October 2, 2003
CHICAGO (Oct. 14)—Three Illinois UTU leaders have told an Illinois Commerce Commission hearing that the Norfolk Southern Railroad’s 55th Street Yard crew building in Chicago is unsanitary, dilapidated and unfit to meet the legitimate needs of railroad employees as defined under Illinois law.
“We presented a very strong case that the building has been out of compliance with the Illinois Administrative Code for some time,” said UTU Illinois Legislative Director Joseph C. Szabo. “We showed the judge that Norfolk Southern had been given ample notice and ample time to act but did nothing.”
Rich Ross, the UTU Local 1895 Chairman for Enginemen, told Administrative Law Judge June B. Tate he had complained about the building to NS officials for a considerable period of time before the Commerce Commission first inspected the building in May of 2002 and Szabo filed a Formal Complaint in June 2003.
Also appearing before the judge was Mike Dilday, the Local 1985 Chairman representing former Conrail employees. Dilday told the hearing that the building lacked separate locker rooms for men and women, had no hot water for washing, forced employees to eat lunch at tables only three or four feet away from the toilets, and had a rat problem.
He added: “There’s another toilet down the hall, but because of cracks in the wall there is a two-foot tree growing out of the floor next to the commode. There are multiple cracks in the wall of the building where rain and snow get in.”
Szabo said the only witnesses who appeared at last week’s hearing were the UTU officers plus Inspector Robert Wagner from the Commission.
“We offered BLE a chance to share in the legal expenses and participate in the formal hearing process, but they chose not to do so,” Szabo said.
Judge Tate continued the hearing until October 30, when Norfolk Southern will have an opportunity to present its defense.
Ross said that following the hearing he learned from a Norfolk Southern official that the company is discussing the idea of replacing the 55th Street facility with an 8,000-square foot building meeting all requirements of the Illinois Administrative Code as well as the Chicago Building Code. But Szabo said that while this is encouraging the union had received no formal confirmation of such a decision.
“We certainly would welcome a new building that complies with all applicable laws, but until it is a reality UTU is not going to withdraw its demand for compliance,” he said.
Dilday said he found Norfolk Southern’s resistant attitude puzzling in light of its other crew buildings in the Chicago area.
“The Calumet Yard building is very nice,” he said. “The Ashland Avenue Yard building that NS inherited from Conrail looks exactly like what the Commerce Commission is asking for—no more, no less. All we want is something equal to that.”