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Workplace Safety

The Railroad Industry Loved Modern Brakes And Safety, Until They Didn’t

National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) chair Jennifer Homendy concluded that the East Palestine, Ohio, rail disaster was “100% preventable.”  The certainty of this statement raises the obvious question: Why did this happen? The answer was actually provided by one of Homendy’s predecessors at the NTSB. In 2014, speaking about the spate of oil train disasters that were occuring, NTSB chair Deborah Hersman told the Associated Press that, “We know the steps that will prevent or mitigate these accidents. What is missing is the will to require people to do so.” The NTSB has no enforcement capability, so its recommendations are often ignored by the rail industry.

Railroad Executives Got Cash, In Part For ‘Record’ Train Length

While concerns have been building across the railroad industry for years about the growing length of trains, our Scripps News investigation found that Norfolk Southern’s top executives personally pocketed millions of dollars in incentives and cash rewards after the company hit a controversial financial target and made its trains longer. Critics from within the industry say the specific financial metrics the executives were incentivized to hit can pressure them to cut costs — potentially at the expense of safety. The Norfolk Southern train that derailed just outside the small Ohio town of East Palestine stretched nearly two miles long. 

‘Too Many Holes’: Rail Workers Say Buttigieg Plan Of Action Is Not Enough

U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg's newly unveiled plan to improve railroad safety is inadequate, an inter-union alliance of rail workers declared Tuesday. The U.S. Department of Transportation's (USDOT) blueprint for holding rail corporations accountable and protecting the well-being of workers and affected communities comes after a Norfolk Southern-owned train overloaded with vinyl chloride and other carcinogenic chemicals crashed in East Palestine, Ohio on February 3, precipitating a toxic spill and fire that has sparked fears of air pollution and groundwater contamination.

Railroad Workers Call For Immediate Action To Prevent Train Wrecks

East Palestine, OH - It has been three weeks since the tragic train wreck that devastated this small town. Despite the initial lack of attention it received, politicians and bureaucrats have finally become aware of the tragedy. Railroad Workers United (RWU) urges everyone concerned not to be distracted by rhetoric, hyperbole, promises, and lies but instead to focus on the primary reasons for the derailment and take immediate action to prevent future disasters. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Preliminary Report released on February 23rd clearly stated that "This was 100% preventable..

She Refused To Take A Drug Test And Was Fired

Alicia had been an employee of the Rich Products Corporation food processing plant in Crest Hill, Ill. for three years, she says, when her arm was caught in a machine, an injury the company would invoke the next day to justify her abrupt firing. She had worked her way up to the position of lead operator of a machine that makes trays for the frozen pizzas produced at the plant. Rich Products, headquartered in Buffalo, N.Y., is a major manufacturer of frozen foods, with annual sales of more than $3.3 billion, making it the 117th largest private company in the United States.

Rail Companies Blocked Safety Rules Before Ohio Derailment

Ohio - Before this weekend’s fiery Norfolk Southern train derailment prompted emergency evacuations in Ohio, the company helped kill a federal safety rule aimed at upgrading the rail industry’s Civil War-era braking systems, according to documents reviewed by The Lever. Though the company’s 150-car train in Ohio reportedly burst into 100-foot flames upon derailing — and was transporting materials that triggered a fireball when they were released and incinerated — it was not being regulated as a “high-hazard flammable train,” federal officials told The Lever. Documents show that when current transportation safety rules were first created, a federal agency sided with industry lobbyists and limited regulations governing the transport of hazardous compounds.

Fiery Ohio Train Wreck The Result Of ‘Precision Scheduling Railroading’

Railroad Workers United (RWU) condemns the dangerous and historically unsafe practices by Class 1 rail carriers that resulted in this catastrophe that will impact the community of East Palestine Ohio for many years, if not forever. The root causes of this wreck are the same ones that have been singled out repeatedly, associated with the hedge fund initiated operating model known as “Precision Scheduled Railroading” (PSR).  But risky practices, such as ever longer and heavier trains even precede PSR.  The train that wrecked is a case in point, 9300 feet long, 18,000 tons. Other hallmarks of modern day railroading include deep cuts both maintenance and operating employees, poor customer service, deferred maintenance to rolling stock and infrastructure, long working hours and chronic fatigue, limited on-the-job training and high employee turnover.

How Workers And Socialists Are Responding To A Workplace Death

Earlier this month, workers in South Korea launched a campaign for workplace safety against one of the country’s largest food manufacturers, SPC Group. Following the workplace death of a 23-year-old woman at one of SPC’s factories, a consumer-led boycott of the company’s products quickly developed within the country. Revolutionary socialists are playing an important role intervening with an emphasis on organizing the working class. On October 15, during a graveyard shift at an SPC factory in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi province, a 23-year-old woman working at the factory was caught in a sauce mixer she was operating and got pulled in and crushed to death. The following morning, the Twitter account of that factory’s branch of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) reported that the company simply covered the mixer with a white screen and made employees keep working.

The Labor Disputes At Amy’s Kitchen, Explained

“We’re now proudly B Corp certified!” chirps a green banner on the homepage of Amy’s Kitchen, the organic packaged and prepared-foods giant. It’s positioned above an image of the company’s founders, the Berliner family — Andy, who is currently the CEO of Amy’s Kitchen, with his wife Rachel and their daughter, Amy, after whom the company is named — dressed in down vests and worn-in scarves, smiling and windswept in front of a blue sky. “B Corp certification is awarded to businesses that use profits and growth as a means to a greater end: Positive impact for their employees, communities, and the environment,” Amy’s explains in a blog post from March 2021. “The B Corp community works toward reducing inequality, lower levels of poverty, a healthier environment, stronger communities, and the creation of more high-quality jobs with dignity and purpose.”

These Tortilla Workers Walked Out And Won A Day Off Work

Chicago — Food production workers at El Milagro, one of Chicago’s most popular tortilla companies, join with community allies for a Day of the Dead vigil Nov. 2, 2021, in honor of five coworkers who died after contracting Covid-19 on the job. With candles and sugar skulls outside the company’s flagship taqueria in the Little Village neighborhood on the city’s Southwest Side, workers and supporters spoke about their ongoing standoff with management — and their demands for justice on the job. “We’re here to remember our coworkers, friends and loved ones who have passed on from Covid-19,” Guillermo Romero said at the vigil. “We’ll never forget them. But we continue in this fight, for ourselves, for our dignity and to get respect.” Romero has worked at the company for 16 years.

Washington Mental Health Workers Win Safety Strike

When a patient attacked staff at for-profit Cascade Behavioral Health Center on August 1, injuring 11, it was the last straw for many. Staffers started calling out of work en masse, demanding that Cascade hire four security guards 24/7. Cascade quickly responded by charging the workers and their union, Service Employees (SEIU) Healthcare 1199NW, with an illegal wildcat strike, since the union hadn’t given the required 10-day notice. It sent termination letters to a couple dozen strikers. The union’s legal team responded that the nurses and techs were on a safety strike—a job action reserved for workers in abnormal danger on the job. By late October, 1199NW got word that the National Labor Relations Board had found no merit to Cascade’s claims that it was an illegal strike.
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