Labor News

Uber Drivers and Others in the Gig Economy Take a Stand

Current News - Wed, 02/03/2016 - 08:01

Uber Drivers and Others in the Gig Economy Take a Stand
http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/03/business/uber-drivers-and-others-in-th...
By NOAM SCHEIBERFEB. 2, 2016

An Uber driver cruising through a night-life district in Tampa, Fla., his car adorned with messages protesting Uber’s policies. CreditLuke Johnson for The New York Times

Last September, Dallas-area drivers for UberBlack, the company’s high-end car service, received an email informing them that they would be expected to start picking up passengers on UberX, its low-cost option.

The next day, when the policy was scheduled to go into effect, dozens of drivers caravaned to Uber’s office in downtown Dallas and planted themselves outside until company officials met with them. Many had taken out loans to buy luxury vehicles that cost upward of $35,000, and worried that the modest per-mile rate for UberX passengers would barely cover gas and wear and tear, to say nothing of their car payments.

The standoff stretched across nearly three more tense days until Uber allowed them to opt out of the policy. “They thought we were just going to give up, walk away,” said Kirubel Kebede, a leader of the group. “But we said, ‘No, this is our livelihood.’”

In the rapid growth of the online gig economy, many workers have felt squeezed and at times dehumanized by a business structure that promises independence but often leaves them at the mercy of increasingly powerful companies. Some are beginning to band together in search of leverage and to secure what they see as fairer treatment from the platforms that make the work possible.

Photo

Ryan Valentine, a former driver for Uber in Tampa, Fla., marked his vehicle with messages expressing his dissatisfaction with the company before a recent protest.CreditLuke Johnson for The New York Times
“We started realizing we’re not contractors, we’re more like employees,” said Berhane Alemayoh, one of the UberBlack drivers in Dallas. “They tell us what kind of car to drive. They kick you out if a customer accused you of not having a clean car. They started to tighten the rope. Gradually, we can’t breathe any more.”

Perhaps the most prominent effort was a measure to give ride-hailing drivers the right to unionize in Seattle, which was approved by the City Council in December.

But while many campaigns by alienated workers have shunned this more traditional labor-organizing approach, they have highlighted a basis for advancing the interests of gig economy workers collectively.

“There’s a sense of workplace identity and group consciousness despite the insistence from many of these platforms that they are simply open ‘marketplaces’ or ‘malls’ for digital labor,” said Mary L. Gray, a researcher at Microsoft Research and professor in the Media School at Indiana University who studies gig economy workers.

The efforts extend well beyond drivers for Uber and its prime competitor, Lyft. A group of couriers who find work on the platform Postmates is waging a campaign to create an “I’m done after this delivery” button because they worry that turning down jobs will affect how many future assignments they receive. (A Postmates official said turning down jobs had no effect on future work, but that the company was still sympathetic to the idea.)

The National Domestic Workers Alliance, which organizes nannies and housekeepers, recently produced what it calls the Good Work Code, which it has urged gig economy companies to adopt.

“They would be dispatched to a home that didn’t feel safe, but would be hesitant to exit themselves from that situation because it might affect their ratings,” said Palak Shah, the alliance official leading the effort, citing one of several issues that the Good Work Code is intended to address. A handful of firms, like Managed by Q, LeadGenius and CareLinx, have embraced the guidelines.

Similarly, a group of workers on Amazon’s Mechanical Turk platform, where people post and accept piecework assignments, in 2014 developed extensive guidelines — including recommended pay and the need to provide timely responses to questions — for academics who use the platform for research purposes. More than 60 academics have signed on to date.

Though the so-called Turkers tend to value the flexibility and independence of freelancing and often reject the idea of a traditional union, many have also developed a kind of working-stiff identity. “I’ve heard them say Jeff Bezos is their boss — we’re workers here,” said Niloufar Salehi, a Stanford Ph.D. student who spent a year immersed in Turker forums to help the workers organize.

By contrast, sellers of goods on digital marketplaces like eBay and Etsy rarely think of themselves as employees. In their minds, they say, they are independent artisans and shopkeepers.

“Etsy is the place where the shop exists, where I pay rent,” said Sandie Russo, a longtime seller of hand-knit accessories and knitting patterns who once ran an online forum in which sellers helped one another address common problems. “It’s definitely that you’re an entrepreneur, not a worker.”

Like the Etsy shopkeepers, many Uber drivers began their relationship with the company thinking of themselves as self-employed.

“There is that sense initially,” said Harry Campbell, a longtime Uber driver who runs a popular blog and podcast about ride-hailing. “But as time goes on, it wears off. You start to see that Uber does control a lot of aspects of the work.”

Unlike sellers on eBay or Etsy, Uber drivers cannot set the prices they charge. They are also constrained by the all-important rating system — maintain an average of around 4.6 out of 5 stars from customers in many cities or risk being deactivated — to behave a certain way, like not marketing other businesses to passengers.

The experience of the Dallas UberBlack drivers is telling. When Uber entered Dallas in 2012, many of the drivers were either independent hired-car operators or contractors for limousine companies who bought or leased their own cars.

“Some had their own business, they were fine with the business,” Mr. Alemayoh said. “They just used Uber as a complement.”

The drivers formed a tactical alliance with the company to help it gain the city’s approval, which local cab operators resisted. Mr. Alemayoh even sang Uber’s praises in testimony before the Houston City Council, after the company asked him to speak there as part of its expansion efforts. “I said it’s fair to drivers to have Uber,” he recalled. “I spoke on their behalf, they didn’t pay me.”

But the relationship began to sour in 2014, when the company decreed that drivers with cars made before 2008 would no longer be able to participate in UberBlack.

“We said, ‘You guys are affecting so many families,’” said Mr. Kebede, a leader of a group called the Association of Limousine Owners and Operators of Dallas Fort Worth, formed the previous year. Uber extended the grace period by several months in some cases but did not reverse the policy.

By the time Uber handed down its UberX directive in September, the drivers had long since recognized that they were at the company’s beck and call. Because of Uber’s popularity, almost all their other sources of business had dried up. And Uber had earned the imprimatur of the City Council, which made the drivers politically expendable, too.

So it was something of a surprise that the drivers’ association, which represents about 500 of the 2,000 to 3,000 black-car drivers it believes are active in the Dallas area, was able to push Uber not only to scale back the UberX change, but also to reinstate several of the drivers it had deactivated for pressuring fellow drivers as the showdown escalated.

Some continue to be deactivated for what they feel are arbitrary reasons, which Uber maintains are unrelated to the protest (“Drivers have the right to free expression and we respect that,” said a company representative). But to the extent that the Dallas drivers have been successful, one crucial advantage is that they were able to organize in person rather than depend exclusively on the Internet and social media.

That also helps explain the success of the campaign in Seattle, where Uber had previously reversed a rate cut after facing pressure from drivers. (Uber maintains that the reversal was unrelated.) “The drivers have gone out and talked to each other,” said Dawn Gearhart, a spokeswoman in the area for the Teamsters union, which provides support services to local drivers. “Every time they would call a meeting, a couple hundred people would show up.”

Since the beginning of the year, drivers in cities like New York and San Francisco have relied on a similar local focus to organize protests over rate cuts. Hundreds of drivers descended on Uber’s headquarters in Queens on Monday to demand that the old rates be restored.

In the Tampa area, drivers have protested cuts that brought rates down to 65 cents a mile from 95 cents as of early January, and from $1.20 as recently as last spring. Net earnings for drivers there can come perilously close to subminimum wage rates on a 15- to 20-minute trip in town once they factor in pickup and wait times and the cost of gas, depreciation and maintenance.

“We sometimes lower prices in a city to get more people using Uber,” said an Uber representative. “As we have always said, price cuts need to work for drivers. If they do not, we will roll them back.”

In response, the Tampa area drivers started a weekly logout of an hour or two during peak periods for weekend revelers. During that time, they write messages on their windows about what they consider unlivable wages. The group has grown rapidly to a network of 700 drivers who communicate via an app-based walkie-talkie service called Zello.

The Tampa drivers’ goal is to enlist Uber’s most politically valuable asset — legions of customers who have grown dependent on the service — to help send a message to Uber. Over time, they hope to extend the logouts to several hours, perhaps even a full day on the weekend.

“It’s a little blip on Uber’s radar,” said Josh Streeter, one of the leaders. “But then people might believe they have the power. That if they band together, they could pull off a bigger action.”

Tags: UberDrivers
Categories: Labor News

9,000 Uber Drivers Planning to Disrupt Super Bowl With Protest

Current News - Tue, 02/02/2016 - 23:51

9,000 Uber Drivers Planning to Disrupt Super Bowl With Protest
http://observer.com/2016/02/9000-uber-drivers-planning-to-disrupt-super-...
'We're shutting it down. We're shutting the highways down.'
By Sage Lazzaro • 02/02/16 4:57pm

Mike Dean of The Rideshare Report, narrating yesterday’s San Francisco protest. (Screengrab: YouTube)
Yesterday, a caravan of about 1,000 Uber drivers reportedly drove through San Francisco, yelling and beeping their horns. In a tight pack, the string of disgruntled drivers drove by the airport, the Uber support center and City Hall to protest the recent fare cuts, which have left many drivers earning below minimum wage.

This rally, however, was just a taste of what’s to come. These drivers along with many, many more are planning to assemble this sunday for a protest that will disrupt the Super Bowl, set to be held at Levi’s Stadium in San Francisco. Specifically, they plan to congest the highways leading to the stadium and even the area around the stadium itself. Thousands of drivers are expected to attend.

“We’re telling them we’re going to shut it down for the Super Bowl. We’re shutting it down. We’re shutting the highways down. We’re shutting everything down and we’re not going to allow Uber to keep screwing drivers over,” Mario, who organized the caravan but declined to give his last name, said in a video recorded by RideShare Report’s Mike Dean at the protest.

In the video, Mario says he has 4,000 drivers from the area planning to attend and that another 5,000 from Los Angeles have committed to the protest also.

“This will continue until Travis decides to man up and start paying these drivers what they deserve,” he added.

On the Rideshare Report, Mr. Dean writes that the plan to disrupt the Super Bowl was inspired by a tip a driver received from an Uber employee. He says a driver got word that the company plans to offer a promotion on Super Bowl Sunday and drop rates from $1.15 per mile to 50 cents per mile to help ease the surge pricing effect.

These drivers are just a few of the many who have spent the last few weeks fighting Uber for a living wage. Nationwide, drivers have boycotted, raised their voices on social media (only to be blocked by CEO Travis Kalanick, in some cases) and hosted rallies in dozens of cities, including yesterday in New York City, where an estimated 1,000 drivers gathered outside the company’s New York headquarters in Brooklyn. It was no coincidence the NYC and San Francisco rallies happened at the same time. Mario said they were a coordinated act and that his team is united with those protesting in New York, Seattle,Washington D.C., New Jersey and Texas.

Tags: UBER Super BowlrallyDrivers
Categories: Labor News

Investigation begins into N.J., N.Y. port walkout, as dockworkers return "Union leaders said publicly they too had been caught unawares that their members had been planning to walk off the job, but cited growing anger by dockworkers over what they see as

Current News - Mon, 02/01/2016 - 19:00

Investigation begins into N.J., N.Y. port walkout, as dockworkers return "Union leaders said publicly they too had been caught unawares that their members had been planning to walk off the job, but cited growing anger by dockworkers over what they see as a growing "intrusion into their livelihoods" by waterfront commission, which licenses longshoremen."

http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2016/02/investigation_begins_into_nj_ny...

By Ted Sherman
February 01, 2016 at 5:30 AM, updated February 01, 2016 at 10:27 AM

NEWARK—Cargo operations at the region's ports resumed over the weekend, as the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor said it was opening an investigation into who orchestrated what it called an illegal walkout on Friday.

Port officials expect a normal workday today, after dockworkers walked off the job without warning on Friday, shutting down the busiest waterfront on the East Coast.

The longshoremen came back Friday night and worked over the weekend, said Steve Coleman, a spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which serves as the landlord for the New York Harbor terminal areas in the two states.

"They worked ships Friday night and yesterday," said Coleman.

While many of the terminals handling cargo from the ships that call on Port Newark and the other terminals in the region are typically closed to truckers on the weekend, there were some operations on Saturday and Sunday. Coleman said Global Container Terminal in Bayonne put in extra hours in advance of the walkout to make up for the snow days, and was open Sunday with no problems.

"We expect a normal day tomorrow and will have normal Port Authority Police Department staffing at the terminals to assist with traffic control, which is typically an issue in the morning," he said.

Surprise walkout by dockworks shuts down port

The move, which quickly led to huge truck backlogs, caught port officials, terminal operators and even union executives unaware.
Meanwhile, the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor, which can lift a dockworker's license to work for any number of rules violations, said it has opened a probe into what sparked the sudden day-long labor action, and who may have been responsible.

"We have begun an investigation as to who ordered the illegal walkout and why," said Walter Arsenault, the commission's executive director. "We expect normal operations in the port tomorrow. Commission detectives will be in the port as they always are."

The New York Shipping Association, which represents the terminal operators, ocean carriers, and stevedores, said Monday should be a normal day.

"The next step is obviously to sit down and try and resolve the outstanding points," said NYSA spokeswoman Beverly Fedorko. "We can't get into the specific details of the discussions, but they all have to do with work preservation."

A union spokesman did not respond to requests for comment on Sunday. Some 4,000 union members work at the port.

The dockworkers, who walked off the job at about 10 a.m on Friday, returned that evening after an arbitrator issued a finding that the work stoppage represented a contract violation, leading the International Longshoremen's Association to urge its members to return to "accept orders and return to work immediately."

The Port of New York & New Jersey is the East Coast's busiest port, not least because of its location in a consumer market of 25 million people. So what are the products that arrive from the Middle East, China and elsewhere in the holds of tankers and stacked on the decks of container ships? Here are the region's top 10 imports, by dollar value, for the first half of 2015, as compiled by the Port Authority. (John Munson | NJ Advance Media)
Steve Strunsky | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

Much of what comes into the port follows a tight logistics schedule so that things do not sit in warehouses for any length of time, noted Richard Barone, vice president for transportation at the Regional Plan Association, which examines transportation, environmental and economic development issues in the Northeast.

"There isn't much leeway when there is a stoppage like this," he said. "It could be very serious."

He pointed to the 2004 strike by dockworkers at Port of Los Angeles and Long Beach, shutting down the port for an entire week. Barone said the Congressional Budget Office later estimated the economic losses at $150 million per day. More recently, a protracted labor dispute last year again jammed ship traffic at ports along the West Coast, affecting not only imports coming into the United States, but tons of fresh fruits and vegetables bound for Asian markets.

At the same time, Barone said about 80 percent of the goods that come into the New York area ports stay in the metropolitan area. "They feed us, clothe us, and are used in our daily lives," he said.

Kurt Krummenacker, vice president and senior credit officer for Moody's Investors Service, said the terminal operators would bear most of the risk of any long-term strike.

"We are continuing to monitor the situation and identify the underlying labor issues," he said.
It is still unclear exactly what precipitated the walkout, which caught just about everyone at the port by surprise. The NYSA has an existing collective bargaining agreement with the ILA and had not been negotiating with the powerful union.

Union leaders said publicly they too had been caught unawares that their members had been planning to walk off the job, but cited growing anger by dockworkers over what they see as a growing "intrusion into their livelihoods" by waterfront commission, which licenses longshoremen.

Both the union and the shipping association have frequently chafed at the commission's regulations, which both say has held up hiring and threatens a labor shortage. Last year, the New Jersey Legislature moved to pull the state out of the commission, which had also come under attack for internal abuses by the New York Inspector General in 2009 that led to an overhaul of the agency. Gov. Chris Christie, however vetoed the measure.

The bi-state commission, created more than 60 years ago, is tasked with keeping out corruption and mob control on the docks, and has been involved in a number of criminal actions in recent years charging union members in a mob-tied shakedown of other workers.

Economic impact
Any long-term work stoppage at the sprawling port of New York Harbor potentially could cause billions in economic losses.

The combined terminals of New York Harbor—which include Port Newark, the Elizabeth-Port Authority Marine Terminal, the Howland Hook Marine Terminal, the Brooklyn-Port Authority Marine Terminal, the Red Hook Container Terminal, and the Port Jersey Port Authority Marine Terminal—handle more than 3.3 million cargo containers a year, which represents some $200 billion in products ranging from food and clothes to furniture and cars.

Ted Sherman may be reached at tsherman@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @TedShermanSL. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

Tags: ILAWildcat strikeNYC
Categories: Labor News

NYC Uber drivers protest fare cuts outside Queens office: ‘After we pay the commission...we are not making anything’

Current News - Mon, 02/01/2016 - 18:46

NYC Uber drivers protest fare cuts outside Queens office: ‘After we pay the commission...we are not making anything’
http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/uber-drivers-protest-fare-cuts-queen...
BY DAN RIVOLI NEW YORK DAILY NEWS Updated: Monday, February 1, 2016, 2:56 PM

Uber Driver Protest
CBS New York

Angry Uber drivers hit the streets outside of the app’s Queens office on Monday to protest against cuts to fares.

Drivers at the rally outside the company’s Long Island City, Queens, office Monday said the fare cuts made it harder to earn a decent income, while Uber continues to rake in a 20-25% commission off each ride.

“After we pay the commission…we are not making anything,” said driver Afsal Khan, 28.

He and other drivers said they’ll have to hustle harder to make the same amount of money.

Khan said he usually did 80 trips a week.

“Now, I have to do 120 trips to make the same money,” Khan said.

Amit Agniho, 48, said he didn’t know if he could squeeze in more hours behind the wheel of an Uber.

“I already work 12 hours,” he said. “More than 12 hours is so hard to work.”

Drivers who use the low-cost UberX and XL services last week were sacked with a 15% cut in fare rates, including a drop in the minimum fare to $7, from $8.

At the rally organized by the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, the group’s director, Bhairavi Desai, stood on top of a dirty pile of snow to lead the drivers in a chant, “lower the commission, not the fare” and “respect the drivers.”

The hacks, who are called driver-partners at Uber, said the app is not acting like a partner.

“They’re changing policy to benefit themselves, not the drivers,” Dawa Gurung, 30, said.

Uber contends that cheaper rides for customers means more trips, so workers will make up the lost income.

Victor Salazar holds up a “Driver Power” sign at the Queens protest.
A spokesman said Uber will try to show drivers the benefits of lower fares.

“We are offering to meet individually with every driver who wants to discuss their concerns and review their earnings to show how we think this is helping their business,” the spokesman said.

drivoli@nydailynews.com

Tags: Uber driversProtest NYC
Categories: Labor News

Cambodia: Carlsberg/Cambrew dismisses striking beer promotion women in Cambodia!

Labourstart.org News - Mon, 02/01/2016 - 16:00
LabourStart headline - Source: IUF
Categories: Labor News

Pakistan: PIA workers on full strike after PM Nawaz bans union activity

Labourstart.org News - Mon, 02/01/2016 - 16:00
LabourStart headline - Source: The Daily
Categories: Labor News

South Africa: COSATU decision to host controversial WFTU Congress comes under fire

Labourstart.org News - Sun, 01/31/2016 - 16:00
LabourStart headline - Source: GroundUp
Categories: Labor News

The Wreck of Amtrak 188 What caused the worst American rail disaster in decades?

Current News - Sat, 01/30/2016 - 21:55

The Wreck of Amtrak 188
What caused the worst American rail disaster in decades?
http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/31/magazine/the-wreck-of-amtrak-188.html?...
By MATTHEW SHAERJAN. 26, 2016

From 30th Street Station, the train glided northwest out of Philadelphia, tracing the arc of the freeway. Near the old Schuylkill River Bridge, it jogged right, gathering speed, bound for the New Jersey border. Had you been standing anywhere near the tracks, you would have heard Amtrak 188 before you saw it, in the hum of the rail bed and the metallic shiver of the electricity in the overhead catenary wires. And then you would have felt it, in the vibration of the earth: the combined weight of a 98-ton locomotive and seven 50-ton cars, carrying a total of 258 people, eight of them employees.

At the head end of 188, swaddled in a cushioned chair stitched with the Amtrak insignia, the 32-year-old engineer, Brandon Bostian, watched the apartment houses of North Philadelphia bleed into view, his boots resting on the corrugated metal floor. Around him, in a tight semicircle, were a series of square screens that displayed speed, brake-pipe pressure and the feed from the rear-facing video cameras. With his left hand, he slid forward a red-handled lever — the master controller — to send a surge of electricity from the catenary system to the traction motors that gripped the rails.

The locomotive under Bostian’s command that night — May 12, 2015 — was an ACS-64 Cities Sprinter, the most advanced engine in the Amtrak fleet. A modification of a machine long used in Europe, the ACS-64 is rated by its manufacturer, Siemens, at 8,600 horsepower, burly enough to haul seven fully loaded coaches at speeds of up to 125 miles per hour. But in the cab of 188, walled off from the outside world by two panes of reinforced glass, the loudest sounds would have been the burp of the radio and the intermittent whine of the alerter, which triggers if an engineer takes his hands off the controls for more than a few seconds, shutting off only once the round red “acknowledge” button on the dashboard has been depressed.

Photo

Amtrak 188 the day after the derailment.CreditPhotograph by Win McNamee/Getty Images
At around 9:16 p.m., the train crossed the intersection at North 22nd Street. In Reyburn Park, the fluorescent lights gleamed. The skies above were clear, with the temperature hovering at 82 degrees. A westerly wind gusted gently at 20 m.p.h., flattening the trackside weeds. Bostian was less than a mile from North Philadelphia Station, where 188 did not stop, and roughly three miles and three minutes from Frankford Junction, one of the sharpest curves on the Northeast Corridor. The last thing Bostian says he remembers, according to his lawyer, was ringing the in-cab bell as he passed the station house, headed toward the junction.

In the days and weeks and months to come, every part of his northbound journey would be dissected by law enforcement, by the news media, by the public. It would be said, correctly, that the wreck of Amtrak 188 was the worst kind of anomaly — that train travel was safer than many other forms of travel, cars included, and that Amtrak’s safety record was sterling. (This, too, is accurate: From 2000 to 2014, accidents on Amtrak routes dropped to 1.7 accidents per million passenger-miles from 4.1.) Bostian’s personal life would be picked apart, his state of mind questioned. Theories would be floated and discredited: that there was some sort of mechanical problem with the locomotive, or the track, or the signals (none of the above). That Bostian was on his phone at the time of the accident (he was not). That he was using drugs or drinking (his blood was clean).

Finally, investigators would turn their focus on the section of track between North Philadelphia Station and Frankford Junction. Three miles of train travel: the distance it took for an otherwise unremarkable trip, overseen by an engineer known for his prudence, to go violently, impossibly wrong.

There seems never to have been a time when Brandon Bostian did not dream of a career on the railroad. Growing up in suburban Tennessee, a shy and slightly gawky introvert, he papered the walls of his bedroom with pictures of locomotives and made regular pilgrimages to Central Station in Memphis. There, in the evenings, he would observe the arrival of the City of New Orleans, an overnighter immortalized in the 1971 folk song of the same name (“Mothers with their babes asleep rocking to the gentle beat/And the rhythm of the rails is all they feel”). “When you heard the name Brandon Bostian, the first thing you would think is trains,” one friend told The Times.

Most kids outgrow their love of trains. Bostian never did. At the University of Missouri, he studied journalism and business and attended a nondenominational Christian church called the Rock. Openly gay later in life, Bostian dated women in college. “He was never exactly the life of the party,” a fellow Rock parishioner told me. “It took some time to get to know him. Once you did, you saw how truly kind he was, and how smart.” And yet the railroad was never far from Bostian’s mind. A college roommate remembers him holed up in his dorm room, playing train simulators on the computer. He amassed books on trains, small metal models of them. During his senior year, he landed a part-time gig as a brakeman with a regional railway and then later a conductor with Amtrak, and by 2010, he had migrated out to the Bay Area to work as a contract engineer for Caltrain, the local commuter-rail line.

To a remarkable extent, Bostian’s weeks were structured around the railroad. He spent his workdays in the cab and his evenings online on train message boards and forums, gossiping with other professionals and analyzing recent accidents. “I think it’s all about taking the safest action,” he wrote at one point in 2009, in reference to a crash he viewed as preventable. A fellow engineer told me recently, “That kind of devotion is unusual.” He continued, “For a lot of people this is a job. Clock in, clock out. For [Bostian], it was more.”

In 2012, Bostian relocated again, this time to New York, where he had been accepted for training on the Northeast Corridor. He found an apartment in Forest Hills, Queens, a subway ride from Penn Station. Bostian spent several weeks riding shotgun with a veteran railroader, memorizing the hundreds of signal boxes, stops and junctions that line the corridor. Later, he took — and easily passed — the oral and written tests that certified him as a Northeast Corridor engineer.

Bostian was thrilled, colleagues recalled. Working in the sleepy Midwest or California might have fulfilled his childhood aspirations, but the Northeast Corridor, which connects Boston to New York and New York to Philadelphia and Washington, was where the action was. “My impression was that he had become who he always set out to be — in charge of the head end of a train on a major railroad,” one colleague says. “And having come that far, he wasn’t going to be distracted by anything.”

If elsewhere in the country train travel was increasingly an afterthought, here ridership was actually climbing, hitting its highest-ever level in 2014. The Brookings Institution has calculated that since Amtrak was cobbled together in 1970, out of track bought from a range of troubled rail companies, the company as a whole has been losing millions of dollars a year. By comparison, the Northeast Corridor, if spun off as an independent entity, would immediately be profitable.

And for very good reason: Of the more than 21,300 miles of rail that Amtrak operates on, no other 456 are as busy. The Northeast Corridor hosts not only Amtrak coaches and high-speed trains but also long freighters and smaller commuter trains (the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, or Septa, and New Jersey Transit trains). Volume is always heavy, with trains forever being diverted from one track to the next to accommodate faster or slower traffic. And no matter how quickly Amtrak dispatches maintenance crews, it is perpetually playing catch-up — the hard-used rails and switches require regular refurbishing. Engineers must be on the lookout not just for pedestrian trespassers on the rails, and errant cars and school buses and trucks at busy road crossings, but also for orange-jacketed work crews.

Finally, there is the challenge of the route itself, which juts and weaves and doglegs with exhausting regularity. Elsewhere in the country, long-haul engineers might be able to bring a train up to speed, level the master controller and skate for a hundred miles without making an adjustment. On the Northeast Corridor, even a moment’s inattention can be catastrophic. “It’s start, stop and start again,” Karl Edler, a veteran Northeast Corridor engineer, told me. “You’re constantly on guard; you’re constantly trying to think one step ahead.”

In much of Asia and Europe, engineers are protected by a technology known in the United States as positive train control, or P.T.C. Connected by digital radio waves or GPS signals, P.T.C. transponders in the track maintain constant contact with computers in the cabs of oncoming trains. If the transponders determine a train is traveling too fast, the locomotive’s brakes are triggered automatically. Amtrak has been working on its own in-house version of P.T.C., called the Advanced Civil Speed Enforcement System, or Acses, for almost a decade. But owing to insufficient funding and a row with the F.C.C., which Amtrak said had been slow to approve the use of the requisite radio bandwidth, its actual implementation has been piecemeal. At the time of the accident, large portions of the Northeast Corridor, including Frankford Junction, were not online. Practically speaking, that meant engineers were working with no safety net.

“I’ll describe it to you this way,” says Sarah Feinberg of the Federal Railroad Administration. “If a train is traveling in an area where P.T.C. isn’t in place and working as a backstop, you’ve got a situation where an engineer has to execute everything perfectly every hour, every day, every week. All the time. Because the slightest, smallest lapse can mean disaster.”

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The afternoon of May 12 started typically enough for Bostian. The young engineer crossed the concourse at Penn Station and descended a short set of stairs to a warren of rooms under the departures board. Before the original Penn Station was demolished and replaced in the 1960s, all engineers took their orders from the men of the fourth-floor “movement bureau” and its squadron of telegraph machines. Today, the nerve center of Amtrak’s Manhattan operations is subterranean and decidedly more modern: The telegraph machines have been replaced by a bank of gleaming computers, displaying data from up and down the Northeast Corridor.

Bostian, still fairly new to the corridor and recently transferred to the New York-to-Washington run, wasn’t much for small talk or the ribbing through which railroaders leaven the stressful job. He jotted down his name on the sign-in register and went to pick up a stack of daily updates and instructions for his train from the crew room. Among the documents were the General Orders for the entire corridor — timetables, permanent speed requirements — as well as a series of Temporary Speed Restriction Bulletins, or T.S.R.B.s. After a crew briefing led by the conductor, he grabbed his safety glasses and walked down another flight of stairs to his waiting train.

The spring of 2015 was a fractious time for Northeast Corridor engineers. In March, over the objections of the unions, Amtrak had cut the time engineers were allowed between daily runs, from an average of roughly two and a half hours to, in many cases, 90 minutes or less. Amtrak employees foresaw disaster: “Forcing shorter breaks, day after day, between runs increases fatigue-related risk and the potential for loss of focus,” Edler, a member of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, wrote in an open letter to Amtrak brass.

According to other engineers, Bostian’s “couplet” on May 12 — a run down to Washington and a run back to New York — was one of the routes affected. (Amtrak declined to comment on any changes to Bostian’s schedule but did say that “from time to time, [the company] revisits crew assignments to look for efficiencies, improve crew rest or to reflect changes in train operations.”) The new route had his Acela 2121 arriving at Union Station at 4:53 p.m. and, after a change of trains, pushing off at 7:10 onboard 188’s Cities Sprinter. If all went well, that would leave him roughly two hours in Washington.

But just minutes after the Acela 2121 left New York, Bostian encountered a problem with his “cab signals,” an internal device that automatically displays information about obstacles or other trains ahead. Without a functioning signaling device, Bostian was forced to reduce the top speed on the 2121, his eyes fixed on every wayside signal for indications of trouble ahead. It was an onerous task. He arrived at Union Station half an hour behind schedule. His actual break time — the time he would have to himself, to eat a sandwich or make a phone call — was all but obliterated, and an Amtrak colleague has since described a collective sense that Bostian was “frazzled” on arrival.

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At around 6:40 p.m., he made his way to the ACS-64 Cities Sprinter that he would pilot north to New York. He settled into the engineer’s chair and double-checked the equipment: the radio, the video displays, the cab-signals device that failed him on his southbound leg. Everything seemed to be working well. At 7:10, Bostian received permission to depart, and 188 skated out of Union Station on schedule.

Like most trains in the Northeast Corridor, 188 had brought together a diverse and varied group of professionals: businessmen alongside consultants alongside graphic designers alongside start-up founders. In Car 3, Seyward Darby leaned her head against the window and watched the rail yards of Union Station flicker past. For the past year and a half, Darby had been commuting regularly between her apartment in Brooklyn and Washington, where she worked as an editor at Foreign Policy magazine. She hoped this would be her last train trip for a while: In June, she and her fiancé, Corey Sobel, a fiction writer, were to be married, and she was taking time off.

Outside, the dusk was gathering; the buildings lining the tracks gave off a cool glow. Darby opened her laptop and transcribed a few lines from a recent interview with the actor Ethan Hawke, who had been in Washington to promote a new movie on drone warfare. Amtrak 188 shuddered through northeast Maryland, stopping at New Carrollton at around 7:22.

As the train pulled away from Baltimore-Washington International Airport, Darby looked up to see a 20-year-old Navy midshipman named Justin Zemser making his way down the aisle, clad in his dress whites. Zemser was from Rockaway Beach, Queens, the only child of Howard Zemser, who worked in printing, and Susan Zemser, an assistant supervisor at an insurance company. When Zemser was a child, his uncle Richard used to kid that he was destined to be the first Jewish president. In high school, it stopped seeming like a joke: Zemser was the valedictorian of his class at Channel View School for Research, a star running back on the football squad and a regular volunteer at the local soup kitchen. After being accepted by Columbia, Cornell and Yale, he enrolled in the United States Naval Academy, and he was now a third class — the equivalent of a sophomore. Zemser was returning home from school, where he had been supporting friends participating in the annual Sea Trials, a rite of passage for plebes, as freshmen are known. The evening of May 12, he sent a text message to his uncle, telling him he would see him soon, and another to his mom. “Ma, don’t forget to put out my dinner,” he wrote.

Now Zemser stopped in front of Darby’s seat. “Is anyone sitting here, ma’am?” he asked. Darby shook her head and smiled. While he was situating himself, Zemser bumped Darby’s shoulder and elbow. He apologized and opened his own laptop. And for an hour or so, Darby and Zemser sat alongside each other like that, companionably and quietly.

Before Darby realized it, they were already in Philadelphia.

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At around 9:17 p.m., Amtrak 188 went through North Philadelphia Station, sounding its bell once. The quadruple lights of the locomotive cut a ribbon through the night, past warehouses and overgrown lots. A few of the tire shops on East Erie Avenue were still open; plastic bags fluttered in the sagging concertina wire that lined the tracks.

If the Northeast Corridor is the most arduous route on the entire Amtrak network, then the three-mile stretch between North Philadelphia Station and the exit to Frankford Junction is among its most exacting sections. This is only in part because of the tight curve itself. Visibility here is also questionable (engineers say the trackside lighting is unpredictable), and trespassers are common. In the wake of the derailment of Amtrak 188, a new wrought-metal fence went up near Frankford Junction, but at the time, access to the tracks was as simple as lifting a scrap of chain-link fence. Even today, it’s not hard to reach the tracks if you want to; plenty of holes and gaps remain. A sergeant with the Philadelphia Police Department told me that the rail bed is popular with addicts and dealers. “And let me tell you,” he said, “you couldn’t build a fence high enough to keep them all out.”

All that foot traffic creates serious hazards for train engineers, who must worry not only about hitting pedestrians but also about being hit themselves, with debris or other hurled objects — an event railroaders describe as “getting rocked.” Familiar to engineers across the United States, rockings are especially common in the densely populated urban centers of the Northeast Corridor, where trespassers target trains for sport. It is not unusual, engineers say, to have two or three objects hit you over the course of a couplet. “Everyone in the Northeast has stories about it,” Edler told me. “After a while, the only ones that stand out are the instances where it’s really crazy, like a railroad spike used as a harpoon, or something.” At night, a rocked engineer has no time to prepare. He or she might be watching the track or monitoring the dashboard gauges, and then suddenly — with a pistol-shot crack — the heavy windshield is spiderwebbed or even caved in.

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Brandon Bostian, Amtrak 188’s engineer, in 2007.CreditPhotograph by Huy Richard Mach/St. Louis Post-Dispatch, via Associated Press
On the evening of May 12, at least two trains were struck by objects near Frankford Junction. One was a southbound Acela, which was reportedly hit at around 9:05 p.m. The other was a Septa train headed to Trenton. The Septa engineer, who called in the incident just minutes before 188 derailed, immediately put out a “hot track” warning, indicating to all oncoming trains that there was dangerous activity in the area.

According to an assistant conductor onboard Amtrak 188, who later spoke to the National Transportation Safety Board, Bostian heard the “hot track” warning and replied that he had been hit by something as well. By then, Bostian would have been opening up the throttle, preparing for the last straightaway before Frankford Junction.

It was a tricky series of maneuvers for even the most experienced engineer: speed up out of North Philadelphia Station; slow for a gradual curve at North Second Street; throttle open again for the straightaway, where the speed limit is 70 m.p.h.; and dump speed for the sharp 50-m.p.h. curve.

Instead, Amtrak 188 continued to accelerate on the straightaway — 90 miles per hour, 95. Near the entrance to the curve, it hit 106 m.p.h., more than twice the posted speed limit. At the last moment, Bostian activated the emergency brake, but it was too late: The 98-ton locomotive and the seven cars and the 250 terrified passengers were now traveling on their own momentum, free from the rails, lurching rightward into the earth and forward into the surrounding darkness.

In Car 3, the derailment was registered in a variety of ways. Josh Gotbaum, a scholar at the Brookings Institution and the former C.E.O. of the September 11th Fund, heard a screeching sound as the traction motors lost their grip. Beth Davidz, then a media technologist with the news site BillyPenn, saw the lights go dim and thought, This is not an ordinary bump. Vallen Graham, a research associate at Rockefeller University, was ejected from his seat and into the seat back in front of him, bruising his ribs.

Seyward Darby was reaching out to brace herself when Car 3, like Car 4 behind it and Car 2 ahead, landed on its right side. She had no time to think about Justin Zemser in the seat next to her — she had no time to think about anything. Without warning, she was airborne, and dirt was entering the coach in a great cloud. Hours later, at the hospital, she would still be scrubbing it from her face. She came to rest on her back, on the right side of the train, which was now the bottom of the train. Above her, she could see the windows that had once faced west. She did a quick inventory: Her limbs seemed to work. She wasn’t bleeding badly.

A few feet away, invisible to Darby in the smoke and dust, Graham was trying to get the other passengers organized. “If you have flashlights on your phone, please turn them on,” he shouted. Graham didn’t know a whole lot about trains, but he did know that trains like 188 ran on electric currents — the last thing anyone needed was to run into a live wire. Graham reached over to help up the passenger closest to him. “My head hurts,” the man said, and he ran a blood-smeared hand across a deep gash on his forehead.

They needed an escape route. The best exit looked to be the left-facing windows. Graham scrambled on top of a pile of broken seats and pulled out one of the panes. As the air turned smoky, Graham and Gotbaum worked together to evacuate as many passengers as they could, with Gotbaum supporting the passengers’ backs or bottoms and Graham hauling them upward from the lip of the window. It was an assembly line: one passenger, two passengers, three passengers — maybe eight in all, Darby among them.

Gotbaum made one more pass through the car, stopping in front of a woman who appeared to have been crushed by a loose seat. She was not moving. One of her legs protruded from the wreckage at a bizarre angle. There was nothing more that Gotbaum could do. The smoke was thickening; visibility was almost nil; his lungs were stinging. He headed for the window.

It is unlikely that even had he known to look for Justin Zemser, Gotbaum would have found him. According to a lawsuit filed by the Zemser family, Justin was launched from the train car as it overturned. His injuries included skull, sternum and spine fractures; cardiac lacerations; and a punctured aorta. A seat over, Darby would emerge with scrapes and bruises. Two bodies in motion, they followed radically different trajectories, governed by physics and maybe fate — Darby landing in a heap inside the train and Zemser ejected from it.

At around 11 p.m., Richard Zemser received a phone call from his brother Howard. Justin had been on the train that derailed in Philadelphia, and Howard hadn’t heard from him. “I thought, Well, maybe his phone is lost,” Richard told me. “But as the hours went by, it was clear to me something was wrong, because Justin was so close with his parents, and he would have found a way to get word home, even if it involved hunkering down and building a radio, like Marconi.”

Worried, Richard phoned a precinct house in Philadelphia. An officer there promised to call Richard if he heard anything. At around 6 a.m., the phone awoke Richard. Emergency medical workers had found Justin’s body, identified by his dress whites and name tag. Richard promised to notify his brother and his sister-in-law, and set down the receiver.

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An Amtrak train on a stretch of track in North Philadelphia, near the site of a deadly derailment last May.
CreditPhotograph by Noah Kalina for The New York Times.
“I don’t often shed tears,” Richard recalled, “and so I measure my sadness by the size of the lump in my throat. I’m going to tell you right now, ever since I got that phone call, this damn lump has not stopped growing.”

Georgetta Gregory, the head of the N.T.S.B.’s railroad division, grew up in Arkansas, the daughter of a lifelong rail man. In 1974, at 19, she followed in her father’s footsteps and took her first railroad job; at 30, she became a dispatcher at Southern Pacific. There were few other women in the business then, but Gregory had grit and drive. She moved a lot: California, Colorado, then Georgia, where she was employed for three years at Marta, Atlanta’s municipal rail service.

It was in California that she oversaw her first cleanup after a derailment. “One thing you understand immediately is the phenomenal forces that take place during a railroad accident,” she said recently. “This is extremely large equipment, and it’s whipped around like empty matchboxes. I remember not being scared,” she went on, “but more in awe. Like, this is something to be respected.” Trains moved very quickly, she learned, until they didn’t. Unlike a capsized ship taking on water or a goose-struck airliner gliding to earth, trains almost always wrecked with awesome violence, loudly and fast.

Late on the evening of May 12, Gregory got word from an Amtrak contact about a massive derailment in Frankford Junction. It was too late to book a flight from Washington, so she and three investigators car-pooled to the crash site, arriving at the Conrail yard, on the southeast side of Frankford Junction, at 4 in the morning. The air was acrid with smoke, and through the trees, Gregory saw the flicker of the lights from the Philadelphia Fire Department trucks and ambulances. News helicopters thumped above the crash site.

The wreck appeared in segments: It was sprawled over too much ground to take in at once. The locomotive had detached from the rest of the train and shot 50 yards or so in an easterly direction, down a short embankment, before coming to a halt, its wheels mired deep in the wet dirt. Coaches 7, 6 and 5 were still upright. But Cars 4, 3 and 2 were overturned, and Car 1 — the business-class car — was so bent and crumpled as to be unrecognizable as a car at all.

In the harsh glare of the temporary light fixtures, hundreds of emergency medical workers were at work, escorting those who could walk to waiting police and E.M.T. vehicles and helping to carry those who could not. By dawn, hundreds of survivors were safe in local hospitals, and a grimmer phase of the recovery was underway. The names of the dead scrolled down TV screens across the country: Laura Finamore, Jim Gaines, Abid Gilani, Derrick Griffith, Rachel Jacobs, Giuseppe Piras. A day later, cadaver dogs found the remains of Robert Gildersleeve, a 45-year-old Maryland businessman, in the business-class car.

N.T.S.B. rail investigators are trained to minimize the amount of time they need on scene, so the process of debris removal and track repair can begin as quickly as possible — every day that a company can’t run trains on that track is considered to be a day squandered. Gregory and her team set about taking measurements of the cars and their trajectories and red-tagging any evidence, which would be transported to N.T.S.B. or Amtrak facilities for cataloging and three-dimensional scanning.

“It’s important to move fast, but it’s important to do some of the interviews, with the crew and passengers, when it’s fresh in their minds,” Gregory said. “And above all, you want to make sure you’ve got all the evidence that you’re going to need, that there’s nothing you’ve overlooked.”

After four days in Philadelphia, she returned to Washington, where the second — and more difficult — part of the investigation would begin.

Amtrak 188 was not the deadliest crash in company history: In 1993, 47 people died when the Miami-bound Sunset Limited careened off a bridge spanning a tributary of the Mobile River in Alabama. But that accident was quickly attributed to a barge strike that had misaligned the tracks. Most rail wrecks are that way: The cause is either obvious to investigators from the get-go or becomes obvious over the course of weeks — a collision with another train, a malfunctioning engine, a car stuck on the tracks. The fate of 188, by contrast, appeared to be a genuine mystery. There was no obvious cause, no readily apparent smoking gun.

At N.T.S.B. headquarters, a team of close to 20 investigators was convened. They broke into working groups, each of which was assigned an area to examine based on the expertise of its members, typically former railroad engineers or technicians. Over the next few weeks and months, a winnowing process occurred. Faulty signal boxes were dismissed as a possible contributing factor, as were track anomalies and major problems with the locomotive: Data from the black box showed the engine was working perfectly well right up to the moment of derailment.

Computer glitches have also been ruled out. On train message boards of the kind Bostian once frequented, some contributors linked to a report, published on the website of Trains magazine, concerning possible “screen freezes” on the ACS-64’s digital displays. Amtrak has said in a statement that it looked into the issue and found “no further reports of this occurring.”

Similarly, there was no collision with a train or an errant car or truck — 188 was definitely the only vehicle on the rails at Frankford Junction at 9:21 p.m. And although Bostian incurred a leg injury and a head wound requiring staples, his overall health was good. He consented to a blood test that proved he did not have drugs or alcohol in his system, and he gave the N.T.S.B. investigators his smartphone and permission to look over his phone records. Bostian seemed far too conscientious to have deliberately taken his attention from the controls — no one I spoke to, official or colleague, would give any credence to the proposition that the accident was intentional.

Last summer, in the second month of the inquiry, I visited Robert Hall, the N.T.S.B.’s director of railroad, pipeline and hazardous-material investigations, at his office in Washington’s L’Enfant Plaza. Hall, who was wearing a tie depicting a scene from the Bayeux Tapestry, looked fatigued — the N.T.S.B. had recently announced there was no evidence that Bostian had used his phone directly before 188 wrecked. This announcement hurled the accident, and with it Hall’s team, straight back into the center of the news cycle. (The N.T.S.B. did find that Bostian dialed 911 on his phone after the crash.)

“We’ll get to the bottom of it,” Hall said, yanking at his tie. “Because, look, I don’t subscribe to acts of God. In any system, you’ve got humans making decisions, and those decisions have implications. I suppose you could decide not to design for something, and that omission ends up being the cause. Either way,” he continued, “human error is involved.”

In the first week of February, the N.T.S.B. will release the “docket” from the 188 investigation — a voluminous preliminary report comprising raw data from the train’s black box, imagery from the site and notes from investigators. Its ruling on the probable cause of the accident will most likely come this spring. Until then, the N.T.S.B. has declined to discuss its findings publicly. Still, in discussions with a range of rail officials — many of whom, citing the N.T.S.B. inquiry, declined to speak on the record — it appears clear that in the eyes of the N.T.S.B., the key to the wreck is something investigators call “lost situational awareness.”

There are two main schools of thought on what may have caused Bostian to lose his bearings. The first takes into account the rockings in the vicinity and Bostian’s own reported account of his train being struck by a large object, his forehead wounds and a small pocked dent on the left side of the windshield — a dent of the kind typically produced by a rock. “To me, it’s pretty clear what happened,” Richard Beall, the longtime accident investigator, told me. “Bostian’s got the throttle open to get the train up to speed. A projectile hits the windshield. Now the windshields on these locomotives are thick, but that impact is going to be out of nowhere and scary. As a human, you’ve got a tendency to duck. But he ducks into the dashboard and smacks his head, knocks himself out. And by the time he’s back up, and he’s reoriented himself, it’s: ‘Oh, crap.’ ”

Of course, other engineers, struck by projectiles in exactly the same place on the Northeast Corridor, managed to keep their trains from overturning — a point that Beall willingly concedes. “It happens, it’s violent and terrifying, but you move on,” he told me. Which brings up the second, and not mutually exclusive, possibility. This situation takes place in the same time frame but has Bostian lost, confusing Frankford Junction with the curve before it and realizing his mistake only at the last moment. Several people involved in the investigation offered the analogy of a driver on a long and darkened freeway, mesmerized by the unending roll of asphalt. A kind of hypnosis takes over. The driver, fatigued, looks up to see his exit, but it’s already starting to pass, and the car swerves off the road at a dangerous speed. If Bostian had been rocked earlier in the trip, they said, this might have only added to his confusion, putting him on edge.

It’s easy to see: a rattled young engineer finishing the second leg of a frustrating couplet, aboard a racehorse of a high-powered locomotive he was still growing accustomed to. A notoriously tricky piece of track. And a moment of distraction at precisely the worst time.

Perhaps the most tragic aspect of the wreck of 188 is that it could have been avoided, or at least mitigated, had the right safeguard — positive train control — been in place. Renewed pressure has been brought to bear on the industry by P.T.C. advocates like Robert Sumwalt of the N.T.S.B. and Sarah Feinberg of the Federal Railroad Administration. (The agencies have been pushing for the technology for decades.) “My hope,” Feinberg told me recently, “is that the derailment was our long-overdue wake-up call that we need P.T.C. — that we owe it to passengers and rail staff to have it online.”

In late May, Joseph Boardman, Amtrak’s C.E.O. and president, promised that the installation of P.T.C. on the Northeast Corridor would be completed by the end of 2015, a pledge he has kept: Today, the system is active on all routes, with the exception of substantial stretches of track owned by the State of Connecticut. (A spokesman for the Connecticut Department of Transportation said it hoped to have P.T.C. installed on all state-owned track by 2018.)

It will be some time before a national rollout is complete. In November, President Obama signed into law an extension to the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008, giving railroad companies — which had complained about the cost of implementation — until 2020 to bring the technology online. On sections of rail not protected by P.T.C., “there is absolutely nothing to prevent what happened to Amtrak 188 from happening again,” Richard Beall told me. “Nothing.”

For many survivors of the accident, and for the families of the dead, the public discussion about safety technology has come too late. “I spend my days thinking about how this could have happened,” Howard Zemser told me when I spoke to him by phone earlier this year. “But look, Justin was never lost like other young men are — he had this incredible focus. He didn’t need to count on other people. He counted on himself and his own strength. He would want us to do the same thing.”

In September, Howard and Susan filed their lawsuit against Amtrak, asking for a jury trial and claiming that the company’s “negligent, careless, reckless” actions led to Justin’s death. They are not alone: Dozens of other families and individuals, including the conductor onboard 188, Emilio Fonseca, are suing Amtrak, which said in July that it will not fight claims for compensatory damages. (Congress has capped the amount of money Amtrak can pay out in any single accident at $295 million.)

Survivors, meanwhile, are relying on time to help the memory of the crash fade. Last June, Seyward Darby and Corey Sobel were married in an outdoor ceremony. “I’m so happy to be alive and here with you,” Darby said in her vows. On a recent trip to Europe, she rode a train again for the first time. But reminders of the crash are everywhere. Before the wedding, a large cardboard box arrived at Darby and Sobel’s apartment in Park Slope. Inside was Darby’s computer bag, which was recovered from the wreckage at Frankford Junction. “When I ripped the tape off and opened the flaps, the smell was immediately recognizable and upsetting,” Darby told me. “Like dirt, and metal, everything the train had smelled like after we derailed.” She stuffed the bag into the back of her closet and hasn’t used it since.

Investigators have zeroed in on the cause of the accident, but they may never fully comprehend Bostian’s state of mind on May 12. This is the last real mystery of the wreck of Amtrak 188 — a mystery only Bostian can help solve. And for now, he isn’t talking publicly: He did not answer multiple requests for comment, by phone and by email. He remains on unpaid administrative leave as he prepares for the year ahead.

If the N.T.S.B. finds him directly responsible for the derailment, he could be hit with criminal charges ranging from reckless endangerment to manslaughter. There is precedent: In the late 1980s, a Conrail engineer pleaded guilty to “recklessly causing the deaths of 16 people” after he ran a signal and collided with an Amtrak coach headed to Philadelphia.

Even if Bostian is wholly cleared by the N.T.S.B. and found not to have been negligent in his actions on May 12, it is very unlikely he’ll ever pilot a train again. This alone would be harsh punishment for a man who grew up wanting to do nothing else. His role in the accident — and the inaction that could have prevented it — continue to haunt those who know him best. “When I heard about the accident,” a college friend of Bostian’s told me, “my first thought was, I wish Brandon was driving that train, because it never would have crashed.”

Correction: January 27, 2016
An earlier version of this article referred incorrectly to the ownership of the Amtrak network. Amtrak operates on more than 21,300 miles of routes, but does not own that entire network. The article also referred incorrectly to the length of Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor. It is 456 miles, not 225 miles.
Matthew Shaer is a writer based in Atlanta. He last wrote for the magazine about citizen journalists in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro.

Tags: Rail safetyAMTRAKosha
Categories: Labor News

New York-Area Ports Shut Down as Longshoremen Walk Off the Job-Employers seek to end ILA strike at NY-NJ port

Current News - Sat, 01/30/2016 - 16:09

Employers seek to end ILA strike at NY-NJ port
http://www.joc.com/port-news/longshoreman-labor/international-longshoremen’s-association/employers-seek-end-ila-strike-ny-nj-port_20160129.html
Joseph Bonney, Senior Editor | Jan 29, 2016 11:06AM EST

Employers are moving to force the International Longshoremen’s Association to end a strike that blindsided container terminal operators and halted cargo handling Friday at the East Coast’s busiest port.

The port-wide walkout began at 10 a.m. There was no official confirmation of the cause, but multiple union sources said it was aimed primarily at the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor, which regulates hiring in the port.

ILA spokesman James McNamara confirmed that the walkout “seems to be directed at the Waterfront Commission and its interference in hiring and harassment of ILA members.” He said dockworkers also cited concerns about chassis jurisdiction and technology.

John Nardi, president of the New York Shipping Association, said employers were mystified. “We have absolutely no indication what the reason is for this action,” he told JOC.com.

Although the ILA and NYSA have been at odds with the Waterfront Commission for years, Nardi said he was unaware of any current development that would have triggered Friday’s strike.

Nardi said the NYSA had called for a 3 p.m. emergency meeting of the NYSA-ILA contract board to seek a determination that the strike is illegal. The board is divided equally between NYSA and ILA representatives.

Assuming the board deadlocks, Nardi said, the NYSA will seek immediate arbitration and a back-to-work injunction.

The ILA walkout came as New York-New Jersey terminals are struggling to catch up after a four-day weekend shutdown from Winter Storm Jonas, and a three-day holiday the previous weekend for the observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which leases property to the container terminals that belong to the NYSA, urged the union to return to work.

“As the agency that oversees the largest port complex on the East Coast, we strongly urge the ILA members to return to work immediately and resolve their differences after they return. In the meantime, port authority police are actively working to ensure public safety for all of the stakeholders at the port,” the port authority said in a statement.

When word of Friday’s strike spread, trucking company dispatchers advised drivers to avoid joining queues outside terminals. The port authority issued a similar request.

Truck traffic was heavy at terminals when the walkout started. More than two hours later, trucks were still queued up outside terminals. Some drivers waited on side streets near the port hoping the work stoppage would be short-lived.

At the APM Terminals gate at Port Elizabeth, more than 100 ILA members milled around, waiting to see whether they would be called back to work.

Several said they didn’t know what the work stoppage was about, but had been told to walk out at 10 a.m. “All that I know is it’s cold,” one heavily bundled dockworker said.

Contact Joseph Bonney at joseph.bonney@ihs.com and follow him on Twitter: @JosephBonney.

New York-Area Ports Shut Down as Longshoremen Walk Off the Job
http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/30/nyregion/new-york-area-ports-longshore...
By MARC SANTORA and WILLIAM K. RASHBAUMJAN. 29, 2016

Shipping containers and loading cranes near Elizabeth, New Jersey, as seen from Bayonne, on Friday, after longshoremen walked off the job at ports in New York and New Jersey. CreditDave Sanders for The New York Times

The East Coast’s busiest port system ground to a halt on Friday as thousands of longshoremen in New York and New Jersey walked off the job, threatening to disrupt the delivery of goods throughout the region.

The walkout caught many people involved with port operations by surprise, and the reasons behind the action remained shrouded in intrigue, with even officials at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which acts as a landlord for the ports, struggling to understand the situation.

While union officials issued statements saying that the action was a result of a dispute with the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor, a government agency, over its authority to oversee hiring practices on the docks, two officials familiar with the operation of the port suggested that it may be a backlash against a federal criminal investigation into the union’s leadership.

“It was totally unannounced and unexpected by anyone,” one of the officials said.

Over the years, the union, its leaders and its members have been targets of investigators. The current inquiry — which is being conducted by the Waterfront Commission, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the office of the United States attorney in New Jersey, Paul J. Fishman — is focused on some of the union’s leaders, according to one official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss a continuing investigation.

Photo

Workers gather in a parking lot at the Port of Elizabeth on Friday morning, shortly after walking off the job. CreditDave Sanders for The New York Times
“This is a group that often acts irrationally,” the official said. “Flexing your muscles because there is an investigation going on — how stupid is that? It’s a crazy group.”

Jim McNamara, a spokesman for the International Longshoremen’s Association, the union that represents port workers, said he had no reason to believe that the walkout had anything to do with a federal investigation.

“Their action was because of the Waterfront Commission and their disgust with the harassment of the commission,” Mr. McNamara said.

By walking out of work — after port operations were already backed up because of the blizzard last week — the action would have a greater effect than it might have at another time, according to people familiar with the operations; the longer the ports are shut down, the greater the impact.

While the ports typically do not operate on the weekends, the Port Authority sent out a message on Twitter on Friday night saying it expected normal operations to resume.

Earlier in the day, the union’s leadership urged members to accept orders and return to work. “We have heard your voices, we have heard your concerns, and we have taken action on your behalf,” the leaders communicated to members.

It remained unclear late on Friday who organized the walkout and if it was in fact over.

The tension between the commission and the union is longstanding and has grown worse in recent years. Created in 1953 to combat corruption at the ports in response to exposés that inspired the 1954 film “On the Waterfront,” the commission needs to license all of the port’s thousands of dockworkers and the dozens of freight-handling, or stevedoring, companies that employ them.

Walter Arsenault, the executive director of the Waterfront Commission, said the labor action was illegal and forbidden by the union’s collective bargaining agreement.

“We are in the process of identifying and subpoenaing all those who walked out,” Mr. Arsenault said. “We will find out the motivations of the walkout, and we will find out who ordered the walkout.”

The image of hundreds of longshoremen in hard hats and orange vests milling around the docks as trucks waiting to pick up goods lined up outside locked gates, containers piled high on shore and ships that were forced to wait at sea, harkened back to an earlier time when the ports of New York City were often at the center of the public’s attention and imagination.

While a shadow of its former self, with machines having long ago replaced many of the strong-armed stevedores and longshoremen, there are still about 4,000 dock workers. The size of the work force may be smaller than it was decades ago, but the ports remain the essential gateway to one of the busiest consumer corridors in the world — in 2014, the ports handled 3.3 million cargo containers carrying about $200 billion in goods.

As union leaders, workers and others involved in the port hierarchy huddled in meetings on Friday morning, the Port Authority issued an alert with little information other than the basic fact that the ports were closed. “Due to the current work stoppage in the port, no new trucks will be allowed to queue on port roadways,” the alert said. “Do not send trucks to the port at this time.”

Within an hour of the walkout, which took place at 11 a.m., lines of trucks were beginning to clog roadways and containers were stacking up at Port Newark, the Elizabeth-Port Authority Marine Terminal, the Howland Hook Marine Terminal and the Port Jersey Port Authority Marine Terminal. The only port that remained in operation as of Friday afternoon was in Red Hook, Brooklyn.

Mr. McNamara said the union’s members were upset not only with the commission’s oversight of hiring, but also with what he called a pattern of heavy-handedness.

In recent years, after the commission itself was troubled by scandals and accused of lax oversight, the body was revamped. In 2010, the commission held hearings that exposed favoritism, the granting of no-show jobs and organized-crime involvement on the docks.

Since then, the commission has intensified its background checks and licensing requirements and has battled the workers’ union on various issues.

The most recent fight had to do with the commission’s contention that the union was engaged in discriminatory hiring practices. The union felt that the commission had overstepped its mandate. But a federal judge recently indicated that she believed the commission was within its rights to look into racial discrimination in hiring.

Mr. McNamara said that the action on Friday was taken by the membership in response not just to that case but also to what the union said was a broad pattern of unfair treatment.

“They had just had enough,” he said.

Tags: ILA NY Walkout
Categories: Labor News

More Than 1,000 Longshoremen Walk Off The Job At Area Ports “An agency that’s supposed to just license longshoremen has now continued to interfere, taking away jobs from longshore workers, interfering in the collective bargaining agreement,”

Current News - Sat, 01/30/2016 - 10:15

More Than 1,000 Longshoremen Walk Off The Job At Area Ports “An agency that’s supposed to just license longshoremen has now continued to interfere, taking away jobs from longshore workers, interfering in the collective bargaining agreement,”

http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2016/01/29/longshoreman-job-action/
January 29, 2016 8:03 PM
Filed Under: Al Jones, longshoreman, Longshoreman Walkoff, Peter Haskell, Port Walkoff, Waterfront Commission of New York

Longshoremen walk off job in New Jersey and New York on Jan. 29, 2016 (credit: CBS2)

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – More than 1,000 longshoremen walked off the job at area ports Friday afternoon.

During the walkout, which lasted several hours, overseas shipments stuck at ports in New York City, Elizabeth, Newark and Jersey City. The ports handle a total of 3.3 million containers a year, WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell reported.

The Port Authority closed the terminals to incoming trucks, causing heavy traffic backups.

One truck driver was able to get into the Bayonne port, but then he wasn’t allowed out, Haskell reported.

“The ILA and the New York Shipping Association – our employers, it’s not just the workers, but also the owners of the companies that generate the jobs and generates money for the economy, both sides have been fighting the Waterfront Commission, especially in the last five years, over the right to bring new workers on, the right to operate their ports the way they think they should be operated,” Jim McNamara of the International Longshoreman’s Association told 1010 WINS. “They’ve had enough, they told me they’re taking this action to demonstrate their displeasure.”

The dispute between the longshoremen and the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor has been ongoing for some time.

“The Waterfront Commission continues to interfere with both management and labor,” McNamara said.

As 1010 WINS’ Al Jones reported, the commission was given oversight of the ports to control corruption.

“An agency that’s supposed to just license longshoremen has now continued to interfere, taking away jobs from longshore workers, interfering in the collective bargaining agreement,” said McNamara.

Meanwhile the Port Authority urged workers to return to the ports.

“As the agency that oversees the largest port complex on the East Coast, we strongly urge the ILA members to return to work immediately and resolve their differences after they return,” the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey said in a statement. “In the meantime, Port Authority Police are actively working to ensure public safety for all of the stakeholders at the port.”

And late Friday, the walkout ended when the International Longshoremen’s Association, AFL-CIO advised the workers to accept orders and return to work at once.

“We have heard your voices, we have heard your concerns, and we have taken action on your behalf,” union leaders told members. “We urge all ILA members to return to work and will continue to report to you on the progress we make resolving all concerns of our hard working and dedicated ILA workforce,” said ILA leaders.

Tags: ILAWalkout
Categories: Labor News

Global: Disinformation campaign against the ITUC

Labourstart.org News - Fri, 01/29/2016 - 16:00
LabourStart headline - Source: ITUC
Categories: Labor News

Korea (South): Trade unionists holed up in offices

Labourstart.org News - Wed, 01/27/2016 - 16:00
LabourStart headline - Source: IndustriALL
Categories: Labor News

Djibouti: Education International calls for release of teacher unionist and human rights defender

Labourstart.org News - Wed, 01/27/2016 - 16:00
LabourStart headline - Source: Education International
Categories: Labor News

SEIU 1021 Challenges Privatization Of Public Bus Stops By "Google Bus"

Current News - Wed, 01/27/2016 - 10:43

SEIU 1021 Challenges Privatization Of Public Bus Stops By "Google Bus" “SEIU is concerned that its members are being forced out of The City in part as a result of commuter shuttles,” the appeal said. “SEIU 1021 is also concerned that its members are being exposed to air pollution, pedestrian and bicycle safety risks, and other environmental impacts as a result of the Shuttle Project.” The same group also has a lawsuit over the issue.
http://www.sfexaminer.com/google-bus-future-still-uncertain/
‘Google Bus’ future still uncertain

A tech shuttle bus waits at a Muni bus stop on Valencia Street. The San Francisco Board of Supervisors postponed a decision on the future of the so-called “Google Buses” until Feb. 9, when the two sides of the debate are expected to negotiate a compromise. (Mike Koozmin/2014 S.F. Examiner)
By Joshua Sabatini on January 27, 2016 1:00 am

The future of the “Google Bus” in San Francisco remains uncertain as the Board of Supervisors postponed a decision for two weeks over making permanent a commuter shuttle program which has been in place as an 18­-month pilot.

In addition to the Google Bus issue, Tuesday’s meeting also included the passing of a resolution to remember Mario Woods, who died after being shot by police. The board also discussed a resolution to seek reimbursement for costs associated with the Super Bowl City.

The board was scheduled to vote Tuesday on an appeal under the California Environmental Quality Act, arguing that the commuter shuttle program should have a full environmental review.

The appeal was filed by SEIU 1021, a union with 6,000 members and several residents.

“SEIU is concerned that its members are being forced out of The City in part as a result of commuter shuttles,” the appeal said. “SEIU 1021 is also concerned that its members are being exposed to air pollution, pedestrian and bicycle safety risks, and other environmental impacts as a result of the Shuttle Project.” The same group also has a lawsuit over the issue.

The board voted 9­-2 to continue the debate until Feb. 9, when there will be negotiations between the two sides to reach a possible compromise. It appeared there were six votes to approve the appeal, which was used as leverage to prompt talks of a compromise.

The shuttles are used by some 8,000 residents, many of whom travel to tech companies in Silicon Valley.

Supervisors Katy Tang and Scott Wiener opposed the postponement. The current pilot program expires Feb. 1, but city officials say it can be extended to give them more time to consider the matter.

Wiener, who voiced his support of a permanent shuttle program, expressed concerns about how the two­-week delay would result in an overly restrictive program.

“From what I’ve been hearing in terms of what the demands are, if they are accepted, [it] would make this shuttle system anything but stronger or robust. It would reduce the number of stops significantly,” Wiener said. Other demands he said was a housing study to assess impacts shuttles have on housing.

Supervisor Aaron Peskin, who supported the continuance, said, “If we do our jobs right we will not only dispense with the CEQA appeal we might actually be able to settle the litigation and forgo future litigation,” Peskin said. “I for one do not think that we are going to put the Darth Vader buses back in the genie bottle.”

Supervisor David Campos said that “the public wants to support this program but it also wants it to be properly regulated.” Campos added that Wiener was “exaggerating what’s going to happen — the sky is not going to fall.”

MARIO WOODS

July 22 has become Mario Woods Remembrance Day after the board unanimously approved a resolution introduced by Campos. It is to honor the 26­-year-­old black man who was fatally shot Dec. 2 in the Bayview by five police officers. The incident has led to the board and the mayor calling for a federal probe of the killing and department, repeated calls for the firing of Chief Greg Suhr and multiple efforts to reform the Police Department.

The Police Officers Association opposed the resolution.

“Everyone can’t be bullied. I have to be his voice,” said Gwen Woods, Mario Woods’ mother, during the meeting. “Our brothers should not be scared to be pulled over by the officers,” she said.

Campos said “not only are we honoring the memory of Mario Woods but we are honoring all the people that have been impacted by this lack of trust of our Police Department.”

The board on Tuesday did not take
an official position on Super Bowl 50 costs. A resolution from supervisors Jane Kim, Aaron Peskin, John Avalos and David Campos calling on Mayor Ed Lee to seek reimbursement from the Super Bowl 50 Host Committee for the costs The City will incur for hosting a weeklong event leading up to the Super Bowl was sent to committee by Supervisor Mark
Farrell.

Those supervisors have criticized the deal as cost estimates have continued to escalate, putting the total for impacts for Muni, police and other services at nearly $5 million.

During the monthly “question time” at the board, the mayor defended the deal. “Every city that’s hosted the Super Bowl has been eager not only to host it but to have it back,” Lee said. “Yes, there are some hassles. But the positive economic impact as measured after the game totals in hundreds of millions of dollars.”

Tags: seiu 1021Google Busprivatization
Categories: Labor News

Greece: Ferries suspended, motorways blocked as Greeks protest pensions reform

Labourstart.org News - Tue, 01/26/2016 - 16:00
LabourStart headline - Source: Reuters
Categories: Labor News

Argentina: Government forces halt to LATAM Airlines workers' strike

Labourstart.org News - Tue, 01/26/2016 - 16:00
LabourStart headline - Source: Reuters
Categories: Labor News

Taxi Drivers and Air Traffic Controllers Go on Strike in France

Current News - Tue, 01/26/2016 - 13:52

Taxi Drivers and Air Traffic Controllers Go on Strike in France
http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/27/business/international/france-strike.h...
By AURELIEN BREEDENJAN. 26, 2016

Taxi drivers set fire to tires on the highway that circles Paris on Tuesday, protesting ride-booking services like Uber.CreditThomas Samson/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

PARIS — Taxi drivers and air traffic controllers in France went on separate but simultaneous strikes on Tuesday, blocking traffic in major cities and disrupting flights at several airports.

The strikes were part of a wider day of protests in the public sector, including hospitals and schools, to call attention to staff reductions, low salaries and education overhauls. More than 100 demonstrations were planned around the country, and CGT, one of the unions that organized the strike, said that 130,000 to 150,000 people participated nationwide.

The police in Paris said that about 2,000 taxis had blocked or delayed traffic around Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports, as well as Porte Maillot, a major intersection in western Paris, and near the Ministry of Economy and Finance.

Some taxi drivers set fire to tires and tried to block the highway that circles the French capital, but the police pushed the demonstrators back with tear gas.

Twenty-four people were arrested, including the driver of an airport shuttle who had tried to force his way through a taxi roadblock near Orly, injuring two people, the French news media reported.

Similar Paris protests in June turned violent, with taxi drivers overturning cars and clashing with the police.

Hundreds of taxi drivers also blocked traffic around airports and train stations in Lille and Toulouse on Tuesday, and they paralyzed traffic in central Marseille.

Taxi unions called the strike to protest ride-booking companies like Uber, which allow people to summon drivers through a smartphone app. Taxi drivers argue that ride-booking companies do not respect certain regulations — like a ban on cruising for fares, which only taxis can legally do — and they say that drivers for ride-booking services have an unfair advantage because they do not have to pay for expensive taxi licenses.

Uber is not the only company to organize ride-booking services in France, but it has become one of the most popular and has become a lightning rod for opposition to such services. The company has faced several legal challenges in the country, and two of its executives are scheduled to go on trial next month on criminal charges of organizing illegal taxi services through the company’s low-cost UberPop service.

UberPop, which enabled drivers without a professional license to pick up paying passengers, has been ruled illegal in France, and it has been discontinued there by Uber.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls held an emergency meeting with taxi union representatives, the interior minister and representatives from the Transportation Ministry on Tuesday.

Mr. Valls’s office said in a statement after the meeting that the government would increase enforcement of the 2014 law that regulates the activity of ride-booking companies, to “put an end to unfair behavior and guarantee the conditions of loyal competition.”

The statement said that Mr. Valls was ready to consult industry and government representatives “on the economic equilibrium of the individual transportation sector and on the potential regulatory evolutions that might follow.”

The consultations will begin in February and will last about three months, the statement said, adding that a “qualified person” would be appointed in the coming days to lead the process.

The statement also said that the government would provide support to individual drivers, but it did not provide any details. Some taxi unions have asked that drivers receive financial compensation from the state for their loss of business and the drop in the value of taxi licenses.

Ahmed Senbel, president of the National Federation of Independent Taxis, said after the meeting that he felt Mr. Valls was fully aware of the problem, but he warned that the announcements might not placate the taxi drivers.

“We’ve been containing it for seven years, but today we can’t contain it anymore,” Mr. Senbel said. Mr. Valls said earlier that the right to demonstrate should be respected but that violence was “unacceptable.”

One in five flights was canceled at the two main Paris airports, and other flights were delayed as air traffic controllers protested job cuts and changes to how their salaries are calculated. Public transportation was not disrupted.

Correction: January 26, 2016
Because of an editing error, an earlier version of this article misstated the number of taxis blocking traffic around Paris airports. It was 2,000, not 2,000,500.

Tags: French Taxi Drivers StrikeAir Traffic Controllers Strike
Categories: Labor News

Taxi Drivers and Air Traffic Controllers Go on Strike in France

Current News - Tue, 01/26/2016 - 13:51

Taxi Drivers and Air Traffic Controllers Go on Strike in France
http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/27/business/international/france-strike.h...
By AURELIEN BREEDENJAN. 26, 2016

Taxi drivers set fire to tires on the highway that circles Paris on Tuesday, protesting ride-booking services like Uber.CreditThomas Samson/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

PARIS — Taxi drivers and air traffic controllers in France went on separate but simultaneous strikes on Tuesday, blocking traffic in major cities and disrupting flights at several airports.

The strikes were part of a wider day of protests in the public sector, including hospitals and schools, to call attention to staff reductions, low salaries and education overhauls. More than 100 demonstrations were planned around the country, and CGT, one of the unions that organized the strike, said that 130,000 to 150,000 people participated nationwide.

The police in Paris said that about 2,000 taxis had blocked or delayed traffic around Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports, as well as Porte Maillot, a major intersection in western Paris, and near the Ministry of Economy and Finance.

Some taxi drivers set fire to tires and tried to block the highway that circles the French capital, but the police pushed the demonstrators back with tear gas.

Twenty-four people were arrested, including the driver of an airport shuttle who had tried to force his way through a taxi roadblock near Orly, injuring two people, the French news media reported.

Similar Paris protests in June turned violent, with taxi drivers overturning cars and clashing with the police.

Hundreds of taxi drivers also blocked traffic around airports and train stations in Lille and Toulouse on Tuesday, and they paralyzed traffic in central Marseille.

Taxi unions called the strike to protest ride-booking companies like Uber, which allow people to summon drivers through a smartphone app. Taxi drivers argue that ride-booking companies do not respect certain regulations — like a ban on cruising for fares, which only taxis can legally do — and they say that drivers for ride-booking services have an unfair advantage because they do not have to pay for expensive taxi licenses.

Uber is not the only company to organize ride-booking services in France, but it has become one of the most popular and has become a lightning rod for opposition to such services. The company has faced several legal challenges in the country, and two of its executives are scheduled to go on trial next month on criminal charges of organizing illegal taxi services through the company’s low-cost UberPop service.

UberPop, which enabled drivers without a professional license to pick up paying passengers, has been ruled illegal in France, and it has been discontinued there by Uber.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls held an emergency meeting with taxi union representatives, the interior minister and representatives from the Transportation Ministry on Tuesday.

Mr. Valls’s office said in a statement after the meeting that the government would increase enforcement of the 2014 law that regulates the activity of ride-booking companies, to “put an end to unfair behavior and guarantee the conditions of loyal competition.”

The statement said that Mr. Valls was ready to consult industry and government representatives “on the economic equilibrium of the individual transportation sector and on the potential regulatory evolutions that might follow.”

The consultations will begin in February and will last about three months, the statement said, adding that a “qualified person” would be appointed in the coming days to lead the process.

The statement also said that the government would provide support to individual drivers, but it did not provide any details. Some taxi unions have asked that drivers receive financial compensation from the state for their loss of business and the drop in the value of taxi licenses.

Ahmed Senbel, president of the National Federation of Independent Taxis, said after the meeting that he felt Mr. Valls was fully aware of the problem, but he warned that the announcements might not placate the taxi drivers.

“We’ve been containing it for seven years, but today we can’t contain it anymore,” Mr. Senbel said. Mr. Valls said earlier that the right to demonstrate should be respected but that violence was “unacceptable.”

One in five flights was canceled at the two main Paris airports, and other flights were delayed as air traffic controllers protested job cuts and changes to how their salaries are calculated. Public transportation was not disrupted.

Correction: January 26, 2016
Because of an editing error, an earlier version of this article misstated the number of taxis blocking traffic around Paris airports. It was 2,000, not 2,000,500.

Tags: French Taxi Drivers StrikeAir Traffic Controllers Strike
Categories: Labor News

Taxi Drivers and Air Traffic Controllers Go on Strike in France

Current News - Tue, 01/26/2016 - 13:51

Taxi Drivers and Air Traffic Controllers Go on Strike in France
http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/27/business/international/france-strike.h...
By AURELIEN BREEDENJAN. 26, 2016

Taxi drivers set fire to tires on the highway that circles Paris on Tuesday, protesting ride-booking services like Uber.CreditThomas Samson/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

PARIS — Taxi drivers and air traffic controllers in France went on separate but simultaneous strikes on Tuesday, blocking traffic in major cities and disrupting flights at several airports.

The strikes were part of a wider day of protests in the public sector, including hospitals and schools, to call attention to staff reductions, low salaries and education overhauls. More than 100 demonstrations were planned around the country, and CGT, one of the unions that organized the strike, said that 130,000 to 150,000 people participated nationwide.

The police in Paris said that about 2,000 taxis had blocked or delayed traffic around Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports, as well as Porte Maillot, a major intersection in western Paris, and near the Ministry of Economy and Finance.

Some taxi drivers set fire to tires and tried to block the highway that circles the French capital, but the police pushed the demonstrators back with tear gas.

Twenty-four people were arrested, including the driver of an airport shuttle who had tried to force his way through a taxi roadblock near Orly, injuring two people, the French news media reported.

Similar Paris protests in June turned violent, with taxi drivers overturning cars and clashing with the police.

Hundreds of taxi drivers also blocked traffic around airports and train stations in Lille and Toulouse on Tuesday, and they paralyzed traffic in central Marseille.

Taxi unions called the strike to protest ride-booking companies like Uber, which allow people to summon drivers through a smartphone app. Taxi drivers argue that ride-booking companies do not respect certain regulations — like a ban on cruising for fares, which only taxis can legally do — and they say that drivers for ride-booking services have an unfair advantage because they do not have to pay for expensive taxi licenses.

Uber is not the only company to organize ride-booking services in France, but it has become one of the most popular and has become a lightning rod for opposition to such services. The company has faced several legal challenges in the country, and two of its executives are scheduled to go on trial next month on criminal charges of organizing illegal taxi services through the company’s low-cost UberPop service.

UberPop, which enabled drivers without a professional license to pick up paying passengers, has been ruled illegal in France, and it has been discontinued there by Uber.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls held an emergency meeting with taxi union representatives, the interior minister and representatives from the Transportation Ministry on Tuesday.

Mr. Valls’s office said in a statement after the meeting that the government would increase enforcement of the 2014 law that regulates the activity of ride-booking companies, to “put an end to unfair behavior and guarantee the conditions of loyal competition.”

The statement said that Mr. Valls was ready to consult industry and government representatives “on the economic equilibrium of the individual transportation sector and on the potential regulatory evolutions that might follow.”

The consultations will begin in February and will last about three months, the statement said, adding that a “qualified person” would be appointed in the coming days to lead the process.

The statement also said that the government would provide support to individual drivers, but it did not provide any details. Some taxi unions have asked that drivers receive financial compensation from the state for their loss of business and the drop in the value of taxi licenses.

Ahmed Senbel, president of the National Federation of Independent Taxis, said after the meeting that he felt Mr. Valls was fully aware of the problem, but he warned that the announcements might not placate the taxi drivers.

“We’ve been containing it for seven years, but today we can’t contain it anymore,” Mr. Senbel said. Mr. Valls said earlier that the right to demonstrate should be respected but that violence was “unacceptable.”

One in five flights was canceled at the two main Paris airports, and other flights were delayed as air traffic controllers protested job cuts and changes to how their salaries are calculated. Public transportation was not disrupted.

Correction: January 26, 2016
Because of an editing error, an earlier version of this article misstated the number of taxis blocking traffic around Paris airports. It was 2,000, not 2,000,500.

Tags: French Taxi Drivers StrikeAir Traffic Controllers Strike
Categories: Labor News

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