Union Opposes Rail Safety Suggestion, Instead Offers to Enlarge Membership

The United Transportation Union is coming out against a rail safety measure suggestion because, the union claims, the idea violates the “privacy” of union employees. Instead of agreeing to the safety measure, however, the union used a recent accident that killed 25 train passengers as an excuse to try and force companies to double the number of train operators, thereby enlarging union membership.

Put succinctly, while the government and rail companies are looking for ways to improve safety and prevent future loss of lives, the union is trying to make more money and gain more members.

The horrible accident that occurred in the Chatsworth section of Los Angeles in September of 2008 happened because train operators were using cell phones instead of watching track signals. On September 12 a Metrolink commuter train collided head-on with a Union Pacific freight train, killing 25 and injuring 135.

Investigators discovered that the the Metrolink engineer was busy sending text messages with his cell phone and did not see the red light signals he was charged with observing. The engineer of the freight train also was using a cell phone during the collision — additionally he tested positive for marijuana.

Since the collision, cell phone use by train operators was banned by Federal authorities.

For its part, Metrolink announced plans to put monitoring cameras in the cabs of its locomotives to monitor employees on the job. Unions, however, have come out against this plan saying that the video cameras violate the employee’s privacy. “We don’t support any recording or video devices in a cab,” said William Walpert, national secretary-treasurer of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen.

But the union did have a suggestion:

The (union) officials… suggested having a second person in the cab.

First of all, it is curious to know how concerns for the safety of the public measure up to “privacy” concerns of employees operating dangerous machinery while serving that public. Should workers in such cases have an expectation of “privacy” when their slightest miscalculation could mean the deaths of dozens, even hundreds, at any given time? Are cameras in the cab much different than the already accepted practice of random drug testing for passenger jet pilots, train engineers, bus drivers and the like?

But that Constitutional question aside, it’s rather more disgusting that this union representative has used the deaths of 25 people as an excuse to pad his membership, needlessly enlarging the union, and to bleed companies of money for salaries that aren’t necessary? In a day when rail is already facing mounting economic difficulties and infrastructure troubles, this union is trying to extort the companies for its own benefit.