Sunday, December 15, 2013

Cameras in Locomotive Cabs

Railroad Workers United

Unity   !"Solidarity   !"Democracy
!The Rank and File in Action"#
P. O. Box 1053   Salem, IL 6288 206-984-3051

Railroad Workers United Resolution On Alternative
Technologies to Cameras in Locomotive Cabs

Whereas,the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) in January 2010 made a recom-
mendation that inward facing cameras be used to constantly monitor train crew activities; and

Whereas,this recommendation by the NTSB is based on the NTSB's ongoing investigation
into the causes of the September 12, 2008, accident in Chatsworth, California involving a
Metrolink commuter train and a Union Pacific freight train; and

Whereas,this accident involved 25 fatalities and over 100 injuries; and

Whereas,the NTSB's ongoing investigation has unearthed preliminary information that the
engineer of the Metrolink commuter train was both sending and receiving multiple text mes-
sages while operating the train; and

Whereas,the NTSB has recommended that inward facing cameras with audio pick-up be
installed in the operating cab of all locomotives; and

Whereas,the NTSB has further recommended that railroad carriers be required to "regularly
review and use in-cab audio and image recordings (with appropriate limitations on public
release), in conjunction with other performance data, to verify that train crew actions are in
accordance with rules and procedures that are essential to safety;"

Therefore Be It Resolved,that Railroad Workers United (RWU) acknowledges that the use of
wireless devices -- including cell phones -- is, in fact, a distraction from the safe operation of
locomotives and trains; and 

Be It Further Resolved,that RWU supports an alternative to the highly intrusive video and
audio monitoring of train crews proposed by the NTSB in the operating cabs of all locomo-
tives; and

Be It Further Resolved,that RWU supports the installation of alternative non-intrusive tech-
nologies, including but not limited to:

!"Cell phone jamming equipment that automatically functions whenever the reverser of the
locomotive is not centered; and/or
! Alarm systems that sound if/when an active cell phone is brought into the cab of a locomo-
tive; and/or
! Sensors that detect cell phone signals and instigate a penalty application of the train brakes
when one is detected in the locomotive cab; and/or
! Other technologies of this type that actually prevent the locomotive from moving when
an active cell phone is present in the cab.

Be It Finally Resolved,that RWU offers this as an alternative counter to cell phone use, to be
considered by the appropriate authorities including, but not limited to, the railroad carriers, the
United Transportation Union (UTU), the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen
(BLET), the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), and the Federal Railroad
Administration (FRA).

This Resolution adopted by the members assembled at the RWU Second Biennial
Convention  Friday, April 23rd, 2010 in Dearborn, Michigan

Saturday, December 14, 2013


RWU Position on MN Wreck and the Call for Inward Facing Cameras

December 14, 2013
In the wake of the Metro North wreck, public officials are calling for stepped up efforts to install inward facing cameras in locomotives. This poorly conceived notion mistakenly believes that cameras that keep a sharp eye on the engine crew will be the elixir that magically takes care of all safety issues on the railroad, including the chronic problem of crew fatigue. This is ludicrous. We cannot help but wonder how public officials would react to have video cameras taping their every move on the job? Where they make the decisions, like the one that Senator Charles Schumer did, to favor more parking lots over safety at Metro-North. We can only imagine how insulted they would feel about such a proposal, yet they are quick to stick cameras in the faces of workers without a second thought.
Currently, the railroads have a policy against cell phone usage and texting while in the cab of a locomotive. The federal government has declared it illegal. But does this totally eliminate cell phone use on trains? No! Because there will always be those that are willing to roll the dice and play the odds that they will not get caught. If your train successfully completes its tour-of-duty without incident, no one will ever know that you used your phone en route. And it is the same with cameras. If your train successfully completes its tour-of-duty without incident, no one will ever know what you did up there, including sleep, drink, smoke, or nod off. No one is watching the movie, just as no one is monitoring your phone calls. But if something goes wrong, only then is the cell phone record reviewed, the camera tape reviewed. Of course, by then it is too late and the damage has been done and the train is in the ditch, the loss of life has already occurred.
The call for inward facing cameras is an insult to every railroad worker. The insinuation is that if we were only supervised more strictly, then we would all follow the rules, refrain from making mistakes, and never let the lack of sleep, distractions, etc. interfere with our work ethic. Inward facing cameras blame workers for accidents and insinuate that we are breaking the rules and not doing our jobs. And they let the carrier off the hook. Cameras do not ask why a worker fell asleep, nodded off, or failed to run the train in accordance with all rules, speed restrictions, etc. They are reactive, not proactive, and do absolutely nothing to tackle the hazards that are lurking in the background, hazards that ultimately are responsible for workplace accidents.
Railroad Workers United believes that trains wreck because of underlying hazards that must be eliminated. We achieve this with a proactive approach that honestly investigates these hazards and examines the reality of crew fatigue, task overload, adequate training, the lack of necessary safety appliances and technologies, and all the rest. We do not keep trains from wrecking by explaining (after they wreck) that this or that employee did not do his/her job.
We will concede however, that with the best training, adequate staffing, provisions for time off work and plenty of rest, lucid and easily understood operating rules, etc. generous applications of automatic train stop, cab signals, etc., that accidents are still possible. Train crews are human beings and as such, we are prone to make mistakes, become drowsy, to be impatient, confused, irritable, distracted. There is no camera technology in the world that can change this reality. And there is no camera technology that can prevent a train from wrecking. But there is a technology that can prevent trains from wrecking and it’s called Positive Train Control (PTC). So let’s get on with its installation and stop this foolish clamoring for inward facing cameras on locomotives.
Railroad Workers United
Unity—Solidarity—Democracy: The Rank and File in Action!
(206) 984-3051  PO Box 1053, Salem, IL 62881

Friday, December 6, 2013

It’s Time to End Crew Fatigue and Implement PTC

December 6, 2013

It’s Time to End Crew Fatigue and Implement PTC
As the recent Metro North passenger train wreck in New York illustrates, fatigue kills. From preliminary reports, it appears that the engineer had nodded off. This of course would not be the first time that a train crew member fell asleep. As we know, it happens all the time. In this case however, the result was catastrophic.

Sleepiness, spacing out, nodding off, zoning out, drowsiness -- it is a way of life for railroad train crews. Considering the lack of scheduling in the freight industry; the 24/7 nature of the job; the lack of time off work (and harsh availability policies that keep us "in line" if and when we choose to mark off); the inability to predict the time when one will be called to work or when one will be relieved of duty -- it is a wonder that there are not more tragic wrecks as a result of fatigue.

When there is a spectacular wreck like the Metro North derailment, the immediate temptation is to blame the train's crew. But those of us in train & engine service know that there is always more to it than that. In the days and weeks to come, railroad train crews across the nation will be bombarded with "advisories", "alerts" and bulletins that beseech us to stay alert, to remain focused, and maintain our “situational awareness”. Yet ironically, not a single railroad will do anything to improve train lineup predictability, grant the needed time off work to those who request it, schedule their railroad's trains, or beef up the extra boards and/or pools to ensure adequate staffing which would result in adequate rest for train crews.

The fact remains, train crews are human beings. And as such, we make mistakes, cut corners, nod off, get distracted, zone out, forget things, get irritable, become sleepy, and fail to properly perform the task at hand, like every other human being. Even under ideal conditions we remain human and imperfect, prone to error. Therefore, we need to stop pointing fingers and laying blame each and every time there is a train wreck. Rather, we must begin to organize the workplace around human beings, taking into account all of our fallibilities.

And this means granting adequate rest between tours-of-duty, granting reasonable time off away from the workplace, and ending the practice of “subject to call” 24/7. In addition, it means implementing the technology that has been available for many years now so that if and when a train crew does zone out, nod off, or make a mistake, it does not become a fatal mistake. But the rail carriers have historically resisted any attempt to reduce crew fatigue, and are in fact lobbying vigorously to stave off the mandated implementation of Positive Train Control (PTC). Meanwhile, trains continue to go in the ditch and lives continue to be lost. And the rail carriers simply blame the workers. And if that isn’t bad enough, the rail carriers are pushing for single employee train operations to become the universal standard for the industry. While the Metro North engineer did had additional crew members behind him, he was alone in the cab. Would this wreck have even happened had he had a partner in the cab to assist in preventing this tragedy?

If we are serious about safety, if we are serious about eliminating tragic train wrecks, then it’s high time for a change in the direction the industry is headed. No more crew fatigue! PTC now! No single employee train crews!

What's Wrong with Single Employee Train Operations?

What’s Wrong with Single Employee Train Operations?
By Ron Kaminkow
General Secretary, Railroad Workers United

At first glance, the casual observer from outside of the rail industry is prone to say that single employee train operation sounds dangerous. “What if the engineer has a heart attack?” is an often heard question. And while this question has merit, there are many other and far more complex and unanswered questions about just how single employee train operations could be accomplished safely and efficiently for the train crew, the railroad and the general public. How will the train make a back-up move? What happens when the train hits a vehicle or pedestrian? How will the train crew member deal with “bad-order” equipment in his/her train, or make pick-ups and set-outs en route? What about job briefings and calling signals, copying mandatory directives and reminders of slow orders? These are just some questions that we take up in this article.
Remote Control and “Utility Conductors”

In recent years, the Class I rail carriers have been biding their time, slowly but surely inserting language into recent contracts with both unions of the operating crafts that will facilitate their schemes to run over the road trains with a lone employee. They have made arrangements with the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers & Trainmen (BLET) to allow the BLET represented crew member to make use remote controlled locomotives. With this scenario, the lone operator would strap on a belt pack, dismount from the locomotive, and run the locomotive by remote control operation (RCO) using radio control from the ground. And the carriers have also made deals with the United Transportation Union (UTU) to allow for “utility conductors”; i.e. a conductor who can “attach” to one or more over-the-road trains during the course of a single tour of duty. Between the two arrangements, the rail carriers apparently believe they can safely and efficiently operate road trains with just one employee aboard as opposed to the current standard of two. We disagree.

The Limitations of RCO

Let’s examine the logistics of the scenario where the crew member were to use RCO in order to “work” the train; i.e. make a pick-up or set-out of rail cars to and/or from the train. The lone crew member would dismount, and then would have to pull the head end of the train ahead a number of car lengths (perhaps just a few, possibly dozens) to complete such a procedure. Since no one would now be in the cab of the locomotive, the operator would have no “point protection” and would be pulling the locomotive down the mainline “blind”. By current (and historic) operating practice, employees are to never shove (or pull) down a main track without protection. This practice would be unsafe if any intervening road crossing was present. And if the train were to enter a signaled block, it would be impossible to perform if the crew member
could not see the signal. In any case, the rules have long stated that a train crew must not run down the main (pull or shove) without point protection and for good reason. So assuming the move were to be made in conformity to current operating practice, the crew member could make the “cut” with RCO, stop the move, walk ahead to the engine, run from the engine until past the switch and stop, walk to the rear of the cut, then once the switch is thrown, use the RCO to make the set-out. Once again, s/he could make the cut, stop, walk to the lead unit, pull forward until past the switch, then return to the rear and make the coupling with RCO. Then walk once again to the head end to depart. This would be a very time consuming and awkward maneuver, far more safely and efficiently performed with a two person crew. For such a move, a “utility conductor” might be a safer and more efficient alternative. But what about times when that worker is on the other side of the county working with another train. Or in inclement weather when the county roads are covered in snow? Or when the train is in a location that is not easily accessible by vehicle and the “U-man” would need to walk for miles down the main line to access the disable train?

Anyway, back to the RCO scenario. What if an operator had dismounted and has a problem (slip, trip, fall, broken bone, heat stroke, etc.) and has trouble contacting the dispatcher for assistance. Handheld radios do not have the reach that a locomotive radio has, and in many outlying areas, they are ineffective. And the dispatcher may not respond unless toned up, something not often possible on a hand set. Cell phones currently by rule are not permitted to be carried by crew members as a result of the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2009, so they may not be an option. Besides, in many locations along the railroad right-of-way, there is often no cell signal.
Finally, RCO operations are far more suited to the yard, where tonnage, distances, horsepower and obstructions are all limited. Switching cars with a yard engine and a short cut of cars is a completely different animal that using RCO to run a road train with 20,000 horsepower and 15,000 trailing tons. And yards are generally made up of relatively straight tracks and are laid out flat and/or “bowled” towards the center of the yard, while the mainline is often curved and on a grade, sometimes a very steep grade. It is far more difficult and demanding to control a heavy train with multiple units on a curved grade than it is to control a short cut of cars in a yard tied to a low horsepower locomotive. And given that RCO is prone to losing its signal in the yard, on the road it could be a nightmare. Curves, tunnels, bridges, overpasses, canyon and other obstructions can render RCO unworkable at countless locations on the mainline. And in the yard, RCO is assisted by a series of “repeaters” to assist the radio signal along. These do not exist out on the road.

Limitations of the Utility Conductor

In the 1990s, the rail carriers began to use what is known as a “utility brakeman”. This yard worker “attaches” to various yard or road crews to assist as needed in switching out and making up trains. The carriers’ idea is to implement this concept on the road. But there are a number of problems here. The workplace of the mainline is dozens if not hundreds of miles long, as opposed to a freight yard which is only a few miles at the longest. Whereas most locations in the yard are quickly and easily accessible, the mainline right-of-way can be hard to access and in some cases cannot be reached at all by road. Even if the utility conductor was able to reach the train in need of assistance, s/he must know the roadways to get there which can be a daunting task especially for those not versant with the territory. In inclement weather, many of these roads are difficult to navigate and can at times be completely impassable. And if the utility conductor is miles and miles away from the train s/he is called upon to assist, the delay to the train (and other trains on the territory) could be considerable.
And what about when two or more trains are in need of assistance simultaneously? And during periods of harsh weather when switch, signal, locomotive and train failures become commonplace? Or when the railroad suffers a meltdown like we have seen in recent years following acquisitions and mergers? Long waits, clogged mainlines, delayed trains and crews expiring on the hours-of-service law would become far more common. Just imagine the damage that could have been done if single employee crews were the rule during the UP meltdowns of 1996 and 2004, or the NS crack-up in 1999!
Problems with Single Employee Train Crew Operation
There is a plethora of issues that quickly arise when we consider the scenario of single employee train operations. Many railroaders reading this will no doubt have additional points to add. RWU welcomes your input. For now, we will describe a number of these issues below.
 Going down the right of way, the single crew member will get no reminders from a second crew member for “slow orders”, track “work orders”, road crossing mechanical failure or other restrictions to movement. The single operator is on his or her own. Common rules practice today insists that the conductor remind the engineer of all of the above and more. Why would this function cease to be of any safety importance when the second crew member is abolished?
 And what about unforeseen instructions provided en route by the train dispatcher? Safe practice now is that no one at the controls of a moving train or locomotive is to copy a “mandatory directive”, so this job is squarely on the conductor. Therefore, with single employee crews, all trains that receive such instructions would be required to stop, tempting the railroad to pressure employees to copy “on the fly”. Or would the railroad simply throw out this rule, unhappy with overall delays to trains and the increase in fuel consumption this practice will result in? (By the same token, all restroom breaks would entail that the train be brought to a complete stop).
 Making a back-up move (without changing the general operating practices that have held sway for decades) would be for all intents and purposes impossible. Without a long walk with an RCO belt-pack or an on-the-spot utility conductor handy, the train could simply not back up in a safe manner.
 Without a second crew member to assist the train operator, an endless number of distractions would come into play. The lone crew member would now not only have to operate the locomotive, but would also have to do all of the talking on the radio, not just with the train dispatcher, but with signal maintainers, gang foremen, other train crews, etc. The single operator would be responsible for properly giving a visual look-over or “roll by” to other trains that are met and passed. And the single crew member would be responsible for all paperwork including the train’s manifest and the position of all hazardous materials in the train. Currently these duties fall to the conductor, thereby alleviating the train’s engineer from the muti-layered distractions that this work can cause, taking the engineer’s attention away from the immediate task at hand – running the train.
 With a single employee crew, valuable mentoring time would be lost. Many conductors work for years in the left hand seat, gaining valuable understanding of the signal system, operating rules, air brake system, etc., long before they ever become an
engineer. Without the two person crew, this “university” will be lost forever, and the entire operating employee workforce would over time invariably become less professional, less seasoned, and less safe. And this loss of education that surely would ensue by running single employee trains would have a detrimental effect on all operating employees, not just those who are new or inexperienced. The lack of two employees in the cab means a lack of informal conversation, reflection, storytelling, discussions of rules and signals, etc. Much of the learning that takes place every day a railroad worker goes to work is in the cab of the locomotive, as the two employees share their collective knowledge, experience and wisdom that each has acquired over the years. Without the two person crew, this ongoing day-to-day classroom is lost.
 As for calling signals, when a train’s engineer encounters a signal more restrictive than clear (green), railroad rules demand that the engineer “call” this signal to his/her conductor, who acknowledges the signal. (Some railroads require that all signals be communicated in this fashion). Without the second crew member, there is simply no one there to acknowledge the signal, and one of the oldest operating practices on the railroad would simply be cast aside as unnecessary. Which of course begs the question: If it is OK to do away with this practice, if it is not needed for the safe operation of the train under the command of a single employee, then why do the current operating rules demand that train crews do it now?
 In order to properly secure a train on an ascending grade, the operator (according to the rules) would have to tie the handbrakes at the end of the train (the bottom of the grade). This will entail walking to the rear of the train, tying the hand brakes, and then returning to the cab of the locomotive to test the brakes by releasing the air brakes (if no RCO is available). Should the hand brakes not hold, the operator must return to the rear, tie more handbrakes and repeat until they do hold.
 The possibility of crime against train crews would increase, as thieves and vandals will no doubt become aware that trains are being operated by a single employee. As a lone worker, in the “middle of nowhere”, or in a “tough” neighborhood late at night, the single operator is extremely vulnerable, especially once s/he is outside of the cab of the locomotive. If s/he encounters a problem, there might be no one for hours who is aware that s/he is in trouble. The operators of single employee trains are truly on their own in this scenario.
 And what about the whole question of “national security”? Since 9-11, we have heard endless speculation about the possibility of terrorism against the nation’s railroads and trains. Because it is simply impossible to patrol the entire railroad infrastructure on a regular basis, the government and the rail carriers have made it a point to state that it is up to railroad workers to notice and report suspicious activity. But without that second crew member in the cab of the locomotive, wouldn’t we be denying ourselves the possibility of early detection? The advent of single crew operations would reduce by half the number of workers in the field, workers who are intimately aware of the territory and know when something does not look right. And the lone operator that would remain – now having absorbed the duties of the second crew member in addition to running the train -- cannot be relied upon to see even a fraction of what might be out there along the right-of-way.
 Currently the railroad stresses the need for a complete and thorough “job briefing” between members of the crew at both the beginning of each tour-of-duty and when conditions change at points during the course of the trip. With a single employee crew,
there can be no job briefing as there would literally be no crew member to have a job briefing with. Which once again begs the question, why do we not need a job briefing with a single employee crew, when such briefings are considered so indispensable to safety now?
 En route, especially when a tour of duty may stretch out to 12 hours, it is common for a train’s crew to become fatigued. With no one there to assist, it is very easy to lose focus, to fail to maintain situational awareness, and to nod off. Likewise, if and when a single crew member operating a train were to fall sick en route, with single employee operations there is no one to assist, to help maintain focus, attend to the radio, remind the engineer of conditions ahead, etc.
 For the lone crew member operating over the road, even simple things throughout the journey can easily cause distraction. Getting lunch from the refrigerator, retrieving a dropped pen from the floor, grabbing a coat from the firewall hook, looking up a specific rule -- all of this becomes a far more significant hindrance and a distraction to the lone crew member than when s/he has a partner to lend assistance.
 Most railroad operating rules now allow for “team napping”. Given the lack of scheduling on most railroads and the nature of freight pool and extra board work, the railroad has allowed train crews to take naps when the train is stopped and secure, but only one at a time. It would follow then that with a single employee operation, the employee would be denied, by rule, the ability to take a nap at all throughout the tour-of-duty as this would leave the train unattended. Many crew members at this time make use of these “power” naps and say that they are very helpful in maintaining their situational awareness and can revive them when they are fatigued. With single employee operations, this valuable – sometimes indispensable -- napping time would be lost.
 Without a second crew member present, the lone operator would be required at times to dismount from the locomotive to thaw, sweep and otherwise clear track switches. The same holds for changing out a broken coupler knuckle and other situations where physical labor outside in the elements is needed and no utility conductor is readily available (in fact most situations of this nature that arise there would likely be no utility conductor close by to assist). With a second crew member, the operator is ready and rested to continue to move the train forward once the physical work is done. Without the second crew member, a physically exhausted train operator is now expected to run the train and maintain situational awareness just as well as if s/he had remained inside the cab throughout the procedure.
 When an operating employee returns from vacation or other extended period away from work, the territory can at first seem unfamiliar. The worker may often feel a bit “rusty”. Having that second crew member there can be of great assistance to reorientation to the territory. In addition, upon returning to work after such an absence, things may have changed – operating rules, special instructions, physical characteristics, etc. Given the complex and arcane nature of the myriad rules and procedures that operating crews are subject to, it is easy to miss vital information. Once again, having that second crew member present who in all likelihood has been on the job while the other was absent, adds a layer of protection against this possible oversight by the train operator.
 Currently when emergency situations arise, a two-member train crew can act efficiently and effectively to deal with the emergency (unless of course both are disabled or killed). Fighting a tie fire, assisting with a train wreck (whether his/her own train or another train), dealing with a road crossing collision with a vehicle or pedestrian, and in numerous other scenarios, the lone crew member will more than likely need to dismount from the train quickly. With a two person crew, one crew member stays behind to attend to the train’s safety and security while the other assists directly with the emergency. With a lone employee, there would be no other crew member to attend to the train while the crew member deals with the emergency at hand.
 When dealing with train-vehicle and train-pedestrian incidents, the lone crew member could not go back to assess the situation, assist the injured, “cut” (make a train separation to open up) a road crossing, etc. without first securing train, wasting valuable time. And while securing the train and dealing with the emergency situation, the crew member may not be able to quickly receive or transmit valuable information to the dispatcher. Thousands of such incidents take place each year resulting in property destruction, injury and death. Without that second crew member on hand to quickly assess the situation, accurately inform the dispatcher/emergency services of the nature of the incident and take expedited action, additional harm to property and human life would no doubt be the result in some cases.
 There are countless situations where it can be inconvenient, labor intensive, or downright unsafe for a crew member to dismount and/or inspect her/his train (e.g. intervening trestle, tunnel, embankment, etc.). Currently, when a train’s crew members need the assistance of another crew, that crew, if available, can readily assist. However, with single crew operations, the lone crew member cannot assist another train’s crew without first securing his/her own train. Upon return, the handbrakes must then be knocked off. On long trains and steep grades this can be a physically exerting and time consuming exercise. By the same token on a different note, the train’s lone operator would not be able to leave the train and get a lunch, let alone a cup of coffee at a cafĂ© without first securing the train.
 Currently, train crews are expected by rule to give a visual “roll by” of other trains when meeting them and alert the other train’s crew of any abnormalities or unusual occurrences (shifted loads, hot wheel bearings, derailed wheels, etc.) But with just one set of eyes on a single employee crew to now run his/her own train while watching out for another’s train, no doubt that such a defect -- should one exist on a passing train -- would be harder to notice and go undetected.
 With a single employee crew, there is a lack of companionship and comradery. The isolated nature of any prolonged, regularized lone worker situation can lead to loneliness, depression and despair. A locomotive cab is about the size of an 8X10 room. They can be cold in winter and hot in summer. The toilet can stink. And train crews are often on duty all hours of the day for up to 12 hours at a time. While truck drivers may also work alone, running a train alone is very different. Truck drivers can pull over and rest when they need to, eat or drink when they please. “Truck stops” are available 24/7 every 50 miles or so. In addition, truckers are on a highway with other motorists. If emergency services are required, they are not far off. And truckers have a CB radio and a cell phone close at hand. Today’s train crew members have none of this support infrastructure available. All they have is each other. Single employee crews would eliminate the base of support that dies exist.
 Finally, It stands to reason that without a partner with whom to discuss ideas, concerns, problems, issues, and the job itself throughout his/her working life, a worker may easily develop any number of mental issues. Without someone to talk to for hours on end, the mind can stray and easily wander off into a land of distraction. Without any co-workers to work alongside of, an employee can lose a sense of belonging and comradery, leading to low morale. Before long, an employee who works alone for long periods of time may experience a loss of identity and pride, and feel a keen absence of being part of something greater than oneself. In addition, there is no one to talk about wages, benefits, working conditions, safety issues and all the rest to make for a better working environment. There is no way to gage the mood of one’s co-workers and have any kind of discussion of how to address collective problems and issues. As a result, solidarity will no doubt suffer. The power of the union would no doubt decline. General job dissatisfaction among train crew workers is bound to increase.
As a result, railroad train crew employees will simply not have the longevity that they do today. Many will simply not want to work in an isolated environment day in and day out, year after year. Employee turnover will increase, bringing all of the associated problems into the workplace. And as a result of the high turnover, the strength of the union will again be diminished. Temporary workers do not generally make good union members when they are dissatisfied, isolated, and looking to get out of the industry.


In conclusion, single employee train crews are unsafe and dangerous for the crews that operate them, other railroad workers, those living along the tracks, motorists and pedestrians, for the community in general and society at large. Combining both current jobs (conductor and engineer) into one will mean more crew fatigue, less focus, more distraction and a decline in operator situational awareness. The loss of that second pair of eyes and eyes would result in a decline in safety on the railroad and would be a detriment to national security and public safety. Single employee trains crews are unsafe and inefficient in all but the most routine and straight forward railroad work. For many if not most tours-of-duty, they would present complex challenges for the train’s lone operator. Single crew operations will result in a loss of valuable informal education of train crews both new and old, and lead to less capable and knowledgeable crew members in general as a result. Finally, loneliness, isolation and a loss of comradery and spirit would be the inevitable result, bringing with it mental problems, job dissatisfaction, and staff turnover.
Railroad Workers united sees the single employee crew issue as a critical one for railroaders in North America in the 21st century. We have no alternative. We must fight to the bitter end to preserve a minimum of two employees on every train crew – both road and yard. We ask all railroad workers, the rest of organized labor, the working class in general, environmental and community groups to stand with us. We can and we must win this crucial battle.
The author has worked as an Amtrak engineer for the last 10 years. He formerly worked as a brakeman, conductor and engineer for Conrail and Norfolk Southern in Chicago, IL. Please email with comments and criticisms to

Railroad Workers United
Unity—Solidarity—Democracy: The Rank and File in Action! 

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Dear RWU Members & Supporters:
Please see the attached resolution and circulate widely. This Resolution was adopted by the RWU Executive Committee at a special meeting on 9/21/13, and outlines why this struggle is so important and what we need to do to win. As you are probably aware the engineers and trainmen on the Wheeling & Lake Erie Railway have been battling against single employee operations of trains in recent months. They are on the front lines of this vital struggle on behalf of all of us. Last week, the workers went out on strike and shut the railroad down until ordered back to work by a federal judge. 

The struggle continues. Let's commit ourselves to do all that we can to ensure that the brothers and sisters on the W&LE win this fight!

RWU Support for W&LE Workers

Whereas the single employee crew issue is one of the most important questions facing rail labor; and

Whereas RWU has pledged since our Founding Convention in 2008 to do all in our power to oppose the idea of single employee crews; and

Whereas, the UTU and the BLET leadership have both recently come out in favor of a national campaign to stop the practice of single employee train crews; and

Whereas, the great potential dangers of single crew operations have been highlighted by recent events in Lac Megantic, Quebec; and

Whereas the workers on the Wheeling & Lake Erie (W&LE) have been fighting against single employee crew designs of their employer for a number of years now; and

Whereas these engineers and trainmen on the W&LE have gone on strike to defend the two-person crew and oppose the W&LE use of single employee crews; and

Whereas it is vital that these fellow workers win this struggle and show not just the W&LE but the other rail carriers as well that union labor will not tolerate train operations with a lone employee; and

Whereas the struggle of these brothers and sisters has ramifications for engineers and trainmen and ALL railroad workers throughout North America; their fight is our fight!

Therefor be it Resolved that Railroad Workers United pledges our unwavering solidarity and assistance—morally, physically and materially – in whatever way possible to assist these brave workers to win this struggle; and

Be it Further Resolved, that we call on the leadership of both the UTU and the BLET to make good on their promise to “lead a national campaign” against single employee crews by doing all in their power to assist these workers, including but not limited to: personally showing up and walking the picket line; activating their respective “mobilization” networks; providing material strike benefits and support; and publicizing the strike far and wide; and

Be it Finally Resolved that RWU calls on all railroad workers -- especially those in geographical proximity -- to join the picket line, to bring material aid and assistance and otherwise support the workers on the W&LE.

Adopted by the RWU Executive Committee 9/21/13

The W&LE Struggle Against Single Employee Crews

The W&LE Struggle
 Against Single Employee Crews:

A Pledge of Support from Railroad Workers United

1 -- Pass a Resolution of Support and circulate copies among all railroad workers and the W&LE workers in specifically.

2 -- Urge RWU members in the Ohio area to drive to one of the 15 W&LE terminals (obtain a listing of locations) and walk the picket line with our W&LE brothers and sisters whenever they have a picket line up.

3 -- Make a solidarity donation to any strike fund that may develop. Organize bucket collections around the country at railroad terminal entrances so all railroad workers might financially assist the effort.

4 – Write an “Open Letter”, one each to BLET President Pierce and UTU President Futhey, asking that they make good on their promises to wage a national campaign against single employee crews by taking the following actions: (a) Appear on the picket line; (b) Call a press conference in Brewster, Ohio (W&LE headquarters) to raise the issue of single employee crews; (c) Pledge complete support to the W&LE workers in their fight against single employee crews; (d) Activate their internal mobilization network to build rank and file support.

5 – Publish articles in upcoming issues of the RWU newsletter The Highball about the strike and the struggle of the W&LE workers.
6 -- Urge our members and all railroad workers on Class I carriers who interchange cars with W&LE while the workers to ensure that these cars are inspected properly for safety compliance. RWU encourages all W&LE workers (car knockers, track workers, diesel house and others in addition to trainmen and engineers) to ensure “100% rules compliance”.

7 – Make contacts with W&LE and rank & filers as well as local union leaders to let them know that RWU is there to assist in any way we can – with funds, T-shirts, stickers, picket support, publicity, joint brainstorming and strategizing, etc.

8 – Encourage all BLET and UTU officials (local chairmen, legislative reps, etc.) who might have the ear of their respective national union leaders to contact them and inform them of how important it is for all of us to win this struggle on the W&LE. Their fight is our fight!

Adopted by the RWU Executive Committee September 21st, 2013

Saturday, September 14, 2013

The Lac Megantic Runaway Train Disaster Why Did it Happen?

A complex set of factors led up to the tragedy that befell the community of Lac Megantic, Quebec in July. While we may never know the exact set of circumstances that led to this terrible tragedy, RWU explores what appears to be the important precursors, the railroad atmosphere and culture that appear to be responsible for the wreck. Please read the article here below and attached.

The Lac Megantic Runaway Train Disaster
Why Did it Happen?

In the wake of the terrible tragedy that beset the small town of Lac Megantic, Quebec on July 6th, the temptation is to look for a single factor, a single policy, or a single individual upon which to place the blame. Many in the town will be tempted to blame the notorious anti-union and lax-on-safety railroad CEO Ed Burkhart. Meanwhile Burkhart blamed the fire department and is now pointing fingers at the train’s engineer.

However, those who study the root causes of disasters like this one generally agree that they are months, if not years in the making, and are the combined result of a host of factors. And while any single factor may have been the major catalyst or trigger, a whole host of precursors more than likely led up to the disaster. These might well include the actions of Ed Burkhart as well as the engineer, but also include numerous other factors, such as single employee train operations, the advent of short lines and spinoffs, the poor safety record on the Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railroad, inspection exemptions for unit trains like the one involved; general maintenance and staffing issues on the MM&A, the deregulatory environment in Canada in recent years, and more.

And while the ongoing investigation may take months or even years before the investigation team reaches a final conclusion, it is safe to speculate that some or all of the factors listed here all contributed in some fashion to creating a powder keg that finally exploded in Lac Megantic the night of July 6th, 2013.

Ed Burkhart – MM&A CEO

MM&A CEO Ed Burkhart is a renegade in the rail industry. Vehemently anti-union and dictatorial, Burkhart gained notoriety with his first railroad, The Wisconsin Central where he was CEO from 1987 to 1999. During his reign there, he attempted single employee train crew operations, fought numerous union organizing drives, and had a poor safety record. In 1996, a similar spectacular train wreck involving hazardous materials occurred in Weyauwega, Wisconsin, complete with blazing fire balls and the town’s complete evacuation. After being removed by the WC Board in 1999, “Fast Eddie” went on to purchase the recently privatized railway in New Zealand, and did the same hatchet job on safety and staffing there. It would appear that his reckless, irresponsible behavior has continued at the MM&A. According to one source, “The modus operandi for all of Burkhardt’s adventures in railroading is to fire as many employees as possible, grind down the wages of the ones who remain, and maximize the profits for himself and his fellow investors.”

The MM&A Engineer

The engineer who was in charge of the train, Tom Harding, has more than 30 years experience on the railroad. Tom tied his train down for the night before departing for the hotel. What complicity he has in the events that would unfold that fateful night will be better known after the event recorder is analyzed. But we may never know if he set the appropriate number of handbrakes, as there is no software record of this activity and the cars that would have been hand-braked were at the head of the train, and these cars were completely destroyed in the inferno.

Unit Train Maintenance

Through special waivers, some unit trains that stay together as a “unit” and circulate from mine to mill or in this case from oil fill-up to oil load-out and back again in a cycle, are exempt from the scrutiny that other trains receive. It is possible that the brake shoes on the cars of the train were worn beyond a safe level, and/or the brake seals and gaskets were worn and subject to above average leakage of compressed air. A few carmen we’ve discussed this incident with raised questions about the train’s air brakes bleeding off in such a short time period after the engine was shut down. Potentially some of this might come out in the future investigation.

The MM&A Safety Record and Safety Culture

The accident has shined a spotlight on MMA's safety record. Over the past decade, the company has consistently recorded a much higher accident rate than the national average in the U.S., according to data from the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA).
Last year, for instance, the railroad had 36.1 accidents per million miles traveled by its trains. The national average for 2012 was 14.6.

These statistics point to a railroad that is lax on safety as a matter of policy. So this outlook could easily have contributed to any failure on the part of the engineer to strictly follow the rules, knowing perhaps that the company tolerated or even encouraged “short cuts” to save time and money. It potentially contributed to a failure to: 1-- properly inspect the train at its initial terminal as well; and/or 2 -- properly inspect/repair the locomotive that was badly leaking oil upon arrival at the end of its run (which resulted in the locomotive fire); and/or 3 – take action when informed by the engineer that the locomotive had a serious oil leak which could have prevented the fire and eventual locomotive shut down around midnight.

Canadian Government Lack of Oversight and Regulation

According to the United Steelworkers of America (USW), the union that represents 75 employees at MM&A in Canada, in recent times, the government of Canada has taken a “laissez –fair” approach to transport operations.  “Over the years, the federal government has deregulated rail transport as well as the aviation industry” said Daniel Roy, United Steelworkers’ Quebec Director.

In fact, by the time the Mulroney government was finished with its reforms, the rail industry was deregulated, and companies had rewritten the safety rules. That launched an era of cost-cutting, massive lay-offs, and speed-ups on the job, and eventually, the full privatization of companies and rail-lines. The subsequent Liberal government completed the job by turning over what regulation remained to rail companies themselves. A report issued in 2007 by a safety group spelled out the result: Canada's rail system was a disaster in the waiting.

The rail carriers have been using old rail cars to ship the new Bakken oil, despite the fact that regulators warned the federal government they were unsafe, as far back as 20 years ago. A more recent report by a federal agency reminded the government that the cars could be "subject to damage and catastrophic loss of hazardous materials." All of these warnings have been ignored.

Short Lines and Spinoffs

The rail line in question operated by the MM&A was previously owned by the Canadian Pacific in the late 1990s. The sale by the CP was part of the arrival of the so-called “short lines” in Canada, some of which consist of rail operations that were abandoned by large rail corporations. These “spin-offs” greatly benefitted the large railroads who were now able to shed the responsibility of operating less profitable lines while in many cases continuing to receive the more lucrative  “long haul”, since the short line delivers its loaded rail cars to the big railroad for forwarding.

These short lines do not have the resources and are not subject to scrutiny the way larger railroads like CP and CN are. Because short lines are often lightly used, the track, locomotives and other equipment are  is often not maintained to a level that is maintained by the larger, richer railroads.

Single Employee Train Crews

The MM&A had convinced the federal government in 2012 that it could safely handle trains with a single employee. Transport Canada gave the railroad the green light in late 2012 to reduce staffing aboard road trains. (Apparently the carrier had previously been running trains with a single employee south of the border). Common sense dictates that two heads are better than one, that two sets of eyes and ears see and hear more, and that two fatigued employees at the end of a long day in the middle of the night will remember and respond better than just one. It is debatable to just what extent the single employee crew role played in the wreck, but it is safe to say that in all likelihood, a traditional crew of both engineer and conductor would have performed the securement of the train in a more efficient and safe manner.

Securing Trains on A Steep Grade

Just west of where the train was left standing is apparently relatively level terrain. Had the train broke free and ran away here, it would have almost certainly have caused no damage whatsoever and rolled to a stop at a slow speed. Why then was it standard practice to leave an extremely heavy and dangerous loaded oil train at the top of a steep grade when it was not necessary to do so? Did the company stand to save money on cab ride or other fees? Whatever the case, there is no excuse for regularly leaving a train unattended on such a steep grade. Railroad property is almost universally easily accessible to pedestrians, and on a Saturday night, it is feasible that young revelers could knock off the train’s hand and/or air brakes, setting it free to roll.


While it can be endlessly debated which of the above factors played a “key role” or a “major” or “minor” role in the train wreck, what we can plainly see is a disturbing pattern by which rail corporations, oil companies, big business and their political allies have all combined to create an irresponsible and unsafe situation where corporate profits are placed well ahead of public and worker safety. Deregulation, lax oversight, short staffing, inadequate legally mandated rest, reductions in train crew size, poor maintenance, corner cutting and more are the root causes that ultimately result in train wrecks.  Unless and until this trend is halted and reversed, we are bound to see more cataclysmic train wrecks of this nature. We simply cannot trust the safety of the public and the safety of railroad workers to the rail corporations, big or small, in Canada or the U.S.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Dear RWU Members & Supporters:
It is exciting news that both BLET President Dennis Pierce and UTU (SMART) President Mike Futhey have "broken their silence" on the issue of single employee train crews in the wake of Lac Megantic. In their efforts to halt single employee operations they certainly have RWU's full support. Nevertheless, RWU reserves the right to criticize, to coax and cajole, and to prod them to move this vital campaign forward! Please read the attached article.

A Discussion of the BLET and UTU
Response to Lac Megantic

On July 6th, an unmanned oil tanker train, that had been operated engineer-only and secured by him, ran away from its securement, hurtled into the town of Lac Megantic, Quebec, derailing, exploding, reducing a significant portion of the town to rubble, killing approximately 50 people and injuring countless more. Within two days, the engineer was being publicly scapegoated by the railroad’s CEO and now faces criminal charges. Two weeks later, on July 19th, Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers &Trainmen (BLET) President Dennis Pierce issued an official statement on the subject of the Lac Megantic tragedy and the pressing issue of single-employee train crews. Perhaps in response to this statement, United Transportation Union (UTU) President Mike Futhey issued a statement on August 8th, addressing the same issue. RWU wholeheartedly supports Pierce’s position that the BLET spearhead “a nationwide effort to end single-person operations” and Futhey’s stand that we honor the victims “by fighting for change”.

However, we do take some issue with their delayed response, the contradictions between past deeds and present words, and their vision of the forms this fight may take. Given the stakes involved for us as rail workers, as well as the public, validated by the horrifying magnitude of this tragedy, we feel that a few constructively critical observations are in order.

Pierce cites “respect for the grieving” as the reasoning behind not commenting on this tragedy for almost two weeks before stating, “I can no longer remain silent”. RWU believes rail labor should quickly make its voice heard whenever such an important issue makes national news and the public’s attention is focused on the question. It is not often that the public notices the railroad. When it does, it offers us an invaluable opportunity to get our point of view across. Ed Burkhart (President of the MM&A Railroad) certainly got his view out there in real time. Likewise we need to get the truth in front of the news media and before the public. To their credit, the Steelworkers union in Canada quickly spoke out in defense of the engineer and condemned MM&A’s actions.

Futhey takes credit for “submitting petitions to governmental agencies and by talking directly to the carriers”, only to lament that, “Unfortunately our demands for safety regulations, either arbitrarily or voluntarily have fallen on deaf ears”. We wholeheartedly applaud both Pierce and Futhey when they take the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to task for their non-regulation of railroad safety when it comes to single-employee crew operations. The FRA has the power to enact regulations to make railroad operations safer and is quick to do so when employee mistakes make the news. However, prior to this tragedy the FRA had been virtually silent on the subject of single-employee crews. Every railroader (whether they be rank-and-file or elected union leaders), the public and our congressional representatives should be constantly asking the FRA why they are opposed to making railroad operations safer by regulating crew size.

Pierce Invites SMART (UTU) to Join the Effort

RWU agrees with Pierce when he invites the UTU to join the BLET to fight single employee train crews. However, we cannot ignore the past struggles for unity between the two unions on this issue. It was January 31st, 2006 when the UTU and BLET presidents linked arms and declared “we will never tolerate single employee crews!” Unfortunately this rare unified defiant stand would have a limited shelf life. The next year the BNSF and the BLET reached an on-property agreement to allow RCO outside of the confines of the yard and expand its use to the road (a key component the carriers seek to be able to employ conductor-less trains on the road). And who would be the proud operator of the RCO box on a single employee train? The BLET represented engineer would. A few days later UTU President Paul Thompson wrote a scathing letter to BLET President Paul Sorrow accusing the BLET of back stabbing treachery and a failure to live up to the agreement to oppose single employee train operations. That was the end of the short-lived agreement between the two unions on the question of single-employee trains. It’s worth noting that the general chairman at this time of the BLET’s BNSF General Committee that negotiated this language and sold it to his members as great “job security” was Dennis Pierce. Meanwhile, the UTU proceeded to allow single-employee RCO yard operations. RWU will continue to publicly demand that the two unions unite once and for all behind this life-and-death issue, and put the interests of engineers and trainmen ahead of suicidal, self-interest driven jurisdictional squabbles.

Burkhart Runs Single-Employee Trains “because he can”

Brother Pierce tells us that Ed Burkhart, CEO of the MM&A, runs trains with a single-employee “because he can”. Doesn’t this beg the question, “Why can he?” He “can” because the unions and the carriers have negotiated the language that opens the door to allow for this practice. For much of the last decade the only voice in the wilderness that has been actively opposing single employee crews has been RWU. He “can” because the unions have done next to nothing to educate the public about the dangers that communities, like Lac Megantic, face with the single-employee operation of trains. He “can” because the unions unconditionally accept the terms of engagement that keep us in a virtual straightjacket for any meaningful fight for safety. He “can” because the regulatory agencies are more concerned with the carriers’ needs and interests. The fact that the MM&A has been running single-employee trains south of the border for some time no doubt pressured the Canadian government to allow a waiver for the MM&A to do the same thing on the other side of the border in 2012, thus setting the stage for the tragedy in Lac Megantic. Burkhart, like any other railroad carrier CEO, can run trains with a single-employee train crew – if the public, the government, society and the workforce let them. Our job as a union is to stop this from happening!

It’s worth noting here one more explanation. He “can” because for decades the unions have done virtually nothing to challenge the attacks on our wages and working conditions that escalated with the proliferation of “short line” railroads, most of them spun off from the major carriers. At worst the unions and contractual agreements were eliminated with the stroke of a pen and the shuffling of a few papers. At best the unions remained to sanction and legitimize these attacks or managed to recoup what was left of their lost dues base once the dirty deeds were done. The “short lines” have proven to be useful as the testing grounds for the future attacks on the major carriers’ workforce. Without a national standard of wages and working conditions, we will continue on this spiraling death race to the bottom.  

Why Did It Take So Long?

Brother Pierce has been the BLET president for four years, while Brother Futhey has been the UTU president for six years. Over that time they both have remained virtually silent on the whole question of single-employee train operations. RWU sent certified letters regarding this issue to both the BLET & UTU presidents in the spring of 2011. We received no response. We tried again in the fall, asking the two union heads to make a public statement against single employee crews. It is very telling that neither union president saw fit to take a position that 90% or more of their members would say is a very important issue. We believe it is sad that valuable time has been lost when we could have been educating the public across the continent to enlist their support in actively fighting the scourge of single-employee train crews.

Their Strategy to Fight Single Employee Crews

Pierce and Futhey are now taking a long overdue, defiant stand against single-employee train crews, but they want to limit us to just two ways to do it: legislatively or at the bargaining table. Although a campaign to convince Congress to act against single-employee crews could possibly succeed (especially in the aftermath of Lac Megantic) it must be pursued vigorously, immediately and with the active participation of rank-and-file railroaders and public organizations. And while we might possibly be able to bargain language insisting on two person crews (very unlikely), there is so much more we can and must do.

What Else Can Be Done?

First, we need to educate rank and file railroad workers that the carriers have in fact desired and have proposed operating trains with a single employee. We should alert all rails that single crew operations in the yard with RCO take place all the time now. We need to build upon the anger and resentment that railroad workers feel towards this deadly practice and tap that energy for action.

It is past time we brought this issue to our central labor bodies to alert the entire labor movement to the prospects of single-employee crews. Countless environmental and community groups must be enlisted to be our allies in this struggle, as none would want to see single employee crews putting their neighborhoods and this nation’s land, air and water as risk. We can pressure the carriers to back down from the deadly single-employee crew idea through pickets and rallies, petitions and letter writing, phone call and emails blitzes. We need to show the rail carriers that if they attempt to implement single-employee train crews, it ain’t gonna work!

We applaud Brother Pierce and Brother Futhey for speaking out publicly against single-employee train crews. It is up to all of us to get behind the campaign to stop single-employee crews, to hold all of our union leaders accountable, and demand that they commit the resources to mount a creative and militant campaign to stop the carriers’ plan for single-employee train crews in its tracks. But it has been over two months now since the union presidents issued their statements of outrage at single employee crews. Other than President Pierce's bold statement about a national campaign, neither union has taken action. Where is the campaign, the leaflets, the bumper stickers, posters and flyers? What have the members been asked to do to get involved in this campaign? How do we plan to impress the rail carriers of our determination and dedication to preventing single employee train crews? While we wait for Pierce and Futhey to back up their tough rhetoric with real action, RWU will continue to advocate against this dangerous practice anywhere, anytime, in any way that we can.  

PO Box 1053
Salem IL 62881

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Labor Day Message From Railroad Workers United

Labor Day: A Time for Action!

Dear Railroad Sisters & Brothers:

Whether you are off work or on the job on Monday, please take the time to honor, remember and celebrate Labor Day. This is our day! So much of what we workers take for granted today -- overtime pay, holiday pay, vacations, sick leave, workers’ comp and FELA, railroad retirement, safer working conditions, the basic 8-hour day, seniority and more – only came about because workers came together, organized and fought for these things collectively. If it were not for our solidarity, we would have none of the above, and there certainly would be no such thing as Labor Day itself.

But Labor Day has mostly become a day for picnics and barbeques, political stumping and speech making, posturing and "remembering" our heritage. All pretty boring stuff really. But what if we put some life into Labor Day? What if we called for joint actions by the various sectors of the working class? What if we showed the employing class that we are not simply going to "honor and remember" on Labor Day? What if we were to picket, to demonstrate, to strike and to occupy?

The fast food workers are pointing the way forward. As some of the most exploited, underpaid and disrespected members of our class, fast food workers are finally rising up against their wretched working conditions. They are demanding more. Their heroic actions point the way forward for the rest of labor, railroad workers included. The general walk-out by thousands of workers in 58 cities across the country last week was a spectacular display of the power of labor, the power of solidarity. This singular action has dramatically increased the pride and confidence of every single fast food worker in the nation. From this initial uprising we just might see a sustained and developed organization of fast food workers that is ready to take risks, ready to fight, and be ready to win in the months and years ahead.

Not only is it the job of every worker and every union member to get behind this struggle, maybe it’s time for all of us to do the same thing. Let’s stop crying and whining, bitching and moaning about our jobs. Let’s stop waiting for some politician, some government agency or union official to solve our problems for us. Let’s take the bull by the horns and using the example of the fast food workers, rise up collectively, make our demands known, and let our power be realized.

So on this Labor Day, you will see lots of American flags flying. You will hear lots of politicians bucking for your vote. And you will see lots of hot dogs frying on the grill. But please remember, all this has little to do with the true spirit of Labor Day. This day is really about working people and our struggle – through strikes, boycotts, picket lines, sit-ins, occupations and more – to further the cause of the working class. RWU is proud to be part of that proud tradition of working people fighting back against corporate power. We invite you to join us in the fight. Solidarity forever!

Ron Kaminkow
RWU General Secretary

“We need to have faith in each other. We are in precisely the same position. We depend absolutely on each other. We know that without solidarity, nothing is possible, and that with solidarity, nothing is impossible.”

Eugene V. Debs, Founder of the American Railway Union

Monday, August 12, 2013

A rant..

Manipulation of the Blame Pattern

… "The Top is responsible for figuring out how to capture the hearts and minds of bottom of the union"

 said me and many other union folks.. That’s why we call it leadership… If the members don’t want to get involved.. somebody is doing something wrong.. The members want a fighting Leadership!

.. "a visible alternative to the inactive, government controlled and vaccinated leadership that we have now…is what the union movement needs to reinvigorate it's base and essentially survive"

Why do you think the Rich corporate forces of control have convinced the Top and Middle that the poor are the problem? It’s the same argument that many in the Leadership of the union makes for the woes of the union.. the members are the problem. The Leadership is not doing what the membership wants.. so the rank and file have become uninterested and tired of the same ol same ol… there are some that are fine with this.. they usually are the ones who broadcast the same ol same ol arguments.. 

"The members should get more active, we would never stick together, everybody is just out for themselves"

OK Leaders, 

give them opportunities to get together!!.. Give them opportunities to stick together!!.. if there is no union spirit available .. you can't blame the members for protecting their own ass.. People don't move on their own.. OVAH!  Take a pay cut and throw some resources to organizing…  Out of Touch Leadership is what comes to mind…

Let’s not pretend.. let’s build a movement to get rid of APATHY.. 

and we are going to have to throw some serious medicine at the disease that most effects our union.. APATHY won’t disappear without serious work and resources.. a change of leadership style and culture will be a massive undertaking.. how can this be achieved  ( wink wink say no more! ) Direct Democracy and Grass roots involvement.. the very principals that unions created for themselves... no? 

"A powerful grass roots slate with strategically placed campaigners would change the conversation and the entire Advisory Board (TOP) of the union...The entitled attitude would cease to be."

  The National Division is telling people that the Direct One Member, One Vote Election was a historic win, while gritting their teeth. 

They want the delegate system back!!!..

OF COURSE!! they do... It's all about control, just like private ownership and trickle down economics.. The delegate style of Democracy is trickle down corporate business unionism.. NO? OVER? OVAH? (OUI)

The members won twice. Get over it!!  The National Division is pretty much defunct… except the Legislative Side… The General Comitties of Adjustment  (GCA) hold all the power… 

But many of those GCA's have few members willing to fight.. few organizational skills. Good old boy intimidation…and don't move on the majority opinion.


because they don't ask the membership honestly what to do...

When this is brought up to many of our leaders this is the response:
 "They should come to the meeting and get active." end of argument.. 

. WTF? Where is the accountability? Leadership? WTF is a leader???… Wait till the members get active on their OWN???.. What kind of a dumbass response is that to why the members are not active?? WTF.. Over.. They should come to the meeting… Bullshit.. 

The meeting should come to them…

We are railroaders.. We ain’t got time for that… If we work 80 hours in 7 days, stay in the hotel for three days and are looking at children and spouse...

  How can we justify going to a meeting where a few people are going to make decisions for many people without honestly asking the membership what to do as a union?

 (they call this a poll of the membership)

sorry.. better come up with an alternative plan..

(that's a link it)

 If the meeting was professional and productive.. you bet we would go.. but or leadership does not know how to build.. they have learned how to union (railroad) from years of a dysfunctional, abusive  leadership culture. 

Hide the information from the members. Tell fibs and get the agreements passed by the agenda of the GCA..

shhhh the membership might not like this. So go and pass it at the meeting…

Remember: Poll the "ACTIVE" members

We need a well-balanced mixed bag of ways to go up against our carriers and their labor relation big law school lawyers. We need to fight in the courts, Washington and in the field. Our CO’s are missing in action. While the troops are being fed a media message that unions steal your money and lobby against guns, God and glory… Unfortunately FOX is right about a lot of the corruption and that resonates with the membership.

"FAUX and their corporate masters do not wish to improve the labor movement with their criticism, they wish to destroy the unions."

The membership wants a forward organized push.. a visible one.. they also are going to need to be able to see it happening.. right now the critical bandwagon is the loudest and the Change to Win and the AFL-CIO do not know how to change that…

 "It’s called Direct Action and boots on the ground."

(another link... el click o)

We should have never went to on property agreements.. we should have strong local agreements and a strong national contract.. Whoever pushed for On property agreements needs to be held accountable for Destroying our union power.. They told us it would give us more power to make deals with the carriers.. 

They lied!

 Now the carriers only have to deal with a small number of GCA leaders.. some who would not know a union if it bit them in the privates.. On property agreements do not give us more power.. They lied about that.. Bad Idea.. period. Ovah!

We need to tell the railroad corporations that we are not going to participate in the healthcare industries profit driven rape of our membership.. but we don’t have that kind of union right now. 

Single Payer? Healthcare?

The on property Agreements have destroyed all the national power we might have had.. oh wait the Railroad Labor Act.. I knew that was coming….cue the preachers of the RLA...

"We should get out of the Democrat Party business and go back to fighting with our members!!!" 

They know who to vote for…. Imagine if R Money would have won… He would have taught railroaders and the middle class a big lesson.

 If you think that the Republicans are going to fuck up Rail Road Retirement??

 What will happen if our Teamster Rail Conference keeps letting the railroad carriers contract out all our railroad union jobs and run trains with one person.. that will  mess up the fun D.. The BMWED (teamster)  track department is under attack from outsourcing.. the clerks.. the service center crafts… we are all under attack! 


Ovah!!! The loss of railroad jobs to outsourcing makes AMTRAK and its potential loss look like small potatoes.. so, hey retirees.. you might want to become active again.. I know of these rank and file organizations that accept donations.. wink wink…

FRA Emergency Orders don’t carry weight..

they never have.. When we were getting killed with One person RCO jobs… the FRA issued an Emergency Order.. now RCO operators are marking up Qualified! Thanks FRA.. Don’t be duped by the hide your head in the sand message from the Rail Unions.. the Railroad Carriers 

(robber Barons)

 have the power to do whatever they want.. always have… except when the ARU was organized..  (click the link..)

The Corporations OWN the Government…

 I still have several Locomotive Engineers on Strike Signs left over from the last smoke and mirrors contract negotiations.. from the unions leaders I have met.. I am surprised they have not tried to have me brought up on charges for theft of union property.

…. Debs was right when he said that railroaders (many but not all) are void of class conscience. Give a railroader a job and a new pair of boots and They will vote Republican.. is what I have heard out on the rails.. Give a railroader a big union job and a two piece suit and They will forget all about those  stinky locomotive toilets, hot cabs with out proper air circulation, long nights, bad call times.. not seeing your kid grow up.. I do care about the pay at the top.. 

Question: Should the National Leadership make over twice the amount that the membership makes?

 If the answer is Yes? WHY?  My union has the funds and know how to develop leaders. The members are the power.. figure that out.. ovah! And I am glad I make that money that i do

(thanks to the union!)

 and yes I know the union got that for me but it's getting more and more expensive to live and healthcare is kicking my ass…. So fix the problem.. NO MORE CONCESSIONARY BARGAINING!!! (wink wink say no more)

I can’t blame the National Division for everything,

but if we want the union they are going to have to let us rebuild it. or, will have a union just like our HQ building in Cleveland.. OLD. Sucking resources, antiquated, in the way.. and falling apart… unless we change the culture!!

 I think it safe to say that this will take NEW Leadership and Resources. AND Many voices... 

JP Wright

Proud BLET!!