NORTH PLATTE, Neb. — A Union Pacific machinist here was ordered rehired with back pay in a ruling by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) that found Union Pacific violated the worker’s rights under the Federal Rail Safety Act of 2007.

OSHA ruled that in firing the machinist, after he had reported a work-related injury, Union Pacific had improperly retaliated against him.

The railroad also was ordered to post a workplace notice admitting it was found to have retaliated against an employee for reporting a work-related injury.

In December 2010, OSHA ordered a UTU member employed by BNSF to be reinstated with back pay after finding BNSF guilty of improper retaliation after the worker filed an injury report with the Federal Railroad Administration.

The Federal Rail Safety Act of 2007 protects rail workers from retaliation and threats of retaliation when they report injuries, report that a carrier violated safety laws or regulations, or if the employee refuses to work under certain unsafe conditions or refuses to authorize the use of any safety related equipment.

Retaliation, including threats of retaliation, is defined as firing or laying off, blacklisting, demoting, denying overtime or promotion, disciplining, denying benefits, failing to rehire, intimidation, reassignment affecting promotion prospects, or reducing pay or hours.

An employer also is prohibited from disciplining an employee for requesting medical or first-aid treatment, or for following a physician’s orders, a physician’s treatment plan, or medical advice.

This protection is known as “whistle-blower protection,” and the federal law is enforced by OSHA, as it was against UP and BNSF.

Relief may include reinstatement with the same seniority and benefits, back pay with interest, compensatory damages (including witness and legal fees), and punitive damages as high as $250,000.

A rail employee may file the complaint directly with OSHA, or may contact a UTU designated legal counsel, general chairperson or state legislative director for assistance.

A listing of UTU designated legal counsel is available at, or may be obtained from local or general committee officers or state legislative directors.

To view a more detailed OSHA fact sheet, click on the following link:

(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 International President Mike Futhey

Train and engine employees are the eyes and ears of every railroad, and most often the first to recognize threats and provide a response.

The post 9/11 environment dangers now include foreign terrorist threats as well as home-grown threats by disturbed individuals.

The UTU is currently engaged with Amtrak in seeking federal funds to finance training of conductors, assistant conductors, on-board service personnel and yard employees to enhance their abilities to recognize behavioral traits of individuals intending to engage in terrorist activity. This project will include coordination with the Transportation Security Administration.

Under the leadership of my administrative assistant, Bruce Feltmeyer (Local 1402), we have proposed a federally funded joint effort with Amtrak to develop situational awareness training of Amtrak employees best positioned to recognize impending attacks, whether it be aboard trains, in stations, in yards or along the right-of-way.

The core of the project is to produce a security awareness manual for front-line Amtrak employees, presenting various terrorist scenarios and means of recognizing behavioral traits of those intending to cause harm to physical facilities, passengers and Amtrak employees. This manual will be accompanied by a scenario-based video.

Bruce is uniquely qualified. During his years of rail service, he has developed training programs for the on-line UTU University; and, as a Union Pacific employee, he helped to develop customer-service related training materials for conductors and newly hired managers. He also taught business software as an adjunct professor at a St. Louis community college.

As the UTU and Amtrak are painfully aware, millions of dollars are being spent to recognize and prevent terrorist threats at airports and aboard aircraft, but far fewer funds are allocated to protect the nation’s rail, transit and bus infrastructure. At train, transit and bus stations, passengers routinely board trains and buses with backpacks and luggage that is not screened.

If our joint funding grant is approved, the UTU and Amtrak jointly will build upon those efforts to enhance the ability of front-line Amtrak employees to recognize threats and learn how best to report concerns to dispatchers and law enforcement.

A successful joint project with Amtrak could lead to additional labor-management coordination in employee security training with freight railroads, transit operators and bus companies.

Terrorist threats are real and have been carried out against rail, transit and bus operations in other nations. Enhanced security that directly involves front-line employees protects our livelihoods. The UTU is capable, willing and anxious to play a key role training front-line employees to help protect our ground-based transportation networks.

On a related note, those attending UTU regional meetings in Phoenix and Asheville this summer will have opportunity to attend four-hour workshops hosted by the National Transit Institute of Rutgers University. Presentations will be made on existing surveillance monitoring techniques and methods of identifying would-be terrorists intent on using explosives, biological chemicals and/or firearms in an attack.