RWU Campaigns


RWU Campaign to Oppose Single Person Crews


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What’s Wrong with Single Employee Train Operations?

By Ron Kaminkow
General Secretary, Railroad Workers United

At first glance, the casual observer from outside of the rail industry is prone to say that single employee train operation sounds dangerous. “What if the engineer has a heart attack?” is an often heard question. And while this question has merit, there are many other and far more complex and unanswered questions about just how single employee train operations could be accomplished safely and efficiently for the train crew, the railroad and the general public. How will the train make a back-up move? What happens when the train hits a vehicle or pedestrian? How will the train crew member deal with “bad-order” equipment in his/her train, or make pick-ups and set-outs en route? What about job briefings and calling signals, copying mandatory directives and reminders of slow orders? These are just some questions that we take up in this article. Read More...


Support the Safe Freight Act!

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In May 2019, FRA administrator Ron Batory declared “preemption”, meaning that all state laws requiring a minimum of two crew members are null and void, circumvented by the feds and the FRA (see article HERE). Now that the Trump Administration has killed efforts at the states, the legislative struggle has shifted to the federal level. The “Safe Freight Act” if adopted and signed into law would mandate that a certified engineer and a certified conductor in the cab of every freight train in the USA. The bill currently has over 100 co-sponsors now. Check that your Representative is supporting this bill. Contact your Representative today!


Engineers & Trainmen on the W&LE Stop Single Person Crews!

After a decade long fight, the conductors and engineers on regional railroad Wheeling & Lake Erie win a contract that includes and conductor and engineer on every train

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In January, engineers and trainmen of the Wheeling & Lake Erie – members of BLET #292 - voted to approve a hard-fought for Tentative Agreement that was years in the making. For seven long years – and all told for more than a decade, members of both crafts have fought valiantly against the carrier’s desire to implement single employee train crews. Their struggle attracted the support of RWU when both crafts struck the W&LE in October of 2013 (see The Highball, Fall 2013).

 

 The RWU "Vote No!" Campaign at BNSF

BNSF - SMART Tentative Agreement - Summer 2014

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Back in 2014, a tentative agreement was secretly negotiated with the BNSF by a SMART "International Representative" and the Chairman of the largest UTU (SMART Transportation Division) General Committee on the BNSF.  The agreement would have allowed for operation of freight trains on the BNSF without a Conductor in the cab.  RWU has always taken a position adamantly opposing single employee train operations. Once we found out about the tentative agreement, we immediately mobilized our members and assisted BNSF SMART members in mounting a comprehensive "Vote No" campaign. 

We encourage you to check out the actions taken by RWU, and the materials we created and employed during the campaign. We expect to run a similar campaign if and when the rail carriers mount another such attack!


RWU Celebrates Labor Day 2012

with a Bold New Campaign

In late summer of 2012 - two years before the TA vote on the BNSF - Railroad Workers United announced our stepped- up" Campaign Against Single Employee Train Crews", which was officially unleashed on Labor Day 2012.  Read the Press Release...

"The advent of new technology together with a decline in union power, coupled with the rail carriers’ arrogant disregard for worker and public safety has seen the standard five-person train crew drop first to three, and then to two crew members. Now the big railroad companies have their sights set on implementation of the universal single employee train crew. The only thing that can stop them is YOU! Please join with Railroad Workers United in our effort to stop the implementation of single employee train crews!"

"The advent of new technology together with a decline in union power, coupled with the rail carriers’ arrogant disregard for worker and public safety has seen the standard five-person train crew drop first to three, and then to two crew members. Now the big railroad companies have their sights set on implementation of the universal single employee train crew. The only thing that can stop them is YOU! Please join with Railroad Workers United in our effort to stop the implementation of single employee train crews!"


A Brief History of the Attack on Two Employee Crews

by Ron Kaminkow, RWU General Secretary, BLET #51 Amtrak, Reno, NV

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After achieving the near universal two employee train crew in the 1990s, the carriers did not waste a whole lot of time before they set their sights on eliminating that second worker and achieving the single employee crew. And while they have yet to achieve their goal, make no mistake, this is indeed their objective.     Read more...


Single Employee Crews -- Hell No!

That’s right folks, Hell No! We’re fired up and we ain’t gonna take it no more!   Read more...


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Where Are the Rail Unions in this Fight?

J.P. Wright, RWU Organizer, BLET#78, CSX, Louisville, KY

Is the job of the North American railroad conductor safe? Or do the railroads and government regulators have it in the crosshairs for elimination? This should be the number one question in the forefront of the minds of all railroad conductors' and engineers.    Read more....

Is the job of the North American railroad conductor safe? Or do the railroads and government regulators have it in the crosshairs for elimination? This should be the number one question in the forefront of the minds of all railroad conductors' and engineers.    Read more....


Winning the Fight Against One-Person Train Crews

By Ed Michael, BLET#724 & UTU #979, UP, Salem, IL

We all know that rail carriers are looking down the road to using technology to reduce freight crew size to one person. Unfortunately many TE&Y people seem to be convinced that there is little we can do to stop this progression. But we believe it can be stopped with an organized campaign.   Read more....


Rank-and-File Railroaders Resist Single-Employee Trains

by JP Wright and Ed Michael     [from the December 2012 issue of Labor Notes]

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Back in the old days, in order to operate safely, a freight train used a five-person crew - an engineer, a fireman, two brakemen, and a conductor.

After two-way radios and electronic air brake monitoring allowed the railroads to eliminate the caboose in the 1980s, crew size went down to three.

Tough contract negotiations eliminated another crew member, so now almost every freight train rolling across the U.S. is operated by just an engineer and a conductor. 

Railroaders fear the conductor will be next to go. The railroads say they want single-employee trains, and union leaders have allowed language to seep into contracts that says if crew size is reduced to one, that last remaining crew member will be an engineer or a conductor—depending which union is negotiating the language.   READ MORE...


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Railroad Widow Heather Boehlke Speaks Out

Heather Boehlke talks about the meaning of Labor Day and her husband Jared Boehlke ... Jared Boehlke was killed while working alone as a remote control locomotive operator on Mother's Day 2009

Here Heather speaks out in support the Campaign to Ban One Person Locomotive Crews and Regulate Locomotive Remote Control...