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Legislative Update October 2007

  1. 1889, The Railroad Safety Enhancement Act of 2007

The week of September 10, our Virginia State Legislative Representative Diane Shifflett and her husband Danny traveled to D.C. to join a team of BLET officers from both the legislative arm as well as the regulatory side, led by BLET National Legislative Rep John Tolman and some of his DC Office staff, to march on Capitol Hill and educate members of the Senate about our position on S. 1889, The Railroad Safety Enhancement Act of 2007, filed in the Senate on July 26, by Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ).  As mentioned in last month’s update, there are a number of differences between this bill and its companion bill in the House, H.R. 2095.The House version contains stronger language, especially with regard to limbo time and the use of camp cars. S.1889 was crafted as a softer version so as to get it through the Senate before they adjourn in November, with the hopes that the differences will be worked out when the bill goes to the House/Senate Conference Committee, a committee made up of members chosen by a democratic-controlled Congress. To see a comparison of the two bills, go to Rail Safety comparison .

On Friday, September 28, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation marked up S. 1889. Please be sure to contact your senators and ask them to ensure that the provisions you support are included in S. 1889.

Norfolk Southern Requests that Camp Car Language be removed from H.R. 2095

We have been asked to help our Brothers and Sisters in the Maintenance of Way Division of the Teamsters Rail Conference to speak out against Norfolk Southern’s continued use of camp cars on their property. There is no reason for these types of third world housing conditions to continue to exist in the 21st century. Norfolk Southern has stated that they are making improvements on the camp cars; however, no matter how much they update these mobile living quarters, they are still parked between two crossings with trains passing by and blowing the horn all night long. How are these employees expected to get a good night’s rest in that environment? Please help out by contacting your Congressional Representatives to request that they ignore the Norfolk Southern’s request to remove language contained in the Rail Safety Bill, H.R. 2095, that calls for elimination of camp cars.

Harassment and Intimidation

A oversight hearing on harassment and intimidation of railroad workers has been scheduled for October 23, 2007.  Class I Railroads have been notified that they may be expected to attend.  This is the Union’s chance to prove to Congress that these problems are nationwide and deal with all railroads.  The results of this hearing will be provided in next month’s update.

Short-Term Disability Benefits Reduced

As of October 1, 2007, short-term disability benefits provided by MetLife will be reduced from $402/week to $362/week. The reason for this reduction in benefits is twofold: (1) the high number of claims paid out in the last year has forced the plan to pay out more in benefits than it collected in premiums, and (2) the rail carriers have refused to pay higher premiums for this benefit. The good news is that the reduction will not affect those with existing claims or those whose disability date is prior to October 1, 2007.

Elections

November 6 is election day throughout the Country.  While there may not be many races that will affect your community at the National level, always remember that every election has an impact on your daily life.  So be sure to educate yourself on the issues and VOTE!

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