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JFK Airport guard forced to watch colleagues have sex on security cameras: suit

Wed, 10/11/2017 - 10:29

JFK Airport guard forced to watch colleagues have sex on security cameras: suit

BY
VICTORIA BEKIEMPIS
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Updated: Tuesday, October 10, 2017, 11:54 PM

JFK Airport guard forced to watch colleagues have sex on security cameras: suit

http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/jfk-airport-guard-forced-watch-colle...

A former security guard at Kennedy Airport was forced to watch her coworkers have sex and subjected to constant sexual harassment because she rejected her boss’s advances, a new lawsuit alleges.

LaDonna Powell, 32, worked for the company now known as Allied Universal Security Services at JFK from 2012 to 2016.

Powell says she was “presented with a choice: have sex with male supervisors and get ahead, or refuse and be relentlessly harassed and retaliated against,” her Manhattan Federal Court lawsuit alleges.

Because Powell refused, she endured “harrowing” torment, she claims in the suit, which was filed Tuesday.

That torment included being “repeatedly forced to stand by as her supervisors watched her colleagues have sex in security booths via closed circuit television cameras,” according to court papers.

She was also “present while her supervisors watched videos of female security guards performing oral sex on male supervisors” and would ask about her sexual prowess, court papers state.

Once, in late 2014, a boss called Powell into his office and allegedly said "How much further do you want to go (at Allied)? ... There are things you can do to get where you want to go."

LaDonna Powell, 32, accuses Allied Universal Security Services at JFK of quid-pro-quo sex for advancement.
LaDonna Powell, 32, accuses Allied Universal Security Services at JFK of quid-pro-quo sex for advancement.(WNBC)
His “clear implication to Ms. Powell was that she could engage in sex acts to advance her career,” the suit states.

A supervisor from the Port Authority — which contracts with Allied to provide security at JFK — was there during the meeting, the Powell alleges.

Another time, the same Allied supervisor said “Since everyone already thinks we had sex, let's bend you over the table,” the documents claim.

The same man also "brushed up against Ms. Powell's body when walking past her and made unnecessary contact with her,” according to the lawsuit.

When Powell tried to report the harassment — and an allegation that a female colleague was raped by two coworkers after a work event — her complaints fell on deaf ears, she contends.

Powell, who is black, also alleges that white supervisors routinely used the N-word in the office in front of her.

NYC PAPERS OUT. Social media use restricted to low res file max 184 x 128 pixels and 72 dpi
A former security guard at Kennedy Airport claims in a new lawsuit she was subjected to constant sexual harassment. (ANTHONY DELMUNDO/NEW YORK DAILY NEWS)
She says she was often denied meal and bathroom breaks when she worked as a security officer "to the point where, on multiple occasions, she had to urinate in a cup in the middle of her shift.”

Powell claims she made multiple complaints to Allied supervisors and the Port Authority about the alleged racial and sex discrimination at JFK.

She believes she was fired in May 2016 as retaliation and is seeking unspecified damages.

"We have just received the lawsuit and are reviewing it," Allied said in a statement, saying that "per policy we do not comment publicly on pending litigation."

Port Authority spokesman Steve Coleman declined to comment on the suit, but said the matter was referred to the agency's inspector general.

WITH DAN RIVOLI

Tags: Sexual HarassmentKennedy Airport
Categories: Labor News

MTA, NY TWU 100 mull ditching subway booth workers for ‘ambassadors’ to boost communication with riders “They just want to combine both, where they work the platform and they also work on the other side of the turnstile,” said Kia Phua, the union’s vic

Mon, 10/09/2017 - 12:48

MTA, transit union mull ditching subway booth workers for ‘ambassadors’ to boost communication with riders
“They just want to combine both, where they work the platform and they also work on the other side of the turnstile,” said Kia Phua, the union’s vice president of rapid transit operations. “It is a job cut.”

BY
DAN RIVOLI
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Monday, October 9, 2017, 4:00 AM
The subway station clerk soon may go the way of the token.

In what could be the beginning of the end for booth-dwelling workers, the MTA is in negotiations with the transit union to create a new title, “customer service ambassador,” with new duties, the Daily News has learned.

Ambassadors will roam stations and aid riders, in effect offering concierge services befitting the subway.

“These ambassadors will improve communication with riders by providing real-time information about the system and their commutes,” Metropolitan Transportation Authority spokesman Shams Tarek said.

It’s all part of improving customer service, Tarek said, which is key to MTA chairman Joe Lhota’s Subway Action Plan.

As they did back when riders used tokens, station agents still handle MetroCard transactions and take questions and complaints from tourists and New Yorkers alike. But in anticipation of the day when the MetroCard is retired for smart card and phone payments, and fewer people line up at booths, the MTA and the union representing transit workers have tried to negotiate new responsibilities for station agents.

Riders got their first glimpse of the new subway ambassadors at the reopening of the 53rd St. stop on the R line in Brooklyn, following the station’s six-month makeover. The workers were handing out flyers detailing the station renovations and new artwork.

MTA workers in yellow and black shirts labeled with “Customer Service Ambassador” (pictured) greeted riders after the reopening of the R train in Brooklyn in Sept. 2017. (KEVIN C. DOWNS/FOR NEW YORK DAILY NEWS)
Commuter Will O’Connor, 42, thinks having roving workers makes more sense than the booths. He said he never goes to a booth anymore and thinks their locations are inconvenient when he needs help.

Gov. Cuomo orders panel to bust NYC gridlock, bring money to MTA

“I’ve tried to bark information to one of those booths through the turnstile,” the tech worker from Carroll Gardens said of one fruitless effort to figure out when his next train would show up.

Jean-Claude Quintyne, 25, from Crown Heights, thought it would help make his commute smoother, particularly when he’s at the busy Atlantic Ave.-Barclays Center station. The ambassador concept, Quintyne said, is a sign that the MTA is “moving to improve things, instead of trying to empty our pockets.”

Not everyone is thrilled with the plan.

Some representatives of Transport Workers Union Local 100 say the MTA is trying to cut its work force by merging the role of station agent and platform controller – who are train conductors assigned to thin crowds at stations – into a single title.

Tags: TWU 100layoffs
Categories: Labor News

MTA, NY TWU 100 mull ditching subway booth workers for ‘ambassadors’ to boost communication with riders “They just want to combine both, where they work the platform and they also work on the other side of the turnstile,” said Kia Phua, the union’s vic

Mon, 10/09/2017 - 12:48

MTA, transit union mull ditching subway booth workers for ‘ambassadors’ to boost communication with riders
“They just want to combine both, where they work the platform and they also work on the other side of the turnstile,” said Kia Phua, the union’s vice president of rapid transit operations. “It is a job cut.”

BY
DAN RIVOLI
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Monday, October 9, 2017, 4:00 AM
The subway station clerk soon may go the way of the token.

In what could be the beginning of the end for booth-dwelling workers, the MTA is in negotiations with the transit union to create a new title, “customer service ambassador,” with new duties, the Daily News has learned.

Ambassadors will roam stations and aid riders, in effect offering concierge services befitting the subway.

“These ambassadors will improve communication with riders by providing real-time information about the system and their commutes,” Metropolitan Transportation Authority spokesman Shams Tarek said.

It’s all part of improving customer service, Tarek said, which is key to MTA chairman Joe Lhota’s Subway Action Plan.

As they did back when riders used tokens, station agents still handle MetroCard transactions and take questions and complaints from tourists and New Yorkers alike. But in anticipation of the day when the MetroCard is retired for smart card and phone payments, and fewer people line up at booths, the MTA and the union representing transit workers have tried to negotiate new responsibilities for station agents.

Riders got their first glimpse of the new subway ambassadors at the reopening of the 53rd St. stop on the R line in Brooklyn, following the station’s six-month makeover. The workers were handing out flyers detailing the station renovations and new artwork.

MTA workers in yellow and black shirts labeled with “Customer Service Ambassador” (pictured) greeted riders after the reopening of the R train in Brooklyn in Sept. 2017. (KEVIN C. DOWNS/FOR NEW YORK DAILY NEWS)
Commuter Will O’Connor, 42, thinks having roving workers makes more sense than the booths. He said he never goes to a booth anymore and thinks their locations are inconvenient when he needs help.

Gov. Cuomo orders panel to bust NYC gridlock, bring money to MTA

“I’ve tried to bark information to one of those booths through the turnstile,” the tech worker from Carroll Gardens said of one fruitless effort to figure out when his next train would show up.

Jean-Claude Quintyne, 25, from Crown Heights, thought it would help make his commute smoother, particularly when he’s at the busy Atlantic Ave.-Barclays Center station. The ambassador concept, Quintyne said, is a sign that the MTA is “moving to improve things, instead of trying to empty our pockets.”

Not everyone is thrilled with the plan.

Some representatives of Transport Workers Union Local 100 say the MTA is trying to cut its work force by merging the role of station agent and platform controller – who are train conductors assigned to thin crowds at stations – into a single title.

Tags: TWU 100layoffs
Categories: Labor News

State agency slaps BART with a nearly $220,000 fine for 2013 worker deaths; blames management, safety culture but no one is prosecuted and goes to jail

Fri, 10/06/2017 - 20:57

State agency slaps BART with a nearly $220,000 fine for 2013 worker deaths; blames management, safety culture but no one is prosecuted and goes to jail
State agency slaps BART with a nearly $220,000 fine for 2013 worker deaths; blames top management, safety culture

http://www.eastbaytimes.com/2017/10/06/state-finds-bart-management-safet...

BART employees, along with the National Transportation Safety Board investigate the scene on Sunday, Oct. 20, 2013, where a four-car northbound Bay Point train was involved in the deaths of two workers in Walnut Creek, Calif. (File photo by Susan Tripp Pollard/Bay Area News Group Archives)
By ERIN BALDASSARI | ebaldassari@bayareanewsgroup.com | Bay Area News Group
PUBLISHED: October 6, 2017 at 1:53 pm | UPDATED: October 6, 2017 at 4:53 pm
A state regulatory agency is slapping a nearly $220,000 fine on BART after concluding that its top management and safety culture were to blame for the deaths of two workers during the 2013 labor strikes.

The decision comes nearly four years to the day after a BART train, operated by a trainee with no direct supervision, struck and killed BART employee Christopher Sheppard, 58, of Hayward, and a contractor, 66-year-old Fair Oaks resident Laurence Daniels. The California Public Utilities Commission launched its investigation last year into the workers’ deaths, following investigations from other state and federal agencies.

It’s the second fine levied against BART for the incident, though BART is still appealing the first penalty it received in 2014 from the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal-OSHA). That agency in July downgraded its initial penalty of $210,000 to just $95,000, which BART is asking Cal-OSHA to reconsider. And, in October, BART agreed to pay $300,000 to settle a wrongful death suit brought by Daniels’ family.

The decision, from the presiding officer in the investigation, Administrative Law Judge Kimberly Kim, describes the violations as a “breach of commitment” from top managers to enforce safety standards in their departments. Kim’s decision will become final in 30 days, unless the full commission decides it warrants review, or if BART files an appeal, according to a commission spokesman.

“These are serious and egregious violations, particularly in view of the fact that they were violations committed by BART’s top level veteran managers, reflecting BART’s organizational and management culture and attitudes,” the decision reads.

In a statement Friday, BART spokeswoman Alicia Trost said the agency was still determining whether it would appeal the decision. In the past, it has denied its safety culture was to blame, citing instead the failure of the workers to follow its policies for working near the tracks, as well as the unusual circumstances surrounding the 2013 strikes, when managers were performing essential tasks and the agency was preparing to offer limited service from the East Bay to San Francisco.

In a formal response to the commission, BART contended that the supervisor in charge of overseeing the trainee was an experienced and qualified train operator. But the commission’s investigation revealed the supervisor was not in the cabin with the trainee at the time and had been using his cellphone throughout the day, a possible violation of both state regulations and BART’s own policies.

The supervisor sent or received 47 text messages and logged 11 calls between 6 a.m. and the time of collision, 1:44 p.m., on Oct. 19, 2013, including one text message sent just one minute before the men were struck by the train, the commission’s investigation found.

It took just 4.7 seconds from the moment the operator in training saw Daniels and Sheppard, who were out inspecting a dip in the tracks near the Walnut Creek station, and the time of impact. The inexperienced operator slammed on the emergency brake and tried to sound the train’s horns to alert the workers but hit the door control button instead, according to the commission’s investigation.

Two state investigations and an investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board also cited the inherent danger in a workplace procedure BART was employing at the time, called “simple approval.” That policy allowed workers to operate within a certain distance of the tracks and made workers responsible for their own safety.

Under the procedure, the workers should have designated a member of their team to watch for passing trains, but that didn’t happen the day Daniels and Sheppard were killed.

BART acted quickly to eliminate the procedure, and the agency now requires all workers to request a “work area clearance,” a more stringent policy that prevents trains from entering areas where workers are present. The agency also requires three-way communication among workers, the train control center and train operators and reduced speeds near work zones. And it has invested $4 million in physical safety barriers, among other changes that resulted from the workers’ deaths.

“Safety is our highest priority,” Trost said Friday. “There is nothing more important than providing a safe working environment for our employees.”

But, as part of the decision, the commission is requiring even more stringent action during a three-year probationary period, mandating BART immediately begin tracking and submitting annual reports of any violations of safety rules, practices, policies or procedures, along with the corrective action taken as a result of those violations. The agency must re-evaluate its current safety training programs and design a plan to improve their effectiveness.

The agency must also develop and implement “annual safety rules, practices, policies, procedures and culture refresher courses for all of its essential managers” and brief the commission annually on its efforts. The commission will monitor BART’s compliance during the probationary period, after which the commission could issue more penalties if BART violates the order or extend the probationary period, according to the decision.

Hearing officer recommends $220,000 fine for BART in 2013 deaths
http://www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/article/PUC-judge-recommends-220-000-...

By Bob EgelkoOctober 6, 2017 Updated: October 6, 2017 7:25pm
BART should be fined $220,000 and overhaul lax safety rules and practices that contributed to the deaths of two workers on a track near Walnut Creek in 2013, a state hearing officer recommended Friday.

“The evidence in this case shows that there may be a serious safety culture problem at BART,” said Kimberly Kim, an administrative law judge for the state Public Utilities Commission.

Christopher Sheppard, 58, of Hayward, a BART track engineer, and Lawrence Daniels, 66, of Fair Oaks (Sacramento County), a contract employee, were fatally struck by a train in October 2013 while they were checking on a reported dip in the tracks between the Walnut Creek and Pleasant Hill stations.

The accident happened on the second day of a strike by union employees that lasted four days. The train, traveling at 60 to 70 mph, was being operated by a manager who was being trained to take over driver duties in the event of an extended walkout.

At the time, BART trains did not slow down during routine track maintenance, and workers were supposed to look out for their own safety. A coroner’s report found that neither of the workers had been acting as a lookout for oncoming trains.

State regulators with Cal/OSHA found the practice unsafe in 2014 and fined BART $210,000. The district has also settled a suit by Daniels’ family for $300,000. BART has since changed its policy.

Kim found numerous safety violations in Friday’s decision. She said a veteran BART manager, Paul Liston, who was supposed to be training and supervising the operator, instead had been on his cell phone for hours, including the moments before the accident. Five “top-level managers” on the train did nothing to stop him, Kim said.

She said neither Liston nor the train operator, Richard Burr, sounded the horn as they approached the work site, and other managers failed to warn them of the presence of track workers. Kim also said BART was supposed to investigate the accident and file its report with the Public Utilities Commission within 60 days, but did not submit its report until January 2017.

Kim said the violations warranted $659,000 in fines, but recommended that BART pay only one-third of that amount while upgrading its practices. She said the transit district, within six months, should propose improvements to its safety training programs and require managers to undergo at least 40 hours of training, with the PUC monitoring its compliance.

BART or a PUC member can seek review of Kim’s decision by the full commission. BART spokeswoman Alicia Trost said the district is reviewing the decision.

After the 2013 accident, Trost said in a statement, “BART moved swiftly to implement profound changes to its trackside procedures.”

Bob Egelko is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: begelko@sfchronicle.comTwitter:@egelko

Tags: BART Murderosharailways
Categories: Labor News

IBT Pres Hoffa Wants Trump To Make Corporate Trade Agreement NAFTA Better?

Fri, 10/06/2017 - 05:40

IBT Pres Hoffa Wants Trump To Make Corporate Trade Agreement NAFTA Better?
http://www.detroitnews.com/story/opinion/2017/10/04/labor-voices-nafta-t...
NAFTA should deal with trucking, labor
James HoffaPublished 12:03 a.m. ET Oct. 4, 2017
As governments continue to grapple with much-needed changes to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), U.S. and Canadian Teamsters have joined together to stand up for workers and push for policy changes that will improve their lives and livelihoods.

While the third round of renegotiations of the trade pact ended last week, the status of many important issues remains in flux, including workers’ rights and cross-border trucking. The Teamsters have also joined civil society groups in calling for the elimination of a controversial dispute settlement mechanism in NAFTA’s investment chapter that allows corporations to sue governments.

At the top of the agenda is fixing the mistake of including long-haul trucking in the original NAFTA. The Teamsters have briefed U.S. and Canadian officials on suggested language that would provide a level playing field, improve truck safety and boost working conditions and wages for Mexican drivers.

This issue must be addressed in these negotiations. Not only do truckers stand to benefit, but American lives are at stake. Old and unsafe trucks put our highways at risk and pollute our air, putting the public’s health in jeopardy. That’s not a price people should pay for bad policy.

The first draft of the proposed U.S. labor chapter, which was tabled last week, is inadequate. As it stands, working and middle class families are better served by the current Canadian proposal, which will improve wages and working conditions in all three NAFTA countries and calls for an end to anti-worker right-to-work laws here.

It is imperative that NAFTA 2.0 gets it right when it comes to workers’ rights. The pact in its current form doesn’t work. Instead, it subordinates their interests to the bottom-line profit motives of multinational corporations, suppresses wages and labor standards, and contributes to rising inequality.

Michigan has seen firsthand the terrible damage trade deals like NAFTA have brought to this country. More than 161,000 Michigan workers have lost their jobs to offshoring, while 300,000 more manufacturing jobs have been lost since the deal took effect. Members of the UAW’s Local 600 in Dearborn were particularly hard-hit. It is estimated NAFTA has cost the U.S. more than a million jobs. That is unacceptable. It is time to replace NAFTA with a new model of trade that puts the interests of North American workers above those of multinational corporations and foreign investors.

Negotiators head back to Washington to continue talks next week, and there is a lot at stake. It is essential that workers’ interests take precedence over the desires of big business, which is merely looking to further boost their bottom lines over making policy changes that put people first. That’s what real change would look like.

The Teamsters are North America’s supply chain union. With members in long-haul trucking and freight rail, air, at ports and in warehouses, as well as members in manufacturing and food processing, this union has a big stake in trade policy reform. We will be monitoring the modernization of a flawed and failed NAFTA, and fighting to make sure that the new NAFTA works for working families.

James Hoffa is president of the Teamsters.

Tags: Hoffaderegulationunion bustingNAFTA
Categories: Labor News

IBT Pres Hoffa Wants Trump To Make Corporate Trade Agreement NAFTA Better?

Fri, 10/06/2017 - 05:40

IBT Pres Hoffa Wants Trump To Make Corporate Trade Agreement NAFTA Better?
http://www.detroitnews.com/story/opinion/2017/10/04/labor-voices-nafta-t...
NAFTA should deal with trucking, labor
James HoffaPublished 12:03 a.m. ET Oct. 4, 2017
As governments continue to grapple with much-needed changes to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), U.S. and Canadian Teamsters have joined together to stand up for workers and push for policy changes that will improve their lives and livelihoods.

While the third round of renegotiations of the trade pact ended last week, the status of many important issues remains in flux, including workers’ rights and cross-border trucking. The Teamsters have also joined civil society groups in calling for the elimination of a controversial dispute settlement mechanism in NAFTA’s investment chapter that allows corporations to sue governments.

At the top of the agenda is fixing the mistake of including long-haul trucking in the original NAFTA. The Teamsters have briefed U.S. and Canadian officials on suggested language that would provide a level playing field, improve truck safety and boost working conditions and wages for Mexican drivers.

This issue must be addressed in these negotiations. Not only do truckers stand to benefit, but American lives are at stake. Old and unsafe trucks put our highways at risk and pollute our air, putting the public’s health in jeopardy. That’s not a price people should pay for bad policy.

The first draft of the proposed U.S. labor chapter, which was tabled last week, is inadequate. As it stands, working and middle class families are better served by the current Canadian proposal, which will improve wages and working conditions in all three NAFTA countries and calls for an end to anti-worker right-to-work laws here.

It is imperative that NAFTA 2.0 gets it right when it comes to workers’ rights. The pact in its current form doesn’t work. Instead, it subordinates their interests to the bottom-line profit motives of multinational corporations, suppresses wages and labor standards, and contributes to rising inequality.

Michigan has seen firsthand the terrible damage trade deals like NAFTA have brought to this country. More than 161,000 Michigan workers have lost their jobs to offshoring, while 300,000 more manufacturing jobs have been lost since the deal took effect. Members of the UAW’s Local 600 in Dearborn were particularly hard-hit. It is estimated NAFTA has cost the U.S. more than a million jobs. That is unacceptable. It is time to replace NAFTA with a new model of trade that puts the interests of North American workers above those of multinational corporations and foreign investors.

Negotiators head back to Washington to continue talks next week, and there is a lot at stake. It is essential that workers’ interests take precedence over the desires of big business, which is merely looking to further boost their bottom lines over making policy changes that put people first. That’s what real change would look like.

The Teamsters are North America’s supply chain union. With members in long-haul trucking and freight rail, air, at ports and in warehouses, as well as members in manufacturing and food processing, this union has a big stake in trade policy reform. We will be monitoring the modernization of a flawed and failed NAFTA, and fighting to make sure that the new NAFTA works for working families.

James Hoffa is president of the Teamsters.

Tags: Hoffaderegulationunion bustingNAFTA
Categories: Labor News

Operations at Barcelona, Tarragona Ports Hit by Catalonia Strike

Wed, 10/04/2017 - 14:07

Operations at Barcelona, Tarragona Ports Hit by Catalonia Strike

https://worldmaritimenews.com/archives/231502/operations-at-barcelona-ta...

The strikes being staged in Catalonia following the Spanish government’s crackdown on voters of Sunday’s independence referendum in Catalonia is affecting operations at Spanish ports of Barcelona and Tarragona.

Workers in Catalonia took to the streets protesting the violence of the country’s police against the voters which has reportedly left 800 people injured.

Thousands of people joined the demonstrations in Barcelona, including several hundreds of port workers who protested outside the regional headquarters of Spain’s ruling Popular Party, the Associated Press informed.

Maritime unions including the State Coordinator of Sea Workers (CETM), Federation of Port Workers and the Port Stevedores, called for workers to join the strike as a moral obligation to urge politicians to respect democratic values and urge them to turn to dialogue and negotiations, not violence.

According to Spanish Ministry of Public Works, a minimum level of services will be in place with respect to land transport, air transport and some of the country’s ports during the strikes, scheduled to take place from 2nd to 13th of October.

In practice, this means that surveillance, control and security measures necessary to guarantee 50% of the access and exit to ships would be provided at the affected ports.

A minimum of necessary personnel would be provided to guarantee movement of dangerous goods, and perishables, in addition to pilotage, towing, mooring, emergency and stowage activities.

Marine signaling and navigation aid systems would be working at full capacity, the ministry said.

World Maritime News Staff; Illustration; Image Courtesy: Coordinadora

Tags: Federation of Port Workers and the Port StevedoresGeneral Strike
Categories: Labor News

Operations at Barcelona, Tarragona Ports Hit by Catalonia Strike

Wed, 10/04/2017 - 14:07

Operations at Barcelona, Tarragona Ports Hit by Catalonia Strike

https://worldmaritimenews.com/archives/231502/operations-at-barcelona-ta...

The strikes being staged in Catalonia following the Spanish government’s crackdown on voters of Sunday’s independence referendum in Catalonia is affecting operations at Spanish ports of Barcelona and Tarragona.

Workers in Catalonia took to the streets protesting the violence of the country’s police against the voters which has reportedly left 800 people injured.

Thousands of people joined the demonstrations in Barcelona, including several hundreds of port workers who protested outside the regional headquarters of Spain’s ruling Popular Party, the Associated Press informed.

Maritime unions including the State Coordinator of Sea Workers (CETM), Federation of Port Workers and the Port Stevedores, called for workers to join the strike as a moral obligation to urge politicians to respect democratic values and urge them to turn to dialogue and negotiations, not violence.

According to Spanish Ministry of Public Works, a minimum level of services will be in place with respect to land transport, air transport and some of the country’s ports during the strikes, scheduled to take place from 2nd to 13th of October.

In practice, this means that surveillance, control and security measures necessary to guarantee 50% of the access and exit to ships would be provided at the affected ports.

A minimum of necessary personnel would be provided to guarantee movement of dangerous goods, and perishables, in addition to pilotage, towing, mooring, emergency and stowage activities.

Marine signaling and navigation aid systems would be working at full capacity, the ministry said.

World Maritime News Staff; Illustration; Image Courtesy: Coordinadora

Tags: Federation of Port Workers and the Port StevedoresGeneral Strike
Categories: Labor News

Teamsters Denounce False Reports of Work Stoppage by Union Drivers in Puerto Rico

Tue, 10/03/2017 - 09:22

Teamsters Denounce False Reports of Work Stoppage by Union Drivers in Puerto Rico
https://teamster.org/news/2017/10/teamsters-denounce-false-reports-work-...

OCTOBER 2, 2017 PRESS RELEASES

Stories Fabricated and Spread by Biased Online Sources to Further Anti-Union Agenda
PRESS CONTACT
Galen Munroe
Email: gmunroe@teamster.org
Phone: (202) 624-6911
(WASHINGTON) – The Teamsters Union denounces reports from online, anti-union sources that stated Teamster truck drivers in Puerto Rico have refused to move supplies from the port as part of an effort to leverage wage increases from the government. These reports are false and have no basis in fact.
The truth is that members from Teamsters Local Union 901 in San Juan have been working or volunteering since the day after the hurricane passed, helping with disaster relief and recovery.
“Let me be clear – Teamsters in Puerto Rico have been working on the relief efforts since day one,” said Alexis Rodriguez, Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters Local Union 901. “Anyone that has reported anything different is lying. Our only agenda is to help bring Puerto Rico back better and stronger.”
“These viral stories spreading across the internet are nothing but lies perpetrated by anti-union entities to further their destructive agenda,” said Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa. “The fact that they are attempting to capitalize on the suffering of millions of citizens in Puerto Rico that are dire need of our help by pushing these false stories, just exposes their true nature.”
The union is also coordinating with the AFL-CIO to send Teamster volunteers to Puerto Rico to help augment the relief efforts. Hundreds of Teamsters have volunteered to aid in the recovery in the key areas like the distribution of aid and sanitation.
“The outpouring of volunteers from our membership across the country is truly inspiring,” said George Miranda, President of Teamsters Joint Council 16 in New York, N.Y. “We have had hundreds of members contact us to volunteer their time to go down to Puerto Rico to help with the relief efforts.”
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Tags: teamstersPuerto RicoFake News
Categories: Labor News

Teamsters Denounce False Reports of Work Stoppage by Union Drivers in Puerto Rico

Tue, 10/03/2017 - 09:22

Teamsters Denounce False Reports of Work Stoppage by Union Drivers in Puerto Rico
https://teamster.org/news/2017/10/teamsters-denounce-false-reports-work-...

OCTOBER 2, 2017 PRESS RELEASES

Stories Fabricated and Spread by Biased Online Sources to Further Anti-Union Agenda
PRESS CONTACT
Galen Munroe
Email: gmunroe@teamster.org
Phone: (202) 624-6911
(WASHINGTON) – The Teamsters Union denounces reports from online, anti-union sources that stated Teamster truck drivers in Puerto Rico have refused to move supplies from the port as part of an effort to leverage wage increases from the government. These reports are false and have no basis in fact.
The truth is that members from Teamsters Local Union 901 in San Juan have been working or volunteering since the day after the hurricane passed, helping with disaster relief and recovery.
“Let me be clear – Teamsters in Puerto Rico have been working on the relief efforts since day one,” said Alexis Rodriguez, Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters Local Union 901. “Anyone that has reported anything different is lying. Our only agenda is to help bring Puerto Rico back better and stronger.”
“These viral stories spreading across the internet are nothing but lies perpetrated by anti-union entities to further their destructive agenda,” said Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa. “The fact that they are attempting to capitalize on the suffering of millions of citizens in Puerto Rico that are dire need of our help by pushing these false stories, just exposes their true nature.”
The union is also coordinating with the AFL-CIO to send Teamster volunteers to Puerto Rico to help augment the relief efforts. Hundreds of Teamsters have volunteered to aid in the recovery in the key areas like the distribution of aid and sanitation.
“The outpouring of volunteers from our membership across the country is truly inspiring,” said George Miranda, President of Teamsters Joint Council 16 in New York, N.Y. “We have had hundreds of members contact us to volunteer their time to go down to Puerto Rico to help with the relief efforts.”
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Tags: teamstersPuerto RicoFake News
Categories: Labor News

Puerto Rico, Trump and the Jones Act

Mon, 10/02/2017 - 15:49

By Joel Schor - Facts for Working People, September 27, 2017
The recent extreme weather events effecting the Carribbean have made clear the humanitarian situation in Puerto Rico is dire and in stark contrast to Trump’s drab belittling comments about the National Football League opposing him on the conduct of the players during the national anthem.
As a merchant seaman for over 15 years I am very familiar with the law which protects both the rights of seaman while signed on American flagged Vessels and at the same time grants further monopoly powers to shipping companies that register and flag their vessels in the United States.
The Jones Act enacted shortly after WWI to resurrect what was thought of as a dying Merchant Fleet in the United States at the time, went along with a massive subsidy program whereby the overproduction of Navy bottoms were sold at fire sale prices to private shipping companies who had previously established themselves mostly in the highly monopolized and unregulated coastal trade.
As the era of anti-trust legislation was coming about, the big shipping lines needed a way to secure the lucrative coastal trade as foreign operators came in. The Jones Act basically provides that 1) A seaman is entitled to a certain portion of wages earned during a voyage (foreign or domestic ) whenever a vessel arrives at a U.S. port as well as the right to leave the ship, and also sue a shipping company for any injuries the seaman has incurred.
This first part of the Jones Act law pertaining to seaman's rights came about after a series of legislative efforts were made over two decades by the head of the West Coast section of the Seamans’ Union, a man by the name of Andrew Furuseth, who's cause was to take the seaman "out of slavery" or the conditions which were more akin to indentured servitude at one time.

Previous acts outlawed flogging at sea, capturing seaman to be forced to work on ships ect. 2) The post WWI Jones Act also made law that the American Shipping Companies would be entitled to a monopoly on all Inter Coastal trade in the United States. In other words, the law mandated that any commerce between one United States port and another US port could only be carried out by a vessel registered and flagged in the United States. The flag registration of a ship entails that it operates under the laws and regulations of that flag country as far as the employment of its crew, the inspections of its seaworthiness according to international standards etc.
As far as the meaning of this for Puerto Rico today, there is a dire need for assistance from any country that can provide it, but only US flagged and registered vessels can conduct commerce directly with Puerto Rico because of its protectorate status under the Jones Act.
Any aid that would come from Mexico or Latin America would have to be shipped to the continental United States, and then transferred to an American flagged vessel to be shipped to Puerto Rico. Although Hawaii is a state and not a protectorate, the provisions of the Jones Act also mandate that foreign originating cargo must land in the continental United States before being shipped to either of these areas. The Jones Act is also a way of keeping these island regions economically dependent on the United States and hinders the development of their own industries except that which assists the American Military for the most part. Hawaii is home to a large military base at Pearl Harbor and Puerto Rico is actually where a large portion of National Guardsmen are recruited to protect Merchant Ships in War Zones.
In 2003 I was on a Merchant Ship taking military equipment to Gulf State ports in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait for pre-positioning during that conflict. That ship along with many others I heard of, had crews of National Guardsmen from Puerto Rico patrolling the decks to protect the military equipment. Many of them told me stories of having been on foreign ships as well that the US military had contracted out to transport ammunition containers. The guardsmen were sometimes not given water to drink on their deck rounds in the hot Mediterranean sun and through the Suez Canal. While the Puerto Rican's serve the U.S. military as such, they do not have the right to vote for the president of the United States. 
Another note as to the usefulness and political convenience of the Jones Act. In 2004-2005 during Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, the Maritime Administration of the United States tentatively activated several Ready Reserve Fleet RRF pre-positioned ships to send aid into the disaster zone which were to be Jones Act ships - ie crewed by US civilian mariners.The tentative activation was cancelled by Vice President Dick Cheney who subsequently waived the Jones Act allowing foreign flagged ships to carry the aid into the disaster zone and also house fire fighters and rescue workers. While this may seem expedient, the practice of contracting out to foreign companies in this case most certainly cost much more than pre-positioned RRF government ships which are already manned and in a state of readiness at all times, the cost already accounted for by the Ready Reserve program.
The foreign operator who came into New Orleans - Carnival Cruises - was not only a crony deal for Cheney who had an interest on its board of directors, but also a slap in the face to any kind of public response to disaster relief. By waiving the Jones Act in Maritime and also the Davis Bacon Act prevailing wage law in the disaster area, the capitalists show that they can and will handle things as they see fit and not as the majority of us in society would decide it if we had any choice in the matter.
The Jones Act is a complex law which is played up according to its usefulness politically. Trump claims he was told not to waive the Jones Act in Puerto Rico because " some people in that industry said it was important". Like many of his statements it is vague and cryptic, and most likely without knowledge of what it even is.  His decision also places the profits for US shipping companies above the interests of the people of Puerto Rico.
Joel Schor is a member of ILWU Local 10 and the Sailors Union of the Pacific.

Tags: Jones Actmarine transport workersSUPILWU 10
Categories: Labor News

Lac Mégantic: Blame the Railroad Worker on Steroids

Thu, 09/28/2017 - 11:00

Lac Mégantic: Blame the Railroad Worker on Steroids

http://jordanbarab.com/confinedspace/2017/09/28/lac-megantic-blame-worke...
on Lac Mégantic: Blame the Worker on Steroids
lac megantic workerAn unmanned, half-mile long train “bomb train” carrying tank-cars full of highly explosive crude oil barrels toward a city where it is doomed to derail on a curve, killing everyone in its wake. Luckily, Denzel Washington and Chris Pine show up to save the city at the last second. Everyone lives happily every after.

That was the plot of the 2010 film “Unstoppable.” It’s a fun film. I recommend it.

In real life, however, in the small town of Lac-Mégantic in Quebec, Canada on July 5, 2016, Denzel and Chris never showed up.

At around 1:00 am on July 6, 2013, an unmanned train carrying 72 tank-cars of highly combustible crude oil barreled down a hill at 65 mph, three times the normal speed, and careened off the track, disgorging six million liters of highly combustible petroleum crude. Within moments the oil exploded. The resulting inferno obliterated most of the downtown and incinerated 47 persons.

As might be expected, there were many stories to be told here, and hopefully someone is writing a book: the safety of transporting highly hazardous crude oil in fragile tank cars over thousands of miles of poorly maintained track; the impact of an out-of control fossil fuel economy on the environment, on workers in the industry and on citizens in its wake; the damage caused by a rapacious rail company focused more on cost cutting than safety; and the weakness of government oversight (even in Canada.)

But the story we’ll be telling here is one that we’ve heard many times before — the tendency of those who have responsibility for a catastrophe to shift blame onto individual workers instead of identifying the root causes and systemic problems that, if addressed, could prevent future catastrophes. In this case we’re focusing on the arrest of the engineer and sole crew member, Tom Harding, as well as traffic controller Richard Labrie and manager of train operations Jean Demaitre. Harding, Labrie and Demaitre were were handcuffed and frog-marched to prison. All three have pleaded not-guilty to 47 counts of criminal negligence causing death. Jury selection is currently under way.

I’ve been writing this on and off for several months, since I attended a music benefit for the rail workers. As I began looking into their story, in injustice and plain stupidity of their prosecution became alarmingly evident. I could probably write a book on this one incident (and hopefully someone is already doing that), but out of consideration for my readers, I’m going to make this as short as possible. As those of you who read Confined Space have probably guessed, this is going to be an article on the stupidity of blaming workers for this tragedy when as we will see, there was a train-car load of other systemic causes that, if not addressed, will result in many more of these catastrophes.

Also note that I will frequently refer to Andrew Hopkins’ book Lessons From Longford: The Esso Gas Plant Explosion which lays out many of the principles of conducting a root cause investigation of the systemic causes of an industrial disaster.

What Happened

First, let’s review the events. On the evening of July 5, 2016, Tom Harding, the engineer and lone crew member of the 72-car train, operated by the now-bankrupt Montreal Maine and Atlantic Railway (MMA) parked the train on a hill a few miles above the town Lac Mégantic, in Quebec, Canada, after having mechanical problems with the lead engine. Per instructions from headquarters, Harding set the air brakes on the lead locomotive, which he left running to keep air pressure supplied to the air brakes. He also applied a number of hand brakes. Per instruction, he then took a taxi to a nearby hotel, planning to deal with the locomotive’s mechanical problems in the morning.

Shortly before midnight, the lead locomotive, spewing oil from multiple leaks, caught fire. The fire department arrived to put out the fire and also shut down the lead locomotive to keep more oil from into the fire. After the fire department left, the airbrake, which was depended on the operating of the locomotive that had been shut down, began to lose pressure. The train began descending down the hill, picking up speed along the 7.2 miles to Lac Mégantic. When it hit the curve in Lac Mégantic, the train derailed, rupturing many of the cars and bursting into an inferno that killed 47 people in the town.

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) conducted a through report in 2014, issuing 18 “Findings as to causes and contributing factors” and 16 additional “Findings as to risk.” The second “Finding as to causes and contributing Factors” concluded that “The 7 hand brakes that were applied to secure the train were insufficient to hold the train without the additional braking force provided by the locomotive’s independent brakes.”

Lac Megantic workerOn that basis, Tom Harding, along with two colleagues, traffic controller Richard Labrie and manager of train operations Jean Demaitre were arrested and accused of being responsible for he disaster. Conviction on a charge of criminal negligence causing death carries a maximum penalty of life in prison. Harding’s crime was not setting enough hand brakes to keep the train from rolling down the hill and his arrest was not pretty. He was “surrounded at his home by a SWAT team and led away in handcuffs to face charges of criminal negligence causing death, despite the fact that his lawyer had notified the police that Mr. Harding would voluntarily come to the court when asked to appear to face charges. He was escorted to a makeshift courtroom in full view of the news media.”

The Causes of the Lac Mégantic Disaster

As avid readers of Confined Space understand quite well by now, resolving safety issues is not as simple as finding a couple of workers to blame and firing them or throwing them in jail for life. Because if you don’t identify the root causes of a problem, everyone may feel a lot better for a while, but the problem will inevitably repeat itself.

In any accident investigation, there are direct causes (e.g. failure to set enough hand brakes) of the incident and then there are the systemic, inherent or root causes. It is those indirect, systemic causes for which changes can actually make meaningful change. As Hopkins describes, the latent conditions (poor design, gaps in supervision, maintenance failures, shortfalls in training, etc. etc.), if not corrected, will eventually “combine with local circumstances and active failures to penetrate the system’s many layers of defences.”

Blame the Worker: It is always convenient for management, and in this case even governments, to ignore the latent conditions described above, and blame workers for incidents. And the bigger the disaster, the greater the temptation to find and easy and convenient scapegoat. So before we explore this disaster, let’s look at the concept of blame the worker.

First, it is indisputable that Harding set too few hand brakes. But as Hopkins points out,

human beings inevitably make errors and errors by operators must be expected. Thus, rather than focusing on the operators who make the errors, modern accident analysis looks for the conditions which make the errors possible. It is nearly always the case that there was a whole series of contributory factors which created an operator error and set up the situation which made the error critical. Accident analyses which aim to prevent a recurrence seek to identify these factors. From this perspective, errors are seen as consequence rather than principal causes.

And if the focus in on “blame” instead of “why” and the blame starts and stops with a worker who made a mistake, then the real causes of the incident will never be identified, never addressed and the same thing will eventually happen again.

So let’s start looking at principal causes.

Layers of Protection: Also known as “defense in depth” or “safety redundancy,” in its simplest explanation having more than one way to keep a catastrophic even from occurring so that a “single-point failure” does not lead to catastrophic consequence . Ideally, these layers of protection should be independent of each other, so that the failure of one does not mean the failure of any others. Harding’s train, for example, had three brake systems: the hand brakes which were set on each individual car, the locomotive air brake (also known as the independent brake), which secures the locomotives and the automatic brake holds the rail cars in place. Harding set seven hand brakes and also set the independent brake. This was enough to hold the train when Harding was told to leave for the evening. But during the fire, the engine was shut down to keep it from leaking any more flammable oil into the flames. The problem was that without engine power, the independent brake gradually lost power and the hand brakes weren’t enough to hold the train on the hill. The train began to descend down the track, eventually speeding up to 65 mph into Lac-Mégantic, where it derailed. Harding was accused of not setting enough hand brakes on each car to keep the train from rolling down a hill.

But the Toronto Globe and Mail, which looked deeper into the incident noticed something important in the TSB report:

On page 105 of the 179-page report, a single paragraph suggests the accident “likely” would have been avoided had the air brakes on the rail cars (the automatic brake) been set as a backup safety precaution before the train was left unattended. However, Montreal Maine and Atlantic Railway (MMA) instructed its staff not to use the automatic brakes.Transport Canada [which regulates and oversees Canadian railroads) either didn’t notice this practice or saw no problem with it.

Specifically, the TSB report said that “While MMA instructions did not allow the automatic brakes to be set following a proper hand brake effectiveness test, doing so would have acted as a temporary secondary defence, one that likely would have kept the train secured, even after the eventual release of the independent brakes.”

And why did MMA instructions not allow the automatic brake to be set? According to the Globe,

because air needs to be pumped back into the brake line in order to reset the system and get the automatic brakes on each car to release, it can sometimes take from 15 minutes to an hour to get a train moving again once it’s been parked.For this reason, some railways don’t like using the automatic air brakes as an added assurance or backup to the hand brakes, because it can cost time and money, the rail industry expert said.

It is far-fetched to think the automatic brake wouldn’t have played a direct role in preventing the accident, the person said. “This common sense, 10-second procedure has been used to secure rail cars for the last hundred years,” the rail industry source said.

When the Globe asked the TSB why this important finding was buried in the report, the TSB responded that “it didn’t want to distract from the main point that trains should be secured with the correct number of hand brakes.”

But that’s not all. The locomotive involved in the Lac Mégantic incident should have had yet another fail-safe device. The locomotive was equipped with a reset safety control (RSC) which activates alarms and then applies a penalty brake if the train begins to run away, even when the engine is shut down. Unfortunately, MMA had rewired the RSC incorrectly and did not stop the train when it began to run away.

Run to Failure Maintenance: You may not change a light bulb until it burns out or change the washers on your faucet until it starts leaking, but if you’re running a refinery, steel mill — or a railroad — just letting things break down before you fix them isn’t a very safe way to operate. High reliability organizations have strong preventive maintenance programs and a major element of OSHA’s Process Safety Management standard is “Mechanical Integrity,” which aims to prevent catastrophic incident by ensuring that procedures are implemented to prevent incidents through the proper maintenance of equipment. In this case, the lead locomotive was in terrible shape. Several months before, it has been to the repair shop. Instead of a lengthy standard repair, the company decided to essentially glue it back together with an epoxy-like material that lacked the required strength and durability of a permanent repair. The TSB report called this “a non-standard and less costly method” of repair. The night of July 5, the lead locomotive broke down on a hill above Lac-Mégantic. The Globe noted that “MMA, which declared bankruptcy after the derailment, had a reputation as one of the most aggressive cost-cutters in the rail industry.”

Profit: Even after the fire started, MMA did not call Harding, the Lead Engineer, back to the train to start another engine “due to the impact that it would have on train departure time the following morning and due to mandatory rest provisions.”

Normalization of Deviance: Normalization of deviance or of abnormality occurs when people become accustomed to violations of procedures or small incidents that don’t result in catastrophe. In this case, the official procedure was to perform a “handbrake effectiveness test” to confirm that the handbrakes alone could hold the train. This was supposed to be performed by releasing the independent brake to see if the hand brakes alone would hold the train. Harding did not release the independent brake when performing the test. The Globe speculated that the absence of previous problems may have been taken as an indicator of future success. Other MMA Lead Engineers also did not release the independent brakes when securing trains, which is indicative that poor train securement practices were not isolated to this accident.

The TSB report that in previous cases, Harding had also not set the officially required number of brakes, but nothing bad had happened. The report suggested that “The absence of previous problems may have been taken as an indicator of future success.”

But Wasn’t The Engineer Still At Fault?

OK, even with all of that, Harding did not set enough brakes. Why didn’t he set the correct number of brakes and why shouldn’t he be convicted? Let’s keep looking at other factors that led to the incident.

Training: The TSB report named “weaknesses in the process for ensuring adequate employee training” as one of the crucial indicators that MMS did not have a functioning safety management system. More specifically, the report found that “Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway did not provide effective training or oversight to ensure that crews understood and complied with rules governing train securement. ”

One of the reasons training was important is that figuring out how many hand brakes to set was complicated — too complicated for me to explain here, but go ahead and read the report if you’re really interested. To simplify, the number of handbrakes that had to be set was a function of the total number of cars, how many of them were loaded, the weather conditions, and the grade of the track. Each rail company in Canada had slightly different rules for how many hand brakes had to be set.

The engineer set the air brakes on the locomotive an 7 brakes on the individual cars. According to MMS procedures, the basic formula was 10% of the cars plus 2, which meant he should have set 9 brakes . But “TSB testing showed that this number would not have provided sufficient retarding force to hold the train once the air pressure in the independent brake system was reduced.” In fact, the TSB concluded that, depending on various scenarios, the engineer would have needed to apply between 12 and 26 hand brakes in order to hold the train.

The TSB report speculated that Harding

was not fully conversant with relevant rules and special instructions on train securement. Although the LE’s results from his requalification tests indicated that he had correctly answered questions relating to the minimum number of hand brakes, these questions were relatively simple and did not demonstrate that the LE possessed knowledge of the significance and rationale behind the rules. Furthermore, the LE was never tested on the procedures for performing a hand brake effectiveness test, nor did the company’s Operational Tests and Inspections (OTIS) Program confirm that hand brake effectiveness tests were being conducted correctly. In addition, the LE did not have all of the required documents with him on board the train, and could not easily refer to rules and company instructions.

Rail employees were required to pass re-certification exams every three years. According to the TSB report, the multiple choice re-qualification exam “repeated the same question on the minimum number of hand brakes for leaving unattended equipment. They did not have questions on the hand brake effectiveness test, the conditions requiring application of more than the minimum number of hand brakes, nor the stipulation that air brakes cannot be relied upon to prevent an undesired movement.” Hopkins notes that this type of “competency based training” just allows for specific knowledge of procedures, but does not test for understanding of the process.

So in summary, determining how many hand brakes to set is complicated, training is problematic, re-certification exams don’t test for competency or understanding of the whole complex process of securing a train.

Single Person Train Operation (SPTO): Harding, as mentioned above was the Lead Engineer, and also the lone crew member on the giant 72 car train. SPTO is permitted in Canada, and although the TSB could not find any evidence that SPTO led to the incident, they did describe some of the problems with it:

There are also demonstrated risks to SPTO, including reduced joint compliance (which can help catch errors), a tendency to take shortcuts, additional physical and time-related requirements for a single person to perform tasks, the possibility that individuals working alone will be subject to fatigue and cognitive degradations, and the need for additional training to properly prepare Lead Engineers (LEs) to work alone. It is also important to consider how a single operator might deal with the abnormal conditions that may arise, as well as whether all safety-critical tasks (such as the application of hand brakes and the performance of a hand brake effectiveness test) can be performed in a reasonable amount of time.

The TSB also noted that “The minimum hand brake requirement was more consistently met when trains were operated by 2 crew members.” Finally, the reported noted that although TC Canada (the regulatory agency) had required that MMA conduct a risk assessment of SPTO, “TC did not follow up to verify that the mitigation measures identified in MMA’s risk assessment had been implemented and were effective.”

Would another crew member on board the train have made a difference? Would two heads have been better than one in determining the correct number of hand brakes? If there were two crew members at the hotel, would one of them been able to return to the train and realize that another engine needed to be started to secure the air brakes? Who knows?

Megantic worker
TSB Findings
Oversight: The TSB report also criticized the railroad’s regulatory body, TC Canada’s (and more specifically TC Quebec’s), for weak oversight of MMA, despite the fact that “for several years, MMA had been identified as a railway company with an elevated level of risk requiring more frequent inspections.” TC Canada had identified several repeated problems in the past, including problems with train securement (identified on multiple occasions since 2005), , and were still present at the time of the accident, training deficiencies, and problems with track conditions. And “TC Quebec Region did not follow up to ensure that recurring safety deficiencies at MMA were effectively analyzed and corrected; consequently, unsafe practices persisted.”

The Other Rail Employees

In addition to Harding, rail traffic controller (RTC) Richard Labrie and manager of train operations Jean Demaitre also face 47 counts of criminal negligence causing death. Labrie was the main rail employee that Harding communicated with that night. According to the TSB report, Labrie

was aware that no locomotive was left running. “However, he knew that train securement should not be dependent on a running locomotive, and assumed that the train had been adequately secured with sufficient hand brakes. Without a compelling cue to the contrary, the RTC did not consider that shutting down the locomotives would affect the securement of the train.

RTC’s are a also a critical component of safe Single Person Train Operation (SPTO) — the lone engineer is supposed to be in frequent contact with the RTC. But the report also noted serious shortcomings in implementation of SPTO safety procedures:

The SPTO training did not include a review of securement rules and instructions. Furthermore, no job task analysis was discussed with employees, nor were all of the potential hazards associated with the tasks identified, notably the risks associated with single-operator train securement at the end of a shift. Consequently, no mitigation measure was identified for this critical task, such as confirming with an RTC how a train was secured, or even questioning the practice of leaving a train on the main track in Nantes when securement relied on a single operator.

Furthermore, although MMS had a process where supervisors could conduct unannounced monitoring of employees for adherence to railway safety rules and instructions. But no such inspection had ever occurred to ensure proper train securement in the area of Lac Megantic. Labrie reported to Demaitre, the manager of train operations.

Conclusion

OK, I could go on and on about addition issues that the TSB report raises (tank care integrity, track condition, lack of audits, and on and on), but I think we’ve discussed enough. What we have here in a nutshell is a railroad that cut corners on safety and maintenance wherever it could, a lousy training program for a very complicated, safety sensitive operation. and an oversight agency that didn’t do very good oversight.

In other words, only the most superficial analysis of this horrible tragedy would conclude that Tom Harding, the Lead Engineer and sole crew member, should be blamed for the deaths of 47 people, dragged into jail, prosecuted and possibly sent to prison for the rest of his life. It may make some people feel good, and it may take the blame off of others. But it will do nothing to prevent future catastrophes.

That’s no way to run a railroad.

More information on the Campaign to Defend the Lac-Mégantic workers here.

Support the scapegoated Lac-Mégantic rail workers! All our safety and health depends upon it.
http://hardingdefense.org
Donate now!

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admin August 5, 2017Uncategorized
Safe Rail and Sustainable Communities
Music Benefit for Lac-Mégantic Rail Worker Defense a great success!
Over $1700 raised kicking off fund drive for defense of the scapegoated rail workers and fighting for safe rails everywhere.
Get an event together in your community. Join the fight for the true story about the causes of the Lac-Mégantic wreck.
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admin July 12, 2017Uncategorized
Music for Rail Safety
On the night of July 6th, 2013, dozens of family members and neighbors gathered at a great little music club called the Musi-Cafe at the town center to hear bands.

In the blink of an eye almost all of them were incinerated by the explosion and fiery inferno resulting from a wrecked train of mislabeled volatile Bakken oil. The next day this is what the Musi-Cafe looked like.

In the aftermath, the railroad and the government has sought to blame the employees for the natural result of the combined reckless work rules and policies that undercut safety and even basic common sense.

Tomorrow, Sunday, July 9th, crowds of rail supporters will gather at the Dew Drop Inn in DC to hear bands. The music, happy hour, food and good times will be great. Every railroader deserves and could use that kind of good time.

But that good time will be for a purpose that will impact all of our futures. The threats we must face include under funding, destruction of infrastructure, risky work schedules, cram down work contracts, cuts to Railroad Retirement and the list continues.

Remember Lac-Mégantic but fight like hell so it never happens in another town. Fight for a rail bypass of the town of Lac-Mégantic because the railroad and government have completely failed them and they deserve relief.

The wrong men are on trial this fall. Justice for Lac-Mégantic AND rail safety going forwards requires real accountability for dangerous railroad manager policies.

Please donate and build local support for the defense.

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admin July 8, 2017Uncategorized
Music Benefit for Safe Rails and Sustainable Communities
A fundraiser to benefit the defense of the scapegoated
Lac-Mégantic Rail Workers

Featuring the U-Liners

with Tom & Elisabeth

4 years after the devastating oil train wreck that destroyed the town of Lac-Mégantic in Quebec, two railroad workers face criminal charges for a tragedy caused by unsafe railroad management policies.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

6:30 pm-8:15 pm

Dew Drop Inn

2801 8th St NE (below Franklin St)

Washington DC

Suggested donation: $20 (please contribute what you can)

Proceeds support the Lac-Mégantic Rail Workers Defense

https://tinyurl.com/Harding-Labrie-Defense

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admin July 3, 2017Uncategorized
Summer of Solidarity and Rail Safety
How many more have to die?
July 6th this year marks four years since a runaway train carrying volatile Bakken crude crashed and burned in the small town of Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, killing 47 and destroying half the town. It’s time to recommit to making sure tragedies like this don’t happen again. It’s also the right time to speak up against the criminal trial beginning September 11th this year, that unfairly and inaccurately hangs the Lac-Mégantic crash on two railroad workers, Tom Harding and Richard Labrie.

Railroad managers push hard to squeeze every dollar they can out of every train run. The Lac-Mégantic train had a dangerous cargo, overlong train, defective equipment, a single crew-member and work rules that cut the margin of safety down to just about zero. The result was a disaster that still impacts the Lac-Mégantic community.

Multiple government safety investigations and independent journalists looked at what happened in Lac-Mégantic and came to the same conclusion. Railroad management policies made this kind of runaway train crash likely to happen sooner or later. Lax government oversight looked the other way until it did.

You would think that four years later there would be stronger safety regulations on every railroad, with extra layers of protection for dangerous cargo. Sadly, this is not the case. Railroad policymakers are still cutting corners and government regulators are still looking the other way. They want people to believe that the big safety problem is a few careless railroad workers. But in Lac-Mégantic, SINCE the wreck, the supposedly safely restored wreck curve has now deteriorated and keeps that community at risk. Everyone there tightens up when a train passes now.

Even after all the reports and exposes, the Canadian and Quebec governments are still not going after the railroad policy makers and their unsafe policies. The managers who made the critical policies will not even get a slap on the wrist. That’s just wrong, and it guarantees that the danger continues. Every year since the crash, the number of reported runaway trains in Canada has increased. That’s a sign of a reckless culture, not the actions of two rail-road workers one night in Quebec.

Whether your main issue is the environment, community safety, rail safety, or worker’s rights, it comes down to stronger government regulations and stronger railroad safety policies, with real community and labor enforcement. The two railroad workers were not the cause of the Lac-Mégantic crash or any of the runaway trains since then. They are not the ones still running trains right through the town of Lac-Mégantic, ignoring the demands of the survivors for a simple rail bypass. The people in Lac-Mégantic know that sending Harding and Labrie to prison won’t address any of their problems with the railroad. But if that happens, you can bet the government will close the book as the official verdict on Lac-Mégantic and railroad management will be standing there with them.

When you hold public commemorations this year, we ask you to make this point your way. Blaming Harding and Labrie for the Lac-Mégantic tragedy weakens all of us and all our causes. So all of us have to speak up.

Donate now to help ensure a vigorous and fair legal defense
Justice for Lac-Mégantic requires Dropping the Charges Against Harding & Labrie
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admin July 3, 2017Uncategorized
September 13th: Thousands petition to Drop the Charges Against Harding and Labrie

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September 13, 2016, supporters representing over 2200 petitioners from across North America attended court proceedings in Sherbrooke QC, calling for the dropping of criminal charges against Harding and Labrie and prosecution of the policy makers and real culprits responsible for the Lac-Mégantic train wreck in 2o13.

Almost 2800 petition signers, including public officials, rail safety activists, community activists as well as labor union members in rail and other industries ultimately took part in the campaign for justice, rail safety and real accountability for the tragedy. Petitions were delivered to representatives of the Crown prosecutors at the hearing and continued to be delivered as they came in into October.

The September 13th hearing set the date and scope for the criminal trial phase, beginning September 11, 2017.

Prosecutors in the case face mounting public dissent concerning the scapegoating of Harding and Labrie as well as legal challenges due to the maneuvers of the bankrupt Montreal Maine and Atlantic Railroad (MMA). The policy decision makers of the MMA who are now known to have directed the actions that led to the wreck are free of charge and operating rail operations elsewhere including in the United States.

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Supporters to Demand “Drop the Charges – Focus on Rail Safety” at Court Hearing on Lac-Mégantic Tragedy

Committee will deliver thousands of petitions calling for the Canadian and Quebec authorities to drop the charges against railroad workers Tom Harding and Richard Labrie

For Immediate Release: Thursday, September 8, 2016

Contact: Fritz Edler, justice@hardingdefense.org, (202) 494-3848

Time: Tuesday, September 13, 2016 at 9:00 AM

Place: Palais de Justice, 375 Rue King Ouest (corner of King and Belvédère), Sherbrooke, QC

(Sherbrooke, QC)-Representatives of the Harding and Labrie Defense Committee, Railroad Workers United (RWU) and community allies from the Lac Mégantic area will be at the procedural hearings at the Palais de Justice in Sherbrooke, QC on September 13th, 2016 carrying petitions signed by over 2000 people across North America calling for ending the prosecution of Canadian railworkers Tom Harding and Richard Labrie. Harding and Labrie have been targeted and charged under the Criminal Code as well as the Railroad Safety Act and other laws. The charges could result in prison terms up to life.

“Investigations have already determined that the actions of these two were not the predominate cause the Lac-Mégantic tragedy,” said Committee representative Fritz Edler, a 35-year veteran train engineer. “The runaway train that killed 47 and destroyed half the town was the result of railroad managerial irresponsibility compounded by a failure of government oversight and safety regulation. There was a lax safety culture that has to change.”

The irresponsible practice of sending out unit trains of the most volatile kind with only a single crew member illustrates the disregard for public safety by the Montreal Maine and Atlantic Railroad (MMA) whose most important policymakers have had no legal penalty.

“The number of runaway trains reported across Canada has increased every year since Lac­ Mégantic,” Edler added. “It’s no wonder the people of Lac Mégantic have no confidence in the current actions of the railroad companies or the government agencies to keep them safe, and are calling for the tracks to detour around the town rather than run through it.”

Supporters will gather at 9 am on September 13th in the Palais de Justice Square in Sherbrooke to present the petitions. After the procedural hearing, Harding’s legal defense team will update supporters on the latest developments in the case.

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The Harding and Labrie Defense Committee was formed in 2015 to organize defense for Canadian Rail Steelworkers Tom Harding and Richard Labrie; who have been scapegoated for the tragic Lac-Mégantic trainwreck in 2013. Facts developed since the wreck by investigators for the Government and independent journalists make clear that railroad policies were responsible for creating the culture of negligence that led to that disaster.

Railroad Workers United (RWU) is a North American cross-craft solidarity and advocacy organization of railworkers and their supporters. RWU members and supporters on railroads across North America are monitoring the Harding/Labrie case closely. RWU believes jailing Harding and Labrie will be an obstacle to current day safety culture on Canada’s railways, as well as a roadblock to getting full accountability for the Mégantic wreck.

For more information, visit www.hardingdefense.org or follow us on Twitter @harding_labrie

admin September 9, 2016Uncategorized0
Two Weeks – Two Fronts in Fight for Rail Safety
June 20 – Drop the Charges July 6th – No More Lac-Mégantics

Three years ago, on July 6, 2013, a small town in Quebec became a symbol of the need for greater focus on rail safety throughout North America. A runaway Bakken oil train exploded and burned in the downtown. 47 people were killed immediately and another 3 have taken their own lives in the last three years in the devastating aftermath which has left a legacy of destruction and environmental damage which will never be truly overcome.

The Lac-Mégantic tragedy will be back in the news twice in a matter of weeks. The Citizens Coalition in Lac-Mégantic has called for July 6th this year to be a day of remembrance for the victims of the crash and a day to recommit to greater rail safety. Railroad workers, environmental activists and other community groups concerned about railroad safety will express their solidarity by answering that call and take time out on July 6th to say No More Lac-Mégantics. Railroad Workers United will join with others on July 6th in Chicago for a special forum on rail safety centered on the issues raised in Lac-Mégantic. Actions are underway in other cities as well.

This commemoration will come just two weeks after the latest events in a legal battle that should have ended long ago – the drive to scapegoat railroad workers and let unsafe railroad policies off the hook.

Everybody wanted to know what was responsible for the tragedy. People called for a complete and thorough investigation to determine the facts and the guilty parties. But the Canadian government jumped the gun and theatrically charged the engineer, Tom Harding, and his dispatcher, Richard Labrie with 47 counts of criminal negligence resulting in death.

Ultimately investigation by the Canadian Transportation Safety Board and courageous investigative reporters turned up serious evidence that laid the responsibility for the crash at the feet of decisions and policies of the railroad company, the Montreal Maine and Atlantic Railway (MMA). These unsafe corporate policies and decisions had been ignored or even endorsed by the Canadian regulators responsible for overseeing rail safety.

The evidence is now very clear. The actions of Engineer Tom Harding and dispatcher Richard Labrie DID NOT cause the Lac-Mégantic wreck. If the MMA hadn’t imposed unsafe procedures on its train crews, with Transport Canada regulators looking the other way, there would not have been a runaway train and explosion in Lac-Mégantic.

The MMA was not the only party taking shortcuts. On June 20th this year, Tom Harding’s lawyer is going to court to address the Canadian government’s rush to judgement. Crown Prosecutors used loopholes to avoid holding a Preliminary Hearing, which would have given the defendants an opportunity to challenge the supposed evidence and preview the theory of the prosecution. A Preliminary Hearing would have been normal in most proceedings of this kind. Harding’s lawyer is now forced to present a motion for “Disclosure”, as well as a motion to “Stay the Proceedings”, based in part on the denial of Harding’s right to a Preliminary Hearing. Even if the Court grants Harding’s defense motions (the Crown has filed motions to “quash” them) it will not be the end of the need for us to use every means to get out the word about this wrongful prosecution going forward.

If railroading Tom Harding and Richard Labrie to prison wasn’t bad enough, the Canadian government has blocked the efforts of the Citizens Coalition of Lac-Mégantic to move the railroad tracks from the center of town and to make real rail safety a top priority going forward. The government wants to narrow the issue to oil trains and declare the danger over. But rail safety is not just about unsafe cargo. The people who live by the tracks and those who run the trains must be party to determining whether safe conditions are maintained.

The Canadian government must stop the prosecution of railroad workers for a tragedy they did not cause, and they and the U.S. government must speed up addressing unsafe railroad practices and conditions in Lac-Mégantic and everywhere. Every Railroad worker and everyone who cares about railroad safety has a stake in the outcome of this. We all need to be watching what happens in the courtroom on June 20th and be prepared to stand up for rail safety on July 6th.

Drop the Charges – No More Lac-Mégantics
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admin June 17, 2016Uncategorized
Sign the Petition!
Drop the Charges against Tom Harding and Richard Labrie

Target: The Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada and the Honourable Stéphanie Vallée, Minister of Justice, QC

Tags: steroidsLac Mégantic
Categories: Labor News

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