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“Pipeline on Rails” Plans for the Railroads Explode in Quebec

By Jonathan Flanders - Reproduced from Counterpunch, July 12, 2013

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 boom in oil fracking and tar sands has lured the great and small to the rails in search of profits and jobs.

The great include Bill Gates, who took time from the virtual world of software to acquire controlling interest in the Canadian National railroad(CN), part of the real world of steel rails, mile long trains and the rumble of linked diesel locomotives pulling tar sands oil out of Alberta.

The not so great, like Edmund Burkhardt, CEO of Rail World, which controls the short line “Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway” saw the boom in rail transported petroleum as a way to make his mini-empire of short lines profitable.

And of course the “small people”, railroad employees of the “Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway” like Tom Harding, the engineer of the train that blew up, found steady workrunning the endless strings of crude oil tankers across Canada and the US to refineries. Harding, by the way, is now being blamed by CEO Burkhard for the disaster.

Railroad industry watchers have predicted even more exponential growth for the “pipeline on rails” booming on in the shadow of the stalled Keystone pipeline plans still awaiting Obama’s signature.

Now all these plans are up in the air, after the Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway train’s engine caught fire, was shut down, which might then have been the cause for the brakes to leak off, sending fully loaded oil tank cars careening down the grade into Lac Megantic, Quebec where they exploded, incinerating dozens of people.

By Rail or Pipeline: Can Tar Sands be Safely Transported at All?

By Jonathan Flanders - Reproduced from Counterpunch, July 8, 2013

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.

My last years working as a railroad machinist were spent working on locomotive air brakes. In most situations, the system is fail safe. I always chuckle when I see a movie where a train separates, as it did in the latest James Bond thriller, and  both ends of the train keep going. This is close to impossible in real life, the air brake system automatically will go into emergency braking if there is a break in two. When a locomotive engineer applies the brakes to a train, he or she makes a “reduction”

of the equalizing or control air, which then triggers a brake application. This reduction of equalizing air, in the case of a break is the key to emergency brake applications. There is much more to the system, of course as it was refined over time, but its all based on this concept.

What we know so far in Quebec, is that the oil train was parked on a grade. The brakes were set by the crew, at some point the brakes came off, and the train rolled into the little town of Lac-Megantic, derailed and exploded, leaving many dead and the town devastated.

Labor’s Route to a New Transportation System: How Federal Transportation Policy Can Create Good Jobs, First-Rate Mobility, and Environmentally Sustainable Communities

By staff - Cornell University Global Labor Institute, July 2011

Federal transportation policy is set every five to six years through the Surface Transportation Authorization Act. This policy largely shapes investment in our nation’s transportation system. Currently, only unions whose members are employed in the transport sector play a role in trying to influence federal transportation legislation, but the Reauthorization Act is hugely important to all union members and working people. The current legislation, Safe, Accountable, Flexible Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA -LU ) expires September 30, 2011. The reauthorization of federal transportation policy presents an important opportunity for union leaders and members to advocate for key policy reforms that will create good union jobs, defend and expand the role of the public sector in transportation, provide safe and affordable mobility to working families and reduce the transport sector’s contribution to air pollution and climate change.

The state of the U.S. transportation system determines working families’ access to affordable, high-quality mobility and, in turn, their ability to meet essential needs such as getting to work, school, medical services, recreation and more. The maintenance and operation of private vehicles consumes a growing portion of working families’ household budgets and puts owning and operating a vehicle completely out of reach for some. The impact of rising gas prices on working families’ mobility exacerbates the fact that only 50% of Americans have access to public transit. (need citation) Furthermore, in response to budget shortfalls, local governments have increased fares, laid off workers, reduced transit services and offered up public transit systems to privatization.

Read the text (PDF).

Transport Workers and Climate Change: Towards Sustainable, Low-Carbon Mobility

By ITF Climate Change Working Group - International Transport Workers’ Federation, August 4, 2010

This report, now more than a decade old, was remarkably forward-thinking for its time (except for the uncritically positive assessment of Carbon Capture and Storage and Cap-and-Trade, positions the authors would likely now no longer hold. It also, interestingly, includes in an appendix, the delegate of one union affiliate, Robert Scardelletti, President of the Transportation Communications International Union (TCU), an affiliate of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW), from the US, who dissented from this report's conclusions, because it's green unionist orientation would "destroy jobs", a position held by the most conservative unions in the AFL-CIO.

From the introduction:

Climate change is the biggest single challenge ever faced by human civilization. Human economic activity has put so much carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) into the atmosphere that serious global warming is already happening. As a society, we have no choice but to reduce these emissions drastically in order to stand a good chance of avoiding potentially catastrophic changes in our climate. Moreover, emissions from transport are rising faster than emissions from any other sector and in some cases the increase in transport emissions is counteracting emissions reductions achieved in other sectors. Lowering transport emissions presents a series of unique and formidable challenges.

The good news for transport workers is that a serious approach to emissions reductions will create new opportunities for quality employment, particularly in public transport, railways (both passenger and freight), transport infrastructure, road repair, and in developing clean transport technologies. But failure to act on climate change will have the opposite effect.

Read the text (PDF).

A Union For All Railroad Workers (IWW Railroad Workers)

Transcribed by J. D. Crutchfield from an original kindly lent by FW Steve Kellerman, Boston GMB. Some misprints silently corrected. Reformatted slightly for easier reading.

Last updated 8 March 2004.

A Foreword About Those Who Wrote This Booklet

This booklet, like the movement to organize railroad workers into the One Big Union of the I. W. W., comes from actively engaged railroad workers themselves. The authors do not make their living by writing or by organizing. For over thirty years each of them has made his living by working in the railroad industry. They were selected as a committee by their fellow workers who wanted the best possible working conditions and who realize they will need the best possible unionism to get them.

For this reason they selected the I. W. W. because of its structure, policies, principles and its 43 years' clean record of no sell-outs, no crossing of picket lines, no scabbery and continuous working rank and file control.

They have made rapid progress. At the present time they have delegates in the following departments of railroad transportation: Engineers, Firemen, Conductors, Trainmen, Car Inspectors, Dispatchers, Switchmen, Signal Operators. Not one of these is drawing pay from the union for his work. They give the necessary hours to their boss on the job and the other hours are devoted to rest and organization activity. This shows their sincerity and determination. Every delegate has years of experience in railroad transportation and in the more than twenty unions that keep railroad workers divided. It is their firm determination to organize all who work for the railroads.

In making this booklet to explain why they want industrial unionism, and what they hope to accomplish with it, they have picked up whatever good idea they could find anywhere, without concerning themselves with crediting the originator, certain that a good idea should be circulated.

They propose Tentative Demands. They are tentative because a democratic organization does not get its demands shoved down its throat. It is not enough to re-organize railroad labor industrially. An industrial union with the policies of the present craft-union leadership, while it might be better than craft unionism, is not good enough. The men who have sat up nights to prepare this booklet want you to read it, to think about it, and circulate it.



 LISTEN, RAILS!

 Every click of the rails is singing to you,
"Get more, get more, get more !"
Every exhaust of every engine is saying,
"You can do it, you can do it, you can do it !"
And the deep-throated wampus says:
"Organize, Organize, Organ-i-i-ze!"

Chapter 5 - Two Kinds of Unionism And How They Work Out

The inadequacy of craft unionism on the railroads has long been obvious to every thinking worker in the industry. Many efforts have been made to transform it into something more serviceable. These efforts, like those in other industries where workers faced similar problems, have wound up in failure. In general one may observe that the leadership of unions is powerfully entrenched. Constitutions and prevalent practice give the rank and file little to say about major decisions. The business we have with our employers is handled in such unions rather by officers than by workers themselves.

Chapter 4 - Some Questions Answered

Many discouraged railroad workers, dissatisfied with past and present conditions, are looking askance for relief in some new order. Some have declared for an independent organization. Careful analysis will prove such independents can only revert back to their same old ills. Fat jobs and false promises.

Others have heard vaguely of the I. W. W. and are asking—What is the I.  W.  W.?

Chapter 3 - Some Proposed Tentative Demands

The Industrial Workers of the World Railroad Workers Industrial Union No. 520 unites all railroad workers from the section men upwards to dispatcher in order to secure protection and economic equality for all.

Chapter 2 - How the I. W. W. Functions

The I.  W.  W. has no President nor Vice-Presidents, no lobbyists in Washington nor politicians to clutter up or obstruct the workers in running their union and economic affairs. A General Secretary-Treasurer is nominated and elected by General Referendum ballot, voted on by all members of the I.  W.  W. The G.S.T. is elected for only one year and cannot serve more than three terms in office. The G.S.T.

Chapter 1 - Why This Booklet

The vast majority of railroad workers of all crafts are dissatisfied with their present form of organization, with leadership, and most of all, with their wages and working conditions.

In office and round-house, in switch-shanty and caboose, there is constant grumbling and "beefing." But obviously grumbling and beefing, though they may relieve the feelings, don't help much on payday.

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