California’s two major railroad companies have filed suit in federal court challenging a state law requiring railroads to come up with an oil spill prevention and response plan.
The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in the U.S. District Court in Sacramento, contends federal laws largely prohibit states from imposing safety rules on railroads such as the ones California began imposing July 1 of this year. The plaintiffs in the matter are the Union Pacific Railroad, the BNSF and the Association of American Railroads.
Of 3,679 ballots returned, 3,056 were in opposition to the crew consist agreement. Nearly the same number of ballots cast were in opposition to a wage and rule settlement offered by the carrier.
Under the proposal, engineers would have received a pay boost, and conductors would have been given the opportunity to become engineers. It also called for the creation of a “master conductor,” who would be responsible for supervising multiple trains from a fixed or mobile location.
The railroad was seeking to operate most of its trains with a single engineer on trains equipped with positive train control, a collision-avoidance system mandated by Congress in 2008.
It maintained that trains carrying hazardous materials, including those with large volumes of crude oil or ethanol, would still have operated with two people on board.
Prior to releasing the complete vote count Sept. 29, GO 001 General Chairperson Randy Knutson had acknowledged earlier in September that the proposal had failed.
“Please be advised that we have completed the tabulation of ratification ballots for the tentative crew consist agreement and wage and rule settlement, and neither agreement was ratified. A more complete summary of the vote will be forthcoming in the next several weeks, but we felt it was important to provide our members with immediate notification that these agreements were not ratified,” Knutson said.
“Moving forward, this office will notify BNSF Labor Relations that we remain open to informal conversation regarding these matters, but will oppose any formal attempt by BNSF to serve notice to change our existing crew consist agreements prior to the attrition of all protected employees.”
The proposed agreement generated a lot of discussion from Transportation Division members around the country.
In a statement posted on the SMART Transportation Division’s website prior to the voting deadline, Transportation Division President John Previsich noted that, “Our constitution grants the general committees jurisdiction in this area and this organization has successfully defended that right over the years through litigation and arbitration. There are no grounds for any entity to interfere with that right and there will be no attack on that authority by this office or any subordinate body of this organization.
“Nonetheless, it should surprise no one that the proposed agreement is generating a great deal of discussion due to its potential impact beyond its own territory. This office will not interfere with the rights of all of our members to engage in that discussion.”
At least 18 times in the past three years BNSF Railway freight trains rolled west out of Minneapolis pulling cars filled with hazardous chemicals that were not on the train’s official cargo list, according to train crew complaints.
That’s contrary to federal regulation because in case of an accident, local firefighters can be left in the dark, unable to take quick action to protect vulnerable residents.
One of the top executives at the nation’s leading hauler of crude oil in trains said Friday that the proposed Keystone XL pipeline wouldn’t take away any of his company’s business.
Matt Rose, the executive chairman of BNSF Railway, told Fox Business Network’s Maria Bartiromo that the controversial pipeline project would move primarily heavy crude oil from western Canada to refineries on the Gulf Coast.
SNOHOMISH, Wash. – A Snohomish man says he’s out hundreds of thousands of dollars he’s owed and is struggling to support his family — all because he was trying to protect you from an oil train derailment.
Moving into a new house is usually cause for celebration, but Curtis Rookaird, his wife, and their two young sons are all in tears Tuesday (Sept. 16).
Two railroad companies want to prevent the public from getting details about oil shipments through Washington state, information the federal government ordered be given to state emergency managers after several oil-train accidents.
But restricting such information violates the state’s public-records law, so the state has not signed documents from the rail companies seeking confidentiality, said Mark Stewart, a spokesman for the Washington Military Department’s Emergency Management Division.
DENVER – Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway has been ordered to pay more than $526,000 in back wages and other damages to two workers following an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration. OSHA found that the company, based in Fort Worth, Texas, was in violation of the whistleblower provisions of the Federal Railroad Safety Act for terminating the employees in 2010 and 2011 for reporting a workplace injury that occurred at the company’s Havre, Mont., terminal.
“An employer cannot retaliate against employees who report an injury,” said Gregory Baxter, OSHA’s regional administrator in Denver. “OSHA recognizes that employers can legitimately have, and apply, policies to require prompt injury reporting; however, that is not what happened here. When employers mask their retaliatory intent through application of a policy or rule, they violate the law.”
The former employees submitted complaints to OSHA alleging violations of the anti-retaliation provisions of the FRSA. Because of these complaints, OSHA conducted an investigation and determined that the reporting of the work-related injury was a factor in each former employee’s termination, which is a direct violation of the FRSA. Burlington Northern has been ordered to pay back wages with interest, compensatory damages and attorney’s fees, while reinstating and expunging the two employees’ work records.
The reporting of an injury, regardless of an employer’s policy or deadline, is a protected activity under well-established law. The railway carrier failed to demonstrate that it would have taken the same unfavorable personnel action in the absence of the behavior protected by the FRSA.
Burlington Northern or the complainant may file objections or request a hearing before the department’s Office of Administrative Law Judges within 30 days of receipt of OSHA’s order. OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of the FRSA and 21 other statutes, protecting employees who report violations of various airline, commercial motor carrier, consumer product, environmental, financial reform, food safety, health care reform, nuclear, pipeline, worker safety, public transportation agency, maritime and securities laws.
Employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees who raise various protected concerns or provide protected information to the employer or to the government. Employees who believe that they have been retaliated against for engaging in protected conduct may file a complaint with the secretary of labor to request an investigation by OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Program. Detailed information on employee whistleblower rights, including fact sheets, is available at http://www.whistleblowers.gov.
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov.
If you think the man has lost his touch, think again.
Warren Buffett’s ‘elephant-gun’ purchase of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe, LLC, railroad for $34 billion in 2010 was impeccably timed (coming as it did a year off the 2008-2009 financial crisis) and a huge bet on the revival of the US economy.
However, just four years later, this investment is worth at least $65 billion, according to analysts.