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Members of Congress shocked at lax safety in Tex-Mex job giveaway

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio, August 6 — In a follow-up to previous reporting, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) is continuing its fight to preserve members’ jobs and to protect public safety at the Texas Mexican Railway (Tex Mex) border crossing in Laredo, Texas.

On July 9, Tex Mex unilaterally replaced U.S. citizen crewmembers with Mexican train crews between Laredo Yard and the International Bridge, more than 9 miles away. BLET declared the action constituted a major dispute under the Railway Labor Act and had threatened to strike, but a Federal judge issued a preliminary injunction on July 6 that prohibited a BLET job action over the issue.

BLET National President Dennis R. Pierce then asked President Donald J. Trump to personally intervene to help protect American jobs, but the Union has yet to hear from the Administration.

In mid-July, a delegation of BLET representatives visited 150 Congressional offices in Washington, D.C., to apprise them of the situation. President Pierce advised that many Members of Congress were shocked and surprised to learn that the train crews from Mexico would be operating trains on U.S. soil under relaxed federal railroad safety standards.

“Members of Congress expressed grave concern that the Federal Railroad Administration would allow the railroad to apply a lower safety standard to Mexican train crews than to U.S. train crews,” President Pierce said. “Our members are held to the highest standard while crews coming in from Mexico are essentially given a break in terms of certification, testing, and operating experience.”

During the federal court hearing on July 3, the railroad submitted an internal memorandum from the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), which appears to give the railroad preliminary permission to proceed with its job replacement plan. According to the document, the rail safety agency told the railroad it needed to make no changes to its conductor certification program to certify Mexican conductors to replace U.S. crews.

Additionally, a review of the railroad’s revised Part 240 Locomotive Engineer Certification Program disclosed several glaring deficiencies in the requirements for foreign national locomotive engineers as compared to the requirement in place for American locomotive engineers.

“There is no requirement whatsoever that the engineers to whom the railroad has given our work receive classroom and on-the-job training of a duration and curriculum required of a Train Service Engineer (TSE) to be certified, even though the service they will perform requires a TSE certification,” President Pierce said. “Moreover, the only English language requirement contained in the Part 240 Program pertains to the language used in records that KCS must produce for FRA inspection at the agency’s request. There is no requirement whatsoever that foreign national locomotive engineers must take their written tests in English or show any proficiency in the English language at all; there is nothing in Section 7 of the Program that requires foreign national locomotive engineers to take the 200-question test required of KCS TSEs, and to pass that test by achieving at least a 90% grade.”

President Pierce questioned the FRA’s priorities in this situation. “The memorandum makes us wonder whether some at FRA are less interested in railroad safety, which is the agency’s statutory mandate, than they are in the railroad’s bottom line,” he said. “This degradation in safety is unacceptable, and we will not give up in our fight to protect good American jobs, and for the safety of those Americans living in communities where these trains operate.”

Monday, August 6, 2018
bentley@ble-t.org

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