Federal Railroad Inspectors Visit Union Leadership

The federal government’s top two railroad officials, along with U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary Pete Buttigieg, heard concerns from North Platte, NE rail union leaders and two elected officials about their safety worries before and after the September 14 Bailey Yard fire. North Platte is home to Bailey Yard, the world’s largest railroad yard.

Amit Bose, administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), and senior advisor Lynda Tran toured the Union Pacific (UP) yard with several leaders of Bailey-based locals. Two IAM Local Chairmen and Brotherhood of Railway Carmen Representatives attended, along with other union leadership and members.

Railroaders warned at the meeting about Union Pacific safety shortcuts at Bailey and the ongoing safety impact of deep cuts to workforces under the so-called “Precision Scheduled Railroading” (PSR).

Brad Halligan, IAM Local 180 Chairman and a 31-year UP member, said, “The FRA group was easy to talk to; they really listened to us and had lots of questions for us.”

“The FRA assured us they would not be intimidated,” said Dan Chancellor, National Rep for the Carmen. “We were told that they will publicize the results of their findings.”

When the explosion occurred, UP failed to sound a general alarm to alert employees in the yard. Also, the contents of the container (perchloric acid) were not known for more than 30 minutes after the explosion, and the amount of acid that was in the car was unknown for more than two hours after the explosion. FRA officials told those in attendance that this is an ongoing investigation.

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