March 24, 2003
CHICAGO (March 24)–The UTU Illinois Legislative Board has initiated formal prceedings with the Illinois Commerce Commission charging the Iowa Interstate Railroad (IAIS) with failing to provide legally required sanitary amenities to train-crew members based at the carrier’s Rock Island Terminal.
Both of the complaints were docketed by the Commission March 17 and could cause the rail carrier to pay substantial fines if it fails to comply with Illinois statutes.
Complaint No. T03-0020 charged that the Iowa Interstate has failed repeatedly to comply with Section 1545.100 (b) (1)) (A) of the Illinois Administrative Code. This regulation requires that all rail carriers doing business in the state provide an adequate supply of sanitary drinking water aboard its locomotives for use of the crews working aboard this equipment.
“We have been trying to get water on board those engines for over two years,” said Local 258 Legislative Director Jeff Fugate.. “The most they have ever done is provide a 5-gallon bucket of ice and told us we can use to it chill beverages we bring aboard ourselves. I talked with the management, but that didn’t do any good. I sent them a formal letter, but they still haven’t responded to it.”
The second Complaint, which the Commission assigned the number T03-0019, charges the Iowa Interstate with failing to comply with seven sections of the Administrative Code governing the locker-room facilities that rail carriers must provide for the use of crews at their starting terminals.
“The Code says the railroad is to provide a sanitary, properly heated indoor environment containing functioning and well maintained toilets, showers, lavatories, lockers and a lunchroom area,” said UTU Illinois Legislative Director Joseph C. Szabo. “The Code also says these facilities must be spatially configured so that employees moving from one amenity to the other remain under the same roof and that incompatible activities, such as eating and showering, must not occur in the same space. Iowa Interstate’s Rock Island crew base has not been in compliance for many years, and the union is asking the Commission to fine the carrier for each day it remains out of compliance until the problem is remedied.”
“For a long time the building didn’t even have lockers,” Fugate said. “It was pathetic the crews had to stuff a change of clothes into their grips and carry it with them while they worked because there was noplace to store a change of clothing in the building. It just seems we can’t get anything that a human being is entitled to.”
Szabo said in his formal complaint that even though the Rock Island Terminal serves as a base for 25 UTU members and as well as other non-UTU employees, “there are no shower facilities for these employees, even though they are exposed to excessive dirt, heat, fumes and other materials and substances which may be injurious to their health. In fact, Iowa Interstate does not have facilities at the Rock Island Terminal that comply with the ICC’s requirements regarding toilets, washing facilities, showers, locker rooms, lockers, dressing rooms and lunchrooms.”
Szabo said the union has hired legal counsel to assist it in pressing its case. He said that once the railroad is notified that it has been named in the Complaints an administrative law judge will set a date for a compliance hearing at which the railroad will be ordered to bring its property into compliance and will be fined for each day it remains out of compliance.
“Normally, however, the judge calls a pre-hearing conference and tries to get the carrier and the union to agree to a timetable for compliance,” Szabo said. “If the railroad sticks to the timetable and brings itself into compliance on time, it can avoid a fine. It’s sort of like an out-of-course settlement in a civil lawsuit. But if they don’t stick to their agreement the judge can bring them right back into the hearing room and fine them.. We expect full and complete compliance with all elements of these