Workshops

Chicago Conference

September 19th, 2015

The following is a brief description of the workshops and discussion topics tentatively scheduled for the Chicago 2015 conference on railroad safety.

Rail Safety Part 1: Single Employee Train Crews; Teamwork; Chronic Fatigue; Scheduling

Presenters: Ron Kaminkow (Reno, NV), Jeff Kurtz (Fort Madison, IA), Fritz Edler (Washington, DC)
Biographies: 
Ron Kaminkow is a working locomotive engineer with 19 years of experience with Conrail, Norfolk Southern and Amtrak in both yard and road, passenger and freight service as a brakeman, conductor and engineer in and around Chicago, IL, Milwaukee, WI and now Reno, NV. He is the General Secretary of Railroad Workers United.
Jeff Kurtz is a recently retired locomotive engineer with 38 years experience on the Santa Fe and the BNSF. He was the longtime Iowa State Legislative Chair for the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers & Trainmen. He lives in Fort Madison, IA.
Fritz Edler retired as working Local Chair of BLET #482 in May, 2015. He was a leading participant in the ongoing fight against risky crew schedules on Amtrak.  He served 20 years on the Local Committee of Division 482 and led numerous successful defense efforts. Previously active in the UTU and the BRC, he now lobbies and organizes for Safe Quality Nationwide Passenger Rail: Advocacy for rail workers in Washington D.C.
Workshop: A – The rail carriers have been intent on operating trains with a single operator for nearly a decade. Railroad Workers United has struggled valiantly, together with rank and file train & engine crews, to stop them. Why are single employee train crews a threat — not just to railroad workers – but to society in general? B – The scientific basis of “teamwork” and why such cooperation and partnership among co-workers is essential to the safe performance of any job, especially those in such safety sensitive positions. C – Chronic Fatigue is a way of life for most train and engine crews and is a major hazard to the safe movement of trains. D – Schedules that allow for adequate and proper rest are vital.

 

Rail Safety Part 2: Long & Heavy Trains; Track Maintenance; Rail Safety Programs; Whistleblowers

Presenters: Ron Kaminkow (Reno, NV), Jeff Kurtz (Fort Madison, IA); Michael Termini (Washington, DC).
Biographies: 
Ron Kaminkow is a working locomotive engineer with 19 years of experience with Conrail, Norfolk Southern and Amtrak in both yard and road, passenger and freight service as a brakeman, conductor and engineer in and around Chicago, IL, Milwaukee, WI and now Reno, NV. He is the General Secretary of Railroad Workers United.
Jeff Kurtz is a recently retired locomotive engineer with 38 years experience on the Santa Fe and the BNSF. He was the longtime Iowa State Legislative Chair for the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers & Trainmen. He lives in Fort Madison, IA.
Michael Termini is the Climate Science & Policy Watch Director / Corporate & Financial Accountability Deputy Director for the Government Accountability Project – more at: http://whistleblower.org/staff#sthash.zBMC6H6E.dpuf
Workshop:  A – The rail carriers have designs operating ever longer and heavier trains as a means of achieving perceived savings on fuel, motive power and labor. But such trains create an unsafe situation. B – Track Maintenance is crucial to the safe operation of trains. More than half of all  derailments are the result of faulty track structure. C – The railroad carriers promulgate a widespread type of safety program known as “behavior based safety” that shifts the blame for accidents and injuries from the carrier to the individual worker. D – Railroad workers are blowing the whistle on rail carriers when these corporations harass, discriminate and intimidate workers for reporting workplace hazards, injuries, and/or environmental concerns.

 

Supply Chain Inquiry: Direct Action & Cross-Sectoral Solidarity

Presenters: Gifford Hartman (San Francisco, CA)
Biography:  Gifford Hartman is a founding member of the Global Supply Chains Study/Research Group. He is an adult educator, labor trainer, working class historian, and has been a rank-and-file militant in the ILWU, SEIU, and the unorganized precarious education sector.
Workshop: This an interactive workshop where participants will brainstorm ways for solidarity to follow supply chains – and model ways for worker resistance, community solidarity, and direct action to flow from the point of extraction of raw materials to the point of consumption of both intermediate and finished goods, including all the communities where the commodities pass through and all the workers arrayed along the chain. Our strength as workers increases when everyone acts in unison; it expands exponentially when solidarity actions spread down the chain, crossing sectors, borders, and even oceans. Our goal is gaining a greater understanding of supply chains as they presently exist and how we can better connect struggles across them globally. We will provide maps of supply chains and flowcharts of the links between work sectors, and other necessary materials.

 

Chicago Area Organizing Efforts & Community Mapping

Presenters: Rozalinda Borcila (Chicago, IL); Brian Holmes (Chicago, IL); Tom Shepherd (Chicago, IL); Dr. Laura Chamberlain.
Biographies:
Rozalinda Borcila and Brian Holmes are members of the Compass, a group that gathers artists, writers and activists to contribute to social movements in the Upper Mississippi Basin and Great Lakes regions, a place they call “The Midwest Radical Cultural Corridor“.  Borcila and Holmes also did a research project on the transport industries in and around Chicago, which led them to collaborate with the Southeast Environmental Task Force.
Tom Shepherd is with the Southeast Environmental Taskforce.
Dr. Lora Chamberlain is a longtime environmental activist in the Chicago area currently working on “fracking” and oil train issues.
Workshop: More volatile crude oil passes through Chicago on trains than anywhere else in the United States. This session will introduce some of the local organizing initiatives that focus specifically on educating and mobilizing in response to the dangers of Crude Oil by Rail. The session includes a hands-on demo of an interactive mapping project that allows residents, commuters and rail workers to directly input the locations and routes of crude oil trains they spot in the region. The goal of this map is twofold: to determine exactly where the trains travel, and to raise awareness through community participation.

 

Building the Labor – Community Alliance

Presenter: Paul Bigman (Seattle, WA)
Biography: After early work in the civil rights and anti-war movements, Paul has been active in the labor movement for more than 40 years, over 30 years as a full-time organizer with a variety of unions throughout the country.  He’s been an organizer with both UE (United Electrical Workers) and ILWU (west coast longshore), the two “left” unions which survived the anti-labor attacks of the McCarthy years, and is now the organizer for the Musicians union in Seattle.  He’s worked extensively on coalition-building, as a regional organizer for Jobs with Justice and a 10-year board member of Washington State Jobs with Justice.  His work has included coalition-building trainings with labor, environmental and faith-based peace groups, as well as member education and leadership trainings for unions and their allies.  He currently serves on the Executive Board of Seattle’s Martin Luther King Jr. County Labor Council and on the Advisory Committee for the Washington State Labor Education and Research Center.
Workshop: Labor still has the power of our work, and the ability to directly impact the economy.  But to be as effective as possible, we need to build alliances with other movements.  The workshop fill focus on identifying coalition partners, develop strategies for building those strategic alliances, and find ways to work together for a collective agenda to combat our common adversaries.