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Background on how United Steelworkers rail workers — locomotive engineer Tom Harding and train controller Richard Labrie have been scapegoated

Sun, 12/31/2017 - 06:23

Background on how United Steelworkers rail workers — locomotive engineer Tom Harding and train controller Richard Labrie have been scapegoated

August 28, 2014 – Thomas Walsh, Tom Harding’s lawyer and Daniel Roy, USW District 5 director, referring to the TSB report, hold a press conference demanding that the charges against Harding and Labrie be dropped. “It`s time to stop using workers as scapegoats,” said Roy. Subsequently the Quebec prosecutor refuses to drop the charges.

Timeline of events before and after the July 6, 2013 Lac-Mégantic disaster

http://hardingdefense.org/timeline-of-events-relating-to-charges/

January 2003 – The Montreal Maine & Atlantic railway (MMA) is controlled by Ed Burkhardt, President and CEO of Rail World, who cuts wages by 40%, started a series of layoffs. From 2003 to 2013, the MMA has higher accident rates than other North American railroads according to the FRA.

2010 – Burkhardt moves to begin single crew member rail operations on the MMA.

2012 – Canadian Conservative government Federal Minister of Transport Denis Lebel approves the request of the Montreal Maine & Atlantic railway (MMA) to specifically haul volatile crude oil with a “crew” of one as a cost-cutting measure.

March 27, 2013 – 14 of 94 tankers of volatile crude oil in a CP train derailed near Parkers prairie, MN. 30,000 gallons of crude is released at the derailment site.

June 11, 2013 – Frontenac, Quebec, east of Lac-Mégantic, an MMA locomotive spills 3,400 US gallons of diesel oil.

July 6, 2013 –An uncrewed runaway 74-car oil train carrying volatile crude oil from the Bakken shale oil fields in North Dakota to the Irving oil refinery in New Brunswick, Maine derails in downtown Lac-Mégantic and explodes, killing 47 people, destroying the downtown area and dumping millions of litres of oil into the soil and the lake.

October 19, 2013 – 13 cars of a CN tanker train filled with crude oil and liquified natural gas exploded near Gainford, Alta. At least 100 homes evacuated.

November 8, 2013 – A 90-car rail train derails and explodes on a trestle in rural swamp near Aliceville Alabama.

December 2, 2013 – The Toronto Globe and Mail newspaper publishes “Inside the oil-shipping free-for-all that brought disaster to Lac-Mégantic”.

December 3, 2013 – The Toronto Globe and Mail newspaper publishes “The deadly secret behind the Lac-Mégantic inferno”.

December 4, 2013 – The Toronto Globe and Mail newspaper publishes “Why towns are powerless to stop another disaster like Lac-Mégantic”.

December 30, 2013 – A half kilometer long crude oil train collides with a train hauling grain at Casselton, North Dakota about 17 kilometers from Fargo. The resulting explosion and fire forces the evacuation of 2,400 residents.

January 7, 2014 – A Canadian National Railway train carrying propane and crude oil derails and explodes near Plaster Rock, New Brunswick. Fifty homes are evacuated.

May 12, 2014 – Locomotive engineer Tom Harding, Train controller Richard Labrie, both members of local 1976 of the United Steelworkers (USW) union, and MMA company official Jean Demaître, the manager of train operations, are arrested by the Quebec provincial police – Harding by the SWAT team at gunpoint — and paraded to a temporary Lac-Mégantic court house at the sports center in handcuffs where they are charged by the Quebec prosecutor each with 47 counts of criminal negligence causing death. The three could face penalties of life in prison if found guilty. “Thomas Harding is not responsible for the state of the railways,” said Daniel Roy, Quebec director of the USW. Those who are really responsible are the federal government with deregulation and ceding railways to little companies like MMA.”

May 26, 2014 – United Steelworkers union District 5 in Quebec, initiates a defense fund for Harding and Labrie to raise funds for legal costs called Justice for USW Railworkers and puts up a website: www.justiceforUSWrailworkers.org. Tens of thousands dollars more are raised from USW members and other unions such as the Teamsters Rail Conference. In the United States rail workers begin to raise funds through a website: www.tomhardingdefensefund.org.

April 30, 2014 – A 105-car crude oil train derails into the James River near the center of Lynchburg, Virginia, a town of 78,000. The derailed cars explode and oil leaks into the James River. Hundreds are evacuated.

July 8, 2014 – The Toronto Globe and Mail newspaper publishes “How Bakken crude moved from North Dakota to Lac-Mégantic”.

August 19, 2014 – The Canadian Transportation Safety Board (TSB) releases its report on the Lac-Mégantic disaster citing 18 factors that contributed to the derailment including a “weak safety culture” at the Montreal Maine and Atlantic railway and big gaps in Ottawa’s railway regulatory system. In response, Edward Burkhardt, former chairman of MMA blames Tom Harding saying: “The fact is this is a failure of one individual.” The report states that while Harding reported he had set hand brakes on seven tanker cars, and that the MMA rule book required nine for a train of that length; 17 to 26 handbrakes would have been required to hold that train on the incline without the air brakes functioning depending on how tight the brake settings were done.

August 28, 2014 – Thomas Walsh, Tom Harding’s lawyer and Daniel Roy, USW District 5 director, referring to the TSB report, hold a press conference demanding that the charges against Harding and Labrie be dropped. “It`s time to stop using workers as scapegoats,” said Roy. Subsequently the Quebec prosecutor refuses to drop the charges.

September 9, 2014 – Rail workers in the United States, who are members of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transport Workers (SMART-UTU) who work for the Burlington, Northern and Santa Fé Railway, vote down a proposal by the company for one person “crews” on freight trains.

October 3, 2014 – The Toronto Globe and Mail reports that Canadian Pacific Railway CEO Hunter Harrison, in comments following a speech to investors in White Plains, New York, blames Tom Harding for the Lac-Mégantic disaster saying it happened “because of one person’s behavior. An individual did not set the brakes.”

November 6, 2014 – Quebec, North Shore and Labrador Railway engineer Enrick Gagnon, the only “crew” of a 240-car iron ore train drowns when the train which requires two kilometers to stop runs into a landslide on the tracks derailing his locomotive into a nearby lake.

January 22, 2015 — The French-language Quebec-based RDI TV program Enquête. in a report called Lac-Mégantic the corrected version, explains that an initial draft of the TSB report included a 19th factor – the one person “crew”. This factor was dropped from the final published version.

February 14-15, 2015 — Canadian Pacific Railway allegedly orders rail workers to park a 57-car train carrying dangerous goods unattended on a mountain slope above the town of Revelstoke, British Columbia without applying hand brakes—in breach of emergency directives by Transport Canada issued after the Lac-Mégantic disaster. Transport Canada later opens an investigation following complaints by the Teamsters union.

February 14, 2015 – 29 cars of a 100-car Canadian National Railway train carrying Bakken crude derailed in a remote area 50 miles south of Timmins, Ontario, spilling oil and catching fire.

February 15-16, 2015 – Three thousand Canadian Pacific rail workers end one day Canada-wide strike under threat of federal strike­breaking legislation. Teamster union leaders opt for arbitration of contact demands, of which the question of safety is central. Picket signs carried by the strikers said “Fatigue kills,” referring to company violation of contract terms concerning rest periods.

February 16, 2015 – A CSX train of 107 tanks of Bakken crude oil derails and burns for days in Mount Carbon, WV. One home was destroyed and hundreds required evacuation. Oil was leaked into the Kanawha river and two water treatment facilities had to be shut down. Because there was a two person crew, they were able to decouple the locomotive and escape from the disaster without injury. The tankers in this incident were model 1232 cars which included the latest upgrades voluntarily agreed to by the carriers. The upgrades did not prevent the explosions or leaks.

March 5, 2015 – BSNF oil train derails and burns near Galena Illinois.

March 7, 2015 – A 94 car CN crude oil train derailed 35 tankers (5 of them into the Makami river) near Gogama, Ontario. The fires took days to extinguish.

March 11, 2015 — The Quebec prosecutor, in a highly unusual move, cancels a scheduled and routine preliminary hearing for those charged with criminal negligence. This deprives lawyers defending Harding and Labrie of the opportunity to learn about the prosecutor’s strategy and to call MMA and TSB officials to the stand in order to prepare their defense.

June 4, 2015 – The Toronto Globe and Mail publishes an article titled Gaps in the system: Is rail safety on the right track? The report states that since 2010 across Canada and the United States there have been 21 derailments of trains carrying crude oil since 2010 resulting in 11 fires, 6 explosions, 9 evacuations and 47 deaths.

June 22, 2015 – Under the Canadian federal Railway Safety Act and the Fisheries Act the federal government agencies Transport Canada and Environment Canada file new charges against Harding and Labrie as well as five former MMA company officials. The charges under the Railway Safety Act could bring a $50,000 fine and six months in prison. Those under the Fisheries Act relating to the massive amounts of crude oil leaked into the soil and water, could result in one million dollar fine. Those charged will appear in court on November 12. Minister of Transport Lisa Raitt says the investigation is continuing and more charges could be filed under the federal Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act.

July 6-12, 2015 – To mark the second anniversary of the Lac­Mégantic disaster protest events are held in 90 communities in the US and Canada in the context of a Stop the Oil Trains Week of Action. Demonstrations involving unionists, rail workers and others are held across the US and Canada to mark the anniversary and protest the growing use of trains to haul crude oil. Demonstrators in Lac­Mégantic July 5 call on the federal government to build a railway bypass around the town. Oil trains are scheduled to resume runs through the downtown Lac-Mégantic in January 2016.

September 8, 2015 – Court hearing takes place in Lac-Mégantic to set the date for the trial or trials on the 47 counts of criminal negligence. Judge François Tôth adjourns hearing after 15 minutes and schedules another for December 1. Prosecutor begins maneuvers to move the expected jury trial to Sherbrooke from Lac-Mégantic where the Tom Harding and Richard Labrie have massive support. This will be one of the issues discussed at the December 1 court hearing.

September 8, 2015 – The city council of the town of Nantes, situated 11 kilometers on a slope above Lac-Mégantic where the runaway oil train was initially parked, adopts a unanimous resolution blaming the MMA and the federal government for the disaster and demanding that Transport Canada take emergency action to force the Central Maine and Quebec Railroad (CMQR, the reorganized MMA) to repair the track system in Lac-Mégantic and region.

September 19, 2015 – Railroad Workers United holds conference in Chicago attended by around 65 unionized rail road workers, environmentalists and others to discuss rail safety. Thomas Walsh, the lawyer for Tom Harding attends and speaks briefly to the participants. The Lac-Mégantic disaster is discussed widely at the conference. A number of conference participants decide to organize a solidarity demonstration in Chicago with a planned October 11 demonstration in Lac-Mégantic.

September 19, 2015 – On the same day of the Chicago conference a tanker train carrying ethanol derails and burns in Scotland, South Dakota.

September 21, 2015 – The Citizens and Community Groups Rail Safety Coalition in Lac-Mégantic delivers petition to city council signed by almost half the population of Lac-Mégantic demanding the council get a court injunction barring the Central, Maine and Quebec Railway from transporting hazardous goods on the tracks in Lac­Mégantic until the unsafe tracks are repaired as well as the commissioning of studies to determine the safety and weight-bearing capacity of the track system.

September 26, 2015 – The convention of the Union of Quebec Municipalities representing 300 town and city councils across Quebec unanimously endorses the town of Nantes’ resolution.

September 28, 2015 – Toronto Star daily publishes major article by the executive director of the Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives documenting the collusion of Transport Canada and the owners of the railways to rewrite rail safety regulations in the late 1990s, and the role of the federal government in the Lac-Mégantic disaster.

October 1, 2015 – Montreal daily, Le Devoir, publishes article on the Lac-Mégantic Citizens’ Coalition promoting their October 11 demonstration for rail safety.

October 1, 2015 – At her final meeting before retirement, Lac ­Mégantic mayor Collette Roy-Laroche and the city council cave into pressure from the owners of forest industry-related factories in Lac ­Mégantic and the region who rely on the CMQR to transport their products; and reject all the demands of the Citizens’ Coalition based on an undisclosed letter from Transport Canada to CMQR president John Giles declaring the track system through Lac-Mégantic safe.

October 2, 2015 – Montreal daily, La Presse, publishes major article on Lac-Mégantic pointing to the role of the federal government and the MMA in the tragedy and reporting on build up to the October 11 demonstration.

October 7, 2015 – Los Angeles Times publishes major article titled: “Why so many oil trains are crashing—track problems are to blame” outlining systemic safety problems throughout North America in relation to the longer and longer oil train convoys.

October 7, 2015 – Railroad Workers United leadership adopts a resolution placing the frame-up of Tom Harding and Richard Labrie in the context of the profit drive of the rail bosses, the deteriorating and unsafe conditions of rail road workers and calling for the dropping of the charges against Tom Harding and Richard Labrie.

October 11, 2015 – About 1,000 people from Lac-Mégantic and other railway communities in Quebec respond to the call of the Citizens’ Coalition to march for rail safety. Among the featured speakers at the rally following the action is Thomas Walsh, Tom Harding’s lawyer who introduces retired Amtrak locomotive engineer Fritz Edler from Washington DC to the crowd. Edler is a retired rail union leader and member of Railroad Workers United. At an all-candidates federal election meeting on the issues posed by the Lac-Mégantic disaster following the demonstration, Ottawa’s responsibility in the disaster and the frame-up of Harding and Labrie are raised from the floor by participants angry at the parties represented by the candidates who spoke to the meeting from the five major federal parties.

October 12, 2015 – In Chicago, about 20 demonstrators, including rail workers and environmentalists from a range of organizations deliver a letter to the Canadian Consulate demanding action on rail safety by Ottawa, and calling for the dropping of the charges against Tom Harding and Richard Labrie, as well as former MMA official Jean Demaître,

October 29, 2015 – Five cars of a 26 car empty Canadian Pacific freight train derail on track running through an east end Montreal residential neighborhood. One rail car hits a house causing damage. Mayor Denis Codere calls on the government to force rail companies to reveal to the city the contents of any hazardous cargo it intends to transport through Montreal.

November 7, 2015 — A BNSF Railway freight train derails 25 cars near Alma in western Wisconsin, spilling 20 thousand gallons of ethanol into the Mississippi River. According to McClatchy New Service, this was the 10th North American derailment of volatile crude oil or ethanol in 2015.

November 8, 2015 –An eastbound Canadian Pacific Railway train carrying crude oil derails in Wisconsin in Watertown. The railroad said at least 10 cars were off the tracks, and some were leaking.

November 12, 2015 – A court hearing takes place in Lac-Mégantic on the additional charges laid in June 2015 by Transport Canada under the federal Rail Safety Act and by Environment Canada under the federal Fisheries Act against Harding and Labrie and five former MMA company Officials. Harding and Labrie plead not guilty. Transport Canada accuses Harding and Labrie of not setting a sufficient number of hand brakes and testing them properly. The next hearing on these charges is set for January 28, 2016.

November 13-15, 2015 – The Crude Awakening Network, the first continent-wide center for information and action specifically around volatile shipments of oil by rail is formed in Pittsburgh, PA. It is the result of a 3 day gathering of oil train activists across North America. Marilaine Savard, of Lac-Mégantic, is keynote speaker.

November 27, 2015 — The Quebec government files a lawsuit for $409 million in Quebec Superior Court in damages, charging the Canadian Pacific Railway failed to take the necessary steps to prevent possible damage from the crude oil carried in the cars in case of derailment. It also accuses CP of negligence which aggravated the scale of the tragedy handing off the train to the MMA which had a poor safety record. CP transported the oil from North Dakota to Quebec. CP denies any responsibility for the disaster.

December 1, 2015 – Court hearing in Lac-Mégantic on the criminal negligence charges attended by Tom Harding, his lawyer Thomas Walsh; legal representative of Richard Labrie; lawyer for Jean Demaître and Demaître. Several activists with the Citizens and Groups Coalition for Rail Safety attend to express solidarity with Harding. Demaître’s lawyer says trial should be moved out of Lac­Mégantic because everyone knows someone affected by the disaster. Walsh says Harding wants trial in Lac-Mégantic so he can be judged by the people of Lac-Mégantic. Judge refers the case to an April 4, 2016 hearing so that Demaître’s new lawyer can study the documents and sets March 1, 2016 as the deadline for all sides to submit motions to be discussed at the April 4 hearing.

December 14, 2015 – The Quebec Crown Prosecutor (DPCP), the body that laid criminal charges against Tom Harding and Richard Labrie announces that no criminal charges will be laid in connection with a 2014 fire in a seniors` residence at L’Isle-Verte, that killed 32 people. A coroner’s report cited a lack of training and emergency plans as factors in the tragedy. The DPCP stated that “In light of the expert and witness testimony that was heard and the evidence gathered by investigators, the DPCP (the Crown) is not able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a criminal act was ever committed…”

December 22, 2015 – Officials responsible for bankruptcy proceedings in relation to the MMA announce that victims’ families in Lac­Mégantic will start to receive money early in 2016 from the $114 million fund for wrongful death claims. The compensation fund for all claims is $460 million.

January 6, 2016 – The January 6, 2016 Globe and Mail reports that the Houston-based USD group has filed a request with the Canadian Environmental Assessment agency to double the size of its rail-by-oil facility in Hardisty, Alberta near where the Keystone XL oil pipeline was to have begun before being cancelled by US president Obama. The facility would eventually fill 480 train cars daily, with 280,000 barrels of crude oil.

January 7, 2016 – The January 7, 2916 Globe and Mail reports that in December 2015 a Federal Court of Appeal ruling limited the liability of the Canadian Pacific Railway in lawsuits triggered by the transportation of dangerous goods like toxic inhalants. The ruling stipulates that CP is justified in asking shippers to indemnify the company if a derailment occurs after CP hands off the train to another railroad to haul the toxic goods to its final destination, as it did in the Lac-Mégantic disaster when it handed of the train to the MMA. The ruling could be applied to the transport of crude oil. CP officials have always maintained the company had no responsibility for the Lac­Megantic disaster.

January 18, 2016 – The Canadian Broadcasting Company reports that Transport Canada in an unprecedented move has ordered Canadian Pacific to change its freight-train line ups and fatigue management practices in British Columbia because “they pose an immediate threat to safe railway operations.” The use of longer trains with greater volumes of cargo, unpredictable schedules, the elimination of taxis and vans to shuttle redeployment crews, forces workers to spend longer hours away from away-from-home terminals. The CBC report says the problem exists across the country with layover times reaching 20+ hours.

January 19, 2016 – A meeting of the Vancouver General Hospital local of the Health Employees Union, attended by 35 workers votes for a resolution supporting Tom Harding and Richard Labrie, stating: “Be it resolved that the VGH local of the HEU send a message of solidarity to Tom Harding and Richard Labrie supporting their fight against frame up charges for the Lac-Mégantic train disaster; and be it further resolved that this local send $350 to the Quebec Steelworkers fund for the defence of Tom Hardy and Richard Labrie.”

January 26, 2016 – Two days before a January 28 hearing in Lac­Megantic on the charges levied by the federal government through Transport Canada and Environment Canada against Tom Harding, Richard Labrie and five of former MMA officials for violating the Railway Safety Act and Fisheries Act, the judge cancels the hearing and reschedules it for May 3 in Sherbrooke, Quebec.

January 26, 2016 – Relatives of the 47 people killed in the July 2013 disaster begin to receive financial compensation from the $111 million allocated to them from the $450 million total compensation settlement. Contractor Christian Lafontaine who lost his brother and two sisters-in-law but survived the explosion with his wife at the Musi-Café where most died, is shocked to receive only $25,000 ($17,000 after lawyers’ fees) and goes public in the press because he thinks others are in the same situation.

January 28-29, 2016 – Union members and staffers from dozens of trade unions across North America gather at the Tommy Douglas Center, International Headquarters of the Amalgamated Transit Union for Labor Convergence on Climate, organized by the Labor Network for Sustainability. The working conference committed to using union resources to further action around climate change.

January 30, 2016 – While attending the official opening of the Lac­Mégantic Reconstruction office in Lac-Mégantic, Federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau reports that he has spoken to John Giles, president of the Central, Maine and Quebec Railway, who says that there will be no crude oil transported by train through Lac-Mégantic in 2016. Garneau also said that a feasibility study was being done on a railway bypass around Lac-Mégantic.

January 31, 2016 — Two pressurized tanker cars loaded with propane collide at a Canadian Pacific Rail yard northeast of Edmonton, marking the third such accident at the Scotford Yard involving a remote-controlled train in less than two months. In early December, four cars at the yard being moved by remote control derailed, spilling almost 100,000 litres of toxic styrene at the site. Then on Dec. 26, three cars of plastic pellets also being moved by a crew on the ground operating a Beltpack derailed but remained upright. CP is in arbitration with the Teamsters union over expansion plans for the use of RCLS (Remote Control Locomotive System) trains in urban areas across the country. In a Jan. 5 radio interview Teamsters Rail Conference Canada president reported that a Beltpack operator failed to stop a 12,000-ton Canadian National train in Saskatoon and called CP’s drive for unlimited use of radio-controlled trains “grossly irresponsible.”

February 2, 2016 – CJAD 800 news reports that the Teamsters union is investigating a CJAD news story that trains are being put into service without safety inspections to save time. The union reports that in Montreal 10 of 50 diesel mechanics have lost their jobs, in the context of projected cuts by CP of 1,000 jobs and says that safety is being compromised because the fatigue of those forced to work over­time is more and more becoming a danger. The 30 day general maintenance inspections have been cut, reports Montreal union president Nelson Gagné.

February 3, 2016 – The winter issue of Highball, the publication of Rail Workers United (RWU) a cross-craft inter-union caucus of rail labor activists across North America, contains a front page commentary article titled “If you care about railroad safety you must defend Tom Harding” which explains why Tom Harding is not criminally responsible for the disaster, and a special report on the fight for rail safety in Lac-Mégantic by RWU member Fritz Edler who participated on behalf of the RWU, in the October 11, 2015 Lac­Mégantic demonstration of 1,000 for rail safety. Fritz says “The defense of Tom Harding is probably the most important question facing militant railroad workers today.”

February 4, 2016 – A study by Quebec health authorities concludes that 67 percent of the population of 6,000 at Lac-Mégantic suffer from “moderate to severe” Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and that the levels may still be rising. “We noted no improvement and even a deterioration of the global health of the population of Lac-Mégantic,” says Mélissa Généreux, director of public health for the region. Mayor Jean-Guy Cloutier says a railway bypass is “essential” for the recovery of the population.

February 11, 2016 – Marilaine Savard, a witness to the destruction in Lac-Mégantic briefs lawmakers and aides in Annapolis along with leaders of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Maryland House of Delegates Clarence Lam (D-12) and Fritz Edler of Railroad Workers United. Del. Lam is introducing legislation to restrict operation of unsafe freight trains in the State.

Maryland House of Delegates Committee on Environment and Transportation and Senate Committee on Finance receive First Reading testimony in support of Maryland SB 275/HB 92 penalizing single member crew operation of freight trains in the State. Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen Legislative Rep. H. Harris Jr and MD Smart-UTU (United Transportation Union) Legislative Director Larry Kasekamp, as well as crew members and First Responders testify in support of the legislation.

“From Lac-Mégantic to Baltimore: an Oil Train Town Hall” draws upwards of 70 people in downtown Baltimore, MD to hear Marilaine Savard from Lac-Mégantic describe the night of the disaster in her home town. Other speakers included Mike Tidwell and Jon Kenney of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network and Railroad Workers United. Recent Court disclosures won by CCAN reveal the extent of crude oil by rail that comes into Baltimore, a fact that has been hidden by the railroads. A Representative of the Baltimore City Council President’s Office underscored the urgency of the need for studying the impacts of those shipments.The Baltimore City Council is considering an ordinance requiring studying of the health and safety impact of these shipments. Fritz Edler, of Railroad Workers United spoke to the need to defeat charges against Harding and Labrie and called for support of Maryland legislation that would prohibit single crew member operation of freight trains in Maryland.

March 1, 2016 – Sixteen rail cars on a 34-car Norfolk Southern freight train derail near Ripley NY. Two rail cars carrying ethanol ruptured and leaked. At one point, the flammable liquid was gushing at a gallon per minute. Another car was carrying propane, but did not leak. Officials said they lost 5,000 to 10,000 gallons of product. 45 homes, about 100 residents, in the immediate area were evacuated. Many spent the night at a nearby church. Emergency leaders said they used a new foam trailer that the state sent to the county just a few weeks ago. Eighteen foam trailers had been distributed to areas across New York state, primarily along the railways in the state’s effort to control crude oil accidents.

March 6, 2016 – The Toronto Globe and Mail newspaper begins a 4 day series of explosive revelations about the policies of the Montreal Maine & Atlantic RR. The paper first reveals clearly for the first time, that the MMA, as a matter of policy, ordered all it’s crews NOT to use automatic air brakes in securing trains left unattended. This basically unprecedented policy driven added risk explains the quickness with which the train rolled after its lead engine was shut down. This revelation shakes the railroad world by its brazen disregard for basic railroading practices.

March 7, 2016 – The Toronto Globe and Mail continues it’s series on the crisis in Canadian railroading by reporting on the budget cuts at Transport Canada (the Canadian government rail regulatory arm, similar to the US FRA).

March 8, 2016 – The Globe and Mail reports that the Canadian Treasury Board will oversee Transport Canada’s budget decisions, further indication of the agency’s failure.

March 9, 2016 – In the wake of the revelations about the failure of the MMA to require basic best practices for securing unattended trains, and Transport Canada’s failure to require such practices, the Globe and Mail reports that the head of the Canadian Transportation Safety Board (TSB) calls for new federal safety requirements.

March 14, 2016 – The U.S. Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) publishes a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) in the Federal Register. The newly proposed rule would establish minimum requirements for the size of train crew staffs depending on the type of operation, with a minimum of two for most operations. The NPRM notes the disaster in Lac-Mégantic and the fact that Harding was forced to work the train by himself.

The Association of American Railroads (AAR), the industry group, immediately replies with a public relations pushback denying the fundamentally risky nature of single crew member operations.

March 16, 2016 – The Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) determines that poor track conditions and delays in maintenance activities led to the derailment of a Canadian National (CN) train near Fort Frances, Ontario. There were no injuries, and 500 feet of track was destroyed.

March 17, 2016- Thomas Walsh, lawyer for Tom Harding, files a motion before the Court either for a “stay of proceedings” (i.e. throw the case out of court) or to “quash” the preferred indictment and to order a preliminary hearing on the grounds of “abuse of process” by the Crown Prosecutor.

March 30, 2016 – A federal Transportation Safety Board report on the November 2014 derailment of a 240-car Quebec, North Shore and Labrador railway ore train that killed engineer and sole crew member Erick Gagnon after he hit a landslide derailing the two lead locomotives into the Moisie River, concluded that the QNS&L bosses did not regularly inspect the rock face along the route of the train.

April 4, 2016 – A scheduled court hearing in Lac-Mégantic for USW members Tom, Harding, Richard Labrie, and former MMA operations manager Jean Demaître is postponed to June 7 in Lac-Mégantic because Labrie is in the process of arranging for a new lawyer provided by the community organization Jurypop.

April 5, 2016-Thomas Walsh files a motion before the Court asking the Judge to order the Crown Prosecutor to release information crucial for the defense of Harding and to explain the “strategy or basis” for the criminal negligence charges-information need to back the motion for either a “stay of proceedings” or to “quash” the preferred indictment.

April 7, 2016 – L’Écho de Frontenac, the Lac-Mégantic weekly paper publishes information n the Globe and Mail revelations about the MMA policy against the use of air brakes, the first such article in French since the March 6 article by the Globe and Mail.

April 7, 2016 – Thomas Walsh, lawyer for Tom Harding and Fritz Edler a member of Rail Workers United, address a meeting a 20 students at the University of Quebec at Montreal on the frame-up of Harding and Labrie and the Globe and Mail revelations.

April 26, 2016 – Federal Minister of Transport Marc Garneau holds a Town Hall meeting in Lac-Mégantic in the context of Railway Safety Week. He speaks in generalities, says he is working on rail safety, and says an initial report on a feasibility study for a railway bypass at Lac-Mégantic will be released in mid-May. Garneau rejects demands of Citizens’ Coalition for Rail Safety for an independent commission of inquiry into the causes of the Lac-Mégantic disaster and to make July 6 an official rail safety day in memory of those who lost their lives on July 6, 2013. John Giles, president of the Central, Maine and Quebec Railway speaking at the meeting says the CMQR’s tracks and infrastructure meet Transport Canada standards and in a thinly veiled reference to Tom Harding says the Lac-Mégantic disaster was caused by “human error” and not faulty railway infrastructure.

April 27, 2016 – A court hearing Scheduled for May 3 in Sherbrooke, Quebec on the charges laid by Transport Canada under the federal Railway Safety Act and federal Environment Act against Tom Harding and Richard Labrie and a number of former MMA officials is postponed to October 5, 2016.

May 1, 2016 – A 175 car CSX freight train derails 14 cars, including dangerous flammable and caustic chemicals in Northeast Washington DC. While no one was injured, the derailed cars came within feet of destroying major infrastructure. Clean up including hazardous chemicals continues and the CSX Metropolitan Branch is impassable in the meantime, crippling commuter and freight traffic.

May 2, 2016 – A Globe and Mail article reports that the Liberal government quietly spent $75 million dollars into a compensation fund for victims and creditors of the disaster in order to protect the government from lawsuits connected to the disaster – a deal which was under negotiation with the previous Conservative government. In response Marc Garneau tells the Globe that neither the current nor previous government have “any legal responsibility” for the disaster.

May 3, 2016 – Court hearing in Sherbrooke on federal charges under Environment Act and Railway Safety Act is postponed till October 5, 2016 to clear way for the proceedings on the criminal negligence charges.

May 6, 2016 – La Tribune the daily Sherbrooke Quebec paper publishes a column by Denis Dufresne calling for a public inquiry into the causes of the Lac-Mégantic disaster in response to the news that Ottawa has protected itself against suits as a result of what happened. The article states that the only victims to this point are the people of Lac-Mégantic and the three accuse of criminal negligence and that the people of Lac-Mégantic have the right to know about the role and responsibility of the federal government, Transport Canada, and the MMA.

May 10, 2016 – The consulting company AECOM presents the results of a study to the people of Lac-Mégantic that says it will cost $112 million to build a railway bypass of almost 12 kilometers.

May 29, 2016 – The Globe and Mail publishes an article by Grant Robertson reporting that the Transportation Safety Board has criticized Transport Canada for only fully implementing one of five safety recommendations in the report of the Transportation Safety Board (TSB) on the Lac-Mégantic disaster in the three years since the event. The TSB points out that in 2015 there were 42 incident of runaway trains and equipment in Canada compared to 30 the year before and a five year average of 36. A Globe editorial the following date calls the situation “beyond shameful.”

June 2, 2016 – Crown prosecutor files motion before the court to “quash”, that is dismiss the two motions put forward by Walsh without regard to the issues raised by Walsh in his motions.

June 3, 2016 — A multi-car oil train derails and burns 110 miles from Portland Oregon forcing the evacuation of homes and businesses in the area. Since 2008 there have been ten major oil train derailments in Canada in the US.

June 7, 2016 – A Lac-Mégantic court hearing for pre-trial motions on the criminal negligence charges is cancelled and rescheduled for June 20 to hear a motion by Thomas Walsh for a ruling to force the prosecution to disclose information crucial for the defense and the basis for the criminal negligence charges information crucial for Walsh’s second motion for a “stay of proceedings” – that is to throw the case of court, on the basis of “abuse of process” by the Crown Prosecutor. The prosecutor asks the court to “quash” – dismiss both motions.

June 13, 2016-13 of 124 cars of a CSX freight train, one containing acetone, derailed in the Howard Street tunnel, beneath the city of Baltimore MD, site of a 2001 fire that burned for a week and another derailment in 2005.

June 17, 2016 – Railroad Workers United initiatives an on line Harding and Labrie Defense Committee at www.hardingandlabrie.org with a petition calling on Canadian Minister of Justice Jody Wilsion-Raybould to use her office to drop the criminal charges against Tom Harding and Richard Labrie.

June 20, 2016 – Justice Gaetan Dumas of the Quebec Superior Court opens hearing in Lac-Mégantic on two pre-trial motions, from Tom Harding’s lawyer Thomas Walsh. One requesting information from the Crown Prosecutor needed by the defense including the “Theory of the Case” – that is, the basis of the 47 charges of criminal negligence which the prosecutor has continually refused to divulge and another asking for the case to be dismissed because of abusive and illegal actions of the Crown Prosecutor or the ordering of a preliminary hearing. The prosecution argues for dismissal of both motions

June 21, 2016 – The Lac-Mégantic city council decides to drop its suit against Canadian Pacific Railway because it is too costly with no guarantee of success.

June 21, 2016 – At a Longueuil palais de justice, juge Maurice Galarneau rules that charges against Thomas Walsh, Harding`s lawyer laid in May 2015, will go to trial. Walsh is alleged to have uttered a death threat against a policeman in court during a hearing on a drug case in which Walsh was acting for the defense.

June 22, 2016 – The hearing continues in Sherbrooke. In a surprise move, Justice Dumas makes his decision before the end of the hearing dismissing the motions by Walsh. Dumas does this after he has pressured the Crown Prosecutor to release the “Theory of the Case.” In the document Harding is alleged to have carried out five acts that the prosecutor says are criminally negligent. During the course of the hearing the judge says he expects a trial sometime in 2017. A hearing will be held in mid-September 2016 on pre-trial motions including those dealing with the location of the trial.

June 23, 2016 – In a trip to Lac-Mégantic for Quebec’s national holiday, Rona Ambrose the interim leader of the federal Conservative party announces her support for the building of a rail bypass around downtown Lac-Mégantic.

June 23, 2016 – The Quebec government announces that it has allocated $250,000 in supplementary aid to the citizens of Lac-Mégantic to hire a social worker, a community worker, and a psychologist to help those with post-traumatic syndrome which affects two thirds of the people of Lac-Mégantic.

June 2016 – The June meeting of the Vancouver General Hospital Employees Union adopts a resolution calling for the dropping of the charges against Tom Harding and Richard Labrie and submits the resolution for adoption at the upcoming November 28-December 2, 2016 convention of the BC Federation of Labor.

July 6, 2016 – Lac-Mégantic: On the third anniversary of the disaster, the Citizens’ Coalition and Groups for Rail Safety holds a press conference in the village of Nantes where the train was initially parked before rolling into Lac­Mégantic to demand immediate government action on building a railway bypass around Lac-Mégantic. Prime Minister Trudeau the same day makes a statement on rail safety without mentioning the question of the by-pass.

July 10, 2016 – About 300 people from Lac-Mégantic and around Quebec turn out to a rally and march in Lac-Mégantic organized by the Citizens and Groups Coalition for Rail Safety to demand that the federal government of Justin Trudeau take immediate steps to announce and build a railway bypass around the town and that Transport Canada take measure to force the Central, Maine and Quebec Railway to upgrade the safety of its track system in and around Lac-Mégantic. Speaking to the rally Fritz Edler, activist with Rail Workers United and retired locomotive engineer calls for the dropping of the charges against Tom Harding and Richard Labrie.

July 16, 2016 – Teamsters Canada Rail Conference, tweets RWU Harding-Labrie petition calling for dropping the criminal charges against Tom Harding and Richard Labrie.

July 20, 2016 – The railway division of Unifor local 4,000 based in Edmonton, with 4,500 members across the country including Via Rail puts the RWU petition on its website urging members to sign it. (www.unifor.com)

July 25, 2016 – Minister of Transport Marc Garneau announces retirement of Dot 111 tanker cars by November 1, 2016 moving up the planned date from 2017. The puncture-prone cars were the ones that exploded during the the Lac-Mégantic disaster.

August 12, 2016 – Locals 258 and 689 of the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference (locomotive engineers in Montreal) post the Rail Workers United petition on their website urging members to call for the dropping of the charges against Tom Harding and Richard Labrie.(http://www.tcrc258.com/en/)

August 21, 2016 – Two Canadian Pacific freight trains side-swipe each other in central Toronto puncturing he fuel tank of the lead locomotive. The train was carrying dangerous goods. There were no injuries or damage beyond the locomotives.

September 13, 2016 – At the end of a pre-trial court hearing in Sherbrooke, Quebec, Superior Court Justice Gaétan Dumas sets a date of September 11, 2017 for the beginning of the trial for Tom Harding, Richard Labrie, former MMA official Jean Demaître and the bankrupt MMA on the 47 counts each of criminal negligence. The trial is projected to last three months. Another pre-trial hearing in Sherbrooke is scheduled for November 29 for further pre-trial motions from the defense and prosecution. At that time Harding’s attorney who will push to have the trial in Lac-Mégantic, plans to move a separate English-language trial for Harding who is the main target in the frame-up. During the hearing Judge Dumas queries the prosecution on why the MMA is still being charged since it can’t pay any fines or be jailed

September 13, 2016 – In attendance at the court hearing is Robert Bellefleur, as spokesperson for the Lac-Mégantic Citizens and Groups Coalition for Rail Safety that is fighting for federal action on its demand for a railway bypass around the town. At the hearing a Rail Workers United-initiated online petition calling for the dropping of the charges against Harding and Labrie with 2250 signatures is handed over to the office of the Quebec prosecutor. The petition is supported by several Teamster Canada Rail Conference union locals in Ontario and Quebec and Unifor 4000 which organizes passenger rail workers.

September 22, 2016 – A Globe and Mail article reports that the National Energy Board has told a standing Senate committee that if no new oil pipelines are built that oil-by-rail shipments across Canada will increase by ten times over the next 25 years. By 2040 daily oil production is expected to rise to 6.1 million barrels and 1.2 million of that will be moved by rail.

September 29, 2016 – A New Jersey Transit commuter train failed to stop and crashed through a wall into the waiting room at a busy Hoboken station at 8:45 a.m. killing one person and injuring over 100. The train was not equipped with Positive Train Control technology which would have likely stopped the train. The National Transportation Safety Board has been calling for this kind of technology for 40 years. Congress has passed legislation demanding companies install PSC technology but at the request of railway companies the deadline for installing this has been pushed back to 2018.

Tags: United Steelworkers rail workerssolidarityframe-upRail safetyLac-Mégantic disaster
Categories: Labor News

UK RMT Launches New Film In Support Of Keep The Guard Campaign

Thu, 12/28/2017 - 20:53

UK RMT Launches New Film In Support Of Keep The Guard Campaign
https://vimeo.com/248119121

https://www.rmt.org.uk/news/rmt-launches-new-film-in-support-of-keep-the...

RMT LAUNCHES NEW FILM IN SUPPORT OF KEEP THE GUARD CAMPAIGN

28 December 2017
RMT Press Office:

RMT launches new film and social media drive in support of "Keep the Guard on the Train" campaign

RAIL UNION RMT today launches a new film and social media drive in support of both the “Keep The Guard” campaign and the workers involved in disputes across the country in defence of rail safety.

A short film “Unguarded”, weaving together stories from three individual passengers based on feedback over the past year, is released and cascaded on social media platforms today (28th December). It will be followed up with short films homing in on the individual passenger stories which will be released over the next three days.

RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said:

“RMT is committed to using every tool at our disposal to defend the role of the guard and to resist the profit-driven moves to throw these safety critical staff off our trains.

“These films are based on real experiences that have been fed back to us by both passengers and our members who deal with the daily reality of the de-staffing of the railway.

“The themes that are a constant throughout are safety, security and accessibility on the railway and we will not allow those messages to get shoved aside in the barrage of rhetoric from the private companies, the Government and their cheerleaders at the Rail Delivery Group.

“RMT is confident this latest initiative will spark off a new surge in support for the “Keep The Guard” campaign and for our members who find themselves at the sharp end.

Tags: UK RMTsafetyRail GuardsKeep the Guard on the Train
Categories: Labor News

Campaign For Framed Up Railroad Workers Facing Trial For Lac-Mégantic Wreck

Wed, 12/27/2017 - 04:13

WW12-26-17 Campaign For Framed Up Railroad Workers Facing Trial For Lac-Mégantic Wreck
https://soundcloud.com/workweek-radio/ww12-26-17-campaign-for-railroad-w...
Pacifica KPFA WorkWeek Radio looks at a railroad workers defense campaign taking place in Quebec , Canada. In 2014 a major train wreck took place in Lac-Mégantic when a run away train with loaded with highly dangerous fuel smashed into the Lac-Mégantic city center killing 47 people. The company Montreal, Maine and Atlantic (MMA) and the Canadian government blamed three workers for this catastrophic wreck.
USW Locomotive engineer Tom Harding is one of three former Montreal, Maine and Atlantic (MMA) railroad employees along with operations manager Jean Demaître and railway traffic controller Richard Labrie who were each charged with 47 counts of criminal negligence causing death in connection with the deadly derailment and explosions at Lac-Mégantic.
With growing rail and transit disasters in Washinton, New York City and throughout the country are the workers really to blame? We look at the deregulation and the attack on rail workers and health and safety conditions by railroad bosses. On January 4th there will be protests at Canadian consulates in the US and around the world to demand freedom for these railroad workers.
WorkWeek is joined with Railroad Workers United RWU and Workers Solidarity Action Network WSAN member Mark Burrows who is a retired SMART 1433 Canadian Pacific railroader and is helping to organize the defense campaign. We also interview Fritz Elder who is a veteran Locomotive engineer, and chair of the Lac-Mégantic rail workers defense committee and a special rep for Railroad Workers United RWU.
For more information and media:
http://hardingdefense.org/
http://railroadworkersunited.org/lac-megantic/
https://static1.squarespace.com/static/505b96a8c4aa40a37a143c49/t/5814d3...
http://www.cbc.ca/beta/news/canada/montreal/mma-lac-megantic-trial-jonat...
http://www.themilitant.com/2015/7905/790553.html
http://www.cbc.ca/…/lac-megantic-criminal-trial-begins-sher…
http://www.newswire.ca/…/steelworkers-local-gives-70000-to-…
https://www.ble-t.org/pr/news/headline.asp?id=39797
http://hardingdefense.org
http://www.newswire.ca/news-releases/steelworkers-local-gives-70000-to-r...
http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/lac-megantic-criminal-trial-begin...
http://jordanbarab.com/confinedspace/2017/10/24/lac-megantic-trial/
Production of
KPFA WorkWeek Radio
workweek@kpfa.org
https://soundcloud.com/workweek-radio

1/4/18 International Day Of Action To Defend Framed Lac-Mégantic Railway Workers-Stop One Person Crews And Destruction Of Health & Safety Standards in Transportation System

1/4/18 Thursday Jan 4th, 2018
Press Conference and Rally in San Francisco on Thursday Jan 4, 2017 at 12:00 noon at the

San Francisco Canadian Consulate 580 California St. San Francisco, California

Additional information about actions in the US and internationally will be forthcoming.

On Thursday January 4, 2018 there will be an international day of action to defend three USW Canadian railway workers. Locomotive engineer Tom Harding is one of three former Montreal, Maine and Atlantic (MMA) railroad employees along with operations manager Jean Demaître and railway traffic controller Richard Labrie who were each charged with 47 counts of criminal negligence causing death in connection with the deadly derailment and explosions at Lac-Mégantic that killed 47 people. As a direct results of the elimination of crews leading to a one person crew, this disaster was man made by the corporations which are eliminating railway safety protections and who control the politicians. The Canadian government in fact like the US government is controlled by these same rail bosses who are only interested in more profits at the cost of lives, communities and the environment.

Increasing rail wrecks and explosions throughout North American are endangering workers, members of the community and creating havoc. These so called “accidents” around the world are a direct result of deregulation, privatization and the attack on transportation workers and their unions.
Not surprisingly, no charges were brought against MMA owner Ed Burkhardt or against the federal Conservative government that allowed the use of single-worker train crews without an inquiry into the implications of its decisions.

The scheme to blame the workers for these disasters is a cynical ploy to shift the real responsibility for the growing number of transportation catastrophes taking place in North America and in country after country.
We call for the dropping of charges and for the real criminals who are the executives of MMA and the government officials to be prosecuted for endangering the community and the workers.

Put the real criminals on trial!

In San Francisco there will be a press conference and protest at the Canadian Consulate at 12:00 noon. The consulate is located at 580 California St. San Francisco.
This international day of action has been endorsed by
Workers Solidarity Action Network
https://www.facebook.com/workerssolidarityactionnetwork/
http://www.workerssolidarityactionnetwork.org
Railroad Workers United
http://railroadworkersunited.org
United Public Workers For Action
www.upwa.info

Additional media:
http://railroadworkersunited.org/lac-megantic/
https://static1.squarespace.com/static/505b96a8c4aa40a37a143c49/t/5814d3...
http://www.cbc.ca/beta/news/canada/montreal/mma-lac-megantic-trial-jonat...
http://www.themilitant.com/2015/7905/790553.html
http://www.cbc.ca/…/lac-megantic-criminal-trial-begins-sher…
http://www.newswire.ca/…/steelworkers-local-gives-70000-to-…
https://www.ble-t.org/pr/news/headline.asp?id=39797
http://hardingdefense.org
http://www.newswire.ca/news-releases/steelworkers-local-gives-70000-to-r...
http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/lac-megantic-criminal-trial-begin...
http://jordanbarab.com/confinedspace/2017/10/24/lac-megantic-trial/

Tags: Lac-Mégantic Wreckrailroad workers framed upMMARailroad Workers United
Categories: Labor News

Scores were injured & about 40 arrested after security forces brutally attacked a Tehran rally in support of Iranian Bus Driver Leader Reza Shahabi Iran

Tue, 12/26/2017 - 09:09

Scores were injured & about 40 arrested after security forces brutally attacked a Tehran rally in support of Iranian Bus Driver Leader Reza Shahabi
Iran: Breaking news:

Scores were injured & about 40 arrested after security forces brutally attacked a rally in support of Iranian Bus Driver Reza Shahabi

Robabeh Rezaee, Hassan Saeidi, Mohammad Aslaghi & Gholamreza Gomar among the arrestees.

A protest rally was held at 10 am today, Tuesday, December 26th, 2017, outside the Ministry of Labour in Tehran, to address the alarming situation and the deteriorating health conditions of Reza Shahabi, a jailed labour activist and an executive board member of the Syndicate of Workers of Tehran and Suburbs Bus Company.

This gathering was brutally attacked from the beginning by security forces and reportedly about 40 people, many of whom women, have been arrested. Robabeh Rezaee, Reza Shahabi’s wife, as well as some well-known members of the bus workers’ syndicate, including Hassan Saeidi, Mohammad Aslaghi and Gholamreza Gomar, were among the arrestees. There are reports of injuries as well. Tehran bus workers’ syndicate reported that some of the arrestees including Robabeh Rezaee have been transferred to the Evin prison. As the above picture illustrates, Hassan Saeidi, was badly beaten by a number of security agents as a result of which he was taken to the emergency.

There have been growing protests in Iran and internationally for Reza Shahabi’s freedom. Workers’ organizations and unions around the world have been calling for his immediate and unconditional release. Shahabi has been a target of an ongoing persecution and prosecution since 2010. He has had 2 minor strokes within the past two weeks. He has been denied hospitalization or release despite ending his 6-year prison term. He was re-incarcerated in Rajaee Shahr Prison in City of Karaj, notorious especially for its substandard health and safety conditions, on August 9, 2017 and since then has been denied freedom unless he agrees to stop his union activities.

IASWI strongly condemns the brutal attack on demonstrators who had done nothing but raising their concerns for Shahabi’s deteriorating health. We strongly condemn the arbitrary arrest of Robabeh Rezaee, Hassan Saeidi, Mohammad Aslaghi, Gholamreza Gomar and others and call for their immediate and unconditional release. The continued imprisonment and abuse of Reza Shahabi is a gross violation of all internationally recognised human and labour rights. IASWI urges all workers’ and human rights’ organizations internationally to take all necessary measures to ensure that Reza Shahabi and other jailed labour activists and political prisoners in Iran are freed immediately and unconditionally.

International Alliance in Support of Workers in Iran (IASWI)
December 26, 2017
info@workers-iran.org;
www.workers-iran.org;
https://twitter.com/IASWIinfo
https://www.facebook.com/IASWI

PLEASE SEND protest letters to the electronic addresses below: Email: info_leader@leader.ir or contact@leader.ir ; Email: media@rouhani.ir; info@humanrights-iran.ir; iran@un.int; infopack@irimlsa.ir;
Cc: info@workers-iran.org;

Tags: Reza ShahabiTehran bus driversworkers repressionTehran Bus Workers Syndicate
Categories: Labor News

As a former BLE rail engineer, what happened in Lac-Mégantic is linked to the continent-wide, 30-year erosion of rules, procedures, equipment and infrastructure in the rail industry, and a culture of corporate acquisition by non-railroad

Mon, 12/25/2017 - 22:57

Opinion: As a former rail engineer, I need to speak out

what happened in Lac-Mégantic is linked to the continent-wide, 30-year erosion of rules, procedures, equipment and infrastructure in the rail industry, and a culture of corporate acquisition by non-railroad interests that has led to deferred maintenance and deep cost cutting.

http://www.montrealgazette.com/Opinion+former+rail+engineer+need+speak/8...
JAMES GOODRICH, THE GAZETTE 08.09.2013

James Goodrich is a former rail engineer who worked for three railroad firms. He currently works as a self-employed researcher in the energy and transportation fields. He lives in Brewster, Mass.
James Goodrich is a former rail engineer who worked for three railroad firms. He currently works as a self-employed researcher in the energy and transportation fields. He lives in Brewster, Mass.
A train wagon that carried crude oil sits burned and and warped from the heat at the scene of the explosion in the town of Lac-Mégantic, 100 kilometres east of Sherbrooke on Thursday, July 11, 2013.
A train wagon that carried crude oil sits burned and and warped from the heat at the scene of the explosion in the town of Lac-Mégantic, 100 kilometres east of Sherbrooke on Thursday, July 11, 2013.DARIO AYALA / THE GAZETTE
Some 25 people are dead and other 25 missing as a result of what happened last Saturday in Lac-Mégantic — and investigators and media are looking for answers as to what caused this accident. Among other things, they are looking into railway-industry operating practices.

I used to work for one of Montreal Maine & Atlantic Railway’s predecessor companies, Iron Road Railways, as well as two other railroads in Colorado and New England. I have been a freight conductor, yardmaster and locomotive engineer — and I need to speak out.

In my view, what happened in Lac-Mégantic is linked to the continent-wide, 30-year erosion of rules, procedures, equipment and infrastructure in the rail industry, and a culture of corporate acquisition by non-railroad interests that has led to deferred maintenance and deep cost cutting.

The first fact to consider is that this train in Lac-Mégantic had 72 cars of oil on it — and a single crew member. That equals 46,285 barrels of oil in cars that carry approximately 102,000 litres each. By contrast, the tanker trailer you see on the highway is carrying about 34,000 litres or 214 barrels of product. Thirty years ago, most trains had five-man crews — three on the head of the train and two on the rear in the caboose. Now there are mostly two man crews on the head end, with few exceptions, one of those apparently being the MMA.

There are many hazardous materials that cannot move on the highway and thus move by rail. This train was by definition a “Hazmat” train, and yet I notice that media reports that I have seen in the U.S. have reported that there were 5- and 10-mile-per-hour track-speed limits on the rails in the area where the train was parked. Five miles per hour (or 8 kilometres per hour) is an extremely slow order speed for rail, even in areas between Nantes and Lac-Mégantic where there are major differences in elevation above sea level. Even in the Rocky Mountains, rail beds are carefully designed so that track speeds are rarely less than 15 mph. The only other reason I can think of for a speed this slow would be known problems with rail track in the Lac-Mégantic area. I have only seen order speeds of 5 mph twice — after flash floods in Colorado, and in nearly abandoned Boston yards where no rail maintenance was being done at all.

This is not just an issue for rural Canada. On the Springfield Terminal Railroad (now Pan Am), I used to pull cars of hydrocyanic acid and chlorine through the suburbs of Boston. Policy-makers should take a close look at the emergency-response guidelines for the evacuation radius of those materials. Imagine the implications for accidents in major cities.

I was a proud member of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and I followed the rules, sometimes at great personal cost. I worked for and left three railroads because the personal costs were too high, and yet I have not been this upset since I went to the funerals of two co-workers killed in a derailment on Tennessee Pass in 1996. The railroad unions have been gutted in the past three decades, but if they cannot find their voice now, after the terrible accident in Lac-Mégantic, then they deserve irrelevance.

We all need to speak out for the sake of the people who move our planes, trains and trucks with inadequate support and respect for their health and welfare. We need to speak out for the safety of those who live close to our transport infrastructures and to renew our critical railway infrastructure to make up for deferred maintenance and decay. We also shouldn’t let Lac-Mégantic be turned into a sales pitch for pipelines. Pipelines do not carry hydrocyanic acid and chlorine and other hazardous materials, and they will not save you in the middle of the night. The men and women I worked with will.

Tags: Rail safetyLac-Mégantic
Categories: Labor News

1/4/18 Thursday Jan 4th, 2018 International Day Of Action To Defend Framed Lac-Mégantic Railway Workers-Stop One Person Crews And Destruction Of Health & Safety Standards in Transportation System

Mon, 12/25/2017 - 12:16

1/4/18 International Day Of Action To Defend Framed Lac-Mégantic Railway Workers-Stop One Person Crews And Destruction Of Health & Safety Standards in Transportation System

1/4/18 Thursday Jan 4th, 2018

Press Conference and Rally in San Francisco on Thursday Jan 4, 2017 at 12:00 noon at the

San Francisco Canadian Consulate 580 California St. San Francisco, California

Additional information about actions in the US and internationally will be forthcoming.

On Thursday January 4, 2018 there will be an international day of action to defend three USW Canadian railway workers. Conductor Tom Harding is one of three former Montreal, Maine and Atlantic (MMA) railroad employees along with operations manager Jean Demaître and railway traffic controller Richard Labrie who were each charged with 47 counts of criminal negligence causing death in connection with the deadly derailment and explosions at Lac-Mégantic that killed 47 people. As a direct results of the elimination of crews leading to a one person crew, this disaster was man made by the corporations which are eliminating railway safety protections and who control the politicians. The Canadian government in fact like the US government is controlled by these same rail bosses who are only interested in more profits at the cost of lives, communities and the environment.

Increasing rail wrecks and explosions throughout North American are endangering workers, members of the community and creating havoc. These so called “accidents” around the world are a direct result of deregulation, privatization and the attack on transportation workers and their unions.
Not surprisingly, no charges were brought against MMA owner Ed Burkhardt or against the federal Conservative government that allowed the use of single-worker train crews without an inquiry into the implications of its decisions.

The scheme to blame the workers for these disasters is a cynical ploy to shift the real responsibility for the growing number of transportation catastrophes taking place in North America and in country after country.
We call for the dropping of charges and for the real criminals who are the executives of MMA and the government officials to be prosecuted for endangering the community and the workers.

Put the real criminals on trial!

In San Francisco there will be a press conference and protest at the Canadian Consulate at 12:00 noon. The consulate is located at 580 California St. San Francisco.
This international day of action has been endorsed by

Railroad Workers United RWU,
Workers Solidarity Action Network WSAN ,
United Public Workers for Action
UPWA and Transport Workers Solidarity Committee TWSC
For more information and to endorse call (415)282-1908
Endorsed by
Workers Solidarity Action Network
https://www.facebook.com/workerssolidarityactionnetwork/
http://www.workerssolidarityactionnetwork.org
Railroad Workers United
http://railroadworkersunited.org
United Public Workers For Action
www.upwa.info

Additional media:
http://railroadworkersunited.org/lac-megantic/
https://static1.squarespace.com/static/505b96a8c4aa40a37a143c49/t/5814d3...
http://www.cbc.ca/beta/news/canada/montreal/mma-lac-megantic-trial-jonat...
http://www.themilitant.com/2015/7905/790553.html
http://www.cbc.ca/…/lac-megantic-criminal-trial-begins-sher…
http://www.newswire.ca/…/steelworkers-local-gives-70000-to-…
https://www.ble-t.org/pr/news/headline.asp?id=39797
http://hardingdefense.org
http://www.newswire.ca/news-releases/steelworkers-local-gives-70000-to-r...
http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/lac-megantic-criminal-trial-begin...
http://jordanbarab.com/confinedspace/2017/10/24/lac-megantic-trial/

Tags: Lac-Mégantic Railway WorkersTom Hardinghealth and safetyWorker Safetyone person crewMMA
Categories: Labor News

Fired DC ATU 689 track inspectors may see relief under binding arbitration over attacks by bosses on health and safety

Mon, 12/25/2017 - 09:51

Fired DC ATU 689 track inspectors may see relief under binding arbitration over attacks by bosses on health and safety
https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/trafficandcommuting/fired-track-ins...
By Martine Powers December 23
One year after Metro fired 16 track workers for allegedly falsifying inspection reports, their cases have gone to binding arbitration, and Metro’s largest union is suing the transit agency — accusing it of stalling the arbitration process.

In the lawsuit, filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Virginia, attorneys for the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689 said Metro is demonstrating a “refusal to participate in the arbitration proceedings.”

The union wants the court to instruct arbitrators to consider all 16 cases as one “group grievance” — the equivalent of a class-action lawsuit. But Metro’s lawyers argue that the arbitration board does not have the power to require that the 16 disparate cases be considered as one entity.

And though the lawsuit centers on a technical question within the arbitration process, it’s the first public acknowledgment that the high-profile case of the fired track inspectors has reached binding arbitration, a common practice in disagreements between Metro and union officials that has served as a political flash point in recent years.

Some politicians have argued that arbitrators usually side with the union, amping up the costs to taxpayers or offering second chances to poorly performing workers. Others would support more long-term funding to Metro if binding arbitration is eliminated, though a recent funding bill floated by Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-Va.) stops short of that requirement.

[Dec. 4: Rep. Comstock’s bill would give Metro more federal money in exchange for reform board and controls on labor costs.]

Still, if the terminated track inspectors are rehired by Metro, it could bring more scrutiny to the agency and its embattled union.

Metro spokesman Dan Stessel declined to comment on the lawsuit.

The 16 track inspectors at issue were terminated after an investigation into the July 2016 derailment at East Falls Church station, which resulted in several minor injuries and more than $1 million in damage to the tracks and train.

The derailment was caused by a train that skidded off the rails because the tracks had spread too wide, a defective condition that usually happens after years of inattention and postponed repairs.

Metro has accused the 16 track inspectors of fabricating measurements on track inspection reports in the months before the derailment. Managers also fired five supervisors, who are not represented by ATU Local 689. In total, one-third of Metro’s track inspection department was terminated, and others were disciplined.

[Jan. 26: One-third of Metro’s track inspection department has been fired for falsifying records, Wiedefeld confirms]

But union representatives point out that Metro has provided no proof that the workers who were fired had maintained the section of track where the derailment occurred.

They also argue that workers did not receive adequate training.

In the lawsuit filed last week, the union’s lawyers assert that Metro’s track inspection program was designed to keep the trains running, not to shut down stretches of track for safety maintenance.

“ . . . WMATA is scapegoating these workers for insufficient track inspection which was intentionally designed by WMATA so as to avoid speed restrictions and immediate repair costs,” read court documents filed by the workers. “The culture and practice in track inspection has been to file routine reports and to discourage reporting problems which might disrupt rail operation.”

The lawsuit also included an account from one terminated track inspector, John Evans, who wrote that he was never properly trained on that protocol for track inspections.

“Only had 1 day of training on how to perform switch inspection and had to learn procedures in the field on my own or from senior track personnel,” Evans wrote in his grievance document.

He also said he did not have access to Metro’s digital database of track inspection reports, suggesting that he would not have been able to copy-and-paste the measurements from previous months.

“WMATA never showed proof of accurate measurement that would prove my work inaccurate or . . . that my documents were falsified,” the track worker wrote.

The union’s lawyers also argue that the terminations were illegitimate, because the employees were fired more than six months after the date of their alleged wrongdoings — exceeding the statue of limitations laid out in Metro’s contract with the union.

Tags: ATU 689health and safetyretaliationbinding arbitration
Categories: Labor News

Ryanair Hit With Its First Pilot Strike, in Germany

Sun, 12/24/2017 - 18:36

Ryanair Hit With Its First Pilot Strike, in Germany

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/22/business/ryanair-pilot-strike.html
By AMIE TSANGDEC. 22, 2017

Ryanair was hit by the first strike in its company history on Friday after pilots in Germany staged a four-hour walkout, days after the airline agreed to recognize unions but talks fell apart.

The strike, another blow to the reputation of Ryanair, the largest budget airline in Europe, came during the busy holiday traveling season. It also occurred after the airline had to cancel more than 20,000 flights in recent months because of scheduling problems.

The strike appeared to cause limited disruption to Ryanair’s passengers. The company, which is based in Ireland, said that nine of its morning flights leaving from Germany had been delayed, but that none had been canceled.

The union deemed the strike a success, nonetheless, saying that it had put pressure on the company’s management.

“They had to work all night to mitigate the consequences of the strike and there were nearly no consequences for the passengers,” Markus Wahl, a spokesman for the German union, Vereinigung Cockpit, said on Friday. “It was a win-win situation; we hit the company without hitting the passengers.”The strike came on the heels of an agreement by the company last week to change its longstanding position and recognize pilots’ unions for the first time. Ryanair’s announcement was seen as an indication that it would have to grapple with the same labor costs and issues as its legacy competitors.

But the union said the company appeared to be paying lip service to having a union but was not interested in serious negotiations. Further talks with Ryanair management were canceled, the union said, because the airline rejected the inclusion of two people on the council representing pilots in the negotiations.

On Thursday, the union called for the strike in Germany from 5 a.m. to 9 a.m. Friday local time.

“Ryanair’s public offer to conduct negotiations with V.C. can only be classified as a further publicity stunt,” Ingolf Schumacher, the head of the union’s industrial department, said in a statement. “Ryanair is trying to win time and attempting to delay the beginning of collective bargaining.”

Ryanair said it had objected to having a contract pilot, who had not flown with the company for 15 months and was in litigation with the company, at the union talks. The union said this pilot had been fired two days after he publicly said he was a member of the union’s negotiating team and was taking this to court.

But the union said the company had also objected to the participation by another pilot because he also was not a direct Ryanair employee. Many of Ryanair’s pilots are employed on contracts through separate agencies and, as tensions have flared over relations between the company and its pilots, many have voiced their frustration at the demanding work conditions and these atypical work arrangements.

In a letter to its members, the union said Ryanair representatives had refused to enter the negotiating room until the pilot involved in the litigation had left. The union also said that the airline had declined to sign a “good-faith bargaining agreement.”

“Ryanair is still trying to enforce their old habit of dictating the conditions under which negotiations can take place,” the letter said. “Under these conditions, there can be no fruitful negotiations to reach any form of acceptable common labor agreement.”

The union did concede that the company had expressed a desire to “build trust and better cooperation between the pilots and management,” but said that the “underlying control issues are the same.”

In anticipation of the strike in Germany, Robin Kiely, the head of communications for Ryanair, said in a statement on Thursday, “We advise all customers in Germany to turn up as normal tomorrow, as we plan to operate all scheduled flights.”

The statement added, “We will be doing our upmost to minimize any disruptions to the Christmas travel plans of our German customers.”

Ryanair had also written to its German pilots asking them not to strike and to “avoid disrupting the plans of thousands of German passengers during Christmas week.” It also said it had agreed to meet with union representatives on Jan. 5 to discuss a collective labor agreement.

The union, however, said it would not negotiate unless the company backs down on allowing the two pilots to be part of its negotiation team. If Ryanair does not change its stance, Mr. Wahl said, “further strike action will be possible.”

Pilots in other European countries, including Ireland and Italy, have threatened to walk off the job.

The budget carrier has been trying to stanch a growing backlash among its ranks, after scheduling problems led the company to threaten to cancel pilots’ holidays. The pilots pushed back, and Ryanair cut thousands of flights instead.

But the episodes galvanized the pilots, who started organizing for better conditions and more secure contracts.

Union negotiations have not been as disastrous in Ireland, where Impact, which represents Irish pilots, said on Thursday that the company had confirmed its recognition of the union in writing and that both sides had agreed to meet on Jan. 3 to establish collective bargaining procedures.

Follow Amie Tsang on Twitter: @amietsang.

Tags: Ryanair
Categories: Labor News

TWSC Statement of Protest Against The Attack On Striking Women Workers of the Cavite Export Zone

Sat, 12/23/2017 - 08:50

TWSC Statement of Protest Against The Attack On Striking Women Workers of the Cavite Export Zone

Philippine Government Officials and Cavite Export Zone Officials

The Transport Workers Solidarity Committee TWSC condemns the vicious attack on the women workers of the Cavite export loan. The attack on the picket line and the beating of women workers on strike is a crime against all working people including those in the US. We demand justice for these striking women worker and protest this union busting attack. We call on the company and the Philippino government to end these attacks and also for prosecution of those criminals hired by the company to attack the striking women workers.
We will work to get support from the rest of the US labor movement to prove that you are not alone and those responsible for these crimes are held accountable. We will also inform US working people about the role of this company in the use of these vicious tactics.

Transport Workers Solidarity Committee
www.transportworkers.org

Solidarity Needed For Philippine Lakepower Women Workers
Statement of Support for the Fight of Lakepower Women Workers

We express our support for the fight of women workers of the electronics company Lakepower Converter Inc. who are facing union busting and discrimination by management. Likewise we voice our condemnation of the violent dispersal by Cavite export zone security personnel of the picketline during the dead of the night and early morning of December 7 to 8.

Security guards contracted by the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) led strike breakers at the picketline. Two women workers—Maricar Orque and Magdalena Peña—were hurt in the commotion that followed the forcible dismantling of the picketline.

Company guards, export zone security guards and other men wearing ski masks but clad in PEZA police uniforms repeatedly tore down placards and makeshift tents. The men arrived in motorcycles and bearing side arms.

The strike started on the afternoon of December 7 after mediation meetings collapsed as management refused worker’s demands that the termination and suspension of union officers and members be stopped.

A PEZA firetruck along with security guards went to the picketline area. They also set up barricades at two points leading to the factory and refused entry to workers going to the picketline. All these are violations of the official “Guidelines on the Conduct of Police and Security Personnel During Labor Disputes.”

We hold the PEZA and Atty. Norma Tañag, administrator of the Cavite ecozone, responsible for the violent attacks on the women workers strike. Aside from the direct involvement of PEZA police, firefighters and guards in the harassment and attacks, PEZA has administrative control of the ecozone and is liable for such repeated incidents of violence.

Unrest has festered at Lakepower for the last few months. Among workers grievances is the removal of the door of the women’s restroom so that the company can spy on workers. Almost all of the 200 workers in the factory are women. They are also outraged at the unreasonable limits on the use of the restroom which has led to numerous cases of workers suffering from urinary tract infection. Workers are also complaining of excessive quota and the exclusion of unionists from receiving Christmas packages.

Workers are unionizing in the ecozones to improve their working conditions but are being met by extreme interference from capitalists unwilling to share the fruits of production.

Lakepower is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Taiwanese company Coil Technology Corp. that manufactures transformers for electronic components.

Please send messages of concern to:

Labor Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III
osec@dole.gov.ph, secshb3@dole.gov.ph

Ma. Zenaida Angara-Campita
DOLE Calabarzon Regional Director
dole4imsd@yahoo.com

BGen Charito B. Plaza
PEZA Director General
odg@peza.gov.ph

Atty. Norma B. Tañag
Administrator, Cavite Economic Zone
cez@peza.gov.ph

Coil Technology Corporation
No.206 Feng-Reng Rd. Feng Shan District, Kaohsiung, Taiwan
sales@ctc-dc-dc.com

Lakepower Converter Inc.
Cheng Jen Chao
Vice General Manager
power_lci@yahoo.com

--
PARTIDO MANGGAGAWA (PM)
15 Clarion Lily St., St. Dominic Subdivision, Proj. 8, Quezon City
Telefax (02) 4396829
E-mail: partido_ng_manggagawa@yahoo.com
Website: www.laborpartyphilippines.org
Facebook: www.facebook.com/partidongmanggagawa
Follow us on Twitter: manggagawa

Categories: Labor News

ILWU Local 10 Longshoremen At Work

Fri, 12/22/2017 - 19:03

ILWU Local 10 Longshoremen At Work

https://archive.org/details/LongshoremenAtWork

by Brian Nelson, Frank Silva, Michael Vawter

Publication date 1994
Topics San Francisco, Oakland, ILWU, Longshoremen, union
This film spans the twenty-five years of ILWU longshore history in San Francisco and Oakland from 1969 to 1994. Its images and sounds recount a dramatic story of change in our working lives, our industry, and our port.

First produced in 1979, it was shown at poetry readings presented by Waterfront Writers and Artists. Now transferred to DVD, this work of art stands as both a memorial to our colorful past and a tribute to our work and our union with one another.

This film was filmed and composed by:

Brian Nelson, ILWU Ship Clerk Local 34, retired.
Frank Silva, ILWU Ship Clerk Local 34, retired.
Michael Vawter, ILWU Longshore Local 10, active.

cover photo: Michael Vawter
copyright 1994

Tags: ILWU Local 10Longshoreman At Workport workers
Categories: Labor News

Hundreds of SEIU contract workers go on strike at Reagan National and Dulles

Fri, 12/22/2017 - 09:00

Hundreds of SEIU contract workers go on strike at Reagan National and Dulles

https://wtop.com/local/2016/12/hundreds-of-workers-go-on-strike-at-reaga...
By Nick Iannelli | @NickWTOP
December 14, 2016 9:47 am

The protest at Reagan National airport was the first involving employees from Huntleigh. (WTOP/Nick Iannelli)
WASHINGTON — Hundreds of contracted airport service workers walked off the job Wednesday morning at Dulles International and Reagan National airports, speaking out against their employer and demanding to be paid a minimum of $15 an hour.

“They’re on strike today to demand higher standards,” said protest organizer Jaime Contreras, vice president of Service Employees International Union Local 32BJ.

“This is something that is very hard for them to do, but they’ve had enough.”

The employees, including baggage handlers and wheelchair attendants, are with Huntleigh USA Corporation, a contractor that does business directly with airlines.

It has around 400 workers at the two airports.

Organizers of the demonstration said the employees often have to work two or three jobs to support their families and earn as little as $6.15 an hour plus tips.

“We’re here today to make sure these workers get what they deserve which is a higher wage and respect and dignity on the job,” Contreras said.

It was not the first time contracted airport service workers in the D.C. area walked off the job. Employees at Reagan National went on strike in late March as part of a nationwide protest involving people who do various jobs including cleaning airplanes, checking and hauling bags and assisting passengers who have disabilities.

Tuesday’s protest was the first involving employees from Huntleigh, and it marked the first time that contracted airport workers from Dulles International agreed to strike.

“We work very hard to ensure that travelers have a safe and clean airport, but we are ready to go on strike to ensure we can provide for our families,” said Aynalem Lale, a wheelchair dispatcher at Dulles.

“If I made $15 an hour, I wouldn’t have to work two jobs and would not have to sleep at the airport between jobs.”

Travelers should not notice any difference in operations.

“There has been no adverse impact on airport passengers or flights at Reagan National and Dulles International Airports. We expect normal airport operations during the peaceful protest,” said Rob Yingling, a spokesman for the airports.

Protesters also planned to attend a Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority board of directors meeting to ask for a new rule, requiring airline contractors such as Huntleigh to pay workers $15 an hour.

Tags: SEIU contract workersairport workers National Dullesairport workers strike
Categories: Labor News

Canadian USW Locomotive engineer Tom Harding was patient, safety-conscious, Lac-Mégantic trial hears-USW Contributes $70,000 To Defense Fund "No charges were brought against MMA owner Ed Burkhardt or against the federal Conservative government

Fri, 12/22/2017 - 08:01

Canadian USW Locomotive engineer Tom Harding was patient, safety-conscious, Lac-Mégantic trial hears-USW Contributes $70,000 To Defense Fund
"No charges were brought against MMA owner Ed Burkhardt or against the federal Conservative government that allowed the use of single-worker train crews without an inquiry into the implications of its decision."

http://www.cbc.ca/beta/news/canada/montreal/mma-lac-megantic-trial-jonat...

'My conscience should dictate my moves,' Jonathan Couture recalls Harding telling him, so 'I could sleep well'

Alison Brunette · CBC News
November 28, 2017

A former Montreal, Maine and Atlantic (MMA) train conductor who worked at MMA in the year leading up to the 2013 Lac-Mégantic rail disaster told a Sherbrooke court Tuesday that Thomas Harding, the locomotive engineer who operated the ill-fated train on the night of the tragedy, went out of his way to help his colleagues.

Harding, 56, is one of three former MMA employees, along with operations manager Jean Demaître, 53, and railway traffic controller Richard Labrie, 59, who are each charged with 47 counts of criminal negligence causing death in connection with the deadly derailment and explosions.

Lead locomotive not up to 'basic standard' to prevent runaway train, trial hears
Speaking quietly and calmly, Jonathan Couture stood in the witness box at the Sherbrooke courthouse Tuesday and told Superior Court Justice Gaétan Dumas and jurors Harding "knew his territory from top to bottom and always respected speed limits."

Under cross-examination by Harding's lawyer, Charles Shearson, Couture testified that as a more experienced colleague, Harding regularly gave him helpful pointers.

Jonathan Couture, who worked as a train conductor at Montreal, Maine and Atlantic in the year before the 2013 Lac-Mégantic tragedy, described a working environment with lax safety standards but said Thomas Harding had been safety conscious and gave him sound advice. (Marie-Hélène Rousseau/Radio-Canada)

"If he saw I was going to do something dangerous or incorrect, he enjoyed talking to me about it or making suggestions," Couture said, recalling one incident in which Harding had given him sound advice.

"I was here in Sherbrooke in the cautionary limits zone, and we were about to leave towards Megantic, and I wasn't sure if I had applied the handbrakes on the cars left in the yard…. I decided to speak to Tom about it before we were too far," said Couture.

"His reaction was to stop the train and ask me to go back," he recalled, adding that Harding told him "my conscience should dictate my moves, to reassure me my job was done and that I could sleep well that night."

'Joe-le-prudent'

Couture told the court his nickname at MMA had been "Joe-le-prudent" (Joe Careful).

"I was a bit of a handbrake maniac," Couture said, when asked how the moniker originated.

Couture testified several of his colleagues had tried to dissuade him from using so many handbrakes when securing a train.

"Did Tom Harding ever discourage you from that practice?" asked Shearson.

"Never."

Lax safety standards

Earlier in his testimony, Couture described a working environment with lax safety standards.

He told Dumas and jurors his bosses never followed up with employees after mistakes were made in the field.

Couture testified he was unaware MMA had a safety management system.

Couture told the court he'd worked and been trained at Canadian Pacific Railway before working at MMA, and said his MMA supervisors dealt with accidents in a reactionary manner, rather than trying to prevent incidents before they happened.

"Is it correct to say that at MMA, it was much looser than at CP, which was much stricter?" asked Shearson.

"Yes, the training and supervision was a lot more [complete] at CP than it was at MMA," answered Couture.

"What were the measures that stemmed from … warnings or reprimands?" asked Shearson.

"Depending on the incident or accident, it could begin [with] a warning to a suspension without pay," explained Couture.

"To your knowledge, was it your obligation to follow training on the rule that had not been followed?" asked Shearson.

"To my knowledge, no."

The fuel train had been left idling at Nantes, Que., the night before it rolled down the track, derailing and exploding in downtown Lac-Mégantic on July 6, 2013. The resulting fires killed 47 people. (Mathieu Bélanger/Reuters)

Couture testified Ken Strout and Paul Budge were the MMA supervisors who were in charge of issuing warnings, but he said he never met them personally.

"You never saw them in Farnham or anywhere else on the MMA network in Canada?" Shearson asked.

"I don't know them, never saw them," said Couture.

"Once the person was warned or sanctioned, was there a verification on the field to make sure the person had understood their mistake?" pressed Shearson.

"To my knowledge, no," said Couture.

Little maintenance of locomotives

Couture told the court it was very common for MMA locomotives to produce black smoke and spew oil.

"Is that something you noticed while you were rolling along in the yard?" asked Shearson.

"Yes, when we were in the yard or talking with the guys in the shop," said Couture.

"When we're speaking of general maintenance of locomotives, what did you notice during your work as a conductor before July 2013 concerning the general state of the locomotives?" asked Shearson.

"There was not much maintenance," said Couture.

"And when you observed the locomotive produced a large cloud of black smoke, did you keep operating the locomotive?" pressed Shearson.

"As though nothing was wrong," replied Couture.

Couture, the 28th witness in the trial, finished his testimony Tuesday.

Trial synopsis: A train's faulty engine, safety standards ignored and other revelations
The trial continues.

Workers fight frame-up for

Lac-Mégantic rail disaster

http://www.themilitant.com/2015/7905/790553.html
Vol. 79/No. 5 February 16, 2015

BY JOHN STEELE
MONTREAL — Railroad bosses, the cops and Canada’s courts are pushing to frame up and punish Tom Harding, an engineer for the now-bankrupt Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway, as the person responsible for 47 deaths in the fiery train explosion July 6, 2013, in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec. Under special dispensation from the federal government, the rail bosses were running the train, with 72 cars containing more than 2 million gallons of highly volatile crude oil, with only an engineer as crew.
Harding, along with Richard Labrie, who was rail controller at the time of the disaster, both workers and members of the United Steelworkers union, and company manager Jean Demaître, were arrested last May and each charged with 47 counts of “criminal negligence causing death.” If convicted, they face possible life sentences.

Harding appeared before Judge Conrad Chapdelaine Jan. 15, who ordered a March 12 hearing to set the schedule for court proceedings. The preliminary hearing, which reviews the evidence and sets the date for the trial, is expected in the fall.

The company faces only the possibility of fines for safety violations.

From the beginning the bosses have tried to pin the blame on Harding. “The fact is this is a failure of one individual,” Ed Burkhardt, former chairman of Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway, told the Globe and Mail Aug. 19 after a Transportation and Safety Board report had the temerity to say the company had “a weak safety culture.”

The night of the disaster, Harding parked the train outside Lac-Mégantic, as he had done many times before. He left the engine running to keep the air brakes on and setting the handbrakes on seven cars, in accordance with company rules. Later that night, while Harding was asleep, a fire broke out and firefighters were called to put it out. They shut down the engine, inadvertently turning off the air brakes.

At 1 a.m., the train, with no one on board, started to roll, faster and faster, until it derailed, crashed into the town and exploded.

Randy MacDonald, an engineer with Amtrak in the Albany, New York, area, used to work with Harding. “I spent 20 years every other night at the crossing where the train was parked,” he told the Militant in a phone interview. “It could have been me. That crossing was our crew change point.”

“The company was trying to save money,” said MacDonald, who in 2013 set up the Tom Harding Defense Fund. “They changed their procedures. They had all the engineers shut down all the engines except the lead engine to save money on fuel. They parked on a hill.

“Management left the train unattended and when a fire broke out and the lead engine was shut down, they did not even send a qualified mechanical person to the scene to inspect the train, but a track department employee who has no knowledge of air brakes or train operations,” MacDonald said. “He reported that everything was OK — that the fire was out — so no further action was taken.”

MacDonald added that according to Canadian federal regulations, no handbrakes are required if the lead engine is running.

MacDonald has posted on the defense fund website articles on the dangers to rail workers and communities along the tracks posed by the rail bosses’ push for the one-man crew.

Popular TV program exposes truth
The French-language television show Enquête (“Investigation”) ran a special program Jan. 22 entitled “Lac-Mégantic, corrected version.” The program said that an unpublished draft of the Transportation and Safety Board reported that the absence of a second crew member likely contributed to the disaster. It criticized the Canadian government for changing regulations so Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway could run oil trains with one person.
Lac-Mégantic resident Guy Royer, whose daughter died in the disaster, told Enquête that when the explosion woke Harding up, he rushed to the site, risking his life to help firemen depressurize brakes on some of the cars that had not caught fire so they could be moved.

For this reason he is considered a hero by many in Lac-Mégantic. They were angered when he was charged, arrested at gunpoint at his home and then, along with the Labrie and Demaître, paraded in handcuffs to a temporary courthouse in the sports center near what was downtown Lac-Mégantic.

After the Jan. 15 court hearing, Harding’s attorney, Thomas Walsh, told the press they hoped the case would go before a jury in Lac-Mégantic.

Shortly after charges were filed, the Quebec section of the Steelworkers union launched a defense campaign called “Justice 4 USW rail workers” to raise money for legal costs. To date $200,000 (US$158,000) has been raised, mostly from other USW locals in Canada.

Lawyers representing 40 of the 47 families who lost members during the explosion and fire report they have reached a US$158 million agreement — which still has to be approved by the Superior Court of Quebec — with the railroad, oil bosses and insurance companies. But more than half would go to federal, provincial and municipal governments. To date the victims of the disaster have not seen one penny.

To help Harding’s defense, in Canada send checks to Syndicat des Métallos, 565, boulevard Crémazie Est, bureau 5100, Montreal, Quebec, H2M 2V8. Credit card donations can be made at www.justice4USWrailworkers.org.

In the U.S. checks can be sent to Tom Harding Defense Fund, First Niagara Bank, 25 McClellan Drive, Nassau, NY 12123. Donations can also be made at www.tomhardingdefensefund.com .

Amtrak worker Mindy Brudno contributed to this article.

USW Steelworkers Local Gives $70,000 to Railway Workers' Defence Fund
No charges were brought against MMA owner Ed Burkhardt or against the federal Conservative government that allowed the use of single-worker train crews without an inquiry into the implications of its decision.

http://www.newswire.ca/news-releases/steelworkers-local-gives-70000-to-r...
MONTREAL, July 16, 2014 /CNW/ - A $70,000 contribution from a United Steelworkers (USW) union local has boosted a legal defence fund for workers charged in the Lac-Mégantic rail tragedy.

The Justice for USW Rail Workers Fund has raised nearly $120,000 to date, following the $70,000 contribution from USW Local 1976. The local represents 6,000 members across Canada, including 1,000 railway workers. Contributions to the defence fund also have come from other union locals, individual union members, other organizations and the public.

On May 12 this year, three employees of the Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway (MMA) were charged with criminal negligence in connection with the 2013 Lac-Mégantic train explosion.

Following their arrest, the employees, including USW Local 1976 members Thomas Harding and Richard Labrie, were publicly paraded in handcuffs before the Lac-Mégantic community.

No charges were brought against MMA owner Ed Burkhardt or against the federal Conservative government that allowed the use of single-worker train crews without an inquiry into the implications of its decision.

"Our colleagues should not be held criminally responsible for negligent management practices of a company like MMA or the government's lax regulation that so easily allowed an engineer working alone to operate a train carrying explosive materials," said USW Local 1976 President Steven Hadden.

"We ask everyone who feels solidarity with the workers who have been arrested to contribute to the defence fund," said Richard Boudreault, the Steelworkers' Area Coordinator in Montreal. "This type of criminal prosecution can lead to broken lives. Let's stand in solidarity with these ordinary workers."

Donations to the defence fund can be made online via PayPal, at www.justice4USWRailworkers.org. Donations also can be made by cheque, payable to the United Steelworkers, with the notation "Justice for USW rail workers." Cheques can be sent to 565 Crémazie Boulevard East, Suite 5100, Montreal, QC H2M 2V8.

SOURCE: United Steelworkers (USW)

For further information:

Clairandrée Cauchy, USW Communications, 514-774-4001, ccauchy@metallos.ca

The Tom Harding Defense Website

http://www.tomhardingdefensefund.com

The Tom Harding Defense Website was created to assist Tom Harding - the locomotive engineer at the center of the July 6,2013 LacMegantic Quebec derailment - with legal fees that have been incurred since his arrest on May 12 2014. He was freed on $15,000 bail. Tom faces 47 counts of criminal negligence causing death, one count for each person who was killed when a runnaway train derailed and exploded in the center of LacMegantic destroying the town center. He faces a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted.
Last June 22 a Quebec judge rejucted a motion by Toms laywer to throw the case out of court because of a series of abuses by the Quebec prosecutor, including the cancelling of the normal preliminary hearing to decide weather there is a basis to proceed to a trial.
The trial is under way in Sherbrooke Que.
http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/lac-megantic-criminal-trial-begin...
Please help Tom by making a donation to this fund. Any amount would be greatly appreciated.

Donations
If you wish to send a check, please send it to:

Tom Harding Defense Fund
Key Bank
1817 Columbia Turnpike
Castleton New York 12033

Phone 1-518-449-8162

If you wish to donate online:

PayPal - The safer, easier way to pay online!

Steelworkers Local 1976 donates $70,000 to Lac-Megantic rail workers' defense fund
https://www.ble-t.org/pr/news/headline.asp?id=39797
(Source: United Steelworkers press release, July 16, 2014)

MONTREAL — A $70,000 contribution from a United Steelworkers (USW) union local has boosted a legal defense fund for workers charged in the Lac-Mégantic rail tragedy.

The Justice for USW Rail Workers Fund has raised nearly $120,000 to date, following the $70,000 contribution from USW Local 1976. The local represents 6,000 members across Canada, including 1,000 railway workers. Contributions to the defense fund also have come from other union locals, individual union members, other organizations and the public.

On May 12 this year, three employees of the Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway (MMA) were charged with criminal negligence in connection with the 2013 Lac-Mégantic train explosion.

Following their arrest, the employees, including USW Local 1976 members Thomas Harding and Richard Labrie, were publicly paraded in handcuffs before the Lac-Mégantic community.

No charges were brought against MMA owner Ed Burkhardt or against the federal Conservative government that allowed the use of single-worker train crews without an inquiry into the implications of its decision.

"Our colleagues should not be held criminally responsible for negligent management practices of a company like MMA or the government's lax regulation that so easily allowed an engineer working alone to operate a train carrying explosive materials," said USW Local 1976 President Steven Hadden.

"We ask everyone who feels solidarity with the workers who have been arrested to contribute to the defence fund," said Richard Boudreault, the Steelworkers' Area Coordinator in Montreal. "This type of criminal prosecution can lead to broken lives. Let's stand in solidarity with these ordinary workers."

Donations to the defence fund can be made online via PayPal, at www.justice4USWRailworkers.org. Donations also can be made by cheque, payable to the United Steelworkers, with the notation "Justice for USW rail workers." Cheques can be sent to 565 Crémazie Boulevard East, Suite 5100, Montreal, QC H2M 2V8.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

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Tags: Rail safetyrail workers frame-upUSW railway workers
Categories: Labor News

The Evidence is in: The Train Crew did not Cause the Lac-Mégantic Tragedy - DROP THE CHARGES against Tom Harding and Richard Labrie

Fri, 12/22/2017 - 01:06

The Evidence is in: The Train Crew did not Cause the Lac-Mégantic Tragedy -
DROP THE CHARGES against Tom Harding and Richard Labrie

http://hardingdefense.org

DROP THE CHARGES against Tom Harding and Richard Labrie

The stakes in the Lac-Mégantic scapegoating trial of Harding and Labrie escalate
Failure to hold the railroads accountable for the conditions they create will be prelude to a resurgence of risky oil shipment practices
Costlier and more dangerous crude by rail set to rise again as oil production swells
New oilsands megaprojects are set to open and pipeline capacity is at a premium
By Kyle Bakx, CBC News Posted: Oct 31, 2017 5:00 AM ET Last Updated: Oct 31, 2017 5:37 AM ET

If You Care About Railroad Safety You Must Defend Tom Harding

https://static1.squarespace.com/static/505b96a8c4aa40a37a143c49/t/5814d3...

Practically every North American railroader now knows about the tragic train wreck in the town of Lac-Megantic, Quebec in July, 2013. With its tremendous loss of life and destruction, the disaster made headlines around the world. In the aftermath of that accident, as we discussed it amongst ourselves, details became known. One of those details was that within days of the wreck the locomotive engineer of the runaway train, Tom Harding, was arrested and ultimately charged. He and his Dispatcher face the possibility of life in prison if found guilty as charged. No company official of the Montreal, Maine & Atlantic (MM&A) – the railroad upon which the wreck took place - nor the company itself have faced criminal charges.

To this day, there is confusion and disinformation circulated about that matter. For those of us in the fight for rail safety, it is imperative that we know the facts. This is key not just to prevent a grave injustice, but to prevent future repetitions of that incident and to stop the dangerous push by the rail carriers to deflect all liability for the consequences of their policy deci- sions and simply blame-the-worker every and any time there is an accident or injury, fatality or disaster.

Some railroaders – even a few known as safety conscious can get this issue wrong. Because conscientious trainmen and en- gineers take safety on the job so seriously, taking personal responsibility comes as second nature to us. No one wants to be seen as making excuses for a co-worker who doesn't take his/her job or their co-workers' safety seriously. As a result, some raise arguments that perhaps Tom Harding is guilty of something, that maybe he deserves to be charged. Therefore, it is cru- cial that we examine the facts.

What We Know: On July 6th, 2013, at 0110 EDT the MM&A railway freight train identified as OIL-L, consisting of 5 locomotives, 1 belt pack remote control caboose and 73 cars, including 1 boxcar loaded with inert material used as buffer car directly be- hind the locomotives and 72 loaded tank cars of Bakken crude oil, 4748 feet long weighing 10,287 tons, ran away at Nantes station, Mile 7.4 on the Sherbrooke Subdivision. Sixty-four cars derailed at Mile 0.25 in the center of the town of Lac-Megantic, Quebec. The derailment resulted in the spill of product and a fire that in its scope and rapid spread destroyed a large part of the town center. Forty-seven people died in the event. We know that MM&A was one of the pioneers in forcing single crew op- erations resulting in the loss of crucial layers of safety backups. The policy of running long heavy trains with a single crew member meant that the ability to split the train and “cut” crossings was ruled out as a means of keeping these trains off the worst of the grade at Lac-Megantic. "Securing" OIL-L (also called MMA-002) on the mainline (instead of on the derail-protected siding at Nantes), without cutting crossings, meant that the train had to be tied down on the grade when that would not have otherwise been necessary. The decision to operate this way was not made by the engineer. Rather it was a matter of enforced MM&A policy.

Securing trains on the MM&A was governed by that road’s General Special Instructions dated March 1st, 2012, in paragraphs 112-1 and 112-2. It was also found in Section 14, General Operating Instructions of the Canadian Pacific Railway, considered valid by MM&A. Paragraph 112-1 requires a minimum of 9 handbrakes for trains of 70 to 79 cars. This was the only MM&A rule applicable to the situation.

Some have argued that Harding may have only applied 7 handbrakes (as the police expert surmised, based on long distance visual inspection after the derailment) thereby setting the stage for the runaway. But the determination of the Canadian Trans- portation Safety Board (TSB) investigation was clear that 9 handbrakes would not have prevented the incident. The TSB inves- tigation states that no less than 15 (and possibly as many as 26) handbrakes would have been required to prevent the inci- dent. Prevention of the accident is the only question that needs to be asked regarding criminal charges.

There are NO credible authorities that believe that if Harding had been found to have applied the required 9 hand brakes, the wreck would have been prevented. Those who want rail safety must refuse to be fooled by rail management claims that the employee – and his actions or lack thereof - are solely responsible for safe rail operations.

The investigation shows that MMA-002 ran away because it was left on a grade without: 1 - sufficient handbrakes; 2 - derail protection, either on the siding or the Main; and 3 - a working air compressor to charge the brake system. Each of those fac- tors were beyond Harding's control. According to the TSB investigation, each of the above were significant contributors, all the result of MM&A and Transport Canada policy decisions and deficient safety culture, settin the stage for disaster.

The fact is that if Harding had applied no car brakes at all and the MM&A’s policies of placement, securement, and equipment maintenance had not been what they were, MMA-002 would never have run away. Those matters were of course, beyond his control. The principal catalyst of the incident was the shutdown of the locomotive by the local fire department after the stack fire, shutting down the only running compressor, together with the failure of the MM&A to have a qualified person establish whether the equipment was properly secured or not after the fire was put out.

An esoteric discussion of whether Tom Harding is a great engineer or not is irrelevant. If he, in fact, had applied less than the required 9 brakes or improperly tested those inadequate brakes, his actions do not support criminal charges. At worst, he might be guilty of MM&A rule violations, although the TSB makes clear that both the MM&A and Transport Canada bear major responsibility for the failures of training and understanding that are highlighted in this incident. It has been established that even if everything would have been done according to rule, the equipment would still have run away and derailed. It deflects from where the criminal liability must rightly fall. Anyone who wants railroad policies, procedures, and practices that protect workers and communities need to get this right. Next time it could very easily be you.

Nearly every railroader has been in - or has seen - someone in the situation that Tom Harding was in that night back in the summer of 2013. By rule and based on his training and the culture of the MM&A workforce, he was rendered incapable of tak- ing actions that could have prevented the wreck. It takes “smoke and mirrors" and a huge PR operation to turn this into crimi- nal charges against Harding and his Dispatcher. Progressive railroaders must not participate in this scapegoating. Actual rail safety requires that the carriers assume responsibility and accountability for the demands and operating conditions that they impose on us.

The scapegoating of Tom Harding must be seen in the context of the entire industry's policy move away from all corporate re- sponsibility. Across the continent, we have seen more and more incidents where the operating crew is held civilly or criminally liable for the results of unsafe conditions imposed upon them as a matter of railroad policy. If Tom Harding is found criminally liable in Quebec, it would deal a deadly blow to railroad safety across the continent. And the fact is that deadly consequences would inevitably be the result.

Lac-Mégantic Trial Reveals More Damning Evidence

http://jordanbarab.com/confinedspace/2017/10/24/lac-megantic-trial/

October 24, 2017Jordan1 Commenton Lac-Mégantic Trial Reveals More Damning Evidence
The trial of three rail employees blamed for the deaths of 47 people due to a train carrying 73 cars of highly combustible crude oil that derailed in the small Quebec town of Lac-Mégantic continues to move forward.

At around 1:00 am on July 6, 2013, the un-manned train began to roll down a hill toward the town after the lead locomotive was shut down due to a fire caused by mechanical problems. The government is arguing that Thomas Harding (the engineer and sole crew member) didn’t set enough hand brakes on the train. Two other MMA employees, Richard Labrie, 59, and Jean Demaitre, 53, are also being tried on 47 counts of criminal negligence causing death.

I have written about this tragedy here about how the workers are being blamed for what is clearly a failure of management to establish and enforce safe procedures and a safety culture at the railroad. MMA has since gone bankrupt. My first trial update can be read here.

MMA had allowed to train to exceed a safe weight by almost 50% more than allowed

In the latest installment, former MMA locomotive engineer, François Daigle, told the court that MMA had allowed to train to exceed a safe weight by almost 50% more than allowed:

Referring to a regulation manual and documents which listed the contents and weight of the 73-car train that derailed on July 6, 2013, Daigle confirmed the maximum weight allowed for an MMA train during the period from April 1, 2013 to Nov. 30 was 6300 tonnes — not counting locomotives.

The train involved in the tragedy weighed 9100 tonnes.

Daigle also confirmed that MMA did not maintain the trains adequately and they were discouraged from complaining about the poor conditions of the locomotives. The lead locomotive on the train that crashed into Lac Megantic was parked on a hill above the town due to mechanical problems. It later caught fire, causing the fire department to shut down the lead locomotive, which lead to the brake failure.

Another former MMA employee, Michael Horan, who was in charge of training and safety in Quebec, told the court that when MMA decided to allow trains to operate with one-man crews, they implemented no new safety precautions. For example, there was no new requirement that the locomotive engineer communicate to headquarters the number of hand brakes that had been applied. Horan also told the court that another railroad, Quebec North Shore and Labrador Rail (QNSL), that had instituted single crew trains did so under much stricter conditions.

Horan said that MMA did make the effort to meet municipal and emergency response officials along the route to talk about foreseeable problems and to make sure that there were procedures in place in the event of an unforeseen incident, such as a derailment. But the chance of a fire was never discussed, despite the fact that the trains were carrying crude oil.

Horan also told the court that Harding should have set 9 hand brakes, not seven, according to MMA procedures. The problem, as we reported before, is that Canadian Transportation Board report said that “testing showed that this number would not have provided sufficient retarding force to hold the train once the air pressure in the independent brake system was reduced” after the lead engine was shut down after the fire. In fact, the TSB concluded that, depending on various scenarios, the engineer would have needed to apply between 12 and 26 hand brakes in order to hold the train.

Tags: Canadian railwayshealth and safetyLac-Mégantic Trial
Categories: Labor News

Uber was just dealt a major blow by the European Union-It is a transportation company

Wed, 12/20/2017 - 20:25

Uber was just dealt a major blow by the European Union-It is a transportation company
By Amanda Erickson December 20 at 12:54 PM

Taxis blockade Whitehall in London, protesting the introduction of Uber in Britain. (Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)
Uber is a company that people use to hire drivers who transport them from place to place. Even so, the tech giant has long maintained that it is not, in fact, a transportation company. The company’s leaders argue that they simply provide a platform for people to connect with other people, who just happen to want to move them around.

Uber has used the argument to avoid treating its drivers like actual employees who deserve a living wage and benefits. It’s how the company has tried to wiggle out of liability when drivers cause accidents or assault their passengers. And it’s how Uber explains away its decision to flout local laws that regulate how taxi companies operate.

Not anymore — at least, not in Europe.

The European Union’s top court ruled Wednesday that Uber is a transportation service that should be regulated like any other taxi operator. It was a landmark ruling, one that could make it much harder for start-ups to argue that they are simply a button on a smartphone and, therefore, not accountable to their workers and clients.

“The service provided by Uber connecting individuals with nonprofessional drivers is covered by services in the field of transport,” the European Court of Justice wrote in its decision. “Member states can, therefore, regulate the conditions for providing that service.”

The ECJ further noted that Uber “exercises decisive influence over the conditions under which the drivers provide their service.” Without the app, “persons who wish to make an urban journey would not use the services provided by those drivers.”

The case stems from a 2014 complaint by the professional taxi drivers’ association in Barcelona, which alleged unfair competition from Uber’s nonprofessional drivers in Spain. The association also charged Uber with “misleading practices.”

Elite Taxi, the group that brought the case, responded to the court decision with a tweet: “Today, taxi drivers have beaten Goliath.”

Uber, worth $68 billion, operates in 600 cities globally. Since its founding about a decade ago, the company has regularly run afoul of regulators and local legislators, along with local taxi drivers.

Its peer-to-peer service, called UberX in the United States and UberPop in most of Europe, has come under particular scrutiny. UberPop allows people to hail nonprofessional drivers for a cheap ride. But the use of unlicensed workers violated laws in several countries, and the service has since been banned in many places, including France, Germany, Spain, Italy and Sweden.

Right now, the company is also fighting for survival in London, a key European market where more than 40,000 drivers prowl the streets for business. In September, the city’s transportation authority rejected Uber’s application for a new license to operate, ruling that the ride-hailing giant is not a “fit and proper” private car-hire operator. Transport for London accused Uber of demonstrating a "lack of corporate responsibility,” including not reporting serious criminal offenses and a failure to obtain medical certificates and conduct background checks for drivers.

Mayor Sadiq Khan said the dispute may take years to resolve. “I want London to be at the forefront of innovation and new technology and to be a natural home for exciting new companies that help Londoners by providing a better and more affordable service,” Khan said at the time. “However, all companies in London must play by the rules and adhere to the high standards we expect — particularly when it comes to the safety of customers.”The company is also locked in a legal battle about whether its drivers are employees. In November, an appeals court in Britain ruled that the company's drivers are workers and are, therefore, entitled to benefits such as holiday pay and minimum wage.

3:27
Here’s what London Uber and taxi drivers had to say on Uber’s ousting

The Post’s Karla Adam took a ride around London with an Uber driver and a taxi driver to get their thoughts on the Uber vs. taxi debate. (Karla Adam, Jack Hextall/The Washington Post)
Frances O’Grady, who runs the British Trades Union Congress, hailed the decision. “Their drivers are not commodities. They deserve at the very least the minimum wage and holiday pay,” she said in a statement. “Advances in technology should be used to make work better, not to return to the type of working practices we thought we’d seen the back of decades ago.”

According to the company, Uber already follows the transportation laws of most E.U. countries where it operates.

“This ruling will not change things in most E.U. countries where we already operate under transportation law,” Uber said in a statement. “However, millions of Europeans are still prevented from using apps like ours.”

[How 800,000 people are trying to save Uber in London]

In fact, the biggest changes might come not to Uber but to other start-ups that use a similar model for everything from getting food and groceries delivered to hiring cleaning services or handymen. Right now, E.U. law protects online services from undue restrictions. National governments must inform the European Commission, the bloc's executive arm, of any potential regulations to ensure they are not discriminatory or disproportionate.

“The purpose of those rules is to make sure online innovators can achieve greater scalability and competitiveness in the E.U., unfettered from undue national restrictions,” Jakob Kucharczyk, vice president for E.U. policy at the Computer and Communications Industry Association, told Reuters. “This is a blow to the E.U.’s ambition of building an integrated digital single market.”

Tags: UberTaxisDriversemployees
Categories: Labor News

IBT VP and IBT Joint Council 7 President Rome Aloise Corruption Brings Possible Expulsion But He Is Still Trying To Cash In

Tue, 12/19/2017 - 20:18

IBT VP and IBT Joint Council 7 President Rome Aloise Corruption Brings Possible Expulsion But He Is Still Trying To Cash In

Aloise tried to raid some recycling workers out of the Longshore Union (ILWU) and failed, he directed Teamsters to cross their picket lines when the workers went on strike.

Aloise threatened to sabotage Teamster strikers at Safeway because the local union leader was running against the Hoffa Slate. The Election Supervisor called it the worst violation of the entire election cycle.

“Aloise stands alone in the number and breadth of serious violations he was found to have engaged in while an International Vice President.”

http://www.tdu.org/rome_aloise_is_still_trying_to_cash_in

POSTED ON DECEMBER 06, 2017
Facing a lifetime ban from the Teamsters, corrupt Hoffa power broker Rome Aloise is asking the judge for leniency so he can cash in as a consultant to employers. Attending his last GEB meeting, Aloise blamed his downfall on a right-wing conspiracy.

Disgraced International Union Vice President Rome Aloise has been found guilty of serial corruption charges, including taking employer payoffs and negotiating sham contracts.

At his final General Executive Board meeting, Aloise gave a speech blamed his downfall not on corruption, but on a vast conspiracy by forces who saw him as "the most powerful man in the Teamsters."

Aloise's conspiracy theories are unlikely to persuade Judge Barbara S. Jones, the Independent Review Officer, who will be ruling on his punishment.

The Independent Investigations Officer Joseph diGenova has recommended that Aloise be expelled from the union and barred from associating with Teamsters and officials.

In a brief filed with the judge, Aloise’s attorneys plead that, “A permanent associational ban would largely prohibit Mr. Aloise from earning any future income within his field of expertise.”

In other words, Aloise says his punishment is too harsh, because it would prevent him from cashing in on his Teamster contacts by working for vendors, benefit funds, or Teamster employers.

Aloise’s lawyers suggest that he be removed from only one of his three salaried union positions for just one year!

Rome knows that has no chance of flying with Judge Jones. His real goal is stopping the ban on associating with Teamsters so he can cash in on his relationships with Hoffa officials.

Rome Aloise has cashed in enough. His three salaries totaled $319,880 last year; his total compensation from our union was $383,462. That does not include the multiple pension and severance funds he will cash in on when he retires.

Teamster members have paid enough for Aloise’s misdeeds. It’s time to turn the page.

The Independent Investigations Officer found that, “Aloise stands alone in the number and breadth of serious violations he was found to have engaged in while an International Vice President.”

Judge Barbara Jones should uphold the recommended punishment and permanently bar Rome Aloise from our union and any Teamster associations.

Rome Aloise: Guilty As Charged

http://www.tdu.org/rome_aloise_guilty_as_charged
October 25, 2017
After stonewalling corruption charges for more than a year and a half, Rome Aloise, Hoffa’s main power-broker in the West, has been found guilty of all charges in a 60-page decision by Judge Barbara Jones.

Aloise solicited tickets to an exclusive Super Bowl Playboy party from an employer that he was bargaining with; he used his union influence at two employers to force them to hire his cousin; he negotiated a sham union contract with an investment broker friend; and he illegally used union resources and power to ensure the election of his supporter in Local 601.

Judge Jones, the Independent Review Officer, ruled that, “The evidence supports the charges against Aloise, and that Aloise brought reproach upon the union.”

Jones did not issue a punishment with her decision. Instead she requested submissions from Aloise and Independent Investigations Officer on what the appropriate penalty should be. This will take a month or more.

Incredibly, more than a year and a half after being charged, Aloise will have even more time to delay and stonewall justice.

He should be removed from all Teamster positions and barred from the union.

It is Hoffa's responsibility and duty to root out corruption; with the decision in hand, he should remove Aloise from appointed positions and urge his expulsion by judge Jones.

Rome Aloise: A Tragedy?

Rome Aloise’s history in the union is a case study in what goes wrong when leaders are separated from the rank and file in a system where the leaders believe they own the union.

Aloise had it all. His father was a well-respected Teamster official in the San Francisco Bay Area. He was handed a career in the union at a young age. He went to college—and was soon handed a job as a union official.

He married into Teamster power. Chuck Mack, the former Hoffa VP and head of Joint Council 7, is Aloise’s brother-in-law. So is Steve Mack, who retired as a Division Director under Hoffa.

The road was well paved for Aloise, and he drove it fast. He had smarts, too. Aloise had ideas like organizing in Silicon Valley, and he moved on them. He made political connections in California—and he built a reputation as a progressive.

But isolated from the rank and file and protected by the Hoffa administration, Aloise’s arrogance was off the charts.

He repeatedly violated the most basic union principles to advance his personal power or to exact revenge.

After Aloise tried to raid some recycling workers out of the Longshore Union (ILWU) and failed, he directed Teamsters to cross their picket lines when the workers went on strike.

In another case, Aloise threatened to sabotage Teamster strikers at Safeway because the local union leader was running against the Hoffa Slate. The Election Supervisor called it the worst violation of the entire election cycle.

When a single member ran against him for union office, Aloise illegally expelled him from the union. He was found guilty of that too.

Corrupted by Power
Now, Aloise joins John Coli as another Hoffa kingpin brought down by corruption, employer payoffs, and their own arrogance.

Coli, the former head of Chicago Joint Council 25, awaits trial on charges of taking some $300,000 in payoffs from an employer.

Aloise is an International Vice President, the President of Northern California Joint Council 7, and head of Local 853, as well as Director of the Food Processing and Dairy Divisions of the union.

These Teamster leaders took huge salaries and then betrayed the members’ trust by taking employer payoffs. But even after their crimes were exposed, top Teamster officials rallied around them.

Hoffa nominated Aloise for Vice President after he was charged with 122 pages of corruption charges. Teamster officials set up a “defense committee” for Aloise.

The Hoffa administration will never act against corruption when it implicates the power brokers who keep them in office.

Teamsters for a Democratic Union exposes corruption regardless of who it implicates--and that’s precisely why we’re attacked by the likes of Hoffa, Coli, and Aloise.

Tags: IBTRome Aloisecorruptionilwuraiding
Categories: Labor News

The Transit Talk 14: Meet SF TWU 250A 2017 Election Candidates

Mon, 12/18/2017 - 23:34

The Transit Talk 14: Meet SF TWU 250A 2017 Election Candidates
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QpydluxsGns

Roger Marenco
Published on Nov 26, 2017

Did you miss the forum to meet the candidates? Here it is. It's important to know who to vote for on Tue. Dec. 12, 2017 so please listen to the candidates answer the questions and make an educated decision on who you will vote for. Sorry for the poor audio but the location where this event was held had poor sound quality. Please contact us with any comments, questions, concerns...etc

Get Educated...Get Organized
&
JOIN THE MOVEMENT

Tags: TWU 250ATransit TalkElection issues
Categories: Labor News

MN Twin Cities ATU 1005 Metro Transit Workers Vote On Tentative Contract

Mon, 12/18/2017 - 20:44

MN Twin Cities ATU 1005 Metro Transit Workers Vote On Tentative Contract
Metro Transit Workers Vote On Tentative Contract
http://minnesota.cbslocal.com/2017/12/17/metro-transit-contract-vote-2/
By Bill HudsonDecember 17, 2017 at 11:05 pm

Filed Under:Bill Hudson, Local TV, Metro Transit
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — As Minnesota Vikings fans were flooding into U.S. Bank Stadium — feeling a hint of Super Bowl fever — Metro Transit union workers were queuing up for a crucial vote.
What they decide will have a huge impact on the lives of Super Bowl fans come late January.

“It’s never easy,” explains Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1005 president, Mark Lawson.

He’s referring to the tentative contract now being voted on by the 2,500 members who operated MTC buses and trains.

Depending on how they vote will determine a Super Bowl snarl or super relief.

Lawson calls it a fair deal, adding, “we didn’t get everything we wanted, they didn’t get everything they wanted, and we made a good compromise.”

For the past six months talks between MTC management and union negotiators were going nowhere. In November union members voted overwhelmingly to reject management’s offer and authorize a strike.

That strike would take place during the upcoming Super Bowl LII, promising to shut down mass transit and creating a catastrophic mess on streets and highways.

Clearly, the mere thought of a strike was the push both sides needed to reach a fair and equitable resolution.

The thought of a bitter strike in bitter weather is very much on the minds of those voting, like driver Michael Coats.

“Because we all have bills to pay. Bills don’t stop when you are out on strike. So that would be the last thing that all of us would want,” Coats said.

A proposed three-year deal proposes to increase worker wages 2.5 percent a year. But more importantly perhaps, the deal satisfies a union demand to address and remedy driver’s safety concerns.

“It’s been an issue forever,” says 20 year veteran driver, Ed Selinske.

Selinske wants to see protective shields in all buses in the MTC fleet. Metro Transit wants to experiment with various devices, beginning in 21 MTC buses.

“There’s no reason for experimentation, we’ve got too many drivers out there being assaulted, being dragged out of their seats and beat up,” Selinske said.

Still, the compromise might very well be enough of an initial step to win over rank-and-file.

“This comes down to democracy, and we’ll see how the vote turns out,” Lawson said.

Certainly, it’s not everything the union wanted. But it may very well keep mass transit moving in these crucial months ahead. Members will have until 4:00 p.m. Monday to cast ballots and results will be known later that evening.

Tags: ATU 1005Contracthealth and safety
Categories: Labor News

UPS worker killed at Atlanta hub

Mon, 12/18/2017 - 20:18

UPS worker killed at Atlanta hub
http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2017/12/18/upss-d18.html
By Steve Filips
18 December 2017
As the Christmas shipping deadline looms, workers are being pushed to the limit, forcing them to risk life and limb for investor profits.
Last Friday, December 15, at approximately 2:15 pm in the afternoon, William Stubbs, 51, was killed in the United Parcel Service (UPS) Pleasantdale Road hub facility near the giant package delivery company’s headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. In a statement to the media, a UPS spokesperson said William was a 17-year veteran and warehouse worker for UPS.
Stubbs had been assigned to unload trailers on Friday, according to a DeKalb County police spokeswoman who told the Atlanta Journal Constitution, “The victim had stepped off the dock and was standing on the ground between the dock door and the trailer that was being backed into the docking door.”
All of the statements on social media have characterized Stubbs as a good worker and well liked. He apparently did not have any immediate family. A coworker presented a different version of the events than the official account.
Greg Claudon, writing on the Facebook page of the Teamsters Local 728, said, “Will was the model employee, a good man and my friend.” He said inexperienced “corporate employees,” presumably salaried personnel, unexpectedly pulled the trailer out of the dock while William was still working inside. “They pulled the wrong trailer with him in it. He fell out of the trailer and onto the ground/yard… He tried to get back up but didn’t make it. This job was his life and they took it from him. This should not have happened.” Claudon added, “UPS should not have Corporate employees doing Teamster’s jobs.”
The drivers of the tractor trailers within a yard use a special utility vehicle to shuttle trailers to docks to be loaded or unloaded. Often the operators do not possess commercial driver’s certification required to drive on public highways.
There are many unanswered questions, including: why wasn’t the trailer chocked or restrained? Was there a signaling system that would communicate whether it was safe to move the trailer? Why has the union allowed so-called corporate workers to take up safety-sensitive positions?
There is likely a sophisticated worker surveillance system within the distribution center, which could provide detailed evidence of whether safety procedures were in place to protect workers from being crushed by trailers being backed into the docks. If such footage reveals the company is at fault, then it is reasonable to believe it will not see the light of day.
Like workers at FedEx, US Postal Service, Amazon and other package delivery corporations, UPS workers have been under the gun to meet increased demand during the Christmas holiday. Opposition among rank-and-file workers is so intense, even Teamsters President James Hoffa Jr. felt compelled to complain about understaffing and the constant strain being imposed on UPS workers this holiday season.
Earlier this month, UPS announced it was changing driver schedules from the federal Department of Transportation’s commercial drivers' schedule, 60 hours worked in a seven-day work week, to 70 hours within eight days before a driver is allowed to take 34 hours off uninterrupted. This will result in placing fatigued workers on the roadways.
UPS spokesman Dean Foust said the extended hours comply with all Department of Transportation regulations and will last until Jan. 5. The change, the company says, is due to “greater-than-expected surge in volume.” The company expects to deliver about 750 million packages this holiday season, which extends from Thanksgiving until December 31, up 40 million from the 2016 holiday season.
“If you’re doing 300 or 400 stops a day, delivering heavy packages up to 150 pounds and have to keep going and going and going and then have to put another 10 hours on top of that, it can lead to fatigue. It can make you drowsy. It can make you make a mistake in driving,” a UPS driver told the local media in Phoenix, Arizona.
With the current five-year agreement for 250,000 UPS workers expiring in July, the Teamsters have postured as opponents of the campaign of speedup. The union has done nothing, however, other than filing a series of complaints with the National Labor Relations Board. The impotent character of such appeals is underscored by the fact that the NLRB now includes Trump’s pick for the general counsel of the agency, Peter Robb, a pro-company lawyer who was President Reagan’s lead attorney in the smashing of the PATCO air traffic controllers’ union in 1981.
The Teamsters have long collaborated with UPS, which was one of the first major corporations to employ part-time and temporary employees. Workers have long complained of two-tier wage and benefit systems, unsecure hours and being buried inside trailer trucks by the cardboard packages handled by “Big Brown.” Far from protecting workers, the Teamsters union, like other unions, has set up labor-management health and safety committees, largely designed to cut workers compensation costs for management and block any real fight against unsafe conditions, understaffing and job overloading.
A number of workers spoke out about the sham nature of the UPS/IBT safety committees on Facebook. One worker posted, “The company doesn’t give a crap about safety. They’ve shown they only care about meeting production standards, no matter the cost. The Teamsters should pull ALL safety committees in every center and hub. No Teamster should be doing anything involving the company’s safety committees. We can still hold the company accountable thru the grievance process and government agencies. How many more of our Brothers and Sisters must we lose before we make a stand?”
UPS had 434,000 workers in 2016 and pulled in over $3.4 billion in profit last year.

Tags: upsIBT
Categories: Labor News

The SF TWU 250A Transit Talk 5: The Contract

Mon, 12/18/2017 - 17:53

The SF TWU 250A Transit Talk 5: The Contract
The Transit Talk 5: The Contract
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aGSrMYNtTUM
1,193 views

Roger Marenco
Published on Feb 12, 2017
In this month's episode we break down this tentative agreement in the most lucid manner so that you understand ballot number one and ballot number two. Understanding what you are voting on, is essential to making a decision because these decisions will affect you and every other co-worker that is on the platform now and those yet to be hired in the future. Please take your time to get accurate information so that you can make an educated decision based on facts and not based on irrationality. Please feel free to share any comments or concerns.

Get educated, Get Organized
&
JOIN THE MOVEMENT

Tags: TWU 250ATransit Talklabor education
Categories: Labor News

Ryanair, Europe’s Cut-Price Behemoth, Agrees to Recognize Pilot Unions for First Time

Sun, 12/17/2017 - 10:22

Ryanair, Europe’s Cut-Price Behemoth, Agrees to Recognize Pilot Unions for First Time

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/15/business/ryanair-pilot-unions.html?_r=0
By AMIE TSANGDEC. 15, 2017

Ryanair, known for combining ultralow fares with charges for services, reversed a longstanding policy amid a controversy over its treatment of workers. CreditPaulo Nunes dos Santos for The New York Times
LONDON — Ryanair, Europe’s biggest budget airline, built itself into a juggernaut by aggressively cutting costs at every opportunity. Fuel consumption was tightly controlled. Turnaround times were slashed. And, crucially, unions were banned.

Now Ryanair has been forced to change its stance on labor, as it faces a growing backlash among its ranks. The carrier on Friday officially recognized pilot unions, a move that could cut into the company’s profit and prompt a broader industry shakeout.

It is a sign that Ryanair will increasingly have to behave like its competitors, grappling with the labor costs that usually face a legacy carrier. Investors recognized the threat, with shares of the carrier falling more than 8 percent on Friday.

“It’s an acknowledgment that the fundamental core of the business model has to change and they’re going to have to start operating like a normal airline,” said Andrew Charlton, managing director of Aviation Advocacy, a consultancy.

“They are going to lose some of the extraordinary cost advantage they’ve had over every other airline.”

Ryanair is facing a fiercely competitive aviation market in Europe, one in which several airlines have collapsed or been bought in recent months. With flights sometimes as cheap as $15, an array of airlines of varying sizes have little margin for error, and any shock to the system could upend their business plans.

There are other longer-term challenges, as well. For one, Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union could curtail the freedom for airlines to fly between airports in the region.

Since its founding in 1985, Ryanair outmaneuvered its competitors. Growing from a single 15-seat aircraft flying from the south of Ireland to London’s Gatwick Airport, the airline now has more than 400 Boeing 737s, and carried more than nine million passengers last month alone.

Keeping labor costs low was a critical piece of the profit. The company has used a mix of full-time employees and independent contractors. It steadfastly refused to meet with, or recognize, any unions.

In doing so, Ryanair was able to sidestep labor regulations and social security taxes in the dozens of countries in which it operates. Its labor costs were among the lowest within its European cohorts. Other low-cost rivals followed its lead.

While pilots have pushed to unionize for years, Ryanair was able to hold off their efforts. But a scheduling disaster in recent months put Ryanair on the defensive.

After the airline messed up its fall vacation schedule for pilots, it scrambled to find replacements, saying instead that it might cut a week of vacation time. Employees, many of them independent contractors, pushed back. Ryanair ultimately had to cancel more than 20,000 flights, affecting hundreds of thousands of passengers in all.

Pilots galvanized to set up their own groups across Europe for negotiating with the company. They demanded collective bargaining and more secure contracts.

Ryanair resisted for months. It was concerned that rivals were trying to leverage the flight cancellations to force it to negotiate with unions and, potentially, push its labor costs higher. Ryanair’s chief executive, Michael O’Leary, argued that airline unions and competitors were trying to “demean and disparage our collective success.”

As the busy holiday travel season approached, pilots ultimately threatened to strike. Ryanair had to relent.

It invited unions in Britain, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Portugal and Spain to talks.

“Christmas flights are very important to our customers, and we wish to remove any worry or concern that they may be disrupted by pilot industrial action next week,” Mr. O’Leary said in a statement.

“Recognizing unions will be a significant change for Ryanair, but we have delivered radical change before,” he added.

The airline also maintained that it would acknowledge only representatives from Ryanair and that it would not “engage with pilots who fly for competitor airlines in Ireland or elsewhere.”

Ryanair called for the unions to cancel any potential strikes. It was not immediately clear whether a planned walkout in Ryanair’s home country, Ireland, would go ahead.

British and Italian unions welcomed the airline’s move, but others were more cautious. One question that remained was whether Ryanair would negotiate only with directly employed pilots, or whether it would be willing to discuss the conditions of contractor pilots and cabin crews as well.

“Ryanair believed at the beginning that it could work ignoring the rights of its employees, and now, faced with the evidence of reality, it is opening its eyes,” Antonio Piras, the general secretary of the Italian union Fit-Cisl, said in a statement. Anpac, another Italian union, on Friday suspended a four-hour strike planned for the afternoon and welcomed Ryanair’s openness to negotiations.

Impact, an Irish union, declined to comment except to say that it had spoken to Ryanair management and was seeking further meetings. The British Airline Pilots Association said it accepted Ryanair’s offer to enter discussions.

Alessandra Cocca, a 40-year-old former flight attendant for Ryanair who sued the company over her dismissal and work conditions, called it an “epic, epic win” that showed that the airline could be put under pressure.

But she conceded that it would still be difficult for cabin crew members to fight for better conditions. “They are more frightened than pilots because they feel like numbers,” Ms. Cocca said. “They are not people, they feel like numbers and can easily be substituted.”

Tags: Pilot's UnionRyanairunion contract
Categories: Labor News

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