December 3, 2003
CHICAGO (Dec. 3)—In what Illinois Legislative Director Joseph C. Szabo described as a formality, the Illinois Commerce Commission voted to order the Iowa Interstate Railroad to bring its dilapidated Rock Island crew building into compliance with state law within six months and to supply its locomotives with adequate supplies of sanitary drinking water.
The Commission, which has statutory jurisdiction to administer state laws governing railroad safety and working conditions, moved unanimously to accept and put into effect a September 30 Proposed Order in which Administrative Law Judge June Tate found the regional carrier out of compliance on both issues.
“Judge Tate’s Proposed Order of September 30 essentially ratified and vindicated every element of the Formal Complaint the UTU filed against the Iowa Interstate last winter,” Szabo said. “Now the full commission has voted to accept and implement her Proposed Order.
“That means the railroad is under state orders to provide an adequate amount of sanitary drinking water aboard its locomotives and to have a clean, sanitary, properly ventilated and properly configured shower, locker and lunchroom ready for use by train crews in six months.
“The clock started ticking for the Iowa Interstate today,” Szabo said. “If the carrier isn’t in compliance with all elements of the order by June 3 the alarm will ring and Iowa Interstate could start paying fines of up to $1,000 a day.
“I’ve been advised that the railroad already has taken some substantial steps,” he said. “The locker room, shower area and lunchroom, appear to be near compliance.
“However,” he added, “there may be the need for some discussion to ensure that drinking water is provided in a manner acceptable to UTU and in compliance with the order. I would hate to see the carrier attempt to skirt the intent of the order and end up accruing substantial fines.”
Szabo said UTU Local 258 General Chairman Jeffery Fugate, who uses the facilities daily, also would be keeping an eye on the railroad’s progress and reporting to the Board if he finds the pace lacking.
“Jeff and his fellow crew members protested the lack of drinking water and conditions at the Rock Island crew building for over a year,” Szabo said. “Now that the railroad is under state orders to come into compliance, Jeff and the other members will be watching its performance closely.”
In other Commission business, Szabo said that Judge Tate continues to study two matters brought before the Commission in October by the UTU: a proposed set of regulations establishing safety standards for walkways used by yard and train crews, and a Formal Complaint charging the Norfolk Southern Railroad with operating a dilapidated and unsanitary crew building at its 55th Street Yard in Chicago.
Szabo said the Legislative Board anticipates rulings on both issues “by the end of the year.”