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EcoUnionist News #11

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, December 18, 2014

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.

The following news items feature issues, discussions, campaigns, or information potentially relevant to green unionists:

Lead Story:

Dispatches from Lima COP20:

Other News of Interest:

For more green news, please visit our news feeds section on ecology.iww.org; Twitter #IWWEUC

EcoUnionist News #10

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, December 17, 2014

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.

The following news items feature issues, discussions, campaigns, or information potentially relevant to green unionists:

Lead Story:

Urgent Action:

  • Philippines sugar organizer murdered - Act Now!

Dispatches from Lima COP20:

Other News of Interest:

For more green news, please visit our news feeds section on ecology.iww.org; Twitter #IWWEUC

Fighting Fatigue

By Jenny Brown - Labor Notes, December 3, 2014

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.

Paul Proudlock went to bed at midnight to calibrate his sleep for a freight train he was to drive at 2 p.m. the next day. At 2:15 a.m., a Canadian Pacific dispatcher called him and asked him to take a passenger train in three hours.

“I’m not rested,” Proudlock is heard explaining in a company recording. The dispatcher threatened to discipline him and cancel his 2 p.m. train. “You’re obligated to go. If you answer the phone, you have to go.”

“No, I’m not,” said Proudlock. “I’m obligated to do the safe thing first… I drive a train.”

This kind of pressure is commonplace, according to railroad and airline workers. They say managers push workers to pilot planes, trains, and buses when they are too tired to safely do so. The stakes are high for the workers—and for the general public.

3/4 FELL ASLEEP

In a survey of freight train operators conducted by the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference, 96 percent said they had gone to work tired. More alarmingly, three-quarters said they fell asleep while working—in the previous month. Among those who, like Proudlock, turned down jobs because of fatigue, 43 percent said they faced investigation or discipline.

“They’ll pressure people… and people don’t know what leg to stand on,” said CSX locomotive engineer J.P. Wright, who is based in Kentucky. “There are so many gray areas in the contract, if you could see a flow chart, it’s like a Merrie Melodies crazy cartoon.”

The railroads claim they don’t push people to work tired. Regulators scolded Canadian Pacific in the Proudlock case.

The main problem with freight railroads, said Wright, is that “they’ve short-staffed everything to the bone.” So when somebody takes time off, others have to unexpectedly fill in, creating cascades of scheduling complexity.

While rest times were increased in a 2008 rewrite of railroad scheduling rules, fatigue problems persist.

And regulations don’t help if the penalties are low, along with the chances of being fined. “I was just told, on a recorded CSX line, that they knew specifically they were violating the rest law but they would just go ahead and pay the fine,” said Wright, who is co-chair of the cross-union caucus Railroad Workers United.

RWU to Co-Sponsor Railroad Conferences on the West Coast

Press Release - Railroad Workers United, December 1, 2014

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.

This coming winter, RWU will co-sponsor two conferences, one in the Bay Area and one in the Pacific Northwest. Tentatively entitled “The Future of Railroads: Safety, Workers, Community and Environment”, Railroad Workers United is partnering with the Backbone Campaign and other citizens and environmental groups to organize these innovative and cutting edge conferences.

In recent months, public attention has focused on the railroad in a way that it has not been for decades. In the wake of Lac Megantic and other derailments and resulting fires and explosions, the public is alarmed about oil trains and the movement of trains in general through their communities.

Environmental activists are up-in-arms about the amounts of fossil fuels moving by rail. Farmers and other shippers are concerned about the congestion that has occurred in recent months, due in part to the oil boom. All of this attention gives railroad workers a golden opportunity to educate the general public about the railroad, its inherent efficiencies, its value to society, and its potential. It also give us an invaluable opportunity to inform non-railroad workers about the situation that we face on the job every day.

The public generally has no idea what goes on daily on America’s railroads. At this conference, we plan to talk about crew fatigue, single employee train crews, excessively long and heavy trains, draconian availability policies, short staffing, limited time off work and other concerns. These issues are of concern not just to railroaders, but are of concern to environmentalists, the community at large and society in general. Non-railroaders in attendance at the conference will come away with a deeper understanding of our workplace and a greater appreciation of the issues facing us. They will without a doubt, become valuable allies in our future fights with the rail carriers.

What Railway Workers Think about Oil Trains

From Sightline Daily - November 20, 2014

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.

Ecology.iww.org web editor's note: shortly after this article was published, it was deleted. The reasons for its deletion are not given. Did somebody higher up in the union bureaurcracy closely tied with management freak out? We'll let you know as soon as we find out more.

If you’re following the debate about the development of large-scale crude oil-by-rail sites in Washington, you should be paying close attention to what labor unions are saying.

Sightline has cataloged a range of serious concerns about the rise of oil trains— from lax tank car safety standards to industry intransigence to severe under-insurance—but the perspective of actual rail workers is even more troubling. In response to a recently published Washington Department of Ecology study on rail oil transport, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen submitted formal comments to the State that are frankly damning.The remarks illustrate an industry prioritizing profits and efficiency over health and safety and, by doing so, jeopardizing the very workers we rely on to  move 15,000-ton trains of hazardous goods through our communities safely.

Ecology will not be making the comments publicly available until March 2015, but with permission from the union I’m publishing portions of them here. What follows are direct excerpts from  Chairman Sharaim C. Allen’s letter to the Department of Ecology:

There is an imminent risk to public health and safety by the number of inexperienced, “new hire” railroad employees entering the railroad workforce inadequately trained and/or familiarized with the workplace environment.

There is an imminent risk to public health and safety by the proposed use of Single-Person Train Crews in freight rail operations.

Transport Canada took steps to bridle the North American rail industry’s “profits first” approach to safety by requiring all trains carrying hazardous materials in Canada to have a minimum Two-Person Crew. The Canadian government has also put a strict timeline of three years on the phasing out of the aging DOT-111 tank cars. For a country that is supposed to be setting the example for the rest of the world, so far, the USA still has not taken the sensible safety steps our neighbors to the north now require of railroads operating in their country.

Oil on the Tracks: Pacific Northwest Rises for Rail Safety

By Nartha Baskin - Truthout, November 6, 2014

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.

If there were ever any question about how the public feels about "moving time bombs," or oil trains carrying volatile crude through the state's coastal estuaries, aquifers, population centers and tribal lands, the answers began at the crack of dawn and ricocheted into the night. At a five-hour-plus hearing, the public weighed in on a draft report on oil train safety and spill response issued by the Washington State Department of Ecology.

Raging Grannies, chained together in rocking chairs, started the day by blocking the entrance to Ecology offices. The Department of Ecology, said the Grannies, was closed for a workshop on "How to Say No to Oil." By evening, the stand-off was over, but the public hearing had just begun. Longshoreman, railroad workers, and first responders expressed concerns about safety, crew capacity, and training. Tribes spoke of threats to drinking water and fishing rights. Millennials and boomers demanded fossil fuels stay in the ground. Mayors and county commissioners, including some who had passed resolutions against any oil trains moving through their communities, demanded clean energy alternatives.

Oil train safety: A whole lot of worry among Washingtonians

By John Stang - CrossCut, October 31, 2014

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.

The subject was oil train traffic, and most of a roughly 750-person crowd Thursday night opposed the increasing transportation of crude oil by rail across Washington.

And if more oil trains do surface, the crowd at an Olympia hearing on draft oil spill prevention and response plan wanted dramatically stricter rules that what the state plan proposes. 

"We must stop these trains and the tankers they feed," said Nathaniel Jones, mayor pro tempore of Olympia. Vancouver small business owner Don Orange, representing the Main Street Business Alliance, said oil trains are "great for Big Oil. It stinks for us."

"We shouldn't be moving this stuff through our populated area," Orange said.

The draft state report says, "There has been an unprecedented increase in the transportation of crude oil by rail from virtually none in 2011 to 714 million gallons in 2013. The amount may reach 2.87 billion gallons by the end 2014 or during 2015."

Even that amount could increase with construction of proposed new rail facilities and the potential lifting of a federal ban on exporting U.S. crude oil, the report says.

Mobile Rail's Dangerous Sand Silo Climbing Procedure. OSHA violation

By the IWW Mobile Railworkers Union - YouTube, February 28, 2014

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.

Multiple Locations of Mobile Rail were audited in July 2013 by OSHA. The initial fines were well over $20,000 for Safety Hazard Violations. They have not certified and abated all of the hazards. The employees have requested a meeting to discuss safety issues and Mobile Rail has refused repeatedly. This is a video demonstration of one of the safety hazards at many of their locations that Mobile Rail has not certified to OSHA or their employees that they have eliminated the Hazard. It has been almost 8 months and there has still been no meeting with the employees about the safety hazards. This video will be posted online and forwarded to OSHA in reference to Inspection Number 922049.

Rail Industry Fights Speed Limits, Brake Regulation in Quest for Profits

By Justin Mikulka - DeSmog Blog, October 23, 2014

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.

Earlier this month Hunter Harrison, the CEO of Canadian Pacific told the Globe and Mail that he thought regulators have “overreacted” to the oil-by-rail disaster in Lac-Megantic that killed 47 people.

Lac-Mégantic happened, in my view, because of one person’s behaviour, if I read the file right,” Harrison said.

As detailed by DeSmogBlog, he didn’t read the file right. The accident was directly related to lack of regulation and the railroads putting profits before safety.

Harrison’s choice of words echoed those of American Petroleum Institute CEO Jack Gerard commenting on the new proposed oil-by-rail regulations when he stated: “Overreacting creates more challenges than safety.”

Yea, that’s right, according to Big Oil and Big Rail, the biggest threat to the 25 million people living in the bomb train blast zones is the overreaction of regulators.

The rail industry is now spending a lot of time pushing back on the new regulations on train speed. As anyone with a basic understanding of physics knows, the speed of the train is a critical factor in the severity of any accident.

Gregory Saxton, chief engineer for rail tank manufacturer Greenbriar, made that clear at a National Transportation Safety Board conference on oil-by-rail safety in April.

Kinetic energy is related to the square of velocity. So if you double the speed, you have four times as much energy to deal with,” argued Saxton. “Speed is a big deal.”

Speed is also a big deal when it comes to profits. Canadian Pacific’s Harrison recently explained to the Wall Street Journal that his main focus on improving profits was on increasing train speeds, “This next stage of growth is driven by a lot of things, a little bit here, a little bit there, but it’s effectively all the things that impact train speed and train velocity.”

And just as Harrison has arrived at his own incorrect conclusion about Lac-Megantic, he has once again ignored the facts when it comes to the relationship of speed to rail safety. DeSmogBlog reported Harrison’s comments earlier this year on a conference call talking to investors about rail safety.

I don’t know of any incidents with crude that’s being caused by speed. We keep slowing down in this North American network over the years. We don’t get better with speed. We get worse.”

Rail companies fight new rules to prevent crew fatigue: Leaked Transport Canada report details high levels of 'extreme fatigue' among freight train operators

By John Nicol and Dave Seglins - CBC News, October 8, 2014

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.

Canada’s major freight rail companies are fighting moves by the federal transportation regulator to curb “extreme fatigue” among railway engineers, a CBC News investigation has found.

CN Rail, CP and the Railway Association of Canada went on the attack two weeks ago at a “tense and heated” meeting of industry, union and government representatives, according to a number of people present.

The conflict was over research by Transport Canada that found high levels of exhaustion among workers driving freight trains, and proposals by the regulator to impose new limits on scheduling to help reduce their fatigue.

"The body language from industry was, 'You're not going to push us around,'" said Rob Smith of the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference recalling a meeting two weeks ago of the Fatigue Management Working Group, part of the federal government’s Advisory Council on Railway Safety.

He said industry was determined to ​discredit Transport Canada's research and thwart the regulator's proposals.

CBC received internal documents

CBC News has obtained internal Transport Canada documents, including meeting minutes and the working group's draft report that details widespread fatigue among freight engineers and proposes mandatory restrictions — some of which are already law in the U.S. — on how workers are scheduled to prevent exhaustion.

The government report concludes that rail lags behind the airline and trucking industries in dealing with fatigue. Reviews over the last three decades have always left it to the railway industry and its unions to sort out the problem.

In 2009, the regulator established the fatigue working group to address this longstanding issue.

Transport Canada's own analysis of CN and CP’s employee scheduling records from six different rail terminals across Canada concluded that, based on the timing and length of each shift, assigned through an unpredictable on-call system, that “extreme fatigue” was rampant:

  • In four per cent of cases, employees were already “extremely fatigued” at the start of their shifts;
  • 45 per cent of employees became extremely exhausted during work;
  • and nearly all, or 99 per cent, were fatigued at least once during the month.

Combined with the results of a union survey, Transport Canada is now proposing enhanced safeguards and wants to harmonize Canada’s rail rules with requirements already in place in the U.S. that limit the hours and days railroaders can spend at work or on call.

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