We know all too well that alcohol consumption and drug use can imperil our jobs.
But how about off the job; and how about family members?
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports more than 600,000 emergency room visits annually due to alcohol or drug problems; and that count represents but one-third of all misuse of alcohol or drugs.
In the long term, alcohol abuse can lead to:
Liver, heart and brain damage; and severe over indulgence of alcohol can induce dementia or other mental illness.
Bad judgment, poor coordination, blackouts, loss of memory, nausea, hangovers, headaches, coma and suicide.
Birth defects, including learning disabilities. That is why pregnant women are warned not to consume alcohol during pregnancies.
Be aware that 40 percent of alcoholism is related to genetics and is inherited.
Note the warning signs and symptoms of alcohol abuse:
Inability to reduce or stop drinking
Hiding alcohol in secret places
Violent episodes or becoming angry when confronted about drinking habits
Sleeping for long periods of time
Feeling anxious in social situations and experiencing feelings of guilt
Poor eating habits
You and/or your family members can get help in treating alcohol and drug abuse.
United Behavioral Health offers 24-hour confidential telephone counseling at (866) 850-6212, and the website www.liveandworkwell.com can provide you with more information on alcohol and drug abuse.
And keep in mind that those in safety sensitive transportation jobs face a good likelihood of being randomly tested for alcohol and drug use:
The U.S. Department of Transportation set the following test rates for 2011:
For bus drivers, the random drug testing rate is 50 percent; and the random alcohol testing rate is 10 percent.
For airline workers, the random drug testing rate is 25 percent; and the random alcohol testing rate is 10 percent.
For rail workers, the random drug testing rate is 25 percent; and the random alcohol testing rate is 10 percent.
For transit workers, the random drug testing rate is 25 percent; and the random alcohol testing rate is 10 percent.
Almost 10,000 train and engine workers returned to work on Class I railroads through the first 11 months of 2010, with T&E jobs up almost 10 percent compared with November 2009, says the Surface Transportation Board, which tracks the data.
The STB says 61,819 train & engine workers are now on the job with Class I railroads.
The increase in train and engine workers during 2010 was more than double the increase in other crafts, said the STB.
A ray of sunshine for working families is emerging from otherwise bleak economic news: Many Americans are going back to work.
The Labor Department reports that 151,000 jobs were added during October, following four successive months of job losses.
On the nation’s railroads, thousands of train and engine (T&E) workers are being recalled to work.
Union Pacific Chairman Jim Young told Wall Street analysts in late October that UP had put some 1,100 furloughed workers back to work during the third quarter 2010, and that all furloughed UP workers would be back on the job in coming months. Young said he expects UP to be hiring additional employees in 2011.
At Norfolk Southern, according to the Journal of Commerce, all furloughed T&E workers have returned to their jobs, and NS will be hiring an addtional 1,550 T&E workers this year — and may hire an additional 1,800 in 2011, albeit many replacing those who will retire.
Although train and engine jobs on the nation’s Class I railroads had been cut by some 20 percent between June 2007 and June 2009, there has been a steady increase in T&E jobs in 2010, especially over the past few months, according to U.S. Surface Transportation Board data as reported to the agency by the railroads.
In June 2007, the nation’s Class I railroads employed 69,298 workers in train and engine jobs.
By June 2009, the number of T&E jobs on Class I railroads had declined to 55,434 — a decline of some 20 percent in T&E jobs from the June 2007 level.
Beginning this past June, however, the number of T&E jobs began rising significantly, climbing back to 61,444 in September, or only about 11 percent below the June 2007 level of T&E employment, according to STB data.
The STB has not yet reported October T&E employment, which is expected to show another rise.
With rail traffic strong and expected to remain so, there is confidence that the number of T&E jobs will continue rising on all railroads during the fourth quarter.
Another strong ray of sunshine is found in an observation by the British-based Economist magazine in its Oct. 30 issue:
“America has far more going for it than its current mood suggests. It is still the most innovative economy on earth, the place where the world’s greatest universities meet the world’s deepest pockets. Its demography is favorable, with a high birth rate and limitless space into which to expand.
“It has a flexible and hard-working labor force. Its ultra-low bond yields are a sign that the world’s investors still think it is a good long-term bet. The most enterprising individuals on earth still clamor to come to America.”
UTU Michigan State Legislative Director Jerry Gibson knows the value of the UTU PAC in electing labor friendly lawmakers. He knows how to share those facts, also.
UTU Local 1075 Secretary-Treasurer John Purcell says he and other members of his Trenton, Mich., local had “no clue of what the UTU PAC was. No one had ever explained how it worked” until Gibson showed up at a union local meeting.
Purcell credits Gibson with educating the local’s members “on how PAC funds are used and the benefits the PAC provides. I started contributing myself immediately and began to encourage others to do the same,” Purcell said in a recent e-mail he sent Gibson.
“The value of the UTU PAC was further driven home after my attendance at the regional meetings where I learned what was being done in Washington D.C., and the impact of our PAC funds there,” Purcell said.
More recently, Purcell said the UTU’s get-out-the vote drive for the Nov. 2 elections was a success. Post cards sent members through a project of the National Legislative Office “reached the members’ homes and several contacted me and asked questions,” Purcell said.
“I provided information which included that the UTU PAC is not a partisan program and that it supports candidates that support us regardless of party affiliation,” Purcell said. “I used the information provided, which listed successful legislation that has improved safety and benefits.
“All of this resulted in 12 members either increasing their UTU PAC donation or becoming new donors all together,” Purcell said.
Purcell said he now writes a check to the UTU PAC in the amount of $265 per month, and 44 percent of Local 1075’s members now donate. He said his goal is to gain PAC contributions from 75 percent of Local 1075’s members.
WASHINGTON — Any federal funds flowing to freight railroads as part of a stimulus package, or investment tax credit or loans should be accompanied by a requirement that the railroads not use the money for technology that eliminates jobs.
That was the principal message Jan. 28 of the UTU to the House Rail Subcommittee, which sought public comment on the current state and future of the rail industry.
With the Obama administration and Congress committed to putting Americans back to work and keeping them on the job, any actions by railroads to use public dollars for elimination of jobs would be in violation of public policy, said the UTU.
UTU National Legislative Director James Stem testified that the slumping economy already is responsible for the furlough of some 12 percent of train, engine and yard employees, and more job cuts are expected.
“We hope that the requirements of receiving any federal funds will neither promote nor allow a race to the bottom on wages or elimination of existing jobs,” Stem said.
He said that “at least one railroad is planning to pay for the implementation of the positive train control (PTC) system required by Congress by attempting to operate their trains with only one employee on the train, and using federal funds to accomplish the goal.”
Public safety is another reason why single crew-member operation of trains with PTC is not feasible, Stem said.
“The responsibilities of the railroad to operate safely over public rail-highway grade crossings, to inspect the moving train at every opportunity, to open public crossings quickly when blocked by a stopped train, and to interact with emergency responders are issues that are not addressed by any PTC system, and such systems were never designed to do so,” he said.
Two crew persons are required to make simple repairs and to interact with local emergency responders following a derailment, a grade-crossing collision, or a trespasser injury or fatality. Over a recent five-year period, said Stem, more than 22,500 grade-crossing accidents, trespasser fatalities and suicides on train tracks occurred in the U.S.
“The use of federal funds to install a PTC system, while attempting to experiment with single person operation, would disregard the safety of other railroad crews, the communities that are served, and the customers’ well being,” Stem said.
“We strongly encourage Congress to clearly specify how any federal funds could be used by railroads, and to prohibit the use of any federal funds — whether tax credits, grants or loans — in a way that would eliminate jobs.”
The UTU also recommended that Congress allow for the issuance of one federal credential for entry into security controlled sites, rather than requiring rail workers to carry multiple identify cards that include their locomotive and/or conductor certification. A single card displaying all credentials would “simplify the process for railroads and their employees,” Stem said, “and use fewer federal resources.”
Additionally, the UTU observed that the National Transportation Safety Board has diluted the functions of its rail division, with the result that fewer investigations are launched into the cause of rail employee fatalities. Stem urged subcommittee members to work with rail labor and the Obama administration to restore NTSB’s focus on rail accident investigation, which is an important step toward improved rail safety.
Click here to read the entire UTU congressional testimony.