vision for our members. I will keep you informed as we go forward in this endeavor.

G) There is a Local 60 Union meeting this Sunday at the Linden VFW Hall adjacent to the station, start time is 10AM.

Please email me feedback or suggestions, I am here for you the Members.


Stephen J. Burkert

General Chairman