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July 28, 2001

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BookMarks to BLE-13 News Articles
Update on Railroad Retirement Legislation
Senate ignores threat of White House veto
UTU-BLE Merger Update

Rutter Named New FRA Head
New DOT Drug and Alcohol Testing Program
New Basic Daily Rates and Extra Board Guarantees
Weekly Legal Advice "The Diesel Exhaust Threat"
Recent Headlines from BLE News Flash Service
Link to BLE News Flash Service

Upcoming Events
August 2001
The next BLE-13 regular monthly division meeting will be August 20th, 10a.m., Forest Hills Golf Course. MARK YOUR CALENDAR!

Update on Railroad Retirement Legislation
CLEVELAND, July 26, 2001
Thanks to the efforts of BLE, GIA and other Rail Labor lobbyists, H.R. 1140, the Railroad Retirement and Survivors' Improvement Act of 2001, has been placed back on the Suspension Calendar today. However, more effort is needed to force it to a vote by early next week.

All BLE and GIA members are asked to contact their Members of Congress and also those members on the following list and ask them to move H.R. 1140 from the Suspension Calendar to the floor for a vote.

Please contact the following members of the Republican Congressional leadership and ask them to support the bill:

* Speaker, J. Dennis Hastert (R-IL) Phone: (202) 225-2976 or FAX: (202) 225-0697
* Majority Leader, Dick Armey (R-TX) at (202) 225-7772
* Majority Whip, Tom DeLay (R-TX) Phone: (202) 225-5951 or FAX: (202) 225-5241

Other Members of the House may be contacted by calling the Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and asking for the Representative by name.

Yesterday, House Budget Committee Chairman Jim Nussle (R-IA) announced that he was opposed to the bill for budgetary reasons and attempted to keep it from moving forward to a vote. However, a grassroots effort from Rail Labor put it back on the calendar.

Senate ignores threat of White House veto
.c The Associated Press
The Senate ignored a White House veto threat and voted Thursday to back tougher safety standards than President Bush wants for Mexican trucks entering the United States.The bipartisan 70-30 vote blocked aRepublican filibuster - procedural delays - aimed at forcing a weakening of the standards included in a transportation spending bill.

UTU-BLE Merger Update
CLEVELAND, Ohio (July 27, 2001)
The BLE Advisory Board met Friday and will continue meeting this weekend over the subject of endorsing the UTU-BLE merger document that both unions already have agreed to submit to their respective memberships for ratification. UTU International President Byron A. Boyd, Jr., said he is "cautiously optimistic" that the BLE advisory board will endorse the merger document.

Rutter Named New FRA Head
BNSF Today - July 26, 2001
Allan Rutter has been confirmed as the next head of the Federal Railroad Administration. Prior to coming to Washington, Rutter served as transportation policy director in the governor's office in Austin, Texas. Previously, he was deputy director of the Texas high-speed rail authority, and a state budget analyst. Rutter succeeds Jolene Molitoris who left the agency in December. A date when Rutter will be sworn in has yet to be set.

New DOT Drug and Alcohol Testing Program
July 24
New Department of Transportation procedures for workplace drug and alcohol testing program become effective Aug. 1, 2001.

The new procedures are required for all transportation modes – highway, air and rail. Persons collecting urine samples for drug and alcohol testing are required to:

Explain the basic collection procedure to the employee, including showing the employee the instructions on the back of the Custody and Control Form (CCF).

Direct the employee to remove outer clothing (e.g., coveralls, jacket, coat, hat) that could be used to conceal items or substances that could be used to tamper with a specimen. The collector must direct the employee to leave these garments and any briefcase, purse or other personal belonging with the collector or in a mutually agreeable location. The employee must be advised that failure to comply with directions constitutes a refusal to test.

If the employee asks for a receipt for any belongings left with the collector, one must be provided.

The employee must be allowed to keep his or her wallet.

The collector must not ask the employee to remove other clothing (e.g., shirts, pants, dresses, underwear), to remove all clothing, or to change into a hospital or examination gown (unless the urine collection is being accomplished simultaneously with a DOT agency-authorized medical examination).

The collector must direct the employee to empty his or her pockets and display the items in them to ensure that no items are present which could be used to adulterate the specimen. If nothing is there that can be used to adulterate a specimen, the employee can place the items back into his or her pockets. Employees must allow the collectors to make this observation.

New Basic Daily Rates and Extra Board Guarantees
Effective July 1, 2001

Guarantee’s – Extra Boards

Craft Half Month Year

Engineer $2,683.60 $5,367.20 $64,406.40

Conductor $2,400.76 $4,801.52 $57,618.24

Brakeman $2,251.91 $4,503.82 $54,045.84

Switchman $1,644.29 $3,288.58 $39,462.96

Basic Guarantee Day

Days in Half Amount

13 $206.43
14 $191.69
15 $178.91
16 $167.73

Basic Daily Rates

The following basic daily rates were in effect starting July 1, 2001. The
changes are due to the applied COLA.

Through Freight Rate $151.69
Local Freight Rate $152.25
5-day Yard Rate $161.74

Weekly Legal Advice
The Diesel Exhaust Threat
James L. Farina, Partner
Hoey, Farina & Downes
Tel Toll Free: 1-888-425-1212
Despite being widely known for a number of years, the dangerous health effects of diesel exhaust are only just beginning to be acted upon by various industries. In May, the Bush administration decided to leave in place regulations proposed by President Clinton that strengthened diesel exhaust regulations in the mining industry. On July 5, in support of the regulations, the Labor Department announced a new sampling program that will determine the current levels of diesel particles in that industry. 

Of course, the health threat posed by diesel exhaust is not limited to mine workers. A recent claim we brought on behalf of a trainman against his railroader employer illustrates this fact. After years on the job working in a confined railroad control tower, the trainman developed severe and completely disabling lung and breathing problems. 


OSHA Report on Diesel

U.S. EPA: 
Review of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for Particulate Matter: Policy Assessment of Scientific and Technical Information,
April 1996

American Lung Association

Natural Resources Defense Council

Health Effects Institute (HEI): Diesel Emissions and Lung Cancer: Epidemiology and Quantitative Risk Assessment, Report of the Diesel Epidemiology Expert Panel. June 1999. PDF files (9/16/99)
Full report/
Executive Summary

HEI: Diesel Exhaust: Critical Analysis of Emissions, Exposure, and Health Effects. April 1995. Executive Summary

Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry: Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbon (PAH) Fact Sheet. 
Sept 1996

National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety: Carcinogenic Effects of Exposure to Diesel Exhaust. 1988

Health and Environmental Effects of Particulate Matter Fact Sheet, 

Federal Judicial Center: 
Reference Guide on Epidemiology  
[Go to Publications /Evidence ]

Under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA), however, the railroad is required to compensate only for damages caused by its own negligence. The trainman correctly believed that the railroad had negligently exposed him continuously for years to locomotive diesel fumes, toxic chemicals, dust and stagnant second-hand smoke in the unventilated control tower where he worked. 

In fact, the Occupational Safety and Health Organization (OSHA) agrees with what the trainman full well knew: railroad workers who are exposed to diesel exhaust (as well as bridge and tunnel workers, loading dock workers, truck drivers, garage workers, farm workers, and longshoring employees) face adverse health effects ranging from headaches to nausea to cancer and to respiratory disease. 

Studies have shown that exposed workers have an elevated risk of lung cancer, some evidence of risk of bladder cancer, and workers also may experience dizziness, drowsiness, headaches, nausea, decrement of visual acuity, and decrement in forced expiratory volume, according to OSHA. Diesel exhaust has been implicated as a cause of reactive airway disease, and tests have shown it to be toxic, mutagenic and carcinogenic.

According to the EPA, numerous studies have linked diesel exhaust to cancer, the exacerbation of asthma and other respiratory diseases. Dozens more studies link airborne fine particle concentrations – such as those in diesel exhaust – to increased hospital admissions for respiratory diseases, chronic obstructive lung disease, pneumonia, heart disease and death.[Read the EPA report]

Why Is Diesel Such A Threat?

The weight of scientific authority rests with the causal finding that the tiny particles present in diesel exhaust penetrate deeply into the recesses of a person's lungs (most diesel particles are less than 1 micron in size; 1,000 microns = 1 mm). 

Simply put, once lodged deep in the lungs, diesel particles tend to remain there rather than being cleared from the body, which causes them to be particularly hazardous. In contrast, larger particles are captured by the fine hairs and mucus in the nose and throat and are more quickly and easily cleared from the body by sneezing, coughing, or swallowing. 

These super-small diesel exhaust particles are particularly dangerous because they are coated with a mixture of chemicals such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, nitroaromatics, benzene, dioxins, and other toxicants. 

Diesel engines spew out 100 times more particles than gasoline engines for the same load and engine conditions. Because they are embedded so deeply in the lungs, the diesel particles in effect lengthen a railroader’s exposure to the toxicants in diesel exhaust. For these reasons, a February 1998 U.S. EPA draft report indicated that even low level exposure to diesel exhaust is likely to pose a risk of lung cancer and respiratory impairment.

OSHA estimates over one million workers in America face these risks on a daily basis. [Read the report]

Meanwhile, Back At The Control Tower…

On our advice, the trainman challenged the railroad for carelessly maintaining the control tower, and negligently failing to provide a safe working environment. 

After much legal maneuvering by the railroad, and after an extensive development of the trainman’s medical file, we were able to positively show that he develop a serious and debilitating disease that caused great pain and suffering, and caused him to lose a significant portion of his working life as a result of the railroad’s failure to provide safe working conditions. 

The trainman recovered financially for his injuries, but will never recover physically. The real tragedy is that his debilitating disease might have been avoided if the steps now being taken in the mining industry had been taken by the railroads when awareness of the problem first arose decades ago. 

What You Can Do To Protect Yourself

Understanding the detrimental health effects from diesel exhaust ought to be a priority for anyone working on the railroad. Experts recommend that if your job causes you to have an increased exposure to diesel exhaust, you should consider implementing basic hygienic precautions, including: 

* Wear personal protective gear. 
* Remove and wash your work clothes as soon as you arrive home to prevent contaminating your home with exhaust particles. 
* Don't eat while in areas of exhaust exposure. 
* If you are a smoker, quit smoking. 
* Discuss your concerns with the health and safety officer at your site of employment. 

Understanding of the precise link between diesel exhaust and pulmonary and other diseases in railroaders is growing stronger by the day. In turn, this will lead to a work environment for railroaders that better safeguards their health, their livelihood, and the well-being of their families. 

William McMahon, HF&D summer associate, contributed to the research and writing of this article.
To contact Hoey, Farina & Downes:
Tel: 1-888-425-1212 or 312-939-1212
Fax: 312-939-7842

Recent Headlines from BLE News Flash Service 
(external links)

Canada okays CN merger with Wisconsin Central

Opinion: Trains to horn in on the big game
Cause of BNSF derailment still unknown
Rail drug trafficking a concern

Bills to repeal diesel-fuel tax gain momentum
Obstacles to rail improvements to be subject of Congressional hearing
BNSF sets Mexico intermodal marketing

BMWE succeeds in halting BNSF genetic testing


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Division 13

La Crosse, Wisconsin

BLE Division 13 represents the engineers on the BNSF Railroad in the greater La Crosse, Wisconsin area.

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