Re: Why Black Railroad Workers Like Me Are Planning to Strike This Friday

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Obese Sow Stacey Abrams

Sep 14, 2022, 2:45:03 AM9/14/22
In article <t0a9o2$2b3qk$> wrote:
> Stacey Abrams needs to be put through a sausage grinder and fed to cats.

The supply chain crisis is about to get a lot worse. I and
115,000 of my fellow railroad workers are planning to go on
strike on Friday if we can't reach an agreement with the
railroad companies on safety, paid time off, and staffing
issues. It would be the first national railroad strike in 30

It's going to be a big deal for the American consumer if we go
on strike; estimates have put the cost at $2 billion per day.
But we've reached the end of our rope. In the last few years,
the railroad companies have mounted an assault on labor, costing
livelihoods and sacrificing worker safety to a point where we
just can't go on.

For starters, railroad companies have adopted something called
"positive train control" or PTC for short. PTC is basically
autopilot for trains. It's a great piece of technology, but
since adopting it, companies have decided that the conductor
role is obsolete, and you just need an engineer to take care of
the train. In an effort to save money, the railroads have been
pushing for a single-man crew the last few years, with the
biggest freight railroads reducing staff by 29 percent.

I'm all for better technology. But it has to be safe. And
there's a big problem with eliminating the role of the
conductor. One of the major things the conductor does is if
there is an issue with the train, some sort of defect with a
railcar, say, the conductor goes out and checks what the issue
is while the engineer stays in the cab to control the train.

You can see how critical it is to the safety of the workers and
the train that there be two workers present for this: one taking
care of the train, and one investigating the problem. The
conductor also ensures that the engineer is complying with
safety issues that might arise when it comes to track
conditions. The engineer knows the inside of the train, but the
conductor is the expert on everything else.

Eliminate the conductor's role and any problem the engineer
faces, he faces alone, while still being in charge of
controlling the train. If there is a cyber-attack, the engineer
is alone controlling the train with no conductor as backup.

Somehow, when it comes to flying planes, it's clear to
corporations why this isn't ok. Planes pretty much fly
themselves on autopilot after takeoff until about 500 feet from
landing. Yet no one is suggesting that a pilot fly alone. The
pilot and the copilot are there to supervise together and
intervene if something goes wrong, and it's clear you need two
of them.

Why are the railroads any different? Why is ok to have just one
overworked person in the locomotive?

Railroad companies might say that the reason planes are
different is that people cargo is very, very precious. They're
right. But on the railroads, we carry very dangerous chemicals,
things like chlorine cars that, if damaged, can liquify your
lungs with the escaping gas.

It's all well and good to try to save money with better tech,
but not at the expense of worker safety.

And it's not just eliminating conductors. In another effort to
save on labor, the railroads have been running trains that are
over a mile long. The companies combine two trains into one to
save on a second crew, meaning we regularly get on trains that
are over 10,000 feet long.

This isn't just dangerous for us. When this happens and we head
through cities and towns, we regularly block railroad crossings
that people use to get to work, or even to get rescued if they
need emergency services. Many will say there are alternate
routes around a blocked crossing, but let's be real: A couple of
extra minutes can be the difference between life and death. It
can save your life, or your house, if there is an emergency. And
in many small towns, there just isn't another route.

I originally started in track maintenance, swinging maul hammers
for a living—a great alternative to CrossFit. Back then, a few
decades ago, there were plenty of employees to help with the
large amount of work that needed to be done. Now, the railroads
have scaled that department back as well, and many have railroad
contractors doing maintenance work, which undercuts union
workers' wages. Many are also hiring illegal workers.

Union railroad workers used to do all the railroad-related
projects, such as laying new track and converting wood bridges
to cement and metal bridges. Now, much of it is being done by
lower paid contractors. The mechanical department has mostly
been laid off, and in the yard, the conductor role has had
mechanical responsibilities added to it.

We're all overworked. On issue after issue, safety has become
secondary, but the trains still need to be moved.

There's also the issue of paid time off, which is punishingly
limited. The standard for freight railroads is one year of
service gets you one week of PTO, a second year gets you two
weeks, you get a third week after eight years of service, and
finally four weeks after 17 years of service.

To understand why this isn't nearly enough, you have to
understand the hours: I'm often on the railroad for 13, 14 hours
straight, often through the night. I'm on call 24/7, often with
two hours to get to work once called. If I need a day off to go
to a doctor's appointment or kid's game, I have to use PTO, but
it can be denied if they really need me that day. And they have
instituted a point system to discourage taking unpaid days when
you run out of PTO days, which of course we all end up having to
do, what with working so many hours. Too many points off and you
get disciplined, and finally terminated.

What this means is that we often have to make impossible
choices, between parenting our kids and hoarding those PTOs for
emergencies. It all results in many problems at home and it's a
huge hit to our mental health. The companies have made any kind
of work/life balance impossible.

Look, I understand that there are ups and downs in business. But
for years, the railroads have laid off workers with reckless
abandon. It's not sustainable.

Back in July, President Biden averted a strike by instituting a
cooling off period and establishing a Presidential Emergency
Board to find a solution satisfactory to us workers and to the
major freight companies. But that ends Friday, and absent an
agreement, we will be going on strike.

States could easily pass laws barring single person crews and
limiting the length of trains, but perhaps unsurprisingly,
neither political party has stepped up to help the 115,000
railroad workers and our families.

While Senator Bernie Sanders found time to fly to the UK to join
Britain's striking railroad workers, we haven't felt anything
commensurate here in his own backyard. Meanwhile, the Republican
Party that loves to brand itself as the new party of the blue-
collar working class also been quiet on this issue.

They all ignore the safety hazard as jobs are cut and more
responsibilities are added to each role, while railroad CEOs
rake in tens of millions of dollars in bonuses. To add insult to
injury, the rail carriers' stated position is that "capital
investment and risk are the reasons for their profits, not any
contributions by labor."

How are you valued as an employee?

“The Carriers maintain that capital investment and risk are the
reasons for their profits, not any contributions by labor.”

— Railroad Workers United ? (@railroadworkers) August 17, 2022
You can see why we're ready to strike. And if we can't reach an
agreement that protects our jobs, our dignity, and our lives,
many people are going to start to feel it come Friday.

Charles Stallworth is a union railroad worker.

The views in this article are the writer's own.

Dumas Walker

Sep 14, 2022, 11:15:09 PM9/14/22
I almost trained as a conductor back in the 1990's. As you state, conductors
take care of just about everything safety related. It is indeed
irresponsible to think that one person should be responsible for a mile+
long train. Thank you for explaining the issue so well. I hope some good
comes out of it but, like you pointed out, without the support of either
political party I can see where the hope of working things out without a
strike have dwindled.

* SLMR 2.1a * Despite the high cost of living, it remains popular.

bandit hickaloo

Jan 3, 2023, 9:17:42 AMJan 3
saddened by the oppression of RR workers!!!!


Jan 3, 2023, 10:42:12 PMJan 3
On 2023-01-03, bandit hickaloo <> wrote:
> saddened by the oppression of RR workers!!!!

Can you elaborate on what you feel is going on?

pH in Aptos
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