Railroad Workers United To Co-Sponsor Railroad Conference

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By Railroad Workers United
Industrial Worker, Issue 1771, January-February-2015

This coming March, Railroad Workers United (RWU) will co-sponsor two conferences: one in the Bay Area and one in the Pacific Northwest. Tentatively entitled “The Future of Railroads: Safety, Workers, Community and Environment.” RWU is partnering with the Backbone Campaign and other citizens’ and environmental groups to or-ganize these innovative and cutting-edge conferences. The Bay Area conference will be held on March 14 at the Richmond Recreation Center in Richmond, Calif. The following weekend’s conference will be held on March 21, in Seattle; the location is yet to be determined.

In recent months, public attention has focused on the railroad in a way that it has not for decades. In the wake of the Lac-Mégantic rail disaster in 2013 and other derailments and resulting fires and explosions, the public is alarmed about oil trains and the movement of trains in general through their communities. Environmental activists are up in arms about the amount of fossil fuels being transported by railway. Farmers and other shippers are con-cerned about the congestion that has occurred in recent months, due in part to the oil boom. All of this attention gives railroad work-ers a golden opportunity to educate the general public about the railroad, its inherent efficiencies, its value to society, and its potential. It also gives us an invaluable opportunity to inform non-railroad workers about the situation that we face on the job every day.

The public generally has no idea what goes on daily on America’s railroads. At these conferences, we plan to talk about crew fatigue, single employee train crews, excessively long and heavy trains, draconian availability policies, short staffing, limited time off work and other concerns. These issues are of concern not just to railroaders, but to environmentalists, the community at large and society in gen-eral. Non-railroaders in attendance at the conference will come away with a deeper understanding of our workplace and a greater appreciation of the issues facing us. They will, without a doubt, become valuable allies in our future fights with the rail carriers.

Tentative workshops and discussion topics include but are not limited to:

  • Single-employee train crews, why they will not work, and the safety hazards they pose for workers, communities and the environment.
  • Excessively long and heavy trains and their inherent problems and dangers.
  • Crew fatigue and the need for ad -equate time off, proper train line-ups, and advance call times, call windows and all the rest to ensure well-rested, alert and safe train crews.
  • Building worker-to-worker alliances along the supply chain of all transport workers.
  • “Railroading for the General Public 101.” • “Environmental Politics for Railroad Workers 101.”
  • Ensuring safe track, bridges and rolling stock.
  • The “Solutionary Rail” campaign and a vision for what a sustainable railroad of the future could look like.
  • Building a labor-community alliance around safety issues.
  • A history of labor-environment alliances and how to build one that revolves around the railroad industry.

For more information, check the RWU Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/Railroadworkersunited and the RWU list serve. To get involved in organizing either conference and to attend, contact Gifford Hartman at 415-410-9299 or giffordhartman@gmail.com.

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