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EcoUnionist News #47

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, April 14, 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:

May Day:

An Injury to One is an Injury to All:

USW Refinery Strike:

Carbon Bubble:

Just Transition:

1267-Watch:

Bread and Roses:

Other News:

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

Future Blast Zones? How Crude-By-Rail Puts U.S. Communities At Risk

By Steve Early - Telesur, March 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 transport of petroleum via rail is now a well-known and unwelcome sight in many other U.S. communities. Its long distance rail transport has resulted in five major train fires and explosions in the last 16 months alone.

Now a diverse industrial city of 100,000, Richmond is still crisscrossed with tracks, both main lines and shorter ones, serving its deep-water port, huge Chevron oil refinery, and other local businesses.

Trains just arriving or being readied for their next trip, move in and out of a sprawling Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) rail yard located right next to the oldest part of town. Some train formations are more than 100 cars long. The traffic stalls they create on nearby streets and related use of loud horns, both day and night, have long been a source of neighborhood complaints. Persistent city hall pressure has succeeded in cutting horn blasts by about 1,000 a day, through the creation of several dozen much appreciated “quiet zones.” No other municipality in California has established so many, but only after many years of wrestling with the industry.

Despite progress on the noise front, many trackside residents continue to experience “quality of life” problems related to the air they breath. Some of their complaints arise from Richmond’s role as a transfer point for coal and petroleum coke (aka “pet coke”) being exported to Asia. As one Richmond official explained at a community meeting in March, these “climate wrecking materials” wend their way through the city in open cars—leaving, in their wake, houses, backyards, and even parked cars covered with a thick film of grimy, coal dust. Coal train fall-out has become so noisome in Richmond that its seven-member city council—now dominated by environmental activists— wants the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) to mandate the use of enclosed cars.

This would seem to be a no-brainer, public health-wise. But the track record of this particular governmental agency—in any area related to public health and safety—has not been confidence inspiring lately. The BAAQMD is already complicit with the creation of Richmond’s most troubling new fossil fuel hazard in recent memory. For the last year, that threat has been on display, as far as the eye can see, at BNSF, which is owned by Nebraska billionaire Warren Buffett. Buffett’s rail yard has been filled with hundreds of black, tubular metal tank cars containing a particularly volatile form of crude oil that’s come all the way to Richmond from the new energy boomtowns of North Dakota.

EcoUnionist News #44

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, March 26, 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:

USW Refinery Workers Strike News:

Carbon Bubble:

Just Transition:

1267-Watch:

Health and Safety:

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

RWU Out West: Our Conferences are Starting to Make People Think!

By J.P. Wright - Railroad Workers United Blog, March 22, 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.

Greenpeace Supports Railroad Workers Safety

By Brian Manning - Greenpeace Blog, March 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. It should also be emphasized that the IWW is not affiliated with Greenpeace, nor has Greenpeace yet admitted to any wrong doing when they closed several canvassing offices in 1988 to avoid an IWW unionization effort by the workers there. Nevertheless, the fact that Greenpeace is willing to go on record supporting the (quite reasonable and modest) demands by railroad workers is significant.

Communities across the globe are working together to keep coal in the ground everywhere and promote a just transition to a renewable energy future. In the Pacific Northwest, we’re working with a broad, diverse and growing coalition of environmental, business, faith, and health groups to stop coal exports. People are coming together to shutter coal-fired power plants, holding big polluters accountable, grassroots efforts at the mines for a greener and safer future.

As we continue moving forward together to stop coal and other fossil fuels most responsible for climate change, the workers that would carry the dangerous cargo have a big fight on their hands to prevent the industry from changing to one-person train crew restrictions. Railroad workers like conductors already are facing chronic fatigue that increase the risk of accidents.

Report on (Richmond, California) #Railcon15

By Tom Wetzel - Ideas and Action, March 15, 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.

More than 120 people attended the Future of Railroads Conference (RailCon15) in Richmond, California, March 14th, organized by Railroad Workers United, with support from local environmental groups and others.

Ron Kaminkow of Railroad Workers United talked about the history of railway worker attempts to build industry wide solidarity and unity, going back to the American Railway Union of Gene Debs in the 1890s. These efforts were stymied by the persistence of the conservative craft unions. The railroads are able to play one craft union off against the other to the detriment of rail workers. Railroad Workers United is an effort to build solidarity and unity of the workers across occupations and unions.

At present operating crews belong to two remaining unions, Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and United Transportation Union (mostly derived from the former Brotherhood of Railway Trainmen). BLE is now affiliated to the Teamsters union and UTU recently merged with the Sheet Metal Workers union to form SMART.

When the UTU recently signed a concessionary agreement with Burlington Northern-Santa Fe (BNSF) in one of its regions, this would have allowed BNSF (owned by Warren Buffett's venture capital firm, Berkshire Hathaway) to go to one-person crews. This would have iced out the engineers union, stabbing them in the back. The RWU organized a "Vote No" campaign among conductors, brakepersons and other UTU members which soundly defeated this destructive proposal by seven to one.

EcoUnionist News #43

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, March 19, 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.

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

Lead Stories:

USW Refinery Workers Strike News:

Carbon Bubble:

Health and Safety:

Other News:

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

Bay Area IWW Resolution on Railroad Worker Crew Fatigue

Whereas, all too many railroaders in North America work long, irregular hours and all too often are chronically sleep deprived; and

Whereas, most North American railroad workers have no schedule whatsoever, and are generally called to work at all hours of the day, seven days a week, with just two hours’ notice of work; and

Whereas, these long hours without enough sleep have been the cause of countless wrecks, injuries and fatalities over the years, both on and off the job; and

Whereas, this chronic fatigue contributes greatly to all sorts of problems on and off the job – physical, mental, emotional, marital, family, etc.; and

Whereas, excessive work hours means less time for other aspects of life – hobbies, interests, family, friends, community and union work, etc.; and

Whereas, the rail carriers compound the problem when they implement draconian “availability policies”, making it nearly impossible for some railroaders to take the necessary time off work; and

Whereas, countless studies have proven that fatigue -- having a very similar effect upon the brain as excessive alcohol consumption -- has been a major contributor to disastrous railroad accidents in recent years: and

Whereas, despite study after study, meeting after meeting, the unions and the carriers have more often than not been unable to reach agreement on ways and means to provide adequate and proper rest for train and engine crews;

Therefore, Be it Resolved, that the Bay Area IWW recognizes that excessive work hours and the resultant crew fatigue are major issues in the rail industry that can no longer be ignored; and

Be in Further Resolved that the Bay Area IWW supports a nationwide campaign to combat the chronic fatigue and excessive work hours that North American railroad workers are subject to.

Be it Finally Resolved that the Bay Area IWW calls on community organizations, civic groups, environmental organizations and labor unions to join with us in this important fight against train crew fatigue.

Adopted by the Bay Area IWW on March 5, 2015

Exploding Trains and Crude Oil

By Jon Flanders - CounterPunch, March 1, 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 the eve of the first conference bringing together rail workers and environmentalists in Richmond, California, we’ve had one oil train after another go off the tracks and explode. The latest was in Ontario, Canada. According to a news report, “Ontario Provincial Police said the derailment happened near Gogama, Ont., around 2:45 a.m. Saturday morning, with some of the cars catching fire and others falling into the Mattagami River.”

Environmentalists around the country have been protesting the “bomb trains” for several years now, but the 100 car unit trains are continuing to roll through hill and dale, towns and cities. Over a hundred years of the rail carriers influence in the halls of government make sure of this, up to now. This, despite the fact that we now know that fracked Bakken crude is more explosive than gasoline. The fireballs that have erupted lately dramatically illustrate this point.

As a retired railroad machinist, I have long been aware of the dangerous cargoes that travel by rail. I still remember the propane car that blew up near my shop while I was working, that propelled by the explosion, jetted a mile down the track through the departure yard, thankfully without killing anyone.

Nothing freight-wise from those years I spent on, under and over locomotives compare, however, to the vast quantities of explosive crude now running down a track probably not too far from you.

Can Labor and Environmental Groups Work Together?

By John Paul Wright - AHTV, March 1, 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.

Register now for the Future of Railroads: Safety, Workers, Community & the Environment Conferences: Richmond, California (March 14, 2015) and Olympia, Washington (March 21, 2015) - railroadconference.org

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