|ONLINE VERSION||APRIL 2001|
|NEWS IN BRIEF
Endorses Railroad Retirement "Reform"
Put Amtrak on a "Glidepath" to Long Term Success Says TTD
Boyd Succeeds Little As UTU President
Hazardous Substances Railway Accidents More Harmful
May 12, 2001 Food Drive
Support the Teamsters' Strike at Union Pacific's Overnite Trucking Co.
Detroit Newspaper Boycott Ends
That's a Lott of ...
Count Every Person
TTD Endorses Railroad Retirement "Reform"
The 32-member Executive Committee of the AFL-CIO's Transportation Trades Department, which includes BMWE President Mac A. Fleming, meeting in Los Angeles the week of February 12 endorsed (with BMWE abstaining from the vote) railroad retirement "reform legislation (HR 180) pending in Congress and urged action this year." Scheduled for March 15 (after this JOURNAL goes to print) is the second "Railroad Day on the Hill," being held in conjunction with rail labor, the Association of American Railroads, the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association, and the Railway Progress Institute reported Railway Progress News in February. Members of these organizations will take part in small group meetings with key members of Congress, where, in addition to railroad retirement reform, they will address "such important legislative issues" as short line infrastructure funding, rail reregulation and Amtrak funding.
At the same meeting in LA, the TTD Executive Committee voted unanimously to urge Congress to fully fund Amtrak at its authorized level for Fiscal Year 2002 and to reverse course on the "glidepath" to fiscal self-sufficiency pushed by those who are out to dismantle America's national passenger railroad.
"Congress and the President should reject this misguided budget goal," the Executive Committee declared, "and instead reach consensus on a long term Amtrak financing plan that incorporates a serious capital and operating plan and ensures that Amtrak can continue to introduce new, modern high speed service."
Since its inception, Amtrak has fulfilled an important passenger service need as a vital part of the nation's multi-modal national transportation network. But our national passenger rail system is in a precarious fiscal state. The funds from the 1997 short-term Amtrak relief legislation enacted by Congress have run their course and Amtrak is now on a collision course with a statutory glidepath to operational self-sufficiency. The Amtrak Reform Council, a congressionally created body, is not only pursuing radical privatization proposals that would surely lead to Amtrak's demise, but moreover, the ARC has exposed its anti-Amtrak motives by seeking an acceleration of Amtrak's budgetary self-sufficiency "glidepath" to the date Dec. 2, 2002.
"While we reject this unrealistic budget glidepath, clearly an accurate reading of current law concludes that the first full fiscal year that Amtrak must be operationally self-sufficient is 2004," explained TTD President Sonny Hall.
"The 2000 Republican and Democratic Party Platforms may not have agreed on much, but they both emphatically stated that our national passenger railroad is critical to America's economic future," said Hall. "With Amtrak clearly at a crossroads, now is the time to find a sustainable funding mechanism to fulfill this bipartisan vision for America's national passenger rail service."
The TTD resolution also pledged transportation labor's continued effort to "combat the majority at the ARC that continues to peddle ill-advised proposals to privatize and break up Amtrak and ultimately dismantle our national passenger rail carrier."
On February 6, the United Transportation Union announced that Byron A. Boyd, Jr. had succeeded Charles L. Little as international president in the wake of Little's "unexpected resignation and retirement." Little, who was succeeded by Assistant President Boyd under a provision of the UTU Constitution, attributed his decision to resign and retire to health considerations. Boyd, 54, began his railroading career in 1964 as a brakeman for the Union Pacific, was transferred to engine service in 1968 and was promoted to locomotive engineer in 1971. He was first elected as UTU vice president in 1983 and in 1995 was elected as assistant president.
Accidents that occur while transporting hazardous substances by railroads are more harmful to the health of the general public than hazardous materials accidents from other modes of transport and from fixed facilities, according to a recent study by federal officials said the Bureau of National Affairs on February 21.
The study found that railroad hazardous substance emergency "events" in a five-year time period occurred most often in or near areas that are more densely populated and more often at times when residents are more likely to be home than non-railroad events. In addition, the rail accidents were found more likely to affect the general public than employees of the railroad or emergency response personnel. Officials from the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry conducted the study.
The study used data from the Hazardous Substances Emergency Events Surveillance, which is maintained by ATSDR. The database contains information on hazardous substance releases and threatened releases. States collect the data on releases and submit it to ATSDR on a quarterly basis.
The report covers HSEES data for the 1993 to 1998 time period from 14 states: Alabama, Colorado, Iowa, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin.
In that time period, 30,346 hazardous substance emergency events were reported to the HSEES system. Of these events, about 20 percent were transportation related. The largest percentage of railroad events during the time period studied, 35.5 percent, occurred in Texas, while New Hampshire and Rhode Island reported no railroad events, the study found.
While the percentage of events from rail transport was small, the number of such events rose during the period. There were 84 rail events in 1993, but 177 in 1998, the study found.
"Although a statistically rare occurrence, the effects on public health from the release of hazardous substances during rail transportation are potentially catastrophic," the study found.
According to the study, at least one residence was within a quarter mile of 45.9 percent of the railroad events, compared to 37.1 percent of "non-railroad" events, the study said.
In addition, 49.4 percent of railroad events occurred on week nights between 6 PM and 6 AM or on weekends. For non-railroad events, the percentage occurring between these hours was 41.7 percent.
The data also showed that railroad events are more likely to affect the general public. The study found that of all victims in railroad events, 40.8 percent were members of the public, while 40.2 percent were employees of the railroad responsible for the event and 19 percent were emergency response personnel.
The study, "Public Health Risks of Railroad Hazardous Substance Emergency Events," was published in the February issue of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, a publication of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.
Representatives from the Railway Workers Hazardous Materials Training Program in Pinehurst, NC and the National Clearinghouse for Worker Safety & Health Training in Bethesda, MD also participated in the study.
The National Association of Letter Carriers will hold their 9th Annual National Food Drive on Saturday, May 12, 2001. The NALC Food Drive has become the largest single volunteer event in America each year. Millions of Americans leave non-perishable food items near their mailbox on the second Saturday in May for pickup by their letter carrier. Last year, the one-day drive raised 64.2 million pounds of food for local food banks and pantries that feed the hungry. The NALC Food Drive works in partnership with the AFL-CIO, the U.S. Postal Service and United Way. Please support the NALC Food Drive on May 12.
When workers at Overnite, the trucking subsidiary of Union Pacific,
began organizing for Teamster representation, the company responded
with one of the worst anti-union, anti-worker campaigns of our
On Dec. 20, 2000, after ratifying contracts with the Detroit News and Detroit Free Press, the six unions that comprise the Metropolitan Council of Newspaper Unions called off the boycott that began July 13, 1995, when workers were forced to strike against the dailies. The Council thanked "the hundreds of thousands of people who boycotted the newspapers as well as provided economic and moral support for the 2,500 members of our six union locals. Labor unions, businesses, religious organizations and numerous other groups rallied to our cause and showed true solidarity with us, as did many individuals who, at great personal sacrifice, refused to grant interviews to the paper. Your support allowed us to continue functioning as labor unions while publishing the Detroit Sunday Journal for four years, operating a food bank and prescription drug program for our members in need. Because of your steadfast solidarity, we have survived this terrible ordeal and have obtained new collective bargaining agreements with the Detroit papers. Now, we must focus on rebuilding our locals and providing our members with as much support as possible."
Apparently U.S. Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS) thinks the men and women who safely pilot planeloads of passengers through clear, turbulent or stormy skies are vastly overpaid. At a Feb. 13 hearing on airline industry problems, Lott said, "I think labor is a large part of the problem ... What do they make? Look at those salaries." While some captains do earn better than $100,000 a year (after years of experience) according to the Air Line Pilots website — www.alpa.org — starting salaries run between $25,000 and $28,000 a year. Required training and licenses for pilots (after the cost of four years of college) amount to about $30,000. Lott earns a $141,300-a-year Senate salary. Who provides the most value?
Increasing numbers of teachers, nurses, information technology technicians, writers and even physicians are joining and transforming unions to fit a new era, just as highly skilled workers did at the beginning of the last century, says a new AFL-CIO Department for Professional Employees report, The Professional and Technical Work Force: A New Frontier for Unions. The 99-page report challenges the notion that unions are unwilling or incapable of attracting highly skilled white-collar workers. For more information or to obtain a copy, call Paula McKenzie, 202-638-0320, Ext. 3.
In keeping with the "fuzzy math" that handed Bush the presidency, the administration is edging toward having the 2000 census undercount immigrants, people of color and low-income people. The city of Los Angeles filed suit Feb. 21 challenging the president's decision to let Commerce Secretary Don Evans, a political appointee and former Bush campaign manager, determine whether to use statistical sampling to correct errors in the head count, instead of leaving the decision to the professional director of the U.S. Census Bureau. Reports released at the end of February by the Census Monitoring Board showed that the 1990 census undercount missed as many as two million children (potentially affecting child poverty funding levels), missed 400,000 Americans who had no health insurance, left 500,000 commuters out of transportation planning and cost cities and American Indian reservations federal funds.
Global economic policies, driven by corporate greed, are not working for the world's workers. The programs promoted and sometimes imposed by the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organization have created a bonanza for Big Business — but have left workers behind. As development increases, workers have seen their incomes dwindle or remain stagnant. At the same time, the number of people living in abject poverty has risen over the past decade, and so has the percentage of unemployed in almost every region. The rate of growth in most developing countries has slowed, if not stopped.