December 4, 2004
CHICAGO (Nov. 22)—UTU Illinois Legislative Board filed closing arguments in the union’s Formal Complaint against the Kansas City Southern Railroad, charging that the carrier failed to provide its employees at East St. Louis with a locker room conforming to Illinois statutes.
Attorney Timothy Lapp asked the Illinois Commerce Commission to levy substantial fines against KCS for each of the eight alleged violations of the Illinois Administrative Code and for each day the violations continued.
Lapp also asked ICC Administrative Law Judge Joseph O’Brien to order the railroad to construct a permanent locker room, washroom and lunchroom facility to replace a trailer that lacks the amenities needed to fulfill the functions set forth in the Code.
“The UTU asks that the ICC assess per diem fines against the KCS for those periods of time when the employees’ facilities were either non-existent or maintained in derogation of regulations and the Washroom Act ,” Lapp wrote.
“Additionally, the UTU has presented substantial evidence to the ICC that the trailer that has been provided for the employees by the KCS is an unacceptable excuse for a locker room and that the ICC should order that the KCS remove the trailer and construct a facility that is suitable for its intended purpose as a locker room and lunchroom facility.”
Lapp also asked the judge to order KCS to submit any plans for a new facility to ICC staff for review and approval prior to construction.
“Today’s filing brings our members one more step closer to a resolution of the substandard conditions at East St. Louis,” said Illinois Legislative Director Joseph C. Szabo. “The Commission staff now will file its own brief, and KCS will file its final arguments, which Judge O’Brien will take up after the first of the year. Normally, the judge’s opinion would be issued about 60 days thereafter.”
UTU is making two key demands in Complaint, Szabo said.
“First, we are asking the Commission to levy substantial fines against KCS for each violation and for each day on which the violations continued,” he said. “Regardless of how soon KCS is in compliance, the railroad must be compelled to pay the price of offering our members no facility whatsoever for a significant period and a second-rate facility thereafter.”
Szabo said the union also is demanding that the trailer now serving as a locker, lunch and washroom facility be replaced with a permanent structure designed in such a manner as to make it functional and convenient for its intended purpose.
“It’s not a matter of KCS using a portable building so much as using a building that is not adequately configured for the people who have to use it and all of the activities that have to fit under the same roof,” Szabo said.
“Although it is now finally clean, and finally has working plumbing, the facility remains poorly laid out, crowded and dysfunctional,” Szabo said. “Aisle ways between the rows of lockers are way too tight and benches and other furniture are not conveniently placed for the use of employees when changing. The lunch room is unreasonably crowded and is configured so that people who are eating can see people changing clothes in the locker area.
“Clearly, we feel this facility does not meet the definition of what the Illinois Administrative Code calls ‘adequate’ or ‘suitable,’” Szabo said. “That’s why we are asking the judge to order that any plans for a replacement building be reviewed by the Commission for compliance before KCS goes ahead with construction.”
Lapp’s Complaint noted that in 1944 the Commission heard a Complaint charging the old Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad with operating a non-compliant crew facility. He said the Commission ruled at that time that a shelter facility must be “adequate and suitable for the purpose intended.”
“The ICC made it clear,” Szabo said, “that the amenities lacked the configuration the employees required to use them in a suitable and functional way.”
Lapp noted further that the ICC at that time required the CB&Q to submit its plans for the new building to Commission inspectors first, so that they could verify the design’s suitability under the Illinois Administrative Code.
“Obviously, we feel the old CB&Q case sets good precedent,” Szabo said. “All we are asking is that the Commission apply those same standards to the KCS case of 2004. KCS’s conduct in this episode shows that the attitudes of railroad management have not changed much in half a century. The law needs to act accordingly.”