|ONLINE VERSION||NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2000|
|JULY - SEPTEMBER|
On July 7 BMWE President Mac A. Fleming wrote all BMWE members about the position the railroads had taken in national bargaining which concerned their future and the future of the BMWE. As he had advised the NMB, "the railroads latest proposal would impact between 30 and 60% of BMWE members, literally destroying railroad careers and members' families in the process. ... We do not intend to negotiate a ‘capital punishment' benefit," Fleming said.
On July 13 Congressmen Shuster, Oberstar, Petri and Rahall of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee of the House of Representatives and Congressmen Archer, Rangell, Shaw and Matsui of the House Ways and Means Committee introduced HR 4844 which would enact the retirement "deal" reached by the railroads and rail unions except for the BMWE and the BLE. Introduction of the bill was held up for several months because of the provision enabling the Tier I (Social Security Equivalent Benefit) surplus funds to be invested in private equities. The bill introduced provides that surplus funds would only be available for 1) payment of benefits and 2) to purchase obligations of the U.S. that are backed by the full faith and credit of the U.S. pursuant to chapter 31 of title 31, United States Code.
BMWE officers and legislative directors, led by Jim Knight, BMWE Director of Government Affairs, wait outside the meeting room of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on July 19. Shortly after 10:00 a.m. the BMWE delegation watched in silent protest as the T&I Committee marked up HR 4844 without a hearing.
July, 1877 — First Railroad Strike
From the History of the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes, Its Birth and Growth 1887-1955 by D. W. Hertel.
With the close of the Civil War, a new and even more frantic era of railroad building began. By 1870, the railroad mileage in the United States had increased to 53,878 and in the ensuing thirty years, almost 140,000 miles of track were laid.
But as the railroads spread their web of rails and crossties throughout the nation, as business expanded and flourished, the problems of the worker increased. With growing industrialization came the inevitable clash between worker and employer.
As workers attempted to band together for their mutual welfare, a bitter anti-union attitude crystallized among employers. Company agents were use to discourage union activity. Employers secretly circulated "whitelists" of persons to be hired and "blacklists" of those to be rejected.
Eventually the "yellow dog" contract made its appearance and became a potent weapon against unionism. In signing such a contract, the employee agreed that so long as he was employed he would not join or support a labor union. Such a contract was entirely unilateral, the employer reserving the right to discharge an employee at will.
It was not unusual for union leaders and organizers to be beaten by company agents and even forced to leave the community. Public officials frequently refused to permit unions to hold outdoor meetings or parades. The distribution of union pamphlets or papers was prohibited by ordinance. Business and professional people campaigned against unions, and employers sought the passage of laws to curb their activities.
By 1873, three railroad Brotherhoods had been organized: the engineers (1863), the conductors (1868), and the firemen and enginemen (1873). These organizations had been formed not as collective bargaining agencies to improve the wages and working conditions of their constituents, but primarily to furnish insurance benefits to the families of injured or deceased workers.
So hazardous was their work in those days that many railroad workers were unable to secure insurance protection from the standard companies. Railroad owners opposed these fraternal societies, fearful that they contained the seed of a union movement on the railroads.
The transition of these organizations from purely fraternal and benevolent Brotherhoods to bona fide labor unions did not begin until 1877, after the first and biggest railroad strike.
This bloody strike resulted from wage cuts ordered by the railroads during the business depression which began in 1873. The high cost of the Civil War, excessive railroad building, inflated credit and other related economic problems had brought on the 1873 panic. Times were bad and became worse as the panic continued. The ranks of the unemployed grew larger.
In the early years of the depression, workers on the railroads and in other industries accepted wage cuts with little protest. In 1877, the railroads began to feel the severe pinch of reduced income. Their owners decided that in order to continue to pay dividends and maintain their credit standing, they must make further wage reductions.
In June and July, 1877, the Pennsylvania, Erie, Michigan Southern,
Lake Shore, New York
This was the coup de grace that released the pent-up emotions that had simmered in the minds of the workers during the difficult years of the panic. They had already accepted several wage reductions, although many of the railroads had continued to pay substantial dividends to their stockholders. They could barely support their families on the meager wages being paid for dangerous and responsible work.
When the company rejected their protest, Baltimore and Ohio firemen and brakemen at Martinsburg, West Virginia, walked off the job. The strike spread rapidly and sporadically across the country, from road to road, from point to point, to Chicago, to St. Louis, and finally to California.
Several states mustered their militia. Federal troops were called out to settle a strike for the first time in American history. Riots and bloodshed followed. The strike was broken, but it is estimated that in the process more than one hundred men lost their lives and some five hundred persons, including women and children, had been wounded. Untold damage had been done to railroad property.
Although railroad workers lost the strike, they had still gained a victory. For out of the bloody disaster came the realization that the strike had been lost through lack of unity. A new feeling of solidarity grew between the Brotherhoods and they emerged from the phase of pure fraternalism to turn resolutely toward the goals of collective bargaining.
July, 1887 — BMWE Chartered Under Alabama Laws
July 1, 1939 -- Railroad Unemployment Insurance Act Becomes Effective in U.S.
King of Swing
by John Prescott
The Summer 2000 issue of Union Pacific Railroad's INFO Magazine featured BMWE members Jerry Naughton and Jim Pope in the article "King of Swing," reprinted here with permission of UP. Naughton, 47, is a 21-year member of the BMWE and is President of Local Lodge 510 on the Chicago & North Western System Federation. Pope, also 47, is a 19-year member of the BMWE and is Secretary-Treasurer of Lodge 510. Both reside in Clinton, Iowa.
BMWE member Jerry Naughton maintains the largest double-track swing span on the Mississippi. (Michael Malone, photographer.)
When America's largest railroad and busiest river cross paths, something has to give. That "something" is Union Pacific's swing bridge in Clinton, Iowa. Built in 1909, the structure is the largest double-track swing span on the Mississippi — 2,200 tons of iron that moves to let tall river traffic by.
Bridge operators act as traffic cops, balancing the movement of barges plying their north-south route with trains moving east and west across the span. The bridge's movable portion is located on the river's Iowa side and is the longest of the 19 pier-supported spans crossing a mile of water, island and marsh to the Illinois side.
"It's a great piece of engineering," says Jerry Naughton, structures foreman. "How many 91-year- old machines do you know of that are still running efficiently today?"
Naughton has maintained and repaired the bridge for the last 22 years. During that time, he's replaced every gear and shaft, and knows the meaning of each creak and groan. Every two weeks he greases 365 zirc fittings, feeding lubrication to machinery that's operated flawlessly since William Howard Taft was President. If Assistant Foreman Jim Pope helps Naughton, it takes one full day for the pair to completely service the bridge.
"They built this thing to last," says Naughton. "It handles today's intermodal and coal traffic the same as it handled steam locomotives. Structurally it's sound and mechanically it's fully operational."
The existing bridge is the fourth to carry trains across the river Native Americans call "The Father of the Waters." The first was built in 1860 by the Chicago, Iowa and Nebraska Railroad. Construction was fast and inexpensive, and it lasted only 22 years.
Numbers two and three, under the Chicago & North Western, brought improvements but were single track. With rail traffic increasing, the C&NW built the double-track span for speed and endurance. It swung open for the first time April 11, 1909, and on average it now opens and closes every 45 minutes.
Naughton points with pride to a pair of 50 horsepower DC motors located in the elevated control room at the swing span's center. "Those are the originals, and they still work perfectly!" Only one central motor is needed to swing the span. Two additional 50 horsepower motors located at the ends of the swing span lift iron shoes supporting the ends as well as connecting rails, called Conleys. According to Naughton, "the originals there were 20 horsepower, but they burned out too fast. They were replaced with 30 horsepower motors, and eventually with the current models."
The words "fail-safe" have been the operating mantra of bridge crews ever since the railroad crossed the Mississippi. If the bridge can't swing, traffic stops—either on the river or on the railroad. That's why the swing span is equipped with its own diesel generator, which automatically kicks in if the electric line from Clinton fails.
The swing span is staffed 24-hours-a-day, 7-days-a-week during the Mississippi navigation season, usually running from March to December. Larry Schultz is one of five bridge operators who monitor track and river traffic and swing the bridge to keep the two commercial lifelines moving.
"I was just a little kid when I visited this bridge for the first time," says Schultz, a veteran of 41 accident-free years at the railroad. "My aunt knew Harry Peterson, who was the bridge operator back then. He let me stand on the deck when he swung the bridge. It looked like the whole world was turning around and I was standing still."
Schultz and fellow operators Bill Buske, Tom Ebenezer, Jim Jenkins and Al Simms, spend their shifts monitoring and logging all river and train traffic.
"Sometimes we get some pretty interesting traffic," says Schultz, who learns via radio that Australian water skiers are headed his way. Minutes later, Brenton McGrath and his brother Sean whiz by, skiing from St. Paul, Minnesota, to the Gulf of Mexico, raising funds for leukemia and lymphoma research. Their boat is low enough to pass under the closed rail bridge. However, the span has swung for other colorful river travelers, including Jacques Cousteau's "Calypso" and a replica of the Christopher Columbus vessel "Pinta."
"We swing for three Queens," says Schultz, referring to regular trips made by passenger river boats "Delta Queen," "Mississippi Queen" and "American Queen." Many large, private craft are tall enough to require the bridge to move, he said, and "some of us get an eyeful of pretty surprised sunbathers who look up and see us." However, the river's heavyweights are barges moving some of the same commodities traveling over the river on trains.
It takes five minutes and six steps to swing the bridge. Each step must be verified before electric power becomes available for the next step. The process begins with signals showing bridge approaches clear of trains. Then, derails are activated. That allows release of the rail-locking mechanisms. The Conley connecting rails then are raised and the iron shoes supporting the swing span withdraw. The span's ends drop as much as 8 inches. Finally, massive steel key pins on each end of the swing span retract, making power available to the swing motors. And, from Schultz's point of view, the world turns again while he stands still.
Nothing moves, however, unless the swing span's motors, gears and other parts operate perfectly, and that's where Naughton comes in. "We do most of our parts replacement and heavy maintenance after the navigation season. We're always observing gears and shafts for wear, and planning replacements in advance."
Of course, parts availability is a challenge. "You can't buy any of this stuff off the shelf," says Naughton. "Most of the gears and shafts are specially machined at an Illinois foundry. We keep the worn parts in storage. If a gear breaks, we have a quick fix that can tide us over until a new gear is available."
Effective lubrication is one of the best insurance policies for keeping working parts in business. Naughton and Pope use a dark, heavy substance called molly grease, which is sticky enough to resist natural elements but slick enough to minimize friction.
Greasing under the bridge is a dirty job made less so by a recent innovation: paper suits. Employees used to bring a set of work clothes and wash them at work before eventually discarding them. Pointing to a wringer-equipped Maytag in a storage room, Naughton says, "That might be Union Pacific's only company-owned washer."
The Maytag shares its space with dozens of gears, shafts and special tools. One of the wrenches used by bridge crews is six feet long. It takes seasoned employees to keep the Mississippi crossing in operation, including the ironworkers on bridge maintenance and repair projects.
"The toughest guy I ever knew was ‘The Duke,'" says Naughton, speaking of the late Don Janss, an iron worker foreman. "I only worked with him during my first years at the railroad, and he was a legend long before then."
More than 40 years ago, Janss was knocking out a rivet when a piece of it flew up and took out his eye. "He pulled a rag from his pocket, tied it across his blind eye, and finished knocking out the rivet before he went to the hospital," said Naughton. "The Duke was one hell of a man."
Today's crews remember the story not only as a tribute to toughness, but as a safety reminder. Gloves and hearing protection, as well as improved goggles, hard hats and fall protection, are all in place to prevent accidents.
Naughton notes,"You still have to be alert all the time when you're working on this bridge or any bridge. It's hard work, but we know it's important work." It's also a labor of love, considering his family's history. "My wife's grandfather actually watched this bridge being built, back when he was just a boy."
The lad who watched the bridge construction is 99 years old today, and "The Duke" and countless other railroaders who maintained and operated the swing span over the decades are gone.
As Larry Schultz's day shift winds down, he moves the bridge for an excursion boat named "Twilight." As it passes by, the boat's calliope plays "Love Makes the World Go Round," but the Clinton bridge crew knows it's hard work and electric motors.
MofW Works With Uncle Sam
"This is a picture of two of our soldiers working in July along with an Amtrak MofW crew at Westover Air Reserve Base in Chicopee, Massachusetts," writes Major Martin Piech, U. S. Army Reserve. "Their assistance was the decisive factor in enabling the 1205th to operate trains at the airshow in August. I believe everyone learned from the joint effort. In fact the Amtrak crew headed up by Damian Garden (in the picture behind the soldier operating the spiker) has expressed an interest in teaming up with us again sometime! Our soldiers were/are totally awed by the skill demonstrated by the Amtrak people. Since the 1205th is rated a high priority reserve unit, the support and participation of BMWE members directly/positively impacts our proficiency in supporting vital interests in our country." The 1205th Transportation Railway Operating Battalion is based in the greater Hartford, Connecticut area and is always seeking experienced maintenance of way people to join their unit as "Citizen Soldiers." For more information see the September/October issue of the BMWE JOURNAL or contact the unit at 877-519-8533, 860- 632-2117 or 860-635-3335 (select option 3 or ask for Mr. Heinrich). There is also a unit website — www.1205thtrob.com — that is loaded with useful information including what they do and job openings. And look next year for the BMWE JOURNAL feature on the fascinating history of the 1205th.
July 4 — Independence Day
Have you ever wondered what happened to the 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence?
Five signers were captured by the British as traitors and tortured before they died.
Twelve had their homes ransacked and burned.
Two lost their sons serving in the Revolutionary Army; another had two sons captured.
Nine of the 56 fought and died from wounds or hardships of the Revolutionary War.
They signed and they pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor.
What kind of men were they?
Twenty-four were lawyers and jurists. Eleven were merchants, nine were farmers and large plantation owners; men of means, well educated.
But they signed the Declaration of Independence knowing full well that the penalty would be death if they were captured.
Carter Braxton of Virginia, a wealthy planter and trader, saw his ships swept from the seas by the British Navy. He sold his home and properties to pay his debts and died in rags.
Thomas McKeam was so hounded by the British that he was forced to move his family almost constantly. He served in Congress without pay and his family was kept in hiding. His possessions were taken from him and poverty was his reward.
Vandals or soldiers looted the properties of Dillery, Hall, Clymer, Walton, Gwinnett, Heyward, Rutledge and Middleton.
At the battle of Yorktown, Thomas Nelson Jr. noted that the British General Cornwallis had taken over the Nelson home for his headquarters. He quietly urged General George Washinton to open fire. The home was destroyed and Nelson died bankrupt.
Francis Lewis had his home and properties destroyed. The enemy jailed his wife and she died within a few months.
John Hart was driven from his wife's bedside as she was dying. Their 13 children fled for their lives. His fields and his grist mill were laid to waste. For more than a year he lived in forests and caves, returning home to find his wife dead and his children vanished. A few weeks later he died from exhaustion and a broken heart.
Norris and Livingston suffered similar fates.
Such were the stories and sacrifices of the American Revolution. These were not wild-eyed, rabble-rousing ruffians. They were soft-spoken men of means and education. They had security but they valued liberty more.
Standing tall, straight and unwavering, they pledged: "For the support of this declaration, with firm reliance on the protection of the divine providence, we mutually pledge to each other, our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor."
They gave you and me a free and independent America. The history books never told you a lot about what happened in the Revolutionary War. We didn't fight just the British. We were British subjects at that time and we fought our own government!
Some of us take these liberties so much for granted, but we shouldn't.
So, whenever you're enjoying your 4th of July holiday, take a minute and silently thank these patriots. It's not much to ask for the price they paid.
Remember that the cost of freedom is never free!
Author Unknown. Submitted by BMWE member Jeffrey Bainter, Muncie, Indiana.
Dale Johnson of Rockland, Wis., a machine operator for Canadian Pacific Railway, uses a hydraulic spike driver as a crew replaces a grade crossing in Eagan, Minn. Johnson was commended recently for helping get a family of four on bicycles out of the path of an Amtrak train on July 20 in Reeseville, Wis.
Dale Johnson's work week replacing the only public grade-crossing in the tiny Wisconsin town of Reeseville was over. Or so he thought until he saw a family of four on bicycles crossing Canadian Pacific Railway's tracks where Amtrak's Empire Builder was soon due.
Johnson, a machine operator for CPR, and CPR laborer Steve Cox had mistakenly driven down a dead-end street at about 6 p.m. July 20 to leave the quiet town of 700 people 10 miles northwest of Watertown. Turning around, they had to drive back by CPR's main line and the crossing.
As they approached, they saw a man on a bike cross and wait by the westbound tracks. A woman with a toddler in tow was stopped on the eastbound tracks. In between them, a girl of about 6 was straddling her bike while trying to pick up something she had dropped on the westbound tracks.
"Dale mentioned that Amtrak No. 7 was supposed to be in the area. As soon as the words came out of his mouth, the westbound train whistled from around a bend, and the lights and bells on the crossing signals started up," Cox said.
The train, which travels up to 65 mph in the area, was a quarter of a mile away. Knowing it would reach the crossing in about 15 seconds, they watched in horror as the family didn't react. But Johnson sure did.
"He was out there in a heartbeat," said Cox, who watched in amazement as Johnson left the driver's seat of their truck and ran toward the girl.
""By now, the gates were down, and she was in the middle of the track crying," Cox said. Johnson said he probably scared the girl by running at her and shouting at the man.
"I was yelling at him to come get his daughter. ‘Amtrak is coming,'" Johnson said. "I think he just froze."
Johnson was pushing the girl off the track when the man came to help. But Johnson's work still wasn't done.
"Right then, when the girl was in the clear, the mother panicked and then she started across," Cox said.
"He grabbed her handlebars and pointed at her to get back. She backed up a few steps so she was barely in the clear," Cox said.
Without waiting around for thanks or to introduce himself, Johnson returned to the truck to head home to Rockland, which is 18 miles east of LaCrosse. He didn't get the family's name, which remains unknown.
"I said, ‘My heart is still pounding a mile a minute.' I said, ‘Did I overreact?'" Johnson asked.
"I don't think so," Cox replied.
Cox was so impressed by his co-worker's actions that he wrote a company report about it for discussion at their crew's weekly safety briefing.
"There is no doubt in my mind that without Dale Johnson's awareness of the presence of the train, the quickness of his reaction and the wherewithal to handle the situation, something tragic probably would have happened in Reeseville that day," Cox wrote.
Rick Wedel, CPR's Chicago Service Area manager for engineering services, was impressed.
"It was very quick thinking. He certainly is to be commended for it," Wedel said.
Donald McCall, CPR manager of track programs and equipment in Minneapolis, wrote Johnson a thank-you note and enclosed a watch as a token of the railway's appreciation.
"From discussing the incident with several witnesses, it is very clear that had it not been for you, a very tragic accident would have occurred," McCall wrote.
Town librarian Carla Eauslin said she thought the family, whose name she didn't know, was heading home from the library that night and that the little girl was trying to pick up library materials she had dropped on the track. She expressed gratitude for Johnson's actions on their behalf.
"If he was here right now, I would say thank you for saving these people," she said.
Canadian Pacific Railway News Release, September 14, 2000, reprinted by permission, Laura Baenen, CPR Communications Representative. Dale Johnson, 47, is a 29-year member of BMWE, Local Lodge 1965, Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific System Federation..
July 20-21 — AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department Convention
TTD: A Bold Voice, A Decade of Action
For the BMWE, as reported in the last issue of the BMWE JOURNAL, the most significant policy resolution passed by the delegates to the TTD's 10th Anniversary Convention was the demand for the National Mediation Board to release the BMWE from mediation immediately. This resolution was an extension of Resolution No. 2 — Strengthening a Worker's Voice on the Job.
BMWE Delegation to TTD 10th Anniversary Convention.
Nine other significant resolutions were also passed by the delegates to the TTD's third regular convention — 1) Worker Protections and Labor Standards in the New Economy; 3) Transportation Workers and Globalization; 4) Foreign Postal Operations Threaten U.S. Transportation Jobs; 6) Financing America's Multi-Modal Transportation Needs; 7) Speaking Out Against Senseless Energy and Environmental Policies; 8) The Destructive Legacy of Privatization, Competitive Bidding and Contracting Out; 9) Technology and Worker Rights on a Collision Course; 10) Crusading for a Safer Transportation System.
Resolution No. 5 — Building a Movement of Legislative Activists — is vitally important to the BMWE as well as to all of transportation labor and not just because BMWE President Fleming is a member of the TTD Legislative Activist Committee which prepared the resolution.
Most BMWE members know how strongly the federal government and its agencies impact their working lives but the fact is that transportation workers in general are among the most heavily regulated. There is as much at stake for them in the political and legislative arena as for any other segment of the work force.
Whether it be safety issues and enforcement or complex oversight rules including alcohol and drug testing mandates or federal funding decisions relating to highways, mass transit, Amtrak, airports, air traffic control, ports and more, the work of Washington lawmakers matters immensely to transportation workers.
That is why the TTD Legislative Activist Committee proposed Resolution No. 5 which was approved unanimously at the convention. The key component of the plan calls for strengthening transportation labor's grassroots presence by enlisting a permanent force of workers in the field who will speak out on important legislative and regulatory issues, both during and between election cycles.
In the few short months following the convention, hundreds of activists were identified by TTD affiliates and participated in the initial effort which focused on educating members on the issues at stake in the fall election, including key transportation issues such as NAFTA truck and bus safety, right-to-work laws, Amtrak privatization, transit privatization, U.S. port privatization and Frank Lorenzo, a prominent George Bush booster and former Eastern Air Lines boss and union buster who destroyed 44,000 airline jobs along with Eastern.
"The labor movement's 2000 mobilization is not simply about influencing the outcome of the fall elections," the resolution noted. "It is about mobilizing working families to counter the flood of unregulated corporate money being peddled at the federal, state and local level. And it is about building a permanent network of legislative activists who are willing to combat the unrelenting campaigns of those out to roll back workers' rights and safety protections and dismantle federal programs."
The speakers at the convention also reflected the importance of the government to transportation labor. They included Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD), Rep. Don Young (R-AK), House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt (D-MO), Secretary of Transportation Rodney Slater, Rep. James Oberstar (D-MN) and Vice President Al Gore.
Following his moving address to the TTD Convention, Vice President Al Gore is shown with Secretary of Transportation Rodney Slater, left, TTD President Sonny Hall, TTD Secretary-Treasurer Pat Friend and AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Rich Trumka.
In a nationally-televised address that brought a rousing conclusion
to the Convention, Gore told the packed audience that a
"fundamental divide" existed in his race for the presidency
"In her famous union song, Florence Reese summed up this entire election (when) she asked very simply and powerfully, which side are you on?" Gore emotionally declared. "That's what this election is all about. I'm on the side of the people, he's on the side of the powerful. I'm on the side of working families. He's on the side of the powerful special interests."
While conceding that his opponent enjoys the support of numerous wealthy corporate donors — HMOs, oil, transportation, insurance and pharmaceutical companies to name a few — Gore brought the delegates to their feet when he said "I'll take transportation workers any day of the week."
In addition to President Fleming, the BMWE delegation to the convention included Vice Presidents Ken Deptuck, Rich Lau, Ernie Torske and Henry Wise, Executive Board Member Jed Dodd, Assistant General Counsel Don Griffin and Director of Strategic Coordination and Research Joel Myron.
July 31, 1946 — Railroad Unemployment Insurance Act Amended to Provide Sickness Benefits
Road/Railer Drivers Really Get Around
Communications Representative Laura Baenen of the Canadian Pacific Railway sent the following CP New Release and photographs featuring BMWE members with permission to reprint in the BMWE Journal. Harlon R. Hanson, 55, is a 22-year member of the BMWE from Local Lodge 1552, Soo Line System Division. Also from the Soo Line System Division are David J. Picotte, 39, a nine-year member and President of Lodge 1488 and Donald J. Noble, 42, a 23- year member from Lodge 1662. Bill Konetzke, 43, is a 21-year member and is Assistant General Chairman on the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific System Federation as well as Secretary-Treasurer of Lodge 1841. Also from the CMStP&P is David Johnson, 44, a 25-year member from Lodge 99.
Harlan Hanson drove down a highway one muggy August morning from the western Minnesota prairie to a Minneapolis suburb where he spent less than an hour waiting for a road crew to unfold a loading ramp and drive rail and tie gang equipment up onto flatcars and secure them.
BMWE member Harlan Hanson of Rosholt, South Dakota waits at the back of his Brandt Road/Rail Power Unit in suburban Minneapolis while crews finish loading rail and tie gang equipment in August onto flatcars so he can drive them down Canadian Pacific Railway track to the next day's work site.
With the help of co-worker Dave Picotte of Alexandria, Minn., Hanson then coupled his 47,000- pound Brandt Road/Rail Power Unit to the cars. Instead of returning to the highway, he pulled the cars west down Canadian Pacific Railway's main line at 25 mph to deliver the equipment for the next day's job.
That's right. He drove down the tracks in what looks like a semi-trailer truck.
The process used to take all day before the advent of the road/railers, as the hybrid highway tractor unit is affectionately called at CPR, which owns 11 of the 40 units sold in the United States and Canada. It used to take a crane to load and unload equipment and a work train or a car mover, which could pull no more than three cars down the track no faster than 12 mph.
Now, Hanson said, "It only takes about three minutes to put it from the road to the rail or from the rail to the road. It's so versatile."
Canadian Pacific was among the first Class I railways to employ road/railers, said Don McCall, manager of track programs and track equipment in Minneapolis.
"It's a lot more efficient than the conventional way of moving cars and handling material," McCall said. "The road/railer is strictly used for handling company material cars and material for track work. It's not used at all for revenue."
Hanson, who lives in Rosholt, S.D. and is based out of nearby Hankinson, N.D., is an old hand at operating the road/railer. It is modified with retractable wheel sets and rail equipment so it can run on highways and standard-gauge railroad tracks.
For three years now, Hanson has been averaging between 30,000 and 40,000 miles a year, working from Portal, ND to Minneapolis-St. Paul and from Glenwood to Noyes, Minn. in the $400,000 vehicle made by Brandt Road Rail Corp. of Regina, Saskatchewan.
The lure of the open road still appeals to Hanson.
"You don't know where you're at one day to the next. It makes the days go faster, and it's a lot cleaner work," said Hanson, who used to operate a ballast regulator.
Hanson stands in front of his Brandt Road/Rail Power Unit as he and fellow BMWE member Donald Noble of South Range, Wisconsin finish a day's work unloading ties near Anamoose, North Dakota.
Hanson likes traveling so much that he often spends vacations riding with his wife on his Victory motorcycle. He acknowledges that he also likes getting away from the two cell phones and the radio to the dispatcher that he carries in the road/railer.
The road/railer does much more than pull rail and tie gang equipment. Earlier this summer, Hanson was called to the scene of a washout near Detroit Lakes, Minn. to help replace track. The road/railer more often is used to deposit new ties and pick up old ones and move welded rail. A track backhoe crawls inside of the cars pulled by Hanson's road/railer, picking up ties in the cars and swinging out and depositing them on the ground. East of the Twin Cities, a Jimbo tie unloader crawls along the tops of the cars to unload ties. The road/railer also is used for dumping rock and riprap.
In January, Bill Konetzke of Oconomowoc, Wis. began operating CPR's other road/railer in the Midwest. His territory extends east from Minneapolis to Louisville, Ky. He still marvels at the miles he can cover in one day and the unit's payload.
"I could be working in Milwaukee and the next day be up in Minneapolis and be ready to go there. It's so mobile. Using the interstate system, we could be two states away the following day and ready to go," said Konetzke, who averages about 2,000 to 3,000 miles a month.
BMWE member Bill Konetzke of Oconomowoc, Wisconsin stands with his Brandt Road/Rail Power Unit. He operates the hybrid highway tractor unit on Canadian Pacific Railway track from Minneapolis to Louisville, Kentucky.
Konetzke typically hauls six to 10 cars a day with the road/railer. But he'll never forget the day he hauled 15 rock cars weighing 100 tons apiece.
"That was the biggest payload I've hauled so far. That's an impressive amount for this truck. I operated locomotive cranes in the past, and we maybe had two or three rock cars at a time," he said.
Road/railer operators have to be qualified crane operators, qualified to operate air brakes and hold a Class A commercial driver's license.
"Road/railer operators have got one heck of a lot of responsibility. You're switching cars, and you're required to follow the same rules as the trains," McCall said.
The road/railers have a horn on the steering wheel like automobiles have, an air horn like trucks and a train air horn. The road/railer has a reversing transmission so it can travel backward just as fast as forward. It's equipped with a nine-speed standard transmission. Although it's not automatic, it doesn't have a clutch. A computer does the shifting. It's also equipped with air brakes for the rolling stock.
Hanson and Konetzke each work with a ground man who take turns operating the truck.
Hanson's second operator is Dave Picotte of Alexandria. Konetzke got a new second in August. He is David Johnson of Hartford, Wis.
BMWE member Dave Picotte, left, of Alexandria, Minnesota and Hanson watch as a production tamper is driven up a ramp onto a flatcar in August in suburban Minneapolis. Picotte then attached the road railer to the flatcars loaded with other rail and tie gang equipment so Hanson could drive them down Canadian Pacific's tracks to the next day's work site.
"He'll tie in air on the cars, throw switches and protect my rear movements. He's the flagman. They're my eyeballs on the back end," Konetzke said.
After 20 years on the track as a locomotive crane operator, Konetzke said he adjusted easily to his new job.
"It's nice being on new equipment. And it sure is nice being appreciated by my supervisors. They're a good bunch to be working for," he said.
CPR provides rail and intermodal freight transportation services coast to coast over a 14,440-mile network extending from Montreal to Vancouver and throughout the U.S. Midwest and Northeast. Commercial alliances with other carriers extend CPR's market reach beyond its own network. Serving ports on the coasts of Canada and U.S., and the Port of Vancouver, CPR links North America with European and Pacific Rim markets, moving large volumes of import and export goods across the continent. It is also a leading carrier in the intermodal industry with 24 terminals across Canada and northern U.S.
BMWE President Mac A. Fleming, right, with friend of labor James Oberstar (D-MN) at a reception in August. Oberstar, the Ranking Minority Member on the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee would have become chairman next session if the Democrats had been able to take control of the House from the Republicans in the November elections.
August 7 — Sesame Street Section Houses Revisited
In the November/December 1999 BMWE JOURNAL I wrote a brief article about a visit I had made to a Burlington Northern Santa Fe section house which I called "Sesame Street Section Houses" because of all the colors — bright red, orange, yellow, blue, green — various items therein were painted. These colors were used at the direction of the Slip, Trip and Fall Committee and in the article I questioned the Committee's focus on safety and the relevance of the colors.
Early in January I received a phone call from Jeff Metcalf, a track welder and 23-year member of the BMWE in Local Lodge 2402, who kindly admonished me for "poking fun" at the ST&F Committee and quickly set me straight on the ST&F Committee's emphasis on safety.
Metcalf, 42, from Ft. Madison, Iowa, married and the father of three daughters, lost an eye on the job in 1977 when he was struck in a head on collision. Since then he has been very safety conscious and believes "I am my brother's keeper." That's why he was more than willing to serve on the ST&F Committee.
The ST&F Committee was established on the former Santa Fe Railroad in 1994 and earlier this year was joined with the BN Materials Handling Safety Team because the teams were so often overlapping each other. The joined entity is called WEST for Work Environment Safety Team. WEST's primary goal is "a work environment, including the resources and tools, that is safe and accident free where all known hazards will be eliminated or safe guarded."
WEST is comprised of 30 plus members composed of one-third supervisors and two-thirds craft employees, selected evenly throughout all department areas. Members are approved by their respective organizations. Team members serve for a term of at least three years and each year 1/3 of the members rotate off the team and are replaced by new members in the craft areas they represent. The first rotation of the newly established WEST will be in 2003.
WEST members commit to at least seven days a month for the three-year period. Their responsibilities include: ensuring that safe production is job #1 — if it isn't safe, don't do it; attending regularly scheduled assessments and meetings; be willing to take on special projects for the team concerning related safety issues; and keep up to date on the Work Environment Process Assessment Form.
In addition to Metcalf, there are currently five other BMWE-appointed members on WEST. Joining him from the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Federation is Ray Chavez; from the Burlington System Division are Pete Carlberg (Lodge 1074) and Terry Eck (Lodge 1108); and from the Burlington Northern System Federation are Edward Obregon (Secretary-Treasurer of Lodge 1280) and Bruce J. Sharbono (Lodge 295). Sharbono is also Co-Vice Chairman of WEST.
The purpose of BNSF WEST is to provide a process to recommend actions for addressing and assessing actions taken to address system wide safety concerns.
However, as noted in its charter, WEST will not participate in behavioral assessments, craft/management joint auditing, work practices assessments, or any other issue that would result in any WEST craft member getting in a conflicting position with their respective unions and/or current labor agreements. The only exception would be upon approval of all union leadership and consensus of WEST.
On August 7 I was welcomed to WEST's Illinois Division Debriefing in Galesburg, Illinois. Beginning with a safety briefing, the meeting included presentations on WEST history and past accomplishments and from eight sub-teams on the results, findings and possible solutions to the Illinois Division assessment. The highlight of the briefing was slides depicting winners of the "Award of Excellence" (the "Good Housekeeping Award" under ST&F).
BNSF August 7 WEST debriefing in Galesburg, Illinois.
A score of 90% or higher is the standard for the WEST Award of Excellence for facilities and vehicles. Samples of the numerous items scored on an assessment are: are all areas clean, organized and in a sanitary condition; is there adequate lighting and protective covers and shields in place; are all wires and cords properly secured in place; are hazards marked and/or illuminated for visibility; are flammable cabinets provided and used properly; is the proper collection and disposal of used material being provided; are there unobstructed pathways.
And that brings us to the relevance of the colors. After the following was explained to me, I understood the importance of the color code for marking physical hazards.
Yellow - The basic color for designating caution and for marking physical hazards such as striking against, stumbling, falling, tripping, and "caught in between."
Green - The basic color for designating safety and the location of first aid equipment(other than fire fighting equipment).
Red - The basic color for fire protection equipment & apparatus; danger such as safety cans or other portable containers of flammable liquids having a flash point at or below 80 F.; stop such as buttons or electrical switches used for emergency stopping of machinery.
Orange - The basic color for designating dangerous parts of machines or energized equipment which may cut, crush, shock, or otherwise injure and to emphasize such hazards when enclosure doors are open or when gear, belt, or other guards around moving equipment are opened or removed, exposing unguarded hazards.
Black/White, Black/Yellow or Yellow are the basic colors for the
designation of traffic and housekeeping markings.
August 14 — America 2000 - The Democratic Convention
A small delegation led by BMWE President Mac A. Fleming attended the Democratic Convention held in Los Angeles, California this year beginning on August 14. A comparison of the 2000 Democratic National Platform: Prosperity, Progress and Peace to the 1996 Platform was made by the AFL-CIO and is reprinted below.
Overall, the 2000 platform has a much more positive tone and more working family-friendly policies than the 1996 Platform, reflecting the more progressive policies of Vice President Al Gore.
Organizing. The 2000 platform acknowledges the critical role played by unions in improving living standards for working families and states that "workers' freedom to choose a voice at work is a fundamental American right that must never be threatened, never be obstructed, never be taken away." It also calls for specific labor law reforms to protect this right. While the 1996 platform enumerated some important union issues (e.g., support for measures to ban the use of economic striker replacement workers), it did not include a strongly worded endorsement of the right to organize.
Trade. The 2000 platform is considerably more forceful in its call for the incorporation of labor, human rights and environmental standards into all trade agreements. Unlike the 1996 platform, the 2000 platform mentions the importance of protecting against import surges that threaten our workers and communities. The 2000 platform also includes a discussion of international institutions, with a call for those institutions to consider labor, human rights and environmental standards in their activities, and opposes opening the border to cross-border trucking and bus operations until appropriate safety and worker protection standards are in place.
Immigration. The 2000 platform reflects a significant improvement in tone and substance over the 1996 platform. The 2000 platform recognizes the failure of current immigration laws and enforcement policies and the need for stiff penalties for employers that exploit workers' immigration status. It also supports linking H-1B visa increases to genuine labor shortages, strong worker protections and increases in fees to support worker training, rejects expansion of exploitative H-2A guest worker programs, and supports adjusting the status of immigrants with deep roots in this country. The 1996 document, by contrast, emphasized Democrats' efforts to stop illegal immigration and did not recognize the failure of current policies.
Education. The 2000 platform reflects a greater focus on education issues than in 1996, though it generally hits on the same core themes (education is critical to America's future; strengthen public schools by expanding teacher training and imposing new student achievement standards; don't divert tax dollars away from public to private schools; safe, healthy students and schools; bring technology to the classroom). This year's platform does more to address teacher training issues, rejects block grants without accountability and includes a call for smaller classes and ambitious school modernization.
Health Care. The 2000 platform more explicitly promotes increasing health care coverage and endorses specific policies designed to address that issue. It also calls for expanding Medicare to include a prescription drug benefit and enacting new patient protections.
Social Security. Unlike the 1996 platform, the 2000 platform squarely rejects privatization and raising the retirement age and has a greater focus on protecting and strengthening Social Security. The platform contains a new call for providing low- and middle-income workers with additional retirement resources through supplemental retirement savings accounts funded, in part, with progressive government matching contributions.
Low Wage Workers. The 2000 platform includes important new language recognizing the value of work done by those who labor in jobs that pay low wages and may not require significant education or skills. While the 1996 platform addresses issues important to low wage workers, the language is not nearly as strong.
August 20 — For The Children
by April Mang
How the Midwest Was Won
They came from as far as the California coast, carrying their gym bags, stretching on the sidelines, wearing that "I'm not here for funny business" look on their faces. They were here to break a record—to get their names published as the official fastest in the world. This was not the Olympics. The sport is not that well known yet. This was the "For The Children Handcar Races" and they were here to win.
It was Sunday, August 20, 2000. We had tested the timer the weekend before at our McHenry, Illinois location in Petersen Park. We did not anticipate the 60 teams that showed up to register, but we were ready! The track was 984 feet, the standard distance for handcar racing, as set forth in the Guinness Book of World Records. The current record was held in England and we wanted this to be the day it was beaten.
In the past, this race had been held only to raise money for children's hospitals. Somewhere along the line we all got the competitive spirit. The teams were here to support the children, but more than that, they wanted to win! Here is how it worked. A five person team, made of four pumpers and a pusher, would race the 300 meters in their category. The two fastest teams from each category raced again in the finals. The times of the two races were combined to reach an average for overall time.
The results? Well they came in many forms! As for the size of the event, I have never heard of having more than 40-some teams in an event. Our 60 teams blew that out of the water! With around 5,000 people in attendance throughout the day, it took nine hours to finish the heats.
"The Dark Horse Express," a team from northern California, had the fastest single run of the day at 38.54 seconds for the 300 meter haul; Union Pacific Railroad's own Chicago-based "Steel Horsemen" took the overall top combined time for the third year in a row, racing an average time of 38.63 in all races. So the world record eluded us—for now. We have been told it was beaten at a hometown race in Boulder, Nevada earlier this year, so we have more to shoot for in the future!
Five women's teams also raced—the fastest time coming less than four seconds away from the men. WATCH OUT, we're on your tail! Next year we will close the gap.
The $29,000 raised brought donations to Children's Hospitals to over $107,000 since 1995. That's not all! Aside from the purchase of equipment, two new events were proposed to help the community. Colorado will host a race to benefit children, and there will be a race in northern California to benefit their railroad museum. We are proud of this growth and hope it will continue!
Other ways that the event was a success: Over 800 attendees participated in the drunk driving simulation hosted by the Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists. While the blood drive was canceled due to an equipment failure, demonstrations were done by DARE, Operation Lifesaver, and many others. The vendor and safety fair tents were full for the afternoon, and the barbeque sold out by the end of the lunch hour.
Next year's For The Children races will again be held in August. Information is available on our website, www.handcar.com, or if you prefer to talk to a person, call coordinator Gary Mang at (847) 623-6155. We are always looking for sponsors and participants! And event hats and shirts are still available.
Despite the fact that the handcar is heavy and hard to come by, handcar racing is increasing in popularity, both in and outside of railroad circles. An official handcar race has been dated back to 1949, at the Chicago Rail Fair, where a five man team from the Penn Central Railroad won the event.
Over the last 10 years handcar racing has started to make a come back. There is a growing group of BMWE members who would like to keep this tradition and history alive and well. They have gotten their friends and family members to become regular participants! This competition is a grand discovery for new race enthusiasts who thought the local "do" was the only competition! There are over 15 races a year. You can locate the nearest race near you at www.handcar.com.
A few traveling Union Pacific Railroad employees have done quite well at these events during the past year! Gary and I have been among those who attend as many races as possible. It's very exciting as well as addicting! Gary's team won the silver medal in May when he traveled to Folsom, California for their Handcar Derby.
April & Gary Mang
My first "away" race was the "World Championship Handcar Race" in Port Moody, Canada last July. Maybe it was just luck, or maybe it was all the basement weight lifting, or the exercise chasing our twins around, but whatever I did, we came home heavy; loaded down with medals! As a mixed team that consisted of two women and two men pumpers, we won gold. This race was the most gratifying to me, since Gary and I were racing as a couple.
Gary also won the gold medal with his men's team, and I won silver in the ladies division. Chicago's Steel Horsemen, another Union Pacific Railroad team, won fastest railroad team in Canada. This was the first time for an American railroad team to win this division. For the last 20 years the railroad division was dominated by Canadian Pacific Railroad BMWE racers. The locals vowed to come to Chicago for vindication at the 2001 FTC handcar Races.
As we were exhausted, and on a winning high, we planned our next race. Our designation was Boone, Iowa for their Pufferbilly Railroad Days. At this competition we were again successful, taking home first place plaques in the men's and coed divisions.
In September we went to Nevada. The competition was tough. Gary and I were on a coed team that did not place. On my all women's team we took a gold medal, and Gary's men's team from Chicago took silver medals in the heavy weight division.
My first year of being introduced to competing in railroad handcar racing was a good year. I am planning now to compete as much as possible in the years to come. I believe that anyone can do this if I can. It takes some amount of cardio, but team synchronization is the most important thing. Realize that anyone can race. We have competitors of all ages. At the Nevada races in September there was a team of women who had to be in their seventies! This was a great sight to see. But what else can I expect from this family event.
Handcar racing is growing and hopefully in the near future it will be an Olympic Sport. As of right now there are five countries that host handcar races. It takes seven countries to qualify to be under consideration for the Olympics. I hope that this article encourages you to be a part of this great railroad tradition and get involved with the local handcar race near you.
Next year I would like to compete in either Alaska or Australia, airline miles permitting! Maybe I'll see you at the Races.
On September 26 President Fleming wrote a letter to the National Mediation Board requesting a meeting with the full NMB for the purpose of answering questions by Board members as to why a proffer of arbitration should not be immediately given. Fleming noted that it had been more then two months since the BMWE had met with the NMB and presented a case that further negotiations between the NCCC and BMWE would be fruitless and requested a proffer of arbitration. At that meeting, the BMWE raised its strong concern that protracting deadlocked negotiations only assists the railroads by placing unions in the untenable position of having to cut a deal which provides less for their members if they have any hope of an expeditious resolution of a bargaining round.
After over two years of intense struggle, the BMWE's battle for an earlier retirement was virtually lost on September 7 when the House of Representatives passed HR 4844 by a vote of 391 to 25 with 19 not voting. On September 8, as over 50 BMWE officers and state legislative directors prepared to gather in Washington, DC to make a last ditch effort to try to stop the bill from passing the Senate, the BMWE and BLE were contacted by Robert Allen on behalf of the carriers. Allen made it clear that if the BMWE and BLE did not support the legislation in the Senate, the railroads would not provide the health insurance included in the deal made a year ago with the other unions. Health insurance is not part of the legislation. Joel Myron, Director of Strategic Coordination and Research, advised Allen that while the BMWE simply could not support the legislation, the BMWE would withdraw its opposition in return for receiving the health insurance. On September 12, BMWE withdrew its opposition to the legislation after receiving a letter from Allen as the carriers' representative, guaranteeing the health insurance to BMWE members if the bill becomes law.
September 1, 1949 — Forty-Hour Week Established in the U.S.
September 4 — Labor Day
Joining Vice President Al Gore in Pittsburgh, AFL-CIO President John Sweeney celebrated Labor Day with 10,000 union members and their families. "We will win and Al Gore will win because we share the belief that no worker should lack the kind of pay and benefits it takes to feed and house and love a family," Sweeney said at a Point State Park rally. Secretary-Treasurer Richard Trumka and Executive Vice President Linda Chavez-Thompson headlined events in Portland, Ore., and Syracuse, N.Y., respectively. UAW President Stephen Yokich joined Gore running mate Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-CT) at a Detroit rally, while AFSCME President Gerald McEntee was in Chicago with Tipper Gore and Hadassah Lieberman. Electing leaders who will support working families by advocating the right to a voice on the job, health care, education, Social Security and Medicare was on the top of the Labor Day agenda. In Los Angeles, activists enjoyed the annual parade and then fanned out into the neighborhood, going door to door to whip up support for the local congressional candidate. The Conconino and Navajo Counties Central Labor Body in Arizona hosted its first Labor Day parade. In Charlotte, N.C., a Labor Day parade was coupled with the release of a report by the Common Sense Foundation on the state of working families in North Carolina, advocating the repeal of anti-union laws to help workers benefit from the economic boom. Meanwhile, at more than 650 religious services around the country, union advocates discussed turning faith into action as part of the fourth annual Labor in the Pulpits program, a joint project of the AFL-CIO and the National Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice. And thousands celebrated a "virtual" Labor Day by pointing their Web browsers to workingfamilies.com for the AFL-CIO's first-ever Online Labor Day Festival.
First Online Labor Day Festival
A typical Labor Day — a parade, bands, speeches, games. But this year there was no threat of sunburn and it couldn't be rained out. But you did have to bring your own hot dog.
In addition to Labor Day festivities in hometowns across America, this year union members also celebrated in cyberspace — with the world's first nationwide Online Labor Day Festival.
From noon August 30 through September 6 the one-week celebration of America's workers was housed on the first Internet community created especially for working men and women — www.workingfamilies.com. The BMWE is one of the 23 unions representing more than ten million members who have joined the new Internet community since it opened its doors in February.
The virtual festival served as a two-way informational highway, giving the general public a chance to learn about how unions improve people's lives while also helping to make the web work for working people.
Festival-goers found an online parade, a voter registration booth, a mailbox to elected leaders, audio greetings from union leaders and superstar union members, arcade games such as "Smash Corporate Greed," a labor and faith gathering, an online bazaar with union-made goods, a music tent and much more.
September 16 — UTU Members Strike Los Angeles MTA
At 12:01 a.m. Saturday, September 16, some 4,400 members of the United Transportation Union walked out on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority in Los Angeles, California. The MTA operates the nation's second-largest bus system with about 2,000 buses on 200 routes as well as 59 miles of subway and light rail lines.
Contracts between the MTA and UTU, the Amalgamated Transit Union and the Transportation Communications Union expired June 30. Talks broke off Friday night, September 15, two hours before the midnight deadline.
An MTA proposal to cut overtime costs by 15% was one of the critical issues. The MTA wanted at least 400 of its 4,400 drivers to accept new four-day workweeks in which they would be on duty at least 12 hours, but be paid for only 10 hours a day. The other two hours would be preparation or break time. No overtime would be paid until after 12 hours.
While the MTA offered a wage increase of 8.1% over three years, union officials said the 15% reduction in overtime could cost operators far more than they would make from the wage boost.
The highest-paid operators make $20.72 an hour or about $43,000 a year. Many drivers, however, earn $10 to $11 an hour.
On the first day of the strike, pickets were successful in preventing the MTA from using private contractors to operate emergency bus service because drivers for the private companies, represented by the Teamsters union, refused to cross the UTU picket lines.
Although 450,000 bus and rail riders scrambled to find transportation on Monday, the first work day after the strike began, representatives of the Bus Riders Union, an advocacy group for public transportation users, sided with the strikers even though its members were among those most hurt by the strike.
Ted Robertson, an organizer with the group, wants the MTA to increase bus service overall but opposes cost-saving measures made at the expense of drivers. Like many members in the Bus Riders Union, Robertson wants the MTA to cut back on its rail projects and use that money to meet the drivers' demands and increase the number of bus routes.
BMWE President Mac A. Fleming made the following statement in a press release shortly after the strike began: "the courageous struggle being fought by UTU-represented transit workers in Los Angeles has the full and unqualified backing of the BMWE. We are extremely disappointed that the LA Metropolitan Transit Authority and the Mayor of Los Angeles have forced this strike, holding the people of LA in general and the poor of LA in particular, hostage while trying to shortchange the organized work force and break their union. Any assistance we can provide the strikers will be provided."
BMWE District Chairman Alberto Jimenez, Lodge 875, Pacific Federation, with Dr. Gloria Romero, California State Majority Whip and Assemblymember from the 49th District at a transit worker solidarity demonstration on September 29 at City Hall in downtown Los Angeles.
After eight days of the crippling strike, the MTA and union officials agreed to resume talks under a news blackout. These talks collapsed on September 26. Further talks started and stopped again as powerful state officials, included Governor Gray Davis, made proposals for settlement.
On Friday, October 13, Rev. Jesse Jackson intervened. Jackson set a Monday, October 16 deadline for resolving the 30-day-old strike and pressed both sides to negotiate around the clock.
Buses rolled for the first time in 4-1/2 weeks on Wednesday, October 18 as drivers went to back to work following the ratification of a new contract late Tuesday which provided raises of 9.3 percent over three years.
Drivers returned to work with mixed feelings, reported an LA newspaper. Leonard Jefferson, a bus driver for 19 years, said the new contract isn't good enough for all drivers. He wasn't surprised, however, that union members went along. "They didn't vote to accept the contract," said Jefferson. "They voted to get back to work and try to catch up on their bills."
September 25 — BMWE Member's Son Competes in 2000 Olympics
"Mom, see those big guys, one day I'm going to dive with them," 8-year-old Jeff Liberty told his mother as they were sitting in the stands at the Pan-Am Diving Club in Winnipeg, Manitoba one day in 1986. Fourteen years later Jeff has made himself an Olympian.
Jeff is the youngest child of Ron and Jo Anne Liberty who have been married since 1971. His older brother David is 24 and has three children and his sister Dawn is 28 and has two daughters. Jeff also has two half-sisters, Claudette and Cindy.
Ron Liberty started working for the Ontario Northland Railway on January 28, 1969 as a B&B laborer. Because he wanted to see that laborers were treated fairly and that positions were properly filled, Ron ran for the office of Lodge 2697 Local Chairman in 1974 and won. In 1976 he was elected as a Joint Protective Board Member for the Western System Federation, a position he held until his election to the System Executive Board in 1980. In 1983 Ron was elected as System Secretary-Treasurer and General Chairman and in 1995 as System Federation General Chairman, the position he currently holds.
In Jeff's Olympic profile, he named his father as his most admired person because "he has always had good advice for me." He named both his father and brother as his most influential person because "they have always been there for me."
Jeff was always very adventurous and Ron and Jo Anne knew early on they had to harness him somewhat. For example, when he was not quite two, Jeff banged his crib across his bedroom floor to the window and climbed out to play on the roof. Luckily a neighbor saw him and called Jo Anne before anything worse than scaring his mother happened. At three Jeff liked to play Evil Knievel and ride his bike down the stairs.
The Libertys involved Jeff in sports early in order to use up some of his abundant energy. That's why they were surprised one day when he was in the first grade when they were called to school by his teacher who advised she was concerned about his poor motor skills and short attention span.
Indirectly Jeff's brother David is responsible for his early interest in diving. David played hockey and it was the practice for the team members and their parents to go to the pool often after practice and at other times. Naturally, Jeff always went along but he had to stay in the Tiny Tots end of the pool because he couldn't swim the required two lengths to permit him in the deep end. One day Jeff noticed a sign that said "join the diving club" and persuaded his mother to let him join so that he was able to swim in the deep end.
Shortly after joining, diving coach Jim Lambie noticed him and asked Ron and Jo Anne if they would let him join a pre-competitive group. After receiving answers to many questions, they agreed. And it wasn't long before Jeff was transferred to the competitive group.
"Jeff had to work hard and he got a little discouraged at the beginning after a teammate with natural talent kept beating him," says Ron, "but I told him to keep working hard and some day you'll end up on top." Eventually Jeff did beat him and while he went on to the Olympics the other boy dropped out of the sport. That was due in large part to "Jeff's dedication and desire," says Jo Anne.
After the family moved to Edmonton in 1990, Jeff joined the Edmonton Springboard and Platform Diving Club under coach David Flewelling. About a year later, Jeff transferred to the Kinsmen Diving Club where he trained under coach Porferio, a Mexican diving champion.
In 1994 Jeff was recruited by Trevor Palmatier of the Vancouver Acquatic Center and during his two years under Palmatier's coaching, Jeff established himself nationally. It wasn't easy however, to let Jeff go to live with Ron's sister Karen and her husband Todd Wilson. "I cried almost all the way home from Vancouver," says Jo Anne. "He was only 15 and he was our baby!"
When Palmatier moved to Victoria, the Libertys decided to send Jeff to Calgary instead so he could stay with Jo Anne's brother Peter and his wife Joanne Ryan and train under world champion and Olympian Hui Tong, originally from China. Later Jeff went to live with Jo Anne's sister Marion Dufresne and her youngest son T.J. 19, still in Calgary.
"I don't know if we could have done it without the great extended family support," say the Libertys, who entirely funded Jeff's training through the years. Jo Anne's salary as a receptionist entirely went into funding and Jeff worked part-time for spending money. He is currently working as a cook and "just loves it" says his mother. "But when you train six hours a day, six days a week, it's hard to hold a job." Ron adds, "Canada's athletes are vastly underfunded compared to other countries of similar size and stature. Canada spends about $63 to $68 million compared to Australia's $275 million."
In Canada, officials take percentages yearly from two international meets, and the top 12, male or female, holding the highest percentages are "carded," which means they are on the national team and entitled to a government subsidy which runs for 12 months, from October through September. Others than the top 12 on the national team are not funded.
Under Tong's coaching, Jeff has obtained international status as one of Canada's top male divers. He very narrowly missed qualifying as an 18-year-old for the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta and at the Pan American Games in 1999 in Winnipeg, he placed fourth in the Men's 3m Springboard. Also in 1999, he was first in the Summer Senior Nationals in Edmonton in the Men's 10m Platform and the Men's 1m Springboard.
It is a very complicated process to be able to compete in the Olympics. The first requirement, however, is that someone from Canada must obtain Olympic standards in meets which qualify to have Olympic qualifying trials to be held. In 1996 no one met those standards from Canada.
Jeff and several others did meet those standards this time and Olympic trials were held in Montreal on June 11, 2000. Jeff started in first place and stayed there through his 17 dives in his event, the 3m Springboard, claiming one of the two spots allotted to each country for this event.
And then a short three months (or long 14 years depending on how you look at it) later it was off to "the big one" in Sydney, Australia — the 2000 Olympics — where on September 25 Jeff placed 19th out of 50 divers, just missing the cut to 18 divers.
"We were extremely pleased with his performance," said Jo Anne. "These were the best of the best and 10 divers out of 50 were all within three points. When you're sitting at the Olympics and your son walks out in a Canadian uniform, well, I can't describe it, but both Ron and I had tears in our eyes. It was all worth it. And I can't help it, I kind of want to pick up the phone and call his old school and say, "there, how about that for motor skills and focus!"
Dead Man's Crossing
Laura Baenen, Communications Representative for the Canadian Pacific Railway, interviewed and took the photo of Eddie Oeftger and his nephew Don Labrenz on September 25. Both are members of Local Lodge 2643, CMSTP&P System Federation. Oeftger retired in 1974 and is an honored Life Member of the BMWE with 61 years of membership and Labrenz is a 34-year member. Calgary-based Canadian Pacific acquired the Soo Line Railroad, located in Minneapolis, in 1990. Soo Line bought the Milwaukee Road in 1985.
Hard of hearing, retired section crewman Edward Oeftger strains to hear a visitor's questions about Dead Man's Crossing on Canadian Pacific Railway's track between Portage and Wisconsin Dells. The old section hand, though, remembers the sound of the lonesome whistle made by about 22 freight trains and two Amtrak passenger trains a day as they pass an unknown man's grave.
"Two longs, a short and a long," said the 87-year-old Oeftger, with a faraway look in his pale blue eyes as he retells the story told to him by his father, a Milwaukee Road section foreman for 49 years. "I was probably about 10 years old or so when I heard Pa talk about it," said Oeftger, who helped maintain the grave site near his central Wisconsin home during his 40 years with the railroad.
He doesn't know how long the grave has been there but thinks it could be as old as 100 years. Oeftger said his father, Gust Oeftger, was off the day that two farm girls bringing cows in from a pasture found a man's body on a hill up from the crossing. A section crew buried the man at the crossing and planted two oak trees on the grave. A white wooden fence was erected around the grave and the twin oaks, which still stand. Over the years, track workers painted and rebuilt the fence, mowed the grass around it and picked up broken tree limbs.
"I remember when the roadmaster was there one time, and he (Gust) said, ‘Goldang it. I'm getting tired of buying paint to paint the fence.' And the roadmaster said, ‘I'll send you some.'"
Many of the old track workers who tended the grave are gone. Donna Labrenz of Wisconsin Dells, whose husband is retired track worker Herman Labrenz, organized the local Kiwanis Club to paint the fence last year. Herman's son, Don Labrenz, is a section foreman for Canadian Pacific Railway; Oeftger is his uncle.
Oeftger said workers believe the dead man was from the Rio area east of Portage and walked west along the tracks to the spot where he died. "They found evidence there that he had taken poison," he said, adding that no one knew what led the man to take his life.
People gossiped that the man's family wouldn't claim his body due to some shame he had brought upon them, Oeftger said. Others claimed that railroad workers hadn't buried a man at all in the grave, but instead had buried a horse standing up.
"There wasn't a damn bit of truth in it," said Oeftger, after uttering a barnyard epithet.
A history of the Milwaukee Road by August Derleth contains an introduction by writer Stephen Grendon, who calls the place Dead Man's Cut and said it's the grave of a track worker killed during the building of the road in 1858. Another version claims someone was killed at the crossing. But Oeftger maintains that's not true either.
Oeftger thinks the suicide victim was buried at the crossing instead of a cemetery out of necessity because he had been dead for some time before he was found. Superstition and outdated religious customs, though, could also explain the trackside burial.
"In western folklore...crossroads are an otherworldly place. If you want to call up the devil at midnight, you do it at a crossroad," said librarian Moira Smith, who is in charge of the folklore collection at Indiana University. "When it comes to suicides, you couldn't bury a suicide traditionally in hallowed ground because they had died in sin."
Whichever, engineers still blow two longs, a short and a long whistle as they pass the lonesome spot near where a county road crosses the track just east of milepost 184 in the Tomah subdivision. To this day, though, "it's colloquially known as Dead Man's Crossing," said Steve Moerke, the Portage road manager.
Writer Stephen Grendon, in his introduction to August Derleth's history of the Milwaukee Road, said Dead Man's Cut on the railroad's line near Portage, Wis., was the subject of Alfred Burrett's poem, "The Grave of a Section Hand:"
They laid him away on the brow of the hill,
For many a year he had paced the beat;
September 29 & 30 — Secretary-Treasurer Seminar, Spokane, Washington
"This is a photograph that was taken at a joint meeting of Allied Eastern Federation Local Lodge 562 and Seaboard Federation Local 593 on September 30," writes Haywood Proctor Jr., South Carolina State Legislative Director. "This was a special Political Meeting held to encourage our members to get-out-the-vote on November 7. Our special guest was Congressman Jim Clyburn, a Democrat from the Sixth District and a friend to the BMWE throughout his service in Washington. His expression of appreciation for the local BMWE's involvement in his campaign and his presence at the meeting was a great encouragement to the over 50 BMWE members and their families in attendance." Congressman Clyburn is standing with from left to right, Lodge 562 members Harry Campbell, Secretary- Treasurer, Larry Alexander, Vice President, B. D. Moses, President, and James Tart, President Emeritus.