Crude on Derailed Train Contained High Level of Gas
Cargo would have violated new vapor-pressure cap that goes into effect in April
By RUSSELL GOLD
Updated March 2, 2015 6:54 p.m. ET
The crude oil aboard the train that derailed and exploded two weeks ago in West Virginia contained so much combustible gas that it would have been barred from rail transport under safety regulations set to go into effect next month.
Tests performed on the oil before the train left North Dakota showed it contained a high level of volatile gases, according to a lab report reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. The oil’s vapor pressure, a measure of volatility, was 13.9 pounds per square inch, according to the Feb. 10 report by Intertek Group PLC.
That exceeds the limit of 13.7 psi that North Dakota is set to impose in April on oil moving by truck or rail from the Bakken Shale. Oil producers that don’t treat their crude to remove excess gas face fines and possible civil or criminal penalties, said Alison Ritter, a spokeswoman for the North Dakota Industrial Commission.
The state introduced new rules on shipping oil in December, after a series of accidents in which trains carrying crude from the Bakken erupted into fireballs after derailing. As the Journal has reported, oil from shale formations contains far more combustible gas than traditional crude oil, which has a vapor pressure of about 6 psi; gasoline has a maximum psi of about 13.5.
The company that shipped the oil, Plains All American Pipeline LP, said it follows all regulations governing the shipping and testing of crude. “We believe our sampling and testing procedures and results are in compliance with applicable regulatory requirements,” said Plains spokesman Brad Leone.
Raw video: A train carrying more than 100 tankers of crude oil derailed in West Virginia earlier this month. Photo: WOAY
New information about the West Virginia accident is likely to increase regulators’ focus on the makeup of oil being shipped by train. Federal emergency rules adopted last year imposed new safety requirements on railroad operators but not on energy companies.
“The type of product the train is transporting is also important,” said Sarah Feinberg, the acting head of the Federal Railroad Administration. “The reality is that we know this product is volatile and explosive.”
Ms. Feinberg has supported requiring the energy industry to strip out more gases from the crude oil before shipping it to make the cargo less dangerous, but such measures aren’t currently included in current or proposed federal rules.
In the wake of the West Virginia accident, members of Congress have called on the White House to expedite its review of pending safety rules developed by the U.S. Transportation Department. Timothy Butters, the acting administrator of the department’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, said the new regulations were being vetted as quickly as was practical, given what he called their complexity.
Some critics are calling for lower limits on the vapor pressure of oil moving by rail.
The lower the vapor pressure, the less explosive the oil and “the less chance of it blowing up—that should be the common goal here,” said Daniel McCoy, the chief executive of Albany County, N.Y., which has become a transit hub for Bakken crude heading to East Coast refineries.
The train that exploded in West Virginia included 109 tanker cars loaded with about 70,000 barrels of crude. It traveled from Western North Dakota across Minnesota, Illinois and Ohio before derailing in Mount Carbon, W. Va. Nearly two dozen tanker cars full of crude oil were engulfed in flames, some exploding into enormous fireballs that towered over the small community and burned a house to the ground.
The cause of the derailment remains under investigation. State and federal officials have said the train was traveling well under speed limits imposed last year on trains carrying crude oil. The train was made up of relatively new tanker cars built to withstand accidents better than older models.
A couple hours after the derailment, CSX and Plains All American Pipeline turned over paperwork about the crude to first responders and state and federal investigators. The testing document was included; the Journal reviewed it after making an open-records request.
A spokesman for CSX Corp. , the railroad that carried the oill at the time of the crash, said it had stepped up its inspections of the track along this route, a procedure that railroads voluntarily agreed to last year.
“Documentation provided to CSX indicated that the shipments on the train that derailed were in compliance with regulations necessary for transportation,” said Gary Sease, a CSX spokesman. “We support additional measures to enhance the safety of oil shipments, and continue to work cooperatively with regulators, oil producers, tank car manufacturers and others to achieve ever higher safety performance.”
A spokesman for BNSF Railway Co., which hauled the crude oil from North Dakota to Illinois, where it was handed off to CSX, declined to comment on the derailment.
Intertek, the testing company, said it is abreast of the regulatory changes and “working closely with authorities and our clients to assure compliance.”
The U.S. Transportation Department is testing samples of crude that didn’t spill or burn and says it plans to compare its findings with the North Dakota test.
The fire burned for three and a half days. “If it is burning hard, you can’t put it out,” said Benny Filiaggi, the deputy chief of the Montgomery Fire Department, who responded to the West Virginia derailment. He said he received training from CSX about oil-train fires in October.
“We concentrated on evacuating everyone nearby before the first explosion,” Mr. Filiaggi said.
Write to Russell Gold at firstname.lastname@example.orgTags: derailmentexplosions
Oakland General Strike was nation's last in 1946
By Annalee Allen Oakland Tribune Correspondent
POSTED: 03/01/15, 12:09 AM PST |0 COMMENTS
In honor of International Women's Day on Sunday, March 8, Oakland Urban Paths and the Oakland Tours Program are co-sponsoring a free Women's History Tour in downtown Oakland. The tour begins at 10 a.m. on the steps of City Hall and will feature local women of note, such as writer Gertrude Stein, dancer Isadora Duncan, architect Julia Morgan, and journalist and civil rights advocate Delilah Beasley.
At the conclusion of the walk through downtown, tour participants will be invited to step into the landmark Camron-Stanford House near Lake Merritt, to view a special exhibit about one of California's oldest women's organizations, the Ebell Society, founded in 1878 and still going strong today.
According to the history files, International Women's Day first emerged from the labor movements at the turn of the 20th century in North America and across Europe. The first National Women's Day was observed in 1909 in the year following a garment workers' strike in New York, where women protested against harsh working conditions.
A meeting held in Copenhagen in 1910 by the International Socialist Party established a Women's Day to honor the movement for women's rights and to build support for achieving universal suffrage for women. Historic accounts reveal more than 100 women from 17 countries at that conference unanimously approved the concept. Since then, more global women's conferences have been held, helping to make the commemoration a rallying point to build support for women's rights and participation in the political and economic arenas around the world.
March 8th became the official annual day of celebration forty years ago in 1975, during the United Nations' year of the woman.
Locally, a significant event occurred nearly 70 years ago when female retail clerks working for downtown department stores in the late fall of 1946, decided to try to unionize. Locked out by management, they called upon other workers to strike in support. General strikes are illegal today, but back in 1946 it was still a legal labor action, history files tell us. More than 130,000 union members walked off their jobs to protest the anti-union actions taken by local police at the behest of Oakland's City Council against the female clerks. Thousands more honored their picket lines, and for three days, no buses or streetcars or taxis ran in Alameda County. Construction projects shut down, the shipyards were idle and most gas stations were closed.
Teamster pickets kept trucks from entering the county and most grocery stores, hotels, restaurants and movie theaters were closed. Nearly all commerce in the East Bay came to a halt when the members of 142 unions struck in solidarity with the women clerks.
History files reveal that the Oakland General Strike of 1946 was the nation's last "sympathy" strike. The passage of the Taft-Hartley Act in 1947 by Congress put an end to that union tactic.
A plaque on the wall of the Rotunda Building (formerly Kahn's Department Store) in downtown Oakland, commemorating the women retail clerks actions for the right to organize a union is stop No. 1 on Sunday's Women's History Tour.
For more information about the Women's History Tour, go to www.oaklandurbanpaths.org, or leave a message on the Oakland Tours Program hotline, 510 238-3234. Reservations are recommended.
There are links to additional information on the 1946 general strike at https://oaklandwiki.org/1946Oakland General Strike.
Contact Annalee Allen at email@example.comTags: Oakland General Strike
The Working Longshoremen (1991)
University of Washington
Ronald E. Magden The Working Longshoremen
[Ronald Magden Archive] [Publications] [Magden interview] [Photos] [Film: 1934 Strike]
Ron Magden is the author of several books, including The Working Longshoremen (written with Art Martinson) based on extensive oral history interviews with several generations of Tacoma longshoremen. Click the links to read the chapters (pdf files):
The Working Longshoremen (1991)
• Ch1: The First Tacoma Longshoremen
• Ch2: Boom and Bust
• Ch3: A New Beginning
• Ch4: The Time of Troubles
• Ch5: Fight to the Finish
• Ch6: The Scab Hall
• Ch7: Postwar Turmoil
• Ch8: Tacoma Reorganizes the Northwest
• Ch9: The 1934 Maritime Strike
• Ch10: Into the Lion's Mouth
• Ch11: Technology and Change on the Tacoma Waterfront
• Sources/ Labor and Waterfront Terms
See other Ronald Magden publicationsTags: Tacoma Working Longshoreman
- Fired Hospitality Workers Fight Back With The London IWW
- Montreal Wobblies Participate In Disruptive Action At Canada Post
- IWW Toronto Harm Reduction Workers Win Pay For Fired Organizer
- Why Incarcerated Workers Should Join The IWW
- Celebrating (Working) Women’s History Month
- Review: Staughton Lynd On War & National Identity
Download a Free PDF of this issue.
ILWU Longshoremen maintain clout in era of globalization and automation
The continued strength of the longshoremen's union was made evident in the recent labor dispute at the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles. (Irfan Khan, Los Angeles Times)
By CHRIS KIRKHAM AND ANDREW KHOUR
Longshoremen have avoided the fate of most other shipping industry workers in era of globalization
Shipping industry data on dockworker wages omit thousands of part-timers, union leader says
Longshoremen have maintained pay, clout largely because of contract deals in the 1930s and 1960s
More than 4,400 ships bring nearly $400 billion worth of goods through the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach every year, a crucial link in the global supply chain of factories, warehouses, docks, highways and rail lines.
Most blue-collar workers along the chain have seen their wages slashed with the quick rise of global trade. But the longshoremen who move the goods the shortest distance, between ship and shore, have shrewdly protected pay that trumps that of many white-collar managers.
About half of West Coast union longshoremen make more than $100,000 a year — some much more, according to shipping industry data. More than half of foremen and managers earn more than $200,000 each year. A few bosses make more than $300,000. All get free healthcare.
How much can a longshoreman make?
Longshoreman pay dwarfs that of almost all other transit employees, such as trucking, railroad or airline workers. At massive warehouse complexes in the Inland Empire, just an hour's drive from the ports, goods for the nation's largest retailers are shuttled around by temporary workers making as little as $10 or $11 an hour, with no benefits or job security.
The unique clout of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union came into sharp relief recently with the partial shutdown of 29 West Coast ports. The crisis passed with a contract deal a week ago, but it will take up to three months to clear the backlog of cargo on the docks and ships stranded offshore. Many businesses and workers won't recover the money they lost because of port gridlock.
Union spokesman Craig Merrilees said the shipping companies' pay figures fail to account for the more than 8,000 so-called casual workers — part-timers who don't receive benefits and often work for years to become registered union members. The data, released by the Pacific Maritime Assn., reflects 90% of the "registered" union members, or more than 12,000 workers.
The association declined a Times request for similar pay data for casual workers and about 1,100 lower-tier union members.
"They don't want to talk about the other workers," Merrilees said. "I don't think it's responsible."
How the Pacific longshoremen have weathered forces that have crippled many unions is a tale of foresight, geography and technology.
A deal cut by union leaders half a century ago allowed workers to share in the gains from innovations in efficiency, such as modern shipping containers. Another key move: organizing all West Coast ports in the 1930s under a single contract, which prevents shipping companies from pitting workers at neighboring ports against one another.
More recently, longshoremen benefited from the rise of U.S. trade with other Pacific Rim countries, positioning the ports as a strategic nexus, another key leverage point in wage talks.
More than 4,400 ships bring nearly $400 billion worth of goods through the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach every year, a crucial link in the global supply chain of factories, warehouses, docks, highways and rail lines. (Christina House, For The Times)
"So many labor unions don't have that power anymore," said Ruth Milkman, a professor specializing in labor movements at City University of New York. "Here's a place where globalization has benefited the union, whereas the opposite is true in manufacturing."
Since 1980, container traffic through West Coast ports has grown more than sixfold, according to the most recent data from the American Assn. of Port Authorities. Pacific ports now handle 52% of U.S. cargo volume, compared with 41% at East Coast ports.
Unlike factories, ports can't be moved to low-wage countries. The jobs are "impervious to outsourcing," said John Ahlquist, a political science professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who has studied port unions worldwide.
The longshoremen's union has served as a gatekeeper for new entrants to the industry. There are more than 13,000 registered union longshoremen, clerks and foremen, according to West Coast shipping industry data from 2013.
But the more than 8,000 casual workers compete daily for hours of dock work, hoping to snag leftover shifts after union members get first pick. Many toil for years in a part-time holding pattern, waiting for a new round of hiring.
Patience can pay off. Full-fledged union members are divided into three classes: longshoremen, clerks and foremen/walking bosses.
The majority are longshoremen, about half of whom — 4,900 — made more than $100,000 in 2013, according to shipping company data; 1,400 longshoremen made more than $150,000 in 2013, according to the data.
More than half of the 600 foremen and walking bosses took home more than $200,000. At the top end, 85 of them earned more than $250,000.
Overtime, paid at higher rates, accounts for about a third of all hours worked, according to the shipping industry. Longshoremen also get bonuses for specific skills and night shifts.
West Coast port union pay, 2013
Michael Dimon got his start on the docks in 1978, following his father and great-grandfather. He's proud of the wages he earns, and credits collective bargaining for allowing him to buy a home and save money for his two children to attend college. Dimon never finished high school.
Before 2013, he said, he never made more than $100,000 a year. That year he made $117,000, he said. Last year, he made more, as port traffic at Los Angeles and Long Beach surged to the third-busiest year on record. He declined to say how much.
"I would never pretend to be ashamed of the wages that we negotiate and fight for — absolutely not," Dimon said. "What it allows me to do is live the American dream. And sadly to say, it's dying here in America."
The longshoreman's dream was forged by a series of strategic decisions that have given the ILWU unparalleled strength.
In the 1930s, West Coast port union leaders succeeded in negotiating a single contract that linked ports from the Pacific Northwest to San Diego.
In 1960, the ILWU cut a deal that paved the way for a revolution in shipping. For centuries, longshoremen had used highly labor-intensive methods when loading and unloading ships — nets, metal hooks and pallets. The union offered to embrace use of containers in exchange for higher pay and benefits, along with richer pensions and buyouts for displaced workers.
The strategy continues to define the union's approach. In 2002, contract negotiations broke down in part over computer systems intended to replace clerical workers who tracked cargo. The deal led to the elimination of hundreds of clerical jobs, but the union negotiated substantial increases in pension benefits and held on to free healthcare.
In the contract talks resolved last month, one of the main sticking points was over who should maintain and repair the trailers that truckers use to haul goods from the ports. Shipping lines recently outsourced the equipment to third-party firms, threatening the union's maintenance jobs.
Merrilees, the union spokesman, said the union retained the right to do some inspections and repairs on the trailers. But trade experts said the presence of third-party firms could continue to complicate the issue.
Experts point out that the ILWU's unique place in the supply chain has allowed it to benefit despite automation. But it's unclear how long the union can prevent technology from eroding pay and job security.
Cargo ships anchor offshore Monday at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, where cargo movement has slowed down as port employers and representatives of the dockworkers union try to work out a new contract.
The union may struggle to maintain high wages in the middle of a low-wage transportation network, said Nelson Lichtenstein, a history professor and director of the Center for the Study of Work, Labor and Democracy at UC Santa Barbara.
"The nail's sticking up," he said, "and people have hammers."ilwuCoast ContractAutomation
Giant ships in West Coast ports' future
By Pete Careypcarey@mercurynews.com
POSTED: 02/28/2015 12:55:32 PM PST0 COMMENTS| UPDATED: ABOUT 14 HOURS AGO
The mega ship MSC Sola waits to be off loaded at berth 25 at the Ports of America at the Port of Oakland in Oakland, Calif., on Wednesday, Feb. 25, 2015. (Laura A. Oda/Bay Area News Group)
With a bitter battle over a dockworkers' contract tentatively resolved, West Coast ports and their terminal operators are back dealing with an even bigger challenge -- the mega-ship.
Bulked up like weightlifters on steroids, the new container vessels have set off a competitive scramble by the ports, which are dredging new channels, buying equipment and planning vast additions to warehouse space to accommodate the mega-ships, with the price tag for improvements running into billions of dollars.
"There are monsters out there, and unless we learn how to deal with these monsters, we're going to lose business and tremendously affect the economies of the ports and the regions around them," said Jock O'Connell, international trade adviser for Beacon Economics.
The megaship MSC Sola waits to be off loaded at berth 25 at the Ports of America at the Port of Oakland in Oakland, Calif., on Wednesday, Feb. 25, 2015. (Laura A. Oda)
Staying competitive with ports elsewhere is crucial for this region's economy. The West Coast ports handled 43.5 percent of U.S. containerized imports in 2013, down from 50 percent in 2002, according to the Pacific Maritime Association. The good news is that the recovering economy has increased the flow of goods across the Pacific as retail sales bounce back in the U.S.
For ocean carriers, building bigger ships is a matter of economics: The larger vessels are, the lower the cost of moving a container. The trend began as the industry recovered from the recession, which had hammered revenue and profits. Experts say the message from the shipping lines to the ports is this: Get ready for us or we'll find a port that is.
West Coast ports returned their attention to mega-ships after a nine-month labor dispute that bogged down the flow of cargo, sending some shippers to ports on the Gulf and East Coast and forcing some importers to air express shipments. Although they're working through a two- to four-month backlog of cargo, the ports are wooing importers to return. The West Coast is still the fastest route to the inland U.S., and Los Angeles boasts a big local market of 13 million people.
To prepare for the big ships, berths at the Port of Oakland have been dredged to a depth of 50 feet. Cranes have been raised by terminal operators to reach over taller, wider loads. Railroads that operate out of the port have increased their capacity to deliver imported products across the U.S. A $1 billion project for new warehouses and a facility to ready imported goods for domestic shipment is planned on port property and the old Oakland Army Base.
The new warehouses will be a selling point the port can use to convince shippers to unload more of their cargo in Oakland rather than Long Beach and Los Angeles, said Chris Lytle, the port's executive director. "We think it's a great advantage for shippers," he said.
The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are each spending $1 million or more a day on ambitious plans to get ready for all but the biggest of the mega-ships. Long Beach plans to spend $4 billion over 10 years on improvements.
"The challenge for Los Angeles and Long Beach and the terminals around the country is adjusting to this new reality, these larger ships," said Phillip Sanfield, spokesman for the Port of Los Angeles.
The terminals were built to handle smaller ships, he said. Although the port has dredged deeper channels and raised its cranes, "the logistics of the terminals are a work in progress."
In the past, shipments at the port might peak a couple times a year, said Noel Hacegaba, chief commercial officer at the Port of Long Beach. "Now, it's happening every time one of these big vessels arrives." Also, he said, unloading cargo has become more complex as alliances of ocean carriers pool their loads on a single mega-ship. The port has 4,000 vessel calls a year, with about two mega-ships a week, a frequency that is expected to increase in the coming years.
"The emergence of the big ships, the mega-vessels, comes down to simple economics," said Hacegaba. "Ocean carriers will continue to invest in larger and larger ships in years ahead to reduce cost per container and to reduce costs to customers. It's good for them and their customers, but the terminals and the ports where these big vessels call have to make drastic changes to be able to accommodate the surge in volume."
Container ships have grown from those capable of carrying 8,500 20-foot-long containers in the early 2000s to one on the drawing boards today expected to haul almost 24,000 containers. Anything exceeding 10,000 containers is considered a mega-ship. Regardless of the vessel's size, shippers want them unloaded quickly, so they can return to Asia for more cargo. And they just keep growing in the number of containers they can carry.
The 1,191-foot-long MSC Sola, which berthed at the Port of Oakland this week, was one of the largest when it was built in 2008. It is just 14 feet short of the maximum length the port's berths can handle.
Able to carry 11,660 containers, MSC Sola has since been outstripped by newer vessels, including the recently launched 1,300-foot MSC Oscar. The Oscar can carry 19,224 20-foot-long containers, and will, like the largest of the mega-ships, ply the route from Asia to Europe trade via the Suez Canal.
But as vessels grow ever larger, the Oscar conceivably could be diverted to the Asia-Pacific routes served by California ports, O'Connell said.
"It's not going to be tomorrow," said O'Connell, adding half-seriously, "but in the fullness of time, which in the maritime industry seems to be about a year and a half."
Contact Pete Carey at 408-920-5419 Follow him on Twitter.com/petecareyTags: transportationmeg-ships
Hands Off OSHA Lawyer Darrell Whitman-Defend Health And Safety Whistleblowers
Federal OSHA lawyer Darrell Whitman who also is a member of AFGE Local 2371 has been speaking out in defense of health and safety whistleblowers in OSHA Region 9. As a result he has been retaliated against. A press conference was held on February 27, 2015 with Whitman and other whistleblowers and health and safety advocates to support him and all others who are fighting to protect health and safety on the job and in the communities.
For further information:
OSHA Employee says the federal whistleblower program isn’t protecting whistleblowers or the public
2-24-15 OSHA Whistleblower Program and Corruption With Federal OSHA Lawyer Darrell Whitman
Injured Workers National Network www.iwnn.org
United Public Workers For Action
Production of Labor Video Project
Apple, Yahoo, eBay, Zynga, Genentech bus drivers vote to unionize with IBT
By Kristen V. BrownFebruary 27, 2015 Updated: February 27, 2015 7:19pm
Santiago Mejia / The Chronicle
Chuck Miranda, a Compass Transportation shuttle bus driver for seven years, heads back to his bus after voting.
Bus drivers who herd employees to and from the offices of Apple, Yahoo, eBay, Zynga and Genentech voted to join the powerful Teamsters union Friday.
Shuttle drivers employed by Compass Transportation voted 104-38 in favor of representation, with 16 not casting ballots. They chose to organize at secret polling booths set up at several locations near driver rest areas in South San Francisco and San Jose.
The decision follows last fall’s vote to unionize by drivers contracted by Facebook. That push for representation was expected to ricochet to other service industries — such as transportation, security and food preparation — that work with Silicon Valley tech giants.
The union vote comes amid complaints that tech shuttle drivers are underpaid, overworked and unfairly compensated for time spent on the job.
“We need wages commensurate with what it costs to live in this area, but it’s not just about wages,” said Tracy Kelley, a Compass driver, in a statement. “It’s about having better working conditions.”
A lack of adequate rest areas is a major complaint of the drivers — as are unpaid breaks of up to six hours between split morning and evening legs of the commute.
Compass Transportation did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Company shuttle buses have become symbols of the Bay Area’s tech-boom-fueled wealth gap. That conflict is especially complicated for bus drivers, for which it is a source of their employment, but also of many grievances.
In 2004, Google became the first tech company to provide shuttle service for employees who live in San Francisco. The first buses made just two stops in the city and carried 155 passengers. Now more than a third of Google’s Mountain View employees catch a shuttle to work. According to the city of San Francisco, tech companies have obtained 500 permits for buses participating in a pilot program allowing shuttles to use Muni bus stops.
In December 2012, shuttle drivers issued the first formal complaints of what they characterized as a grueling job, filing a class-action lawsuit that alleged one of Google’s shuttle management contractors, WeDriveU, failed to pay drivers for time between split shifts, provide legally required rest breaks and compensate them for time spent performing required inspections on vehicles before and after shifts. A proposed settlement awarded 89 drivers a combined total of $125,000, amounting to $730 per driver after attorneys’ fees and other expenses.
Last week, Facebook drivers voted unanimously to approve their first union contract, promising high wages and improved working conditions. The Facebook drivers’ new contract includes an increase in the average pay for workers at Loop Transportation, from $18 an hour to $24.50 an hour, and addresses split shifts, specifically offering wage increases for employees who work them. The contract awaits approval from the social network and Loop.
Kristen V. Brown is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @kristenvbrownTags: teamstersCompass TransportationIBT
3/14 Rail Safety Conference Richmond, CA
Rail safety conference, Richmond California, 14 March 2015
“The Future of Railroads: Safety, Workers, Community & the Environment” is the title of two back-to-back conferences; the first on Saturday, March 14, 2015 in Richmond, California; the second on Saturday, March 21 in Olympia, Washington.
Everyday a tragic trail derailment occurs, often transporting highly flammable Bakken Shale or Tar Sand, from North Dakota or Alberta, to refineries across North America. The 47 -- preventable-- deaths in Lac-Mégantic has wakened people to the dangers of oil trains and the movement of trains in general through their communities. Environmental activists are up-in-arms about the amounts of fossil fuels moving by rail. Farmers and other shippers are concerned about the congestion that has occurred in recent months, but in part to the oil boom. The rail networks in the U.S. and Canada and clogged with crude-by-rail, displacing the already heavy traffic of grains headed to port for export.
The public generally has no idea what goes on daily on America’s railroads. Chronic crew fatigue, single employee train crews, excessively long and heavy trains, draconian availability policies, short staffing, limited time off work create challenging safety issues of concern not just to railroaders, but to the entire population.
Please join us at this cutting edge conference that brings together railroad workers, environmentalists, community activists and concerned workers from other sectors, in order to build the movement for a safer and greener railroad, on that is more responsive to the needs of workers, trackside communities, citizens in general, and society as a whole.
Richmond is a perfect confluence for this conference as it has always been a company town, first for Santa Fe Railroad as the western terminus of its transcontinental railroad in 1900, then for Standard Oil (later becoming Chevron) in 1901 and its massive refinery complex, and again for Kaiser Industries with its four assembly line-like shipyards in the late 1930s through World War II. From 1910 until 1959 the Pullman Company located its largest West Coast rail car repair shop adjacent to the Southern Pacific and Santa Fe lines in the center of Richmond. It also fronts the San Francisco Bay with access to a channel of 40-60 feet deep, allowing the largest seagoing ships (mostly oil tankers these days) to call its ports. Despite still being the location of the Burlington Northern Sante Fe rail yard and Chevron's massive refinery, Richmond is a bottomed out deindustrialized city that puts its largely working class people of color population in the toxic shadow of oil, chemical and other polluting heavy industries.
In adjacent cities of Rodeo there is the Conoco Phillips Refinery, Benecia has Valero Refinery, and Martinez has both Shell and Tesoro Refineries (the latter currently on strike). They are served by both BNSF and Union Pacific Railroads and maritime wharfs. This area along the San Francisco and San Pablo Bays is statistically known as a "cancer cluster."
Members of the Empire Logistics/Global Supply Chains Study Group will facilitate the following workshop:
● Energy Supply Chain Inquiry
Interactive workshop where all participants will brainstorm ways for solidarity to flow through the various working class sectors down the chains – and model ways for strikes and direct action to spread from the point of extraction to the point of consumption, including the communities where the energy commodities pass through. All necessary materials (maps of rail lines, rail yards, ports & refineries; flowcharts of fossil fuel supply chains; etc.) will be provided.
Other workshops will be:
● Railroading 101
Single Employee Train Crews
Importance of Teamwork & Crew Fatigue
The Problem with Long & Heavy Trains
● Environmentalism 101
Climate Change & Crude-by-Rail 101
Political Ecology 101
● Solutionary Rail: A vision for electrified higher-speed rail
If you'd like to participate in either the Richmond or Olympia conference, you can register online:
For more information, see the website at www.RailroadConference.orgTags: railroad safety
‘Uber is a rip-off for its drivers and the public’: Cab Drivers Protest Rideshares in Chicago
THURSDAY, FEB 19, 2015, 1:38 PM
‘Uber is a rip-off for its drivers and the public’: Cab Drivers Protest Rideshares in Chicago
BY REBECCA BURNS
Cab drivers protest Uber outside Chicago's City Hall on Wednesday. Mayor Rahm Emanuel's brother, Hollywood agent Ari Emanuel, is a major investor in the company. (CDU / Facebook)
If you’ve taken an Uber recently, you probably forked over an extra dollar for a “Safe Ride Fee,” a recently-added cost that the tech giant says will help ensure that drivers and their vehicles are fit for the road. Soon, you will also be able to share details of your location and ETA with people waiting at the other end of your Uber ride, just in case your driver decides to drive you to a secluded location, sexually assault you, and/or hit you over the head with a hammer—all offenses that Uber drivers have allegedly committed against riders during the past year.
Uber denied liability in these incidents, as well as in the death of a 6-year-old girl struck by one of its drivers in San Francisco last year. But in December Uber hired a “head of global safety” and pledged to ramp up precautions. Riders may or may not be comforted by the results so far: Among them, an assurance that they will now be able to press an app-based “panic button” if things in the passenger seat start to go awry. But they’re consistent with Uber’s approach of letting the free market to take the wheel—while continuing to collect commissions of up to 25 percent. Uber is currently valued at $40 billion.
The company has faced a slew of bad headlines in Chicago as of late, including two alleged sexual assaults by its drivers over a three-week period in January. Nevertheless, the city announced this week that it would license Uber to operate as a “transportation network provider” (TNP), a new category of commercial vehicle transportation created last year.
On Wednesday, more than 100 Chicago cab drivers rallied at City Hall to protest the decision, which they say harms their livelihoods as well as public safety. Chicago cab drivers must pass background checks and drug and physical exams each year as a condition of license renewal, leading cabbies to complain that they’re victims of a “two-tier” system that subjects them to onerous regulation while giving a free pass to Uber, Lyft and other app-based ride services.
“The issues are piling up and the city is not solving them,” said Ismail Onay, who has been a licensed taxi driver in Chicago for 14 years. “Driving a cab used to be a pathway to the middle class, but Uber is disrupting and killing our industry.”
While Chicago caps the number of cabs that can operate at any given time to about 6,500, there are as many as 13,000 Uber drivers in the city according to Cab Drivers United, a labor group affiliated with AFSCME Council 31 that staged Wednesday’s protest. The United Taxidrivers Community Council, another labor group, staged a separate protest against Uber on Tuesday.
App-based “sharing economy” companies have long enjoyed a regulatory Wild West, but Chicago, Boston and several other cities have moved recently to impose new rules on ridesharing. After passing an ordinance last spring that established a licensing process and protections against price surging, Chicago issued the first TNP licenses to Lyft and Sidecar in November.
According to the ridesharing ordinance, companies whose drivers log an average of more than 20 hours per week must obtain a “Class B” license, which requires drivers on the platform to obtain a public chauffeur’s license and submit to background checks and annual vehicle inspections conducted by the city. But both Lyft and Sidecar were granted the less restrictive and expensive “Class A” license created by the ordinance, under which the companies must pay $10,000 for the licenses but can continue to conduct their own background and vehicle inspections.
The city allows companies to choose which license they apply for, and then allows them to self-report their own data on driver hours to prove that they are complying with its regulations. As a result, say cab companies and other critics of the ordinance, few companies are likely to opt for the more expensive and onerous license—effectively continuing the unregulated status quo for ridesharing.
Uber also applied for a TNP license, but the city had delayed its approval in the wake of the alleged sexual assaults by its drivers. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, the city’s decision this week to license Uber is contingent on a “promise” from the company to implement a list of additional safety measures in Chicago, including cooperating with police in investigations of its drivers, employing off-duty police officers to conduct monthly safety audits and checking the city’s list of suspended, denied and revoked chauffeur’s licenses and deactivating any drivers who appear on this list. (Neither the City of Chicago nor Uber responded to requests for comment on this decision).
Cab drivers believe this is woefully inadequate.
“After two years of operating illegally in Chicago, the city’s response to allow Uber, a politically connected, billion-dollar corporation to operate based on a ‘promise’ is unlike anything I’ve ever seen,” said Cheryl Miller, a member of CDU.
They’re not the only ones crying foul. Alderman Bob Fioretti, who is running for mayor in Chicago’s elections this month, has accused current Mayor Rahm Emanuel of political favoritism towards Uber. The mayor’s brother, Hollywood agent Ari Emanuel, is a major investor in Uber, though his William Morris Endeavor agency has declined to state exactly how large its ownership interest is.
The mayor has said that his advocacy of ridesharing regulations are “just the opposite” of favoritism. “Let me say this about Ari. He doesn’t need his older brother to get rich. Think of it as me getting back at him,” Emanuel told the Chicago Sun-Times last year.
Uber passengers, of course, aren’t the only ones being taken for a ride by Silicon Valley. As In These Times has reported previously, drivers on the Uber platform have been staging protests of their own in opposition to what they say are erratic fare cuts and a dwindling share of the company’s profits.
Cab Drivers United (CDU), which began organizing Chicago taxi drivers last year, says that it currently has 4,000 members, none of them UberX drivers. But a spokesperson says that the group would welcome drivers who work on app-based platforms, given the exploitative nature of the industry.
Following efforts by AFSCME to organize cab drivers in New Orleans, CDU has been working to reduce the rates drivers pay to lease their vehicles; improve the process for adjudicating complaints and citations, for which drivers can lose their licenses; and decrease the maximum fines drivers can receive for violations like rider complaints or traffic violations. The group is not officially a union, and AFSCME says it has no plans at present to file for an election, but CDU was successful in passing a “taxi driver fairness” ordinance through the city council that will take effect this month.
Still, taxi drivers say that Uber is cutting into their fares and that the city needs to create a level playing field.
“Uber is a rip-off for its drivers and a rip-off for the public,” said cab driver and CDU member David Boakye. “This is our first big protest against Uber in Chicago, but if we need to we will escalate.”Tags: UberTaxi driversCDU
Pro-Claimant Demo Gets Great Public Support in West Derby
Members of Liverpool IWW joined around a dozen activists, including people from the benefits advice group Reclaim, outside West Derby job centre on Eaton Road this lunchtime. This was part of a national day of action in solidarity with Scottish Unemployed Workers Network activist Tony Cox. Tony was arrested on 29th January after Arbroath job centre management called police to stop him representing a vulnerable jobseeker. We protested to drive home the message that ‘advocacy is not a crime’, and aiming to build towards smashing sanctions against unemployed workers.
World Dockers IDC Calls For Support Of Greek People Against "Ultra-liberal policies"
IDC-E statement in support of the Greek People
Date: February 26, 2015 at 3:28:40 AM PST
February 26, 2014
IDC-E statement in support of the Greek People
All the members of the IDC European zone support the Greek people who, through a democratic vote affirmed their opposition to the austerity measures imposed by Europe.
For several years, the peoples of Europe are suffering from ultra-liberal policies imposed by European organizations under the dictates of the major financial powers.
Hard working people must no longer accept to be crushed so that the rich are getting richer.
Greek port sector unions have also been fighting against these policies in recent years and especially the last few months, before the announcement of the privatization of the ports and port authorities of Piraeus and Thessaloniki, with a tireless struggle to defend their jobs and a productive sector of the Greek economy, under pressures from the Troika to sell off the port to private investors.
The example of our Greek comrades must show us the way to discard this capitalist Europe that we no longer want.
ETUC must take into account the will of the workers and bring those claims forward in order to coordinate the European struggles needed to develop a true social Europe at the service of all peoples, of all workers and not at the service of a few oligarchs.
Again, we extend our congratulations to the Greek people that have continuously opposed a Europe that nobody wants and tries to silence by all means those who dare to show that a change is possible and necessary.
We are with you and we will try to push all European peoples to join you in your fight.
Workers throughout Europe will join forces for the benefit of the people.
The members of IDC Europe
"Will never walk alone again"
As debate heightens about the transport of dangerous goods by rail, another Canadian National Railway train derailed early this morning about 25 miles NW of Duluth, Minnesota (Star Tribune). 13 of 107 cars derailed, 3 of which were loaded with naphthalene, a hazardous material best known as the active ingredient in mothballs. St. Louis County Emergency Services Manager Scott Camps said there is a “potential for release of naphthalene when they have to off-load the product from the damaged cars”. Preliminary information suggests that some or all of the other derailed cars were loaded with plastic pellets.
Read CN Railway Derailments, Other Accidents and Incidents for information on hundreds of other CN derailments in the U.S. and Canada.
Filed under: Derailment