Current News

Subscribe to Current News feed
Updated: 7 min 30 sec ago

Seattle School union busting bus contractor First Student is no stranger to labor disputes

Sun, 02/04/2018 - 10:01

Seattle School union busting bus contractor First Student is no stranger to labor disputes
https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/education/seattles-contractor-...
Originally published February 4, 2018 at 6:00 am Updated February 3, 2018 at 5:03 pm
Striking bus drivers for Seattle Public School’s including Ed Dornbach, center (blue jacket) and Larry Smith, right, picket at the First Student bus facility on the corner of Lake City Way Northwest at Northeast 137th Street on Thursday. (Mike Siegel/The Seattle Times)
Striking bus drivers for Seattle Public School’s including Ed Dornbach, center (blue jacket) and Larry Smith, right, picket at the First Student bus facility on the corner of Lake City Way Northwest at Northeast 137th Street on Thursday. (Mike Siegel/The Seattle Times)
Seattle’s strike, which has left families of some 12,000 students scrambling to find ways to get their children to school, will likely surpass Montreal’s and continue into next week.

By Paige Cornwell
Seattle Times staff reporter
Seattle isn’t the first city to find its school district caught between its striking bus drivers and their employer, First Student. In the past month alone, drivers in Southern California and Montreal, Canada, have launched strikes against the giant bus company over contract disputes.

Both strikes ended Wednesday, one day before Seattle’s began.

Like Seattle Public Schools, several districts in those areas were left without bus service. The Southern California strike ended after two weeks, while the Montreal drivers staged a two-day strike.

Seattle’s strike, which has left families of some 12,000 students scrambling to find ways to get their children to school, likely will surpass Montreal’s and continue into next week. First Student and Teamsters Local 174, which represents the 400 bus drivers, appear far from an agreement. Both sides have said they want to return to the negotiating table, but no talks were scheduled through the weekend.

First Student is the largest school-bus contractor in North America, with more than 50,500 employees who drive 44,00 buses in more than 1,000 school districts. It’s a division of FirstGroup, a company based in England that has revenue of about $7 billion a year, according to the company.

The company is no stranger to labor disputes and other issues.

“It doesn’t surprise us at all that First Student would have all these problems,” Teamsters spokeswoman Jamie Fleming said. “Their business model is based on paying their employees as little as possible with no benefits.”

First Student has maintained that it provides competitive pay and health benefits for its drivers.

“During this difficult time, we are doing everything we can to provide as much service as possible to Seattle Public Schools families,” First Student said in a statement Friday. “We know how important our work is, so any driver who wants to continue to work can certainly do so. First Student remains available and willing to take a call from the union at any time.”

The union members in Southern California who drive buses for the Alhambra, Glendale and Pasadena school districts wanted better pay and health benefits, and had concerns about poor working conditions. Teamsters Local 572, which represents drivers in all three districts, rejected two offers from First Student and then decided to strike, according to the Pasadena Star-News. About 3,000 students in those districts take the bus.

A First Student spokesman told the Pasadena Star-News that the company offered to cover 60 percent of employees’ health care premiums.

In Seattle, the company currently gives full- and part-time drivers up to $1,900 in annual stipends to pay for health premiums. The company’s current offer would pay 80 percent of the premiums for full- and part-time employees as well as 80 percent for the dependents of full-time employees. The union has rejected the offer but hasn’t said publicly what it wants to get. The sides are also at odds over retirement benefits.

In Montreal, 330 school-bus drivers went on strike after negotiations stalled with Autobus Transco, which is owned by First Student. The drivers, represented by a Quebec union, wanted a pay increase and a three-year contract, while the company wanted a five-year contract.

The strike affected about 15,000 Montreal students.

Steilacoom, Pierce County, bus drivers went on strike against First Student in May 2017 to protest their hourly pay of $12.75, which they said wasn’t a livable wage. The drivers, represented by Teamsters Local 313, were only on strike for four hours before the two sides came to an agreement that workers would receive an average of $5 more per hour, the union said. Classes were delayed by two hours.

In addition to the strikes, other districts across the nation have decided to go with another bus provider over concerns about driver behavior, late arrivals and old equipment.

The Shawnee Mission School District in suburban Kansas City, Kansas, for example, changed bus companies last year after concerns about late arrivals. The district documented more than 600 cases in one school year where drivers were late or didn’t pick up students at all, The Kansas City Star reported.

Seattle school district officials have said they had no choice but to hire First Student because it was the only company to bid when its previous contract expired last year. The school district agreed to a three-year contract, worth $27 million a year, through 2020.

Paige Cornwell: 206-464-2530 or pcornwell@seattletimes.com; on Twitter @pgcornwell.

Tags: First Studentunion bustingoutsourcing
Categories: Labor News

Amtrak Train Collision Kills at Least 2 and Injures 116 Others

Sun, 02/04/2018 - 09:00

Amtrak Train Collision Kills at Least 2 and Injures 116 Others
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/04/us/amtrak-crash-south-carolina.html?h...
By YONETTE JOSEPH, ANNE-SOPHIE BOLON and CHRISTINA CARON
FEB. 4, 2018

U.S. By AINARA TIEFENTHÄLER 00:34
Fatal Train Collision in South Carolina

An Amtrak train traveling from New York to Miami collided with a freight train early Sunday, killing at least two people and injuring at least 116 others. By AINARA TIEFENTHÄLER on Publish Date February 4, 2018. Photo by Tim Dominick/The State, via Associated Press... Watch in Times Video »

An Amtrak train traveling from New York to Miami collided with a freight train early Sunday, killing at least two people, injuring at least 116 others and spilling thousands of gallons of fuel, according to officials.

Amtrak said its train, which was carrying eight crew members and 139 passengers, collided with a CSX train near Cayce, S.C., outside Columbia, around 2:35 a.m.

Both of the people who died were Amtrak employees, Gov. Henry McMaster said at a news conference on Sunday morning.

Drone footage of the crash broadcast by WLTX showed the site of the collision.

The CSX train was stationary, Mr. McMaster said, and appeared to be on the correct track. “It appears that Amtrak was on the wrong track,” he said.

The first engine of the freight train was torn up, he said, and the engine of the Amtrak train, Train 91, was “barely recognizable.”

“It’s a horrible thing to see — to understand the force that this involved,” Mr. McMaster said.

In a statement earlier Sunday morning, Amtrak said the lead engine and some of the passenger cars had derailed.

It was the second major crash involving an Amtrak train in less than a week. On Wednesday, a train carrying Republican members of Congress to a retreat in West Virginia hit a garbage truck in rural Virginia, killing a passenger in the truck.

The cause of the crash on Sunday was not immediately clear. The National Transportation Safety Board said on Twitter that it was beginning an investigation into the collision.

The train, operating Amtrak’s Silver Star service, originated at Pennsylvania Station in New York and was bound for Miami. The Lexington Sheriff’s Department said on Twitter that the crash occurred near Charleston Highway and Pine Ridge Road, close to Pine Ridge, S.C.

Charell Star of Maplewood, N.J., said that her mother, Lynn Winston, had decided to take the train home to Florida after a visit because she thought it would be safer than flying.

Ms. Winston, 57, was in one of the sleeper cars when the crash happened.

“She got knocked out of bed and the luggage fell on top of her,” Ms. Star said. “She’s in good spirits but she’s pretty banged up.”

Officials said that 116 of the Amtrak passengers were transferred to local hospitals and the uninjured had been taken to a Red Cross reception site at Pine Ridge Middle School. The CSX train did not have any passengers on board, Mr. McMaster said.

“We know that they are shaken up quite a bit,” Capt. Adam Myrick of the Lexington County Sheriff’s Department said.

Three Palmetto Health hospitals in Columbia received patients from the collision, the organization said in a statement on Sunday, including 60 adults and two children.

By The New York Times
“Based on the patients’ conditions, we expect most of the patients to be evaluated, treated and released but some are still being evaluated,” the statement said.

Mr. Cahill said a hazardous materials team had been called to the site because roughly 5,000 gallons of fuel had spilled as a result of the collision.

“We were able to secure two leaks of fuel from the trains,” he said, adding there was “no threat to the public at this time.”

“This is not our first train derailment,” said Derrec Becker of the South Carolina Emergency Management Division, citing a fatal derailment in January 2005. A 42-car freight train operated by Norfolk Southern crashed into a smaller train near Granitteville, S.C., killing eight people, injuring more than 200 and leaking chlorine gas.

“It’s unfortunate that we have two fatalities,” he said of the crash on Sunday. “Our hearts are with those families right now.”

Senator Tim E. Scott, Republican of South Carolina, also expressed his condolences on Twitter to the families of those killed and those injured.

Derek Pettaway, a passenger on the train, told CNN that he had been asleep at the time of the crash, but that officials reacted swiftly and passengers were led off quickly.

“Nobody was panicking, people were in shock more than anything,” he said, according to The State’s website.

He said it was too dark to see much, but most of the cars he glimpsed ended up off the tracks but upright.

Amtrak has had a number of high-profile crashes and derailments over the years, leading to criticism from consumer advocates and government officials. Federal Railroad Administration statistics have shown that in recent years the agency has had an average of about two derailments a month, accounting for about one-quarter of all the accidents it reports.

Most derailments, however, have rarely caused more than minor injuries.

Amtrak maintains that it has been a “safe and reliable transporter of more than 30 million passengers” and that it has a strong safety record. However, after a 2016 episode in Pennsylvania in which a train hit a piece of track equipment and derailed, killing two, it said in a statement, “We need to assess how we can get better.”

Amtrak has also installed technology known as positive train control on parts of its rail network in the Northeast Corridor after passenger trains traveling well above the speed limit derailed, leaving a trail of death and injuries.

In the Amtrak crash in Virginia on Wednesday, two passengers from the truck were injured — one seriously — and hospitalized. Two members of the train’s crew and at least two passengers, including Representative Jason Lewis, Republican of Minnesota, were also hospitalized with minor injuries.

Republicans had chartered the train to carry them from Washington to the Greenbrier resort in West Virginia, where the party was holding its annual policy retreat. Several lawmakers who were on the train estimated that more than half of the Republican members of the House and Senate, including Speaker Paul D. Ryan, were on board, and that many were accompanied by their spouses.

In December, a passenger train on a newly opened Amtrak routejumped the tracks on an overpass south of Tacoma, Wash., slamming rail cars into a busy highway, killing at least three people and injuring about 100 others.

In 2015, an Amtrak train derailed in Philadelphia, killing eight people and injuring more than 200. A Pennsylvania judge dismissed involuntary manslaughter charges against the Amtrak engineer, saying it appeared to be an accident and not the result of criminal negligence.

Tags: Amtrak wreckhealth and safety
Categories: Labor News

Amtrak Train Collision Kills at Least 2 and Injures 116 Others

Sun, 02/04/2018 - 09:00

Amtrak Train Collision Kills at Least 2 and Injures 116 Others
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/04/us/amtrak-crash-south-carolina.html?h...
By YONETTE JOSEPH, ANNE-SOPHIE BOLON and CHRISTINA CARON
FEB. 4, 2018

U.S. By AINARA TIEFENTHÄLER 00:34
Fatal Train Collision in South Carolina

An Amtrak train traveling from New York to Miami collided with a freight train early Sunday, killing at least two people and injuring at least 116 others. By AINARA TIEFENTHÄLER on Publish Date February 4, 2018. Photo by Tim Dominick/The State, via Associated Press... Watch in Times Video »

An Amtrak train traveling from New York to Miami collided with a freight train early Sunday, killing at least two people, injuring at least 116 others and spilling thousands of gallons of fuel, according to officials.

Amtrak said its train, which was carrying eight crew members and 139 passengers, collided with a CSX train near Cayce, S.C., outside Columbia, around 2:35 a.m.

Both of the people who died were Amtrak employees, Gov. Henry McMaster said at a news conference on Sunday morning.

Drone footage of the crash broadcast by WLTX showed the site of the collision.

The CSX train was stationary, Mr. McMaster said, and appeared to be on the correct track. “It appears that Amtrak was on the wrong track,” he said.

The first engine of the freight train was torn up, he said, and the engine of the Amtrak train, Train 91, was “barely recognizable.”

“It’s a horrible thing to see — to understand the force that this involved,” Mr. McMaster said.

In a statement earlier Sunday morning, Amtrak said the lead engine and some of the passenger cars had derailed.

It was the second major crash involving an Amtrak train in less than a week. On Wednesday, a train carrying Republican members of Congress to a retreat in West Virginia hit a garbage truck in rural Virginia, killing a passenger in the truck.

The cause of the crash on Sunday was not immediately clear. The National Transportation Safety Board said on Twitter that it was beginning an investigation into the collision.

The train, operating Amtrak’s Silver Star service, originated at Pennsylvania Station in New York and was bound for Miami. The Lexington Sheriff’s Department said on Twitter that the crash occurred near Charleston Highway and Pine Ridge Road, close to Pine Ridge, S.C.

Charell Star of Maplewood, N.J., said that her mother, Lynn Winston, had decided to take the train home to Florida after a visit because she thought it would be safer than flying.

Ms. Winston, 57, was in one of the sleeper cars when the crash happened.

“She got knocked out of bed and the luggage fell on top of her,” Ms. Star said. “She’s in good spirits but she’s pretty banged up.”

Officials said that 116 of the Amtrak passengers were transferred to local hospitals and the uninjured had been taken to a Red Cross reception site at Pine Ridge Middle School. The CSX train did not have any passengers on board, Mr. McMaster said.

“We know that they are shaken up quite a bit,” Capt. Adam Myrick of the Lexington County Sheriff’s Department said.

Three Palmetto Health hospitals in Columbia received patients from the collision, the organization said in a statement on Sunday, including 60 adults and two children.

By The New York Times
“Based on the patients’ conditions, we expect most of the patients to be evaluated, treated and released but some are still being evaluated,” the statement said.

Mr. Cahill said a hazardous materials team had been called to the site because roughly 5,000 gallons of fuel had spilled as a result of the collision.

“We were able to secure two leaks of fuel from the trains,” he said, adding there was “no threat to the public at this time.”

“This is not our first train derailment,” said Derrec Becker of the South Carolina Emergency Management Division, citing a fatal derailment in January 2005. A 42-car freight train operated by Norfolk Southern crashed into a smaller train near Granitteville, S.C., killing eight people, injuring more than 200 and leaking chlorine gas.

“It’s unfortunate that we have two fatalities,” he said of the crash on Sunday. “Our hearts are with those families right now.”

Senator Tim E. Scott, Republican of South Carolina, also expressed his condolences on Twitter to the families of those killed and those injured.

Derek Pettaway, a passenger on the train, told CNN that he had been asleep at the time of the crash, but that officials reacted swiftly and passengers were led off quickly.

“Nobody was panicking, people were in shock more than anything,” he said, according to The State’s website.

He said it was too dark to see much, but most of the cars he glimpsed ended up off the tracks but upright.

Amtrak has had a number of high-profile crashes and derailments over the years, leading to criticism from consumer advocates and government officials. Federal Railroad Administration statistics have shown that in recent years the agency has had an average of about two derailments a month, accounting for about one-quarter of all the accidents it reports.

Most derailments, however, have rarely caused more than minor injuries.

Amtrak maintains that it has been a “safe and reliable transporter of more than 30 million passengers” and that it has a strong safety record. However, after a 2016 episode in Pennsylvania in which a train hit a piece of track equipment and derailed, killing two, it said in a statement, “We need to assess how we can get better.”

Amtrak has also installed technology known as positive train control on parts of its rail network in the Northeast Corridor after passenger trains traveling well above the speed limit derailed, leaving a trail of death and injuries.

In the Amtrak crash in Virginia on Wednesday, two passengers from the truck were injured — one seriously — and hospitalized. Two members of the train’s crew and at least two passengers, including Representative Jason Lewis, Republican of Minnesota, were also hospitalized with minor injuries.

Republicans had chartered the train to carry them from Washington to the Greenbrier resort in West Virginia, where the party was holding its annual policy retreat. Several lawmakers who were on the train estimated that more than half of the Republican members of the House and Senate, including Speaker Paul D. Ryan, were on board, and that many were accompanied by their spouses.

In December, a passenger train on a newly opened Amtrak routejumped the tracks on an overpass south of Tacoma, Wash., slamming rail cars into a busy highway, killing at least three people and injuring about 100 others.

In 2015, an Amtrak train derailed in Philadelphia, killing eight people and injuring more than 200. A Pennsylvania judge dismissed involuntary manslaughter charges against the Amtrak engineer, saying it appeared to be an accident and not the result of criminal negligence.

Tags: Amtrak wreckhealth and safety
Categories: Labor News

Amtrak Train Collision Kills at Least 2 and Injures 116 Others

Sun, 02/04/2018 - 09:00

Amtrak Train Collision Kills at Least 2 and Injures 116 Others
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/04/us/amtrak-crash-south-carolina.html?h...
By YONETTE JOSEPH, ANNE-SOPHIE BOLON and CHRISTINA CARON
FEB. 4, 2018

U.S. By AINARA TIEFENTHÄLER 00:34
Fatal Train Collision in South Carolina

An Amtrak train traveling from New York to Miami collided with a freight train early Sunday, killing at least two people and injuring at least 116 others. By AINARA TIEFENTHÄLER on Publish Date February 4, 2018. Photo by Tim Dominick/The State, via Associated Press... Watch in Times Video »

An Amtrak train traveling from New York to Miami collided with a freight train early Sunday, killing at least two people, injuring at least 116 others and spilling thousands of gallons of fuel, according to officials.

Amtrak said its train, which was carrying eight crew members and 139 passengers, collided with a CSX train near Cayce, S.C., outside Columbia, around 2:35 a.m.

Both of the people who died were Amtrak employees, Gov. Henry McMaster said at a news conference on Sunday morning.

Drone footage of the crash broadcast by WLTX showed the site of the collision.

The CSX train was stationary, Mr. McMaster said, and appeared to be on the correct track. “It appears that Amtrak was on the wrong track,” he said.

The first engine of the freight train was torn up, he said, and the engine of the Amtrak train, Train 91, was “barely recognizable.”

“It’s a horrible thing to see — to understand the force that this involved,” Mr. McMaster said.

In a statement earlier Sunday morning, Amtrak said the lead engine and some of the passenger cars had derailed.

It was the second major crash involving an Amtrak train in less than a week. On Wednesday, a train carrying Republican members of Congress to a retreat in West Virginia hit a garbage truck in rural Virginia, killing a passenger in the truck.

The cause of the crash on Sunday was not immediately clear. The National Transportation Safety Board said on Twitter that it was beginning an investigation into the collision.

The train, operating Amtrak’s Silver Star service, originated at Pennsylvania Station in New York and was bound for Miami. The Lexington Sheriff’s Department said on Twitter that the crash occurred near Charleston Highway and Pine Ridge Road, close to Pine Ridge, S.C.

Charell Star of Maplewood, N.J., said that her mother, Lynn Winston, had decided to take the train home to Florida after a visit because she thought it would be safer than flying.

Ms. Winston, 57, was in one of the sleeper cars when the crash happened.

“She got knocked out of bed and the luggage fell on top of her,” Ms. Star said. “She’s in good spirits but she’s pretty banged up.”

Officials said that 116 of the Amtrak passengers were transferred to local hospitals and the uninjured had been taken to a Red Cross reception site at Pine Ridge Middle School. The CSX train did not have any passengers on board, Mr. McMaster said.

“We know that they are shaken up quite a bit,” Capt. Adam Myrick of the Lexington County Sheriff’s Department said.

Three Palmetto Health hospitals in Columbia received patients from the collision, the organization said in a statement on Sunday, including 60 adults and two children.

By The New York Times
“Based on the patients’ conditions, we expect most of the patients to be evaluated, treated and released but some are still being evaluated,” the statement said.

Mr. Cahill said a hazardous materials team had been called to the site because roughly 5,000 gallons of fuel had spilled as a result of the collision.

“We were able to secure two leaks of fuel from the trains,” he said, adding there was “no threat to the public at this time.”

“This is not our first train derailment,” said Derrec Becker of the South Carolina Emergency Management Division, citing a fatal derailment in January 2005. A 42-car freight train operated by Norfolk Southern crashed into a smaller train near Granitteville, S.C., killing eight people, injuring more than 200 and leaking chlorine gas.

“It’s unfortunate that we have two fatalities,” he said of the crash on Sunday. “Our hearts are with those families right now.”

Senator Tim E. Scott, Republican of South Carolina, also expressed his condolences on Twitter to the families of those killed and those injured.

Derek Pettaway, a passenger on the train, told CNN that he had been asleep at the time of the crash, but that officials reacted swiftly and passengers were led off quickly.

“Nobody was panicking, people were in shock more than anything,” he said, according to The State’s website.

He said it was too dark to see much, but most of the cars he glimpsed ended up off the tracks but upright.

Amtrak has had a number of high-profile crashes and derailments over the years, leading to criticism from consumer advocates and government officials. Federal Railroad Administration statistics have shown that in recent years the agency has had an average of about two derailments a month, accounting for about one-quarter of all the accidents it reports.

Most derailments, however, have rarely caused more than minor injuries.

Amtrak maintains that it has been a “safe and reliable transporter of more than 30 million passengers” and that it has a strong safety record. However, after a 2016 episode in Pennsylvania in which a train hit a piece of track equipment and derailed, killing two, it said in a statement, “We need to assess how we can get better.”

Amtrak has also installed technology known as positive train control on parts of its rail network in the Northeast Corridor after passenger trains traveling well above the speed limit derailed, leaving a trail of death and injuries.

In the Amtrak crash in Virginia on Wednesday, two passengers from the truck were injured — one seriously — and hospitalized. Two members of the train’s crew and at least two passengers, including Representative Jason Lewis, Republican of Minnesota, were also hospitalized with minor injuries.

Republicans had chartered the train to carry them from Washington to the Greenbrier resort in West Virginia, where the party was holding its annual policy retreat. Several lawmakers who were on the train estimated that more than half of the Republican members of the House and Senate, including Speaker Paul D. Ryan, were on board, and that many were accompanied by their spouses.

In December, a passenger train on a newly opened Amtrak routejumped the tracks on an overpass south of Tacoma, Wash., slamming rail cars into a busy highway, killing at least three people and injuring about 100 others.

In 2015, an Amtrak train derailed in Philadelphia, killing eight people and injuring more than 200. A Pennsylvania judge dismissed involuntary manslaughter charges against the Amtrak engineer, saying it appeared to be an accident and not the result of criminal negligence.

Tags: Amtrak wreckhealth and safety
Categories: Labor News

Amtrak Train Collision Kills at Least 2 and Injures 116 Others

Sun, 02/04/2018 - 09:00

Amtrak Train Collision Kills at Least 2 and Injures 116 Others
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/04/us/amtrak-crash-south-carolina.html?h...
By YONETTE JOSEPH, ANNE-SOPHIE BOLON and CHRISTINA CARON
FEB. 4, 2018

U.S. By AINARA TIEFENTHÄLER 00:34
Fatal Train Collision in South Carolina

An Amtrak train traveling from New York to Miami collided with a freight train early Sunday, killing at least two people and injuring at least 116 others. By AINARA TIEFENTHÄLER on Publish Date February 4, 2018. Photo by Tim Dominick/The State, via Associated Press... Watch in Times Video »

An Amtrak train traveling from New York to Miami collided with a freight train early Sunday, killing at least two people, injuring at least 116 others and spilling thousands of gallons of fuel, according to officials.

Amtrak said its train, which was carrying eight crew members and 139 passengers, collided with a CSX train near Cayce, S.C., outside Columbia, around 2:35 a.m.

Both of the people who died were Amtrak employees, Gov. Henry McMaster said at a news conference on Sunday morning.

Drone footage of the crash broadcast by WLTX showed the site of the collision.

The CSX train was stationary, Mr. McMaster said, and appeared to be on the correct track. “It appears that Amtrak was on the wrong track,” he said.

The first engine of the freight train was torn up, he said, and the engine of the Amtrak train, Train 91, was “barely recognizable.”

“It’s a horrible thing to see — to understand the force that this involved,” Mr. McMaster said.

In a statement earlier Sunday morning, Amtrak said the lead engine and some of the passenger cars had derailed.

It was the second major crash involving an Amtrak train in less than a week. On Wednesday, a train carrying Republican members of Congress to a retreat in West Virginia hit a garbage truck in rural Virginia, killing a passenger in the truck.

The cause of the crash on Sunday was not immediately clear. The National Transportation Safety Board said on Twitter that it was beginning an investigation into the collision.

The train, operating Amtrak’s Silver Star service, originated at Pennsylvania Station in New York and was bound for Miami. The Lexington Sheriff’s Department said on Twitter that the crash occurred near Charleston Highway and Pine Ridge Road, close to Pine Ridge, S.C.

Charell Star of Maplewood, N.J., said that her mother, Lynn Winston, had decided to take the train home to Florida after a visit because she thought it would be safer than flying.

Ms. Winston, 57, was in one of the sleeper cars when the crash happened.

“She got knocked out of bed and the luggage fell on top of her,” Ms. Star said. “She’s in good spirits but she’s pretty banged up.”

Officials said that 116 of the Amtrak passengers were transferred to local hospitals and the uninjured had been taken to a Red Cross reception site at Pine Ridge Middle School. The CSX train did not have any passengers on board, Mr. McMaster said.

“We know that they are shaken up quite a bit,” Capt. Adam Myrick of the Lexington County Sheriff’s Department said.

Three Palmetto Health hospitals in Columbia received patients from the collision, the organization said in a statement on Sunday, including 60 adults and two children.

By The New York Times
“Based on the patients’ conditions, we expect most of the patients to be evaluated, treated and released but some are still being evaluated,” the statement said.

Mr. Cahill said a hazardous materials team had been called to the site because roughly 5,000 gallons of fuel had spilled as a result of the collision.

“We were able to secure two leaks of fuel from the trains,” he said, adding there was “no threat to the public at this time.”

“This is not our first train derailment,” said Derrec Becker of the South Carolina Emergency Management Division, citing a fatal derailment in January 2005. A 42-car freight train operated by Norfolk Southern crashed into a smaller train near Granitteville, S.C., killing eight people, injuring more than 200 and leaking chlorine gas.

“It’s unfortunate that we have two fatalities,” he said of the crash on Sunday. “Our hearts are with those families right now.”

Senator Tim E. Scott, Republican of South Carolina, also expressed his condolences on Twitter to the families of those killed and those injured.

Derek Pettaway, a passenger on the train, told CNN that he had been asleep at the time of the crash, but that officials reacted swiftly and passengers were led off quickly.

“Nobody was panicking, people were in shock more than anything,” he said, according to The State’s website.

He said it was too dark to see much, but most of the cars he glimpsed ended up off the tracks but upright.

Amtrak has had a number of high-profile crashes and derailments over the years, leading to criticism from consumer advocates and government officials. Federal Railroad Administration statistics have shown that in recent years the agency has had an average of about two derailments a month, accounting for about one-quarter of all the accidents it reports.

Most derailments, however, have rarely caused more than minor injuries.

Amtrak maintains that it has been a “safe and reliable transporter of more than 30 million passengers” and that it has a strong safety record. However, after a 2016 episode in Pennsylvania in which a train hit a piece of track equipment and derailed, killing two, it said in a statement, “We need to assess how we can get better.”

Amtrak has also installed technology known as positive train control on parts of its rail network in the Northeast Corridor after passenger trains traveling well above the speed limit derailed, leaving a trail of death and injuries.

In the Amtrak crash in Virginia on Wednesday, two passengers from the truck were injured — one seriously — and hospitalized. Two members of the train’s crew and at least two passengers, including Representative Jason Lewis, Republican of Minnesota, were also hospitalized with minor injuries.

Republicans had chartered the train to carry them from Washington to the Greenbrier resort in West Virginia, where the party was holding its annual policy retreat. Several lawmakers who were on the train estimated that more than half of the Republican members of the House and Senate, including Speaker Paul D. Ryan, were on board, and that many were accompanied by their spouses.

In December, a passenger train on a newly opened Amtrak routejumped the tracks on an overpass south of Tacoma, Wash., slamming rail cars into a busy highway, killing at least three people and injuring about 100 others.

In 2015, an Amtrak train derailed in Philadelphia, killing eight people and injuring more than 200. A Pennsylvania judge dismissed involuntary manslaughter charges against the Amtrak engineer, saying it appeared to be an accident and not the result of criminal negligence.

Tags: Amtrak wreckhealth and safety
Categories: Labor News

Amtrak Train Collision Kills at Least 2 and Injures 116 Others

Sun, 02/04/2018 - 09:00

Amtrak Train Collision Kills at Least 2 and Injures 116 Others
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/04/us/amtrak-crash-south-carolina.html?h...
By YONETTE JOSEPH, ANNE-SOPHIE BOLON and CHRISTINA CARON
FEB. 4, 2018

U.S. By AINARA TIEFENTHÄLER 00:34
Fatal Train Collision in South Carolina

An Amtrak train traveling from New York to Miami collided with a freight train early Sunday, killing at least two people and injuring at least 116 others. By AINARA TIEFENTHÄLER on Publish Date February 4, 2018. Photo by Tim Dominick/The State, via Associated Press... Watch in Times Video »

An Amtrak train traveling from New York to Miami collided with a freight train early Sunday, killing at least two people, injuring at least 116 others and spilling thousands of gallons of fuel, according to officials.

Amtrak said its train, which was carrying eight crew members and 139 passengers, collided with a CSX train near Cayce, S.C., outside Columbia, around 2:35 a.m.

Both of the people who died were Amtrak employees, Gov. Henry McMaster said at a news conference on Sunday morning.

Drone footage of the crash broadcast by WLTX showed the site of the collision.

The CSX train was stationary, Mr. McMaster said, and appeared to be on the correct track. “It appears that Amtrak was on the wrong track,” he said.

The first engine of the freight train was torn up, he said, and the engine of the Amtrak train, Train 91, was “barely recognizable.”

“It’s a horrible thing to see — to understand the force that this involved,” Mr. McMaster said.

In a statement earlier Sunday morning, Amtrak said the lead engine and some of the passenger cars had derailed.

It was the second major crash involving an Amtrak train in less than a week. On Wednesday, a train carrying Republican members of Congress to a retreat in West Virginia hit a garbage truck in rural Virginia, killing a passenger in the truck.

The cause of the crash on Sunday was not immediately clear. The National Transportation Safety Board said on Twitter that it was beginning an investigation into the collision.

The train, operating Amtrak’s Silver Star service, originated at Pennsylvania Station in New York and was bound for Miami. The Lexington Sheriff’s Department said on Twitter that the crash occurred near Charleston Highway and Pine Ridge Road, close to Pine Ridge, S.C.

Charell Star of Maplewood, N.J., said that her mother, Lynn Winston, had decided to take the train home to Florida after a visit because she thought it would be safer than flying.

Ms. Winston, 57, was in one of the sleeper cars when the crash happened.

“She got knocked out of bed and the luggage fell on top of her,” Ms. Star said. “She’s in good spirits but she’s pretty banged up.”

Officials said that 116 of the Amtrak passengers were transferred to local hospitals and the uninjured had been taken to a Red Cross reception site at Pine Ridge Middle School. The CSX train did not have any passengers on board, Mr. McMaster said.

“We know that they are shaken up quite a bit,” Capt. Adam Myrick of the Lexington County Sheriff’s Department said.

Three Palmetto Health hospitals in Columbia received patients from the collision, the organization said in a statement on Sunday, including 60 adults and two children.

By The New York Times
“Based on the patients’ conditions, we expect most of the patients to be evaluated, treated and released but some are still being evaluated,” the statement said.

Mr. Cahill said a hazardous materials team had been called to the site because roughly 5,000 gallons of fuel had spilled as a result of the collision.

“We were able to secure two leaks of fuel from the trains,” he said, adding there was “no threat to the public at this time.”

“This is not our first train derailment,” said Derrec Becker of the South Carolina Emergency Management Division, citing a fatal derailment in January 2005. A 42-car freight train operated by Norfolk Southern crashed into a smaller train near Granitteville, S.C., killing eight people, injuring more than 200 and leaking chlorine gas.

“It’s unfortunate that we have two fatalities,” he said of the crash on Sunday. “Our hearts are with those families right now.”

Senator Tim E. Scott, Republican of South Carolina, also expressed his condolences on Twitter to the families of those killed and those injured.

Derek Pettaway, a passenger on the train, told CNN that he had been asleep at the time of the crash, but that officials reacted swiftly and passengers were led off quickly.

“Nobody was panicking, people were in shock more than anything,” he said, according to The State’s website.

He said it was too dark to see much, but most of the cars he glimpsed ended up off the tracks but upright.

Amtrak has had a number of high-profile crashes and derailments over the years, leading to criticism from consumer advocates and government officials. Federal Railroad Administration statistics have shown that in recent years the agency has had an average of about two derailments a month, accounting for about one-quarter of all the accidents it reports.

Most derailments, however, have rarely caused more than minor injuries.

Amtrak maintains that it has been a “safe and reliable transporter of more than 30 million passengers” and that it has a strong safety record. However, after a 2016 episode in Pennsylvania in which a train hit a piece of track equipment and derailed, killing two, it said in a statement, “We need to assess how we can get better.”

Amtrak has also installed technology known as positive train control on parts of its rail network in the Northeast Corridor after passenger trains traveling well above the speed limit derailed, leaving a trail of death and injuries.

In the Amtrak crash in Virginia on Wednesday, two passengers from the truck were injured — one seriously — and hospitalized. Two members of the train’s crew and at least two passengers, including Representative Jason Lewis, Republican of Minnesota, were also hospitalized with minor injuries.

Republicans had chartered the train to carry them from Washington to the Greenbrier resort in West Virginia, where the party was holding its annual policy retreat. Several lawmakers who were on the train estimated that more than half of the Republican members of the House and Senate, including Speaker Paul D. Ryan, were on board, and that many were accompanied by their spouses.

In December, a passenger train on a newly opened Amtrak routejumped the tracks on an overpass south of Tacoma, Wash., slamming rail cars into a busy highway, killing at least three people and injuring about 100 others.

In 2015, an Amtrak train derailed in Philadelphia, killing eight people and injuring more than 200. A Pennsylvania judge dismissed involuntary manslaughter charges against the Amtrak engineer, saying it appeared to be an accident and not the result of criminal negligence.

Tags: Amtrak wreckhealth and safety
Categories: Labor News

Amtrak Train Collision Kills at Least 2 and Injures 116 Others

Sun, 02/04/2018 - 08:59

Amtrak Train Collision Kills at Least 2 and Injures 116 Others
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/04/us/amtrak-crash-south-carolina.html?h...
By YONETTE JOSEPH, ANNE-SOPHIE BOLON and CHRISTINA CARON
FEB. 4, 2018

U.S. By AINARA TIEFENTHÄLER 00:34
Fatal Train Collision in South Carolina

An Amtrak train traveling from New York to Miami collided with a freight train early Sunday, killing at least two people and injuring at least 116 others. By AINARA TIEFENTHÄLER on Publish Date February 4, 2018. Photo by Tim Dominick/The State, via Associated Press... Watch in Times Video »

An Amtrak train traveling from New York to Miami collided with a freight train early Sunday, killing at least two people, injuring at least 116 others and spilling thousands of gallons of fuel, according to officials.

Amtrak said its train, which was carrying eight crew members and 139 passengers, collided with a CSX train near Cayce, S.C., outside Columbia, around 2:35 a.m.

Both of the people who died were Amtrak employees, Gov. Henry McMaster said at a news conference on Sunday morning.

Drone footage of the crash broadcast by WLTX showed the site of the collision.

The CSX train was stationary, Mr. McMaster said, and appeared to be on the correct track. “It appears that Amtrak was on the wrong track,” he said.

The first engine of the freight train was torn up, he said, and the engine of the Amtrak train, Train 91, was “barely recognizable.”

“It’s a horrible thing to see — to understand the force that this involved,” Mr. McMaster said.

In a statement earlier Sunday morning, Amtrak said the lead engine and some of the passenger cars had derailed.

It was the second major crash involving an Amtrak train in less than a week. On Wednesday, a train carrying Republican members of Congress to a retreat in West Virginia hit a garbage truck in rural Virginia, killing a passenger in the truck.

The cause of the crash on Sunday was not immediately clear. The National Transportation Safety Board said on Twitter that it was beginning an investigation into the collision.

The train, operating Amtrak’s Silver Star service, originated at Pennsylvania Station in New York and was bound for Miami. The Lexington Sheriff’s Department said on Twitter that the crash occurred near Charleston Highway and Pine Ridge Road, close to Pine Ridge, S.C.

Charell Star of Maplewood, N.J., said that her mother, Lynn Winston, had decided to take the train home to Florida after a visit because she thought it would be safer than flying.

Ms. Winston, 57, was in one of the sleeper cars when the crash happened.

“She got knocked out of bed and the luggage fell on top of her,” Ms. Star said. “She’s in good spirits but she’s pretty banged up.”

Officials said that 116 of the Amtrak passengers were transferred to local hospitals and the uninjured had been taken to a Red Cross reception site at Pine Ridge Middle School. The CSX train did not have any passengers on board, Mr. McMaster said.

“We know that they are shaken up quite a bit,” Capt. Adam Myrick of the Lexington County Sheriff’s Department said.

Three Palmetto Health hospitals in Columbia received patients from the collision, the organization said in a statement on Sunday, including 60 adults and two children.

By The New York Times
“Based on the patients’ conditions, we expect most of the patients to be evaluated, treated and released but some are still being evaluated,” the statement said.

Mr. Cahill said a hazardous materials team had been called to the site because roughly 5,000 gallons of fuel had spilled as a result of the collision.

“We were able to secure two leaks of fuel from the trains,” he said, adding there was “no threat to the public at this time.”

“This is not our first train derailment,” said Derrec Becker of the South Carolina Emergency Management Division, citing a fatal derailment in January 2005. A 42-car freight train operated by Norfolk Southern crashed into a smaller train near Granitteville, S.C., killing eight people, injuring more than 200 and leaking chlorine gas.

“It’s unfortunate that we have two fatalities,” he said of the crash on Sunday. “Our hearts are with those families right now.”

Senator Tim E. Scott, Republican of South Carolina, also expressed his condolences on Twitter to the families of those killed and those injured.

Derek Pettaway, a passenger on the train, told CNN that he had been asleep at the time of the crash, but that officials reacted swiftly and passengers were led off quickly.

“Nobody was panicking, people were in shock more than anything,” he said, according to The State’s website.

He said it was too dark to see much, but most of the cars he glimpsed ended up off the tracks but upright.

Amtrak has had a number of high-profile crashes and derailments over the years, leading to criticism from consumer advocates and government officials. Federal Railroad Administration statistics have shown that in recent years the agency has had an average of about two derailments a month, accounting for about one-quarter of all the accidents it reports.

Most derailments, however, have rarely caused more than minor injuries.

Amtrak maintains that it has been a “safe and reliable transporter of more than 30 million passengers” and that it has a strong safety record. However, after a 2016 episode in Pennsylvania in which a train hit a piece of track equipment and derailed, killing two, it said in a statement, “We need to assess how we can get better.”

Amtrak has also installed technology known as positive train control on parts of its rail network in the Northeast Corridor after passenger trains traveling well above the speed limit derailed, leaving a trail of death and injuries.

In the Amtrak crash in Virginia on Wednesday, two passengers from the truck were injured — one seriously — and hospitalized. Two members of the train’s crew and at least two passengers, including Representative Jason Lewis, Republican of Minnesota, were also hospitalized with minor injuries.

Republicans had chartered the train to carry them from Washington to the Greenbrier resort in West Virginia, where the party was holding its annual policy retreat. Several lawmakers who were on the train estimated that more than half of the Republican members of the House and Senate, including Speaker Paul D. Ryan, were on board, and that many were accompanied by their spouses.

In December, a passenger train on a newly opened Amtrak routejumped the tracks on an overpass south of Tacoma, Wash., slamming rail cars into a busy highway, killing at least three people and injuring about 100 others.

In 2015, an Amtrak train derailed in Philadelphia, killing eight people and injuring more than 200. A Pennsylvania judge dismissed involuntary manslaughter charges against the Amtrak engineer, saying it appeared to be an accident and not the result of criminal negligence.

Tags: Amtrak wreckhealth and safety
Categories: Labor News

'Bomb Train': Oil Execs Try to Blame Workers for Tragic Accident

Mon, 01/29/2018 - 14:07

'Bomb Train': Oil Execs Try to Blame Workers for Tragic Accident
http://therealnews.com/t2/story:20976:%27Bomb-Train%27%3A-Oil-Execs-Try-...
January 26, 2018

All three MMA rail workers were acquitted of criminal charges in the Lac-Megantic disaster case -- but Fritz Edler, veteran locomotive engineer and longtime union officer, says "the wrong people were on trial," and that the industry ignores known risks

Fritz Edler is a veteran locomotive engineer and wreck investigator, with 40 years of railroad experience. Became chair of the Harding and Labrie Defense Committee after hearing Harding's attorney speak @ a Community Rail safety conference in Chicago. I've made 8 investigative trips to Canada in conjunction with the defense as well as supporting the rail safety efforts of the Lac-M�gantic citizens.

DIMITRI LASCARIS: This is Dimitri Lascaris for The Real News reporting from Montreal, Quebec. The small town of Lac-Mégantic in Quebec's historic Eastern Townships will forever be associated with one of the deadliest accidents in Canadian history. On the morning of July 6, 2013, a crude oil train explosion killed 47 people. The train was carrying volatile crude oil from the Bakken Shale oilfields of North Dakota. It derailed and exploded, killing residents and destroying the town's downtown area. The mass funeral in the town of just over 5,000 persons was broadcast live across Canada. It became a national day of mourning.

Over four years later, on Friday of last week, a Canadian jury found three former rail workers not guilty of criminal negligence causing the deaths of Lac-Megantic residents. The question must now be asked, why were the workers charged for this tragedy? Moreover, why was no executive of the Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway Company prosecuted? With us to discuss this, I am pleased to be joined by veteran train engineer and wreck investigator Fritz Edler, chairperson of the defense committee for Tom Harding and Richard Labrie, two of the workers who were charged and found not guilty. Fritz joins us today from Washington, D.C. Fritz, thank you very much for joining us on The Real News.

FRITZ EDLER: Pleasure. Glad to be with you.

DIMITRI LASCARIS: Fritz, let's start by talking about the basic allegations against the acquitted railway workers. What was the essential basis of the Crown's allegations of criminal negligence and in your view, why did the prosecution fail?

FRITZ EDLER: Well, it seemed plain to us from the beginning that this was putting the things in the wrong order. In other words, for the people in the town and for people in Canada and across North America who wanted to know why this wreck took place and what we could do to prevent it, it was completely wrong to start out from just moments after, days after the wreck with an exclusive focus on Tom Harding and then later his coworker, Richard Labrie, and decide that the way to find out about this wreck would be to do a criminal prosecution instead of what the people in the community wanted, which was a commission of inquiry. That real public inquiry has never taken place.

This is the absolute worst way to find out why a wreck took place and who is really responsible. Instead, what the government did was they took their lead from the industry. They took their lead from Ed Burkhardt, the chair of the Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railroad, who in Megantic began to accuse Tom Harding of responsibility exclusively. The government took that up and made that their focus, and never really seriously pursued the broader issues for prosecution.

DIMITRI LASCARIS: Essentially, in your view, what was it that happened at the trial? I appreciate you may not be a legal expert but as somebody who is a veteran wreck investigator, why do you think this case fell apart in the end?

FRITZ EDLER: I have been called into Lac-Mégantic and to Quebec eight almost, I guess eight times now, in the case of this campaign, this trial. And I've had a chance to see on the ground firsthand, not only as a railroader but also as somebody who is a supporter of Tom Harding and Richard Labrie, exactly how things were on the ground. One of the things you found out is that if you walk the streets of Lac-Mégantic and you ask people, they would tell you most often that, "They got the wrong people. The wrong people are on trial."

There was a good understanding from early on, and this was very frustrating to the people who live there because it really made it that much more unlikely that they were really going to get accountability and justice for their losses, and really get to the core of the problems. One of the problems was that the railroad still operates through the town of Lac-Mégantic and still presents the same kinds of problems because those problems stem from risky and dangerous management decisions.

DIMITRI LASCARIS: Let's talk about those problems. What in your view are the principal problems that led to this particular disaster and may create dangers in the future?

FRITZ EDLER: Well, frankly, what it was was the Montreal, Maine and Atlantic, and they're not alone in this in the industry, where in such a big hurry to make the big money that they could make from the transport of this highly volatile oil that they just threw all other cautions aside.

As a railroader, one of the very first things that hit me when I drove from Nantes into Lac-Mégantic was to see the derail-protected siding that exists in Nantes and is built there for the purpose of securing equipment to prevent it from rolling down a grade, for example. That's what it was built for and the MMA wouldn't use it. They made sure they couldn't use it by making the train too long. They just had to get that couple of extra cars and couple of extra gallons or tons.

Those factors, there's plenty of others, everything from operating that most dangerous kind of a train with only one crew member, which meant that the train could only go forward. It couldn't go back. It couldn't split. It couldn't do any of those things that might be critically important in any number of situations. By policy, and in the weeks and months before July 6, 2013, the community was put at risk, the workers were put at risk and it was done for money.

DIMITRI LASCARIS: Just for the benefit of members of our audience who aren't aware of the specifics of this tragedy. The train rolled down a grade and that resulted ultimately in the explosion that killed 47 people, right?

FRITZ EDLER: That's correct. What happened was that they made the train risky by policy and by practice, and then they purposefully didn't use all of the resources that were available to protect. That came out in the trial. One of the things that came out in the trial after 34 government witnesses, was that the inadequate and known inadequate cars for transporting these oils were even yet more overloaded, overloaded beyond because they could get a little more in there and get more money. So, they put it even more at risk. All of these factors, including the prohibition from the crews being able to use the automatic braking system to secure the equipment, as a supplemental way of securing the equipment, that rolled through the rail industry in North America. When railroaders like myself, locomotive engineers, found out that that was their policy, that's the very first thing. That's railroading 101. That's what we do. We put an automatic brake on the train. That's one of the ways that we secure it. That system was available to them and they threatened Tom Harding and other crew members with discipline if they did it.

DIMITRI LASCARIS: Are these railway workers out of the woods yet or do they remain exposed to criminal prosecution from another authority?

FRITZ EDLER: Yeah. This actually is the big thing because all across the world, people who know the name Lac-Mégantic heard that the rail workers were acquitted on the 19th of January of all the charges against them. There was a big cheer in many different sectors, including in the community of Lac-Mégantic. They thought that this was progress.

Then, in short order, within days of that, we received word that on February 5th, Tom Harding and Richard Labrie are called back to the courthouse to face federal charges, federal charges under the Railway Safety Act, federal charges under the Fisheries Act. These charges still carry with them the possibility of jail time and ruinous fines for these individuals who have already suffered so much.

DIMITRI LASCARIS: This really raises a question about the nature of regulation of the railway industry in Canada. Who's responsible for regulating the transportation of oil by rail in Canada and do you think that this organization is under the undue influence of the industry, and that that's played a role in the apparent decision not to prosecute any of the executives for these dangerous policies that you've outlined?

FRITZ EDLER: Fortunately, we know more about this because of some of the testimony that came out in the course of the prosecution witnesses in the trial. A lot of that material, which normally might never reach the public, actually was part of the trial testimony. There's also material related to this in the two investigative reports, one that was done by the Sûreté of Quebec. Early on for the Sûreté and then also by the Transportation Safety Board of Canada, and the Transportation Safety Board of Canada in particular identified 18, originally 19 factors that were the factors that were responsible for the wreck and the devastation.

What's pretty obvious is that Mr. Harding and Mr. Labrie have nothing to do with most all of them, and it identifies Transport Canada, for example. Transport Canada is identified as the regulating agency that's supposed to oversee a lot of these things, and their failures, their enabling of these dangerous practices. A lot of this stuff is out there, but unfortunately, because there's never really been a proper commission of inquiry and there is no plan evident for a real prosecution of those things, I don't know that we are going to ever see the real culprits of these decisions brought to justice.

DIMITRI LASCARIS: For instance, we've seen other bomb train explosions, as they've been dubbed. There was one in Illinois near the Wisconsin border, one in Ontario where seven tanker cars caught fire, another in Mount Carbon, Virginia. A 19-car oil explosion darkened the sky above the town. In the light of these various dangerous and destructive incidents of oil by rail, have there been safety measures put in place, whether south of the border or in Canada, that are meaningfully addressing the dangers that cause these incidents?

FRITZ EDLER: First I'd like to step back and say that some of the disasters that are happening on the railroads that aren't explosions are still as a part of the same problems that we're describing here about the risky decisions that are made solely for the purpose of saving money or some other priority other than the safety of the communities. But, I could mention the example of the wreck of Amtrak 501 outside of Seattle or the Amtrak train 188 outside of Philadelphia.

In each of those cases, we could talk about a lot of these things but in terms of the measures about the so-called bomb trains, what we can say is that the industry and the regulators have both been slow to respond. The type of container that these were shipped in, the type of tank cars which were known to be inadequate for most of the dangers that are posed by that kind of transportation, those got some upgrades. But it turns out that the upgrades were insufficient, and there isn't enough for the fleet. And as the market fluctuates and the pressure is on to put more of this stuff on the railroads, there's no guarantee that from a structural point of view you won't have the kind of situation that was testified to in the Harding and Labrie trial, where the railroad put even more volatile oil beyond the capacity of the safety limits of these cars just because they could. Every ton of extra was more money.

DIMITRI LASCARIS: This has been Dimitri Lascaris speaking to veteran wreck investigator Fritz Edler, chairperson of the defense committee for Tom Harding and Richard Labrie about the acquittal of three railway workers in connection with the oil by rail disaster in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec. Thank you very much for joining us today, Fritz.

FRITZ EDLER: Thank you, sir.

DIMITRI LASCARIS: This is Dimitri Lascaris reporting for The Real News.

Tags: Blaming Rail WorkersBosses CrimesMurder On The RailsProfiteering Kill Communities
Categories: Labor News

The Evidence is in: The Train Crew did not Cause the Lac-Mégantic Tragedy Sign The Petition

Mon, 01/29/2018 - 13:03

The Evidence is in: The Train Crew did not Cause the Lac-Mégantic Tragedy

http://hardingdefense.org
DROP THE CHARGES against Tom Harding and Richard Labrie

Drop ALL the Charges against Tom Harding and Richard Labrie NOW
Target: The Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
It's A Rail Safety Emergency! Rail Workers Face New Federal Charges After Acquittal in Lac-Mégantic Criminal Trial. Another Scapegoat Trial won't get us Rail Safety.

Call on the Canadian Ministry of Justice Today

Drop ALL the Charges! Time for a real public inquiry into the causes of the wreck

The Canadian government had a choice after the July 2013 runaway oil train wreck that killed 47 people and destroyed the downtown of Lac-Mégantic Québec. They could focus on rail safety to make sure tragedies like this would not happen again, or they could focus only on a couple rail workers and avoid the inquiry. They made the wrong choice, pushing criminal charges against Tom Harding and Richard Labrie.

Four and half years later, the jury found Harding and Labrie not guilty of all charges. Finally the Canadian government should have to take a careful look at rail safety.

Once again, the Canadian government made the wrong choice. Instead of starting a full-scale public inquiry into the causes of the crash, they are bringing Harding and Labrie back into court on February 5, 2018 to face a set of federal charges.

Enough is enough. Criminal trials are the absolute worst way to uncover all the different factors that led up to the Lac-Mégantic crash, factors that are still out there on the rails across Canada and the US. We all need real rail safety. Call the Canadian Minister of Justice at 613-957-4222. Tell her Drop ALL The Charges Now.

Add your name to call on the Justice Ministry to pay attention now and drop the charges.

Sponsored by

Harding and Labrie Defense Committee
To: The Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
From: [Your Name]

It’s Time To Drop ALL Charges Against the Rail Workers

It is more than 4 years since the tragic train wreck in Lac-Mégantic QC. Now is the time for your office to stop a continuing injustice, the prosecution of railroad workers Tom Harding and Richard Labrie under the Canadian Railway Safety Act and other laws.

The record has established that the actions of Tom Harding and Richard Labrie did not cause this tragedy. Continuing to prosecute the railworkers in this case does not advance rail safety. We, the undersigned, call on those charged with administering justice to do their part now and drop ALL the charges.

2,736 Signatures Collected
Only 464 more until our goal of 3,200
Sign This Petition

Tags: Harding defense committeeRail safetyLac-Mégantic Tragedy
Categories: Labor News

The Evidence is in: The Train Crew did not Cause the Lac-Mégantic Tragedy Sign The Petition

Mon, 01/29/2018 - 13:03

The Evidence is in: The Train Crew did not Cause the Lac-Mégantic Tragedy

http://hardingdefense.org
DROP THE CHARGES against Tom Harding and Richard Labrie

Drop ALL the Charges against Tom Harding and Richard Labrie NOW
Target: The Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
It's A Rail Safety Emergency! Rail Workers Face New Federal Charges After Acquittal in Lac-Mégantic Criminal Trial. Another Scapegoat Trial won't get us Rail Safety.

Call on the Canadian Ministry of Justice Today

Drop ALL the Charges! Time for a real public inquiry into the causes of the wreck

The Canadian government had a choice after the July 2013 runaway oil train wreck that killed 47 people and destroyed the downtown of Lac-Mégantic Québec. They could focus on rail safety to make sure tragedies like this would not happen again, or they could focus only on a couple rail workers and avoid the inquiry. They made the wrong choice, pushing criminal charges against Tom Harding and Richard Labrie.

Four and half years later, the jury found Harding and Labrie not guilty of all charges. Finally the Canadian government should have to take a careful look at rail safety.

Once again, the Canadian government made the wrong choice. Instead of starting a full-scale public inquiry into the causes of the crash, they are bringing Harding and Labrie back into court on February 5, 2018 to face a set of federal charges.

Enough is enough. Criminal trials are the absolute worst way to uncover all the different factors that led up to the Lac-Mégantic crash, factors that are still out there on the rails across Canada and the US. We all need real rail safety. Call the Canadian Minister of Justice at 613-957-4222. Tell her Drop ALL The Charges Now.

Add your name to call on the Justice Ministry to pay attention now and drop the charges.

Sponsored by

Harding and Labrie Defense Committee
To: The Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
From: [Your Name]

It’s Time To Drop ALL Charges Against the Rail Workers

It is more than 4 years since the tragic train wreck in Lac-Mégantic QC. Now is the time for your office to stop a continuing injustice, the prosecution of railroad workers Tom Harding and Richard Labrie under the Canadian Railway Safety Act and other laws.

The record has established that the actions of Tom Harding and Richard Labrie did not cause this tragedy. Continuing to prosecute the railworkers in this case does not advance rail safety. We, the undersigned, call on those charged with administering justice to do their part now and drop ALL the charges.

2,736 Signatures Collected
Only 464 more until our goal of 3,200
Sign This Petition

Tags: Harding defense committeeRail safetyLac-Mégantic Tragedy
Categories: Labor News

Rail Workers say they warned Amtrak bosses before deadly WA Amtrak 501 crash

Mon, 01/29/2018 - 11:58

Rail Workers say they warned Amtrak bosses before deadly WA Amtrak 501 crash
https://edition.cnn.com/2018/01/28/us/amtrak-501-derail-training-safety-...

By Scott Bronstein, Drew Griffin and Collette Richards, CNN Investigates
Updated 1141 GMT (1941 HKT) January 29, 2018

Portland, Oregon (CNN)In the days before Amtrak 501 careened off the tracks last month in a deadly crash, engineers and conductors warned their supervisors that they did not feel adequately trained on the new route, according to more than a dozen sources.

Several train cars flew off an overpass, landing on Interstate 5 in the December 18 accident near DuPont, Washington, which left three dead and more than 100 injured. At the time, Amtrak 501 was making its inaugural journey of a new Seattle-to-Portland run called the Point Defiance Bypass route.
Engineers and conductors had safety concerns, citing rushed and "totally inadequate" training which left them feeling dangerously unprepared for the new route, according to multiple sources, including several directly involved in the training. Crew members traditionally train on new routes to familiarize themselves with the signs, terrain and other physical characteristics which vary from route to route.
Some training runs were performed at night, with as many as six or more crew members stuffed into cars with just three seats, which meant some trainees rode backwards, in the dark, the sources said. Engineers felt they did not get enough practice runs at the controls and could not properly see to familiarize themselves with the route.

Here's what Amtrak engineer told NTSB about deadly derailment
Adding to the training concerns, the new locomotives for the maiden run were unfamiliar to many of the crew members up until the brief training runs, the sources said.
The engineer for Amtrak 501 told investigators he took seven to 10 observational training trips on the new route, but was only at the controls for three one-way trips, and only one of those was in the direction the train was traveling when it crashed, according to an interim report released this week by the National Transportation Safety Board.
The engineer did not respond to CNN's requests for comment, but according to the report he told the NTSB "he would not have gotten behind the throttle if he had any reservations about his readiness to operate the train."

Amtrak 501 was travelling at near 80 miles an hour while heading into a turn with a maximum speed of just 30 mph. The engineer told the NTSB he missed at least two signs which would have warned him to slow down, then "as soon as he saw the 30 mph sign at the start of the curve, he applied brakes. Seconds later, the train derailed as it entered the curve," according to the NTSB report.

Amtrak train derailment leaves 'a thousand unanswered questions'
When asked about allegations of inadequate training, Amtrak referred CNN to the NTSB, which said in a statement, "NTSB investigators are aware of the issues that have been raised regarding training of the Amtrak 501 crewmembers."
Amtrak also said in a statement to CNN, "Our highest priority is ensuring the safety of our passengers, our crew and the communities we serve. We are actively taking measures to strengthen the safety of our operations, from adopting a safety management system approach used by commercial aviation to advancing Positive Train Control across the network. We will continue to work with the NTSB to learn from this accident and improve."
Amtrak employees who spoke to CNN insisted on remaining anonymous out of fear of losing their jobs.
More than a half dozen lawsuits have been filed so far in the crash, all alleging that inadequate crew training contributed to the accident. One of the lawsuits was filed by a conductor who was training in the lead locomotive when Amtrak 501 crashed.

Couple climbed onto train to rescue victims 02:03
His attorney, Anthony Petru, told CNN that warnings to managers about the lack of training went unheeded.
"In an environment where there is a quick trigger by management to charge employees with insubordination, or to go after them if they report safety concerns, there was some hesitancy by employees to do anything other than go along with the program," Petru said.
Train accident investigator John Hiatt says it is clear to him the engineer had lost track of his location on the route, and blames the problems with training and preparation, at least in part, for the crash. Hiatt is an investigator with the Bremseth Law Firm of Minnetonka, Minnesota, which has filed a lawsuit on behalf of another Amtrak employee.
​"Training is money, and in this case it looks to me like they were worried about money and time and safety was number three, at best, on their list," Hiatt said.
The Point Defiance Bypass was the final piece of an $800 million project under a federal economic stimulus for high-speed rail.
But the federal money was due to run out, and the pressure to get the maiden voyage done and open the line resulted in sped-up training, sources told CNN.
The crash of Train 501 is again raising larger concerns about what many call a failing safety culture at Amtrak.

Hear the train conductor's radio call 00:56
In 2016, Amtrak train 89 crashed near Chester, Pennsylvania, killing two and injuring 35.
After a year-and-a-half-long investigation the NTSB released its findings on the Pennsylvania crash, stating that the wreck there showed "deficient safety management across many levels of Amtrak."
NTSB chairman Robert Sumwalt concluded: "Amtrak's safety culture is failing, and is primed to fail again, until and unless Amtrak changes the way it practices safety management." He added, "investigators found a labor-management relationship so adversarial that safety programs became contentious at the bargaining table, with the unions ultimately refusing to participate."
That NTSB warning and report were released on November 14, 2017. Little more than a month later, December 18, Amtrak 501 crashed.
In addition to questions about the training, questions have been raised about why the new line did not have Positive Train Control, or PTC. This could have remotely slowed the speed of Amtrak 501 and was due to be operational on the Point Defiance Bypass line later this year. The decision was made to open the line before PTC was installed.
The Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 called for PTC to be implemented nationally for passenger railroads and some freight railroads by December 2015, which has since been extended to the end of 2018. The deadline could be pushed further back to December 31, 2020, according to Department of Transportation.
Only 24% of passenger railway routes had PTC actively operating as of the end of 2016.
According to Washington state DOT, the Amtrak Cascades route will now not run on Point Defiance Bypass until PTC is activated.

Tags: safetyAMTRAK501 wreck
Categories: Labor News

Lac-Mégantic Disaster Being Blamed On Railroad Workers By Canadian Government

Sun, 01/28/2018 - 12:12

Lac-Mégantic Disaster Being Blamed On Railroad Workers By Canadian Government

https://www.facebook.com/SafeTrainsNow/?ref=bookmarks

Brothers and Sisters:

The campaign for the story of the Lac-Mégantic story has begun. What we do in the next two weeks will have lasting impact. After the Feb 5 proceeding, news coverage, the history of the Lac-Mégantic safety response will have been written. It only remains to be seen whether we rise to the challenge to contest for that history or not.

It is not really hyperbole to say that this is a rail safety emergency. Here's what will happen if we do NOT respond effectively now:

1) The Canadian Gov't will convict and sentence Tom Harding for violation of company safety rules. This will happen almost certainly on Feb 5. They will crow about it and claim it shows that they are on the job protecting public safety and accountability.

2) It will strengthen the legal principle in the US and Canada that workplace rules can and should be criminalized.

3) The Canadian Gov't will claim it has held the railroad accountable. The defunct non-existant MMA will be presented as punished with penalties that will never have any effect. They may fine the MMA a million dollars. There are no assets. It's theatre.

4) There will never be an inquiry or any accountability for the policy and decision makers that set every danger in place long before Tom Harding climbed on the engine on July 5 2013. The gov't either can't or won't pursue liability against the railroad owners and managers. These individuals, who made every key decision, are running trains this minute....including the Wheeling and Lake Erie (Ed Burkhardt is on the Board). They are unrepentant.

Between now and Feb 5, there is no better use of your activist and organizer time and resources than making sure that we counter that government fairytale. We've proven already that collectively we can influence how the public understands what happened regarding Lac-Mégantic and it's ongoing policy and regulatory issues. If we make the truth about the ongoing scapegoating viral, we will again make a lasting difference.

We've already begun a combined social media campaign that involves Facebook, Twitter and mass email work to gather supporters to target the Canadian Govt with calls and signatures. We need some additional money to make sure this reaches as many people as possible.

There will be repeated email blasts to past supporters to galvanize and mobilize them to actions.

We already know that stuff like this requires that the message be repeated over and over in all it's forms.

I know every one of you has done work on this defense campaign. I know each of you has other and higher priorities in general. We have to ask you to bump this up, one last time, for the record. What you do in the next week, combined with our other efforts, will be multiplied and make a difference.

Please go now to Stand for Remembrance and Rail Safety and share it with your networks. Forward the emails you receive and use your twitter hashtags to link and explain the urgency.

The call in campaign targeting the Canadian Justice Ministry will go active Tuesday. Please support that effort when you receive the ask.

Fritz Edler
Harding-Labrie Defense Committee
Washington DC

Tags: railroad workers frame-upLac-Mégantic rail wreckhealth and safetygovernment deregulation
Categories: Labor News

Toronto ATU 113 members to meet as unions slam Unifor, CLC

Sat, 01/27/2018 - 15:09

Toronto ATU 113 members to meet as unions slam Unifor, CLC

http://rankandfile.ca/2017/03/17/atu-members-to-meet-as-unions-slam-unif...
Posted on March 17, 2017 in ATU
110129-HamiltonDayofAction-40

UPDATE: At noon March 17, RankandFile.ca learned from multiple sources that ATU Local 113 President Bob Kinnear resigned. Kinnear was first elected Local 113 president in 2003. Kinnear has also withdrawn his letter to the CLC invoking article the justification process to disaffiliate from the ATU under CLC’s article 4.9. This article was originally published at 4am on March 17.

By Gerard Di Trolio and David Bush

On March 19, ATU Local 113 will hold its monthly general meeting. It will be the first such membership meeting to truly deal with the fallout of President Bob Kinnear’s attempt to take Local 113 out of the Amalgamated Transit Union.

RankandFile.ca has learned of a letter signed by numerous unions sent on March 3 to the CLC protesting its acceptance of Kinnear’s request to invoke section 4.9 of the CLC Constitution. Section 4.9 initiates a process in which members of a local can begin the process to change unions. Before we get to the details of the letter, it is worth taking stock of what we know about the situation.

We know that on February 1, Kinnear sent a letter to Canadian Labour Congress President Hassan Yussuffrequesting that he invoke section 4.9 of the CLC Constitution.

On February 2, Yussuff passed the letter on to ATU Canada’s President Paul Thorp. Then, as reported by RankandFile.ca:

Later that day Bob Kinnear’s public relations officer, paid for by 113, received a forwarded email from union consultant Bill Reno and was told to give it to Kinnear. The email, from a lawyer at Dewart Gleason, was cc’d to Anthony Dale, Unifor staff lawyer and director of their legal department, Scott Doherty, assistant to the President of Unifor, and lawyers from two law firms. The email outlined what to do if police arrive in the event of a trusteeship, it also had a draft notice of motion, for unknown purposes attached to it. It was clearly part of an on-going discussion between Kinnear and Unifor.

The ATU’s international leadership responded by initiating a trusteeship of Local 113 on February 3, removing Kinnear from the local’s presidency and appointing Manny Sforza as trustee. Sforza is currently an ATU International Vice-President and a former 113 executive board member.

On February 3, Yussuff told Thorp that the trusteeship was a violation of article 4.9, and was in effect blocking the democratic right to determination of Local 113 members. Yussuff then suspended the anti-raiding provisions of article 4.9. Also on this day, ATU President Larry Hanley informed Local 113 members of the trusteeship with a letter. Hanley’s letter pointed out that Kinnear did not follow the ATU’s constitution to try settle any dispute, which the CLC encourages all groups of members to do in section 4.9a of its Constitution.

Within a few days, 13 of 17 members of Local 113’s executive board had be reinstated under the trusteeship.

On Tuesday February 7, Kinnear and Unifor President Jerry Dias held a press conference. Dias’ explanation for supporting Kinnear was that he was defending Canadian workers from the actions of a US-based international union. In the meantime evidence surfaced about collusion between Unifor and Kinnear before the trusteeship came into effect. On February 10 Yussuff sent a letter to Thorp saying the CLC was reinstating article 4 protections

On February 21, Kinnear won a court injunction to be reinstated as Local 113 President. Kinnear’s argument centred on the notion that the constitution of the ATU stifles free speech and that asking article 4.9 to be invoked by the CLC should not result in trusteeship. The justice said Kinnear’s claims were unproven, but granted the injunction saying that the claims of the ATU and Kinnear must be tried.

Days after the court decision Kinnear published an open letter in three major dailies from him to the membership declaring victory. It is unclear who paid for these costly ads, but RankandFile.ca did confirm days after the court ruling that Kinnear’s legal fees through all of this are being paid for by Unifor.

In early March audio surfaced on the internet – republished by RankandFile.ca – of a conversation in late January between Local 113 executive board members Tony Barbosa and John DiNino.

In the conversation, Barbosa predicts with remarkable accuracy, the pending trusteeship, Kinnear’s strategy, the joint press conference of Kinnear and Dias, as well as the suspension of article 4 by the CLC. Barbosa states that the “big white shark”, which he calls Unifor is gearing up for a raid. Unifor denies it was planning on raiding Local 113 and says it was simply standing up for Canadian workers.

Numerous unions criticize CLC’s initiation of justification process

On March 3 a letter signed by the presidents of NUPGE, CUPE, USW, IAM, UFCW, and endorsed by UNITE HERE, SEIU Local 1, and UA was sent to Yussuff.

The letter notes that a “CLC affiliate (Unifor)” appears to have interfered in the “established collective bargaining relationship of another affiliate (ATU Local 113).”

The letter goes on to say that the the justification process of article 4.9 has undermined in the Local 113 situation, as the CLC constitution states that 4.9 is to be invoked at the request of “a group of workers,” and that the CLC granting justification to a single member, who is the president of the local, such as Kinnear was a slippery slope. An elected official may be part of a group that applies for the justification process, but they can not be the only person. Allowing tiny minorities within a local to ask for article 4.9 to be invoked in disputes without trying to constitutionally settle disputes creates a bad precedent.

The conclusion of the letter requests that the CLC declare the “original justification has been determined null and void, and that any investigation that is ongoing will focus instead on the actions of another affiliate (Unifor) that are in violation of 2 key sections of Article IV.”

Membership will weigh-in

At the March 19 meeting, Local 113 members will finally have an official forum to debate and weigh in on the future of their own local. Kinnear has declared his intention to move a motion to approve a membership vote on disaffiliation from the ATU. If this proposal is approved it will open up a new round of questions and a fresh debate about the future of the local. If it is rejected Kinnear’s moves will have been roundly rejected by both the membership and the elected executive board. In this scenario his future in the local would likely be at an end. If Kinnear thinks he is likely to lose, and he would have sense from doing workplace visits, it wouldn’t surprise anyone if he decided to retire.

The intrigue and infighting over the future of the ATU 113 that has taken place over the past two months raises a number of questions for members of the local. For instance, when exactly did Kinnear contact Unifor about his intention of trying to take his local out of 113? Why is Unifor paying his legal bills? Who paid for the full page colour ads by Bob Kinnear in the three Toronto dailies? How is it in January that Barborsa accurately predicts the sequence of events a week before they happen? Why did Kinnear not take this debate to the members or the executive board first? Why did Kinnear and not membership file the 4.9 justification process? Was the trusteeship justified? Why exactly does Kinnear want to leave the ATU now, at this given moment?

These are questions that members should demand answers for. All the evidence to date points to backroom wheeling and dealing that has essentially cut out membership involvement.

There are broader political and strategic questions members must debate as well. For those wanting to leave the ATU International, what are exactly are the substantive issues at play? Are they legitimate issues or misdirection? If they are legitimate can they be rectified by fighting it out inside the ATU? What happens to the rest of the sector, especially other Canadian ATU locals, if 113 becomes independent? What is the best path forward for the members of the local and all those who work in the sector?

While Local 113 members will finally have an open debate over these and many other questions, there are still a number of issues left for the broader labour movement to sort through.

There is the issue of what a CLC investigation will reveal about Unifor’s role in the ATU’s internal crisis. Unifor is paying Kinnear’s legal fees and has openly admitted to colluding with Kinnear before the trusteeship. There is also hard evidence that events unfolding in the first week of the crisis were orchestrated well-beforehand. Will these revelations cause dissension in the ranks of Unifor itself? Well members and elected officials question the priorities of their own organization in light of this affair?

There is even a question about what role some in the CLC had in all of this. The unprecedented suspension of article 4 by the CLC, its ham-fisted public statements by its staff in the days after the trusteeship, and the leaked audio which alludes to active CLC collaboration raise serious questions about the actions of some inside the CLC.

The very real fissures that exist within the CLC have been deepened by these events precisely when there are growing attacks on the labour movement on both sides of the border.

Deep divisions and pitting Canadian workers against international unions are distractions from building continental wide solidarity to resist attacks on workers, and the racism and xenophobia conjured up by the Trump administration.

It’s time that members take charge and push their unions to fight the bosses and the politicians and not amongst themselves.

Tags: ATU 113Trusteeship
Categories: Labor News

Canada rail workers win fight against frame-up

Sat, 01/27/2018 - 15:02

Canada rail workers win fight against frame-up
http://www.themilitant.com/2018/8205/820504.html

Vol. 82/No. 5 February 5, 2018

Canada rail workers win fight against frame-up

BY JOHN STEELE
SHERBROOKE, Quebec — The rail bosses and federal government were handed a stinging defeat when the three-and-a-half-month frame-up trial of locomotive engineer Tom Harding and train traffic controller Richard Labrie, both members of United Steelworkers Local 1976, and low-level former Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway manager Jean Demaitre, ended here Jan. 19. The 12-member jury declared the three former employees “not guilty” on all counts from the July 2013 derailment and explosion of a 72-car runaway oil train in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec.
Harding, the main target of the frame-up, was also acquitted on two lesser charges. The jury announced the verdict to a packed courtroom on the ninth day of deliberations.

“I am very happy with the verdict,” retired worker and Lac-Mégantic resident Jean Clusiault, told the media at the courthouse. Clusiault’s 24-year-old daughter, Kathy, was one of those killed at the Musi-Café near the tracks when the train derailed and exploded. “They treated these people horribly, like killers,” he said, referring to the three framed up men. “They broke their lives.”

Many people from Lac-Mégantic attended the trial. Clusiault was there every court day. When reporters asked him who he thought was guilty, he pulled a rumpled piece of paper from his pocket and started reading a list of high company officials, beginning with former CEO Edward Burkhardt.

“This is a victory for workers,” Gilbert Carette, a former Quebec highway maintenance department worker, told the Militant. “This tragedy, caused by company negligence and government deregulation of the rail industry, was placed on the shoulders of innocent workers.”

Carette is active in the Citizens and Groups Coalition for Rail Safety in Lac-Mégantic, which has been fighting for the federal and Quebec governments to build a railway bypass around the town.

“The Citizens Coalition,” said spokesperson Robert Bellefleur in a post-verdict press release, “has always insisted that the three employees were ordinary actors in a business scheme planned at high management levels to ensure maximum benefits for top company officials and shareholders of the oil and railway companies involved.”

Government frame-up unraveled
The rail bosses and the prosecution frame-up centered on the claim that Harding was criminally negligent and displayed “reckless disregard” for human life by not setting and properly testing a “sufficient” number of hand brakes when he parked the train that night. He was the only “crew” on the train. The bosses had gotten special dispensation from the government to operate with a one-person crew, to cut costs.
Labrie and Demaitre were charged with criminal negligence for supposedly not doing enough to prevent Harding from causing the disaster

In accord with company procedures, Harding had kept the lead engine running when he left the train for the night and also set hand brakes to keep the air brakes engaged to prevent the train from moving. During the night, firefighters unknowingly turned off the locomotive’s air brakes when they shut down the engine to extinguish a fire that was caused by substandard maintenance practices. Without air brakes the train later rolled down a 7-mile grade into the center of Lac-Mégantic and derailed.

In his final arguments, Charles Shearson, one of Harding’s lawyers, blew out of the water the prosecution’s claim that Harding had failed to secure the train. He walked through how Harding had followed the company’s general operating instructions and secured the train.

Shearson also emphasized the dangerous conditions Harding was forced to work under as a single-person “crew.”

The jury ruled for the defendants even though Judge Gaétan Dumas refused to give them a key document that contradicted the frame-up charges — the official Transportation Safety Board report on the cause of the disaster. This report states that 18 different factors were involved, many centering on the safety negligence of the railroad’s bosses, and no one single person can be blamed. “Our strategy was to bring the report’s conclusions in through the back door,” Thomas Walsh, Harding’s other lawyer, told the Militant.

Workers hail the verdict
Both the Teamsters union, which organizes the majority of freight rail workers in Canada, and the United Steelworkers, which organized workers on Montreal, Maine and Atlantic, issued statements backing the victory.
“This was the right verdict,” said Chris Yeandel, a Canadian Pacific engineer and chairman of Teamsters Locomotive Engineers Local 689. “I know about this. I run a train. I don’t make the policies of the company. I can’t be responsible for everything that happens because of the decisions others make.”

A court hearing will take place in Lac-Mégantic Feb. 5 to deal with regulatory charges still standing against Harding, Labrie and Demaitre, as well as some company officials. These charges were brought by Transport Canada under two federal laws, the Railway Safety Act and the Fisheries Act.

Most workers think the jury made the right decision. “In Lac-Mégantic, few expected a guilty verdict, or wanted one,” the Montreal Gazette headlined its story on the decision.

“Lac-Mégantic residents said it was the railway’s chairman, Ed Burkhardt, they wanted to see in handcuffs,” the National Post said. “He was never charged, but the railway faces similar criminal negligence charges. A trial date has not been set, but even if convicted, the only penalty for a company is a fine — one that would likely never be paid because MMA went bankrupt.”

Marie-Claire David contributed to this article.

Tags: Lac-MéganticQuebec rail wreckhealth and safetyunion rightsderegulationOne Man Crews
Categories: Labor News

PATCO Union Buster & Trump's Appointee To NLRB Now Pushing to Punish NLRB Staff For Supporting Unions.

Fri, 01/26/2018 - 19:49

PATCO Union Buster & Trump's Appointee To NLRB Now Pushing to Punish NLRB Staff For Supporting Unions.
Trump Appointee Is Trying to Squelch Us, Labor Board Staff Says
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/25/business/economy/labor-board.html?hp&...

By NOAM SCHEIBERJAN. 25, 2018
Air traffic controllers during the 1981 strike that ended in their dismissal, a pivotal moment in the labor movement’s decline. A litigator in that dispute, Peter B. Robb, is now the top enforcement official for the National Labor Relations Board. CreditDavid Handschuh/Associated Press
The Trump administration’s efforts to reverse the direction of federal labor policy appear to have accelerated with a proposal to demote the senior civil servants who resolve most labor cases.

Under the proposal, those civil servants — considered by many conservatives and employers to be biased toward labor — would answer to a small cadre of officials installed above them in the National Labor Relations Board’s hierarchy.

The proposal could pave the way for a pronounced shift in the day-to-day workings of the agency, making it friendlier to employers named in complaints of unfair labor practices or facing unionization drives.

Peter B. Robb, the agency’s general counsel and a Trump appointee, outlined the proposal this month in a conference call with the civil servants, known as regional directors, according to a letter sent by the directors to Mr. Robb.

The regional directors and their staffs typically resolve more than 85 percent of the roughly 20,000 cases filed with the agency each year over disputed labor practices without involving the general counsel, the top enforcement official.The proposal follows a series of aggressive changes in posture at the agency since last fall, when Republicans gained a majority on the five-member board.

In early December, a mere two weeks into his tenure, Mr. Robb released a memo announcing the end of many of his predecessors’ initiatives, including a campaign against employers who improperly classify workers as contractors, and featuring a long a list of hot-button issues on which regional directors were required to seek input from his office.

“New general counsels will at some point signal cases they want to look at,” said Wilma B. Liebman, a former chairwoman of the labor board. “But this was so sweeping and so fast that it was just kind of startling.”

That same month, the agency overturned a key Obama-era ruling that had made it easier to hold companies responsible for labor-law violations at companies they do business with, such as franchisees and contractors.

Mr. Robb came to his position after a career largely spent representing management, including handling part of the Reagan administration’s litigation against the air traffic controllers’ union that waged an illegal strike in 1981. Most labor historians say the government’s hard line in firing the controllers contributed to organized labor’s decline in subsequent decades, said Joseph A. McCartin, a history professor at Georgetown University.

The labor board’s general counsel is confirmed by the Senate. The counsel has independent authority as a prosecutor, derived from the National Labor Relations Act, and performs other duties on behalf of the agency’s board, which acts as its highest court of appeals.

Demoting the regional directors — there are 26, including two vacancies — and inserting a new group above them would most likely require board approval. The regional directors’ account suggested that the new officials would probably be civil servants as well, rather than political appointees.

Michael J. Lotito, a lawyer with the management-side firm Littler Mendelson, who has discussed the proposal with officials at the agency, said they had assured him that it was largely a response to budget cuts reflecting a significant decline over several decades in the number of labor charges filed.

He said some of the savings could come from staff reductions among managers and supervisors at the regional offices, achieved in part through attrition.

The agency itself said that “given budgetary issues, the general counsel is assessing the current organizational structure for possible changes,” but added, “No specific plan involving the restructuring of our organization has been developed.”

Labor advocates and even management-side lawyers often praise the professionalism of the regional directors, but critics consider them too sympathetic to workers and unions.

“Some are way more ideologically pro-union than others, but they all tend to be fairly ideological,” Mr. Lotito said. “The agency tends to promote — I think that it should — individuals who want to protect the rights of employees. But if you’ve been doing that all your life, you can miss the rights of the employer.”

The proposed changes appear consistent with a broader Trump administration suspicion of longtime civil servants. President Trump’s former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, called for the “deconstruction of the administrative state.”

During the administration’s first year, dozens of senior career officials resigned or retired from the State Department and the Environmental Protection Agency as many complained of being sidelined or ignored by political overseers.

The Interior Department reassigned a few dozen senior civil servants to posts that often made little use of their expertise. In one case, a top climate policy official was reassigned to the office that collects royalty payments from oil and gas companies. He quit not long after.

According to the N.L.R.B. regional directors’ letter, Mr. Robb said on the conference call on Jan. 11 that the changes were necessary and independent of budget considerations — implying a lack of confidence in the directors’ ability to investigate and adjudicate allegations of labor-rights violations.

Mr. Robb, according to the letter, said the agency might hire a handful of district directors, each with authority over a portion of its 26 regions, and proposed lowering the regional directors’ rank within the Civil Service.

The letter expressed concerns that Mr. Robb was intent on “removing many of the core responsibilities of the sitting regional directors,” though it acknowledged that it was unclear how much authority he intended to shift to district directors, how many there would be, and whether any regional offices would be closed or consolidated.

Mr. Lotito, the management lawyer who has discussed the concept with agency officials, said the idea was to keep most or all of the regional offices in place and allow management and labor to appeal decisions to the district directors.

“The regional directors are their own fiefdoms,” he said. “If there was an ability to go to a district director, who oversees eight regions, chances are that would drive consistency.”

Like the civil servants who were reassigned at the Interior Department, the regional directors at the labor board are members of the Senior Executive Service, which was established by Congress in the late 1970s as an elite corps of executives who could be deployed to tackle the government’s thorniest challenges.

Conservatives and some nonpartisan experts have complained that members of the Senior Executive Service are far less mobile than Congress envisioned, burrowing into particular agencies.

By proposing to downgrade the regional director positions into the ranks of standard government workers, where they would make less money and have narrower authority, Mr. Robb in some respects proposed going further than Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who reassigned Senior Executive Service members but preserved their status.

The changes proposed by Mr. Robb “would have a severe and negative impact on our agency and our stakeholders,” the directors wrote.

William Valdez, president of the association representing the senior executives, said the labor board could eliminate such positions, making the regional directors eligible for comparable jobs elsewhere in government, but could not demote them en masse. As a practical matter, he said, many of the regional directors may choose to reapply for their jobs at lower rank.

Even many management-side lawyers consider the regional directors effective. “Some people are better than other others, but I think the standards are pretty high,” said Steven M. Swirsky, a former field lawyer for the labor board who has spent decades representing employers.

At a Jan. 19 meeting with an American Bar Association committee whose members represent both management and labor, Mr. Robb argued that the reaction to his proposal was overblown.

According to someone familiar with the discussion, Mr. Robb acknowledged that he would need the approval of the agency’s board for any changes, and he said he would seek public comment as well as input from the regional directors.

In the meantime, the letter from the regional directors indicates that many may take Mr. Robb’s proposal as a cue to resign or retire, as some of their counterparts at the State Department, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Interior Department did.

“We believe the changes you suggest, including the removal of directors from the Senior Executive Service, will cause senior directors and managers, whose institutional knowledge is a valuable asset to the agency, to retire sooner than they otherwise intended,” the directors wrote to Mr. Robb. “As you can imagine, the information you provided to the regional directors has created much uncertainty and has disheartened us.”

--

Tags: nlrbunion bustingPATCOTrump
Categories: Labor News

Stevedores to Stage 24-Hour Strike at All Finnish Ports

Fri, 01/26/2018 - 15:16

Stevedores to Stage 24-Hour Strike at All Finnish Ports

https://worldmaritimenews.com/archives/241968/stevedores-to-stage-24-hou...

Stevedores will stage a 24-hour strike at all ports in Finland on February 2 as part of a political protest against the government’s employment policies, a statement issued by Finish stevedoring company STEVECO says.

Stevedores, part of the Transport Workers’ Union (AKT), will take part in the protest from 6:00 a.m. February 2 to 6 a.m. February 3.

What is more, Finnish Seafarers’ Union (FSU) has urged all its members to participate in a protest at 11:00 a.m. on February 2 at the Senate Square in Helsinki.

AKT and FSU are affiliated to SAK, the Central Organization of Finnish Trade Unions which organizes the protest.

Trade unions in the country are opposing to the new unemployment security legislation which entered into force at the beginning of this year. SAK stresses the new law is “another cut in unemployment security.”

From the beginning of the year, unemployed people must report their progress in job-seeking to the unemployment fund or the Social Insurance Institution (Kela) quarterly. The unemployment fund or Kela can then consider whether they have been active enough in finding employment or not.

Should they decide someone has not done enough to seek out employment, the benefit will be cut by 4.65 percent for the next three months.

World Maritime News Staff

Tags: Finn Dockers StrikeTransport Workers’ Union (AKT)
Categories: Labor News

Bomb Train': Oil Execs Try to Blame Workers for Tragic Accident

Fri, 01/26/2018 - 13:29

Bomb Train': Oil Execs Try to Blame Workers for Tragic Accident

http://therealnews.com/t2/story:20976:Bomb-Train%27%3A-Oil-Execs-Try-to-...

To hear/watch the interview with RWU member Fritz Edler, click on the link above. The transcript is below....

Bomb Train': Oil Execs Try to Blame Workers for Tragic Accident

All three MMA rail workers were acquitted of criminal charges in the Lac-Megantic disaster case -- but Fritz Edler, veteran locomotive engineer and longtime union officer, says "the wrong people were on trial," and that the industry ignores known risks

________________________________

biography

Fritz Edler is a veteran locomotive engineer and wreck investigator, with 40 years of railroad experience. Became chair of the Harding and Labrie Defense Committee after hearing Harding's attorney speak @ a Community Rail safety conference in Chicago. I've made 8 investigative trips to Canada in conjunction with the defense as well as supporting the rail safety efforts of the Lac-M�gantic citizens.

________________________________

transcript

DIMITRI LASCARIS: This is Dimitri Lascaris for The Real News reporting from Montreal, Quebec. The small town of Lac-Mégantic in Quebec's historic Eastern Townships will forever be associated with one of the deadliest accidents in Canadian history. On the morning of July 6, 2013, a crude oil train explosion killed 47 people. The train was carrying volatile crude oil from the Bakken Shale oilfields of North Dakota. It derailed and exploded, killing residents and destroying the town's downtown area. The mass funeral in the town of just over 5,000 persons was broadcast live across Canada. It became a national day of mourning.

Over four years later, on Friday of last week, a Canadian jury found three former rail workers not guilty of criminal negligence causing the deaths of Lac-Megantic residents. The question must now be asked, why were the workers charged for this tragedy? Moreover, why was no executive of the Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway Company prosecuted? With us to discuss this, I am pleased to be joined by veteran train engineer and wreck investigator Fritz Edler, chairperson of the defense committee for Tom Harding and Richard Labrie, two of the workers who were charged and found not guilty. Fritz joins us today from Washington, D.C. Fritz, thank you very much for joining us on The Real News.

FRITZ EDLER: Pleasure. Glad to be with you.

DIMITRI LASCARIS: Fritz, let's start by talking about the basic allegations against the acquitted railway workers. What was the essential basis of the Crown's allegations of criminal negligence and in your view, why did the prosecution fail?

FRITZ EDLER: Well, it seemed plain to us from the beginning that this was putting the things in the wrong order. In other words, for the people in the town and for people in Canada and across North America who wanted to know why this wreck took place and what we could do to prevent it, it was completely wrong to start out from just moments after, days after the wreck with an exclusive focus on Tom Harding and then later his coworker, Richard Labrie, and decide that the way to find out about this wreck would be to do a criminal prosecution instead of what the people in the community wanted, which was a commission of inquiry. That real public inquiry has never taken place.

This is the absolute worst way to find out why a wreck took place and who is really responsible. Instead, what the government did was they took their lead from the industry. They took their lead from Ed Burkhardt, the chair of the Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railroad, who in Megantic began to accuse Tom Harding of responsibility exclusively. The government took that up and made that their focus, and never really seriously pursued the broader issues for prosecution.

DIMITRI LASCARIS: Essentially, in your view, what was it that happened at the trial? I appreciate you may not be a legal expert but as somebody who is a veteran wreck investigator, why do you think this case fell apart in the end?

FRITZ EDLER: I have been called into Lac-Mégantic and to Quebec eight almost, I guess eight times now, in the case of this campaign, this trial. And I've had a chance to see on the ground firsthand, not only as a railroader but also as somebody who is a supporter of Tom Harding and Richard Labrie, exactly how things were on the ground. One of the things you found out is that if you walk the streets of Lac-Mégantic and you ask people, they would tell you most often that, "They got the wrong people. The wrong people are on trial."

There was a good understanding from early on, and this was very frustrating to the people who live there because it really made it that much more unlikely that they were really going to get accountability and justice for their losses, and really get to the core of the problems. One of the problems was that the railroad still operates through the town of Lac-Mégantic and still presents the same kinds of problems because those problems stem from risky and dangerous management decisions.

DIMITRI LASCARIS: Let's talk about those problems. What in your view are the principal problems that led to this particular disaster and may create dangers in the future?

FRITZ EDLER: Well, frankly, what it was was the Montreal, Maine and Atlantic, and they're not alone in this in the industry, where in such a big hurry to make the big money that they could make from the transport of this highly volatile oil that they just threw all other cautions aside.

As a railroader, one of the very first things that hit me when I drove from Nantes into Lac-Mégantic was to see the derail-protected siding that exists in Nantes and is built there for the purpose of securing equipment to prevent it from rolling down a grade, for example. That's what it was built for and the MMA wouldn't use it. They made sure they couldn't use it by making the train too long. They just had to get that couple of extra cars and couple of extra gallons or tons.

Those factors, there's plenty of others, everything from operating that most dangerous kind of a train with only one crew member, which meant that the train could only go forward. It couldn't go back. It couldn't split. It couldn't do any of those things that might be critically important in any number of situations. By policy, and in the weeks and months before July 6, 2013, the community was put at risk, the workers were put at risk and it was done for money.

DIMITRI LASCARIS: Just for the benefit of members of our audience who aren't aware of the specifics of this tragedy. The train rolled down a grade and that resulted ultimately in the explosion that killed 47 people, right?

FRITZ EDLER: That's correct. What happened was that they made the train risky by policy and by practice, and then they purposefully didn't use all of the resources that were available to protect. That came out in the trial. One of the things that came out in the trial after 34 government witnesses, was that the inadequate and known inadequate cars for transporting these oils were even yet more overloaded, overloaded beyond because they could get a little more in there and get more money. So, they put it even more at risk. All of these factors, including the prohibition from the crews being able to use the automatic braking system to secure the equipment, as a supplemental way of securing the equipment, that rolled through the rail industry in North America. When railroaders like myself, locomotive engineers, found out that that was their policy, that's the very first thing. That's railroading 101. That's what we do. We put an automatic brake on the train. That's one of the ways that we secure it. That system was available to them and they threatened Tom Harding and other crew members with discipline if they did it.

DIMITRI LASCARIS: Are these railway workers out of the woods yet or do they remain exposed to criminal prosecution from another authority?

FRITZ EDLER: Yeah. This actually is the big thing because all across the world, people who know the name Lac-Mégantic heard that the rail workers were acquitted on the 19th of January of all the charges against them. There was a big cheer in many different sectors, including in the community of Lac-Mégantic. They thought that this was progress.

Then, in short order, within days of that, we received word that on February 5th, Tom Harding and Richard Labrie are called back to the courthouse to face federal charges, federal charges under the Railway Safety Act, federal charges under the Fisheries Act. These charges still carry with them the possibility of jail time and ruinous fines for these individuals who have already suffered so much.

DIMITRI LASCARIS: This really raises a question about the nature of regulation of the railway industry in Canada. Who's responsible for regulating the transportation of oil by rail in Canada and do you think that this organization is under the undue influence of the industry, and that that's played a role in the apparent decision not to prosecute any of the executives for these dangerous policies that you've outlined?

FRITZ EDLER: Fortunately, we know more about this because of some of the testimony that came out in the course of the prosecution witnesses in the trial. A lot of that material, which normally might never reach the public, actually was part of the trial testimony. There's also material related to this in the two investigative reports, one that was done by the Sûreté of Quebec. Early on for the Sûreté and then also by the Transportation Safety Board of Canada, and the Transportation Safety Board of Canada in particular identified 18, originally 19 factors that were the factors that were responsible for the wreck and the devastation.

What's pretty obvious is that Mr. Harding and Mr. Labrie have nothing to do with most all of them, and it identifies Transport Canada, for example. Transport Canada is identified as the regulating agency that's supposed to oversee a lot of these things, and their failures, their enabling of these dangerous practices. A lot of this stuff is out there, but unfortunately, because there's never really been a proper commission of inquiry and there is no plan evident for a real prosecution of those things, I don't know that we are going to ever see the real culprits of these decisions brought to justice.

DIMITRI LASCARIS: For instance, we've seen other bomb train explosions, as they've been dubbed. There was one in Illinois near the Wisconsin border, one in Ontario where seven tanker cars caught fire, another in Mount Carbon, Virginia. A 19-car oil explosion darkened the sky above the town. In the light of these various dangerous and destructive incidents of oil by rail, have there been safety measures put in place, whether south of the border or in Canada, that are meaningfully addressing the dangers that cause these incidents?

FRITZ EDLER: First I'd like to step back and say that some of the disasters that are happening on the railroads that aren't explosions are still as a part of the same problems that we're describing here about the risky decisions that are made solely for the purpose of saving money or some other priority other than the safety of the communities. But, I could mention the example of the wreck of Amtrak 501 outside of Seattle or the Amtrak train 188 outside of Philadelphia.

In each of those cases, we could talk about a lot of these things but in terms of the measures about the so-called bomb trains, what we can say is that the industry and the regulators have both been slow to respond. The type of container that these were shipped in, the type of tank cars which were known to be inadequate for most of the dangers that are posed by that kind of transportation, those got some upgrades. But it turns out that the upgrades were insufficient, and there isn't enough for the fleet. And as the market fluctuates and the pressure is on to put more of this stuff on the railroads, there's no guarantee that from a structural point of view you won't have the kind of situation that was testified to in the Harding and Labrie trial, where the railroad put even more volatile oil beyond the capacity of the safety limits of these cars just because they could. Every ton of extra was more money.

DIMITRI LASCARIS: This has been Dimitri Lascaris speaking to veteran wreck investigator Fritz Edler, chairperson of the defense committee for Tom Harding and Richard Labrie about the acquittal of three railway workers in connection with the oil by rail disaster in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec. Thank you very much for joining us today, Fritz.

FRITZ EDLER: Thank you, sir.

DIMITRI LASCARIS: This is Dimitri Lascaris reporting for The Real News.

Tags: Lac-Mégantic rail wreckhealth and safetyOne Man Crewscrude oil explosion
Categories: Labor News

Japan Vessel operators setting course for automated navigation

Thu, 01/25/2018 - 23:31

Japan Vessel operators setting course for automated navigation
http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201801260004.html
THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
January 26, 2018 at 07:30 JST

A captain of Nippon Yusen KK, center, assesses the threat posed by an approaching vessel on a ship operation simulator in Kawasaki, Kanagawa Prefecture. (Takeho Morita)
In one room, a ship's captain swiftly directs his crew to avoid an approaching fishing boat and a container ship. In another room, an automated system flashes a red lamp to warn of dangers from approaching vessels and avoid collisions.

The simulation was conducted to see if the collision prevention system that is being developed can make as appropriate judgments as “skilled” captains. The system will be improved based on the results, so it can be tested on a ship by the end of 2019.

“The practical introduction of the system will lead to a reduced burden on sailors, helping prevent accidents,” said an official of Nippon Yusen KK, known as NYK Line, which conducted the testing in hopes of eventually introducing a self-operating vessel.

Shipping companies in Japan and abroad are developing self-operating technology for vessels, as the transport ministry is looking to have Japanese corporations take the initiative to introduce international standards for automatic navigation systems.

Aggressive research activities are now being carried out in the shipping industry, such as in the auto industry, to allow vessels to navigate waters on their own, with firms across the world successively starting tests of self-sailing technologies.

The move is aimed at lessening the burdens on the crew to improve safety with an eye on developing unmanned vessels in the future.

The Japanese transport ministry is proceeding with discussions in hopes of putting automatic sailing technology into practical use by 2025.

Under an automatic navigation system, obstacles will be located and vessel-mounted equipment checked and maintained remotely from an inland facility, using information and computing technology (ICT) and other techniques. The vessel will be operated with the help of artificial intelligence.

Behind the trend is the increasing number of merchant ships across the globe.

The number of merchant vessels for 2015 rose to 1.5 times that for 1980 as the Malacca Strait and other major channels have become increasingly congested.

As nearly half of vessel collision cases are said to be attributed to human error, shipping companies have begun to develop the self-operating technology based on advanced ICT to significantly reduce accidents.

Mitsui O.S.K. Lines Ltd. started full-scale research in November 2016 and plans to carry out a joint trial of a new sensor to detect obstacles with Britain’s Rolls-Royce Marine in the Seto Inland Sea by the end of this year.

“Saving the crew members the trouble of being on watch duty will allow them to concentrate on other tasks,” said a Mitsui public relations official. “That will also result in an improved working environment.”

Meanwhile, Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha Ltd. ("K" Line) is collecting navigation data from 100 vessels equipped with a special system.

Companies outside Japan are also actively working to develop automatic ship operation systems.

While Norwegian fertilizer maker Yara International ASA and other parties are looking to commercializing a technology to remotely control ships from inland facilities by 2019, Rolls-Royce aims to realize an unmanned vessel operation system by 2035.

MINISTRY WORKING TO SET INTERNATIONAL STANDARDS

In December, the Japanese transport ministry began discussions on self-operating vessels.

With the aim of making available a system to remotely control part of operations of ships by 2025, the ministry will conduct communications and other tests jointly with private businesses in fiscal 2018 starting in April.

Tokyo intends to make Japan’s automated navigation system specifications international standards, as the U.N.-run International Maritime Organization is expected to begin developing international rules on systems and equipment this year.

Since Japan is home to many shipping firms and shipbuilders, as well as engine and gauge makers, a ministry official said the introduction of criteria friendly to Japanese corporations will greatly benefit the nation’s economy.

“If Japan can take the initiative to set rules, Japanese companies will be able to quickly respond to them, bringing about very favorable effects on the industry,” said an official of the Safety Policy Division of the ministry’s Maritime Bureau.

However, there remain many obstacles to overcome to put automated navigation systems into practical use.

In the ocean, vessels can approach from all directions. Ships’ operations are strongly affected by wind and waves, making it difficult to establish preset patterns for avoiding obstacles.

In addition, as vessels are much larger and heavier than cars and have no brakes, they cannot stop or turn suddenly.

“The current technology has already reached a level where unmanned ships are able to navigate waters with no objects around them,” said Etsuro Shimizu, a control engineering professor at the Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology.

“But when other vessels are operating nearby, they need to be visually checked by the crew,” he said. “There are high hurdles to introducing unmanned ships.”

(This article was written by Takeho Morita and Hideaki Ishiyama.)

Tags: Japan ship automationhealth and safety
Categories: Labor News

'I won't fly refugees to their deaths': The El Al pilots resisting deportation

Tue, 01/23/2018 - 11:51

'I won't fly refugees to their deaths': The El Al pilots resisting deportation

https://972mag.com/i-wont-fly-refugees-to-their-deaths-the-el-al-pilots-...

January 22, 2018

'I won't fly refugees to their deaths': The El Al pilots resisting deportation
At least three pilots for Israel’s flag carrier publish declarations publicly refusing to take part in the forced deportation of asylum seekers should they be asked to. The Israeli government is giving tens of thousands of Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers a stark choice: deportation or indefinite imprisonment.

By Yael Marom

An El Al pilot hangs out the window of one of the carrier's planes. (Illustrative photo by Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
An El Al pilot hangs out the window of one of the carrier’s planes. (Illustrative photo by Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
At least three El Al pilots in recent days published public declarations of their refusal to take part in the deportation of asylum seekers to countries where their lives may be in danger.

Captain Yoel Piterbarg, a pilot on Israel’s national airline, wrote the following on Facebook (Hebrew):

Israel is populated primarily by Jews who, in their near and distant pasts, were refugees in countries around the world. The vast majority became citizens and a small number remained refugees. Most went through the Holocaust, many were forcefully expelled from their countries, and many others emigrated out of a desire to improve their lives in better countries that agreed to accept them.Out of all people we, the Jews, must be attentive, empathetic, moral, and leaders of public opinion in the world in how we treat the migration of refugees, who have suffered and continue to suffer in their countries of origin.[…] I will not fly deported refugees against their will for the legal reason (there is no other legal reason) that they are likely to endanger the safety of the flight.
In another Facebook post, El Al pilot Shaul Betzer wrote (Hebrew):

As part of the Jewish people, as someone who was raised and educated with Zionist values that renewed the existence of our nation in the Land of Israel, who has lived here his entire life, who has taken part in missions behind enemy lines, which required no small amount of courage and belief in the justness of our path, recognition of Jewish morality and the sanctity of every human being whoever they may be, all in order to ensure ourselves and the generations to come that we will never again be refugees and reliant on the goodness of others.There is no way that as pat of the flight crew, I will take part in flying refugees/asylum seekers on their way to a destination, in which their chance of survival after arrival (“a third country”) is close to zero.Not much courage is required for such a mission, but I will not be able to do what is required of me in such a mission. As a pilot and as a human being.
A third El Al pilot, Iddo Elad, wrote on his Facebook page (Hebrew): “I have joined many of my good friends, in declaring that I will not fly refugees to their deaths. I won’t take part in that barbarism.”

More than 7,500 Israelis signed a petition, published by “Zazim — Community Action” earlier this month, calling on the Israel Airline Pilots Association and ground services staff at Ben Gurion Airport to “stand on the right side of history and refuse participate in this immoral deportation.”

In recent weeks the Israeli government approved the deportation of refugees to third countries. According to the plan, the Holot desert detention facility, where many asylum seekers are held, will shut down and those who refuse to leave “voluntarily” to Rwanda and Uganda (and perhaps other countries) will be imprisoned indefinitely. According to numerous reports, which Rwanda and Uganda have denied, Israel will pay those countries $5,000 for each refugee they take in from Israel. Additionally, Israel will pay $3,500 to each asylum seeker who agrees to leave, although that sum will get smaller over time, thereby incentivizing them to leave sooner than later.

​ ​The deportation cannot be carried out without the cooperation of pilots, the Zazim petition noted. (Full disclosure: My life partner works for Zazim.) In the first nine months of 2017, over 200 deportations of asylum seekers “failed” because German pilots for Lufthansa and its subsidiary, Eurowings, refused to take off with them on board, declaring that flight safety could be compromised if someone says they do not want to take the flight. In the UK last summer, a Turkish Airlines pilot refused to take off upon learning that a refugee was being deported against his will to Afghanistan.
The agreements between Israel and those two African countries are not new. For years now Israel has paid asylum seekers to leave to Rwanda and Uganda. Despite Israel’s promises that those who agree to leave won’t be in danger, hundreds of testimonies demonstrate that they are not actually given any status or remain welcome in those countries. Instead, they are forced into yet another life-threatening journey. They are vulnerable to exploitation and humiliation, human trafficking, frequent arrests, demands for bribes, and threats. Some of them fall victim to kidnapping gangs, some into the hands of ISIS, and many choose to risk their lives trying to make it to Europe by boat.

It appears that all of the previous flights taking asylum seekers from Israel to Rwanda and Uganda were operated by non-Israeli airlines, including Ethiopian Airlines, and other carriers that service both Tel Aviv and Rwanda or Uganda. (There are no direct flights from Israel to either of those two countries.) It is unclear whether El Al pilots will be asked to fly asylum seekers out of Israel, but declarations like those published by these three pilots send a message of solidarity to the asylum seekers — and can perhaps influence pilots flying for other airlines that are being asked to carry out Israel’s dirty work.

Yael Marom is Just Vision’s public engagement manager in Israel and a co-editor of Local Call, where a version of this article was originally published in Hebrew.

Tags: el AlDeportationspilotsDeaths
Categories: Labor News

Robots that steal port jobs also fight climate change and the ILWU

Mon, 01/22/2018 - 17:09

Robots that steal port jobs also fight climate change and the ILWU

http://www.scpr.org/news/2018/01/22/79969/robots-that-steal-port-jobs-al...
Longshoremen working on the ship COSCO Denmark at a manual terminal at the Port of Long Beach in 2010.COURTESY PORT OF LONG BEACH
Emily Guerin | January 22, 2018
A foulmouthed longshoreman named Frank Gaskin pointed his phone at a chain link fence at the Port of Long Beach last summer and made a video of the robots that had taken his and his buddies’ jobs.

In the video, flatbed carts glide by carrying cargo containers around the dock. They’re self-driving, guided by computers and magnets beneath the pavement. As one passes soundlessly near the fence, Gaskin yells, “f--- you automation mother f-----!”

At 21 of the 22 docks at the Port of Long Beach, most of the work of loading and unloading cargo from containers ships is still done by people, not by robots. The Long Beach Container Terminal, which opened in April 2016, is an exception. It requires two-thirds fewer workers than traditional terminals. And that frightens the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, which controls all the jobs at the docks.

Note: This video contains profanity that may offend some viewers.

But viewed from another perspective, automation is part of the solution to one of Southern California’s most vexing environmental problems: the worst air pollution in the country.

Diesel trucks and equipment are the largest contributors to that air pollution, and the ports are the largest single source of those emissions.

But the automated carts at the Long Beach Container Terminal run on electricity, which can be generated by natural gas or renewable energy. Look closely as the cart nears Gaskin’s camera, and you can see the words, written in bright white letters on a green background, “zero emissions.”

Gaskin captioned his video: “Automation in Long Beach Container Terminal will hurt everyone.”

But what if automating is also a way to help everyone by cleaning the air and fighting climate change?

WHERE PEOPLE RUN THE PORT

To understand how radically different the Long Beach Container Terminal is, you first have to visit a traditional terminal, where people control each piece of equipment.

Gary Herrera, the vice president of the ILWU Local 13, took me on a tour of the Everport Terminal at the Port of Los Angeles. He pointed out workers unloading containers, driving forklifts and operating cranes.

“Everyone you see, those are longshoremen,” Herrera said proudly.

There are just over 14,000 unionized longshoremen on the West Coast, but that number is half of what it was in 1960. That's even though the ports move more than 14 times as much cargo.

The ILWU’s founder, Harry Bridges, started preparing for automation in the 1950s. At that time, "automation" came in the form of containers that replaced individual bales, bundles and boxes of goods to be shipped. The containers carried more cargo and required fewer hands. Bridges signed an agreement with the terminal operators allowing that, but he did so only after ensuring his members got higher pay and pension guarantees.

And any new equipment they used would have to be operated by union workers.

"Even if it comes down to one person pushing one button to run a whole port,” Bridges reportedly said, “that person will be union.”

That agreement largely remains in place, and ILWU members are among the best compensated blue-collar workers in the U.S. They receive an average salary of $155,000 a year, pay almost nothing for their health insurance, and get up to six weeks of paid vacation.

The longshoremen owe their leverage to the fact that, unlike factories and auto plants, ports cannot be outsourced.

WHERE MACHINES RUN THE PORT

Ports can, however, be run by machines, computers, and, increasingly, robots.

My tour with Herrera continued as we headed across a towering bridge toward the Port of Long Beach and the Long Beach Container Terminal. Herrera’s mood changed as he looked across the water and saw remotely operated cranes and self-driving trucks.

via GIPHY

"It makes me sick to my stomach," he said, tightening his hands on the steering wheel. "I look at this place, and I do not like what it stands for. These machines get rid of men."

I'd tried for weeks, unsuccessfully, to get into the Long Beach Container Terminal on my own. I even got so far as to get their president, Anthony Otto, on the phone. He agreed to show me around, but said I couldn’t record any audio, take any pictures, or quote him.

Then, the morning of the tour, he canceled. “It’s a sensitive time for us,” he said, referring me to his PR firm for further explanation.

The firm didn’t return my call.

Officials with the ILWU can enter the terminal at any time and bring guests. Herrera had invited me to come along.

He drove us into the terminal, and we stopped in front of LBCT’s 48 stacking cranes. They load containers onto semi-trucks that haul them out of the port to distribution warehouses. In a traditional terminal, workers operate them from booths on top, but in the LBCT, four people can control all 48 cranes at once.

“The same guy who used to drive the crane out in the yard eight hours a day is now doing it from a remote console, sipping coffee and listening to light music in air conditioning,” Otto said in a YouTube video touting the benefits of automation.

The ILWU estimates that two-thirds of the longshore jobs at LBCT have disappeared due to automation. Neither Otto nor anyone else from LBCT would confirm the number of jobs lost, nor comment on the record for this story.

But they say automation creates opportunities for new kinds of jobs, like mechanics to maintain the self-driving vehicles. And, they say, their robots are cleaner than the diesel fueled, human-controlled machines they’re replacing.

The Long Beach Container Terminal emits 85 percent less diesel soot, 58 percent less nitrogen oxide (a component of smog), and 33 percent less carbon dioxide than a traditional dock at the ports.

Those kinds of reductions give Adrian Martinez, an environmental lawyer with Earthjustice, a very different take on the automated equipment at LBCT than guys like Gary Herrera.

“It’s exciting to see zero emissions equipment actually on the terminal,” Martinez said. “Because from a basic level, we’re not going to solve the air pollution crisis in the Los Angeles area until we eliminate port and freight pollution.”

SO, MORE ROBOTS?

In November 2017, the Port of Long Beach and the neighboring Port of Los Angeles pledged to dramatically slash their emissions by phasing out internal combustion engines. Their goal is to replace all diesel trucks and cargo-handling equipment with zero-emissions equivalents by 2035. Usually that means electric vehicles.

The big question is whether the ports’ new mandate will lead to more automation.

Currently, electric cargo-handling equipment is more than twice as expensive as its diesel equivalent. That could lead terminal operators to choose to automate to save on labor costs, said Thomas Jelenic, who represents terminal operators as the vice president of the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association.

“People generally won’t seek out automation in and of itself unless they can justify it in some way,” he said. “But if they’re forced to electrify, the costs of electrification then dictate the need to automate.”

But Mark Sisson, a port planner with the consulting firm AECOM, thinks concerns about price are overblown. He believes the price of electric cargo-handling equipment will drop now that there’s a mandate for the largest ports in the Western Hemisphere to buy it. And right now, at least three other marine terminals are testing human-controlled electric cargo equipment.

RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE

Of all the automated equipment inside the Long Beach Container Terminal, it’s the 72 self-driving vehicles that elicit the strongest reaction.

They’re the ones Frank Gaskin swore at in his video, and they’re the ones Gary Herrera glared as he stepped out of the SUV on the last stop on our tour.

“They got rid of jobs, there’s no more drivers,” he said, looking across the fence at the little green carts. “And so this is why we’re skeptical at all when they wanna say zero emissions.”

Because of all the uncertainty, the ILWU isn’t take any chances. In September 2017, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a budget bill allocating $900 million from the sale of carbon permits under California’s cap and trade program.

Up to $140 million will be sent to the ports for clean freight and ships, but the ILWU lobbied hard to ensure that none of it could be used for automated equipment. If the terminals want to automate, they have to do it on their own.

Tags: ilwuPort automationport jobs
Categories: Labor News

Pages