Los Angeles Metrolink — a 512-mile commuter rail system, which serves the Southern California counties of Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernadino and Ventura — is moving to be the first railroad to install and implement a positive train control (PTC) system.

PTC is collision avoidance technology that monitors and controls train movements remotely, can prevent train-to-train collisions, prevent unauthorized train movement into a work zone, halt movement of a train through a switch left in the wrong position, and stop trains exceeding authorized speeds.

Congress has mandated that freight and passenger railroads install PTC on designated lines by Dec. 31, 2015.

To view an animated depiction of how PTC works as a safety overlay system to improve railroad safety, click here.

By James Stem,
UTU National Legislative Director

With the election over, change has come to Washington. Since 2001, the congressional political majority has shifted three times. New majorities are nothing new to our UTU legislative team.

While most UTU-endorsed candidates were re-elected, we did lose friends with whom we had long and positive relationships. Thankfully, the UTU is a bipartisan organization that works with lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle.

In the now Republican-controlled House of Representatives, there will be new committee chairpersons – those posts mean everything. Chairpersons decide which bills have hearings and are moved to the House floor for a vote.

Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.) – very knowledgeable on rail, bus and transit issues, and an advocate of investment in infrastructure – likely will chair the Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, where most transportation legislation is first considered. He is one of many Republicans endorsed by the UTU and has exhibited strong support for Railroad Retirement. His door is always open to hear UTU concerns on legislation affecting our membership.

In the Senate, the key committee for transportation legislation is the Commerce Committee, and it likely will continue to be chaired by Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W. Va.), another UTU friend. Job number one for the National Legislative Office and talented state legislative directors now is to establish and maintain a dialogue with the newly elected members of Congress and state legislatures – Democrats and Republicans.

Our message will be consistent and focused on job security, better benefits and workplace safety.

Our UTU PAC will continue to be a crucial tool we use to influence legislation. Our UTU PAC helps to establish and maintain relationships. Working families cannot afford to write the large checks provided election campaigns by corporations and wealthy executives. We counter those efforts through our UTU PAC.

Our goal is to have every UTU member registered to vote, paying attention to the issues and contributing $1 per day to the UTU PAC.

You can commit to the UTU PAC by contacting the treasurer of your local, or by calling our Washington legislative office at (202) 543-7714.

Be assured that the UTU will continue working to protect Social Security and Railroad Retirement benefits, secure dependable funding for Amtrak and transit systems, make our jobs more secure and the workplace safer.

UTU Michigan State Legislative Director Jerry Gibson knows the value of the UTU PAC in electing labor friendly lawmakers. He knows how to share those facts, also.

UTU Local 1075 Secretary-Treasurer John Purcell says he and other members of his Trenton, Mich., local had “no clue of what the UTU PAC was. No one had ever explained how it worked” until Gibson showed up at a union local meeting.

Purcell credits Gibson with educating the local’s members “on how PAC funds are used and the benefits the PAC provides. I started contributing myself immediately and began to encourage others to do the same,” Purcell said in a recent e-mail he sent Gibson.

“The value of the UTU PAC was further driven home after my attendance at the regional meetings where I learned what was being done in Washington D.C., and the impact of our PAC funds there,” Purcell said.

More recently, Purcell said the UTU’s get-out-the vote drive for the Nov. 2 elections was a success. Post cards sent members through a project of the National Legislative Office “reached the members’ homes and several contacted me and asked questions,” Purcell said.

“I provided information which included that the UTU PAC is not a partisan program and that it supports candidates that support us regardless of party affiliation,” Purcell said. “I used the information provided, which listed successful legislation that has improved safety and benefits.

“All of this resulted in 12 members either increasing their UTU PAC donation or becoming new donors all together,” Purcell said.

Purcell said he now writes a check to the UTU PAC in the amount of $265 per month, and 44 percent of Local 1075’s members now donate. He said his goal is to gain PAC contributions from 75 percent of Local 1075’s members.

A Norfolk Southern sought lease of trackage to a newly created short line railroad in Michigan is being opposed by the UTU and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, which represent affected train and engine workers.

The U.S. Surface Transportation Board (STB) is being asked by the UTU and the BLET to revoke an exemption from regulatory review previously provided a proposed transaction of NS and Adrian & Blissfield Rail Road, a holding company intending to create a new shortline to lease and operate almost 45 miles of NS track near Lansing.

The new short line, to be called Jackson & Lansing, is expected — as is the case with virtually all upstart shortlines — to hire a new workforce that will be paid lower wages and benefits than NS now pays the five trainmen, three engineers and three other employees now assigned to that trackage by NS.

The UTU and the BLET are asking the STB to revoke a previously granted STB exemption that would permit the transaction to move to completion without regulatory scrutiny. Such exemptions are permitted if the STB is satisfied that neither competition, continued rail service, safety nor other so-called public interest considerations will be jeopardized as a result of the transaction.

In fact, STB Vice Chairman Frank Mulvey filed a dissent in the previous 2-1 decision granting the exemption, saying that the outward written commitments imposed by the parties require more information, “particularly when they contain outright bans on interchange with third party carriers or, as here, economic incentives that can only be evaluated with the provision of additional information.”

Specially, the UTU and the BLET ask the STB to reconsider its granting of the exemption for the following reasons:

  • Competition and reasonable rates: The transaction, as proposed, would exclude third party carriers (other than NS) from operating over the line, and limit interchange to and from other carriers. Also, the transaction, as proposed, appears to limit competition in order that Jackson & Lansing be able to increase freight rates to fund upgrades to the leased track and facilities. This would be in violation of congressionally imposed national rail transportation policy that supports rail-to-rail competition and fair and reasonable freight rates.
  • Safety: The so-far known facts of the transaction suggest it is highly unlikely either the holding company or its shortline, Jackson & Lansing, currently have sufficient funds and cash flow to upgrade the leased track and facilities to provide safe and reasonably timely operations. As expected carloadings will contain industrial waste, track and rail operating safety must be of significant concern.
  • Fair wages and working conditions: In the current economy — especially in Michigan, where unemployment is twice the national average — the affected employees and their families, and the State of Michigan, will suffer significant economic harm. By granting an exemption from regulatory scrutiny, the STB is permitting the transaction to move forward without imposing labor protection.

This also would violate national rail transportation policy, as it requires “fair wages and suitable working conditions.” The STB is obligated to consider (which can only be done by revoking the exemption and investigating the transaction) whether the new entity will impose substandard wages and working conditions, thereby significantly circumventing the terms and conditions of current collective bargaining agreements under which the affected employees are now covered.

Click here to read the joint UTU/BLET filing.

By Calvin Studivant
Alternate vice president, Bus Department

Newly manufactured motorcoaches would be required to have lap-shoulder seat belts – and older motorcoaches might be required to add them – under proposals from the U.S. DOT that are open for public comment.

The federal proposals do not include city or school buses. Only a handful of states require seat belts on school buses.

The DOT said that, between 1999 and 2008, there were 54 fatal motorcoach crashes resulting in 186 fatalities, most of them passengers ejected from buses. The majority of motorcoach trips – 65 percent – are made by children and senior citizens.

Wearing lap-shoulder belts on motorcoaches could reduce the risk for passengers of being killed in a rollover crash by 77 percent, says the DOT.

Separately, the AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department (TTD), of which the UTU is a member, has added bus issues to its Washington lobbying responsibilities. Alternate Vice President Bonnie Morr and I are working with the TTD and other AFL-CIO transportation unions to advance a successful agenda before Congress and regulatory agencies.

At our initial meeting we discussed:

  • The growing privatization of school bus transportation.
  • The increasing number of school bus drivers considered part-time or seasonal and ineligible for health care insurance, sick leave, paid vacations and retirement plans.
  • A need for improved driver training to handle challenges of students with physical and mental disabilities.
  • A need for on-board monitors, uniform disciplinary procedures and driver training to control to control unruly students.
  • A need for training in the dangers of distracted driving that affect situational awareness, and providing medical-benefit assistance to diagnose and treat sleep apnea.
  • A need for more uniform background checks and equitable standards for disqualifying drivers.
  • The drafting of a modal labor agreement for school bus districts.

If you have suggestions for other agenda topics, please contact me.

WASHINGTON – An official of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) this week affirmed the agency’s support for whistle-blower protection.

OSHA enforces provisions of 19 laws protecting employees who report violations of various securities, trucking, airline, nuclear, pipeline, environmental, railroad, public transportation, workplace safety and health, consumer product safety, health care reform, and financial reform laws.

“OSHA’s Whistle-blower Protection Program exists because of a decades-old belief held by Congress, stakeholders, employers and society that whistle-blowers play an essential role in protecting workers and the public, said Dr. David Michaels, OSHA’s assistant secretary of labor.

“Whistle-blowers can make the difference between lawful workplaces and places where workers fear for their livelihoods and even their lives if they raise concerns,” Michaels said.

“With our available resources,” he said, “OSHA is working hard to ensure that whistle-blowers are protected from retaliation. We are in the process of a top-to-bottom review of OSHA’s whistle-blower protection program.”

The comments came following a General Accountability Office audit of the OSHA Whistle-blower Protection Program. “OSHA has already begun taking action on items recommended in the GAO report, such as requiring all investigators and their supervisors to complete mandatory investigator training over the next 18 months, setting strategic goals and performance measures for the whistleblower program, and providing new equipment to field staff,” Michaels said.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to assure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance.

Detailed information on employee whistle-blower rights, including fact sheets, is available at www.whistleblowers.gov

Train and engine workers are the eyes and ears of railroads — the first to spot trouble, and the first to suffer when trouble occurs.

On railroads, trouble too often means career-ending injuries and death.

The UTU Rail Safety Task Force was created by UTU International President Mike Futhey to develop strategies to reduce rail-employee risk while on the job. Members include Arizona State Legislative Director Greg Hynes, Arkansas State Legislative Director Steve Evans and Michigan State Legislative Director Jerry Gibson.

Earlier this year, the task force asked UTU members to share their workplace concerns. The member survey revealed overwhelmingly that fatigue, harassment and intimidation are distracting members from situational awareness and placing them in harm’s way.

The comments, below, have been culled from some 1,300 member responses. Some have been edited to correct grammar and spelling, and to remove names of railroads and individuals.

President Futhey will be sharing these member comments with carrier officials. The national legislative office will be sharing them with FRA officials.

Here is a sample of comments from UTU members:

We have an increased burden thinking of what will happen to our home and family because of harassment and constant operational testing. It affects everyone when a few easy targets are harassed.

The harassment has to stop. You cannot do your job without worrying about these officials.

An alarming number of workers are in fear of losing their jobs. Harassment is now the number-one concern in the discharge of duty.

The number-one problem is horrendous lineups. I would say if the carrier could get a handle on when they run trains, members could get properly rested to go work.

Intimidation is the prime motivator for these new young managers, who have zero clues as to how a conductor/trainman performs his or her tasks.

I have never seen any other companies harass and retaliate against employees like the railroad. They got the military beat.

Biggest safety issue? Bad lineups, bad lineups, bad lineups.

I always tell friends or strangers when asked about employment, to look elsewhere. I tell them about the working environment that is almost unbearable. The carrier is all about intimidation.

How can you work safely if you know they are watching you perform your work? That person is taking your mind off your job.

If you take too long to get out of the yard you have just put a target on your back and they will try to fire you.

I have never worked in industry with so much aggression, from management toward its employees.

Lineups are our biggest concern. Deadheads not being in the lineup before they are called causes many people to go to work without being rested.

The policy of the carrier is to intimidate, harass and assess capricious discipline on all its employees. We have gone from about three investigations last year at my location to over 20, just in the last three months.

The issue with rest isn’t time off; it is knowing when you are going to work.

The carrier uses testing to discipline and to dismiss, not for training.

Harassment is daily, and when you go to work you always wonder if you will make it through the day and have a job the next.

It’s bad when you’re out doing your job as safely as you can do it and wondering if a trainmaster or official is hiding behind the trees or bushes to try to catch you doing something wrong.

The carrier follows you around, hiding in the bushes, waiting for you to break a rule.

I can only figure when I’m going to work about 10 percent of the time.

Their safety program is based on nothing more than threats, harassment and intimidation.

Testing is so rampant that we’re afraid to look back around a curve for fear of missing a yellow board or other test.

If it takes too long to do a job safely the carrier will start to impose operational testing and follow employees around.

Managers frequently change their stories and make their stories fit the definition of a failure if they find out that the initial operations test failure in the field was not a valid failure under the written rule.

They interpret rules and assess failures based on their interpretation rather than what the rule states in black and white in the General Code of Operating Rules. This environment has caused a workplace that is less safe because of employees being more concerned about how rules will be interpreted.

The engine cab is our office, and they are never cleaned! This is basic; here is where it starts.

Efficiency tests in our terminal have increased, with an increasing number of petty failures.

Carrier intimidation creates animosity between crewmembers.

It affects everyone when a few easy targets are harassed.

They don’t care about our safety; it is all about the budget.

Many incidents, injuries and/or fatalities occur during the final portion of our duty hours. Taking into account fatigue issues, “running for the quit” is a common and dangerous practice.

Some carrier officers are very disrespectful.

It is pretty bad when you feel the need to look over your shoulder constantly.

They change jobs, starting times, crew sizes at will without regard to the men and women on the front lines. It would be nice to discuss upcoming changes rather than have them shoved down our throats without any input from the members who perform the service.

Many times I would be first out on the same extra board for more than 16 hours, and as soon as I try to get more rest the call comes in for a 12-hour run out of town. It’s a lineup for an accident.

Twelve hours off at the other end of my run is too long. I can only sleep four or five hours and then I stay awake, waiting for a call. By the time I go to work I am tired again.

When I am writing in my signal awareness form all the info the company wants, I am not looking up and around to see any unforeseen or possibly a event that could be prevented. We need more time looking instead of writing with head down, potentially missing or seeing late an important situation arising ahead of the train.

It appears carrier officials only want employees to comply with rules when they are watching/testing.

Rest is a problem on account of laying over 18 to 30 hours at away-from-home terminal. When you lay around a motel that long you are wore out.

Long lay-in times between shifts in through freight pools and extra lists is the number-one cause of fatigue in the rail industry and the carriers are increasing those times to break consecutive days worked.

The biggest safety issue in my opinion is the lack of training. There are too many people forced to do their jobs without the adequate experience to do it.

Unfortunately there is no rule or test for common sense.

All we do is watch the computer because we are constantly run around by deadhead crews while we are waiting for a train.

Affecting workplace safety is the revolving-door rulebook that changes daily.

I have been tested 21 times, had four failures, with 132 different rules, and not once has an officer ever said that we were doing a good job.

I believe there needs to be much better training on territory qualifications.

The only time a switch gets oiled or adjusted is if someone calls it in as being hard to throw. If one person were to call all of them in, management would think they are whining.

There is nothing wrong with listing a train’s movement in station order on the line it is running on ahead of other trains even if it will get run-around enroute at some point, which should give a better idea when we might be going to work.

Employees feel threatened by mass confusion and constant change, which leads to loss of focus and bitterness.

Many trainmasters have little knowledge of railroading beyond their limited
classroom training. They have a “gotcha” attitude that creates an environment that is adversarial rather than cooperative.

Not knowing when I am going to work and not knowing when to get my rest is a definite safety hazard. Usually both of us on the crew are equally tired.

Some test to get it done and some keep at it until they find something.

Some don’t understand the rule they are watching us for. We never have a rules or safety class.

The piling on of new rules and frivolous demands are distractions in themselves.

While working, most members of our crew look for testing, not actual safety hazards. This is due to managers wanting us to fail.

Production quotas always take priority in the daily switching operation. When a defect is reported a manager evaluates the problem and says it’s okay to use anyway.

Trash and tripping hazards everywhere.

I always have to be thinking about if they are hiding in the weeds.

I’m not perfect by any means, but the rulebook is thicker than the Bible! Even someone who tries to work by these rules cannot possibly do so.

The carrier does not allow power naps. I have been with engineers that stayed awake in sidings and at stop signals only to have them have a hard time staying awake finishing the trip.

Our train lineup is not accurate enough for us to plan our rest.

I have noticed when I report unsafe conditions on the hotline, the carrier at times shows the condition to be corrected, when in actuality it really is not a true statement. It only looks good when someone is reading the reports.

It is the inability to plan our rest that creates the danger.

An employee who is always looking over his shoulder for a company officer hiding in the bushes trying to find you breaking a minor rule, especially a young employee, will never work safe and will never be focused on his job and will be danger to himself and others.

I heard a first line supervisor say don’t drag the job or you will get a failure.

My biggest concern is when I get called for a job I’ve never done and the carrier denies me a pilot. It’s very dangerous being on a job in an unknown area for the first time.

The changing of the lineup happens at one time or another almost each day. This seems to be, for me, the most crucial element of not being able to get proper rest before having to report for duty, especially at the away-from-home terminal.

Dispatchers will ask how long a task will take and want a time commitment. The company wants us to hurry, yet the word “hurry” isn’t anywhere in the rulebook.

As a yardmaster the most unsafe thing we do is work while we are tired. Yardmasters do not fall under the hours-of-service law. We are required to double through to a second shift if nobody else is available. This means we are required to sit in the same location, without the ability to leave, for 16 straight hours.

I have seen engines reported for defects at least five times in the last month yet no one knows anything about it and your ordered to just take it because “there is no one here that can fix it.”

Biggest distraction is conductor’s log. Because penalty for multiple missing entries is so severe it takes precedence when, at times, situational awareness would dictate focus in other job areas.

Even when I report safety issues it seems that the carrier doesn’t address them in a timely manner.

Good railroaders need mentoring. Give me a chance to develop these young, talented railroaders. When they are ready, let their peers decide.

The things that we most often are being tested on are minor rules infractions. This puts a great level of stress on the employee.

Far too many officers have no experience doing real railroad work yet are told to tell us what to do and how to do it. Far too often we are asked to operate unsafely because they really do not understand what is happening.

At times I feel forced to hurry by company officials that stand and watch and, at times, hide and watch. The threat of constantly being disciplined is extremely distracting.

There have been too many changes in rules and too many different interpretations by company officers, so even though I might think I’m complying some officer might not.

It seems that managers try to get creative to compete with the knowledge of either the employee or another manager. I often find myself looking, nervously around, for tricky managers rather than focusing on the task at hand.

We are more concerned about not missing a little step in the procedure and losing our job than the job at hand or safety.

Way too much rushing you out the door when you get to work. No time to update time books, get operating bulletins, job briefings, etc. Every day is the same story. The second you walk in the door “we need you to get going right away….gotta get this train out and moving.”

Having a trainmaster hover over me while I look over my train papers or utilize the bathroom is just ridiculous.

Biggest problem is being watched by inexperienced supervisors.

The morale has never been so low and lack of truly experienced carrier officers so high.

When I report issues, I get the feeling they do not really care until somebody gets hurt.

We need bosses to tell us when they see us doing something wrong, instead of trying to fire us.

We are tested constantly and are treated with no respect whatsoever.

The last rule added to test brake effectiveness is a good example. It may work well for road trains left in a pass, but working trains, locals to be specific, are really hampered by the rule, and in some cases you don’t have enough cars to place brakes on to hold the balance of the train that is going to cut away. I was told to use my railroad experience in such cases. The rulebook is used only when it is convenient to the carrier.

This is my 35th year on the railroad and I have been in a constant state of unrest for practically the whole time. I’m not sure when anyone will realize I am the only person that can tell you when I’m tired. No amount of regulating, policymaking or rulemaking will ever change that fact.

I love my job. I want to work safe, but the company keeps saying that we are taking too much time.

Why is it that every time a FRA official comes onto any carrier property, they are always joined at the hip by one or more carrier officials? They never come on property with union or state legislative officials to converse with crews.

One of the most dangerous things is wide-body engines that have the angle cock on the head-end on the engineer’s side. I’m constantly climbing over these engines to turn the angle cock just to climb back over to turn an angle cock on cars I’m switching. On the road you have to go to the live track side to get to these angle cocks.

I feel that there is a greater pressure on first-line supervisors to find failures than to promote safety.

Click here to see a summary, in percentage terms, of member safety concerns.

Also, the UTU Rail Safety Task Force has its own Web page, accessible at www.utu.org by clicking on the red “Rail Safety Task Force” button.

 July 19, 2010

(The following is a security alert from the UTU’s Rail Safety Task Force.)

Rail security remains a constant threat to the nation’s railroads and our members. President Futhey wrote of this concern in a recent leadership message, “We need training to spot trouble.”

Based on recent events, the UTU’s Rail Safety Task Force strongly encourages all railroaders to remain vigilant in our effort to recognize potential threats.

That message was hammered home at a recent FRA hazardous materials seminar in Hot Springs, Ark. The hazardous materials specialist told a chilling story of a recent routine inspection of a rail yard.

The FRA specialist was approached by a conductor and asked, “Are you back again? We were just inspected a few days ago.”

The FRA specialist inquired about the suspicious individual’s description and what happened. Immediately, he realized that the FRA had no one in the region that fit the description.

The facts became more chilling.

When the possible terrorist was asked by a crew member as to whom he was, the individual flipped out a badge and quickly closed it without giving the crew member an opportunity to inspect it. The suspicious individual went as far as to inquire about the chemicals vinyl chloride and ammonia nitrate — if there were any cars in the yard with those chemicals, and the frequency they were there.

With rail crews subjected to physical abuse, robberies and threats from public trespassers, the potential for a breach in security seems to be trending in the wrong direction.

The UTU Rail Safety Task Force reminds our members to focus on the following:

KNOW YOUR WORKSITE: Know your area officers, co-workers, FRA and TSA inspectors — if not personally, at least by name or face.

If a person or vehicle looks out of place, and you are unsure of who an individual is, or if suspicions arise for any reason, follow your railroad’s guidelines to ensure that person remains on the property. In many cases this may involve contacting the proper authority to handle the threat.

All federal agents are required to present proper identification upon request. In cases of trespassers, caution should always be taken and it may be best to let those authorized to handle such situations handle them.

 MAINTAIN SITUATIONAL AWARENESS: Be aware of suspicious individuals and items. We generally travel and work the same areas. If something looks out of place, report it immediately. Do not leave a potential threat for others to handle.

Be aware of high risk locations, such as fuel facilities, hazardous materials cars, radio towers, and dimly lit areas. Make sure to inspect safety appliances and use them if they are required.

Inspect all locks, gates, doors and derails that are used as safety devices, and report those that are found to be damaged or missing to the proper authority.

As always, our first line of defense is ensuring that any issues that may impair our personal safety are properly handled in an expedient manner. Those on the ballast see or hear it first, and it is those on the ballast who are most in harm’s way.

For more information on the UTU Rail Safety Task Force, click below:


In solidarity,

UTU Rail Safety Task Force

Greg Hynes, UTU Arizona state legislative director

Steve Evans, UTU Arkansas state legislative director

Jerry Gibson, UTU Michigan state legislative director

By UTU International President Mike Futhey

The recent tragic, senseless and violent murder in New Orleans of CSX conductor Fred Gibbs, and wounding of the train’s engineer (a potential witness whose name is being withheld), accelerates an already urgent need for better workplace safety and security measures for rail, transit and motor coach facilities and operations.

Gibbs and the engineer were shot by a lone gunman (a suspect is in police custody) inside the cab of their intermodal train parked on a dark and isolated stretch of track as it awaited dispatcher clearance to enter a yard in New Orleans. The motive appears to have been robbery of the crew, but the train could have contained a cargo of chlorine gas or other deadly hazmat, and the shooter could have been a terrorist or delusional individual with knowledge of locomotive operations.

Indeed, prior to 9/11, few, if any, envisioned terrorists capable of hijacking and piloting multiple sophisticated passenger aircraft and flying them into high-profile targets; or of terrorists in Madrid, Spain, who coordinated four separate rush-hour bombings aboard packed commuter trains in March 2004.

Many of our members noted immediately after the New Orleans shooting that federal regulations do not require bullet-proof glass in locomotives, tamper-proof and functioning locomotive door locks, “keyed” or electronic safeguards that limit locomotive operation to licensed train and engine workers, or train scheduling and dispatching that restricts the stopping of trains to well-lighted and protected areas.

Certainly these are logical responses to the New Orleans shooting.

But without more expert study and collaboration among experts at the Federal Railroad Administration, Federal Transit Administration, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, Transportation Security Administration, the National Transportation Safety Board, law enforcement agencies, carriers and labor organizations representing rail, transit and bus employees, we could be overlooking other effective safeguards.

Transportation labor long has been ahead of the curve in calling for greater collaboration among stakeholders, which includes front-line employee training to recognize threats and learn how best to report concerns to dispatchers and law enforcement.

In fact, Amtrak and the UTU recently agreed to a joint project that, in cooperation with the Transportation Security Administration, directs almost $300,000 in federal funding to the UTU to devise and implement a training program for conductors, assistant conductors, engineers, on-board service personnel and yard employees to enhance their abilities to recognize behavioral traits of individuals intending to engage in terrorist-like activity.

The UTU is now reaching out to build on this program to effectuate workplace safety as it pertains to terrorist and delusional activities.

We are seeking collaboration among other concerned labor organizations, federal safety and homeland security agencies, and carriers to create an incubator for effective ideas on a comprehensive security action plan, including employee training, that can be presented to Congress for fast-track federal funding.

We are heartened by word from CSX that it has begun a cooperative security venture with other carriers and law enforcement agencies to increase security around interchanges and loops in New Orleans.

The potential threat, however, is nationwide; and as train and engine employees, and bus drivers, are constantly in the cross-hairs of danger as well as being the eyes and ears best and first able to recognize threats, it is essential that transportation labor organizations be an integral part of any effort to improve rail, transit and bus security.

Historically, transportation labor and the carriers have been most successful in achieving policy goals when they act in concert. Where carriers or labor act separately — and often at odds with each other — success often is elusive or falls short of goals.

For any action plan to be effective, all parties with accountability and responsibility must collaborate in the creation and implementation of that plan.

We will be reporting more on this effort in the near future.

By UTU International President Mike Futhey

What should have been a joyous holiday season ended all too tragically Dec. 29 with the death of 44-year-old UTU Local 1000 member Samuel Lundy in a switching accident in Minneapolis. He leaves behind a loving wife and three children.

Brother Lundy was the eighth UTU member killed in the line of duty during 2009. We grieve for each of them, and I am inspired by the somber words of Local 1000 President John Haggarty, who observed — and this applies to each of our fallen brothers — “If this could have happened to him, it could happen to any of us.”

Railroaders work in one of the most — if not the most — dangerous industries in America, where accidents, rather than resulting in sprains and broken bones, too often result in career-ending injuries and death.

Death and dismemberment stalk operating crews every moment of their working hours, and there is no greater priority — none! — than returning home to our families in one piece.

Worker safety is the number-one priority of every labor union, and the UTU works closely with every labor organization in this effort. There is no stronger bond among labor organizations, and the working men and women in America, than the joint objective of improving workplace safety.

Within the UTU, we have three separate safety initiatives in place. This is in addition to our efforts at the negotiating table; our joint initiatives with other labor organizations; our communications and meetings with federal regulatory agencies, Congress and state legislatures; and our Designated Legal Counsel program.

Progress is being made, but we cannot, should not, and will not retreat from this fight. It is the most vital duty we owe our membership.

Our most recent safety initiative was the creation, earlier this year, of the UTU Rail Safety Task Force, whose mission is to identify and communicate best practices and techniques to improve situational awareness and keep situational awareness at its highest level.

Additionally, the UTU participates with other labor organizations and rail management in the Federal Railroad Administration sponsored Switching Operations Fatalities Analysis (SOFA) working group, whose mission is to develop recommendations for reducing fatalities in switching operations. The SOFA group has developed best practices for yard workers to help ensure their safety.

The UTU also has a 13-member Transportation Safety Team that assists National Transportation Safety Board investigators in on-the-scene determination of facts in rail-related accidents. Members of this team are selected based on their knowledge of operating rules and understanding of general railroad operations, train movements and dispatching. Team members also receive special training in NTSB procedures. A team member was on the scene within hours of Brother Lundy’s death to assist the NTSB in its investigation.

In Washington, the UTU National Legislative Office spends a considerable portion of each workday in meetings with FRA, Federal Transit Administration, Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration and Federal Aviation Administration safety officials; the NTSB; other labor organizations, academics, and key congressional staff discussing and pushing for improved workplace safety improvements.

Our state legislative directors similarly are involved, on a daily basis, in investigating member concerns and working with state officials and lawmakers on workplace safety issues. These efforts include gaining state regulations requiring safer walkways alongside yard tracks, improved sanitation and crew facilities, and protecting bus operators from unruly passengers.

Within hours of Brother Lundy’s fatal accident, Minnesota State Legislative Director Phil Qualy called on “all railroad management teams voluntarily to clear our walkways of snow and ice, to rebuild and maintain the walkways at yard, industry, and mainline alike, and help us advance safety and service in this industry.”

Finally, our Designated Legal Counsel are an essential component of our workplace safety efforts. These attorneys are uniquely qualified in bringing civil actions against railroads under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA), which is one of the best friends railroaders have in pressuring railroads to improve workplace safety.

Please visit the various safety-related pages on the UTU Web site to keep informed and stay up to date on best practices designed to bring you home safely to your family.

And when you do spot a workplace safety problem, immediately inform the carrier, and also inform your local legislative representative and your state legislative director at your earliest opportunity, providing as many facts as you are able regarding location and the nature of the safety problem.

I pledge to each of you that workplace safety will remain the UTU’s single highest priority.