April 12, 2007
CHICAGO (April 12)—Nearly three years after the Illinois Legislative Board filed a formal complaint about conditions in an East St. Louis train-crew facility, the Illinois Commerce Commission has ordered the Kansas City Southern Railroad to renovate or replace the cramped and non-functional trailer or face severe fines.
In an Interim Order issued April 4, the Commission ruled that the UTU was correct in its 2004 allegations that KCS had demolished the existing crew welfare building in its East St. Louis yard and for three weeks had left its employees with nowhere to change clothes, shower or eat until the demolished building was replaced with a set of temporary trailer buildings which themselves failed to meet state guidelines.
The Commission said the new trailer facility essentially was “non-functional” because it did not provide employees with the amount of square footage required under state law, did not provide forced-air ventilation as required by state regulation, had dirty and inoperative toilets, an inadequate number of showers and a cramped and poorly designed interior configuration that forced crew members using the lunch room to view others changing their clothes in the locker room.
The Commission also found that KCS had failed to keep the facility clean, had left it without toilet paper for prolonged periods, had been unresponsive to requests for meetings with the UTU and had failed to provide a separate shower for female employees.
“This finding is a victory for the UTU and for the KCS employees assigned to the East St. Louis Yard,” said UTU Illinois Legislative Director Joseph C. Szabo. “The railroad showed repeated bad faith in a way that virtually amounted to contempt for the law, for the Commission and for its own employees.
“Bottom line,” said Szabo—“the KCS employees at East St. Louis are going to get a radically improved locker room, lunch room, showers and toilets or KCS is going to be facing very large financial penalties.”
Szabo said the Illinois Commercial Transportation Law provides that a carrier found to be in violation of the applicable sections of the Illinois Administrative Code can be assessed a “civil penalty” (i.e., a fine) of from $100 to $1,000 for each day on which a violation occurs and for each paragraph of the Code that was violated.
“Since the UTU first complained about these violations on March 22, 2004 and since the Commission found violations of three separate paragraphs of the Code, we are talking about potentially huge amounts of money here. “ Szabo said.
“The important thing is that the Commission confirmed the union’s Complaint that the current crew shelter is and has been out of compliance with regard to cleanliness, maintenance, square footage and functionality,” Szabo said. “Even more important, it ordered the railroad to remedy all the defects.”
The Interim Order said KCS must:
• Immediately begin cleaning and maintaining the facility in compliance with the Code
• File a plan with the Commission stating how a new facility will be constructed, or the existing one adapted, to comply with all requirements of the Code, including a time line for construction
• Meet with the UTU and the Commission to review the plans and obtain consent of all parties
• Provide the Commission with monthly progress reports on all construction/rehabilitation activity and explain and rectify any failures to meet the project timeline.
“We’re finally going to see some action,” Szabo said. “The railroad tried to wear us down with delays and foot-dragging, but the Commission understood the situation completely and has enforced the law. Thanks to strong and persistent union action on their behalf, our KCS members at East St. Louis can now look forward to a safe, sanitary, clean, comfortable and functional shelter in which to change clothes, shower and take their meals.”