B   M   W   E
Legislative Update
NOTE: Please use sticker as graphic.

(More information to complete article TO COME.)

Contract 2000 - Register and Vote. It's Your Money

Last month's Journal featured you registered to vote as a part of Contract 2000--BMWE's effort to get you a fast, fair contract. Registration takes only a couple of minutes. The registration form is so simple even a roadmaster can understand it.

It doesn't make any difference if your preferred party or candidate is Labor, Democratic, Republican, Reform, Green, or Grassroots. If you're not registered, you can't vote. And if you can't vote, to the politicians who decide your contract, you don't count.

BMWE system and local officers and legislative Representatives all have voter registration forms and plan to meet you one-on-one to register you and/or your family. If you want faster service, call your local or system rep.

Both new and old registered voters get a red, white and blue "I'm registered" sticker. Look for them. Wear one. Be proud of your vote!

Railroad Retirement

Good news and bad news. Good news: With Social Security "reform" -- a.k.a. Wall Street's raid on your pension -- off the Congressional agenda for this year, what we have now appears safe for the moment. Bad news: 55 and out is not possible until your bosses get serious about negotiating in Contract 2000. Also, there is no progress on parity in unemployment and sickness benefits for 20-year military vets.

Rail Safety

In January 1999, the Journal reported rail management wanted to negotiate a joint rail safety bill. In March 1999, BMWE's legislative department met with rail management to craft a safety bill. Management came unprepared and was unwilling to negotiate (Gee! What a surprise!).

U.S. Representative Jim Oberstar (D-MN), ranking member of the House Transportation Committee, introduced the Railroad Safety Reform Act of 1999. With the exception of certification for track inspectors, BMWE supports RSRA.

Most affecting gandies and B&B are RSRA provisions that require:

  • Separate bedrooms for each employee in railroad-provided housing (Sec. 103).
  • Increased penalties for managers who "use threats, intimidation, or other inducements" to prevent employees from filing accident or injury reports, for reporting safety violations, or for refusing to work in hazardous conditions or with unsafe equipment. Allows an abused employee to seek redress in federal court as well as by claims process. Managers found violating this section (49 U.S.C. 20109) can be permanently banned from any employment in any capacity in the rail industry (Sec. 201).
  • Accidents and injuries to contractors' employees to be reported to the FRA and to be included in each railroads' FRA safety record (Sec. 202).
  • Faster FRA rulemaking process (FRA has yet to issue power brake rules due by statute in 1993). Restricts FRA's ability to allow rail management to change FRA rules without federal oversight. [FRA routinely incorporates rail management's own rules into FRA regulations "by reference." Management can then change its own rules and thus instantly change FRA rules--without FRA consent. Still think FRA doesn't really mean Friends of Railroad Administrators?] (Sec. 504).
  • FRA to issue railroad crane safety rules within two years (Sec. 506).
  • Track inspections be conducted at 15 mph or less. All BMWE crews must have portable derails to keep rail cars out of their work areas. By 2002 all maintenance of way equipment must shunt track to set off ABS track signals (Sec. 509).
  • FRA to monitor and record rail employee radio communication (Sec. 510). [These tapes cannot be directly used for employee discipline.]
  • Track inspectors must be certified like locomotive engineers now are. Beginning in 2002, an appropriate certified employee must certify rolling stock, signals, and track as safe before use is allowed. A certified employee authorizing use of unsafe equipment or track can have his/her certificate [and thus employment] revoked.
  • Maintenance of way trucks and buses must be regularly inspected (Sec. 604).
  • Rail employees no longer must forfeit seniority to work for the FRA (Sec. 606).

Remember, this bill was introduced, not passed. Rail management opposes it.

Just because it's reasonable and necessary doesn't mean Congress will approve it. Too many Congressmen are wholly or partially owned subsidiaries of rail management.

BMWE will need your help, both lobbying and voting, to get the good parts passed and to modify the bad parts.

Transportation Funding

As part of the House transportation funding bill, the Amtrak Reform Council (ARC), the tax-funded study group composed largely of right wing nuts who want to privatize Amtrak so they can buy it up [can you spell "conflict-of-interest"] requested a quadrupling of this funding. BMWE and the Transport Workers Union (TWU) successfully lobbied to freeze funding at last year's levels--enough to pay administrators six figures but not enough for them to act to hurt gandies.

Makes ARC kind of like a steer, doesn't it? --The equipment is there, but it probably won't work to hurt you.

----------------- K. P. Knutsen

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