Missouri State Legislative Board

August Missouri primary election registration deadline approaching!

The Missouri primary election is August 7th. This is when Missouri will be voting on Prop A (the Right to Work proposition). If you aren't registered to vote, please register before the registration deadline on July 11. I have attached a link where you can print out the registration or find your local office to register in person. Not voting helps the other side win.

https://www.sos.mo.gov/elections/goVoteMissouri/register

Drones Are Watching: Railroad Irks Workers With Unmanned Aircraft

From the Wall Street Journal:

 

Union Pacific Corp. UNP -1.46% riled employees recently when it started flying drones over some of its railroad yards to ensure workers were following safety guidelines.

The aerial spotters were looking for any number of behaviors that deviate from the railroad’s rule book, from passing between railcars that are less than 100 feet apart to climbing off moving equipment.

The response from the railroad workers’ union? Urging the rank and file to flood Union Pacific’s safety hotline with complaints that the drones make their jobs more dangerous.

Workers say that rather than promote safety, the drones create a hazard by distracting them when they should be laser-focused while around 200-ton locomotives and railcars moving along the tracks, according to Steve Simpson, general chairperson with the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers. “They are no longer looking ahead or at their task at hand,” he said. “They’re looking up.”

Mr. Simpson, whose general committee represents 1,600 conductors, engineers and other rail workers in the southern U.S., also advises members on complaints to the Federal Aviation Administration and Federal Railroad Administration. He said there is no way to distinguish a drone flown by Union Pacific from one operated by an unauthorized party.

As of March 1, Union Pacific temporarily grounded the aerial observation so it can share its findings with the unions but plans to resume the program in coming weeks. “Their leadership will help us establish a collaborative process to address unsafe behaviors and protect employees,” Union Pacific spokeswoman Raquel Espinoza said.


Safety RecordUnion Pacific's personal-injury rate edged up in 2017 after hitting a record low.Source: the companyNote: Reportable personal injuries per 200,000 employee-hours worked
.Injuries2013’14’15’16’170.00.10.20.30.40.50.60.70.80.91.01.11.2

Mr. Simpson said he suspects safety isn’t the company’s only motivation. Workers see drones as a means to discipline them, he said, with escalating penalties that can lead to termination. There is no indication anyone has been fired for an infraction spotted from up to 400 feet in the air, but Mr. Simpson said workers have been cited for violations as a result.

Ms. Espinoza said Union Pacific has been using drones to conduct federally mandated field testing and will coach employees to correct behavior that could cause serious injury. “We are finding drones are valuable tools that can help us reach our ultimate goal of operating in an incident-free environment and ensure employees go home safely,” Ms. Espinoza said. She added that the company hotline has received only one complaint about the use of drones.

Union Pacific last year reported its second safest year on record, though the reportable personal-injury rate of 0.79 per 200,000 employee hours was 5% higher than in 2016. The amount of money it sets aside for personal-injury liability has declined in each of the past three years.

Drone use is still in its infancy in the railroad industry. Companies have sought to incorporate it into operations to inspect bridges and track, assess damage after natural disasters and map their networks. Other proposed or active uses have included spotting trespassers, air-quality tests and aerial photography.

Earl Lawrence, who runs the FAA’s drone-integration office, said he was unaware of any other industries where employers are using drones to enforce safety rules. “Every day we see inventive ways of using aerial platforms,” he said.

Berkshire Hathaway Inc.’s BNSF railroad, which, like Union Pacific, operates in the Western U.S., has worked closely with the FAA to find ways to incorporate drones into its operations. After obtaining waivers to fly drones outside the line of sight of their operators, BNSF in 2015 flew an unmanned, fixed-wing aircraft over 270 miles in New Mexico to inspect tracks. The railroad said it was the first commercially operated drone to fly beyond its pilot’s line of sight within the lower 48 states.

Since then, BNSF has received permission to conduct tests on more than 2,000 miles of track, including at night.

Norfolk Southern Corp. uses drones only for bridge inspections, a spokeswoman said. CSX uses the aircraft to monitor its rail network, collect data and conduct security checks. Drones also have been used as part of installing so-called positive train control, a new, federally mandated safety system, a spokesman said.

Union Pacific first received FAA approval to use drones in 2015. It now has 126 employees on staff certified to fly them and has used them to inspect bridges and flood damage, among other uses. Union Pacific plans to have as many as 250 trained drone pilots by the end of 2018 and is also looking into self-flying drones.

Union Pacific first deployed drones to monitor employees in December 2017 at a rail facility in Ste. Genevieve, Mo., later expanding to 14 locations. While railroads already make use of fixed cameras to monitor operations, aerial footage provides a new vantage point for yardmasters in facilities that can be more than 100 tracks wide and scattered with visual obstacles like cars and equipment.

“It’s a useful tool,” said Mr. Simpson, the railroad union leader. “But it’s being used as a discipline tool and that worries me.”

Criminal prosecution for unintentional mistakes is blatantly unfair to locomotive engineers and trainmen

 

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio, February 12 — In the wake of recent dramatic and highly visible railroad accidents in the United States and Canada, there has been a trend to criminalize railroad workers and prosecute them as the sole cause of these tragedies. The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen stands opposed to such actions. 

It is a travesty that criminal charges were filed against three former employees of the Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway for the tragedy of July 5, 2013 in Lac-Megantic, Quebec. The trial against them began in September of 2017 and concluded on January 19, 2018. What jurors found out is that railroading is a complex system of operations, and many factors go into a safe operation. Determining the root cause of a particular accident is far more complex than simply blaming the workers, but that all too often is what many rail carriers and government agencies have done.

In 2017, criminal charges were brought against the locomotive engineer of Amtrak train 188, which crashed in Philadelphia on May 12, 2015. Those charges were dismissed in 2017 after a judge ruled that the crash was accidental, not criminal. The engineer’s lawyer argued in part: “The law recognizes there’s a big difference between an accident and a crime.” However, a second judge has ruled that dismissal of those charges was wrong, and has reinstated charges of reckless endangerment, involuntary manslaughter, and one count of causing a catastrophe. 

The operating employees who crew trains and locomotives — locomotive engineers, conductors, brakemen and switchmen — have extraordinary safety-critical tasks and responsibilities not found in other industries. An operating employee’s readiness for safety-critical constant vigilance is a personal obligation. But this personal duty must be effectively supported — not thwarted — by a management devoted fully to the fundamentals of safety. 

Railroad crew members sometimes go on duty without being allowed sufficient rest, and with accumulated sleep deficits, consequently constituting a profound safety problem on and along the tracks. Laws are such that crew members are not given enough time to simply rest and have a normal life. On the Amtrak property, many of our locomotive engineers work six-day assignments resulting in operations in excess of 2,500-3,000 miles per week. At times, the crew members are harassed and intimidated if they repeatedly request to lay off for needed rest. Moreover, they have to contend with abiding by unrealistic attendance policy standards imposed by the carrier that often result in disciplinary action despite the fact that additional time off is both necessary and fully warranted. Crew members who are harassed and intimidated by railroad managers are less likely to provide feedback regarding unsafe operations. Such feedback is crucial to safe train operations. 

To please Wall Street investors, railroads have furloughed so many workers that the few who remain are often overworked and stretched too thin. Railroads are increasing the length of freight trains to dangerous levels, trying to do more with fewer workers. Well-rested crew members are essential to safe train operations. 

Railroad crew members sometimes complain that they are not given sufficient familiarization trips to become acquainted with the lines over which they operate. Proper training is essential to safe train operations. 

At times, crew members protest to railroad managers about hazardous operations, but their protests simply go unheeded. Properly maintained equipment and tracks are essential to safe train operations. 

This is not to make excuses, but an effort to explain that it takes more than just blaming the worker to determine the root cause of railroad accidents. Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with the victims, families and workers touched by the accidents mentioned above. But criminalizing the worker is not part of the solution to eradicate similar tragic accidents from happening again. 

 

Two-person crew bill introduced in the US Senate

Heitkamp introduces two-person crew bill in U.S. Senate

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio, February 1 — On January 30, 2018, Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) introduced S. 2360, a bill that would mandate a minimum crew size for freight trains in the United States. 

The bill was read twice and referred to the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. It has immediately garnered four Senate co-sponsors: Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI); Senator Ed Markey (D-MA); Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH); Senator Angus King (I-ME).

This bill marks the first time a minimum crew-size bill has been introduced in the United States Senate. Representative Don Young (R-AK) introduced a companion bill — H.R. 233, known as The Safe Freight Act —in the 115th House of Representatives on January 3, 2017. It currently has 75 bipartisan co-sponsors.

Text of the Bill will be available usually 1-2 days after introduction of the bill on the floor of the House or Senate.

“The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen has long advocated for the safety benefits that come from having a minimum of two persons in the cab of the locomotive,” BLET National President Dennis R. Pierce said. “We support this legislation and are actively lobbying for additional co-sponsors in both the House and Senate. Our Brotherhood thanks Senator Heitkamp and Representative Young and all co-sponsors for their support of safe freight train operations in the United States.”

Senator Heitkamp (D-ND) has long been an advocate for rail safety improvements, even more so since a collision between a crude oil train and a derailed grain train in Casselton, N.D., on December 30, 2013, which caused a huge fire and evacuation. The impact of the Casselton derailment was lessened significantly thanks to the bravery of the multiple crew members who were aboard the locomotive. 

According to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), “the heroic actions of the grain train’s (three) crewmembers potentially prevented the environmental and property damages from being much worse” in the Casselton derailment. They pulled a cut of 50 tank cars to safety away from the burning derailed cars. The crew later went back and removed 20 additional cars from the scene of the fire. “That wouldn’t have happened if there were only one-person crews,” President Pierce said. “The BLET continues to oppose single-person freight operations as adverse to worker and public safety.”

Like Senator Heitkamp, Senator King (D-ME) is also an advocate for rail safety. His home state of Maine is near Lac-Megantic, Quebec, where an oil train derailment and subsequent fire resulted in 47 fatalities on July 5, 2013. A one-person train crew operated the oil train in the Lac-Megantic tragedy. 

Details of the bill can be found here.

Extension of “Cadillac tax” until 2021

Brothers,
 
 
The one good thing about the Government pause/shutdown is there is an additional extension to the Cadillac tax to Dec.31, 2021.
 
Regarding the Cadillac tax extension, the language was codified in Division D, Sec. 4002 of the CR:
 
SEC. 4002. DELAY IN IMPLEMENTATION OF EXCISE TAX ON HIGH COST
EMPLOYER-SPONSORED HEALTH COVERAGE.
Section 9001(c) of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care
Act is amended by striking ‘‘December 31, 2019’’ and inserting
‘‘December 31, 2021’’.
 
Sec. 4002 is on page 11 of the CR text, found at this link: https://www.congress.gov/115/bills/hr195/BILLS-115hr195enr.pdf
 
 
John P. Tolman
Vice President & National Legislative Representative
Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers & Trainmen
Teamsters Rail Conference

Fair Fare Passenger Safety Act (HB1600) Hearing Schedule in Jefferson City

On Tuesday, Jan. 16, at 2 p.m. the House–Crime Prevention and Public Safety Committee will be hearing HB 1600 sponsored by Rep. Galen Higdon.  HB 1600 enacts a “Fair Fare Passenger Safety Act” prohibiting the use of a hand-held electronic wireless communications device to text or take part in a telephone call when operating a moving motor vehicle and is receiving compensation for the transportation of passengers.
 
The hearing will provide an opportunity to inform the committee members of the dangers of cell phone use while driving. This proposal passed the House last year but died in the Senate.
 
Below is a link to the bill.
 
This Bill was written and is being advanced by BLET Missouri State Legislative Board Chairman Brian Kelley.

Tax Bill Could Stop Railroad Unemployment & Sickness Benefits

BLET NEWS FLASH

BLET Action Alert: Republican tax bill on track to put Railroad Retirement Unemployment & Sickness benefits in the siding

http://www.ble-t.org/pr/news/newsflash.asp?id=6050

 

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio, December 15 — The Republican tax bill currently working its way through the House and the Senate could have a devastating impact on Railroad Retirement Unemployment and Sickness Benefits, according to analysis from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and the General Counsel of the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB). All active and retired BLET members and their families are urged to contact their Senators and Representatives immediately and urge them to vote “No.” A vote is expected to take place next week.

According to CBO’s analysis, the 2010 “Pay-As-You-Go” Act (or PAYGO) requires automatic reductions in federal spending to offset increases to the national debt. This is also known as sequestration, which already has negatively impacted Railroad Unemployment and Sickness Benefits for the past several years.

According to published media reports, the proposed tax bill would add $1.5 trillion to $2 trillion to the national debt, in effect triggering “sequestration on steroids.” Through sequestration, the PAYGO act would trigger drastic cuts at all levels of all programs listed in the federal budget including the RRB’s Railroad Unemployment and Sickness program.

The RRB’s General Counsel warns, “This would have the practical result of a 100% sequestration of all non-exempt direct spending accounts including the funds from the Railroad Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund which is used to pay unemployment and sickness benefits.” The result: about $18 million — all of which is paid by employers subject to the Railroad Unemployment Insurance Act (RUIA) on an experience-rated basis — would be taken from the Railroad Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund to pay for tax breaks for others — corporations and the nation’s wealthiest private citizens.

Please call the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121, and ask to speak with the House of Representative Member from your Congressional District. If you do not talk directly with your Member of Congress, then ask to speak to the staff member who handles Labor issues. When speaking to staff, please be respectful just as you would if you were personally speaking with your member of Congress. Also follow these procedures when contacting each of the two Senators from your state.

Contact information for your member of the House can be found online here: https://www.house.gov/htbin/findrep. Contact information for your Senator can be found online here.

“RUIA taxes are paid by the railroad industry to help our Brothers and Sisters who are injured or out of work,” BLET National President Dennis R. Pierce said. “If this threat to their economic security doesn’t make you furious then you aren’t paying attention. The wildly irresponsible Republican tax proposal would rob hard working Americans to give tax breaks to wealthiest Americans and to even wealthier corporations. I urge each and every member of the BLET and their families, as well as those in the BLET Auxiliary, to lobby their Representatives and Senators and demand that they vote ‘No’ on this outrageously unfair tax bill.”