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Preview: Industrial Workers of the World - Railroad Workers Industrial Union 520

Industrial Workers of the World - Railroad Workers Industrial Union 520

All workers engaged in long distance railway freight and passenger transportation and telecommunication. All workers in locomotive, car, and repair shops. All workers in and around passenger and freight terminals.


Who's Really to Blame for Train Wrecks?

Fri, 19 Jun 2015 21:33:57 +0000

By Ron Kaminkow - Labor Notes, June 16, 2015

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

(image) The news media have been full of speculation about what caused an Amtrak train to derail east of Philadelphia on May 12, killing at least eight people and injuring hundreds.

Train #188, operated by lone engineer Brandon Bostian, entered a curve with a speed limit of 50 miles per hour, at over 100.

Was this excessive speed the result of fatigue, inattentiveness, a projectile that hit the train (and possibly the engineer), or some other factor? The investigation may eventually pinpoint the cause—or we may never know.

But we do know this: had there been a second crew member in the cab, it’s very likely that person would have taken action to prevent the tragedy when, for whatever reason, the engineer at the controls could not.

And blaming a worker just distracts the public from eliminating the real hazards. There exists simple, affordable technology that Amtrak could and should have implemented years ago—which could have prevented this terrible wreck.

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Rail Workers and Environmentalists to Teach Each Other

Wed, 21 Jan 2015 23:18:39 +0000

By Ron Kaminkow - Labor Notes, January 21, 2015

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s. Several IWW branches have, however, endorsed this effort.

(image) With public attention focused on the railroads in a way it hasn’t been for decades, the cross-craft solidarity group Railroad Workers United is seizing the opportunity to teach the general public “railroading 101”—and teach rail workers “environmental politics 101.”

Both those workshops, among others, will be offered at one-day conferences on “The Future of Railroads: Safety, Workers, Community, and Environment,” March 14 in Richmond, California, and March 21 in Olympia, Washington. (See below) for details.)

“My excitement about the conference is having railroaders, who on a daily basis are moving these really dangerous, volatile, flammable materials, having a dialogue with communities who want it to be made safe,” says activist Gifford Hartman.

“To my knowledge it’s never been done,” says Seattle switchman-conductor Jen Wallis. “Rail labor hasn’t worked with environmentalists to the degree that steelworkers and longshoremen and Teamsters have. It’s all very new.”

RWU is partnering with the Backbone Campaign and other groups to organize both events. The idea is to bring together rank-and-filers, environmentalists, and the general public.

Just as important as learning each other’s issues, Wallis says, is that “we get to know each other… So we have people we can call on when we have an issue on the table, and they can do the same with us.”

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Capital Blight: It's Past Time to Get Off the Coal Train.

Wed, 24 Apr 2013 23:38:54 +0000

By Steve Ongerth - April 24, 2013

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

(image) A recent debate took place on my personal Facebook page regarding the matter of jobs and the environment, and there is little doubt that it will not be the last.

As you may (or may not) be aware, I have been combing various environmental and labor news sources for stories about campaigns where class struggle and environmentalism have some degree of intersection (or conflict, though the latter is almost always manufactured vy the capitalist class). Most of these I have been posting on the new IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus Facebook Page, but since much of that happens while the only means of information transfer is a smart phone, so often, due to the limitations of smartphone apps, I have to engage in some klunky work-arounds, and sometimes that means that certain bits of information wind up on my personal page first, but I digress...

Last week, I happened upon a statement from a BLET engineer downplaying the dangers of coal dust drifting from coal trains passing through the southern part of the Seattle metropolitan area, and I immediately regarded this as the thoughts of a scissorbill and I said as much. That statement drew a response from another individual, a Facebook "friend" (a former Wobbly turned low-level ILWU leader, by the way), telling me that the coal dust issue was overstated, that the Sierra Club--who was leading the opposition to coal trains there--was hypocritical (due to the latter's having accepted donations from capitalist Natural Gas interests), and that I was insufficiently "solidaric" with my (business) union brothers and sisters. He informed me that the Sierra Club was only canvassing well-to-do neighborhoods in the area and completely ignoring those working class neighborhoods closest to the potential route, which--by the way--had far more immediate and far more serious environmental issues.

Since I am a transportation worker by trade (I'm a ferryboat deckhand, iu510 you know), I figured I might have fired before aiming, so I decided to dig a little further (pun not intended) and see just what was up.

I needn't have held my fire.

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The Railroad Industry & the Need for One Big Union

Fri, 22 Jul 2011 19:19:30 +0000

By X341189

Since the mid-1990s, the major U.S. railroads (“Class Is”) have been hiring new trainmen to staff the nation’s freight trains. Passenger carriers such as Amtrak together with various metropolitan commuter railroads in cities like New York, Boston, L.A. and Chicago are also regularly seeking employees. This offers an invaluable opportunity for young activists to hire out in an industrial setting and make some money, all the while:

  • learning about the transportation industry;
  • working under and understanding a union contract;
  • becoming familiar with the great history of the class struggle on the railway;
  • taking part in the rank-and-file movement of railroad workers; and
  • joining with your fellow workers to build the One Big Union in a key sector of the economy.

The recession has eased and nearly all furloughed railroaders have been called back to work. The railroads are once again hiring in terminals all across the U.S. and Canada. Their websites are flush with job openings in all the crafts, especially in train & engine service. Since everything to do with personnel on the railroad is seniority driven, NOW is the time to hire out so you don’t get left behind and have to follow a crowd of others for your entire career.

For those who would hire out in “Transportation” the new hire usually begins work as a “brakeman” or “conductor trainee”. After a specified period of time and the requisite tests, the new hire is promoted to Conductor. Then at some point in the future, depending upon seniority and the “needs of the carrier”, the conductor will be selected to attend engine school. Following an extended (6 months- to-a-year) on-the-job training, s/he will be promoted to licensed locomotive engineer. (If “train and engine” is not your scene, the railroads are also hiring -- although not as regularly -- track maintainers, train dispatchers, signal maintainers, car inspectors, clerks, electricians, machinists, laborers and others in the shop crafts).

All “train and engine” (T&E) jobs are union jobs, paying between $30,000 and $100,000 per year with full benefits. Union membership is obligatory upon successful completion of a probationary period of usually 60-90 days upon “marking up”. The T&E employee has a choice of joining the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers & Trainmen (descendent of the oldest craft union in the U.S.) or the United Transportation Union (UTU), an amalgamation of four old craft unions that merged in 1969 – the Switchmen (SUNA), Trainmen (BRT), Conductors (OCA) and Firemen (BLF). Dues usually range between $70 and $120 per month. Most Locals (UTU) and Divisions (BLET) hold regular monthly membership meetings.

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