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RailCon 15 coming to Chicago

By Ron Kaminkow and Mark Burrows - Railroad Workers United, August 24, 2015; image by Jon Flanders

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

On Saturday, September 19th, the cross-craft solidarity group Railroad Workers United (RWU) will sponsor a conference on rail safety. RWU is partnering with other labor, citizens and environmental groups to organize this innovative and cutting edge conference, entitled “Railroads Safety, Workers, Community and the Environment.” The Chicago conference is a follow up to two earlier conferences held in March of this year in Richmond, CA and Olympia, WA. All interested parties concerned about the safety and the future of railroads are invited to attend.

In the past two years, public attention has focused on the railroad in a way not seen for decades. In the wake of Lac Megantic and other train derailments, resulting fires and explosions, the public is alarmed about the movement of trains through their communities. Environmental activists are up-in-arms about the amount of fossil fuels moving by rail. Farmers and other shippers are concerned about the recent oil train congestion. All this attention gives railroad workers an invaluable opportunity to educate the public about the railroad, its inherent efficiencies and value to society, its great potential, and also the challenging situation that railroad workers face on the job every day.

The public has little idea what railroads are all about. These conferences will shed light on worker issues such as crew fatigue, single employee train crews, excessively long and heavy trains, short staffing, limited time off work and more. These are safety concerns not just for railroaders, but for society in general. Non-railroaders in attendance at the conference will come away with a deeper understanding and a greater appreciation of the issues facing rail and railroad workers. Railroaders will gain insight into the environmental movement and learn how to forge alliances with public citizens. And all participants will come away with a better understanding of how all of us can work together to build a safer, greener and more just railroad that meets the needs of current and future generations.

Tentative workshops and discussion topics at the conference include:

  • Single employee train crews and the hazards they pose for workers, communities and the environment.
  • Excessively long and heavy trains and their inherent problems and dangers.
  • Crew fatigue and “task overload” and the need for well-rested, well-trained, alert and safe train crews.
  • Building worker-to-worker alliances along the supply chain of all transport workers and communities.
  • Chicagoland citizen efforts to deal with the dangers and hazards of trains moving through their community.
  • A history of worker-community-environmental alliances and how to build one around the railroad industry.

The conference is planned for Saturday, September 19th at the United Electrical (UE) Union Hall at 37 South Ashland Avenue, Chicago, Illinois 60607. Registration Fee is $20.00 and includes a healthy lunch. For those interested, a banquet at a nearby restaurant will follow in the evening. Scholarships are available. For more information and/or to register, check the official conference website at; and the RWU website at

The Fine Print I:

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The Fine Print II:

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