General thread about Jacobin Mag + American railroads discussion

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OliverTwister's picture
OliverTwister
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Mar 30 2015 20:32

Wait a second, I'm confused: are his grad students passive victims or active ascendant future left technocrats?

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Pennoid
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Mar 30 2015 20:54

I think weed could solve 99% of the problems in this thread.

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Mar 30 2015 21:12
OliverTwister wrote:
Wait a second, I'm confused: are his grad students passive victims or active ascendant future left technocrats?

Future middle managers, the sensitive kind, who want to create micro-finance schemes to solve Third World (whatever that is) poverty.

S. Artesian
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Mar 30 2015 23:03
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It has about the same level of relationship to reality, and the same chance for changing reality, as an analysis that considers any publication less orthodox than Aufheben to a conspiracy on the part of the "professorial elite".

Don't much care for Aufheben either.

Look, the issue is... what's the issue? Jacobin is exactly as it has been described, as it describes itself-- an effort from and appealing to those who imagine there is even such a thing as the left wing of DSA, which organization is the official US affiliate of the Socialist International.

That's all there is to it.

And yeah "hedging" on Syriza, which includes offering support to a "left-wing," is literally supporting capitalism. That may be "between Leninism and social-democracy" but it's occupying "middle ground" in the territory called capital.

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mikail firtinaci
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Mar 30 2015 23:40

OT;

I thought Pannekoek was pretty clear with his conception of the new middle class, which has nothing to do with the theories about the "managerial class". If I was your professor I would have to pass you with a mere D, and that is only for your eagerness. Respect for people with status and hostility to radical working class left outside of the academy are unfortunately not enough for a perfect humanities career (even though they are ok for the a beginning) sad Sorry...

S. Artesian
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Apr 1 2015 00:08

OK, what do youse guys think of this?

I think it's a crock of shit, but maybe that's just me.

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Apr 1 2015 04:04

Haven't read it. Don't really have any interest in Die Linke, and I can imagine what a Jacobin interview with them would be. Although I'm not really sure if you have a point here, other than maybe than trying to get me and Oliver to denounce it to ease the fears of our ultraleft elders. Should I plan on a series of Hail Bakunins?

S. Artesian
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Apr 1 2015 12:51
Juan Conatz wrote:
Haven't read it. Don't really have any interest in Die Linke, and I can imagine what a Jacobin interview with them would be. Although I'm not really sure if you have a point here, other than maybe than trying to get me and Oliver to denounce it to ease the fears of our ultraleft elders. Should I plan on a series of Hail Bakunins?

Nah, not necessary. Don't much care for Bakunin.

You asked what we thought of Jacobin. It claims to be a political site. So I wondered what people think of the politics it presents; the content. My mistake.

khadir
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Apr 1 2015 22:50

what is ultra leftism then? is it a tendency that advocates entryism? cause i think you may have it confused with trotskyism.

I had always understand the ultra left as a pejorative towards left communism.

vanilla.ice.baby
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Apr 7 2015 09:33

Jacobin is one of the best designed and easiest to read left mags around, I keep forgetting to subscribe to it...

My only question is who is the audience and why do they/we require it?

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Apr 27 2015 10:52

Outrageous!

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Apr 27 2015 15:48
OliverTwister wrote:
Outrageous!

It is a pretty bad article, but it's hyperbolic to call it outrageous. Railroad workers are not increasingly rejecting the old “jobs versus environment” story yet, but the conferences were hopefully a start in that direction. As the RWU sisters and brothers pointed out, the industry is still plagued by "redneck chic" with ol' timers grandfathered into wages and conditions making them almost a labor aristocracy. So they often take reactionary, defensive positions when they feel their jobs are threatened by environmental regulation.

One of the railroaders said that the questions in Trish Kahle's interview were "loaded," as she kept trying to peg them on the question of "political power" and "the state." Since that wasn't germane to the interview, they simply blew it off. But it was clear she was proving her bona fides to the ISO (as is also demonstrated in her sloppily argued polemics in the Socialist Worker -- and her strident defense of "SEIU leadership," some of whom are ISO cadre).

syndicalist
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Apr 27 2015 15:46

I find the on-line version to be interesting and informative. Doesn't mean I agree with it, but there's some awright stuff posted.

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Apr 27 2015 20:07

I'd be happy if any other left-wing source promoted, supported, or paid attention to RWU. The IWW first of all.

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Apr 27 2015 21:10
OliverTwister wrote:
I'd be happy if any other left-wing source promoted, supported, or paid attention to RWU. The IWW first of all.

The presumption in the interview is that IWW-style organizing is wrong, because it has neither a transitional program nor aspirations for state power.

Compare this lame article with the ones on RWU in Labor Notes. The latter might have a pro-trade union bias (as in not critical enough of BLET, SMART and the other 11 craft unions), but they lack the slightly-veiled ISO ideology.

S. Artesian
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Apr 27 2015 21:08

1. The explosion in Lac Megantic was due to, IMO, negligence. Corporate negligence, operating negligence, and personal negligence. All you need to know is that the locomotive engineer left the train on a 1% downhill grade, with the air brakes on the train in the release position; without a single handbrake applied to any one of the 77 tank cars. The errors, violations of operating procedures and practices that led to this are legion, absolutely legion. They might have something to do with the "great deregulation" after the "praise the lord" Staggers Act, and the way secondary railroads operate to maintain profits, but you don't get any of that from this article.

2. "bomb trains" is not a new term; and hazardous material releases are not new events. More than 30 years ago, the Illinois Central Gulf (now part of CN) used to run a train from the petrochemical plants in Geismar, La to Chicago that was known throughout the ICG system as "the rolling bomb." This train derailed around a curve, due to multiple rule violations by the locomotive engineer (including drinking, letting his girlfriend sit on his lap and operate the train), and the resulting explosions required the evacuation of 5500 people.

3. The Class 1 carriers have indeed "admitted" that crew fatigue is a problem, and FRA has altered the hours-of-service regulations to reduce the number of "higher risks" shifts that employees can work, and shifts of any sort that can be worked in sequence. One of the problems that hasn't been addressed is medical fitness, including testing for sleep apnea. Part of the obstacle here is the labor organizations who envision wholesale disqualifications of employees if such fitness standards are developed, or management using it to retaliate against workers. Another part of the problem is that there is a record of management using programs (such as drug and alcohol testing) in the attempt to intimidate workers.

4. The operation of freight trains with 2 person or 3 person crews is no guarantee of increased safety. The history of railroading in North America is littered, and I mean littered, with the wrecks of trains that had 2 or 3 or 4 people in the operating cab.

Automatic train control, automatic speed control, positive train control are guarantees of increased safety.

5. "The oil industry is dying"??? What fucking planet are these people on? Look at the portion of GDP, capital investment, and profits that go to oil and gas extraction worldwide and tell me that again.

6. Yes, there are grade crossing accidents. How many people there are in a locomotive has never been shown to have any importance regarding grade crossing collisions. But this

Quote:
Let’s take a scenario with a single-employee train crew. So as the operator, I would throw the train into emergency, contact the dispatcher. While I’m waiting to hear from the dispatcher and relay that information, the train is stopped, and I’m wasting valuable time because I can’t go back there until I finish talking to the dispatcher.

really takes the cake.

First, making a radio report to the train dispatcher which includes identifying your train, your location, and what has occurred will take all of 30 seconds. Maybe. Then consider this:

You are on a freight train traveling at 40 mph carrying 10,000 tons. You see a tanker truck on the grade crossing 1000 feet ahead of you. Guess what you do NOT do? You DO NOT PUT the train into emergency braking. You absolutely do not do that as a) you will never stop in time anyway b) emergency braking will set up in-train forces along the length of your train that will break couplers, draft gears, and probably lead to a derailment c) your best bet of surviving the collision with the tanker is if you are going fast enough that the lead locomotive makes it through the collision before the gasoline or whatever is in the truck ignites. I know a locomotive engineer who survived such a collision because he did just that-- he put the throttle into "run 8" (highest power) and hit the deck. The gasoline exploded behind his locomotive.

Moreover, even if you put the train in emergency, you stop say 2500 feet beyond the point of collision, it will take you at least ten and probably 15 minutes to walk back to the collision. What's the point to immediately get off the locomotive? To render assistance? Not likely you'll be able to do that in a timely manner even with 2 or 3 people on the crew. Inspect your train? There's no rush for that. Clear the crossing? Well, until certain measurements are taken, like where the locomotive stopped, the locomotive probably is going to stay right where it is. To discover if a tank car in your train is leaking? Ummhh, guess what? Grade crossings are equipped with information giving a telephone number to contact the railroad in case of emergency. By the time any crew member gets back to the point of collision, any leak occurring at that location will have been reported. Does having a multiple person crew make recovery easier if the train has separated, or has a damaged car that must be set to a siding track? Absolutely, but that's not an issue of public safety.

Grade crossing collisions, unless we have a case of intentional or unintentional negligence, or grade crossing protection failure, are caused by the road vehicle drivers. Or as a locomotive engineer told me on my first road run back in the day, "I've never seen one of these locomotives jump off the track and chase a car up its own driveway."

I happen to support 2 man minimum crews for freight trains of a certain size operating over a certain distance. I don't think you can go to 1 person crews until the technology is such that you can safely operate the train from a remote location, like a drone. But arguing for multiple person crews because of the frequency of grade-crossing accidents does nothing to eliminate the grade crossing accident, which is where the focus should be.

7. Yes, railroading can be dangerous-- mass and velocity equal a lot of force and even more energy. However, look at the records of US railroads over the last 35 years-- there has been a systematic decline in accidents, hazardous material releases, collisions, fatalities. Now the need for profit is the need for profit, but there is simply no linear correspondence between higher profit and lower safety. To argue that is to argue that exact twin of the "free market" rangers who argue that "deregulation" and lack of government supervision have made the railroads safer, when in fact it has been the development and enforcement of effective regulations, and advanced technologies that have contributed to the improved safety.

8. "And so railroad workers are relatively secure."???? Huh, really? Industry employment plummets over the course of 50 years, while ton-miles soar, and the workers are "secure"?

9.

Quote:
So I guess I tend to think that the more environmental protections we have, actually the better the job situation will be. Some of the best protections we can have in the particular issue of what they’re calling “bomb trains,” or oil trains, is better track maintenance. Well, that requires more people on the job. Shorter trains is another way to prevent these trains from derailing. Well, that requires more crews to transport the crude oil.

Better track maintenance, like better anything, requires improved productivity of labor, i.e. the use of advanced technologies to detect flaws. Ultra-sound, "machine visions," vertical and horizontal load detectors, are far more capable of detecting flaws before they become "condemnable" than the human being. Having 1000 track inspectors instead of 100 inspectors assigned to 100 miles of track does not mean you are improving your track or your inspections, as it's all about time-- the time on track the inspectors can get will the railroad operates. To maximize the time available, you need to utilize automatic systems, mobile systems, sensors embedded in the tracks and affixed to the rolling stock.

As for the shorter trains-- the "bomb trains"-- with the Bakken crude generally operate as "unit trains" and are not of the massive length of container trains. There is no indication that train length or train handling by the locomotive engineers (use of the brake, or throttle, in a fashion that sets up dangerous in train "draft" forces) has played a part in the derailments involving this oil. The Bakken crude itself is highly volatile, with more dissolved gas than other crudes. Until this month, the crude was NOT required to be stabilized (have its volatility, as indicated by the pressure exerted by the gas, reduced). North Dakota recently enacted regulations requiring stabilization of crude prior to shipment. The derailment in West Virginia was of unstabilized crude from Bakken. Eagle Ford crude is stabilized although almost all of it moves by pipeline.

Other than these minor points, the article is spot on.

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May 5 2015 04:38

I heard the founder (Bhaskara) give a talk in San Francisco. He defined their purpose straight-away as state socialist, coming out of left wing of DSA. That said, the mag has some half-way decent articles & does try to produce stuff that is clearly written. They had a recent piece on Taylorism that i thought was pretty good.

I was at the Railroad Workers United conference. Clearly an event organized by a "militant minority" among railway workers, who do want to develop a worker/enviro alliance.

Grade crossing accidents are a product of actions by highway drivers, and investment in grade separations is really a subsidy to auto & truck travel, when you get right down to it. Irrespective of whether the arguments given for two person crews based on such accidents are a good argument, a person who doesn't support the workers in the struggle against one-person crews puts himself on the side of capital, the other side of the class line. Maybe Artesian should keep that in mind next time.

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May 8 2015 02:15
iexist wrote:
Hieronymous wrote:
OliverTwister wrote:
I'd be happy if any other left-wing source promoted, supported, or paid attention to RWU. The IWW first of all.

The presumption in the interview is that IWW-style organizing is wrong, because it has neither a transitional program nor aspirations for state power.

Compare this lame article with the ones on RWU in Labor Notes. The latter might have a pro-trade union bias (as in not critical enough of BLET, SMART and the other 11 craft unions), but they lack the slightly-veiled ISO ideology.

Are u RWU?

Don't work in the industry, but am a "solidarity" member. Since we're interested in global production and supply chains, my comrades and I have worked quite closely with RWU. Like participating in meetings of the local RWU chapter, along with railroaders participating in our logistics study group. It's become a healthy cross-pollination, with the goal of supporting class struggle and solidarity down global supply chains (since our group includes maritime workers and others formerly active in longshore organizing).

S. Artesian
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May 8 2015 08:36
syndicalistcat wrote:

Grade crossing accidents are a product of actions by highway drivers, and investment in grade separations is really a subsidy to auto & truck travel, when you get right down to it. Irrespective of whether the arguments given for two person crews based on such accidents are a good argument, a person who doesn't support the workers in the struggle against one-person crews puts himself on the side of capital, the other side of the class line. Maybe Artesian should keep that in mind next time.

Reading comprehension not your strong point? I explicitly stated that I support 2 person crews for main line freight service. Perhaps you should have kept that in mind this time.

Making a weak argument for a position, i.e. grade crossings, is not exactly a revolutionary strategy. Same thing with those who want to argue that railroads have sacrificed safety over the last 30 years.

Same arguments were made when cabooses were removed from trains-- about essential role the staffed caboose played in train operations. Of course, no decline in safety followed.

Do railroads has a "calculus" a "cost benefit" matrix regarding safety programs, safety technologies, safety devises. Absolutely.

What you need to remember is that no matter how "radical" the argument might appear, all these demands are, first and foremost, bargaining positions in contract negotiations and are not likely to become anything more than bargaining positions in contract negotiations.

So... you want to make an argument for 2 person crews? That's fine. I do too. I can make good ones. Anybody trying to tell you that crew size will change response times re auto collisions is simply making shit up.

In my personal opinion, the advances for class struggle are to be found elsewhere; other than in trying to support bargaining positions with false or mistaken claims. Keep that in mind next time.

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May 8 2015 16:04
iexist wrote:
Hieronymous wrote:
iexist wrote:
Hieronymous wrote:

The presumption in the interview is that IWW-style organizing is wrong, because it has neither a transitional program nor aspirations for state power.

Compare this lame article with the ones on RWU in Labor Notes. The latter might have a pro-trade union bias (as in not critical enough of BLET, SMART and the other 11 craft unions), but they lack the slightly-veiled ISO ideology.

Are u RWU?

Don't work in the industry, but am a "solidarity" member. Since we're interested in global production and supply chains, my comrades and I have worked quite closely with RWU. Like participating in meetings of the local RWU chapter, along with railroaders participating in our logistics study group. It's become a healthy cross-pollination, with the goal of supporting class struggle and solidarity down global supply chains (since our group includes maritime workers and others formerly active in longshore organizing).

What group is that?

The Global Supply Chains study group, which contributes to the Empire Logistics mapping project (here's our blog on libcom).

vanilla.ice.baby
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May 13 2015 22:59

rail workers piss all over the far left in terms of organising capacity.

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ocelot
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May 15 2015 00:10

This thread has not done well for the whole "at least we're not trainspotters* position, in fairness.

Uncontrollable
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May 15 2015 01:22

The railroad discussion is interesting to me as I'm trying to get a job with one of the class 1 railroads right now.

S. Artesian-
"I happen to support 2 man minimum crews for freight trains of a certain size operating over a certain distance. I don't think you can go to 1 person crews until the technology is such that you can safely operate the train from a remote location, like a drone."

This makes it sound like you don't have a problem with a 1 person crew in some cases or even drone trains if the tech gets better. Is that the case? Are you currently a railroad worker?

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May 15 2015 01:37

EDIT: Removed Post

S. Artesian
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May 15 2015 06:57

One person crews, using RCL (remote control locomotive) technology is/are a reality on Canadian, US railroads. Such reduced crew operations are usually restricted to yard service, or local industry switching service.

Do I "have a problem" with that? What do you mean by problem? Do I think it's unsafe? No, I do not. Analysis shows lower accident/injury rates with RCL operations.

Do I think RCL use is intensified capitalist exploitation of labor power? Sure thing.

When workers themselves oppose RCL operation as a threat to their livelihoods, do I, should we support that struggle? Sure thing, but that opposition in itself is/ becomes a dead end. It becomes a bargaining position, that's all.

Drone trains? Look, I don't support capitalism in any way shape or form, so if the bourgeoisie develop tech that supports drone trains, I don't support the bourgeoisie using drone trains, no more than I support the bourgeoisie closing a factory. BUT, I do not support the bourgeoisie opening a factory either. If we oppose capitalism laying off workers, that doesn't mean we then support capitalism hiring workers.

My objection has been to making bad, and false, arguments re safety, when the real issue is class struggle. Claiming that railroad profits correspond to declines in safety over the last 30 years is just bullshit, pure unadulterated bullshit. I have a problem with bullshit.

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May 17 2015 01:24

I think there is in fact a conflict between profit & safety, and not only on railways. I recall very well the big crash on Santa Fe in Corona in the '90s. Three person crew eastbound was in the siding inching forward at 5 mph, waiting for inbound for Los Angeles. Outbound train over ran the switch at end of the siding, head on collision with a train whose locomotive had a "hardened" cab. The three crew were killed in the eastbound train. They were asleep at time of crash. Santa Fe was calling people back with inadequate rest & running crews for very long turns, say 17 hours sometimes. They didn't want to hire more crew members. Forced overwork is done to lower labor costs.

S. Artesian
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May 17 2015 13:17

Yes, such things occur. So please account for the dramatic decline in employee fatalities, train accidents per train miles, injuries per crew hour, etc. registered since 1982, at the same time as profits have increased dramatically over the last 30 years on the railroad. You don't think that improvement has cost money?

Look, I personally know of a specific number of accidents cause by employee use of drugs and alcohol. That doesn't mean the use of drugs and alcohol has worsened on railroads. In fact, given the limits of our measuring systems, the use of drugs and alcohol has declined dramatically on railroads since 1986. Now, what caused that? Less of a concern for profits? Not fucking hardly. Federal law? Exactly. Imposition of random and mandatory drug and alcohol testing has been the single most important factor in improving operating safety on railroads.

We're not talking anecdotes here; we're talking systems; hard numbers; what actually takes place over the entire rail network. Now you can argue that such stats are irrelevant or falsified, but then you need to explain, as with everything, else the changes in operating safety. We know railroads are more safe now than in 1970s, a period of lowered profits. Do you have any data that says safety has deteriorated on the railroads since 19?? due to increased profitability; or attempts to improve profitability?

And yes, I've worked on Class 1 railroads and passenger railroads for about 40 years, in positions from brakeman to chief train dispatcher to chief of field operations.

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May 17 2015 18:12

you're not dealing with the issue i raised tho. long hours, erratic scheduling. you want to argue this has no effect on safety? i know about the turn around in profits. but there has been a huge turn around since '70s in traffic & marketing. Giving up money losing passenger ops to the state. Off shoring of manufacturing connected to increased IT control of logistics to manage far flung supply chains. Inter modal as huge growth sector. New type of auto carrier designed to protect vehicles led to winning back new vehicle transport. Cutting loose less profitable branches into non-union short line operators (like the outfit using one-man crews that had that crash at Lac Meganic).

S. Artesian
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May 17 2015 20:59

Sorry, you're the one not dealing with the issue. How can you say safety has been sacrificed to profits on the railroad when the dramatic, I'm talking 10 fold, improvement in safety is coincident with the increase in profits?

What safety has been sacrificed to achieve those higher profits; as opposed to the safety that was in place prior to the restoration of profits?

I know all about deregulation under the Staggers Act, as I was working for Conrail at the time. I also know how much greater effort railroads put into improving safety at the same time.

I know, for example, that removing cabooses and utilizing EOT [end-of-train devices] improved safety, and helped increase profits-- didn't have to service and maintain cabooses anymore.

Where exactly was the existing level of safety in 1985 degraded in the service of profit?

It's just not the case that railroads disregard safety. Doesn't mean the bourgeoisie aren't bourgeoisie, but if your issue is employment levels or wages, then argue that as being an attack on the well-being of the class. But don't make a bullshit arguments about safety when all the available data shows a truly remarkable improvement in train safety.

Lac Megantic wasn't a crash. There you have a single person crew, and the single person violated the most basic of railroad operating requirement-- securing the train properly when leaving it unattended.

You are using sloppy and wishful thinking because you have an ideology that says that profit is always opposed to safety.

Well show me the data. I lived through this. I was responsible for making improvements for safer train operations. I never found a conflict between safer train operations and more efficient, productive train operations.

Yes railroad workers can work long hours-- although not as long as before with the changes to hours of service laws. Yes, railroads require "extra-board" engine and train crew personnel to work various shifts. These indeed are problems that need to be addressed. But that's the nature of the business, and I do mean business. Exactly what do you expect to happen when the traffic that makes up a train is released from industries at various hours, is collected and transported to a yard at various hours, gets made up into departing trains usually within 24 hours of receipt?

Could railroads be safer? Sure thing. Do railroads "balance" cost vs. benefit when it comes to vetting a new safety initiative? Absolutely. But if you think the profitability of railroads depends upon degrading safety, there is only evidence to the contrary...which BTW is why the RWU will prove itself to be but another lame organization only too happy to dissolve itself into the trade union swamp of US labor.

The issue is where do the improved profits of the railroads correspond to degraded safety over the past 30 years?

I've run railroads. I've been responsible for operating safety. I made decisions based on hard data, not on somebody's bullshit supposition, ideology, that in fact had another purpose in mind.

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May 18 2015 17:19

You can blame the engineer for not securing the train at Lac Meganic. how likely would that have been if there had been a second person in the crew?

From what I hear railroad workers say, the staffing practices do not take account of adequate time between shifts for rest and excessively long shifts.

The railroad industry is clearly in much better financial shape in recent years than in the '70s. They have put profits into improved infrastructure, so improved safety is believable. It's also in their financial interests to avoid crashes, within the limits of what makes sense from a capitalist point of view, that is, in terms of pay off relative to cost.