Beating of bus driver by Dallas middle schoolers emerges on tape as officials promise new probe: report
Beating of bus driver by Dallas middle schoolers emerges on tape as officials promise new probe: report
BY TOBIAS SALINGER NEW YORK DAILY NEWS Tuesday, August 18, 2015, 6:47 AM
A Dallas-area school bus driver was beaten up by middle school students because he asked who threw a Dr. Pepper bottle at him, according to reports.
Video showing a group of seventh and eighth grade students punching and pushing George Diaz, 63, out of the bus surfaced Friday in a report by KDFW-TV. The security footage from February displays the students going after him after he stops the bus to ask who had thrown the bottle.
Diaz was able to get back into the bus and finish the route after the beatdown Feb. 12. Three students from Forest Meadow Junior High School were suspended, the TV station reported.
Officials with Dallas County Schools promised a new investigation Monday into the apparent assault.
Dallas-area bus driver George Diaz recounts the videotaped assault in February by junior high school students.
Diaz, who has hired a lawyer, has said the agency’s police didn’t probe the one-sided scuffle and even discouraged him from pressing charges.
Superintendent Rick Sorrells, in an interview with KDFW, promised to examine the Dallas County Schools Police Department’s handling of the case and meet with the bus driver.
Diaz tapped attorney Pete Schulte to represent him after the former deputy sheriff and prosecutor weighed in on the video in the TV station’s initial report.
The video shows a bottle flying past Diaz and landing on the dashboard. Diaz says the kids beat him when he asked who threw the projectile.
“The bus driver is the adult in charge,” Schulte told KDFW. “These are middle schoolers. They have to listen to the authority that's on that bus, and when they don't and they start throwing punches, that's a crime."
Follow on Twitter @tobysalkcTags: bus driverbeating
PMA: ILWU contract to pave road to automation "Manning and jurisdiction disputes are expected to be common in the coming years as terminal operators invest in costly automation that will improve productivity, slash labor costs -- and eliminate hundreds of
PMA: ILWU contract to pave road to automation "Manning and jurisdiction disputes are expected to be common in the coming years as terminal operators invest in costly automation that will improve productivity, slash labor costs -- and eliminate hundreds of longshore jobs."
Bill Mongelluzzo, Senior Editor | Aug 16, 2015 1:03PM EDT
A completely revamped arbitration system in the new longshore contract will significantly reduce the productivity-busting work slowdowns that have plagued West Coast ports since the previous contract in 2008, and will pave the way for terminal automation in the years ahead, according to Pacific Maritime Association President James McKenna.
In an introductory letter to the 72-page PMA 2014 Annual Report, McKenna described how the 2002 International Longshore and Warehouse Union contract enabled employers to introduce computer technology at marine terminals, and the 2008 contract ensured unfettered access to automated cargo-handling machines.
“The latest contract will enable us to solidify those gains by providing a clear path forward for automation projects, as the result of a new waterfront arbitration system,” McKenna said. Knowing that the arbitration system will allow them to quickly resolve the endless ILWU work slowdowns and work stoppages that kill productivity, terminal operators are ready to invest billions of dollars in automation, “dollars that will pave the way toward more productive and efficient ports,” he said.
Dockworkers engaged in more than 200 slowdowns or work stoppages during the 2008-14 contract, the PMA report stated. Employers had no choice but to rely on the “patchwork nature” of the previous arbitration system that allowed these job actions to interrupt cargo-handling operations while the local arbitrator in the individual port regions adjudicated the disputes. Oftentimes the process resulted in a marine terminal being shut down for the remainder of the work shift.
Under the West Coast arbitration system, both the ILWU local as well as the employer are able to call in the local arbitrator to resolve disagreements. Those disputes could involve a difference of opinion over manning, whether a picket line set up by a third-party group such as harbor truckers was “bona fide” under the contract, or jurisdiction. Under the former system, the local arbitrators in Los Angeles-Long Beach and Seattle-Tacoma were nominated by the ILWU and agreed to by the PMA. The PMA nominated the local arbitrators in Northern California and Portland, with the agreement of the ILWU.
Manning and jurisdiction disputes are expected to be common in the coming years as terminal operators invest in costly automation that will improve productivity, slash labor costs -- and eliminate hundreds of longshore jobs. The previous arbitration system, which critics on both sides said favored either the ILWU or the PMA, depending upon which group nominated the employer, caused some terminal operators to shy away from investing hundreds of millions of dollars to bring in automated guided vehicles, automated stacking cranes and other equipment that is not manned by dockworkers.
The arbitration system in the new contract that was ratified in late May establishes in each port range a three-person panel, one nominated by the ILWU, one by the PMA and the third will be a professional arbitrator with no previous ties to the waterfront.
“The new system will replace the patchwork nature of the old system with more uniformity and, presumably, more certainty,” the PMA report stated.
An automated terminal is quite costly. The automation project at OOCL’s Middle Harbor terminal in Long Beach will end up costing more than $1 billion, with at least half of that investment going toward the purchase of automated machines and the terminal infrastructure to support it. In order to make such investments, terminal operators must be confident that the contract’s arbitration system will prevent dockworkers from engaging in work stoppages and slowdowns that prevent the terminal from achieving its return on investment.
Beneficial cargo owners who diverted cargo to other ports during the year-long 2014-15 contracting process also need a culture of reliability if they are going to return to the West Coast. “After all, shippers crave certainty, and they crave reliability,” the PMA report stated. Under the new arbitration system, West Coast ports will resume their investments in technology and automation to reshape the waterfront, the report said.
Contact Bill Mongelluzzo at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter:@billmongelluzzoTags: ilwuPMAContract
Claims of misconduct surface in Turkish Airlines hiring
August 10, 2015, Monday/ 18:04:03/
TODAY'S ZAMAN / ISTANBUL
Turkish Airlines (THY) has been accused of improper hiring and failing to follow its own hiring protocol, a statement from the Civil Aviation Workers' Union (Hava-İş) said on Monday.
According to the claims, 11 pilots were secretly hired to fly “high level” aircraft such as the A330 and A340, although the hiring was not conducted in accordance with the company's own criteria, which stipulate that a pilot must be working as a THY captain for three years, be below the age of 55, have completed simulated and controlled flights successfully within a year and speak English to a reasonable degree, among other standards.
“In this period, the THY administration gave special privileges and opportunities to captains hired from outside, while the rights of existing THY pilots were violated as the company failed to adhere to its own criteria,” the union said.
THY, Turkey's flagship airline, responded with its own written statement denying the claims, saying the hiring was done in accordance with procedure.
Anti-Union Campaign in Full Swing at Google Express against IBT 853
Labor / Tech
Anti-Union Campaign in Full Swing at Google Express
Posted By Julia Carrie Wong on Fri, Aug 14, 2015 at 1:19 PM
• Ken Wolter / Shutterstock.com
While the rest of the on-demand economy struggles to come to terms with the fallout from start-ups' reliance on classifying employees as independent contractors, Google Express — which does not use independent contractors but instead subcontracts its workforce through a staffing agency — is facing labor troubles of its own. And the battle is heating up.
Workers employed by Adecco, which has about 140 people staffing the Palo Alto warehouse from which Google Express operates its South Bay on-demand delivery service, filed for a union election in late July, seeking representation from the Teamsters Local 853. At the time, Google and Adecco declined to comment on whether or not they would remain neutral in the election, which is scheduled to take place next week.
Now the union is alleging that Adecco is running an anti-union campaign and has retaliated against one worker who spoke to SF Weekly about his support for unionization by suspending him from work.
When Gabriel Cardenas, a 26-year-old warehouse worker who has been at Google Express for about eighteen months, agreed to an interview with SF Weekly, he invoked comments that Laszlo Bock, Google's Senior Vice President of People Operations, had given on KQED's Forum. Asked by a caller how Google would respond to "interference" in union organizing or retaliation by its own subcontractors (specifically referencing Google Bus drivers), Bock responded:
“Well, what I’ll say is that you know we have folks who are unionized, we have folks who are non-union, across the company. Folks have a legal right to organize without fear of retaliation. And that’s a critical and important thing and we respect that. I mean, there would not and will not be retaliation.”
"If I get fired," Cardenas said at the time, "I want them to remember those words." Just a few weeks later, Cardenas was suspended for one and a half days. He says that he was told by managers that he was being disciplined for "bullying, intimidation, and disrespect" — charges he denies.
"They know it's a disadvantage for me to be there," Cardenas says, because he speaks positively to co-workers about unionization. Cardenas says that managers have threatened workers with the prospect of the warehouse shutting down if they unionize.
The Teamsters filed an unfair labor practice complaint with the National Labor Relations Board on August 10, alleging that Cardenas' suspension was "in retaliation for his protected, concerted and Union activity." The union also alleges that Adecco "directed and/or impliedly directed employees not to talk about the Union at work," in violation of rights protected under the National Labor Relations Act.
Adecco spokeswoman Vannessa Almeida declined to comment on the specifics of Cardenas' case or the NLRB complaint, but said: "It’s important to note that we respect the right of employees being able to freely debate, discuss and disagree over the pros and cons of union representation. All associates have a legal right to ask questions and consider all the facts before they vote in the election."
Google declined to comment on the allegations.
Whether or not Adecco is unlawfully denying workers the right to talk about unionizing, the company is making its own stance clear. According to Cardenas and a union official, Adecco is displaying anti-union posters around the work place. The rhetoric in the posters, embedded below, takes aim at the union's argument that major tech companies like Google should be held accountable for the working conditions of their subcontracted employees.
One poster addresses the idea that Google subcontractors are "Googlers," saying,
"If the union or its supporters tell you that by voting for the union you could become a Googler, they are either terribly misinformed or lying to you."
Another raises the specter of job loss:
"There is nothing to stop Adecco's customers, like Google, from switching to another staffing agency or shutting down an operation if the cost of that operation makes it too expensive to keep. That is especially true in a start up and, remember — GSX is a start up."
Almeida defended the posters, saying: "We’re confident our associates will do better through direct dealings with their employer rather than involving a third party like a union. That is ultimately for our associates to decide, but it’s important that they have our point of view on key issues in addition to what they are hearing from union advocates."
Google also declined to comment on its contractors anti-union stance and whether or not it would switch to another agency if the Adecco workers unionize.
Workers like Cardenas will have a clearer sense of their future soon. The election is scheduled for Wednesday and Friday next week.Tags: IBT 853GoogleDrivers
Australian waterfront union MUA official Paddy Crumlin who is also ITF Pres betrays Hutchison strike
Australian waterfront union MUA official Paddy Crumlin who is also ITF Pres betrays Hutchison strike
By Mike Head
14 August 2015
Just as it did in betraying the 1998 waterfront dispute, the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) last night used a ruling by a capitalist court to call off a decisive struggle by dock workers and their supporters against sackings.
While claiming a “victory,” as it did in 1998, the MUA sent the Hutchison Ports workers back to work at 6am today in Brisbane, and intended to do the same at 2 p.m. in Sydney, with many of them to lose their jobs, via company “consultation” with the trade union.
The sell-out may unravel. According to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, about 25 workers in Sydney due to return at 2 p.m., refused to do so after three workers were denied entry by security guards.
For seven days, Hutchison workers fought the dismissal of almost half the global conglomerate’s Australian container terminal workforce. They defied two return-to-work orders by the federal government’s Fair Work Commission (FWC) industrial tribunal.
Their stand had attracted growing sympathy and support from other workers and threatened to become a focus for wider discontent over the never-ending destruction of jobs and conditions. In Melbourne, striking Woolworths supermarket warehouse workers are also defying FWC return-to-work orders.
In the Federal Court last night, Justice Darryl Rangiah granted the MUA a temporary injunction, delaying for two weeks the sackings, which were to come into effect today, citing Hutchison’s failure to adequately “consult” with the union.
The MUA sought the ruling as a political circuit breaker, demobilising workers until the union can reach a rotten deal with Hutchison. The judge said the union had a “prima facie” case that the company breached its enterprise agreement with the MUA by sacking 97 workers by texts and email messages last week.
The MUA was so anxious to shut down the strike that it gave the court a legal undertaking to reimburse Hutchison for the wages of the sacked workers, and any other “damages” the company incurred during the two-week period, if the court finally rules in Hutchison’s favour after the case resumes on August 31.
For the MUA to present this as a “victory,” or even a “reinstatement” of the sacked workers, is a total fraud. The union is pleading for Hutchison to undertake negotiations on how the union can assist it to impose all the job cuts it is demanding.
Addressing a gathering on Sydney’s Port Botany docks last night, MUA national secretary Paddy Crumlin urged workers to “celebrate” the “win,” but flatly declared that “people will go”—that is, workers will lose their jobs.
“So we’re back in, now we’ve got a position to negotiate,” Crumlin said. “We’ll negotiate on the basis that people go. If there’s no contracts, they go, but they have a chance to come back, and there’s an ability to find work somewhere else.”
In other words, the negotiations will aim to help the company ensure that “people go,” ostensibly because it does not have enough stevedoring contracts to retain them, with a chance of “coming back” if Hutchison has work for them.
As for “finding work somewhere else,” more than 800,000 workers are now officially unemployed in Australia. Most of the Hutchison workers signed up with the company because it seemed to offer the only hope of finding permanent work.
Crumlin declared that the union wanted to work with Hutchison, “in the interests of the enterprise,” to “rebuild their business” so that “we’ll go back in there and do our bloody jobs like workers do everywhere.”
This means that the MUA will intensify its collaboration with Hutchison to drive up its rate of exploitation of workers, and hence its profits, so that it can compete with its main Australian rivals, DP World and Asciano-Patricks. All three companies are introducing remotely-controlled automated cranes and other technology, halving their workforces in the process, in a further global restructuring of the ports at the expense of dockworkers’ jobs, conditions and basic rights around the world.
Crumlin’s remarks sum up the political perspective of the MUA and the entire trade union movement. For decades, the unions have worked hand-in-glove with employers to impose their profit-making requirements, forcing workers throughout every industry to sacrifice thousands of jobs, as well as hard-won basic conditions.
In Australia, this union role became pivotal under the “accords” struck between the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the Hawke Labor government during the 1980s, and intensified under the “enterprise bargaining” regime implemented by the Keating Labor government in the 1990s.
Today this offensive is accelerating amid a worsening economic breakdown of global and Australian capitalism, which initially erupted in the 2008 financial crisis and has now produced a sharp slowdown in China, international stagnation and a collapse of the mining export prices on which Australian capitalism depends.
At Port Botany last night, Crumlin again invoked the myth that the 1998 confrontation ended with a victory for workers. He declared: “We walked in the gates in ’98 and it was a very long and bitter dispute and we got on with our job.”
In reality, the 1998 outcome was a monumental betrayal of a six-week struggle against 2,000 mass sackings by Patricks, which paved the way for the devastation of the jobs, conditions and basic rights of dockworkers over the past 17 years. Not only did the MUA strike a deal with Patricks to eliminate 650 permanent jobs—nearly half its workforce. That set in motion an assault that, according to the federal government’s Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, has cut real unit costs by 42.1 percent since 1998–99, delivering the stevedoring giants bumper profits at the expense of workers.
In 1998 too, the MUA’s deal with Patricks was achieved via the intervention of the highest courts in the land, whose rulings served a definite political purpose. They rescued the Howard Liberal-National Coalition government from a deeppolitical crisis, triggered by widespread public support for the sacked workers.
Similarly now, the Federal Court injunction was issued amid a daily-worsening crisis of Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s Coalition government, which is under escalating pressure from the corporate establishment to spearhead the kind of attack launched by Hutchison Ports—including mass sackings and the scrapping of permanency, minimum wages and after-hours penalty rates.
The Abbott government initially endorsed Hutchison’s method of unleashing sackings by text messages. But on Wednesday evening—the night before the Federal Court hearing—there was a clear sign that the government was desperate for a deal to be struck between Hutchison and the MUA. Employment Minister Eric Abetz issued a statement criticising Hutchison’s “method of communicating with workers,” saying it “has not helped this already difficult situation.”
It was a revealing expression of the increasingly faction-riddled government’s fear of a wider movement developing in the working class. Such a movement is equally threatening to the Labor Party, which is seeking to regain office by reassuring big business that it will prove a more stable and reliable instrument than Abbott’s government for enforcing the corporate agenda.
While seeking to avert a broader revolt, the MUA and the other unions are trying to channel growing unrest and disaffection among workers back behind the election of yet another Labor government. Today the MUA has invited federal Labor shadow minister Brendan O’Connor to speak at Port Botany, posing as a friend of workers, before a planned return to work, just as they previously hosted Labor leader Bill Shorten on the picket. There were similar scenes in 1998.
Workers on the docks and everywhere have to draw the lessons of these experiences. For decades, every dispute has ended in betrayal. Countless thousands of jobs have been wiped out as the unions suppressed resistance. On every occasion, the unions have functioned as agencies of the employers and governments—whether Labor or Coalition.
It’s time for a new perspective—a strategy for winning, not losing, based on an offensive by the working class itself. That means breaking from the unions, forming rank-and-file committees to organise and develop the waterfront strike, and inviting workers from DP World and Asciano to participate. It means turning out to other layers of workers to join in, as well as Hutchison workers around the world, especially in Indonesia, where Hutchison plans job cuts in Jakarta’s port, to fight to defend their own jobs and conditions.
This is a fight not only against the union, but against the Abbott government, the Labor leaders and the entire political establishment. If workers are going to have secure jobs and decent living standards, they must challenge and replace the profit system itself. In other words, what is required is a socialist perspective—the fight for a workers’ government that will nationalise the ports, together with the banks and other basic industries, under democratic workers’ control—so that the powerful technological and economic resources developed by the working class itself are harnessed for the benefit of all, not the wealthy corporate elite.
SA NUMSA fully backs intercape bus drivers strike
4 August 2015, Posted in Press Releases
The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) in the Western Cape (WC) fully backs Intercape bus drivers’ strike that started earlier this morning, Tuesday 04 August 2015, which is causing major delays for commuters travelling from Western Cape to far-flung areas across the country.
Intercape’s drivers belonging to Numsa decided to embark on a strike action in solidarity with the dismissed Hostesses by the greedy Intercape management. The strike by drivers is a genuine and a living expression of workers battle cry “an injury to one; an injury to all”.
Currently drivers are seized with a heavy burden and expected to carry-out duties that were performed by Hostesses, whilst at the same time are expected to discharge their usual duties of driving long-hours transporting commuters to their respective destinations in major towns and cities of our country.
These added and unpaid responsibilities are not in the best interest of commuters, since their pose a safety risk on our public roads. Already South Africa has a horrific and highest number of road fatalities compared to other developing countries in the world.
Numsa demands the immediate re-instatement of all the dismissed Hostesses, including Intercape resolving all the grievances raised by drivers. Any failure by Intercape to heed our call we will call for a mass public boycott of Intercape buses.
The grievances include:
• Drivers must buy their own padlocks for trailers;
• Drivers must fix buses when broken down; failure by the driver to fix the bus, all costs paid to the mechanic will be deducted from a drivers salary; AND
• All drivers must be hired by Intercape, not through a Labour Broker – Munashe;
The union had explored all avenues to avert the strike, unfortunately due to big-headedness and sheer arrogance by Intercape’s management a deal or settlement could not be brokered to end the impasse.
The union has opted to embark on a strike action, based on a democratic and worker-controlled mandate from below, as a tactical and organisational strategy to force Intercape to concede to the demands of workers.
We are currently satisfied with the manner in which the strike is unfolding, and we call other workers not on strike, to unite and join the strike since these demands are going to benefit all workers, irrespective of one’s union logo’s or t-shirts colours.
We call on Intercape commuters and the general public at large to pledge their support to the demands of workers. These bus drivers, including Hostesses are bread-winners and responsible for taking care of the large army of the unemployed that is ravaged by poverty and squalor in our Townships, informal settlements and rural slums.
Western Cape Regional Secretary
Mobile: +2778 511 3043
Western Cape Aviation/Passenger Coordinator
Mobile: +2773 786 8936
Bay Area Teamsters face first roadblock in unionizing shuttle drivers
Teamsters and drivers for Bauer's Intelligent Transportation rally against the company’s intimidation tactics on Tuesday at the corner of Valencia and 24th streets. (Michael Ares/Special to S.F. Examiner)
By Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez on August 11, 2015 9:46 pm
Two years ago, San Francisco’s eviction crisis spurred the first Google bus protests and drew national attention.
Now, the tech shuttle-stopping tactic is being employed again — this time to defend the shuttle drivers.
Early Tuesday morning, more than 40 members of various Teamsters unions stopped tech shuttles on Valencia and 24th streets, the same corner of the first shuttle protests in 2013.
“We don’t get no justice? Then you don’t get no buses!” the Teamsters shouted as they blocked a Bauer’s Intelligent Transportation bus from moving, and another soon after.
The first stopped Bauer’s shuttle was chartered by video game-maker Electronic Arts. The second was chartered by tech giant Cisco Systems.
The protest comes on the heels of a federal complaint that alleges Bauer’s Intelligent Transportation intimidated its drivers who are considering forming a union.
Bauer’s management then photographed and wrote down the names of its drivers to dissuade them from joining the Teamsters, the union alleged.
Bauer’s did not return calls for comment.
“We believe drivers deserve fair treatment,” said Rome Aloise, principal officer of Teamsters Local 853. “And Bauer’s is the worst of the worst.”
Bauer’s is considered the first major roadblock in the path to Silicon Valley unionization.
The Teamsters have almost overnight recruited many of the shuttle drivers who transport tech workers from San Francisco to the South Bay. Just two weeks ago, Compass Transportation drivers voted to join the Teamsters. Compass provides shuttle services to companies like Apple, eBay, Yahoo! and Zynga.
The Teamsters are especially pushing for added pay during the downtime between morning and evening commute “split shifts,” said Mark Gleason, from Teamsters Local 665. Drivers began discussing forming a union in March, he said.
“Immediately Bauer’s started spying on the workers,” Gleason said. “We need an election to decide if these workers want a union or not, but [Bauer’s] is fighting back very aggressively.”
Bauer’s drivers, in general, make about $16 an hour. But Gleason said union drivers make about $24 an hour.
“Everyone understands income inequality nowadays,” Gleason said. But Bauer’s drivers’ medical packages are “basically nonexistent,” he said.
Aloise told the San Francisco Examiner that Teamsters may repeat the protests until Bauer’s backs off. This may potentially include a protest of the shuttle at the 49ers new Levi’s Stadium, Aloise said.
The National Labor Relations Board is set to hear from both Bauer’s and the Teamsters in September.
If Bauer’s is found at fault, it could run afoul of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s recently passed “labor harmony” resolution, which directs shuttle companies that are part of The City’s Commuter Shuttle Pilot Program to maintain good relations with its unions.
Back at the protest, Aloise shouted to the teamsters, “We will win this battle!” Then they dispersed.Tags: teamsterstech
Stop Zionist Attacks On AROC-Statement Of TWSC
Statement of Transport Workers Solidarity Committee
August 11, 2015
The Transport Workers Solidarity Committee unequivocally defends AROC against attacks by the Jewish Community Relations Committee. We also defend AROC and any critics of Israel should the California State Assembly bill #35 be implemented and directed against AROC or other anti-Zionist protesters by the U.C. Regents. That is the bill which falsely equates anti-semitism with anti-zionism. Any attempt to stifle AROC’s freedom of speech on campus would also effect any actions in the port protesting Zionist atrocities.
At the same time we are obligated to point out that the UAW 2865 meeting chaired by an AROC supporter at UC Berkeley last December was not run democratically. Members of TWSC were not called on because some of us, including members of the ILWU, who’d participated in the 2010 anti-Zim port protest, are critical of the BDS campaign. It’s not a strategy based on the working class. AROC head Lara Kiswani who was a panelist could have corrected this but didn’t.
TWSC also had differences with AROC last August when Block the Boat and AROC called a rally in the port while the ZIM Piraeus was still at sea, claimed a victory and called an end to the protest. TWSC and others disagreed. We fought to continue the protest until the ship left port unloaded by longshore workers. We knew that to stop the ZIM ship required the support of longshore workers honoring the picket line. We’re glad some of you changed your position and decided to join us on the picket line not only in August but again in September. Together we were able to stop any cargo movements with the support of the rank and file longshoremen. That picket line action was recognized by the Palestinian solidarity group, Friends of Sabeel. Local 10 activist Stacey Rodgers and myself as TWSC chair received the award on behalf of the ILWU.
Despite our differences we recognize that unity of action against Zionist repression is essential. Again, we defend AROC against any Zionist attack and agree to have our organization listed as such on your petition.
Stop Zionist and Imperialist Repression Here and in Israel!
Jack HeymanTags: TWSCZionists
Walmart Crimes-Tracy Morgan Crash Largely Result of Truck Driver’s Fatigue, Regulators Say
By BENJAMIN MUELLERAUG. 11, 2015
Tracy Morgan and his fiancèe, Megan Wollover, during an appearance on "NBC Nightly News" in June.CreditPeter Kramer/NBC
Federal transportation regulators on Tuesday cited a Walmart truck driver’s fatigue as the chief cause of a crash last year that killed the comedian James McNair and critically injured Tracy Morgan, a star of the television series “30 Rock.”
National Transportation Safety Board investigators, presenting their findings at a public hearing in Washington about the June 2014 crash on the New Jersey Turnpike, said unused seatbelts exacerbated the injuries, and criticized the training of emergency medical workers who struggled to remove Mr. Morgan and some of the other six people who were trapped inside an overturned limousine van.
In addition, the limousine had been customized, officials said, leaving the passengers without any available exits until emergency responders cut out part of a plywood panel that had been installed between the passenger compartment and the cab.
“Their single means of exiting had become inoperable in the crash,” the board chairman, Christopher Hart, said.
Even if that sliding door had worked, it was above passengers’ heads, because the van had flipped onto its side. The officials said they shuddered at what might have happened had the vehicle caught fire.
T. Bella Dinh-Zarr and Christopher Hart at a meeting of the National Transportation Safety Board on Tuesday. CreditCarolyn Kaster/Associated Press
The crash left Mr. Morgan with a severe brain injury and killed Mr. McNair, 62, who was known as Jimmy Mack. Eight other people were injured when the Walmart truck — traveling 65 miles per hour in a 45 m.p.h. zone as it approached a construction area where traffic was backed up — rear-ended the van and set off a chain-reaction collision.
The truck driver, Kevin Roper, is awaiting trial in New Jersey on charges of vehicular homicide and assault by auto. Mr. Morgan settled a lawsuitagainst Walmart in May for an undisclosed amount. In an interview on NBC in June, Mr. Morgan said that he was not ready to return to his comedy career, and was still experiencing forgetfulness, headaches and nosebleeds.
Federal officials cast blame for the damage on a wide range of lax training and safety programs, as well as lapses in the emergency medical response. It took around 40 minutes for responders to extricate the passengers.
Medical workers initially “failed to recognize how serious the situation was and how many severely injured occupants” were in the van, Thomas Barth, a safety board investigator, said. By the time more highly trained medical workers arrived, “they were overwhelmed,” because “they didn’t have enough resources on hand,” Dr. Barth said.
Investigators suggested that communication problems could have been compounded because medical teams came from different jurisdictions and had different levels of experience. They suggested that New Jersey set uniform training standards for groups that provide emergency medical service on the turnpike.
Mr. Roper had been awake for more than 28 hours at the time of the crash. He had driven 800 miles overnight from his home in Georgia to a Walmart distribution center in Delaware, where he began his delivery.
The Walmart truck involved in the crash with Mr. Morgan's limousine in June 2014. The truck was taken to an auto body shop in Cranbury, N.J. CreditRobert Stolarik for The New York Times
Investigators questioned Mr. Roper’s decision to take on the load despite having only about an hour remaining in the period he could be on duty according to federal regulations. He did not apply the brakes until he was within 200 feet of the van.
His fatigue, the board determined, made him “slow to react.”
The board recommended that companies like Walmart develop more robust fatigue management programs to educate dispatchers, drivers and their families on the risks of sleeplessness.
Drowsy driving has plagued truck drivers for decades, but the Senate passed a bill last month that exempted some truck drivers from rules limiting their hours of service.
Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut, who has opposed efforts to loosen such restrictions, said the safety board’s findings affirmed the need for stronger regulations. In a statement on Tuesday, he criticized the Senate for passing “a transportation bill full of special interest gifts to the trucking industry.”
Mr. Blumenthal added, “Allowing more tired truckers on our roads will only lead to more accidents like the horrific accident that injured Tracy Morgan last year.”
Wearing seatbelts and properly adjusting head restraints could have kept the passengers from flailing about, investigators said. Acknowledging that passengers tend to overlook available safety equipment when they are in a social setting, the board recommended making safety briefings mandatory on such limousine vans.
The truck was equipped with a collision awareness system to alert drivers to dangers ahead, but the data did not indicate that any alerts were made.Tags: WalmartderegulationTrucking