Teamsters condemn rail corporations' dangerous negotiating stance with UTU
The Teamsters Rail Conference learned that the National Carriers Conference Committee (NCCC), representing the nation's Class 1 railroads, has presented a dangerous contract proposal to the United Transportation Union (UTU) designed to coerce UTU into acquiescing to the carriers' desire to reduce locomotive crew size from two workers to one.
James P. Hoffa, Teamsters General President and Don M. Hahs, National President of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) issued the following joint statement supporting UTU President Paul C. Thompson in his refusal to entertain the carriers' unsafe proposal.
"We will actively support UTU President Paul Thompson and the members of his union. We will not allow the rail corporations to succeed in their dangerous scheme to reduce crew size to one. We will unite rail unions and allied groups to prevent it. We will take this battle to every community in the United States, alerting first responders, elected leaders and citizens. If the carriers have their way, locomotives loaded with highly toxic freight will barrel through their communities staffed by one worker, who, under federal law, can be on duty for 12 hours. They will rise up in indignation at such a proposal. What if that worker is stricken with a heart attack or otherwise incapacitated? Who then will stop trains laden with dangerous cargo? This proposal is outrageous. The public will not allow it; we will work vigorously to get elected officials to condemn it and Congress to pass legislation to prevent it."
"Our members maintain the rail infrastructure," said Fred Simpson, President of the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes Division (BMWED) "The carriers' fool-hardy proposal to save a few pennies, when they are already making more than $1 billion profit a year with the existing two-person crew, puts our members and communities across this great nation in severe peril. We will be vigorous partners with Paul Thompson and his members at UTU, with the BLET and with the Teamsters Rail Conference to prevent the carriers' corporate scheming to slash rail jobs and sacrifice safety for a fatter bottom line. These trains carry dangerous cargo. The carriers' proposal to reduce train crew size from two workers to one is insane."
"The rail carriers are deeply misguided if they believe that the American public will allow them to reduce crew size to one worker on locomotives pulling mile-long trains carrying highly toxic hazardous materials like chlorine and ammonia nitrate," said John F. Murphy, Director of the Rail Conference. "'This ill-conceived proposal will put the lives of all rail workers and the communities they serve in grave danger."
The Chlorine Institute has released frightening information that a 90-ton tank car, if targeted by an explosive device, could create a toxic cloud 40 miles long and 10 miles wide. Such a toxic plume, the U.S. Naval Research Lab reported, could kill 100,000 people in 30 minutes in a major metropolitan area.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation's 2002 warning about potential terrorist attacks on the nation's railroads should have made clear that there is no room for error, no plausible reason to cut costs or corners in the effort to protect the nation's railroad system from attack.
The FBI's words were chilling: al Qaeda cells could be targeting trains carrying hazardous materials. The FBI had captured al Qaeda photographs of railroad engines, cars and crossings, and officials said that terrorists could choose a number of strategies, "such as destroying key rail bridges and sections of track to cause derailments or targeting hazardous material containers." The warning appears to have fallen on the rail corporations' deaf ears.
"The rail carriers are tragically mistaken if they believe we will stand by and let them sacrifice American workers so they can fill the pockets of a few rich corporate executives," Hoffa said. "When you cut the jobs of experienced rail workers from both the BLET and UTU, you are not only hurting the families of those men and women, but compromising the overall safety of the rail system nationwide."
"Our nation lives each day under the threat of terrorist attacks, and cutting already overworked crews is not the answer to securing the rail system," Hoffa said. "UTU, BLET, BMWED and the Teamsters' Rail conference are united in this battle and in our intent to let the rail corporations know this is a battle they will not win."
The BLET and the BMWED are divisions of the Teamsters Rail Conference. Founded in 1903, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters represents more than 1.4 million hardworking women and men throughout North America.
© 2006 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen