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Railroads

RWU Calls For An End To The Autonomy Sideshow

With shedding union employees being a chronic obsession of the railroads, some of them have given credence to schemes to run trains 'autonomously'. While not having a serious chance of implementation at scale, these autonomous follies can soak up public funding (e.g.: $6MM to Parallel Systems) and the time of regulators and business development staff. RWU has authored a Resolution Against Pod Trains (linked above and below) to detail exhaustively the reasons 'pod trains' as a wasteful diversion.

Potential Rail Strike Would Cause Historic Disruption Of Supply Chains

Workers at Canada’s two largest rail companies are preparing for a strike vote that could have severe ramifications for commercial and passenger transportation across the country. Combined, Canadian National Railway (CN) and Canadian Pacific Kansas City (CPKC, formerly CP Rail) own and operate over 75 per cent of the country’s rail network, though those tracks could soon go quiet as ongoing negotiations with the rail workers union have thus far been fruitless. Separate collective bargaining agreements between each respective company and the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference (TCRC) union expired at the end of 2023.

Rail Workers Push For One Member, One Vote

Railroad track workers have launched a campaign to get their union officers elected by the members, rather than by convention delegates. The Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes is one of the largest of the 13 rail unions, with 31,000 members. The campaign is being organized by the group BMWED Rank and File United, with the backing of the longtime reform caucus Teamsters for a Democratic Union (TDU). “We don’t think a handful of delegates can fully express how the membership is feeling—which is why we vote on contracts!” said Deven Mantz, a 13-year BMWED member at BNSF railroad.

Class One Rail Car Loadings Plummet The Last 17 Years

The number of carloads moved by U.S. Class One railroads has dropped dramatically over the course of the past 17 years. In 2006, the Class Ones moved 32.1 million carloads, while in 2023, they moved just 24.4 million, a 24% decline. Statistics are available through the American Association of Railroads (AAR) and Statista. Meantime, these railroads have made exorbitant profits and engaged in massive stock buybacks to boost the price of their shares, at the same time that the workforce has been decimated, customer service has suffered, Amtrak on-time performance has declined, and safety has been downgraded.

Colorado Looks To Rental-Car Fee To Fund Passenger Rail Projects

Denver, Colorado - Colorado legislators plan to introduce a bill that will increase the state fee on rental cars by $2 to $3 per day to help pay for proposed passenger rail service along the Front Range and to Craig, Colo., the Colorado Sun reports. The fee would generate as much as $50 million annually, which the state would use for matching funds for federal grant programs — specifically targeting the $60 billion for rail projects in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. “I really want to make sure Colorado gets some of that money,” state Senate President Steve Fenberg (D-Boulder) told the Sun.

The Koch Network Is Killing Rail Safety

One year after a toxic train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, inspired bipartisan legislation that would have made the nation’s railways safer for everyone, the bill has been all but killed — largely thanks to a familiar conservative foe: the Koch network. Koch Industries, the parent company of various petrochemical subsidiaries run for decades by Charles Koch and his now-deceased brother David, spent nearly $8 million in the past year lobbying on the legislation and other issues, as well as donated $1.4 million to Republican lawmakers who helped stall the legislation. The effort was part of nearly $200 million the conglomerate has spent in the past decade to persuade lawmakers and regulators to block railway safety legislation and other measures — including reforms that could have helped avoid the East Palestine disaster.

Rail Machinists Rerun Contested Election

A new election for top officers will be held in Machinists District Lodge 19 on May 3, after complaints about bad addresses and campaigning at polling locations during a close vote last year. The new vote for president and secretary-treasurer will establish who will set the union’s approach to the upcoming contract fight with the big freight rail carriers. Negotiations between the 13 rail unions and the carriers begin later this year. District Lodge 19 represents 8,000 machinists who repair locomotives and heavy equipment for carriers including CSX, BNSF, and Union Pacific.

Railroad Administration Proposes National Network Of Long Distance Train Routes

In 2021, Congress directed the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to study potential restored and new “long-distance” routes.  The High Speed Rail Alliance is a member of the stakeholder group providing input into study. Last week, the FRA presented a proposed list of routes to be studied, as well as, some initial thoughts about governance.  The initial proposal would add 15 long-distance routes, serving 61 additional metropolitan areas to create a true national network. They are seeking public input by Friday, March 8. 

Fed Up With Inaction, Rail Unions Draft And Push Their Own Safety Plan

Washington - Fed up with the big Class I freight railroads’ incessant drive to put profits over people, and safety, and with federal regulators’ piecemeal and often pro-corporate responses, a coalition of rail freight unions issued a comprehensive analysis of the problem, with key recommendations to the government to force the carriers to put people first. The study, including pages of internal railroad documents and e-mails, reveals the horrible impacts of the railroads’ system, Precision Scheduled Railroading (PSR). It’s designed to cut costs and workers, including safety workers who inspect freight cars and locomotives.

Is East Palestine Safe One Year After The Ohio Train Derailment?

If there hadn’t been construction planned for the bridge that crosses over Leslie Run, one of the creeks that runs through the middle of East Palestine, Ohio, Rick Tsai and Randy DeHaven might not have noticed the worst contamination they’d seen in the creek in weeks. A backhoe had hoisted a chunk of earth from the bank of the creek, leaving a pool about eight feet across and deep enough to come up to the knees of Tsai’s rubber fishing waders. What it also left, in Tsai’s words, was an opportunity for a sort of “geological sample” — evidence that oil and chemicals still lingered in the soil and in the creeks six months after a catastrophic derailment.

Public Ownership Of Rail Is On The Agenda

Nearly one year ago, on the night of February 3, 2023, a Norfolk Southern freight train carrying hazardous materials derailed in East Palestine, Ohio. Videos of the smoke and fire released by the nearly two-mile-long train went viral, and residents in the community reported severe health effects. The rail disaster triggered an outcry: Why did this happen, and what can any of us do about it? Soon, there were articles detailing the alarming state into which the country’s railroads have fallen: accidents are up, and oversight is hard to come by. Plus, there is a severe squeeze on rail workers, many of whom lack sick days of any kind and are effectively always on call.

How The Railroad Industry Intimidates Employees To Put Speed Before Safety

Bradley Haynes and his colleagues were the last chance Union Pacific had to stop an unsafe train from leaving one of its railyards. Skilled in spotting hidden dangers, the inspectors in Kansas City, Missouri, wrote up so-called “bad orders” to pull defective cars out of assembled trains and send them for repairs. But on Sept. 18, 2019, the area’s director of maintenance, Andrew Letcher, scolded them for hampering the yard’s ability to move trains on time. “We’re a transportation company, right? We get paid to move freight. We don’t get paid to work on cars,” he said. “The first thing that I’m getting questioned about right now, every day, is why we’re over 200 bad orders."

The Fight To Stop The Sale Of The Only Municipally-Owned Railroad

When Norfolk Southern first proposed to buy Cincinnati’s publicly-owned 336-mile stretch of railroad for nearly one billion dollars in July 2021, it probably seemed like an easy and lucrative deal for both the corporation and city officials — a deal that got even sweeter as the price was eventually upped to $1.6 billion. Under the offer, the company would gain total control of a crucial link in the rail network stretching between Chicago and Atlanta. And the city would get a big chunk of cash for infrastructure and other spending. But as Cincinnati residents prepare to vote on a Nov. 7 referendum necessary to complete the deal, as required by the state constitution, it’s becoming clear that the railroad behemoth and city leaders may not get their way.

Groups In Queen City Fight To Stop Privatization Of Railroad

Railroad Workers United is working with local organizations to keep the nation's only municipally owned interstate mainline freight railroad in public hands. The Cincinnati Southern was chartered and built by the City of Cincinnati in the 19th century and has been run successfully for well over a century, historically being leased to a designated operator. Now, today's operator Norfolk Southern wants to take over the infrastructure outright. Citizens across the Queen City are organizing to maintain ownership and control of their railroad. Railroad workers stand with them in their struggle! As the November 7th vote nears, more and more citizens are questioning the wisdom of turning over the city's mainline freight artery between Cincinnati and Chattanooga to corporate outlaw Norfolk Southern.

BLET Engineers Unanimously Endorse Strike At NJ Transit

Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) members who work at New Jersey Transit last week voted unanimously to authorize a strike. Five hundred locomotive engineers employed by NJ Transit received strike ballots in August. Voting results show 81% of the eligible 494 union members cast ballots and all of them favor a strike, BLET officials said in a press release. NJ Transit recently announced plans to spend more than $440 million to lease luxury office space, which has infuriated many BLET members, they said. “The agency has millions for penthouse views, but not a dime for train crews who kept the trains running throughout the worst days of the pandemic, and haven’t had a raise since 2019," said BLET National President Eddie Hall.
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