September 30, 2003
CHICAGO (Sept. 30)—An Illinois Commerce Commission Administrative Law Judge today ordered the Iowa Interstate Railroad to comply with state law by repairing its dilapidated Rock Island crew building and making sure its locomotives are stocked with an adequate supply of drinking water.
Judge June Tate gave the railroad six months to provide its crews at Rock Island with a clean and sanitary building or face fines of up to $1,000 per day for non-compliance.
“The UTU has won a major battle and is in sight of victory,” said UTU Illinois Legislative Director Joseph C. Szabo, who filed Formal Complaints against the 435-mile regional railroad in March of this year. “Judge Tate essentially has vindicated every charge our union made against this railroad.”
The UTU Complaint charged the Iowa Interstate with two offenses against the Illinois Administrative Code: failing to provide an adequate supply of clean drinking water aboard its locomotives, and failing to maintain its Rock Island crew welfare room to adequate standards of space, configuration, cleanliness and sanitation.
Based on the union’s Complaint, Commerce Commission inspectors visited the Rock Island welfare room and rode locomotives based at the facility, then reported to the judge that the UTU’s Complaints had been accurate.
In her ruling today, Judge Tate wrote that in the seven months since the Complaint had been filed, Iowa Interstate had complied with some provisions of the law but had failed to comply with others. She said lockers had been installed and benches for changing clothes had been provided, but that other violations remained unaddressed.
“No improvements have been made to the level of cleanliness,” she wrote. “Nor has water been provided on the locomotives.”
She noted that UTU Local 258 Legislative Representative Jeffery Fugate “testified that since the Complaint was filed, lockers have been installed in the rail yard house and two benches installed.”
But, the judge pointed out, “The locker room windows are uncovered, not screened, and therefore there is no privacy in the locker room area. The restroom is not clean and smells of dried urine. There is no shower facility, nor is there seating in the lunchroom. A lunchroom at the far end of the building is more orderly and contains seating, but it is open only when carmen are present. It is not open for train and engine employees. There is a shower three doors from the locker room but its use would require that you shower, then walk outside to return to the locker room. The floor is a rough concrete which does not lend itself to mopping or scrubbing. No cleaning help is employed.”
Judge Tate also cited testimony from UTU Assistant State Legislative Director John Burner that “the room which passes for a lunchroom and is open to engineers is not clean. The locker room has poor lighting and a clear glass door and clear glass windows, which obviate privacy. Fumes from the mechanical portion of the building enter the locker room through chicken wire at the top of the wall.”
Judge Tate concluded her findings with an Order “that the Iowa Interstate Railroad,Ltd…is required to proceed immediately with the work herein required to make its lunch rooms, toilets and showers, and the floors therein, conform to the requirements of 92 Illinois Administrative Code, Section 1545.”
Unless the railroad can provide satisfactory reasons for any delays, the judge said, the work must be concluded within six months or the carrier will be fined for each day the building remains out of compliance.
“This is a complete vindication of the UTU’s long-held position that Iowa Interstate has been out of compliance and is subjecting its crews to unsanitary and unconscionable working conditions,” Szabo said. “We look forward to seeing these improvements completed. Our members are entitled to them.”
Szabo said that under the rules of due process the Iowa Interstate still has the right to appeal Judge Tate’s ruling to the full Commerce Commission and, if such an appeal fails, to bring a case in the courts.
“But rulings of this sort very seldom are overturned on appeal,” he said. “It would require what the law calls ‘unique circumstances’ to reverse Judge Tate’s Findings and her Orders. “As a rule, the courts reverse this kind of ruling only if they find something illegitimate about the proceedings—and that has not happened here. Everything—the UTU’s Complaint, the testimony of both parties, the Commission’s investigation, Judge Tate’s ruling—has been conducted strictly according to the law.
“As far as I am concerned, our UTU members in Rock Island got their day in court, and they won,” Szabosaid. “Let the drinking water flow. Let the rehab begin.”