|ONLINE VERSION||NOVEMBER / DECEMBER 2001|
|OCTOBER — NOVEMBER|
|Mineta Meets With Rail
Secretary of Labor Norman Y. Mineta, on left, talked with BMWE President Mac A. Fleming, on right, and other chiefs of Rail Labor at an AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department Executive Committee meeting held on October 23 in Washington, DC to discuss the future of Amtrak.
Norman Y. Mineta became the 14th U.S. Secretary of Transportation on January 25, 2001.
"Transportation is key to generating and enabling economic growth, determining the patterns of that growth and determining the competitiveness of our businesses in the world economy," he said. "Transportation is thus key to both our economic success and to our quality of life."
"We are extremely pleased that someone of the stature and caliber of Norman Mineta has been nominated to serve in the Bush Administration," said Sonny Hall, TTD President, in a January 3 press release. "Secretary Mineta is a tremendous leader who understands the freight and passenger transportation needs of our nation ... and who has been a strong supporter of transportation workers during his distinguished career in public office."
As Secretary of Transportation, Mineta oversees an agency with 100,000 employees and a $58.7 billion budget. Created in 1967, the U. S. Department of Transportation brought under one umbrella, air, maritime and surface transportation.
The U.S. transportation system includes 3.9 million miles of public roads and 2 million miles of oil and natural gas pipelines. There are networks consisting of 120,000 miles of major railroads, more than 25,000 miles of commercially navigable waterways and more than 5,000 public use airports. The transportation system also includes more than 500 major urban public transit operators and more than 300 ports on the coasts, Great Lakes and inland waterways.
Prior to becoming Secretary of Transportation, Mineta served as Secretary of Commerce under President Clinton, becoming the first Asian Pacific American to serve in the cabinet.
From 1975 to 1995, he served as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. As a member of Congress, Mineta was known for his dedication to the people of his district, for consensus building among his colleagues and for forging public-private partnerships.
Mineta served as chairman of the House Public Works and Transportation Committee between 1992 and 1994. He chaired the committee’s aviation subcommittee between 1981 and 1988 and chaired its Surface Transportation Subcommittee from 1989 to 1991.
Mineta and his family were among the 120,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry forced from their homes and into internment camps during World War II. After graduating from the University of California at Berkeley, Mineta joined the army in 1953 and served as an intelligence officer in Japan and Korea. He joined his father in the Mineta Insurance Agency before entering politics in San Jose, California as a member of its City Council from 1967 to 1971 and mayor from 1971 to 1974, becoming the first Asian Pacific American mayor of a major U.S. city.
While in Congress, Mineta was the driving force behind passage of H.R. 442, the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, which officially apologized for and redressed the injustices endured by Japanese Americans during the War. In 1995, George Washington University awarded the Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemorative Medal to Mineta for his contributions to the field of civil rights.
Railroad Workplace Safety
by FRA Administrator Allan Rutter
The U.S. Senate confirmed Allan Rutter of Texas this summer to succeed Jolene Molitoris, the Clinton appointee who resigned at the end of last year, as Federal Railroad Administration Administrator. Rutter had been serving as a consultant to the Department of Transportation since his nomination to the post by President Bush in April. Rutter had served as Transportation Policy Director in the Texas Governor’s office since 1995 and from 1990 to 1995 he served as Deputy Executive Director of the Texas High Speed Rail Authority.
Four railroaders lost their lives during the month from October 18 through November 16, 2001. All four were roadway workers—a track foreman, a bridge worker, a signal maintainer and a machine operator. Their tragic loss affect all of us in the railroad industry—fellow employees, managers and those of us at the Federal Railroad Administration.
Nothing we do now can reverse these tragic losses, but I feel it is important to examine some of the circumstances surrounding these events to see if we can learn something from them. I also wish to enlist the help of the BMWE in helping us prevent similar tragedies.
FRA Inspectors are still investigating the details of these incidents, but we can relate certain facts at this time:
In the first instance, an experienced track foreman was making a regular walking inspection on an electrified line when he was struck by an electric passenger train early in the afternoon. He was within the limits of an interlocking, but working limits had not been established to permit occupancy of the track.
In the second instance, a signal maintainer with thirty years of railroad service was repairing a track wire on a bridge when he was struck by a spiking machine. The maintainer fell fourteen feet from the bridge to the ground. His fall arrest gear was in his truck.
In the third instance, a bridge worker with five years of railroad service was using a track jack to raise a rail on a bridge. The jack was placed in the gauge side of the south rail, and he was operating the jack with a lining bar. It appears that the lining bar slipped out of the jack. The bridge worker fell from the north side of the track through an opening which he had made earlier by removing walkway planks. He had been using fall arrest gear when he removed the planks, but he had then taken off the harness and placed it in his truck before operating the jack.
In the fourth instance [which occurred right at press time and is under active investigation], a machine operator with 29 years of service was reportedly struck by an on-track high rail vehicle.
Now, we all know that FRA has issued Roadway Worker Protection and Bridge Worker Safety Rules that address each of these instances. You know how these regulations work and that the BMWE worked very hard to bring these rules into being. The point I want to make here is that these regulations, and the rules set in place by each railroad, are effective only if the men and women who work on the railroad, both union and management, know them and work by them each and every day.
I am asking for your help in raising safety awareness among BMWE members about the importance of observing Roadway Worker Protection and Bridge Worker Safety Rules.
I have arranged for our FRA safety inspectors to conduct a One-on-One safety campaign for roadway workers. During the next several months, FRA Track and Signal Inspectors will meet with as many groups and individual roadway workers as possible, to discuss these recent incidents and to help renew our focus on individual safety. I am asking that the BMWE make a concerted effort to do the same by contacting each and every member to deliver this simple message:
1) Do not foul the tracks unless it is necessary for the performance of your duties.
2) Be sure to establish proper protection before working on the tracks.
3) Be sure to use your harness, as required, when working on a railroad bridge.
FRA conducted a similar One-on-One campaign for roadway worker safety last year. It had proven very successful until these most recent accidents. We must continue to work together to raise awareness about the importance of Roadway Worker Protection and Bridge Worker Safety Regulations. I intend to continue these One-on-One campaigns periodically until the safety procedures required by these regulations become ingrained habits in each and every roadway worker.
By working together, we have reduced deaths among railroad workers to the lowest levels in history, but continued progress in reducing fatalities and injuries depends on each individual. I am confident that all of us can help each other do what we know we need to do to stay safe.