September 20, 2004

CHICAGO (Sept. 20)—Canadian Pacific Railway has committed to the UTU Illinois Legislative Board and the Illinois Commerce Commission that it will immediately demolish and replace the substandard East End Welfare Shelter at its Bensenville Yard in suburban Chicago. The carrier has also contracted for additional cleaning services for all of its Bensenville facilities.

The aging crew building, which Commerce Commission inspectors said lacked proper ventilation, sanitation appliances and window screens and showed numerous signs of inadequate cleaning, is scheduled for replacement to begin before years end.

“They have committed to construct a new building at the East End that will contain lunchroom and restroom facilities,” said UTU Illinois Legislative Director Joseph C. Szabo. “They have also increased cleaning service for all facilities. Both are excellent first steps.”

However Szabo expressed concern over the failure of CP to plan for a “full service’ facility on the East End – one with lockers and showers – and the failure to provide any replacement for the recently demolished West End facility.

“The railroad told us that those functions would be moved to the existing General Yard Office Building in the center of the yard near the hump, which is approximately 1.8 miles from both the West End and East End where the employees perform their work,” he said. “The railroad proposes to use cabs to transport workers between the work sites and the General Yard Office.”

Szabo said splitting the welfare room’s functions between sites 1.8 miles apart was a less-than-ideal way to deal with the need for an upgrade or replacement of the deteriorating facility. The building was erected by the yard’s former owner, the Milwaukee Road, which was liquidated in the early 1980s.

“Frankly, we find it a little irregular,” he said. “Under the Illinois Administrative Code, the welfare facilities in a railroad yard are supposed to be located at the point where the crews report for work and end their workday. Technically, CP is changing the starting point by putting the showers and lockers in a remote location. That could be taken as intent on the railroad’s part to circumvent the Code.”

At Szabo’s request, CP has agreed to have architects design the new building so that it can be expanded easily to accommodate male and female locker rooms and showers at a later date. They have also agreed to sit down with UTU to comprehensively determine the facility needs for the entire yard.

“It looks like CP has agreed to open up a ‘good faith’ review with us regarding all the facility needs at Bensennville,” Szabo said. “Currently I have concerns regarding the lack of any facility at the West End and the adequacy of the newly proposed East End facility. However, rather than delay construction of the new East End Facility, CP has agreed to design and construct it so a shower and locker room can easily be added on.”

“Meanwhile we’ll take a look at the total needs at both the East and West End and attempt to work out a mutually acceptable plan,” Szabo said. He said he preferred this approach at this time to the filling of a Formal Petition with an Administrative Law Judge. “I hope we can work it out. If not, I’m prepared to take the necessary steps before the Illinois Commerce Commission.”

Szabo said the Illinois Legislative Board initiated an Informal Complaint with the Commission’s Rail Safety Staff in early March, which was followed by a visit from Operating Practices Inspector Robert Wagoner April 19. UTU Illinois Legislative Board Vice Chairman John O’Brien, UTU #1433 Local Legislative Rep. Lester Grzybeck and CP’s Bensenville Yard Manager James Emkow joined Wagoner during the inspection.

“At that time the railroad people told the Commission that they intended to replace the old facility,” Szabo said. While that news was appreciated, Szabo said, he noted that Commission Rail Safety Program Administrator Michael Stead cautioned CP Facilities Manager Debbie Balthazar in an April 22 letter not to allow sanitation in the old facility to deteriorate further in the months leading to its demolition.

“The railroad is required to take steps to bring the excepted areas of the facility into compliance…” Stead wrote.

Stead noted that Wagoner had found missing window screens, no ventilation in the restroom or lunchroom, no toilet paper, Auto-Flush urinals that did not flush, standing water on floors and showers in need of cleaning and disinfecting. He suggested that the carrier’s six-day-a-week cleaning service be hired to work seven days.

However, a follow-up Commission inspection August 24 showed that the railroad had not remedied the earlier conditions.

“CP needs to make sure soap and paper towels are available to employees,” Stead wrote in an August 26 letter to Balthazar. “The water fountain and hand washing basin need to be cleaned daily. The toilet paper dispensers were all empty and no paper was available to the employees…The floors in the building need to be cleaned. The building needs to be cleaned daily with the number of employees using the building 24 hours a day seven days a week.”

“It appears that good faith effort and progress is now being made by CP,” Szabo said. “However, this should only be viewed as the beginning. We’ll be reviewing and discussing everything with CP to make certain all facility needs of the employees are met.”