The efforts of a two-person crew in East St. Paul, Minn., helped to save a wandering five-year-old girl and reunite her with her family.
Near midnight Saturday, Feb. 1, SMART Transportation Division Local 1293 member Jarrod Campbell and BLET member Angela Knutson were operating a Union Pacific train through East St. Paul when they spotted something unusual alongside the tracks.
The shape looked strange to them, so Knutson stopped the train, and Campbell grabbed his lantern and left the cab to investigate.
Walking back, he discovered a five-year-old girl wearing a light jacket. She wasn’t wearing a hat or mittens and her sneakers were filled with snow.
“I introduced myself to her,” Campbell said. “She said that her name was Zoey and that she was cold and wanted her mom.”
The conductor out of the Altoona, Wis., local picked Zoey up and asked her if she would want to come into the locomotive where it was warm so she could meet Angela.
“She gave me a big hug and said thank you,” Campbell said.
Campbell carried Zoey through the snow and they went into the cab. There Campbell and Knutson comforted her by wrapping her in Campbell’s coat, giving her a spare pair of Knutson’s socks, using hand warmers to stave off the early signs of hypothermia and keeping her calm until EMS crews could arrive.
She had been reported missing to police about 45 minutes to a half-hour before the crew found her, Campbell later learned. The temperature was about 40 degrees Fahrenheit, and he said there was still eight to 10 inches of snow on the ground there.
The combined efforts of both crewmembers saved the girl from a possibly life-threatening situation at a time when rail carriers are looking to cut the conductor position from the cab in favor of technologies such as Positive Train Control. The carriers and Federal Railroad Administration argue that no data exists proving that a two-person crew is any safer than a single-person crew.
Zoey’s family would probably differ on that.
“It’s just miraculous that we were able to see her or find her,” Campbell said. “It sure wasn’t Positive Train Control that stopped and saved this girl.”
SMART Transportation Division Minnesota State Legislative Director Phillip Qualy reports that two-person crew legislation has passed in his state’s House of Representatives as part of H.F. 1555, an omnibus transportation bill, and that a push by members and retirees alike will be needed to get it through the state Senate to the governor.
The bill passed Monday, April 29, by a 74-52 party-line vote and now moves on to the Minnesota Senate’s Transportation Conference Committee. Section 93 of the bill contains a provision setting a minimum crew size for freight trains operating in the state. H.F. 1555 also contains other important rail safety provisions, including Section 90, which set forth the Minnesota Department of Transportation’s enforcement of state safety regulations and maintenance of way track equipment crossing protections.
“The outcome of that conference committee will most likely determine whether minimum train crew language is passed into law,” Qualy said.
Qualy said that the effort of every SMART TD member and retiree in Minnesota is necessary to pass this important legislation to keep the state’s communities safe. Members, retirees and their friends and family are encouraged to call or email their state senators to talk about the important public safety aspects and assistance to first responders that two-person crews provide on the state’s rails in the case of a railroad emergency. A list of key senators to be contacted appears below.
“We need all railroad workers standing together in support of this legislation,” he said. “We need our members at the capitol. Please make your calls and emails today.”
Members of the Minnesota State Senate who should be contacted include:
SMART Transportation Division Minnesota State Legislative Board has proudly announced today its endorsement of U.S. Rep. Tim Walz’s campaign for governor of Minnesota.
“Congressman Walz’s work with our union since 2006 for railroad safety and service distinguishes his efforts in the 2018 election cycle,” said SMART TD Minnesota State Legislative Director Phillip Qualy. “Since serving as chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Railroads with former Congressman James Oberstar, Tim Walz has always had an open door for railroad labor.”
Walz has cosponsored multiple versions of SMART TD’s key legislative priority The Safe Freight Act that requires a certified conductor and certified engineer on all trains, authored bipartisan energy legislation and holds a strong reputation in Congress for working in a bipartisan manner across party lines, Qualy said.
“Tim Walz is a friend of railroad labor and our retirees,” Qualy said. “Our state committee believes that having worked in Washington, he brings a wealth of knowledge home and can bring needed resources to our state. As our next governor, Tim Walz’s common-sense values, pragmatism and enthusiasm will serve Minnesotans well.”
Prior to joining Congress in 2007 and representing Minnesota’s First District, Walz was a high school teacher for 20 years in Mankato Minn., where he coached Mankato West to the state football championship. An avid outdoor sportsman, Walz also served in the National Guard, where he achieved the highest enlisted rank of any member in Congress who served in the Guard.
“Among some very good candidates for governor, Tim Walz has earned strong support from railroad labor and our retirees,” Qualy said. “The Minnesota 2018 elections are crucial to the future of railroad labor and our state.”
In addition to Walz, SMART TD’s Railroad Workers Committee also screened gubernatorial candidates Erin Murphy and state Auditor Rebecca Otto May 18th in St. Paul. Qualy said all received “excellent” ratings from the committee.
“We look forward to a positive and productive working relationship with Tim Walz in the Minnesota Governor’s Office” said Qualy.
“I encourage all of our SMART TD members to get involved with your Local, be sure you are registered to vote, and vote for your job and your pension first this November. Minnesota’s working families must unite this fall to keep this state a great place to live and work,” he said.
Clyde Larson, 62, described as “an absolute pillar” of the railroad labor community in northern Minnesota and Wisconsin, died on Nov. 8.
“Brother Clyde was a tremendously generous person and assisted all crafts,” said SMART TD Minnesota Legislative Director Phillip Qualy. “Clyde helped an untold number of railroad workers and our families with railroad and non-railroad matters.” Larson, of Hermantown, Minn., was a member of UTU Local 1292 and worked as a conductor on the Duluth Missabe and Iron Range, later CN Railway, first hiring out in 1974 at age 19 as a brakeman.
He also served as Local 1292’s Local and General Chairperson from the late 1980s to 2010, protecting one of the most lucrative steel road contracts in the United States.
He also served as legislative representative on the Minnesota Legislative Board from 2003 to 2009.
Brother Larson had served as a field investigator for the designated counsel law firm Hunegs, LeNeave and Kvas since 2010.
Clyde was serving our members in the union hall (Local 832/1175) to his final day. His ongoing dedication to his brothers and sisters of railroad labor was truly remarkable.
Brother Larson is survived by his wife, Anne, three sons, Scott, Eric, and Corey, two grandchildren and his father, Dexter Larson.
Visitation will be 5-7 p.m., with a wake prayer at 5 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 14, at Dougherty Funeral Home in Duluth. Visitation will continue from 10-11 a.m., followed by the Mass of Christian Burial at 11 a.m., Wednesday, Nov. 15, at St. Lawrence Church in Duluth. Burial will be in Calvary Cemetery.
SMART TD extends its condolences to Clyde’s family and friends.
MPR news interviewed Vice General Chairperson of Union Pacific GO 225 Randy Raskin and Minnesota State Legislative Director Phil Qualy, both of Local 650 (Minneapolis), during an ongoing series of conversations about rail safety in Minnesota.
MPR News’ Tom Weber interviewed Raskin and Qualy for their expertise on trains from the inside out.
They talked about the jobs of conductors and engineers and what role they play in ensuring the safety of our railways.
A bill that would require two-person crews aboard Amtrak and most freight trains operating in Minnesota passed out of two Senate committees last week. The safety measure is a top legislative priority of theUnited Transportation Union, which represents about 70,000 workers in North America.
Sen. Ann Rest (DFL-New Hope) introduced the legislation in the Senate, and the measure received bipartisan support in the Judiciary and Transportation committees. But Republican leaders in the House have refused to take up a companion bill introduced by Rep.Frank Hornstein (DFL-Minneapolis).
The Minnesota Senate Committee on Transportation and Public Safety and the Senate Committee on Judiciary have approved legislation requiring two qualified train-crew personnel on all trains in the state with bipartisan support.
Senate File 918 is now before the full Minnesota Senate.
“The policy language is very narrow to assure that we can prevail under any test of federal pre-emption from the carriers,” said SMART Transportation Division Minnesota State Legislative Director Phillip Qualy. “We are emphasizing public safety as we must because that is what this is about. We have set forth that Amtrak and passenger rail operations are included under this legislation.”
“In event any train should run with one person, the second and subsequent fine is for $1,000 for each train.”
In his testimony before the Committee on Judiciary March 19, Qualy said, “Railroads have two persons on all trains. Our S.F. 918 poses no undue burden on commerce. Regarding grade crossing emergency response, for the railroad workers of Minnesota, I submit that we simply cannot leave injured persons lying unattended in the ditches of Minnesota.” Read Qualy’s complete testimony here.
Unfortunately, Qualy said, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives has so far refused to hear companion legislation House File 1166, to date.
“We are sending a letter of appeal to the Republican leadership with the amended Senate language that originated from bipartisan Senate recommendations,” he said.
“We’ve had a good week thus far, but we are far, far away from passing this state legislation into law. The Minnesota Legislative Board thanks all of our members who attended the hearings this week. We also want to thank our good friend, Mr. Larry Mann, who assisted the board and testified in support of this important legislation.”
“The board thanks Minnesota Assistant State Legislative Director Nicholas Katich (1067), Designated Legal Counsel Cortney LeNeave and Ron Barzcak, Minnesota AFL-CIO Legislative Director Jennifer Schaubach, and most importantly, State Sen. Ann Rest (DFL-Dist. 45), who authored and sponsored this legislation.
WASHINGTON – Last week, U.S. Sen. Al Franken asked the Federal Railroad Administration to consider rerouting trains carrying volatile Bakken crude oil from North Dakota so they do not pass through Minnesota’s biggest cities.
For Franken, the possibility of rerouting is an integral part of a comprehensive response to a recent rash of fiery oil train derailments that also includes stabilizing Bakken crude before it is loaded into stronger tanker cars.
Two Minnesota lawmakers have introduced legislation in the state’s legislature that would require two persons on all Class I and II carrier freight trains operating in the state.
State Rep. Frank Hornstein (DFL-Dist. 61A) and State Sen. Ann H. Rest (DFL-Dist. 45) introduced H.F. 1166 and S.F. 918 introduced last month in the Minnesota House of Representatives and Senate, respectively.
Both bills state that, if passed, “No person operating or controlling a Class I or Class II railroad may allow the operation of a railroad train or locomotive in this state, used in connection with the movement of freight, without a crew composed of a minimum of two individuals, except as otherwise provided by Code of Federal Regulations, title 49, part 218, subpart B. A person violating this section is guilty of a misdemeanor and liable for a penalty of not less than $250 nor more than $1,000 for a first offense, not less than $1,000 nor more than $5,000 for a second offense, and not less than $5,000 nor more than $10,000 for a third or subsequent offense.”
S.F. 918 will be heard before the Senate Transportation and Public Safety Committee on Monday, March 16, at 2 p.m. at the state capitol, Transportation Division State Legislative Director Phillip Qualy said. The Senate Judiciary plans to hear S.F. 918 the following day, March 17.
The Republican-controlled House of Representatives has yet to schedule a hearing for the companion legislation, H.F. 1166.
“Our state legislation is not federally pre-empted and does not contain language that can be construed as a collective-bargaining area,” Qualy said “Unfortunately, the railroads are misleading the legislature with inaccurate and erroneous information. The carriers’ practice to remove more and more persons from the right-of-ways of American railroads endangers the general public”.
Minnesota has the eighth largest rail network in the United States. The SMART Transportation Division in Minnesota continues to advise the legislature on oil transportation, grade-crossing safety and supports the Minnesota AFL-CIO’s Working Family agenda.
The Minnesota Legislature is scheduled to adjourn May 20, 2015.
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.
With the adjournment of the 2012 Minnesota legislative session, the Minnesota AFL-CIO, along with the UTU and other AFL-CIO member organizations, has succeeded in defending against right-to-work (for less) legislation introduced by Tea Party Republicans.
“The AFL-CIO lobbying team held every Democratic Farm Labor Party legislator in support of a Working Family Agenda that included defeat of the right-to-work (for less) legislation by convincing a core block of moderate and veteran Republicans to vote against the bill,” said UTU Minnesota State Legislative Director Phil Qualy.
Additionally, said Qualy, “despite Republican control of both chambers in the state legislature, for the first time in 38 years, none of our state safety statutes has been harmed during the legislative session now ended.”
Qualy commended UTU Locals 911, 1000 and 1067, which hosted Minnesota AFL-CIO training sessions on the law, which would have weakened collective bargaining rights.
“Also to be commended are UTU members and retirees who called their legislators and made the difference when the Republican leadership heard loud and clear from main street and good middle class Americans,” Qualy said.