|ONLINE VERSION||NOVEMBER / DECEMBER 2001|
|Latino Railroad Pioneer
The city of Beaumont, California celebrated the history of the railroad and honored the Latino pioneers of the Southern Pacific Railroad in a dedication ceremony for Luis Estrada Road on July 19, 2001.
When Luis Estrada’s grandson, Leslie Rios, heard that the city was considering a new name for Fifth Place because of confusion on where it meets Fourth Street, he suggested his grandfather’s name to help preserve the rich rail history of the area and recognize the Latino workers who kept the trains going.
Born in Mexico in 1894, Estrada came to the U.S. in 1912 and the next year got a job working on the tracks with Southern Pacific. In 10 years, he became a crew foreman. He married, settled in Beaumont in 1931, raised 10 children there, and died in 1980.
Rios told the San Bernardino Sun he remembers with affection the colorful stories his grandfather told about working on the railroad. Rail work was difficult, Rios said his grandfather told him, and only the hardiest of souls could tolerate the intense heat and pounding labor.
In the early days before cranes were used, crews of six to 12 men had to lift rails. Early in the 1900s, wooden cargo cars known as campo trains were used to house and transport workers. As many as 12 men lived in the cars, which had bunk beds, wood-burning stoves and kerosene lamps.
Rios said his grandfather told him that during World War II, crews worked around the clock to ensure the safety of the troops, checking tracks for sabotage. Crews patrolled the tracks at night using flashlights to keep them safe and clear of debris.
The railroad built houses for employees’ families near the tracks. That’s where the Estrada family lived for decades. The wooden dwellings, some measuring 10 by 15 feet, had little room for growing families and for many years lacked plumbing. "We had a big tin tub where we used to take a bath. We had to all fit in there," said Soledad Fierro, 73, the eldest daughter of the Estrada family.
In the mid-1940s, Estrada retired and built a home behind company housing on land he purchased in an area where many early workers eventually settled. "A good percentage of descendants still live there," Rios said. Beaumont’s Mexican immigrant trackside barrio is a source of pride and the homes are well-tended. Development and growth has claimed about 30 homes, but a church and 50 dwellings, including a few adobe structures from the 1920s, remain. The original trackside housing was torn down in 1961.
Rios said the renaming of the street for his grandfather is a significant step in acknowledging the importance of the historic barrio, connecting the integral role of the railroad to the many residents who labored to keep the trains moving.
FOR THE CHILDREN
The founders and coordinators of the For The Children handcar fund raiser, Gary Mang and his wife April, sent the following letter to the Friends of FTC after this year’s seventh annual event on August 19 in McHenry, Illinois.
Each year, April and I make it a point to write these thank you letters to you. As usual, we can not express enough thanks. We can tell you that your participation — whether buying a shirt, volunteering, racing or sponsoring this event — made a difference in saving and improving quality of life for a child. With your help we have raised over $138,000 in seven years. This year alone we reached an event record of $31,000.
Despite the rain, wind and cold weather, we had over 50 teams racing. We crowned a new champion handcar team when they reached record breaking time — 300 meters in 36.248 seconds — breaking the old record by two seconds.
Our vendor fair was very active and informational. The booths ranged from the Police Department displaying safety literature to the railroad suppliers showing new innovative equipment. There was a little something for everyone.
We had several pints of blood donated and the best barbecue in the state. We had more than enough food. In fact, we ended up donating extra food and drinks to the Home of the Sparrow. It’s a shelter for battered women and children. We also had a new event added to FTC this year. A motorcycle run. It started in Chicago and ended up at the park for lunch time, raising several hundred dollars to donate.
We do appreciate your continued support and hope you will still be on board for next year’s event. Please spread the news about our event. Invite and bring your family, friends and coworkers next time.
Stay tuned for details on our upcoming events by visiting our website www.handcar.com, or as always, by calling us at 847-623-6155. Next year’s race is scheduled for August 18, 2002. Mark your calendars.
Editor’s Note: Donations can always be made by sending them to For the Children, P.O. Box 562, Lake Villa, Illinois 60046.
BMWE "GO TEAM" Designated by NTSB
BMWE NTSB GO TEAM: Left to right, David Joynt, David Tanner, Rick Inclima, Rick Procise, Randall Brassell.
Five BMWE members attended a National Transportation Safety Board training session on accident investigation at NTSB headquarters in Washington, DC, August 30, 2001. Successful completion of NTSB’s program allows BMWE to be granted "party status" by NTSB and participate in Safety Board investigations. The NTSB expressed a desire to establish a voluntary BMWE "go-team" which can be activated to assist NTSB in investigating major railroad accidents and fatalities.
The National Transportation Safety Board is an independent federal agency with the statutory responsibility to promote transportation safety by conducting independent accident investigations. Each year the Safety Board investigates more than 2,000 aviation accidents and about 500 rail, highway, marine and pipeline accidents. BMWE had been granted party status in several major NTSB investigations in the past and that experience had prompted NTSB to seek to formalize BMWE’s participation and go-team status. This training provided BMWE participants with an understanding of NTSB activities and prepared them as party specialists in railroad accident investigations.
BMWE President Mac A. Fleming sought to have a BMWE representative from each of the four major Class I Railroads trained for go-team status. After consultation with a number of General Chairmen, the following BMWE representatives were designated to participate: Randall Brassell, Vice Chairman, Allied Eastern Federation (CSX); David Joynt, General Chairman, Burlington System Division (BNSF); Rick Procise, Vice Chairman, Affiliated System Federation (NS); David Tanner, General Chairman,Union Pacific System Division (UP); and Rick Inclima, BMWE Director of Education and Safety.
President Fleming stated, "BMWE go-team status will provide us an opportunity to have our own representatives on site and actively pursuing the facts in cooperation with NTSB investigators within hours of a major accident and before evidence could be compromised. This will help ensure that the maintenance of way perspective be given appropriate consideration in the cause and prevention of certain railroad accidents. I am pleased that NTSB has recognized BMWE’s efforts and contributions in the area of railroad safety and the expertise and experience we bring to the table in identifying accident causes and accident prevention."
When participating in an NTSB accident investigation, BMWE team members must, by law, conduct themselves within the bounds of certain federal regulations issued by the NTSB for all participants. The nature of an NTSB investigation is such that by regulation, there are no adverse parties, or opposing sides, and the investigation is strictly for the purpose of fact finding.
When the NTSB conducts an investigation, either major or regional, it designates one member of their team sent to the accident scene to be the Investigator-in-Charge or IIC. The NTSB - IIC has certain legal powers granted to him by administrative law. Essentially, the IIC organizes, conducts and controls the field phase of the investigation, and during follow up phases. Also, the IIC supervises all of the Board personnel on site.
The IIC decides upon formal granting of "Party Status" to organizations like the BMWE. Granting of Party Status to a group or organization means that they become an official part of the investigation, entitled to make inputs, participate in field investigations, submit safety recommendations, etc. This formally takes place during an on-site "Organizational Meeting" which usually occurs within hours after arrival on scene by the NTSB group.
Organizations holding Party Status would not only be present during interviews of its personnel (as could a group without Party Status), but additionally, groups with Party Status would remain on site after the interview, to be continuously present and contributing to the cause finding efforts during the entire term of the investigation.
Typically, a major investigation takes three to seven days to complete the active field phase. A regional investigation takes from one to three days to complete the active field phase. After the initial on-scene investigation is complete, a group granted party status may also be asked to participate in any scheduled hearings, follow-up tests, interviews or studies. Party status will also allow BMWE to participate in the technical review of the completeness of the factual portion of the investigation.
Parties do not participate in the analysis of drafting the final NTSB report. However, parties can contribute to the analytical process by submitting their own findings, recommendations and probable cause based on the factual reports. These "party submissions" become part of the public docket and are considered by staff and the Board Members before adoption of the final report by the Board. The time frame from accident to release of the probable cause information is about one year.
"In several major accident investigations over the past decade in which BMWE was granted party status by NTSB, we were able to enter facts into the investigation that may not have otherwise been revealed. As such, we have been able to protect BMWE members from being scapegoats for accidents that probably would have been blamed on them alone if BMWE were not there to uncover the underlying causes and contributing factors. I have every confidence in BMWE’s go-team representatives and their ability to contribute to NTSB’s findings of fact and probable cause where track conditions or roadway worker protection issues arise," Fleming said.
LABOR DAY 2001
by John J. Sweeney, AFL-CIO President
Labor Day is a good time to take a look at where we are as a movement and where we are heading. One hundred nineteen years after America’s first Labor Day parade, we’re still fighting for the freedom of working people to choose to improve their lives through union membership.
Not only are employers still waging war against workers struggling to organize, they have gained support from a presidential administration so beholden to Big Business it has launched the most concerted attack on workers’ rights and protections in a generation.
We are up against a gross corporate agenda warping the global economy to produce profits at any human cost. And the massive millionaire tax cut pushed by President George W. Bush threatens America’s ability to invest in meeting such basic needs as education, health care and retirement security.
In this environment, America sorely needs the vision, values and activism of working families and their unions. We have a job to do in refocusing our nation on a vision for the future that is free of social and economic injustice — and in moving our society to a new level of commitment to the shared values of respect for work, family and community.
It’s time for us to challenge America to unite in battle against the unnecessary evils that drag down living standards and drive wedges between us: the loss of good jobs, neglected and overcrowded schools, child poverty, lack of health care, unaffordable prescription drugs, enduring forced labor and child labor, trade deals that hurt workers around the world, exploitation of immigrant workers, discrimination in every form and damage to our environment.
We must reject the claim that America can’t afford to carry out its vision of the future we want our children to inherit. We can’t afford not to invest in our future.
And we must challenge ourselves to bold new levels of organizing and the scale of growth that will make it possible for us to elect and hold leaders accountable to honor the people who build our homes, clean our offices, teach our children, patrol our streets, care for our sick and elderly loved ones, fly our planes, drive our trucks, build our cars and more. It will require unprecedented union strength to redirect this economy to respect workers, our families and our communities.
This Labor Day, talk to people, get on the airwaves, address your congregation and issue a challenge to join today’s unions in an all-out crusade to bring about a better future for working families. Together, we can do great things!