July 28, 2004
SPRINGFIELD (July 28)—Illinois Commerce Commission Judge Joseph O’Brien initiated a Hearing today in response to a Formal Complaint brought by the UTU Illinois Legislative Board against the Kansas City Southern Railway.
In a filing on March 19 the union asked the Commission to order KCS to build a new East St. Louis crew facility providing space and amenities in compliance with the Commission’s standards for cleanliness, square footage, ventilation, and functionality.
The union’s lawyers also asked the Commission to fine the carrier for its failure to remedy non-compliant conditions that have existed at the East St. Louis crew shelter for more than nine months.
“KCS has been in noncompliance since mid-October and has known since at least last November that its crew facilities at East St. Louis were dirty, inadequate and dysfunctional,” said Illinois Legislative Director Joseph C. Szabo.
“But KCS management has done very little to bring those facilities into compliance with state law and has repeatedly failed to provide acknowledgement of both the Commission’s and the union’s request for information and compliance,” Szabo said.
Szabo said the filing of a Formal Complaint and initiation of a Hearing could result in the Commission ordering the carrier to construct a new facility and the levying of fines for each day the shelter has been out of compliance.
In a November 7, 2003, report to Szabo, UTU #1919 Vice Local Chairman Robert Gore said the problems at East St. Louis began October 12. On that date, Gore said, KCS officials ordered employees to remove their property from the old crew shelter so it could be demolished and replaced with trailers that would serve as locker, shower and lunch rooms.
But two weeks went by with no trailers appearing on the property, Gore reported. During the two-week interim, he said, employees had nowhere to shower and were changing clothes in the parking lot, even taking shelter in their cars during rainstorms. He said KCS officials then ordered the employees to resume using the original crew shelter, which was now boarded up with plywood over the windows. But on November 3 the employees were again ordered out of the old building, and by the time Gore faxed his report to Szabo the employees had been without shelter a second time for nearly a week.
Shortly after Gore made his report, KCS demolished the original building and installed a trailer on the concrete pad that remained. But it was filthy, overcrowded, and lacked running water and a lunchroom as required by the Illinois Administrative Code.
At Szabo’s request, Commerce Commission Inspector Robert Wagoner examined the facility November 11. Two days later Szabo faxed a letter referencing the uninhabitable conditions and lack of adequate space in the facility to KCS Terminal Superintendent Taulton Dancy, Jr. Dancy never responded.
On December 12 the Commission’s Rail Safety Program Administrator, Michael E. Stead, advised KCS Trainmaster Gregory C. Haney in a two-page letter that the replacement shelter was out of compliance with four provisions of the Illinois Administrative Code and requested that KCS “provide this office with a written schedule of those repairs/improvements within the next 14 business days.”
But the 14-day period passed with no response to Stead’s request. Nor did Dancy reply to a follow-up letter that Szabo sent him December 15.
On January 13, Szabo requested Assistant Legislative Director John Burner make a follow-up inspection of the facility. While Burner noted minor improvements, overall conditions remained virtually unchanged.
On January 28, Szabo directed a third letter to Dancy in which he noted that his two earlier letters had not been answered. Szabo enclosed a copy of Burner’s inspection report, which showed that “little if any progress has been made toward compliance.” On March 4 Stead directed a letter to Dancy noting that the January 13 inspection indicated not all deficiencies had been addressed.
“By March it 19 had become clear that KCS was not making a good-faith effort to cure the deficiencies in the East St. Louis crew facility,” Szabo said. “We were left with no alternative but to file a Formal Complaint.”
At the July 28 Hearing into the Complaint, Burner and Eddy testified before Judge O’Brien about the inadequacies of the East St. Louis trailer and their futile attempts to bring resolution through a Commission informal complaint. Inspector Wagoner testified that as of the day before the Hearing some improvements had finally been made, including removal of some lockers, but that the facility still failed to provide the square footage per employee specified in the Illinois Administrative Code.
That hearing was continued to August 25, when Szabo will appear to testify and KCS will offer the carrier’s defense.
“There really are two issues here,” Szabo said. “The first is the incredible amount of delay in KCS’s commitment to bringing the facility into compliance and its unwillingness to display so much as a semblance of cooperation. For months they didn’t even answer their mail. The other issue is the lack of functionality in the facilities provided: The gerrymandered trailer simply does not have enough space to perform the functions the Code says it must perform.
“The delays and failure to provide any suitable facility for extended periods of time is particularly egregious,” Szabo said. “That’s why we have requested daily fines and believe they are in order. Likewise, we believe that we can show why KCS should be ordered to build a new, suitable, fully functional, permanent facility.
“When that Hearing closes the issue will be in Judge O’Brien’s hands,” Szabo said. “Win, lose, or draw, we will have our day in court, and KCS will know we are dead serious about ensuring adequate conditions that the law entitles for our crews.”