Washington Gov. Jay Inslee signed into law H.B. 1841, a two-person crew bill that was championed in various forms for seven years by SMART-TD Washington State Legislative Director Herb Krohn and the other members of the state’s legislative board.
Affectionately known as a “zombie” bill — H.B. 1841 had been buried and put on hold numerous times by legislators but kept coming back in the face of carrier opposition — it became the law of the land March 27.
“We were able to finally prevail by building a cohesive coalition of supporters including police and fire departments, environmental organizations, other labor unions, and interested community organizations to advance this bill across the finish line,” Krohn said. “We not only finally prevailed in our statehouse, we’ve successfully passed the STRONGEST state train crewing law in the entire nation!”
As written, the bill allows the Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) to “order railroad carriers to increase the number of railroad employees in areas of increased risk to the public, passengers, railroad employees, or the environment, or on specific trains, routes, or to switch assignments on their road with additional numbers of crewmembers, and may direct the placement of additional crewmembers, if it is determined that such an increase in staffing or the placement of additional crewmembers is necessary to protect the safety, health, and welfare of the public, passengers, or railroad employees, to prevent harm to the environment or to address site specific safety or security hazards.”
The bill survived a last-ditch effort by Senate Minority Leader Mark Schoesler on March 6 to quash it before it passed through the state Senate by a 34-15 vote.
Schoesler, a Republican, attempted to adjourn the legislative session rather than have the bill come up to a vote five minutes before the close of the legislative session, Krohn said.
“Schoesler attempted to shut down the Washington State Senate rather than allow our crewing bill to come to the floor for consideration and a vote,” Krohn said. “It’s an example of just how far the rail carriers and their allies are willing to go to kill off our safe train crewing bill as well as any other railroad safety legislation they oppose!”
That motion to adjourn was defeated by a party-line vote, and the bill subsequently was heard and voted upon.
Five Republicans and a Democrat who caucuses with them voted with every Senate Democrat in favor of the bill. The 15 senators who voted against H.B. 1841 were all Republican.
Krohn said the law is scheduled to take effect Thursday, June 11, 2020, and restores minimum freight crew legislation in the state that had been removed from the books in 1966 thanks to carrier lobbying efforts.
At the federal level, Washington state is a party along with three other states and rail labor unions in the U.S. Court of Appeals Ninth Circuit lawsuit against the Federal Railroad Administration’s (FRA) attempt to prevent states from passing laws mandating train crew size.
A hearing in the case is likely to be held in late summer or fall.
The Washington State Legislative Board had some good news to report this week about its effort to get two-person crew legislation passed in the state.
“For six consecutive years, we have doggedly pursued passage of this critical public safety bill. Today, for the first time we advanced train crew size legislation to the floor of the full House for a vote,” Washington State Legislative Director Herb Krohn reported. “House Speaker Frank Chopp personally presided over the chamber for this historic vote.”
The bill, H.B. 1841, passed, 72-24 (with two excused absent members), on March 13, marking the first time the Washington House of Representatives has OK’d final passage of train crew size legislation, Krohn said.
The passage marks the halfway point of efforts to get the legislation passed in Washington state. It next needs passage in the state’s Senate before heading to the governor’s desk.
“This year, the carriers have waged the most aggressive campaign ever against all of our rail safety bills,” Krohn said. “We can expect they will turn the heat up even higher and expend even greater resources in opposition as the bill is considered by the state Senate.
“It will continue to require dogged persistence along with considerable efforts on our part to overcome the organized business coalition the railroad carriers have strung together in their quest to block us from moving crewing legislation across the finish line into state law.”
SEATTLE — SMART Transportation Division’s Washington State Legislative Board, represented by Legislative Director Herb Krohn, gave awards to a number of state legislators supportive of the union’s safety efforts at July’s regional meeting.
Receiving Golden Spike Awards for “exemplary leadership in advocating for legislation to protect the safety of both railroad workers and the general public” were state Sens. Steve Conway (D – Dist. 29) and Patty Kuderer (D – Dist. 48).
Washington state Sen. John Conway accepts his Golden Spike award from Washington State Legislative Director Herb Krohn, left, and SMART TD President John Previsich, center, at the Seattle Regional Meeting.
When receiving his award, Conway talked about the need for multiple-person crews on trains and the vital support crewmembers provide to first responders when a rail accident happens.
“We’re going to get that bill,” Conway said. “We’re going to get it passed.”
Kuderer, an attorney who worked on a number of railroad-related cases, is a “magnificent advocate” for rail safety, Krohn said, and had a hand in the state hearings regarding the aftermaths of both the 1993 Kelso accident and the 2015 Stampede Pass incident in which a train came apart during a blizzard.
In her speech accepting the award, Kuderer talked about how her grandfather, a union railroader, and later her grandmother could stay in their home after retirement thanks to a pension that unions fought for and protected.
However, the recent Janus v. AFSCME decision places those things in jeopardy.
Washington State Legislative Director Herb Krohn, left, looks on as Transportation Division President John Previsich congratulates Washington state Sen. Patty Kuderer on receiving a Golden Spike award at the Seattle Regional Meeting.
“There’s direct evidence that unions work and they’re not the problem,” Kuderer said. “I think what we need to do is to fight fire with fire. The Freedom Foundation is not going to give up. The Koch brothers aren’t going to give up. Big money interests, they’re not going to give up. But we have something more than they have – we have numbers, we have people, and we need to communicate the message of the unions more effectively to people to make them understand why it’s important to be a part of it.
“Just know that here in Washington, we’re going to do what we can to continue to protect unions and working families,” she said.
State Sen. Steve Hobbs (D – Dist. 44) received the Washington State Legislative Board’s 2018 Senator of the Year award for support of rail labor and working to lead the state’s Transportation Committee.
Washington state Sen. Steve Hobbs, right, thanks Washington State Legislative Director Herb Krohn after Hobbs received a Golden Lantern award at the Seattle Regional Meeting.
“If you don’t remember about the people – the people that drive the buses, the people that are on the rail cars, the people that fly the planes – then you’ve missed the point about transportation,” Hobbs said. “Because transportation is not just about getting people from Point A to Point B or getting your product from Point A to Point B, it’s about connecting people, building relationships.”
State Rep. Mike Sells (D – Dist. 38) was given a Golden Lantern award as the 2018 Representative of the Year. Sells leads the Washington State House Labor and Workplace Standards Committee and has sponsored or co-sponsored “every piece of legislation that we’ve introduced on rail safety,” Krohn said.
Washington state Rep. Mike Sells, left, accepts a Golden Lantern award from Washington State Legislative Director Herb Krohn at the Seattle Regional Meeting as Transportation Division Vice President John England, right, looks on.
Three state senators also were recognized for their advocacy and full support of TD legislation.
State Sens. Marilyn Chase (D – Dist. 32), Mark Miloscia (R – Dist. 30) and Hans Zeiger (D – Dist. 25) all were given awards for voting for 100 percent of TD safety legislation and for their 100% sponsorship or co-sponsorship records for all TD-supported legislation over the past six years.
Washington state Reps. Marilyn Chase and Mark Miloscia show off the awards they received from the Washington State Legislative Board at the Seattle Regional Meeting.
In addition to Krohn, Assistant State Legislative Director Steve Mazulo of Local 855 and Darren Volland, legislative representative of Local 426, served as the host local committee for the meeting at the Westin hotel in Seattle.
After a prolonged five-year battle against the railroad carriers’ opposition to legislation to ensure the safety of their own employees; ESHB 1105, the number one priority of the SMART TD Washington State Legislative Board, was finally enacted into statute law May 16, when a large group of railroad workers who traveled to Olympia, Wash., witnessed the signing of this bill into law by Governor Jay Inslee (D).
The impetus for passing this law was the horrific crew van accident that occurred March 24, 2011, that resulted in the death of 22-year BNSF engineer Tom Kenny, 58; conductor-in-training Chris Loehr, 22; and Coach America van driver Steven Sebastian, 60; and the critical injuries sustained by conductor Dwight Hauck, 52. Those present for the enactment of this legislation included Laura Kenny and her family, the spouse and children of engineer Tom Kenny, as well as Hauck and his wife Susan.
“We are especially grateful to both the Kenny’s and the Hauck’s for their testimony and strong support of this legislation which was instrumental in our ability to eventually win out over the railroads opposition,” Washington State Legislative Director Herb Krohn said.
The new Washington State statute is the most stringent railroad contract crew transportation safety law in our nation, with most of the provisions taking effect on Jan. 1, 2018. According to Krohn, this law brings all rail contract transportation vehicles regardless of seating capacity, under the strict regulatory authority of the Washington State Utilities and Transportation Commission (WUTC). This agency has a mandate to regulate all aspects of rail contract crew transportation services including driver qualifications, equipment and operational safety, driver’s hours of service, passenger safety, drug testing provisions, as well as mandatory recordkeeping. The WUTC now has been granted the authority to enforce all aspects of this new law including the investigation of passenger complaints and the imposition of penalties. This law increases state insurance requirements from $1.5 million to $5 million of liability coverage, and will require coverage of no less than $1 million in Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist coverage, currently there are no UIM coverage requirements whatsoever.
Additionally this legislation requires state-approved notices be posted prominently in every contract crew vehicle to inform railroad employees of their right to safe transportation; the notices will also explain how to file safety complaints with the state for investigation. Drivers will soon be required to undergo a state-approved safety training program, they will be automatically disqualified from driving railroad employees for three years if their drivers license has been suspended more than once in the past three years for anything other than non-payment of a traffic ticket; as well as upon conviction of any alcohol or drug related traffic offense, using a vehicle to commit a felony, leaving the scene of an accident, prohibited passing of another vehicle, any railroad grade crossing traffic violations as well as driving with a suspended license.
The WUTC now has the authority to inspect all railroad and contractor passenger transportation vehicles; they are required by the new law to develop a periodic state inspection program for all contract transport vehicles. Lastly, to prevent attempts by railroad officers or contract crew transport companies from retaliating against our members, this new law includes a special confidentiality clause that prohibits agency public disclosure of the identity of any employee who submits a crew transportation safety complaint to the WUTC. While passage of this law is a major advancement, according to Krohn the WUTC rule making process to enforce the provisions of this statute is even more critical: “this is where the rubber really meets the road as the regulations the commission finally adopts will determine precisely how this new law will actually be applied and enforced and will impose the specific expectations on these contract operators.” Krohn is already actively engaged in participating in the regulatory development process of the WUTC.
The Seattle Times reported that backers of a Seattle bylaw, which prohibits the use of city funds to finance sports venues, plan to push for a strengthened ballot measure to help block a proposed arena in Sodo District. SMART TD Washington State Legislative Director Herb Krohn, who is against the proposal because it could eradicate rail yards and manufacturing in the area, said the initiative needs to be strengthened, “…to protect the thousands of middle-class working people whose jobs rely on the Port of Seattle, the Burlington Northern, Union Pacific and AMTRAK rail yards, and the vast manufacturing and industrial businesses in Sodo.” Read the entire story here.
Former SMART TD (UTU Local 1348) Washington State Legislative Director Thomas R. Retterath died Monday, November 2, 2015 at the Hospice Care Center following a battle with cancer.
Retterath was drafted and served in the U.S. Army from 1964 to 1966. In 1971 he began his railroad career with Burlington Northern Railroad where he worked as a switchman at Longview Switching. In 1984 he was elected as the Washington State Legislative Director for the UTU and he served in that capacity until he retired in 2006. He is remembered as a devoted husband, father, grandfather and friend.
SMART TD Washington State Legislative Director Herb Krohn said, “Tom Retterath was an extremely popular and respected leader of SMART TD/United Transportation Union. He could be described as a ‘gentle giant.’ From 1984 through 2006 he guided our Washington State Legislative Board as our state director. He led the successful effort to obtain adoption of regulations establishing railroad walkway safety standards in our state.”
A celebration of his life was held at 2:00 p.m. on November 14 at Evangel Christian Fellowship, 1335 11th Avenue, Longview, WA, 98632.
Donations may be made in Retterath’s honor to the Community Home Health and Hospice, Three Rivers International House of Prayer or Mountain Ministries.
OLYMPIA, Wash. – Washington’s Republican-controlled Senate could set a national precedent with a bill passed Monday night (March 9) that would require up to two railroad workers in the rear of trains carrying crude oil and other hazardous cargo.
Currently, BNSF Railway, the largest freight hauler in Washington, is not required to carry rear brakeman in any of the 28 states where it operates, according to Gus Melonas, a BNSF spokesman.
Members of the SMART Transportation Division’s Washington State Legislative Board have been quite busy in recent weeks.
Working with the board members and state emergency management officials, state senators and representatives of the Washington State Legislature Jan. 29 introduced six bills that could have a direct impact on Transportation Division-represented railroad employees and the safety of the communities in which their trains operate.
Also introduced were a yardmaster hours of service bill in both the House of Representatives and the Senate and a rail crew transportation safety bill.
Under the proposed crew-staffing legislation, all trains and yard-switching assignments will be staffed with no less than two qualified employees. Trains designated as hazardous material trains of 50 cars or less, will be staffed with no less than three qualified employees, with the thirdemployee assigned to work on the rear of the train in a position to be able to safely observe and monitor the train.
Trains designated as hazardous material trains of 51 cars or more will be staffed with no less than four qualified employees, with two employees assigned to work on the rear of the train in a position to be able to safely observe and monitor the train.
Hazardous material trains are defined utilizing the current national standards adopted by Department of Transportation and all Class I carriers. The State Utility and Transportation Commission can direct carriers to exceed the minimum requirements if specific conditions affecting safety or security necessitate additional crewmembers.
Hearings on both bills have been tentatively scheduled for Feb. 9 in the House Labor Committee and the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee, Transportation Division Washington State Legislative Director Herb Krohn said.
“Our workers know how to run these trains safely, but the railroad refuses to provide adequate staffing, exposing the public and railworkers to death and injury. These bills simply restore Washington State’s commonsense safety standards,” Krohn said.
“We looked at what went wrong in each of the catastrophic explosions and the close calls, and it’s clear that one or two people simply can’t monitor and safely operate these dangerous cargos. Adding even one more person to a train, particularly at the back of the train, will save lives.”
H.B. 1809 was introduced by State Rep. Larry Haler (R-Richland) and currently has a total of 33 additional co-sponsors.
House Transportation Committee Chairman Judy Clibborn (D-Mercer Island) said, “This bill just requires a minimum level of staffing because an adequately staffed train is a safe train.”
S.B. 5697 was introduced by State Sen. Linda Evans Parlette (R-Wenatchee), Chairman of the Senate Majority Caucus. It currently has 23 additional co-sponsors.
“Safely moving goods through Washington State is in everyone’s interest. The public is counting on us to ensure that trains, no matter what they are transporting, are safely operated,” Evans Parlette said.
“I’ve worked as a conductor for 10 years with a perfect safety record and this bill will make trains safer,” said Local 324 Chairperson and Legislative Rep. Paul McGill of Seattle.
The text of the bills read, in part, “Any person, corporation, company, or officer of the court operating any railroad, or part of any railroad or railway within the state of Washington, and engaged as a common carrier, in the transportation of freight or passengers, who violates any of the provisions of section 3 of this act are guilty of a misdemeanor, and upon conviction shall be fined not less than one thousand dollars and not more than one hundred thousand dollars for each offense.”
Krohn said the bills are in response to concerns raised by emergency management officials who have become aware that the crewmembers on the head end of trains, in most cases, cannot see their train beyond a limited sight distance. Recognizing that the train crews are the first responders, they believe that trains that pose a significant risk to the public need crewmembers on the rear of the train, in a position to be able to see the train and take appropriate action if something goes wrong.
Krohn said he attended a freight mobility roundtable discussion last year featuring a presentation on oil-train safety from emergency responders. “Not aware of who I was, Director of the Seattle Office of Emergency Management Barb Graff mentioned the BNSF Railway one-person crew contract proposed to the members of General Committee of Adjustment GO 001 last year. She said she was glad that it was voted down and said two-person crews were not enough on hazmat trains.”
That led to Krohn and members of the state legislative board working with emergency management officials to get the ball rolling on the two bills.
“As an emergency manager, I plan for disaster and work for safety. Human eyes are key to safety and proper staffing is important, which is why I support this bill,” said Dominic Marzano, emergency manager for Kent, Wash., and division chief of the Kent Fire Department – Regional FireAuthority.
Noting that railroad yardmasters are required to work excessively long hours by railroad carriers, H.B. 1284and S.B. 5696 will prohibit a yardmaster to “remain or go on duty for a period in excess of twelve consecutive hours…An employee may not remain or go on duty unless that employee has had at least ten consecutive hours off duty during the prior twenty-four hours.”
If the state’s Utilities and Transportation Commission finds that a Class I carrier violates the provisions of these bills, if passed, “the commission may assess a civil penalty of not less than ten thousand dollars and not more than fifty thousand dollars.”
Krohn said that yardmaster and BNSF GO 341 General Chairperson Jeffrey Sellman was the impetus behind these bills and worked tirelessly to advance them in the legislature.
Finally, H.B. 1808 and S.B.5797 will, if passed, “regulate charter party carriers providing railroad crew transportation and every contract crew hauling vehicle with respect to the safety of equipment, driver qualifications, insurance levels, and safety of operations. The commission must adopt rules and require reports as necessary to carry out this chapter regarding contract crew hauling vehicles and establish federal motor vehicle safety standards for contract crew hauling vehicles, regardless of seating capacity, as the minimum safety standards.”
“I am really excited about how we’ve advanced these bills in the legislature,” Krohn said. “They are reasonable bills that won’t break the bank of the railroads. They are a reasonable precaution to protect the public and our members.”
Krohn encourages Transportation Division members and all concerned railroad employees to contact their lawmakers and seek their support of these legislative proposals.
SMART Transportation Division Washington State Legislative Director Herb Krohn Nov. 7 appeared on Northwest Now, a Public Broadcasting System program that airs in Washington on Television Station KBTC.
Northwest Now is an Emmy®-award winning weekly public affairs show that goes beyond the headlines to provide perspective on the issues that have western Washington talking.
In this episode, Northwest Now takes a closer look at coal trains and the two proposed terminals that would be used to export coal and oil through Washington. Krohn discusses these issue with host Tom Layson and Sightline Institute policy director Eric De Place.
Attendees to the Washington State Labor Council Convention in Wenatchee, Wash., July 22-24, unanimously endorsed a resolution supporting legislation for two-person rail crews on train operations throughout the state, SMART Transportation Division Washington Legislative Director Herb Krohn reports.
The council also passed a resolution calling for additional legislative efforts related to railroad workplaces and public safety.
Krohn said the SMART Transportation Division had its largest delegation from the organization in attendance at the convention in about 50 years.
“We were also instrumental in advancing a resolution in support of limiting project development studies to 18 months to advance the proposed export terminals in Washington State,” Krohn said.
The two-person crew resolution “steadfastly opposes any actions to permit one-person train crew operations on Class I railroads operating in our state and elsewhere.”
The WSLC resolution also “supports and fervently urges the Washington State Legislature to enact proposed legislation prohibiting one-person train crew operations (H.B. 2718/S.B. 6473), which are already operating in our state on short-line railroads to the detriment of public safety; supports and advocates that members of our congressional delegation cosponsor and work to pass H.R. 3040, which would require all trains operating in the United States to be staffed with a crew of no fewer than two persons; and hereby determines that the enactment of legislation to prohibit one-person train crews shall be a priority in its 2015 legislative agenda.”
The resolution on railroad workplace and public safety endorsed the following legislative efforts:
H.B. 1620 and S.B. 5720, bills seeking adoption of state regulatory authority of railroad crew transportation services and any subcontractor company utilized by the railroads to provide such services;
H.B. 1621 and S.B. 5721, seeking adoption of state regulatory authority, equivalent to the Federal Hours of Service Laws that now cover railroad operating craft personnel, for Class I railroad yardmasters working in the state of Washington;
H.B. 1845 and S.B. 5722, seeking adoption of a process to consolidate all of the state of Washington’s railroad public and workplace safety and regulatory functions possible under a single agency, the WUTC; and providing this agency with the maximum regulatory authority over railroads permissible under federal law, as well as providing adequate funding, which includes additional inspectors with federalized rail enforcement authority;
The resolution also recognizes that crude shipments by rail pose a real and potentially deadly threat to both rail workers and the public and strongly urges the Washington State Legislature to work in close cooperation with rail labor organizations to critically examine all aspects of crude-by-rail operations.
The WSLC urged the Washington State Legislature, as well as all Washington State agencies having such authority, to develop a coordinated, consolidated, expanded, and effective rail regulatory and enforcement program for the purpose of ensuring increased protection of both railroad workers and the public.
The council announced that the resolution of these critical railroad public and employee safety issues shall be a priority in the 2015 WSLC legislative agenda.
To read the two-person crew resolution, click here.
To read the railroad workplace and public safety resolution, click here.
Pictured, from left, are SMART-TD Washington State Legislative Board Secretary Jourdan Marshall (117), Local Legislative Rep. Shane Sadler (1238), International Longshore and Warehouse Union Lobbyist Gordon Baxter, Washington State Legislative Board Vice Chairperson Clyde Rosa (1637), Local Legislative Rep. Tracey Council (845), Local Legislative Rep. Darren Volland (426), Washington State Legislative Board Assistant Director Steve Mazulo (855), Washington State Labor Council Secretary-Treasurer Lynne Dodson, Washington State Labor Council President Jeff Johnson, Washington State Legislative Board Chairperson Gary Howell (977), Krohn (1348), member Dan Kalich (426), member Kevin Drury (117, seated), member Steve Dansereau (1505), member Taro Suyematsu (1348), Local Legislative Rep. Dwayne Hawkins (1713) and Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen Lobbyist Mike Elliott. (Not pictured was member Jared Dunagan of Local 845.)
SMART Transportation Division Washington State Legislative Director Herb Krohn appeared on the cable television station Showtime’s documentary series “Years of Living Dangerously” Monday, May 12, in an episode entitled “The Governor.”
According to Showtime, the documentary event series explores the human impact of climate change.
In “The Governor,” correspondent Olivia Munn profiles what the show bills as the nation’s most climate-conscious governor, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, and reports on what he’ll do about the coal export depots in his state.
The show states as governor, Inslee is facing a well-financed campaign by the coal industry to build export depots that could ship 100 million tons of coal to Asia each year.
Krohn was interviewed for his perspective in support of the export terminal issue.
“I appeared on the episode for maybe a few minutes, even though the actual filmed interview lasted almost three hours,” Krohn said. “It is docu-entertainment and has a very biased perspective.”
“You can come out and protest and you can feel like you are doing something for the world. But, you are not accomplishing anything except costing American jobs,” Krohn tells viewers in the show.