It’s difficult to imagine trying to pass off reducing the braking power of a freight train as a safety precaution, but that is exactly what BNSF attempted to do recently in a request to the FRA for a variance to increase the allowable amount of flow from 90 CFM to 120 CFM.
In their request, BNSF states that in order to reduce the slip/trip/fall risk that goes along with conductors and carmen walking a consist looking for leaks in a brake line, that they think it’s safer to depart the train with up to 120 CFM of flow and assume it will be able to stop when it has to.
FRA put out a Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) requesting public comments on BNSF’s request, and SMART-TD’s National Legislative Department was happy to oblige them. Below you can read SMART-TD’s response to FRA from Brother Greg Hynes, SMART-TD’s national legislative director.
SMART Transportation Division Alternate Legislative Director Greg Hynes was appointed to the federal Department of Transportation’s Advisory Committee on Human Trafficking (ACHT) in early October. “Your experience and leadership as a representative of rail and labor will add valuable insights that will help further ACTH’s mission,” Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao said in a letter announcing Hynes’ appointment.
The committee, required by the Combating Human Trafficking in Commercial Vehicles Act, consists of stakeholders from trafficking advocacy organizations, law enforcement and trucking, bus, rail, aviation, maritime and port sectors, including industry and labor. “Members of this committee have extensive experience in combating human trafficking, and the Department looks forward to receiving their recommendations and reports,” Chao said in a DOT release. According to the release, the new 15-member committee is to provide recommendations to Chao before July 3, 2019 on:
Strategies for identifying and reporting instances of human trafficking.
Recommendations for administrative or legislative changes to use programs, properties, or other resources owned, operated, or funded by the Department to combat human trafficking.
Best practices for state and local transportation stakeholders based on multidisciplinary research and promising evidence-based models and programs, including sample training materials and strategies to identify victims.
The committee’s first meeting will be announced at a future date. A member of Local 1031, Hynes has served as alternate legislative director since 2014 and has served on the Federal Railroad Administration’s Railroad Safety Advisory Committee (RSAC). His complete biography is here.
In a letter to state directors, National Legislative Director John Risch and Alternate National Legislative Director Greg Hynes report the following:
“Unfortunately, a two-person crew amendment WILL NOT be offered to H.R. 3763, the Surface Transportation Reauthorization and Reform (STRR) Act of 2015.
“Due to the expected rules governing consideration of the legislation and agreements among the leadership of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on which amendments will be allowed, there is no path for the amendment to pass or receive strong support. A significant loss on the floor would set back our efforts.
“Please pass this information down the chain to your LRs and other members you are able to reach.
“While this is not the result we hoped for, we ask that you all continue to push forward and generate support for the stand-alone, two-person crew legislation, H.R. 1763, the Safe Freight Act. The more cosponsors we have on H.R. 1763, the better position we will be in to pass it as a stand-alone bill or attach it to a larger bill next time the House considers rail safety legislation.
“As always, thank you for all of your hard work and willingness to assist in our efforts.”
Alternate National Legislative Director Greg Hynes testified Thursday, August 28 at the Federal Railroad Administration’s (FRA) Risk Reduction public hearing.
The FRA published a notice of proposed rulemaking February 27, 2015 requiring certain railroads to develop a Risk Reduction Program (RRP). The Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 already requires the development and implementation of railroad safety risk reduction programs.
Risk reduction is a comprehensive, system-oriented approach to safety that: (1.) Determines an operation’s level of risk by identifying and analyzing applicable hazards; and (2.) involves the development of plans to mitigate that risk.
Each RRP is statutorily required to be supported by a risk analysis and a Risk Reduction Program Plan (RRPP), which must include a technology implementation plan and a fatigue management plan.
Below is Hynes’ testimony.
“On April 28, 2015 SMART and six other labor organizations submitted written views on the proposed rulemaking. My testimony will further explain the concerns of SMART.
“I acknowledge that the rail unions agreed to the draft of the risk reduction proposal. However, the proposed rulemaking takes excessive liberty with that tentative agreement. The technical drafting by FRA is not acceptable and we submit it varies from what was approved in the Rail Safety Advisory Committee (RSAC) deliberations.
“I want to reiterate the strong opposition to the Baker Botts study relied upon by FRA to restrict discovery. You should be aware that Baker Botts is a political surrogate for the railroads. The report it submitted reflects this bias. Clearly, the study lacks the objectivity that FRA should have required for an issue so controversial. Its conclusion that the information compiled for the risk reduction plan should be secret is not supported by the statutes it reviewed. FRA needs to recognize that each of the statutes mentioned by Baker Botts limits discovery only in a limited way, and discovery is allowed in every safety statute. The exception is for discovery of governmental documents.
“Our members have voiced great concern that FRA’s proposal here would have a significant negative impact on safety. If a safety hazard exists of which a railroad has knowledge, then the public and railroad employees should not be prevented from knowing such information. Congress has mandated that FRA, in carrying out its duties, shall consider the assignment and maintenance of safety as the highest priority. And it must recognize the clear intent of Congress for the furtherance of the highest degree of safety in railroad transportation. Restricting the public’s access to the railroad’s knowledge of a safety hazard does not comply with the statutory mandate.
“It became clear early in the RSAC working group that FRA was planning to provide the railroads complete protection to keep secret its risk reduction plan. Therefore, it was incumbent upon rail labor to insist that any such information contained therein be compiled “solely” for the risk reduction plan. Any information currently discoverable would continue to be. The problem is that the railroads might attempt to insert many items into the plan and state that they were collected solely for the plan. FRA must clearly specify that such maneuvers would violate the regulation. Also, the labor organizations previously submitted a list of documents that had been discoverable in court proceedings. In order to limit future litigation costs, this list should be restated in the final plan. Otherwise, FRA will be creating a legal nightmare, because the railroads would likely argue in court that almost everything sought was compiled solely for the risk reduction plan.
“Another major concern is that the proposed rulemaking limits the involvement of the collective bargaining representatives in compiling the safety hazards and their mitigation. Unless we are given an equal role, as the railroads to develop the plan many safety hazards likely will be overlooked. The current draft does not comply with the “best efforts and good faith” statutory mandate in development of a railroad’s risk reduction plan. We commend FRA in its explanation of the meaning of best efforts and good faith. However, FRA’s statement in the proposed rulemaking that it will simply “consider” the comments submitted regarding the consultation process requirements when developing the final rule is not acceptable. The workers should be on an equal footing with the railroads in developing the plan. If a railroad does not agree with a union that an issue is a safety hazard, the railroad should be required to show good cause for not including it in the mitigation plan. The railroads must be required to demonstrate substantial grounds not to include an identified safety hazard.
“There are several other points regarding the development of the plan which need to be addressed. FRA has not imposed any time limits upon the industry to consult with the workers or to develop the plan. Rather, the employees are given 60 days notice prior to the consultation. If there are no time limits for completing the plan, then the carriers could drag their feet indefinitely.
“Next, it is not clear why FRA in Appendix B suggests that the railroads should wait one year after publication of the rule to hold substantive consultations. Consultations should begin as soon as possible. Safety delayed is safety denied.
“Another time issue is in section 271.103 (a)(2). The railroads are given 36 months to fully implement the risk–based hazard management plan. If the carriers know the safety problems and how to mitigate them, the plan should be implemented no later than six months after FRA’s approval. There may be minor exceptions only with the approval of the employees.
“In conclusion, in the interests of safety, we strongly encourage FRA to amend the proposed rulemaking in accordance with our suggestions.”
PHOENIX – UTU Arizona State Legislative Director Greg Hynes has seen the political attack on organized labor unfold in the Southeast, the Midwest and north in Idaho, knowing it was but a matter of time before the extremists came knocking on the door in the his state. When they did, Hynes and other labor union officers were prepared to fight back.
A federal district court in Phoenix listened carefully — and agreed — as organized labor challenged a new state law aimed squarely at diluting the political power of labor unions in Arizona.
An anti-union Arizona legislative majority decreed that some labor unions – but not the ones with which they curry favor; and certainly not employers – should be restricted in making contributions to political candidates or causes.
A First Amendment violation was made clear to the federal court – that the law’s intent was arbitrarily to restrict the free speech of targeted labor unions – and the state was ordered by the court not to enforce the law on its effective date of Oct. 1. The court now will now consider imposing a permanent injunction.
In the fashion of the novel “1984” by George Orwell, which probed mass mind control, the law’s authors spitefully misnamed it, “Protect Arizona Employees’ Paychecks from Politics Act.”
The law is intended to restrict targeted labor unions – presumably those unions that support political opponents and policies of the legislative majority – from using paycheck deductions of its members to fund political activities or causes.
The law does not impose similar restrictions on unions representing police officers, or on employers who make political contributions. As such, the federal district court said the law violates the free speech rights of the targeted unions.
The court held that the law “violates the First Amendment” by discriminating against ‘those wishing to express less favored or more controversial views”; and “by imposing its burdens on the political speech of some unions and other organizations and not imposing like costs upon other similarly-situated unions, or on other organizations that can use the funds for political activity, the law is under-inclusive and discriminates according to speaker.”
Hynes said the law, put on hold by the court, is “part of a comprehensive legislative campaign to quash speech in Arizona by labor organizations and groups representing employees.” One news organization quoted a sponsor of the law as saying it is intended to prevent unions “from taking their First Amendment rights too far and infringing on the rights of employers.”
Specifically, the law requires unions collecting dues money through payroll deduction either to “affirm to the employers who process the deductions that none of their general fund is used for political purposes or to specify the percentage of their general fund to be used for political purposes.” The term “political purposes” is defined by the law as “supporting or opposing any candidate for public office, political party, referendum, initiative, political issue, advocacy, political action committee, or other similar group.”