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Victory in U.S. House for Railroad Workers
Published: October 17th 2007
Source: Teamsters Rail Conference
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WASHINGTON, Oct. 17 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Today, representatives in the U.S. House passed the Railroad Safety Improvement Act eliminating camp cars and decreasing limbo time, both important issues for Teamsters rail conference members.

"Our rail members, the engineers, trainmen and maintenance of way workers who ensure that this nation's rail system runs safely, won a major victory with the passage of H.R. 2095 today," said Jim Hoffa, Teamsters General President.

"We've been fighting Norfolk Southern for years about eliminating their disgusting camp cars and finally Congress is backing us up," said Fred Simpson, President of the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes division of the Teamsters Rail Conference. "Norfolk Southern was the last railroad to keep these substandard accommodations and we will be glad to see them go. Our members should never have had to endure the cramped and unsanitary conditions in those cars."

Camp cars are mobile dormitories that are used to house maintenance of way crew members while on assignment repairing tracks. Usually the cars house eight men each and most are not equipped with indoor toilets or potable water. Men assigned to these cars must walk outside, even in the dead of winter, to use porta-johns and drink bottled water because the water in the cars is unfit to drink.

Another part of the far-reaching Act sets new limits for limbo time for locomotive engineers and trainmen. Currently, engineers and trainmen can work up to 20 hours per shift before they take eight hours of rest. Since their full work day can last up to 12 hours, they might spend 8 hours or more in limbo time where they can't sleep, must remain vigilant and are not paid for that time.

"This is a step in the right direction to impede the rail carriers' abuse of our much needed rest time," said Don Hahs, President of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen.

"The passage of H.R. 2095 means that engineers and trainmen may eventually be paid for all of the time they spend on the job. They will also have the chance to obtain adequate rest between assignments, reducing fatigue."

Among other provisions in H.R. 2095 are:

Restructuring of the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), placing greater emphasis on its safety role and increasing substantially the number of qualified inspectors.
Creation of fatigue management programs, a guarantee of 10 hours of undisturbed rest, and a guarantee of one 24-hour off-duty period every seven days.
Strengthened whistleblower protections; a worker may refuse to authorize the use of equipment the employee reasonably believes to be unsafe or hazardous to operate or work with.
Implementation of positive train control, a technology serving as a backup device to improve the safety of locomotive engines for all rail workers.
Vast improvement in safety for operations in un-signaled track, or dark territory.
Certification of train conductors.
A study of locomotive cab conditions.
A requirement for emergency breathing apparatus in all locomotive cabs.
New regulations that would put an end to the harassment and intimidation of rail workers who report personal injuries.

The Teamsters Union was founded in 1903 and represents 1.4 million hardworking men and women throughout the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. The Teamsters Rail Conference is comprised of the members of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen and the members of the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees division.

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