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EcoUnionist News #57

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, July 23, 2015

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 Stories:

Bread and Roses:

An Injury to One is an Injury to All:

Carbon Bubble:

Just Transition:

Other News:

For more green news, please visit our news feeds section on ecology.iww.org; Twitter #IWWEUC; Hashtags: #greenunionism #greensyndicalism #IWW

EcoUnionist News #55

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, July 7, 2015

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:

Bread and Roses:

An Injury to One is an Injury to All:

Just Transition:

Other News:

For more green news, please visit our news feeds section on ecology.iww.org; Twitter #IWWEUC; Hashtags: #greenunionism #greensyndicalism #IWW

Dr. StrangeWeather, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love The Bomb-Train

By Stephyn Quirke - Earth First! Newswire, June 24, 2015

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.

Is our weather getting funny?

Some bushes and flowers started to bloom near the end of January this year, and in the spring cherry blossoms were blooming weeks early. This capped a winter with extremely low snowfall in the Cascade Mountains. The abnormal heat, combined with the drought now covering 80% of Oregon, has actually raised temperatures in the Willamette River above 70 degrees, recently killing chinook salmon as they made their way up-stream to spawn.

In March, tribal leaders from the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians converged in Portland to discuss this ongoing phenomenon of strange weather, which they cannily dubbed “climate change”. These changes, they said, were related to a pattern of global warming, and were creating unique hardship on Northwest tribes. In 2013, the ATNI also passed a resolution opposing all new fossil fuel proposals in the Northwest, citing harm to their treaty rights, cultural resources, and land they hold sacred. Now the Affiliated Tribes are discussing plans for adaptation and mitigation, and asking how to undermine the root causes of climate change.

In addition to the sudden onset of strange weather, Portland has also seen the abrupt arrival of strange, mile-long trains loaded with crude oil – a very unusual sight in the Northwest until just two years ago. In the event of a derailment or crash, these trains are known to increase the temperature of surrounding areas by several hundred degrees – a strange weather event by any standard. This phenomenon has become so common that the train engineers who run them actually call them “bomb trains”.

While the danger of unplanned explosions is universally recognized, the risks of strange weather, and the planned explosions that take place in our internal combustion engines, are typically less appreciated. But the connections are becoming more obvious as the figure of the oil train valiantly pulls them together.

The sudden appearance of oil trains in the Northwest is one effect of the unprecedented crusade for oil extraction in North America – one that has produced a massive wave of opposition from residents and elected officials. In Washington state alone, nine cities representing 40% of the state’s population have passed resolutions that oppose oil trains. In Alberta resistance to oil politics recently replaced a 44-year ruling party with socialists. And in Portland, anger against oil trains just smashed a city proposal to bring propane trains into the port.

In recent months rail workers have become increasingly vocal about the industry-wide safety problems that lead to fiery train accidents. They are also critical of the latest safety rules that allegedly protect the public from accidents. Rail Workers United, a coalition of rail workers and their unions, says that the best way to make trains safer is to increase worker control and self-management; they propose a host of reforms that profit-obsessed rail companies are not interested in hearing. For many rail-side communities there is a parallel interest in community control over the railroads: no fossil fuel trains are safe for them as long as trains derail and the climate unravels. Together, the two movements are calling for a better future for our railroads and our environment, and demanding more public influence to safeguard both.

Who's Really to Blame for Train Wrecks?

By Ron Kaminkow - Labor Notes, June 16, 2015

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 news media have been full of speculation about what caused an Amtrak train to derail east of Philadelphia on May 12, killing at least eight people and injuring hundreds.

Train #188, operated by lone engineer Brandon Bostian, entered a curve with a speed limit of 50 miles per hour, at over 100.

Was this excessive speed the result of fatigue, inattentiveness, a projectile that hit the train (and possibly the engineer), or some other factor? The investigation may eventually pinpoint the cause—or we may never know.

But we do know this: had there been a second crew member in the cab, it’s very likely that person would have taken action to prevent the tragedy when, for whatever reason, the engineer at the controls could not.

And blaming a worker just distracts the public from eliminating the real hazards. There exists simple, affordable technology that Amtrak could and should have implemented years ago—which could have prevented this terrible wreck.

EcoUnionist News #52

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, June 16, 2015

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 Stories:

Fracking the EPA:

Bread and Roses:

An Injury to One is an Injury to All:

1267-Watch:

Carbon Bubble:

Just Transition:

Other News:

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

Railroad Workers United to Observe 7th Annual Railroad Workers Memorial Day On Friday, June 19th 2015

By John Paul Wright - Railroad Workers United Blog, June 9, 2015

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 Friday, June 19th 2015 railroad workers are encouraged to wear black to work as a sign of remembrance and recognition of our fallen brothers and sisters who were killed on the job over the course of the previous year. Sponsored by Railroad Workers United, each year the event focuses on a specific theme. Because of the large number of contract and non-union railroaders who were killed the past 12 months, this year’s Railroad Workers Memorial Day will focus on these workers and their plight.

Those non-union and contract workers killed this past year include: a contract worker involved in track work on Canadian Pacific near Forreston, IL; a train crew member of The Western Group, while operating a train near Roswell, NM on former BNSF territory; two employees of a contract railcar servicing outfit while performing service in Omaha, NE; a trainman spotting cars at an industry in Pine Bluff, AR; a contract worker for BNSF unloading rail cars in Kansas City, KS; a conductor making a switch move for Alabama Warrior Railway in Birmingham, AL.

Throughout our history, railroad workers have organized into unions to improve our wages, benefits and working conditions. Improved safety has always been a major reason for railroad workers to organize. Rail carriers – like other corporations - have historically resisted employee organization and the associated demands for better wages, benefits and working conditions.

In recent decades, rail carriers – once again like many modern corporations – have devised a means by which they can circumvent the largely unionized railroad workforce. It is known as “contracting out”. Rather than keep the work in-house, the big rail carriers have opted to farm out all types of jobs to smaller, mostly non-union outfits that all-too-often offer their employees low pay, few benefits, and miserable unsafe working conditions.

Class I railroads have contracted out everything from locomotive servicing to track construction, weed spraying and brush trimming to car repair, rail inspection and train crew transport. It is hard to say just how many jobs have been contracted in this manner, in the tens of thousands perhaps. This is bad news for all railroad workers and it is an issue of grave concern to the future of our industry, our working conditions, pension, and crucially, our safety and health.

The railroad industry proudly touts its safety programs, the declining numbers of on-the-job “reportable” injuries and so forth. However, this disingenuous posturing ignores the fact that the railroad is engaged in contracting out work to outfits that often have poor safety standards and records. These contract companies employ workers – usually on the railroad’s property -- to perform the exact same work that was once performed by railroad employees. But now cynically, the railroad takes no responsibility for these workers because they are no longer in the railroad’s direct employ. The rail carriers’ attitude towards these workers is that the company is not responsible for their health and safety – even though they are on railroad property, performing the same essential work that was once done by our own employees, working in safety sensitive jobs, and making profit for the company’s bottom line. Also, the carriers know that many accidents and injuries of contract workers do not have to be reported to the FRA.

Just because the people servicing the locomotives, cutting the brush or driving the train crews are no longer directly employed by the railroad does not mean that union railroaders should turn our backs on them. Not only are they our fellow workers who work right alongside us, but our very ability to thrive and prosper is intrinsically linked to theirs! The rail labor unions must resist this “de-unionization” of these jobs, and begin to aggressively organize these contract workers.

Therefore, RWU will continue to reach out and support the efforts of all contract railroad workers to organize into a union, and we hope that all railroad union members understand that our safety is directly linked to the safety of our brothers and sisters in the contract sector.

IWW Mobile Rail Workers Win AGAIN!

Press Release - Mobile Rail Workers Union, May 20, 2015

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 workers from the Mobile Rail Workers Union have won ONCE AGAIN another round of ULP's in 2015 (Unfair Labor Practices) The full settlement details are below. We continue to fight and bargain for our first contract.

UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS BOARD SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT IN THE MATTER OF Mobile Rail Solutions, Inc.

  • Case 13-CA-129684
  • 13-CA-130242
  • 13-CA-130243
  • 13-CA-132704
  • 13-CA-137168

Subject to the approval of the Regional Director for the National Labor Relations Board, the Charged Party and the Charging Party HEREBY AGREE TO SETTLE THE ABOVE MATTER AS FOLLOWS:

POSTING AND MAILING OF NOTICE — After the Regional Director has approved this Agreement, the Regional Office will send copies of the approved Notice to the Charged Party in English and in Spanish. A responsible official of the Charged Party will then sign and date those Notices and immediately post them at the following Mobile Rail Solutions, Inc locations: Chicago (Storage Bay), G1 – Chicago (locations where notices to employees are regularly posted), G2 – Melrose Park (Storage Container), G3 – Rochelle (Storage Container).

The Charged Party will keep all Notices posted for 60 consecutive days after the initial posting. The Charged Party will also copy and mail, at its own expense, a copy of the attached Notice to all current employees and former employees who were employed at any time since December 1, 2013. Those Notices will be signed by a responsible official of the Charged Party and show the date of mailing.

The Charged Party will provide the Regional Director written confirmation of the date of mailing and a list of names and addresses of employees to whom the Notices were mailed.

COMPLIANCE WITH NOTICE — The Charged Party will comply with all the terms and provisions of said Notice.

PAYMENT OF WAGES AND BENEFITS — Within 21 days from approval of this agreement, the Charged Party will make whole the employee(s) named below by payment to each of them of the amount opposite each name. The amount payable to Ahern is for back pay and front pay wages, and as consideration, Ahern has agreed to waive any right to reinstatement.

The Charged Party will make appropriate withholdings for each named employee. No withholdings should be made from the interest portion of the backpay.

The Charged Party will also file a report with the Social Security Administration allocating the payment(s) to the appropriate time periods.

BNSF CEO Keynote Interrupted Over Oil Trains in Chicago at North American Rail Shippers Conference

By Angie Viands - Rising Tide Chicago, May 27, 2015

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.

Chicago, ILMembers of Rising Tide Chicago disrupted the North American Rail Shippers Association, held Wednesday at the Drake Hotel in Chicago, by interrupting a speech by the Burlington-Northern Santa-Fe (BNSF) CEO and dropping a banner in the hotel. These actions drew attention to BNSF’s role in the continued transport of high volumes of dangerous crude through the Chicagoland area.

Burlington-Northern Santa-Fe President Carl Ice was interrupted by two protesters who stood up and chanted, “oil trains kill, shame on you Carl Ice,” while they held a banner that read “BNSF: Bomb Trains Kill.” Just minutes earlier a banner was dropped behind the registration table of the event that had the BNSF logo and read “BNSF: Profits over Safety,” referring to the company’s role in shipping oil and their actions to undermine their rail workers’ safety.

Chicago is a major hub of the nation’s rail traffic, including a recent spike in the transport of crude oil from the Bakken shale fields in North Dakota. Obtained by the controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing, Bakken oil has proven to be highly volatile. Local concerns were raised when a unit train carrying 103 cars of Bakken crude derailed near Galina, Illinois while in route to Chicago. Had the resulting explosion occurred in a more populated area like Chicago, there would be mass fatalities.

Burlington Northern Santa Fe, owned by Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway, is responsible for the transport of the majority of Bakken crude coming into Chicago. Despite the public claims of working towards safer transportation of their cargo, BNSF continues to lobby behind closed doors, opposing reforms designed to protect workers and the communities along the tracks. BNSF has opposed new regulations requiring more stringent speed limits and improved braking technology, as well as launching attacks against requiring multi-person crews.

Participant in the disruption, Kevin Oliver, addressed the cradle-to-grave impacts of developing the Bakken. “From the violence and environmental devastation caused by the extreme extraction of Bakken shale, along the rail lines that cut through our communities on the way to the coasts for export, and to the burning of fossil fuels that contribute to climate chaos, we need to rethink our reliance on the forms of energy that harm our people and planet. BNSF makes billions of dollars putting our communities and climate at risk, so we took this action to take a stand against the obscene wealth that is being generated at the expense of our safety.

Rising Tide Chicago promotes local solutions that empower communities to democratically confront the climate crisis. We believe that our rails should move people, and not dirty and dangerous fossil fuels.

EcoUnionist News #49

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, May 26, 2015 (Image: Judi Bari stands defiant outside of the Oakland Federal Building, ca: 1996).

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.

Special Note: Due to the recent (voluntarily, fortunately) location of this site's main administrator, some of these stories are a little delayed. We apologize for any delay in timely reporting. Bear with us; we're all working class volunteers. ;-)

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

Lead Stories:

An Injury to One is an Injury to All:

Gulf South Rising:

Carbon Bubble:

Just Transition:

1267-Watch:

Other News:

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

Railroad Workers United statement on The Wreck of #AMTRAK188

By Ron Kaminkow - Railroad Workers United, May 19, 2015

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.

It has been a week now since Amtrak Train #188 derailed at speed east of Philadelphia, PA. The last week has witnessed endless speculation as the official investigation into the cause of the derailment continues apace. Those of us in the rail industry anxiously await the findings. Meantime, regardless of what the NTSB, the FBI and other agencies discover and conclude about the tragic wreck, there are a number of facts that are worth considering.

1. It is roundly agreed by railroad executives, union officials and industry insiders that had Positive Train Control (PTC) been in place and in effect on this section of track, the wreck would most likely not have been possible. PTC would have resulted in a train brake application in order to slow the train, recognizing that its speed was excessive and therefore unable to negotiate the tight curve ahead. PTC has been mandated by Congress, but its complete implementation has been delayed on the Northeast Corridor and elsewhere for a myriad of reasons. In Amtrak’s case, one of these reasons is a lack of adequate funding from Congress.

2. Amtrak has been underfunded for decades and forced to scrape by, cutting corners and deferring maintenance, even under the microscope by a budget cutting Congress more concerned with ideological purity and political expediency than with safety and security. On the busy Northeast Corridor where the recent wreck took place, Amtrak faces a backlog of drastically needed repairs to bridges and tunnels, obsolete rail interlockings, and trains that rely at times on 1930s-era components. Repairs for the Northeast Corridor are estimated at 4.3 billion over the next 45 years, while federal funding is expected to dwindle to $872 million.

3. As a result of this constant pressure to reduce costs, on March 23rd, 2015, just six weeks prior to the wreck, Amtrak had unilaterally implemented a new scheduling arrangement for Corridor (NEC) train and engine crews over the vehement objections of its operating craft unions. the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers (BLET) and the United Transportation Union (UTU, now known as SMART-TD). The new schedule arrangements. designed to save the company $3 million by reducing scheduled layovers -- were condemned by both unions as a disaster in the making. Amtrak overturned a tried and true couplet system (trains paired out and back) for working crews in the NEC that had been in effect, with little modification, for decades. Prior to March 23, couplets adhered to the 90-minute layover minimum and took into account other factors including difficulty of the train in question, duration of trip, number and location of stops, timeliness etc. Now, not only has the 90-minute layover been scrapped, but crews have no guarantee of any break whatsoever!  In addition, the new arrangement allows for a different on-duty time each day of the work week, and these start times are no longer restricted to within a few hours of one another -- they can be any time of the day!

4. Simple technology has existed for nearly a century now that can aid and assist in preventing accidents such as this one. As with the wreck at Spuyten-Duyvil, NY on the Metro North railroad on December 1st, 2013, a simple transponder could have easily been located west of the curve that would have prevented the train from entering it at such an excess speed (in fact, such a transponder is in place on the approach to the curve in the westbound direction). This being one the tightest and most restricted curves on the corridor, it seems an appropriate location for such a life-saving device. Note: Since the above referenced MN wreck of, such a transponder has in fact been placed on the section of track leading to the 30 mph curve where that train derailed.

5. Amtrak Train #188. operated by lone engineer Brandon Bostian, entered the permanent speed restriction at the curve, rated for 55, at over 100 mph. Whether it was fatigue, the result of a projectile that hit the train, inattentiveness on the part of the engineer, or other factors at play, it is expected that the investigation will eventually pinpoint the cause. Nevertheless, there is the possibility that we may never know. But we know this: had there been a second crew member in the cab of the locomotive that day, it is very likely that such a second qualified crew member would have taken action to prevent the tragedy that. for whatever reason. the engineer at the controls was not able to avert.

In the past half dozen years or so we have witnessed a series of tragic train wrecks, all of which have resulted in countless injuries and loss of life. Four wrecks. Chatsworth, CA (9/12/08); Lac Megantic, Quebec (7/6/13); Spuyten-Duyvil, NY (12/1/13); and now Frankfurt Junction, PA (5/12/15) have all been attributed to some form of “operator error”. (It is worthy of mention a factor that all four of these incidents had in common; i.e. the employee in question was working alone in the cab of the locomotive or was the lone crew member). While operator error may in fact be the case, simply pointing the finger at the worker does little or nothing to assist in understanding why the error was made in the first place; nor does it help us to prevent similar such wrecks in the future. Since workers are human beings and as such, are prone to make mistakes (regardless of how many rules are written up, what discipline may be threatened or how many observation cameras may be installed), we must implement safety features that take this reality into account and thereby prevent tragedies of this nature.

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