LaborPress honored SMART-TD General Chairperson and Alt. Vice President Anthony Simon and other labor leaders with its annual Labor Leadership Awards on November 28. Simon is general chairperson of GO 505, where he represents Long Island Rail Road conductors, track workers, building and bridge workers, track supervisors, car repair workers and other TD members.
Simon started his career as a station cleaner, winning election to a variety of positions in his local union before becoming general chairperson in 2007. “I have achieved industry standard wage increases, pension improvements, maintained work rule protections, benefit packages and most importantly kept all of our members working during the COVID-19 pandemic when MTA ridership was decimated,” he told LaborPress.
Congratulations on this well-deserved award, brother!
Richard Brzozinski, 78, is remembered as a compassionate man and model employee of the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) in a recent story by Newsday. “A veteran Long Island Rail Road conductor on the Babylon line, Brzozinski made a habit of learning the names of all of his regular passengers and their spouses. He’d arrive to work every morning in a freshly pressed uniform. And Brzozinski would always ensure that a seat was saved for his elderly passengers,” Robert Brodsky of Newsday wrote. The story further gives accounts of praise from passengers who wrote to MTA about Brzozinski and recounts two separate incidences where Brzozinski was called upon to save passengers’ lives with the use of CPR. SMART-TD Alternate Vice President Anthony Simon is quoted, saying, “Richie was always a professional and always demanded perfection from his co-workers. He wore his uniform impeccably and made sure his crew members did the same. He prioritized the safety and service to our customers, led by example, and received the respect of everyone he overlapped because of those principles.” Brother Brzozinski began his membership with UTU Local 645 (Babylon, N.Y.) in August 1961, following in his dad’s footsteps as a conductor for the LIRR. He worked for a time with his father John and younger brother Jack (retired LIRR engineer). He retired with 38 years of service in 1999. Brzozinski died in his home Nov. 19, 2019, after a three-year battle with heart disease. He is survived by his wife Mary; two sons; brother Jack; sisters Joanne, Linda and Sharon; and two grandchildren Jack and Jenna. Click here to read the full story from Newsday.
According to an analysis done by northjersey.com, Metro-North, New Jersey Transit (NJT) and the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) have been fined hundreds of thousands of dollars since 2013. Before the companies’ lawyers negotiated for lower fines, Metro-North had been assessed more than $1 million in penalties and NJT more than $700,000. After the fines had been negotiated down, Metro-North paid $859,375; NJT paid $576,175 and LIRR paid $131,725. Fines were assessed for safety violations involving track, signals, locomotives, equipment and train crews; as well as for alcohol and drug testing, employee hours of service, and railroad operating practices. Northjersey.com notes that alcohol and drug testing violations — of which Metro-North had the most infractions — does not necessarily mean that crew members are reporting to work under the influence. Click here to read the full analysis from northjersey.com.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) issued three urgent safety recommendations to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), acting upon the agency’s findings in two ongoing railroad accident investigations.
The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) received one urgent safety recommendation based on NTSB findings in the agency’s investigation of the Feb. 4, 2018, collision of an Amtrak train and a CSX train near Cayce, S.C. The conductor and engineer of the Amtrak train died as a result of the collision. The NTSB issued two urgent safety recommendations to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) based on findings from its investigation of the June 10, 2017, Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) accident in which a roadway worker died near Queens Village, N.Y.
In the investigation of the train collision in Cayce, South Carolina, investigators found that on the day before the accident, CSX personnel suspended the traffic control signal system to install updated traffic control system components for the implementation of positive train control (PTC). The lack of signals required dispatchers to use track warrants to move trains through the work territory.
In this accident, and in a similar March 14, 2016, accident in Granger, Wyo., safe movement of the trains, through the signal suspension, depended upon proper switch alignment. That switch alignment relied on error-free manual work, which was not safeguarded by either technology or supervision, creating a single point of failure.
The NTSB concludes additional measures are needed to ensure safe operations during signal suspension and so issued an urgent safety recommendation to the FRA seeking an emergency order directing restricted speed for trains or locomotives passing through signal suspensions when a switch has been reported relined for a main track.
“The installation of the life-saving positive train control technology on the CSX tracks is not the cause of the Cayce, S.C. train collision,” said NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt.
“While the collision remains under investigation, we know that signal suspensions are an unusual operating condition, used for signal maintenance, repair and installation, that have the potential to increase the risk of train collisions. That risk was not mitigated in the Cayce collision. Our recommendation, if implemented, works to mitigate that increased risk.” said Sumwalt.
During the investigation of the LIRR accident, the NTSB identified an improper practice by LIRR roadway workers who were working on or near the tracks. LIRR employees were using “train approach warning” as their method of on-track safety, but they did not clear the track, as required, when trains approached and their “predetermined place of safety” did not comply with LIRR rules and procedures.
The NTSB is concerned LIRR management is overlooking and therefore normalizing noncompliance with safety rules and regulations for proper clearing of tracks while using “train approach warning” for worker protection. The two urgent safety recommendations to the MTA call for MTA to audit LIRR’s use of “train approach warning” for worker protection, and, to implement corrective action for deficiencies found through the audit.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) determined that two commuter railroad terminal accidents in the New York area were caused by engineer fatigue resulting from undiagnosed severe obstructive sleep apnea.
The Sept. 29, 2016, accident on the New Jersey Transit railroad at Hoboken, New Jersey, killed one person, injured 110, and resulted in major damage to the station. The Jan. 4, 2017, accident on the Long Island Rail Road at the Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn, New York, injured 108 people. Both accidents involved trains that struck end-of-track bumping posts and crashed into stations.
The NTSB found the two accidents had “almost identical” probable causes and safety issues. The board also determined that these safety issues were not unique to these two properties, but exist throughout the country at many intercity passenger and commuter passenger train terminals.
When operating a train into a terminating track, the engineer’s actions, or lack thereof, solely determine whether the train stops before the end of the track. According to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), there are currently no mechanisms installed in the U.S. that will automatically stop a train at the end of the track if the engineer is incapacitated, inattentive or disengaged. Some railroads have overspeed capabilities, including New Jersey Transit and the LIRR. However, as shown in these two accidents, once the engineer slowed the train to the prescribed speed, the system did not stop the trains before they reached the end of the track.
In addition to recommending safety-sensitive personnel be screened for obstructive sleep apnea, the board recommended the use of technology, such as positive train control (PTC), in terminal stations and improving the effectiveness of system safety program plans to improve terminal operations. The NTSB made two recommendations to New Jersey Transit, and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (the parent company of the Long Island Rail Road) and two to the FRA.
“Today’s new recommendations, if acted upon, have the potential to eliminate end-of-track collisions,’’ Sumwalt said. “That translates to protection for passengers on trains, and for people standing on terminal platforms.”
The complete accident report will be available in several weeks. The findings, probable cause, safety recommendations, Chairman Sumwalt’s prepared remarks and PowerPoint presentations used in a board meeting are all available at https://go.usa.gov/xnscj.
The New Jersey Transit Hoboken accident docket, containing more than 1,100 pages of supporting factual material, is available at https://go.usa.gov/xnAGJ.
The Long Island Rail Road Brooklyn accident docket, containing more than 1,400 pages of supporting factual material, is available at https://go.usa.gov/xnAGe.
Retired Alternate Vice President and General Chairperson Edward Yule Jr., 81, died August 10. As general chairperson of GCA 505, Yule was instrumental in working on agreements with Long Island Rail Road and even led UTU members in a 45-hour strike in 1994 in an effort to get the members an equitable agreement. Yule was a member of Local 645 in Babylon, N.Y., and a member of the Alumni Association. He was also a veteran of the U.S. Army. Yule is survived by hi wife, Beatrice; sons, Kenneth (Donna) Yule and Gregory (Tracey) Yule; sisters, Carole (JK) Murray and Pamela (William) Blank; and many grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his son Edward (Victoria) Yule. Memorial contributions may be made to V.N.S. Hospice “Hospice House”, 505 Main St., Northport, NY 11768. Click here to leave condolences for the family.
Local 29 member Michael Gregory Ollek, 51, was tragically killed by an oncoming LIRR train while doing track work for the railroad, June 10. The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the accident. Ollek served in the Marine Corps as a staff sergeant stationed at Camp Pendleton in Oceanside, Calif. for four years. After which, he served in the reserves for many years. After his service in the military, Ollek hired out with Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) as a track man and then later worked as a track foreman. Ollek loved spending time his two sons, Michael and Daniel, sailing and riding dirt bikes. He also loved skiing and was a history buff. Ollek is survived by his mother Patricia F. Link; two sons Michael and Daniel; one brother Kevin Link; cousin Chris Taylor and many other friends and family. A memorial service is being held June 13, at Clair S. Bartholomew and Son, 302 Bedford Ave., Bellmore, NY 11710, from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. A short service will follow from 11:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to The Boys & Girls Clubs of America or the charity of your choice. A GoFundMe account has been set up by members of Local 29 to help support the family during this difficult time. SMART TD extends their condolences to the Ollek family, friends, Local 29 and to all who knew Ollek. Click here to leave condolences for the Ollek family.
FOX5NY reports that 103 people were injured when Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) train 2817 derailed at the Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn, N.Y. at 8:20 a.m. The first train car left the track, but no other cars seemed to have derailed. Approximately 600 passengers were on the train at the time of derailment. Click here to read more from FOX5NY.
One of two Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) commuter lines reopened this morning following the crash that occurred Saturday night when a commuter train sideswiped a work train that was blocking the track. Read the complete story from NYDailyNews.com.