Industry News Briefs

CSX charges tolls to cross Fla. tracks

In Bryceville, Fla., a rural part of Nassau County, many of the homes are on the other side of the tracks. Now it is going to cost to get there.

"First of all I think they're trying to bribe us, then I think it's a bunch of bull and it is not necessary" says resident Robert Mizell.

Mizell and four other families live on Hambone Drive. The only way in and out is across the CSX railroad tracks.

In early October, they found a bright orange sign posted near the tracks. It told them to call within 30 days or the tracks might be closed.

"This caught me by surprise" says Danny O'Neal. O'Neal has lived on Hambone Drive more than seven years and says he has never had to pay to use the railroad crossing. "This is our only ingress and egress. I was told they want each family to pay $800 a year. That is not fair."

CSX spokesman Gary Sease says the company has launched an aggressive program to close unnecessary or redundant crossings.

"Those for the exclusive use of property owners will remain open, but we would like them to pay a portion of liability, protection, maintenance and upkeep," says Sease.

The bright orange signs are the first step to begin a dialog he says. Sease says anyone with the bright orange sign near their crossing needs to call.

"We are very willing to negotiate (a fee) based on the property owner's ability to pay," says Sease.

The idea is all a part of the railroad's safety program. Closed crossings are safe crossings, Sease said.

Residents would like safer crossings, but feel they're being railroaded by the railroad to pay a toll to keep their crossings open.

"I think $800 per year is a bit much for access," says O'Neal.

(Florida television station WJXX published this story on its website on October 6.)

UP limits severance pay for executives

Union Pacific Corp. will begin requiring its most generous severance packages be put to a shareholder vote.

Shareholders asked for the change at Union Pacific's annual meeting in Salt Lake City in April, where 56 percent voted in favor of the idea.

UP's board of directors met Sept. 25 and adopted a policy that says shareholders need to approve executive severance packages where benefits are three times or more the individual's salary plus

The severance policy will only affect UP's 17 top executives.

UP employs about 48,000 people and operates rail lines in 23 states across the western two-thirds of the country.

(From the Associated Press.)

Labor scores victory in House

Organized labor scored a victory in the U.S. House of Representatives on October 2 when lawmakers opposed a Bush administration proposal that foes say could cost millions of Americans overtime pay.

On a non-binding vote of 221-203, the House backed a Senate-passed provision to block the proposed expansion of overtime exemptions for white-collar workers under the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act.

AFL-CIO President John Sweeney hailed the bipartisan vote and called on Bush "to withdraw his assault on overtime and withdraw his threat to veto any legislation that protects overtime."

"At a time when the economy is bleeding jobs, when wages are falling and family incomes have declined by more than $1500 in just three years, when poverty is up and health care coverage is down, President Bush and his Labor Department have no business doing the bidding of American business by stripping away overtime pay protections from American workers," Sweeney said.

(From Reuters and AFL-CIO news releases.)

Unions see politics in new, strict disclosure rules

Labor leaders have sharply criticized new financial disclosure regulations that the Labor Department issued on October 3, asserting that the Bush administration is intent on retaliating against unions.

"These new rules are blatantly political," said Jonathan Hiatt, the AFL-CIO's general counsel, charging that the administration wanted to punish labor for supporting many Democrats and battling the president on numerous issues. "They aim to send a retaliatory message."

But administration officials said the new rules were not designed to punish labor, but to prevent union corruption and provide union members with more information about their unions' operations and financial health.

Under the new rules - which require more disclosure than the old rules - local, regional and national unions with annual income of $250,000 or more must report expenditures of $5,000 or more. Unions will also be required to detail how much they spend on political activities and lobbying, on union administration and on strike benefits.

"The Bush administration's rules are craftily designed to weaken unions - the strongest advocates for American workers - as our nation prepares for the 2004 elections," said AFL-CIO President John Sweeney.

Sweeney said the new rules went far beyond what was required of other nonprofit organizations. He said the rules would require huge amounts of paperwork for 5,000 labor organizations and would cause the dumping of a large amount of minute information into the Labor Department's database at major expense.

(From the New York Times and AFL-CIO news releases.)

Transportation fatilities increase in 2002

Transportation fatalities in the United States increased slightly in 2002, according to preliminary figures released on October 2 by the National Transportation Safety Board.

Deaths from transportation accidents in the United States in 2002 totaled 45,098, up from the 44,969 fatalities in 2001.

Highway fatalities accounted for more than 94 percent of the transportation deaths in 2002. That number increased from 42,196 in 2001 to 42,815 in 2002.

Total rail fatalities increased in 2002 to 603 from 597, reflecting a rise in pedestrian fatalities associated with intercity rail operations. Seven rail passengers were killed in 2002, compared to three in 2001.

Fatalities occurring on light rail, heavy rail, and commuter rail increased from 197 to 220.

(Because of peculiarities in reporting requirements, there may be some duplication in the numbers for intercity rail and commuter rail on the accompanying chart.)

(From National Transportation Safety Board news release.)

Remote control update

U.S. District Judge Joan B. Gottschall issued an order on September 16 that dissolves the January 16, 2002, preliminary injunction against the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers regarding the remote control issue.

The Court stated that its action was based on the fact that the preliminary injunction was issued to maintain the status quo until an arbitrator could resolve the dispute, and that award has been issued (the January 10 arbitration decision by Gil Vernon, Special Board of Adjustment No. 1141).

All motions are dismissed as moot, thereby terminating the case. However, the railroads are appealing this dismissal.



© 2003 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers