Senate Rail Safety Bill Falls Short in Keeping Workers Safe

Fails to Curb Fatigue, End Harassment of Workers Who Report Safety Problems

(Reprinted from the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO July 17, 2003) Washington, D.C.The following statement was issued today by Sonny Hall, President of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO, in response to today’s Senate Commerce Committee approval of S. 1402, the Federal Railroad Safety Improvement Act.

"The rail safety bill approved today by the Senate Commerce Committee falls well short of the aggressive steps our government must take to better protect workers in one of America’s most dangerous industries. This is a missed opportunity to make railroad job sites safer and gives the nation’s railroads a green light to continue ignoring the safety needs of America’s railroad employees.

"As reported out of the committee, the legislation doesn’t address the serious and well-known employee fatigue problems that plague this industry. While there are federal rules about the length of a rail worker’s day, these regulations are riddled with loopholes and have failed to adequately deal with what is today a chronically fatigued workforce. The bottom line is this: the railroads have ignored this problem for too long and our government has been too slow to act. We have a serious agenda to combat fatigue that Congress can adopt today as part of its rewrite of rail safety laws.

"The bill also fails to protect a rail employee’s right to blow the whistle on safety violations. Far too often and for too long, those who call attention to safety problems are harassed and intimidated. This environment is not only abusive to the employees, but it masks many of the serious safety hazards that plague this industry and its workers. The legislation should be amended to hold members of rail management who participate in this behavior personally responsible through civil and criminal penalties and ultimately by barring them from working in the industry. No railroad worker should be forced to choose between safety and his or her job.

"For many years now, transportation workers have mobilized in favor of a comprehensive rail safety agenda. Unfortunately, at every turn the nation’s railroad lobby has stymied any and all efforts to enact meaningful rail safety reforms.

"It’s long past time for Congress, the Administration, and the leaders of the giant rail corporations to take safety more seriously. As this bill moves through Congress, transportation labor will be working with lawmakers to amend the legislation in a way that takes bold steps to make it safer to work on the railroad."

TTD represents 35 member unions in the aviation, rail, transit, trucking, highway, longshore, maritime and related industries. For more information, visit www.ttd.org.