Editorial: It's about safety

By Ed Rodzwicz
First Vice-President
Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers

This is in response to Clayton Boyce's editorial titled "Big Lie," which was dated March 17 on the Traffic World website but posted on the United Transportation Union's website on March 14.

The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers has taken the same stance on remote control since November 17, 2000, when we first petitioned the Federal Railroad Administration for a rulemaking.

They ignored us in 2001. They ignored us in 2002. Now they won't even meet with us because we have a lawsuit against them to force them into a rulemaking.

Our stance has been consistent - we want the FRA to issue a rulemaking regarding remote control locomotives, so that the technology is implemented in the safest manner possible.

Our stance has been the same - to improve safety for BLE members and all railroad workers. That's why leaders of the Teamsters and the AFL-CIO joined us in Washington D.C. on March 11 to rally for improved safety of remote control. It's not a union issue. It's not a BLE versus that other organization issue. It's a safety issue. It's a matter of life and limb.

Remote control can be safe if it is implemented properly and under the rulemaking procedures outlined by the federal government. There is clearly something wrong with this picture. If the FRA is the regulatory agency on safety and one of the operating unions, along with the AFL-CIO, think there is an unsafe condition out there and the agency won't discuss it, then there is a problem.

The operations on Montana Rail Link are as different as night and day from those on the Class 1 carriers. In most cases, Montana Rail Link operates with a three-man crew and every crew includes a certified locomotive engineer - the industry's most highly-trained and experienced employee. Using three employees instead of two makes the job safer.

The FRA, that other organization, AAR and members of the rail industry press always like to cite statistics to show how safe remote control has been. To use an old cliché, I like to respond to that by saying, "There are lies, damn lies, and then there are statistics."

Fewer injuries where remote control is used? Is this due to the magic of remote control, or are there fewer injuries because there are fewer people working and productivity is greatly reduced? No one really knows for sure because the carriers are collecting the accident/incident data instead of the FRA.

The fact of the matter is that other organization's leadership and the AAR like remote control. The workers in the field hate it. They are the ones on the front lines who risk their lives every day. We in the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers are doing all we can to make their jobs safer.

There was an article in The New York Times many years ago that stated, "The labor movement's basic purpose is to obtain a better life for its members. A union that fails in this purpose has failed utterly." Is that other organization in this category?

You decide.



© 2003 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers