The IBEW Local 1245 members who work at Sacramento Regional Transit (SRT) ensure over 1.5 million residents can safely travel to and from work, home, and school throughout Sacramento County each year. With 67 bus routes, 229 buses, and one of the busiest light rail systems in the nation, SRT and its workers play a critical role in creating more livable and walkable communities, while also ensuring that those who rely on public transit can get where they need to go.
Earlier this year, Sacramento hosted the first and second rounds of NCAA’s “March Madness,” during which SRT transported more than 9,000 basketball fans who flocked to the area for the tournament. From North Sacramento to Downtown to Rancho Cordova, Local 1245 members are hard at work every day to make sure SRT runs safely and smoothly for residents and visitors alike.
“Making the track safe”
In North Sacramento, Track Maintainer Paul Williams starts off each day with a safety briefing at the main repair center before heading off to work through his list of tasks for the day. Typically, he’ll either be in the field doing inspections or in the shop doing repairs or fabrications for the light rail tracks. A fabricator by trade and a certified welder, Williams’ job also entails making important repairs on insulators throughout the day.
“We go out there and look at the track that the light rail runs on, and check all the switches and all the components that make the track safe for our customers,” explains Williams.
“Head on a swivel”
Teng Vang, a Level 1 Line Worker, performs regular maintenance at the substation to ensure everything is running properly. He recently moved from the maintenance program to the apprentice training program – where he says safety is key.
“Anytime you’re working with high voltage sub-signals… everyone has to have their head on a swivel,” he said.
Just beginning his career at SRT, Vang is enthusiastic about the opportunities and support he has available to him through his union job.
“I like what I do. It’s something I never thought I would be doing, but it’s a challenge, and I want to be doing something that not everybody does,” he explained.
“Safety as number one”
Earl Eldreth, a Line Worker Technician, has been with SRT for nearly two decades and is responsible for keeping things on track – literally. When the Utility Reporter caught up with him in Rancho Cordova at the F Line Substation, he and his team were performing a quarterly inspection.
“We’re doing some minor testing of the protective relays in the substation, and making sure everything is working as intended,” he explained.
SRT is regulated by both the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and the State of California Public Utilities Commission (PUC). IBEW 1245 members like Eldreth work to ensure that SRT meets all federal requirements, including inspections.
“We do all the signal work on the rail, the switches, signals, grade crossings, and interlockings,” he said. “We do all that testing and all the periodic inspections that have to be done.”
As a more experienced worker, Eldreth also helps to support and instruct new hires as they work through SRT’s rigorous new training program.
“It’s a program that just started a couple years ago, and we’re making sure we teach safety as number one,” said Eldreth.
“The union helps us out”
There’s no question that the workers at SRT value the union and the many benefits that it has afforded them.
“[IBEW 1245} keeps us in a good job, a good working environment, and top pay,” said Eldreth. “And they back us up if we ever get into some kind of trouble.”
Although he’s much newer to the union, Vang agrees with Eldreth’s perspective.
“I like that it gives us a voice … and if we’re not being treated fairly, it helps us out,” said Vang. “I think the union is something for us to keep.”
But with a U.S. Supreme Court case threatening to undercut everything that the workers at SRT – and other unionized public employers all across the nation – have fought for over the years, they’ll need to take action if they want to keep the union strong. More than a dozen SRT workers have formed a Volunteer Organizing Committee (VOC), and this fall they began reaching out to their co-workers one-on-one, to talk to them about the union and ensure that they’ll maintain their union membership even if the Supreme Court rules to disband union shops in the public sector.
The campaign kicked off on October 9, and within just the first 24 hours, the group had already collected signed re-authorization cards from 68 of their co-workers. Their goal is to reach 100% of the bargaining unit members before Thanksgiving, and as of this writing, the group was on track to meet that goal.
Photos by John Storey