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The Evidence is in: The Train Crew did not Cause the Lac-Mégantic Tragedy Sign The Petition

Mon, 01/29/2018 - 13:03

The Evidence is in: The Train Crew did not Cause the Lac-Mégantic Tragedy

http://hardingdefense.org
DROP THE CHARGES against Tom Harding and Richard Labrie

Drop ALL the Charges against Tom Harding and Richard Labrie NOW
Target: The Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
It's A Rail Safety Emergency! Rail Workers Face New Federal Charges After Acquittal in Lac-Mégantic Criminal Trial. Another Scapegoat Trial won't get us Rail Safety.

Call on the Canadian Ministry of Justice Today

Drop ALL the Charges! Time for a real public inquiry into the causes of the wreck

The Canadian government had a choice after the July 2013 runaway oil train wreck that killed 47 people and destroyed the downtown of Lac-Mégantic Québec. They could focus on rail safety to make sure tragedies like this would not happen again, or they could focus only on a couple rail workers and avoid the inquiry. They made the wrong choice, pushing criminal charges against Tom Harding and Richard Labrie.

Four and half years later, the jury found Harding and Labrie not guilty of all charges. Finally the Canadian government should have to take a careful look at rail safety.

Once again, the Canadian government made the wrong choice. Instead of starting a full-scale public inquiry into the causes of the crash, they are bringing Harding and Labrie back into court on February 5, 2018 to face a set of federal charges.

Enough is enough. Criminal trials are the absolute worst way to uncover all the different factors that led up to the Lac-Mégantic crash, factors that are still out there on the rails across Canada and the US. We all need real rail safety. Call the Canadian Minister of Justice at 613-957-4222. Tell her Drop ALL The Charges Now.

Add your name to call on the Justice Ministry to pay attention now and drop the charges.

Sponsored by

Harding and Labrie Defense Committee
To: The Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
From: [Your Name]

It’s Time To Drop ALL Charges Against the Rail Workers

It is more than 4 years since the tragic train wreck in Lac-Mégantic QC. Now is the time for your office to stop a continuing injustice, the prosecution of railroad workers Tom Harding and Richard Labrie under the Canadian Railway Safety Act and other laws.

The record has established that the actions of Tom Harding and Richard Labrie did not cause this tragedy. Continuing to prosecute the railworkers in this case does not advance rail safety. We, the undersigned, call on those charged with administering justice to do their part now and drop ALL the charges.

2,736 Signatures Collected
Only 464 more until our goal of 3,200
Sign This Petition

Tags: Harding defense committeeRail safetyLac-Mégantic Tragedy
Categories: Labor News

Rail Workers say they warned Amtrak bosses before deadly WA Amtrak 501 crash

Mon, 01/29/2018 - 11:58

Rail Workers say they warned Amtrak bosses before deadly WA Amtrak 501 crash
https://edition.cnn.com/2018/01/28/us/amtrak-501-derail-training-safety-...

By Scott Bronstein, Drew Griffin and Collette Richards, CNN Investigates
Updated 1141 GMT (1941 HKT) January 29, 2018

Portland, Oregon (CNN)In the days before Amtrak 501 careened off the tracks last month in a deadly crash, engineers and conductors warned their supervisors that they did not feel adequately trained on the new route, according to more than a dozen sources.

Several train cars flew off an overpass, landing on Interstate 5 in the December 18 accident near DuPont, Washington, which left three dead and more than 100 injured. At the time, Amtrak 501 was making its inaugural journey of a new Seattle-to-Portland run called the Point Defiance Bypass route.
Engineers and conductors had safety concerns, citing rushed and "totally inadequate" training which left them feeling dangerously unprepared for the new route, according to multiple sources, including several directly involved in the training. Crew members traditionally train on new routes to familiarize themselves with the signs, terrain and other physical characteristics which vary from route to route.
Some training runs were performed at night, with as many as six or more crew members stuffed into cars with just three seats, which meant some trainees rode backwards, in the dark, the sources said. Engineers felt they did not get enough practice runs at the controls and could not properly see to familiarize themselves with the route.

Here's what Amtrak engineer told NTSB about deadly derailment
Adding to the training concerns, the new locomotives for the maiden run were unfamiliar to many of the crew members up until the brief training runs, the sources said.
The engineer for Amtrak 501 told investigators he took seven to 10 observational training trips on the new route, but was only at the controls for three one-way trips, and only one of those was in the direction the train was traveling when it crashed, according to an interim report released this week by the National Transportation Safety Board.
The engineer did not respond to CNN's requests for comment, but according to the report he told the NTSB "he would not have gotten behind the throttle if he had any reservations about his readiness to operate the train."

Amtrak 501 was travelling at near 80 miles an hour while heading into a turn with a maximum speed of just 30 mph. The engineer told the NTSB he missed at least two signs which would have warned him to slow down, then "as soon as he saw the 30 mph sign at the start of the curve, he applied brakes. Seconds later, the train derailed as it entered the curve," according to the NTSB report.

Amtrak train derailment leaves 'a thousand unanswered questions'
When asked about allegations of inadequate training, Amtrak referred CNN to the NTSB, which said in a statement, "NTSB investigators are aware of the issues that have been raised regarding training of the Amtrak 501 crewmembers."
Amtrak also said in a statement to CNN, "Our highest priority is ensuring the safety of our passengers, our crew and the communities we serve. We are actively taking measures to strengthen the safety of our operations, from adopting a safety management system approach used by commercial aviation to advancing Positive Train Control across the network. We will continue to work with the NTSB to learn from this accident and improve."
Amtrak employees who spoke to CNN insisted on remaining anonymous out of fear of losing their jobs.
More than a half dozen lawsuits have been filed so far in the crash, all alleging that inadequate crew training contributed to the accident. One of the lawsuits was filed by a conductor who was training in the lead locomotive when Amtrak 501 crashed.

Couple climbed onto train to rescue victims 02:03
His attorney, Anthony Petru, told CNN that warnings to managers about the lack of training went unheeded.
"In an environment where there is a quick trigger by management to charge employees with insubordination, or to go after them if they report safety concerns, there was some hesitancy by employees to do anything other than go along with the program," Petru said.
Train accident investigator John Hiatt says it is clear to him the engineer had lost track of his location on the route, and blames the problems with training and preparation, at least in part, for the crash. Hiatt is an investigator with the Bremseth Law Firm of Minnetonka, Minnesota, which has filed a lawsuit on behalf of another Amtrak employee.
​"Training is money, and in this case it looks to me like they were worried about money and time and safety was number three, at best, on their list," Hiatt said.
The Point Defiance Bypass was the final piece of an $800 million project under a federal economic stimulus for high-speed rail.
But the federal money was due to run out, and the pressure to get the maiden voyage done and open the line resulted in sped-up training, sources told CNN.
The crash of Train 501 is again raising larger concerns about what many call a failing safety culture at Amtrak.

Hear the train conductor's radio call 00:56
In 2016, Amtrak train 89 crashed near Chester, Pennsylvania, killing two and injuring 35.
After a year-and-a-half-long investigation the NTSB released its findings on the Pennsylvania crash, stating that the wreck there showed "deficient safety management across many levels of Amtrak."
NTSB chairman Robert Sumwalt concluded: "Amtrak's safety culture is failing, and is primed to fail again, until and unless Amtrak changes the way it practices safety management." He added, "investigators found a labor-management relationship so adversarial that safety programs became contentious at the bargaining table, with the unions ultimately refusing to participate."
That NTSB warning and report were released on November 14, 2017. Little more than a month later, December 18, Amtrak 501 crashed.
In addition to questions about the training, questions have been raised about why the new line did not have Positive Train Control, or PTC. This could have remotely slowed the speed of Amtrak 501 and was due to be operational on the Point Defiance Bypass line later this year. The decision was made to open the line before PTC was installed.
The Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 called for PTC to be implemented nationally for passenger railroads and some freight railroads by December 2015, which has since been extended to the end of 2018. The deadline could be pushed further back to December 31, 2020, according to Department of Transportation.
Only 24% of passenger railway routes had PTC actively operating as of the end of 2016.
According to Washington state DOT, the Amtrak Cascades route will now not run on Point Defiance Bypass until PTC is activated.

Tags: safetyAMTRAK501 wreck
Categories: Labor News

Lac-Mégantic Disaster Being Blamed On Railroad Workers By Canadian Government

Sun, 01/28/2018 - 12:12

Lac-Mégantic Disaster Being Blamed On Railroad Workers By Canadian Government

https://www.facebook.com/SafeTrainsNow/?ref=bookmarks

Brothers and Sisters:

The campaign for the story of the Lac-Mégantic story has begun. What we do in the next two weeks will have lasting impact. After the Feb 5 proceeding, news coverage, the history of the Lac-Mégantic safety response will have been written. It only remains to be seen whether we rise to the challenge to contest for that history or not.

It is not really hyperbole to say that this is a rail safety emergency. Here's what will happen if we do NOT respond effectively now:

1) The Canadian Gov't will convict and sentence Tom Harding for violation of company safety rules. This will happen almost certainly on Feb 5. They will crow about it and claim it shows that they are on the job protecting public safety and accountability.

2) It will strengthen the legal principle in the US and Canada that workplace rules can and should be criminalized.

3) The Canadian Gov't will claim it has held the railroad accountable. The defunct non-existant MMA will be presented as punished with penalties that will never have any effect. They may fine the MMA a million dollars. There are no assets. It's theatre.

4) There will never be an inquiry or any accountability for the policy and decision makers that set every danger in place long before Tom Harding climbed on the engine on July 5 2013. The gov't either can't or won't pursue liability against the railroad owners and managers. These individuals, who made every key decision, are running trains this minute....including the Wheeling and Lake Erie (Ed Burkhardt is on the Board). They are unrepentant.

Between now and Feb 5, there is no better use of your activist and organizer time and resources than making sure that we counter that government fairytale. We've proven already that collectively we can influence how the public understands what happened regarding Lac-Mégantic and it's ongoing policy and regulatory issues. If we make the truth about the ongoing scapegoating viral, we will again make a lasting difference.

We've already begun a combined social media campaign that involves Facebook, Twitter and mass email work to gather supporters to target the Canadian Govt with calls and signatures. We need some additional money to make sure this reaches as many people as possible.

There will be repeated email blasts to past supporters to galvanize and mobilize them to actions.

We already know that stuff like this requires that the message be repeated over and over in all it's forms.

I know every one of you has done work on this defense campaign. I know each of you has other and higher priorities in general. We have to ask you to bump this up, one last time, for the record. What you do in the next week, combined with our other efforts, will be multiplied and make a difference.

Please go now to Stand for Remembrance and Rail Safety and share it with your networks. Forward the emails you receive and use your twitter hashtags to link and explain the urgency.

The call in campaign targeting the Canadian Justice Ministry will go active Tuesday. Please support that effort when you receive the ask.

Fritz Edler
Harding-Labrie Defense Committee
Washington DC

Tags: railroad workers frame-upLac-Mégantic rail wreckhealth and safetygovernment deregulation
Categories: Labor News

Toronto ATU 113 members to meet as unions slam Unifor, CLC

Sat, 01/27/2018 - 15:09

Toronto ATU 113 members to meet as unions slam Unifor, CLC

http://rankandfile.ca/2017/03/17/atu-members-to-meet-as-unions-slam-unif...
Posted on March 17, 2017 in ATU
110129-HamiltonDayofAction-40

UPDATE: At noon March 17, RankandFile.ca learned from multiple sources that ATU Local 113 President Bob Kinnear resigned. Kinnear was first elected Local 113 president in 2003. Kinnear has also withdrawn his letter to the CLC invoking article the justification process to disaffiliate from the ATU under CLC’s article 4.9. This article was originally published at 4am on March 17.

By Gerard Di Trolio and David Bush

On March 19, ATU Local 113 will hold its monthly general meeting. It will be the first such membership meeting to truly deal with the fallout of President Bob Kinnear’s attempt to take Local 113 out of the Amalgamated Transit Union.

RankandFile.ca has learned of a letter signed by numerous unions sent on March 3 to the CLC protesting its acceptance of Kinnear’s request to invoke section 4.9 of the CLC Constitution. Section 4.9 initiates a process in which members of a local can begin the process to change unions. Before we get to the details of the letter, it is worth taking stock of what we know about the situation.

We know that on February 1, Kinnear sent a letter to Canadian Labour Congress President Hassan Yussuffrequesting that he invoke section 4.9 of the CLC Constitution.

On February 2, Yussuff passed the letter on to ATU Canada’s President Paul Thorp. Then, as reported by RankandFile.ca:

Later that day Bob Kinnear’s public relations officer, paid for by 113, received a forwarded email from union consultant Bill Reno and was told to give it to Kinnear. The email, from a lawyer at Dewart Gleason, was cc’d to Anthony Dale, Unifor staff lawyer and director of their legal department, Scott Doherty, assistant to the President of Unifor, and lawyers from two law firms. The email outlined what to do if police arrive in the event of a trusteeship, it also had a draft notice of motion, for unknown purposes attached to it. It was clearly part of an on-going discussion between Kinnear and Unifor.

The ATU’s international leadership responded by initiating a trusteeship of Local 113 on February 3, removing Kinnear from the local’s presidency and appointing Manny Sforza as trustee. Sforza is currently an ATU International Vice-President and a former 113 executive board member.

On February 3, Yussuff told Thorp that the trusteeship was a violation of article 4.9, and was in effect blocking the democratic right to determination of Local 113 members. Yussuff then suspended the anti-raiding provisions of article 4.9. Also on this day, ATU President Larry Hanley informed Local 113 members of the trusteeship with a letter. Hanley’s letter pointed out that Kinnear did not follow the ATU’s constitution to try settle any dispute, which the CLC encourages all groups of members to do in section 4.9a of its Constitution.

Within a few days, 13 of 17 members of Local 113’s executive board had be reinstated under the trusteeship.

On Tuesday February 7, Kinnear and Unifor President Jerry Dias held a press conference. Dias’ explanation for supporting Kinnear was that he was defending Canadian workers from the actions of a US-based international union. In the meantime evidence surfaced about collusion between Unifor and Kinnear before the trusteeship came into effect. On February 10 Yussuff sent a letter to Thorp saying the CLC was reinstating article 4 protections

On February 21, Kinnear won a court injunction to be reinstated as Local 113 President. Kinnear’s argument centred on the notion that the constitution of the ATU stifles free speech and that asking article 4.9 to be invoked by the CLC should not result in trusteeship. The justice said Kinnear’s claims were unproven, but granted the injunction saying that the claims of the ATU and Kinnear must be tried.

Days after the court decision Kinnear published an open letter in three major dailies from him to the membership declaring victory. It is unclear who paid for these costly ads, but RankandFile.ca did confirm days after the court ruling that Kinnear’s legal fees through all of this are being paid for by Unifor.

In early March audio surfaced on the internet – republished by RankandFile.ca – of a conversation in late January between Local 113 executive board members Tony Barbosa and John DiNino.

In the conversation, Barbosa predicts with remarkable accuracy, the pending trusteeship, Kinnear’s strategy, the joint press conference of Kinnear and Dias, as well as the suspension of article 4 by the CLC. Barbosa states that the “big white shark”, which he calls Unifor is gearing up for a raid. Unifor denies it was planning on raiding Local 113 and says it was simply standing up for Canadian workers.

Numerous unions criticize CLC’s initiation of justification process

On March 3 a letter signed by the presidents of NUPGE, CUPE, USW, IAM, UFCW, and endorsed by UNITE HERE, SEIU Local 1, and UA was sent to Yussuff.

The letter notes that a “CLC affiliate (Unifor)” appears to have interfered in the “established collective bargaining relationship of another affiliate (ATU Local 113).”

The letter goes on to say that the the justification process of article 4.9 has undermined in the Local 113 situation, as the CLC constitution states that 4.9 is to be invoked at the request of “a group of workers,” and that the CLC granting justification to a single member, who is the president of the local, such as Kinnear was a slippery slope. An elected official may be part of a group that applies for the justification process, but they can not be the only person. Allowing tiny minorities within a local to ask for article 4.9 to be invoked in disputes without trying to constitutionally settle disputes creates a bad precedent.

The conclusion of the letter requests that the CLC declare the “original justification has been determined null and void, and that any investigation that is ongoing will focus instead on the actions of another affiliate (Unifor) that are in violation of 2 key sections of Article IV.”

Membership will weigh-in

At the March 19 meeting, Local 113 members will finally have an official forum to debate and weigh in on the future of their own local. Kinnear has declared his intention to move a motion to approve a membership vote on disaffiliation from the ATU. If this proposal is approved it will open up a new round of questions and a fresh debate about the future of the local. If it is rejected Kinnear’s moves will have been roundly rejected by both the membership and the elected executive board. In this scenario his future in the local would likely be at an end. If Kinnear thinks he is likely to lose, and he would have sense from doing workplace visits, it wouldn’t surprise anyone if he decided to retire.

The intrigue and infighting over the future of the ATU 113 that has taken place over the past two months raises a number of questions for members of the local. For instance, when exactly did Kinnear contact Unifor about his intention of trying to take his local out of 113? Why is Unifor paying his legal bills? Who paid for the full page colour ads by Bob Kinnear in the three Toronto dailies? How is it in January that Barborsa accurately predicts the sequence of events a week before they happen? Why did Kinnear not take this debate to the members or the executive board first? Why did Kinnear and not membership file the 4.9 justification process? Was the trusteeship justified? Why exactly does Kinnear want to leave the ATU now, at this given moment?

These are questions that members should demand answers for. All the evidence to date points to backroom wheeling and dealing that has essentially cut out membership involvement.

There are broader political and strategic questions members must debate as well. For those wanting to leave the ATU International, what are exactly are the substantive issues at play? Are they legitimate issues or misdirection? If they are legitimate can they be rectified by fighting it out inside the ATU? What happens to the rest of the sector, especially other Canadian ATU locals, if 113 becomes independent? What is the best path forward for the members of the local and all those who work in the sector?

While Local 113 members will finally have an open debate over these and many other questions, there are still a number of issues left for the broader labour movement to sort through.

There is the issue of what a CLC investigation will reveal about Unifor’s role in the ATU’s internal crisis. Unifor is paying Kinnear’s legal fees and has openly admitted to colluding with Kinnear before the trusteeship. There is also hard evidence that events unfolding in the first week of the crisis were orchestrated well-beforehand. Will these revelations cause dissension in the ranks of Unifor itself? Well members and elected officials question the priorities of their own organization in light of this affair?

There is even a question about what role some in the CLC had in all of this. The unprecedented suspension of article 4 by the CLC, its ham-fisted public statements by its staff in the days after the trusteeship, and the leaked audio which alludes to active CLC collaboration raise serious questions about the actions of some inside the CLC.

The very real fissures that exist within the CLC have been deepened by these events precisely when there are growing attacks on the labour movement on both sides of the border.

Deep divisions and pitting Canadian workers against international unions are distractions from building continental wide solidarity to resist attacks on workers, and the racism and xenophobia conjured up by the Trump administration.

It’s time that members take charge and push their unions to fight the bosses and the politicians and not amongst themselves.

Tags: ATU 113Trusteeship
Categories: Labor News

Canada rail workers win fight against frame-up

Sat, 01/27/2018 - 15:02

Canada rail workers win fight against frame-up
http://www.themilitant.com/2018/8205/820504.html

Vol. 82/No. 5 February 5, 2018

Canada rail workers win fight against frame-up

BY JOHN STEELE
SHERBROOKE, Quebec — The rail bosses and federal government were handed a stinging defeat when the three-and-a-half-month frame-up trial of locomotive engineer Tom Harding and train traffic controller Richard Labrie, both members of United Steelworkers Local 1976, and low-level former Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway manager Jean Demaitre, ended here Jan. 19. The 12-member jury declared the three former employees “not guilty” on all counts from the July 2013 derailment and explosion of a 72-car runaway oil train in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec.
Harding, the main target of the frame-up, was also acquitted on two lesser charges. The jury announced the verdict to a packed courtroom on the ninth day of deliberations.

“I am very happy with the verdict,” retired worker and Lac-Mégantic resident Jean Clusiault, told the media at the courthouse. Clusiault’s 24-year-old daughter, Kathy, was one of those killed at the Musi-Café near the tracks when the train derailed and exploded. “They treated these people horribly, like killers,” he said, referring to the three framed up men. “They broke their lives.”

Many people from Lac-Mégantic attended the trial. Clusiault was there every court day. When reporters asked him who he thought was guilty, he pulled a rumpled piece of paper from his pocket and started reading a list of high company officials, beginning with former CEO Edward Burkhardt.

“This is a victory for workers,” Gilbert Carette, a former Quebec highway maintenance department worker, told the Militant. “This tragedy, caused by company negligence and government deregulation of the rail industry, was placed on the shoulders of innocent workers.”

Carette is active in the Citizens and Groups Coalition for Rail Safety in Lac-Mégantic, which has been fighting for the federal and Quebec governments to build a railway bypass around the town.

“The Citizens Coalition,” said spokesperson Robert Bellefleur in a post-verdict press release, “has always insisted that the three employees were ordinary actors in a business scheme planned at high management levels to ensure maximum benefits for top company officials and shareholders of the oil and railway companies involved.”

Government frame-up unraveled
The rail bosses and the prosecution frame-up centered on the claim that Harding was criminally negligent and displayed “reckless disregard” for human life by not setting and properly testing a “sufficient” number of hand brakes when he parked the train that night. He was the only “crew” on the train. The bosses had gotten special dispensation from the government to operate with a one-person crew, to cut costs.
Labrie and Demaitre were charged with criminal negligence for supposedly not doing enough to prevent Harding from causing the disaster

In accord with company procedures, Harding had kept the lead engine running when he left the train for the night and also set hand brakes to keep the air brakes engaged to prevent the train from moving. During the night, firefighters unknowingly turned off the locomotive’s air brakes when they shut down the engine to extinguish a fire that was caused by substandard maintenance practices. Without air brakes the train later rolled down a 7-mile grade into the center of Lac-Mégantic and derailed.

In his final arguments, Charles Shearson, one of Harding’s lawyers, blew out of the water the prosecution’s claim that Harding had failed to secure the train. He walked through how Harding had followed the company’s general operating instructions and secured the train.

Shearson also emphasized the dangerous conditions Harding was forced to work under as a single-person “crew.”

The jury ruled for the defendants even though Judge Gaétan Dumas refused to give them a key document that contradicted the frame-up charges — the official Transportation Safety Board report on the cause of the disaster. This report states that 18 different factors were involved, many centering on the safety negligence of the railroad’s bosses, and no one single person can be blamed. “Our strategy was to bring the report’s conclusions in through the back door,” Thomas Walsh, Harding’s other lawyer, told the Militant.

Workers hail the verdict
Both the Teamsters union, which organizes the majority of freight rail workers in Canada, and the United Steelworkers, which organized workers on Montreal, Maine and Atlantic, issued statements backing the victory.
“This was the right verdict,” said Chris Yeandel, a Canadian Pacific engineer and chairman of Teamsters Locomotive Engineers Local 689. “I know about this. I run a train. I don’t make the policies of the company. I can’t be responsible for everything that happens because of the decisions others make.”

A court hearing will take place in Lac-Mégantic Feb. 5 to deal with regulatory charges still standing against Harding, Labrie and Demaitre, as well as some company officials. These charges were brought by Transport Canada under two federal laws, the Railway Safety Act and the Fisheries Act.

Most workers think the jury made the right decision. “In Lac-Mégantic, few expected a guilty verdict, or wanted one,” the Montreal Gazette headlined its story on the decision.

“Lac-Mégantic residents said it was the railway’s chairman, Ed Burkhardt, they wanted to see in handcuffs,” the National Post said. “He was never charged, but the railway faces similar criminal negligence charges. A trial date has not been set, but even if convicted, the only penalty for a company is a fine — one that would likely never be paid because MMA went bankrupt.”

Marie-Claire David contributed to this article.

Tags: Lac-MéganticQuebec rail wreckhealth and safetyunion rightsderegulationOne Man Crews
Categories: Labor News

PATCO Union Buster & Trump's Appointee To NLRB Now Pushing to Punish NLRB Staff For Supporting Unions.

Fri, 01/26/2018 - 19:49

PATCO Union Buster & Trump's Appointee To NLRB Now Pushing to Punish NLRB Staff For Supporting Unions.
Trump Appointee Is Trying to Squelch Us, Labor Board Staff Says
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/25/business/economy/labor-board.html?hp&...

By NOAM SCHEIBERJAN. 25, 2018
Air traffic controllers during the 1981 strike that ended in their dismissal, a pivotal moment in the labor movement’s decline. A litigator in that dispute, Peter B. Robb, is now the top enforcement official for the National Labor Relations Board. CreditDavid Handschuh/Associated Press
The Trump administration’s efforts to reverse the direction of federal labor policy appear to have accelerated with a proposal to demote the senior civil servants who resolve most labor cases.

Under the proposal, those civil servants — considered by many conservatives and employers to be biased toward labor — would answer to a small cadre of officials installed above them in the National Labor Relations Board’s hierarchy.

The proposal could pave the way for a pronounced shift in the day-to-day workings of the agency, making it friendlier to employers named in complaints of unfair labor practices or facing unionization drives.

Peter B. Robb, the agency’s general counsel and a Trump appointee, outlined the proposal this month in a conference call with the civil servants, known as regional directors, according to a letter sent by the directors to Mr. Robb.

The regional directors and their staffs typically resolve more than 85 percent of the roughly 20,000 cases filed with the agency each year over disputed labor practices without involving the general counsel, the top enforcement official.The proposal follows a series of aggressive changes in posture at the agency since last fall, when Republicans gained a majority on the five-member board.

In early December, a mere two weeks into his tenure, Mr. Robb released a memo announcing the end of many of his predecessors’ initiatives, including a campaign against employers who improperly classify workers as contractors, and featuring a long a list of hot-button issues on which regional directors were required to seek input from his office.

“New general counsels will at some point signal cases they want to look at,” said Wilma B. Liebman, a former chairwoman of the labor board. “But this was so sweeping and so fast that it was just kind of startling.”

That same month, the agency overturned a key Obama-era ruling that had made it easier to hold companies responsible for labor-law violations at companies they do business with, such as franchisees and contractors.

Mr. Robb came to his position after a career largely spent representing management, including handling part of the Reagan administration’s litigation against the air traffic controllers’ union that waged an illegal strike in 1981. Most labor historians say the government’s hard line in firing the controllers contributed to organized labor’s decline in subsequent decades, said Joseph A. McCartin, a history professor at Georgetown University.

The labor board’s general counsel is confirmed by the Senate. The counsel has independent authority as a prosecutor, derived from the National Labor Relations Act, and performs other duties on behalf of the agency’s board, which acts as its highest court of appeals.

Demoting the regional directors — there are 26, including two vacancies — and inserting a new group above them would most likely require board approval. The regional directors’ account suggested that the new officials would probably be civil servants as well, rather than political appointees.

Michael J. Lotito, a lawyer with the management-side firm Littler Mendelson, who has discussed the proposal with officials at the agency, said they had assured him that it was largely a response to budget cuts reflecting a significant decline over several decades in the number of labor charges filed.

He said some of the savings could come from staff reductions among managers and supervisors at the regional offices, achieved in part through attrition.

The agency itself said that “given budgetary issues, the general counsel is assessing the current organizational structure for possible changes,” but added, “No specific plan involving the restructuring of our organization has been developed.”

Labor advocates and even management-side lawyers often praise the professionalism of the regional directors, but critics consider them too sympathetic to workers and unions.

“Some are way more ideologically pro-union than others, but they all tend to be fairly ideological,” Mr. Lotito said. “The agency tends to promote — I think that it should — individuals who want to protect the rights of employees. But if you’ve been doing that all your life, you can miss the rights of the employer.”

The proposed changes appear consistent with a broader Trump administration suspicion of longtime civil servants. President Trump’s former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, called for the “deconstruction of the administrative state.”

During the administration’s first year, dozens of senior career officials resigned or retired from the State Department and the Environmental Protection Agency as many complained of being sidelined or ignored by political overseers.

The Interior Department reassigned a few dozen senior civil servants to posts that often made little use of their expertise. In one case, a top climate policy official was reassigned to the office that collects royalty payments from oil and gas companies. He quit not long after.

According to the N.L.R.B. regional directors’ letter, Mr. Robb said on the conference call on Jan. 11 that the changes were necessary and independent of budget considerations — implying a lack of confidence in the directors’ ability to investigate and adjudicate allegations of labor-rights violations.

Mr. Robb, according to the letter, said the agency might hire a handful of district directors, each with authority over a portion of its 26 regions, and proposed lowering the regional directors’ rank within the Civil Service.

The letter expressed concerns that Mr. Robb was intent on “removing many of the core responsibilities of the sitting regional directors,” though it acknowledged that it was unclear how much authority he intended to shift to district directors, how many there would be, and whether any regional offices would be closed or consolidated.

Mr. Lotito, the management lawyer who has discussed the concept with agency officials, said the idea was to keep most or all of the regional offices in place and allow management and labor to appeal decisions to the district directors.

“The regional directors are their own fiefdoms,” he said. “If there was an ability to go to a district director, who oversees eight regions, chances are that would drive consistency.”

Like the civil servants who were reassigned at the Interior Department, the regional directors at the labor board are members of the Senior Executive Service, which was established by Congress in the late 1970s as an elite corps of executives who could be deployed to tackle the government’s thorniest challenges.

Conservatives and some nonpartisan experts have complained that members of the Senior Executive Service are far less mobile than Congress envisioned, burrowing into particular agencies.

By proposing to downgrade the regional director positions into the ranks of standard government workers, where they would make less money and have narrower authority, Mr. Robb in some respects proposed going further than Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who reassigned Senior Executive Service members but preserved their status.

The changes proposed by Mr. Robb “would have a severe and negative impact on our agency and our stakeholders,” the directors wrote.

William Valdez, president of the association representing the senior executives, said the labor board could eliminate such positions, making the regional directors eligible for comparable jobs elsewhere in government, but could not demote them en masse. As a practical matter, he said, many of the regional directors may choose to reapply for their jobs at lower rank.

Even many management-side lawyers consider the regional directors effective. “Some people are better than other others, but I think the standards are pretty high,” said Steven M. Swirsky, a former field lawyer for the labor board who has spent decades representing employers.

At a Jan. 19 meeting with an American Bar Association committee whose members represent both management and labor, Mr. Robb argued that the reaction to his proposal was overblown.

According to someone familiar with the discussion, Mr. Robb acknowledged that he would need the approval of the agency’s board for any changes, and he said he would seek public comment as well as input from the regional directors.

In the meantime, the letter from the regional directors indicates that many may take Mr. Robb’s proposal as a cue to resign or retire, as some of their counterparts at the State Department, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Interior Department did.

“We believe the changes you suggest, including the removal of directors from the Senior Executive Service, will cause senior directors and managers, whose institutional knowledge is a valuable asset to the agency, to retire sooner than they otherwise intended,” the directors wrote to Mr. Robb. “As you can imagine, the information you provided to the regional directors has created much uncertainty and has disheartened us.”

--

Tags: nlrbunion bustingPATCOTrump
Categories: Labor News

Stevedores to Stage 24-Hour Strike at All Finnish Ports

Fri, 01/26/2018 - 15:16

Stevedores to Stage 24-Hour Strike at All Finnish Ports

https://worldmaritimenews.com/archives/241968/stevedores-to-stage-24-hou...

Stevedores will stage a 24-hour strike at all ports in Finland on February 2 as part of a political protest against the government’s employment policies, a statement issued by Finish stevedoring company STEVECO says.

Stevedores, part of the Transport Workers’ Union (AKT), will take part in the protest from 6:00 a.m. February 2 to 6 a.m. February 3.

What is more, Finnish Seafarers’ Union (FSU) has urged all its members to participate in a protest at 11:00 a.m. on February 2 at the Senate Square in Helsinki.

AKT and FSU are affiliated to SAK, the Central Organization of Finnish Trade Unions which organizes the protest.

Trade unions in the country are opposing to the new unemployment security legislation which entered into force at the beginning of this year. SAK stresses the new law is “another cut in unemployment security.”

From the beginning of the year, unemployed people must report their progress in job-seeking to the unemployment fund or the Social Insurance Institution (Kela) quarterly. The unemployment fund or Kela can then consider whether they have been active enough in finding employment or not.

Should they decide someone has not done enough to seek out employment, the benefit will be cut by 4.65 percent for the next three months.

World Maritime News Staff

Tags: Finn Dockers StrikeTransport Workers’ Union (AKT)
Categories: Labor News

Bomb Train': Oil Execs Try to Blame Workers for Tragic Accident

Fri, 01/26/2018 - 13:29

Bomb Train': Oil Execs Try to Blame Workers for Tragic Accident

http://therealnews.com/t2/story:20976:Bomb-Train%27%3A-Oil-Execs-Try-to-...

To hear/watch the interview with RWU member Fritz Edler, click on the link above. The transcript is below....

Bomb Train': Oil Execs Try to Blame Workers for Tragic Accident

All three MMA rail workers were acquitted of criminal charges in the Lac-Megantic disaster case -- but Fritz Edler, veteran locomotive engineer and longtime union officer, says "the wrong people were on trial," and that the industry ignores known risks

________________________________

biography

Fritz Edler is a veteran locomotive engineer and wreck investigator, with 40 years of railroad experience. Became chair of the Harding and Labrie Defense Committee after hearing Harding's attorney speak @ a Community Rail safety conference in Chicago. I've made 8 investigative trips to Canada in conjunction with the defense as well as supporting the rail safety efforts of the Lac-M�gantic citizens.

________________________________

transcript

DIMITRI LASCARIS: This is Dimitri Lascaris for The Real News reporting from Montreal, Quebec. The small town of Lac-Mégantic in Quebec's historic Eastern Townships will forever be associated with one of the deadliest accidents in Canadian history. On the morning of July 6, 2013, a crude oil train explosion killed 47 people. The train was carrying volatile crude oil from the Bakken Shale oilfields of North Dakota. It derailed and exploded, killing residents and destroying the town's downtown area. The mass funeral in the town of just over 5,000 persons was broadcast live across Canada. It became a national day of mourning.

Over four years later, on Friday of last week, a Canadian jury found three former rail workers not guilty of criminal negligence causing the deaths of Lac-Megantic residents. The question must now be asked, why were the workers charged for this tragedy? Moreover, why was no executive of the Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway Company prosecuted? With us to discuss this, I am pleased to be joined by veteran train engineer and wreck investigator Fritz Edler, chairperson of the defense committee for Tom Harding and Richard Labrie, two of the workers who were charged and found not guilty. Fritz joins us today from Washington, D.C. Fritz, thank you very much for joining us on The Real News.

FRITZ EDLER: Pleasure. Glad to be with you.

DIMITRI LASCARIS: Fritz, let's start by talking about the basic allegations against the acquitted railway workers. What was the essential basis of the Crown's allegations of criminal negligence and in your view, why did the prosecution fail?

FRITZ EDLER: Well, it seemed plain to us from the beginning that this was putting the things in the wrong order. In other words, for the people in the town and for people in Canada and across North America who wanted to know why this wreck took place and what we could do to prevent it, it was completely wrong to start out from just moments after, days after the wreck with an exclusive focus on Tom Harding and then later his coworker, Richard Labrie, and decide that the way to find out about this wreck would be to do a criminal prosecution instead of what the people in the community wanted, which was a commission of inquiry. That real public inquiry has never taken place.

This is the absolute worst way to find out why a wreck took place and who is really responsible. Instead, what the government did was they took their lead from the industry. They took their lead from Ed Burkhardt, the chair of the Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railroad, who in Megantic began to accuse Tom Harding of responsibility exclusively. The government took that up and made that their focus, and never really seriously pursued the broader issues for prosecution.

DIMITRI LASCARIS: Essentially, in your view, what was it that happened at the trial? I appreciate you may not be a legal expert but as somebody who is a veteran wreck investigator, why do you think this case fell apart in the end?

FRITZ EDLER: I have been called into Lac-Mégantic and to Quebec eight almost, I guess eight times now, in the case of this campaign, this trial. And I've had a chance to see on the ground firsthand, not only as a railroader but also as somebody who is a supporter of Tom Harding and Richard Labrie, exactly how things were on the ground. One of the things you found out is that if you walk the streets of Lac-Mégantic and you ask people, they would tell you most often that, "They got the wrong people. The wrong people are on trial."

There was a good understanding from early on, and this was very frustrating to the people who live there because it really made it that much more unlikely that they were really going to get accountability and justice for their losses, and really get to the core of the problems. One of the problems was that the railroad still operates through the town of Lac-Mégantic and still presents the same kinds of problems because those problems stem from risky and dangerous management decisions.

DIMITRI LASCARIS: Let's talk about those problems. What in your view are the principal problems that led to this particular disaster and may create dangers in the future?

FRITZ EDLER: Well, frankly, what it was was the Montreal, Maine and Atlantic, and they're not alone in this in the industry, where in such a big hurry to make the big money that they could make from the transport of this highly volatile oil that they just threw all other cautions aside.

As a railroader, one of the very first things that hit me when I drove from Nantes into Lac-Mégantic was to see the derail-protected siding that exists in Nantes and is built there for the purpose of securing equipment to prevent it from rolling down a grade, for example. That's what it was built for and the MMA wouldn't use it. They made sure they couldn't use it by making the train too long. They just had to get that couple of extra cars and couple of extra gallons or tons.

Those factors, there's plenty of others, everything from operating that most dangerous kind of a train with only one crew member, which meant that the train could only go forward. It couldn't go back. It couldn't split. It couldn't do any of those things that might be critically important in any number of situations. By policy, and in the weeks and months before July 6, 2013, the community was put at risk, the workers were put at risk and it was done for money.

DIMITRI LASCARIS: Just for the benefit of members of our audience who aren't aware of the specifics of this tragedy. The train rolled down a grade and that resulted ultimately in the explosion that killed 47 people, right?

FRITZ EDLER: That's correct. What happened was that they made the train risky by policy and by practice, and then they purposefully didn't use all of the resources that were available to protect. That came out in the trial. One of the things that came out in the trial after 34 government witnesses, was that the inadequate and known inadequate cars for transporting these oils were even yet more overloaded, overloaded beyond because they could get a little more in there and get more money. So, they put it even more at risk. All of these factors, including the prohibition from the crews being able to use the automatic braking system to secure the equipment, as a supplemental way of securing the equipment, that rolled through the rail industry in North America. When railroaders like myself, locomotive engineers, found out that that was their policy, that's the very first thing. That's railroading 101. That's what we do. We put an automatic brake on the train. That's one of the ways that we secure it. That system was available to them and they threatened Tom Harding and other crew members with discipline if they did it.

DIMITRI LASCARIS: Are these railway workers out of the woods yet or do they remain exposed to criminal prosecution from another authority?

FRITZ EDLER: Yeah. This actually is the big thing because all across the world, people who know the name Lac-Mégantic heard that the rail workers were acquitted on the 19th of January of all the charges against them. There was a big cheer in many different sectors, including in the community of Lac-Mégantic. They thought that this was progress.

Then, in short order, within days of that, we received word that on February 5th, Tom Harding and Richard Labrie are called back to the courthouse to face federal charges, federal charges under the Railway Safety Act, federal charges under the Fisheries Act. These charges still carry with them the possibility of jail time and ruinous fines for these individuals who have already suffered so much.

DIMITRI LASCARIS: This really raises a question about the nature of regulation of the railway industry in Canada. Who's responsible for regulating the transportation of oil by rail in Canada and do you think that this organization is under the undue influence of the industry, and that that's played a role in the apparent decision not to prosecute any of the executives for these dangerous policies that you've outlined?

FRITZ EDLER: Fortunately, we know more about this because of some of the testimony that came out in the course of the prosecution witnesses in the trial. A lot of that material, which normally might never reach the public, actually was part of the trial testimony. There's also material related to this in the two investigative reports, one that was done by the Sûreté of Quebec. Early on for the Sûreté and then also by the Transportation Safety Board of Canada, and the Transportation Safety Board of Canada in particular identified 18, originally 19 factors that were the factors that were responsible for the wreck and the devastation.

What's pretty obvious is that Mr. Harding and Mr. Labrie have nothing to do with most all of them, and it identifies Transport Canada, for example. Transport Canada is identified as the regulating agency that's supposed to oversee a lot of these things, and their failures, their enabling of these dangerous practices. A lot of this stuff is out there, but unfortunately, because there's never really been a proper commission of inquiry and there is no plan evident for a real prosecution of those things, I don't know that we are going to ever see the real culprits of these decisions brought to justice.

DIMITRI LASCARIS: For instance, we've seen other bomb train explosions, as they've been dubbed. There was one in Illinois near the Wisconsin border, one in Ontario where seven tanker cars caught fire, another in Mount Carbon, Virginia. A 19-car oil explosion darkened the sky above the town. In the light of these various dangerous and destructive incidents of oil by rail, have there been safety measures put in place, whether south of the border or in Canada, that are meaningfully addressing the dangers that cause these incidents?

FRITZ EDLER: First I'd like to step back and say that some of the disasters that are happening on the railroads that aren't explosions are still as a part of the same problems that we're describing here about the risky decisions that are made solely for the purpose of saving money or some other priority other than the safety of the communities. But, I could mention the example of the wreck of Amtrak 501 outside of Seattle or the Amtrak train 188 outside of Philadelphia.

In each of those cases, we could talk about a lot of these things but in terms of the measures about the so-called bomb trains, what we can say is that the industry and the regulators have both been slow to respond. The type of container that these were shipped in, the type of tank cars which were known to be inadequate for most of the dangers that are posed by that kind of transportation, those got some upgrades. But it turns out that the upgrades were insufficient, and there isn't enough for the fleet. And as the market fluctuates and the pressure is on to put more of this stuff on the railroads, there's no guarantee that from a structural point of view you won't have the kind of situation that was testified to in the Harding and Labrie trial, where the railroad put even more volatile oil beyond the capacity of the safety limits of these cars just because they could. Every ton of extra was more money.

DIMITRI LASCARIS: This has been Dimitri Lascaris speaking to veteran wreck investigator Fritz Edler, chairperson of the defense committee for Tom Harding and Richard Labrie about the acquittal of three railway workers in connection with the oil by rail disaster in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec. Thank you very much for joining us today, Fritz.

FRITZ EDLER: Thank you, sir.

DIMITRI LASCARIS: This is Dimitri Lascaris reporting for The Real News.

Tags: Lac-Mégantic rail wreckhealth and safetyOne Man Crewscrude oil explosion
Categories: Labor News

Japan Vessel operators setting course for automated navigation

Thu, 01/25/2018 - 23:31

Japan Vessel operators setting course for automated navigation
http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201801260004.html
THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
January 26, 2018 at 07:30 JST

A captain of Nippon Yusen KK, center, assesses the threat posed by an approaching vessel on a ship operation simulator in Kawasaki, Kanagawa Prefecture. (Takeho Morita)
In one room, a ship's captain swiftly directs his crew to avoid an approaching fishing boat and a container ship. In another room, an automated system flashes a red lamp to warn of dangers from approaching vessels and avoid collisions.

The simulation was conducted to see if the collision prevention system that is being developed can make as appropriate judgments as “skilled” captains. The system will be improved based on the results, so it can be tested on a ship by the end of 2019.

“The practical introduction of the system will lead to a reduced burden on sailors, helping prevent accidents,” said an official of Nippon Yusen KK, known as NYK Line, which conducted the testing in hopes of eventually introducing a self-operating vessel.

Shipping companies in Japan and abroad are developing self-operating technology for vessels, as the transport ministry is looking to have Japanese corporations take the initiative to introduce international standards for automatic navigation systems.

Aggressive research activities are now being carried out in the shipping industry, such as in the auto industry, to allow vessels to navigate waters on their own, with firms across the world successively starting tests of self-sailing technologies.

The move is aimed at lessening the burdens on the crew to improve safety with an eye on developing unmanned vessels in the future.

The Japanese transport ministry is proceeding with discussions in hopes of putting automatic sailing technology into practical use by 2025.

Under an automatic navigation system, obstacles will be located and vessel-mounted equipment checked and maintained remotely from an inland facility, using information and computing technology (ICT) and other techniques. The vessel will be operated with the help of artificial intelligence.

Behind the trend is the increasing number of merchant ships across the globe.

The number of merchant vessels for 2015 rose to 1.5 times that for 1980 as the Malacca Strait and other major channels have become increasingly congested.

As nearly half of vessel collision cases are said to be attributed to human error, shipping companies have begun to develop the self-operating technology based on advanced ICT to significantly reduce accidents.

Mitsui O.S.K. Lines Ltd. started full-scale research in November 2016 and plans to carry out a joint trial of a new sensor to detect obstacles with Britain’s Rolls-Royce Marine in the Seto Inland Sea by the end of this year.

“Saving the crew members the trouble of being on watch duty will allow them to concentrate on other tasks,” said a Mitsui public relations official. “That will also result in an improved working environment.”

Meanwhile, Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha Ltd. ("K" Line) is collecting navigation data from 100 vessels equipped with a special system.

Companies outside Japan are also actively working to develop automatic ship operation systems.

While Norwegian fertilizer maker Yara International ASA and other parties are looking to commercializing a technology to remotely control ships from inland facilities by 2019, Rolls-Royce aims to realize an unmanned vessel operation system by 2035.

MINISTRY WORKING TO SET INTERNATIONAL STANDARDS

In December, the Japanese transport ministry began discussions on self-operating vessels.

With the aim of making available a system to remotely control part of operations of ships by 2025, the ministry will conduct communications and other tests jointly with private businesses in fiscal 2018 starting in April.

Tokyo intends to make Japan’s automated navigation system specifications international standards, as the U.N.-run International Maritime Organization is expected to begin developing international rules on systems and equipment this year.

Since Japan is home to many shipping firms and shipbuilders, as well as engine and gauge makers, a ministry official said the introduction of criteria friendly to Japanese corporations will greatly benefit the nation’s economy.

“If Japan can take the initiative to set rules, Japanese companies will be able to quickly respond to them, bringing about very favorable effects on the industry,” said an official of the Safety Policy Division of the ministry’s Maritime Bureau.

However, there remain many obstacles to overcome to put automated navigation systems into practical use.

In the ocean, vessels can approach from all directions. Ships’ operations are strongly affected by wind and waves, making it difficult to establish preset patterns for avoiding obstacles.

In addition, as vessels are much larger and heavier than cars and have no brakes, they cannot stop or turn suddenly.

“The current technology has already reached a level where unmanned ships are able to navigate waters with no objects around them,” said Etsuro Shimizu, a control engineering professor at the Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology.

“But when other vessels are operating nearby, they need to be visually checked by the crew,” he said. “There are high hurdles to introducing unmanned ships.”

(This article was written by Takeho Morita and Hideaki Ishiyama.)

Tags: Japan ship automationhealth and safety
Categories: Labor News

'I won't fly refugees to their deaths': The El Al pilots resisting deportation

Tue, 01/23/2018 - 11:51

'I won't fly refugees to their deaths': The El Al pilots resisting deportation

https://972mag.com/i-wont-fly-refugees-to-their-deaths-the-el-al-pilots-...

January 22, 2018

'I won't fly refugees to their deaths': The El Al pilots resisting deportation
At least three pilots for Israel’s flag carrier publish declarations publicly refusing to take part in the forced deportation of asylum seekers should they be asked to. The Israeli government is giving tens of thousands of Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers a stark choice: deportation or indefinite imprisonment.

By Yael Marom

An El Al pilot hangs out the window of one of the carrier's planes. (Illustrative photo by Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
An El Al pilot hangs out the window of one of the carrier’s planes. (Illustrative photo by Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
At least three El Al pilots in recent days published public declarations of their refusal to take part in the deportation of asylum seekers to countries where their lives may be in danger.

Captain Yoel Piterbarg, a pilot on Israel’s national airline, wrote the following on Facebook (Hebrew):

Israel is populated primarily by Jews who, in their near and distant pasts, were refugees in countries around the world. The vast majority became citizens and a small number remained refugees. Most went through the Holocaust, many were forcefully expelled from their countries, and many others emigrated out of a desire to improve their lives in better countries that agreed to accept them.Out of all people we, the Jews, must be attentive, empathetic, moral, and leaders of public opinion in the world in how we treat the migration of refugees, who have suffered and continue to suffer in their countries of origin.[…] I will not fly deported refugees against their will for the legal reason (there is no other legal reason) that they are likely to endanger the safety of the flight.
In another Facebook post, El Al pilot Shaul Betzer wrote (Hebrew):

As part of the Jewish people, as someone who was raised and educated with Zionist values that renewed the existence of our nation in the Land of Israel, who has lived here his entire life, who has taken part in missions behind enemy lines, which required no small amount of courage and belief in the justness of our path, recognition of Jewish morality and the sanctity of every human being whoever they may be, all in order to ensure ourselves and the generations to come that we will never again be refugees and reliant on the goodness of others.There is no way that as pat of the flight crew, I will take part in flying refugees/asylum seekers on their way to a destination, in which their chance of survival after arrival (“a third country”) is close to zero.Not much courage is required for such a mission, but I will not be able to do what is required of me in such a mission. As a pilot and as a human being.
A third El Al pilot, Iddo Elad, wrote on his Facebook page (Hebrew): “I have joined many of my good friends, in declaring that I will not fly refugees to their deaths. I won’t take part in that barbarism.”

More than 7,500 Israelis signed a petition, published by “Zazim — Community Action” earlier this month, calling on the Israel Airline Pilots Association and ground services staff at Ben Gurion Airport to “stand on the right side of history and refuse participate in this immoral deportation.”

In recent weeks the Israeli government approved the deportation of refugees to third countries. According to the plan, the Holot desert detention facility, where many asylum seekers are held, will shut down and those who refuse to leave “voluntarily” to Rwanda and Uganda (and perhaps other countries) will be imprisoned indefinitely. According to numerous reports, which Rwanda and Uganda have denied, Israel will pay those countries $5,000 for each refugee they take in from Israel. Additionally, Israel will pay $3,500 to each asylum seeker who agrees to leave, although that sum will get smaller over time, thereby incentivizing them to leave sooner than later.

​ ​The deportation cannot be carried out without the cooperation of pilots, the Zazim petition noted. (Full disclosure: My life partner works for Zazim.) In the first nine months of 2017, over 200 deportations of asylum seekers “failed” because German pilots for Lufthansa and its subsidiary, Eurowings, refused to take off with them on board, declaring that flight safety could be compromised if someone says they do not want to take the flight. In the UK last summer, a Turkish Airlines pilot refused to take off upon learning that a refugee was being deported against his will to Afghanistan.
The agreements between Israel and those two African countries are not new. For years now Israel has paid asylum seekers to leave to Rwanda and Uganda. Despite Israel’s promises that those who agree to leave won’t be in danger, hundreds of testimonies demonstrate that they are not actually given any status or remain welcome in those countries. Instead, they are forced into yet another life-threatening journey. They are vulnerable to exploitation and humiliation, human trafficking, frequent arrests, demands for bribes, and threats. Some of them fall victim to kidnapping gangs, some into the hands of ISIS, and many choose to risk their lives trying to make it to Europe by boat.

It appears that all of the previous flights taking asylum seekers from Israel to Rwanda and Uganda were operated by non-Israeli airlines, including Ethiopian Airlines, and other carriers that service both Tel Aviv and Rwanda or Uganda. (There are no direct flights from Israel to either of those two countries.) It is unclear whether El Al pilots will be asked to fly asylum seekers out of Israel, but declarations like those published by these three pilots send a message of solidarity to the asylum seekers — and can perhaps influence pilots flying for other airlines that are being asked to carry out Israel’s dirty work.

Yael Marom is Just Vision’s public engagement manager in Israel and a co-editor of Local Call, where a version of this article was originally published in Hebrew.

Tags: el AlDeportationspilotsDeaths
Categories: Labor News

Robots that steal port jobs also fight climate change and the ILWU

Mon, 01/22/2018 - 17:09

Robots that steal port jobs also fight climate change and the ILWU

http://www.scpr.org/news/2018/01/22/79969/robots-that-steal-port-jobs-al...
Longshoremen working on the ship COSCO Denmark at a manual terminal at the Port of Long Beach in 2010.COURTESY PORT OF LONG BEACH
Emily Guerin | January 22, 2018
A foulmouthed longshoreman named Frank Gaskin pointed his phone at a chain link fence at the Port of Long Beach last summer and made a video of the robots that had taken his and his buddies’ jobs.

In the video, flatbed carts glide by carrying cargo containers around the dock. They’re self-driving, guided by computers and magnets beneath the pavement. As one passes soundlessly near the fence, Gaskin yells, “f--- you automation mother f-----!”

At 21 of the 22 docks at the Port of Long Beach, most of the work of loading and unloading cargo from containers ships is still done by people, not by robots. The Long Beach Container Terminal, which opened in April 2016, is an exception. It requires two-thirds fewer workers than traditional terminals. And that frightens the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, which controls all the jobs at the docks.

Note: This video contains profanity that may offend some viewers.

But viewed from another perspective, automation is part of the solution to one of Southern California’s most vexing environmental problems: the worst air pollution in the country.

Diesel trucks and equipment are the largest contributors to that air pollution, and the ports are the largest single source of those emissions.

But the automated carts at the Long Beach Container Terminal run on electricity, which can be generated by natural gas or renewable energy. Look closely as the cart nears Gaskin’s camera, and you can see the words, written in bright white letters on a green background, “zero emissions.”

Gaskin captioned his video: “Automation in Long Beach Container Terminal will hurt everyone.”

But what if automating is also a way to help everyone by cleaning the air and fighting climate change?

WHERE PEOPLE RUN THE PORT

To understand how radically different the Long Beach Container Terminal is, you first have to visit a traditional terminal, where people control each piece of equipment.

Gary Herrera, the vice president of the ILWU Local 13, took me on a tour of the Everport Terminal at the Port of Los Angeles. He pointed out workers unloading containers, driving forklifts and operating cranes.

“Everyone you see, those are longshoremen,” Herrera said proudly.

There are just over 14,000 unionized longshoremen on the West Coast, but that number is half of what it was in 1960. That's even though the ports move more than 14 times as much cargo.

The ILWU’s founder, Harry Bridges, started preparing for automation in the 1950s. At that time, "automation" came in the form of containers that replaced individual bales, bundles and boxes of goods to be shipped. The containers carried more cargo and required fewer hands. Bridges signed an agreement with the terminal operators allowing that, but he did so only after ensuring his members got higher pay and pension guarantees.

And any new equipment they used would have to be operated by union workers.

"Even if it comes down to one person pushing one button to run a whole port,” Bridges reportedly said, “that person will be union.”

That agreement largely remains in place, and ILWU members are among the best compensated blue-collar workers in the U.S. They receive an average salary of $155,000 a year, pay almost nothing for their health insurance, and get up to six weeks of paid vacation.

The longshoremen owe their leverage to the fact that, unlike factories and auto plants, ports cannot be outsourced.

WHERE MACHINES RUN THE PORT

Ports can, however, be run by machines, computers, and, increasingly, robots.

My tour with Herrera continued as we headed across a towering bridge toward the Port of Long Beach and the Long Beach Container Terminal. Herrera’s mood changed as he looked across the water and saw remotely operated cranes and self-driving trucks.

via GIPHY

"It makes me sick to my stomach," he said, tightening his hands on the steering wheel. "I look at this place, and I do not like what it stands for. These machines get rid of men."

I'd tried for weeks, unsuccessfully, to get into the Long Beach Container Terminal on my own. I even got so far as to get their president, Anthony Otto, on the phone. He agreed to show me around, but said I couldn’t record any audio, take any pictures, or quote him.

Then, the morning of the tour, he canceled. “It’s a sensitive time for us,” he said, referring me to his PR firm for further explanation.

The firm didn’t return my call.

Officials with the ILWU can enter the terminal at any time and bring guests. Herrera had invited me to come along.

He drove us into the terminal, and we stopped in front of LBCT’s 48 stacking cranes. They load containers onto semi-trucks that haul them out of the port to distribution warehouses. In a traditional terminal, workers operate them from booths on top, but in the LBCT, four people can control all 48 cranes at once.

“The same guy who used to drive the crane out in the yard eight hours a day is now doing it from a remote console, sipping coffee and listening to light music in air conditioning,” Otto said in a YouTube video touting the benefits of automation.

The ILWU estimates that two-thirds of the longshore jobs at LBCT have disappeared due to automation. Neither Otto nor anyone else from LBCT would confirm the number of jobs lost, nor comment on the record for this story.

But they say automation creates opportunities for new kinds of jobs, like mechanics to maintain the self-driving vehicles. And, they say, their robots are cleaner than the diesel fueled, human-controlled machines they’re replacing.

The Long Beach Container Terminal emits 85 percent less diesel soot, 58 percent less nitrogen oxide (a component of smog), and 33 percent less carbon dioxide than a traditional dock at the ports.

Those kinds of reductions give Adrian Martinez, an environmental lawyer with Earthjustice, a very different take on the automated equipment at LBCT than guys like Gary Herrera.

“It’s exciting to see zero emissions equipment actually on the terminal,” Martinez said. “Because from a basic level, we’re not going to solve the air pollution crisis in the Los Angeles area until we eliminate port and freight pollution.”

SO, MORE ROBOTS?

In November 2017, the Port of Long Beach and the neighboring Port of Los Angeles pledged to dramatically slash their emissions by phasing out internal combustion engines. Their goal is to replace all diesel trucks and cargo-handling equipment with zero-emissions equivalents by 2035. Usually that means electric vehicles.

The big question is whether the ports’ new mandate will lead to more automation.

Currently, electric cargo-handling equipment is more than twice as expensive as its diesel equivalent. That could lead terminal operators to choose to automate to save on labor costs, said Thomas Jelenic, who represents terminal operators as the vice president of the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association.

“People generally won’t seek out automation in and of itself unless they can justify it in some way,” he said. “But if they’re forced to electrify, the costs of electrification then dictate the need to automate.”

But Mark Sisson, a port planner with the consulting firm AECOM, thinks concerns about price are overblown. He believes the price of electric cargo-handling equipment will drop now that there’s a mandate for the largest ports in the Western Hemisphere to buy it. And right now, at least three other marine terminals are testing human-controlled electric cargo equipment.

RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE

Of all the automated equipment inside the Long Beach Container Terminal, it’s the 72 self-driving vehicles that elicit the strongest reaction.

They’re the ones Frank Gaskin swore at in his video, and they’re the ones Gary Herrera glared as he stepped out of the SUV on the last stop on our tour.

“They got rid of jobs, there’s no more drivers,” he said, looking across the fence at the little green carts. “And so this is why we’re skeptical at all when they wanna say zero emissions.”

Because of all the uncertainty, the ILWU isn’t take any chances. In September 2017, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a budget bill allocating $900 million from the sale of carbon permits under California’s cap and trade program.

Up to $140 million will be sent to the ports for clean freight and ships, but the ILWU lobbied hard to ensure that none of it could be used for automated equipment. If the terminals want to automate, they have to do it on their own.

Tags: ilwuPort automationport jobs
Categories: Labor News

On strike: IBT 572 First Student Bus drivers for Pasadena, Alhambra and Glendale schools, here’s why

Mon, 01/22/2018 - 15:45

On strike: IBT 572 First Student Bus drivers for Pasadena, Alhambra and Glendale schools, here’s why
“This type of management where you report things that are not safe, and (the problem) doesn’t go and get corrected, it’s not good for our kids, and it’s not good for us,” Motty said.
https://www.dailynews.com/2018/01/22/on-strike-bus-drivers-for-pasadena-...

0122_nws_pas-l-strike-01-0123
Bus drivers Lorena Rodriguez, center, and Ana Acosta, right, lead slogans as drivers for First Student, which is contracted by the Pasadena Unified School District, are on strike in front of the bus yard on Montana St. in Pasadena due to protracted labor negotiations on Monday, Jan. 22, 2018. (Photo by Keith Durflinger, Pasadena Star News/SCNG)
By HAYLEY MUNGUIA | hmunguia@scng.com | San Gabriel Valley Tribune
January 22, 2018 at 3:27 pm
Local school bus drivers on strike protested outside three Pasadena bus yards Monday.

The walkoff began Thursday and has disrupted bus service in the Alhambra, Glendale and Pasadena unified school districts. Each has a contract with First Student, the Cincinnati-based company that provides bus service for school districts nationwide.

Previous
Bus drivers Lorena Rodriguez, center, and Ana Acosta, right, lead slogans as drivers for First Student, which is contracted by the Pasadena Unified School District, are on strike in front of the bus yard on Montana St. in Pasadena due to protracted labor negotiations on Monday, Jan. 22, 2018. (Photo by Keith Durflinger, Pasadena Star News/SCNG)

Bus drivers for First Student, which is contracted by the Pasadena Unified School District, delay a bus from entering the yard on Howard St. in Pasadena while on strike due to protracted labor negotiations on Monday, Jan. 22, 2018. (Photo by Keith Durflinger, Pasadena Star News/SCNG)
Bus driver Cecilia Sandoval, left, talks with union staff member, Adriana Avila, as they picket in front of First Student, the bus company which is contracted by the Pasadena Unified School District, are on strike in front of the bus yard due to protracted labor negotiations on Monday, Jan. 22, 2018. (Photo by Keith Durflinger, Pasadena Star News/SCNG)
Bus drivers for First Student, which is contracted by the Pasadena Unified School District, allow a bus to enter the yard on Howard St. in Pasadena while on strike due to protracted labor negotiations on Monday, Jan. 22, 2018. (Photo by Keith Durflinger, Pasadena Star News/SCNG)
Bus drivers for First Student, which is contracted by the Pasadena Unified School District, are on strike in front of the bus yard on Howard St. in Pasadena due to protracted labor negotiations on Monday, Jan. 22, 2018. (Photo by Keith Durflinger, Pasadena Star News/SCNG)
Bus drivers Lorena Rodriguez, center, and Ana Acosta, right, lead slogans as drivers for First Student, which is contracted by the Pasadena Unified School District, are on strike in front of the bus yard on Montana St. in Pasadena due to protracted labor negotiations on Monday, Jan. 22, 2018. (Photo by Keith Durflinger, Pasadena Star News/SCNG)
Bus drivers for First Student, which is contracted by the Pasadena Unified School District, delay a bus from leaving the bus yard on Montana St. in Pasadena while on strike due to protracted labor negotiations on Monday, Jan. 22, 2018. (Photo by Keith Durflinger, Pasadena Star News/SCNG)
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Bus drivers for First Student, which is contracted by the Pasadena Unified School District, delay a bus from leaving the bus yard on Montana St. in Pasadena while on strike due to protracted labor negotiations on Monday, Jan. 22, 2018. (Photo by Keith Durflinger, Pasadena Star News/SCNG)
The strike began after contract negotiations proved unfruitful, according to some of the bus drivers, who are represented by Teamsters Local 572. Their contract ended in August. They’re asking for better pay and health benefits, a guaranteed hourly pay rate and safer conditions — both in the bus yard and on the buses themselves.

After receiving two offers from First Student that the union rejected, members decided to go on strike.

Jay Brock, a spokesman for First Student, said in a phone interview the company offered “a fairly strong deal” that included an 11 percent salary increase in addition to the company covering 60 percent of employees’ health care premiums. Brock added the allegations of unsafe conditions aren’t true.

“Our buses are inspected by California Highway Patrol,” he said. “We have received the rating of satisfactory, which is the highest you can receive for a bus inspection.”

But some drivers said their own experiences tell a different story.

James Motty said he’s driven buses on multiple occasions that didn’t have working radios or PA systems. While he acknowledged working radios are not required by law, he said they’re vital to a driver responsible for transporting special needs students.

Motty described one situation when one of the students on his bus had a seizure, and he was able to get in touch with the school immediately to keep them informed on the situation. The next week, he was given a bus without a working radio. When he reported his concerns about driving that bus, Motty said management’s response was, “I’m giving you the directive. You need to get on the road,” he alleged.“This type of management where you report things that are not safe, and (the problem) doesn’t go and get corrected, it’s not good for our kids, and it’s not good for us,” Motty said.

Brock countered that there had been only one local complaint about a broken radio, and “it was immediately repaired.”

“Obviously, safety is number one for us,” Brock said.

Steve Badger, a business representative for the union, said First Student has not reached out to the union since the strike began. He said that silence is impacting local school districts.

“It’s the children and the parents that are suffering, because they’re not getting their children picked up,” Badger said.

In a statement, Pasadena Unified spokeswoman Hilda Ramirez Horvath said First Student is responsible for transporting roughly 800 PUSD students, and the strike “has severely impacted transportation services for special education, general education, and planned school field trips.”

“We urge First Student Inc. to resolve this matter quickly and immediately resume transportation services for PUSD students,” Horvath wrote. “As customers of First Student Inc., our students are being affected. In the meantime, we ask that parents make alternate plans to get their children to and from school until the strike is settled.”

In a similar statement, Glendale Unified spokeswoman Kristine Nam wrote, “Our district is in constant communication with First Student for updates, however the issue is between First Student and their bus drivers so it is completely out of the district’s control.”

Nam said the district is working to provide alternate transportation during the strike.

First Student transports only Alhambra Unified’s special needs students, Superintendent Denise Jaramillo said in a phone interview, and the district has scrambled to provide alternate transportation. On Friday, AUSD began renting passenger vans, and licensed district staff are working overtime to drive them.

“Our position is, we’re going to do everything we can to get the kids to school,” Jaramillo said.

Brock said First Student is doing its best to provide limited service to these districts throughout the strike with the small number of drivers who are not part of the union.

“We’re working to offer what we can with the employees that we have,” he said.

Bus drivers said they’re prepared to remain on strike until First Student comes up with a better offer.

“We’re going to be here as long as it takes, whatever it takes to get the company to understand: You better wake up and sit down and talk to the union so we can get this resolved,” Badger said.

Tags: First Student StrikeIBT 572safety on busses
Categories: Labor News

'I am deeply sorry,' says Canadian railway worker Tom Harding, 1 of 3 men acquitted in Lac-Mégantic trial

Mon, 01/22/2018 - 14:53

'I am deeply sorry,' says Canadian railway worker Tom Harding, 1 of 3 men acquitted in Lac-Mégantic trial
56-year-old locomotive engineer spoke publicly for 1st time Monday
http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/tom-harding-megantic-trial-statem...

CBC News Posted: Jan 22, 2018 3:27 PM ET Last Updated: Jan 22, 2018 3:40 PM ET

Train engineer Thomas Harding was acquitted Friday, Jan. 19. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

Locomotive engineer Tom Harding was patient, safety-conscious, Lac-Mégantic trial hears
Jury begins deliberations Thursday in Lac-Mégantic rail disaster trial
Tom Harding, acquitted Friday of criminal wrongdoing in the Lac-Mégantic rail disaster, spoke publicly for the first time about what happened Monday.

"I cannot find the words sufficiently to express my sympathies," he said. "I am deeply sorry for my part of responsibility in this tragedy. I assume this responsibility now, and I will always assume it."

Harding read from a prepared statement, surrounded by members of his legal team at their office in Sherbrooke, Que.

Harding went on to thank his family as well as his lawyers.

"I want to thank my family, especially my brother Steve who stayed besides me, and who was present every day of the trial to support me."

He did not take questions.

Play
Tom Harding speaks publicly after Megantic verdict

Tom Harding speaks publicly after Megantic verdict1:13
Marathon trial

Neither Harding nor the other two former Montreal, Maine and Atlantic (MMA) railway workers indicted for their roles in the disaster testified in their own defence in the trial, which began last September.

Harding, ex-MMA operations manager Jean Demaître, 53, and ex-rail traffic controller Richard Labrie, 59, were all acquitted on charges of criminal negligence causing 47 deaths.

Immediately following Friday's verdict, Harding was too overcome with emotion to make a statement, said Tom Walsh, one of Harding's lawyers.​

All 3 MMA rail workers acquitted in Lac-Mégantic disaster trial
A look back on key testimony from trial's first 25 days
In all, 47 people died when a driverless 73-tanker-car train laden with highly volatile crude oil ran down the track, derailed and exploded in downtown Lac-Mégantic early on July 6, 2013.

During the trial, the court heard that firefighters had shut down the lead locomotive's engine about an hour before the deadly derailment, when they were called to extinguish a fire that had broken out in the locomotive's smokestack. Shutting down the engine caused a loss of pressure in the air braking system which was securing the train.

A firefighter walks by rubble on the train crash site in Lac-Megantic, Que., July 14, 2013. (Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press)
Lac-Mégantic expert witness describes how fuel-car convoy became runaway train
Much of the Crown's case revolved around the seven handbrakes Harding had applied to the train — whether the engineer had tested them and how many would have been sufficient to secure the train properly.

The Crown argued that all three men failed to carry out their responsibilities on the night the runaway train barrelled into Lac-Mégantic.

Two other court cases related to the rail disaster are unlikely to proceed to the Federal Court of Canada, following an agreement between the Crown and the defence.

Walsh reminded reporters Monday that Harding planned to submit a guilty plea "for his nonconformity with the regulations under the Railway Safety Act with respect to securing rail vehicles."

He said Harding could face jail time as a result.

All parties are scheduled to be back in court Feb. 5.

Jean Clusiault, left, father of victim Kathy Clusiault, chats with rail traffic controller Richard Labrie, Jan. 14. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)
'These aren't killers'

Although some Lac-Mégantic residents found little solace in the verdicts, others met the acquittals with relief — including Jean Clusiault, whose daughter Kathy died in the explosion.

'It broke their lives': Lac-Mégantic residents support acquittals of MMA rail workers

Clusiault said Harding, Demaître and Labrie didn't deserve to be blamed for the fatal rail disaster and explosion.

"These are human beings with families who worked hard all their lives," Clusiault said.

"These aren't killers. We treated them like killers."

Tags: Lac-Mégantic Trialrailway workershealth and safetyrail wreck
Categories: Labor News

Canadian Framed-up Railway Workers Tom Harding, Jean Demaître and Richard Labrie are still not finished justice and will already be back in court in two weeks.

Mon, 01/22/2018 - 09:42

Canadian Framed-up Railway Workers Tom Harding, Jean Demaître and Richard Labrie are still not finished justice and will already be back in court in two weeks.

http://www.journaldemontreal.com/2018/01/21/les-trois-ex-employes-de-ret...

https://translate.google.ca/translate?sl=fr&tl=en&js=y&prev=_t&hl=en&ie=...

Tom Harding, Jean Demaître and Richard Labrie are still not finished justice and will already be back in court in two weeks.

After three months of trial, the three ex-employees of the Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway were acquitted on Friday of criminal negligence charges against them since the explosion of a train that killed 47 people in downtown Montreal. Lac-Mégantic in 2013.

They are, however, expected at the Lac-Mégantic courthouse on February 5, this time to face criminal charges brought by the federal government.

Conductor Tom Harding and former Transport Director Jean Demaître are charged under the Railway Safety Act.

"These are charges that relate to the number of hand brakes that have been tightened and how to secure the train," says Mr. Harding's lawyer, Thomas Walsh.

"These two things were also the subject of the criminal prosecution, but the difference is that it was alleged that by failing to follow the rules to secure the train, the accused had been criminally negligent," he adds. . That's over since Friday. "

Guilty plea

The lawyer indicates that his client intends to plead guilty to these charges, which could be up to six months imprisonment or a fine of up to $ 50,000.

"We have always admitted that Mr. Harding did not follow all the rules to the letter to secure the train, and that is why we will face [our responsibilities] and record a plea of ​​guilty," he says. -he.

A charge has also been laid against Tom Harding, Jean Demaître and former railway controller Richard Labrie under the federal Fisheries Act.

"It's because the dump contaminated Lac-Mégantic," says Walsh. But I do not think this accusation will stay. "

The other defendants are Montreal, Maine and Atlantic (MMA) Canada, MMA Railway Limited, Robert Grindrod, MMA President, Lynne Labonté, Director General of Transportation, Kenneth Strout, Director of Operating Practices, and Mike Horan , from the MMA leadership in Canada.

The MMA could be fined up to $ 1 million if found guilty.

In addition, the railway company's file will be returned to the criminal assizes of the Superior Court of Sherbrooke on April 3.

A class action has also been filed against Tom Harding, MMA and Canadian Pacific.

Thanks,

Andrew M.P. Weir
TCRC-LE CN Central
Local Chairperson
Division 240 (Sarnia)

2463 Lisa Crescent
Brights Grove, ON
N0N 1C0
Tel: (519) 869-8204
Fax: (519) 869-8754

Tags: Canadian Framed-up Railway WorkersMMA RailwayLac-Mégantic rail wreck
Categories: Labor News

Privatizers Union Busting Tactics After Take-over Of School Bus Operation

Sun, 01/21/2018 - 20:28

Privatizers Union Busting Tactics After Take-over Of School Bus Operation

http://www.milforddailynews.com/news/20180121/ex-framingham-bus-driver-s...
Ex- Framingham bus driver says schools retaliated against union reps

Pictured are school buses parked at the Framingham Public Schools school bus yard on Fountain Street. Marlene Jackson, a resident of Beaver Street, claims in a lawsuit filed late last year in Framingham District Court that she was unable to land a job with Framingham’s new private bus carrier, Durham School Services, after the company took over the system in 2011. [Daily News file photo/Ken McGagh]
By Jim Haddadin
Daily News Staff

Posted Jan 21, 2018 at 12:01 AM
FRAMINGHAM — A former Framingham bus driver is taking the city to court, alleging the school district blackballed union reps after it privatized bus service several years ago, forcing them out of their jobs in retaliation for a costly labor complaint.

Marlene Jackson, a resident of Beaver Street, claims in a lawsuit filed late last year in Framingham District Court that she was unable to land a job with Framingham’s new private bus carrier, Durham School Services, after the company took over the system in 2011.

Jackson drove school buses for the town from 1989 until the switch occurred, and received numerous safety awards, including recognition for driving more than 16 years without an accident, according to her lawsuit.

After learning of the school district’s plan to privatize bus service, the Framingham School Bus Drivers Association filed a claim with the state’s Department of Labor Relations on May 9, 2011, alleging the town improperly changed working conditions without negotiating with union members.

Jackson — then a senior member of the union’s collective bargaining team — claims in her lawsuit that the state found in favor of the union, determining the town should pay damages. Jackson’s lawyer pegged the cost of the payout at approximately $400,000.

In a separate labor complaint filed by a bus driver several years ago against the union, a state official responsible for reviewing Framingham’s switch to private bus service pegged the settlement figure at $497,000.

Nearly 70 drivers lost their jobs following the School Committee’s decision to fully privatize bus service, which passed by a 5-1 vote. Officials said at the time the School Department could save nearly $300,000 in a single year by hiring Durham School Services, the lowest bidder, to provide both buses and drivers under a new five-year contract.

The schools had previously leased buses, and hired their own staff to drive them.

When Durham took over, only the School Department’s transportation administrators and dispatchers stayed on, though other drivers were free to apply for positions with Durham School Services.

Under the new contract, Framingham retained the right to approve school bus drivers. When Jackson applied for a position with the company in 2016, Durham School Services offered her a job, but she was allegedly denied the spot by the School Department’s transportation director, according to her lawsuit.

Since then, the town has “refused to provide an explanation” as to why Jackson wasn’t hired, according to her suit. She claims none of the union’s lead representatives were approved for new bus driver jobs.

In a two-count lawsuit, Jackson now seeks $25,000 from the city, plus attorney’s fees and costs. She is accusing the town and its transportation director of interference with contractual or advantageous business relations and “vicious liability.”

Efforts to reach Jackson last week for comment were unsuccessful. Her lawyer, Kevin P. Braga, did not return a phone message.

A message left Thursday with Framingham Superintendent Robert Tremblay also was not returned.

Jim Haddadin can be reached at 617-863-7144 or jhaddadin@wickedlocal.com. Follow him on Twitter: @JimHaddadin

Tags: privatizationbussesunion bustingContracting out
Categories: Labor News

Trump's Shutdown-FAA Inspectors Off The Jobs At Airlines Putting Health and Safety In Jeopardy

Sun, 01/21/2018 - 11:26

Trump's Shutdown-FAA Inspectors Off The Jobs At Airlines Putting Health and Safety In Jeopardy
https://www.eturbonews.com/175782/government-shutdown-grounds-aviation-s...
Government shutdown grounds aviation safety inspectors
By Chief Assignment Editor -January 20, 2018294

Professional Aviation Safety Specialists

Professional Aviation Safety Specialists, AFL-CIO (PASS), National President Mike Perrone released the following statement regarding the government shutdown’s impact on aviation safety.

“Since President Trump has failed to reach agreement with Congress—not once, but three times since September 30—to fully fund the federal government, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) aviation safety inspectors were off the job as of midnight last night. These PASS-represented employees—more than 4,000—are responsible for the oversight, certification and surveillance of the entire American aviation system, including all general aviation and commercial aircraft, pilots and flight instructors, and repair stations both in this country and abroad. PASS is outraged that the FAA would consider these employees as playing anything but a pivotal role in protecting the safety of the American flying public. Furloughing this critical workforce is neither in the best interest of the economy nor the oversight of the U.S. aviation system.

“For each day the government is closed, aviation safety inspectors will not be providing oversight of commercial and general aviation aircraft, pilots, flight instructors, and domestic and foreign repair stations; conducting in-flight cockpit inspections or ramp inspections; overseeing third-party designees performing critical work on behalf of the FAA or air carriers; or issuing new or renewing current certificates.

“Manufacturing inspectors will not be providing manufacturing production approval and certification, will not be evaluating aviation mechanics, facilities, training programs and equipment, or addressing issues related to manufacturing facilities.

“Modernization of the National Airspace System (NAS) will be stopped in its tracks, with training and progress of initiatives suffering delays and considerable setbacks. Every FAA employee will be impacted by the shutdown, whether it is being forced off the job or continuing to serve the agency and their country without pay.

“Aviation plays a critical role in the nation’s economy and provides invaluable services to the flying public and the military. The aviation system provides $1.5 trillion through the commercial aviation industry and 12 million American jobs. It is crucial that such a major aspect of this country’s economic engine have the necessary financial resources it needs through a stable funding stream for the FAA.

“The safety of the flying public depends on aviation safety inspectors, and this safety should never be compromised, as it will be during this shutdown. PASS calls on members of Congress to work swiftly to end the shutdown and allow all employees at the FAA to get back to work to ensure the safety of America’s aviation system.”

PASS represents more than 11,000 employees of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Department of Defense (DoD) who install, maintain, support and certify air traffic control and national defense equipment, inspect and oversee the commercial and general aviation industries, develop flight procedures, and perform quality analyses of complex aviation systems used in air traffic control and national defense in the United States and abroad.

Tags: Government shut-downAviation safety
Categories: Labor News

Trump's Shutdown-FAA Inspectors Off The Jobs At Airlines Putting Health and Safety In Jeopardy

Sun, 01/21/2018 - 11:26

Trump's Shutdown-FAA Inspectors Off The Jobs At Airlines Putting Health and Safety In Jeopardy
https://www.eturbonews.com/175782/government-shutdown-grounds-aviation-s...
Government shutdown grounds aviation safety inspectors
By Chief Assignment Editor -January 20, 2018294

Professional Aviation Safety Specialists

Professional Aviation Safety Specialists, AFL-CIO (PASS), National President Mike Perrone released the following statement regarding the government shutdown’s impact on aviation safety.

“Since President Trump has failed to reach agreement with Congress—not once, but three times since September 30—to fully fund the federal government, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) aviation safety inspectors were off the job as of midnight last night. These PASS-represented employees—more than 4,000—are responsible for the oversight, certification and surveillance of the entire American aviation system, including all general aviation and commercial aircraft, pilots and flight instructors, and repair stations both in this country and abroad. PASS is outraged that the FAA would consider these employees as playing anything but a pivotal role in protecting the safety of the American flying public. Furloughing this critical workforce is neither in the best interest of the economy nor the oversight of the U.S. aviation system.

“For each day the government is closed, aviation safety inspectors will not be providing oversight of commercial and general aviation aircraft, pilots, flight instructors, and domestic and foreign repair stations; conducting in-flight cockpit inspections or ramp inspections; overseeing third-party designees performing critical work on behalf of the FAA or air carriers; or issuing new or renewing current certificates.

“Manufacturing inspectors will not be providing manufacturing production approval and certification, will not be evaluating aviation mechanics, facilities, training programs and equipment, or addressing issues related to manufacturing facilities.

“Modernization of the National Airspace System (NAS) will be stopped in its tracks, with training and progress of initiatives suffering delays and considerable setbacks. Every FAA employee will be impacted by the shutdown, whether it is being forced off the job or continuing to serve the agency and their country without pay.

“Aviation plays a critical role in the nation’s economy and provides invaluable services to the flying public and the military. The aviation system provides $1.5 trillion through the commercial aviation industry and 12 million American jobs. It is crucial that such a major aspect of this country’s economic engine have the necessary financial resources it needs through a stable funding stream for the FAA.

“The safety of the flying public depends on aviation safety inspectors, and this safety should never be compromised, as it will be during this shutdown. PASS calls on members of Congress to work swiftly to end the shutdown and allow all employees at the FAA to get back to work to ensure the safety of America’s aviation system.”

PASS represents more than 11,000 employees of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Department of Defense (DoD) who install, maintain, support and certify air traffic control and national defense equipment, inspect and oversee the commercial and general aviation industries, develop flight procedures, and perform quality analyses of complex aviation systems used in air traffic control and national defense in the United States and abroad.

Tags: Government shut-downAviation safety
Categories: Labor News

Lac-Megantic residents say wrong people accused, company responsible for disaster

Fri, 01/19/2018 - 16:38

Lac-Megantic residents say wrong people accused, company responsible for disaster

http://www.timescolonist.com/lac-megantic-residents-say-wrong-people-acc...

The Canadian Press January 19, 2018

Lac-Megantic residents say wrong people accused, company responsible for disaster

Giuseppe Valiante and Morgan Lowrie

Rail traffic controller Richard Labrie hugs Jean Clusiault, left, father of victim Kathy Clusiault, after being found not guilty on the ninth day of deliberations, Friday, January 19, 2018 in Sherbrooke, Que. One of the most closely watched Canadian trials in recent years ended Friday with the acquittal of three former railway employees who were charged with criminal negligence causing the death of 47 people in the Lac-Megantic tragedy. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
MONTREAL — A Quebec man whose kid sister was one of 47 people killed in the Lac-Megantic tragedy says the three men acquitted Friday should have never been put on trial.
"I think, very sincerely, that since the day of the accident, these people have been living in purgatory and it must have been extremely difficult," Bernard Boulet told The Canadian Press. "I'm happy these three people are free."
A jury found Tom Harding, Richard Labrie and Jean Demaitre not guilty of criminal negligence causing the death of 47 people in connection with the July 2013 train derailment and subsequent explosion.
Boulet says he agrees with the verdicts.
"It was an unfortunate accident," said Boulet, himself a former railway traffic controller. "It was caused by nonchalance and an accumulation of events — by the nonchalance of the (rail company) owner, Edward Burkhardt."
Before and during the trial, defence lawyers and Lac-Megantic residents often brought up Burkhardt's name.
They insinuated it was he who was primarily responsible for the tragedy in his role as chairman of the now-defunct, Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway, which owned the train and the tracks on which it derailed.
Reached by telephone at his office outside Chicago shortly after Friday's verdicts were announced, Burkhardt told The Canadian Press he wasn't surprised to hear people were suggesting he should have been the one on trial.
"There were a lot of people screaming for people — including me — to stand trial and all that," he said.
"The police and the prosecutors made a thorough investigation of what happened and so did the (Transportation Safety Board of Canada), and they concluded (if) there was going to be a prosecution it would be limited to the people that they brought, and I can't say more than that."
Burkhardt became public enemy No. 1 in the days following the crash, when his blunt, sometimes unsentimental remarks drew the ire of the grieving public.
His brief stop in Lac-Megantic is perhaps best remembered for his tumultuous news conference, during which he was heckled by angry locals.
Burkhardt points out he lost his investments in the company's bankruptcy and that he agreed to settle in a civil suit brought against him even though he doesn't feel he was personally responsible for the tragedy.
He did not say how much money he paid in the settlement.
"Everything I'd done with respect to that company was to try to enforce stricter and stronger safety standards, and the fact that it all came unglued that day was just horrible," he said, adding he and everyone involved still lives with the burden of what happened.
The Transportation Safety Board of Canada's investigation into the derailment somewhat contradicts Burkhardt, however.
Its final report concluded, "There were also significant gaps between (MMA's) operating instructions and how work was done day to day.
"This and other signs in MMA's operations were indicative of a weak safety culture — one that contributed to the continuation of unsafe conditions and unsafe practices, and significantly compromised the company's ability to manage risk."
Jean Clusiault, whose daughter Kathy died in the disaster, said he, too, was satisfied with the verdicts.
"The wrong people were accused," he said outside the courthouse in Sherbrooke, Que. "The jury came back with the right verdict."
Clusiault, who followed the trial closely, said the U.S.-based management of MMA should have been charged.
With the trial over, he said, "my daughter will always be in my mind."
Julie Morin, mayor of Lac-Megantic, said neither she nor the citizens of the 6,000-person town thought the three people accused were solely responsible for the tragedy.
"The company, MMA, had a big role to play in this," Morin, who was not mayor back in 2013, said in a phone interview. "It's impossible that three men alone created what happened to us."
What her citizens want to focus on now, she said, is getting a bypass track that would move trains away from the core of the town, something the federal government is studying but has not yet promised to do.
"There is still a lot to do — the entire downtown was destroyed," Morin said.
"There are people looking for financing to start projects, there is a lot of great work being done and it would be nice to get some attention on this rather than the trial."

Tags: Lac-Méganticwrong people accusedcompany responsible for disasterhealth and safety
Categories: Labor News

3 former Canadian MMA rail workers acquitted in Lac-Mégantic disaster trial-Railway safety regulations called into question at Lac-Mégantic trial

Fri, 01/19/2018 - 12:32

3 former Canadian MMA rail workers acquitted in Lac-Mégantic disaster trial-Railway safety regulations called into question at Lac-Mégantic trial

Locomotive engineer and 2 others found not guilty of criminal negligence causing 47 deaths
http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/lac-megantic-criminal-negligence-...

By Alison Brunette, CBC News Posted: Jan 19, 2018 2:12 PM ET Last Updated: Jan 19, 2018 3:19 PM ET

Three former Montreal, Maine and Atlantic railway employees were acquitted in the July 6, 2013, train derailment that destroyed parts of downtown Lac-Mégantic, Que., killing 47 people. (CBC)

Alison Brunette is a reporter for CBC Quebec in Sherbrooke, in Quebec's Eastern Townships.
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Jurors have acquitted the three former Montreal, Maine and Atlantic (MMA) railway employees charged with criminal negligence causing death in the 2013 Lac-Mégantic rail disaster.

Locomotive engineer Tom Harding, 56, rail traffic controller Richard Labrie, 59, and operations manager Jean Demaître, 53, were all charged after the derailment of a runaway fuel train early on July 6, 2013. Several tankers, carrying highly volatile crude oil exploded, turning downtown Lac-Mégantic into an inferno and killing 47 people.​

There was an audible gasp in the courtroom when the verdict was delivered early Friday afternoon.

Labrie couldn't hold back tears as he described his relief. He said that his thoughts are with the community of Lac-Mégantic.

"I would like to say the people of Lac-Mégantic, what they went through, they showed a huge amount of courage," he said.

"I wasn't intending to cry. But I can tell you it was difficult — it was a long process."

Jury begins deliberations Thursday in Lac-Mégantic rail disaster trial
The eight men and four women on the jury have been deliberating since Thursday morning, Jan. 11, at the Sherbrooke, Que., courthouse, after a marathon trial which began last September.

The jurors have endured countless hours of technical testimony from train experts, heard dramatic audio recordings of emergency workers and railway employees from the night of the explosions, and listened to other former MMA employees called as Crown witnesses describe a work environment with little regard for safety standards and no budget for training.

Quebec Superior Court Justice Gaétan Dumas thanked the jury members for their work, telling them that the case wasn't easy.​

"You are the most enthusiastic jury I have ever seen," he said.

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Railway safety regulations called into question at Lac-Mégantic trial

Former Montreal, Maine and Atlantic locomotive engineer Thomas Harding leaves the court during a break in the trial in September. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)
Last, ill-fated journey

Harding, who pitched in on the night of the disaster, helping emergency responders detach the fuel cars that hadn't exploded, was the driver of the ill-fated fuel train.

He picked up the 73-tanker car train in Farnham, Que., 60 kilometres southeast of Montreal, on the afternoon of July 5, 2013.

Late that evening, he left the train idling on the tracks in the village of Nantes, 13 kilometres west of Lac-Mégantic, where it was to be picked up by an American crew the following day.

During the three-month trial, the court heard how a fire broke out in the smokestack of that locomotive shortly after Harding left it unattended.

Firefighters arrived and extinguished the fire, shutting down the locomotive's engine and breakers, which disabled the air brakes that were securing the train. Jurors heard that less than an hour later, the runaway train barrelled down the tracks, derailing in downtown Lac-Mégantic. The resulting explosions engulfed the town in flames.

Several of the Crown's 31 witnesses described Harding as an experienced, knowledgeable and helpful co-worker, which the Crown alluded to in closing arguments.

Locomotive engineer Tom Harding was patient, safety-conscious, Lac-Mégantic trial hears

"Despite all comments on Harding, on July 5, he failed to do his job," prosecutor Sacha Blais told the jury.

"A careful engineer would have foreseen the danger."

Much of the Crown's testimony revolved around the seven handbrakes Harding applied to the train, whether the engineer tested them and how many would have been sufficient to secure the train properly.

'There were no brakes': Lac-Mégantic expert witness describes how fuel-car convoy became runaway train

In closing arguments, Harding's lawyer, Charles Shearson, countered that the engineer followed the MMA's general operating instructions.

Shearson listed a number of other factors that contributed to the derailment, including the safety of one-man crews and MMA's failure to conduct a risk assessment on the consequences of parking a heavy fuel train on a slope at Nantes. The Transportation Safety Board's report identified the rail line between Nantes and Lac-Mégantic as the second steepest grade of any stretch of track in Canada.

Jean Demaître, the ex-MMA operations manager was charged with criminal negligence. Richard Labrie, far right, is a former MMA rail traffic controller faced the same charge. (Alison Brunette/CBC)

Accused waived right to mount defence

Harding, as well as the other two accused, waived their right to mount a formal defence to the charges.

Labrie, the rail traffic controller on duty that night, was on shift 200 kilometres away in Farnham, relying on information being provided to him by telephone, his lawyer, Guy Poupart, reminded the jury in closing arguments.

Poupart said the Crown failed to "demonstrate in any way that a rail traffic controller placed in the same position as Labrie and given the same information, would have acted any differently."

Demaître, MMA's senior manager in Quebec, was at home near Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu and on call on the night of the disaster. The Crown argued he had been negligent, ignoring complaints about the lead locomotive's mechanical defects.

"A supervisor should have ensured all safety," Blais concluded.

Demaitre's lawyer, Gaétan Bourassa, urged the jurors to distinguish between his client's actions and those of his former employer.

"This is the trial of Jean Demaître, not the trial of MMA through Jean Demaître," Bourassa said in his closing arguments.

"There is a tremendous difference."

Tags: Canadian railway workersLac-Mégantic disasterframe-upderegulationhealth and safety
Categories: Labor News

São Paulo Subway Workers on Strike for 24-hours-Public transportation is not for sale. Against the privatization of the metro and the fare hikes.

Fri, 01/19/2018 - 09:42

São Paulo Subway Workers on Strike for 24-hours-Public transportation is not for sale. Against the privatization of the metro and the fare hikes.
Subway workers in the Brazilian megacity have voted for a 24-hour work stoppage. The strike is against fare increases, layoffs and the privatization of the subway.
http://leftvoice.org/Sao-Paulo-Subway-Workers-on-Strike
January 18, 2018

On Wednesday evening, São Paulo subway workers voted to strike for 24 hours in protest against the privatization of the subway system. There is already one privatized subway line in the city. On Friday, two more lines will go up for sale. This would mean divisions among subway workers, with some employed by the state and others by private companies.

Subway workers are among the most visible and combative sector of Brazil’s working class, having gone on strike more than once in the past year. As the São Paulo government, following the lead of the national government, prepares new austerity measures this year, the privatization of the metro is an attack on a well-organized group of workers. According to Datafolha, seven out of ten Brazilians are against the privatization plans.

The strike is also against planned fare hikes, which have brought about large mobilizations in São Paulo in recent years. Some of these mobilizations have been brutally repressed by the police.

São Paulo is the largest city in Brazil with almost 12 million people. The subway system is the second largest in Latin America, with a length of almost 50 miles, transporting 4.6 million people every day.

Subway lines stopped today

Arbitrary layoffs and political persecution of subway workers are yet another reason for the strike. Two months ago, three workers were fired — one due to health problems and “low productivity” and two as political retaliation for fighting against subcontracting in the subway.

This comes in a context of a massive economic crisis in Brazil, as well as a series of austerity measures passed by the right-wing federal government that strip the working class of basic rights won over decades.

Despite the inconveniences for commuters, on Thursday morning the strike received a great deal of support from the working population. At several pickets where workers explained the reasons for the action, they were greeted with applause. Popular musicians such as Ratos de Porão also spoke out in favour.

Public transportation is not for sale. Against the privatization of the metro and the fare hikes.

Tags: Sao Pauloprivatizationsubway strike
Categories: Labor News

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