Sunday, February 8, 2015

S.M.A.R.T. Fighting for Train Safety

A little known fight, which could endanger the lives of thousands and even entire cities, is being led by S.M.A.R.T. (the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, and Transportation workers) representing 44,000 workers. The fight is in regards to trains running with just one person. Now just think of a massive, two-mile long train loaded with tar sands or other corrosive chemicals running through your town with only one person at the helm. What if that person had a heart attack, got injured or fell asleep? Trains used to run with a crew of five in the 1970s. Now it is just with a two-member crew, which is unsafe when you look at the derailments and explosions we’ve been having; in one 47 people were killed and most of the town Lac-Megantic, Quebec was destroyed after government officials had granted the Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway a special dispensation to run with a one-man crew to save costs. This is an example of irresponsible greed at the expense of lives of the crew member and the general population. The Sheet Metal Union, which I am a member, merged with S.M.A.R.T. last year and this is the union’s biggest test of its strength and the union will have to win this fight for the sheet Metal S.M.A.R.T. union and its employees. There is no alternative for one-man crews are just unacceptable. It is a safety issue. Also, the oil tank cars are unsafe, which just exacerbates the problem. This is a fight for everyone who rides on a train, lives in a city with a railway system or who drives across railroad tracks with in a vehicle or a school bus driving your children or grandchildren to school and back. It is everyone’s fight at this point. We need to support S.M.A.R.T. in its efforts to at least keep a two-man crew on trains. As a retired Sheet Metal organizer, I am very hopeful and proud of our union for taking on this fight. This is why we need unions—to fight for safety of everyone.