A message from Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa
Halting Norfolk Southern's camp cars
In September I wrote every member of the U.S. House to urge them to oppose Norfolk Southern's attempt to strip language from H.R. 2095, the Railroad Safety Improvement Act of 2007, which does away with the use of camp cars.
In the letter, I told House members that maintenance of way workers employed by Norfolk Southern (NS) are the last group that ust endure the use of these camp cars, which are outdated, cramped, lacking potable water and inside toilet facilities. I explained that workers housed in these cars after a long hard day on the job must bathe, cook, wash dishes, and make ice with non-potable water. And, that these camp cars use holding tanks to collect this water, often overflowing and flooding the surrounding area. Finally, I told Congress about how workers must also use outside toilet facilities - at times trudging through the rain or snow with a flashlight to find a port-a-john in the middle of the night.
In addition to the conditions of the camp cars, I let Congress know about the location of the camps. I am sure they can't imagine trying to sleep next to a railroad track and being disturbed by the noise and vibration of passing trains, with some sounding their whistles as they go by.
Meanwhile, the NS supervisors, who spend the day overseeing the maintenance crews, don't have to suffer the same housing conditions, indignities and inconveniences when their work day ends. They go off to a motel, with running water that's fit to drink and have an inside bathroom. In fact, I said, Norfolk Southern is the only railroad in the United States that continues to subject its employees to this treatment.
If NS can put up their crew supervisors in a motel, then why not house the crew there as well? Other railroads transport their maintenance crews to suitable housing. There is no reason that NS cannot do so.
We believe that the U.S. House's Rail Safety bill goes a long way in providing a safer work environment in a dangerous industry when workers are on the job. We should expect it to protect the health and safety of our members when they are living away from home for extended periods of time. The elimination of camp cars will accomplish this objective as well.
We will continue to work closely with elected officials of our Rail Conference in order to obtain the most comprehensive rail safety bill possible. The indignities of camp car living must end.
© 2007 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen