On the Picket Line

Bosses’ profit drive leads to deaths of two more rail workers

September 23, 2019
Bosses’ profit drive leads to deaths of two more rail workers
Militant/John SteeleMarch for rail safety, 2015, in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, two years after Montreal, Maine and Atlantic train derailed and exploded, killing 47 people. Sign reads, “Never again!” On Aug. 24 a train derailed in Lac-Mégantic on tracks now owned by Central Maine and Atlantic Railway.

The rail bosses’ drive for profit claimed the lives of two more union brothers and rail workers in North America in August.

On Aug. 15, in Vaughn, Ontario, 27-year-old train conductor and Teamsters union member Imraan Qamar was killed in Canadian National’s MacMillan yard. News reports say a rail car derailed and overturned, crushing him to death. Qamar had qualified as a conductor last December. 

On Aug. 20, 39-year-old Travis Andrepont, a rail worker with 16 years experience at Union Pacific, was killed on the job in Beaumont, Texas. Andrepont, who was secretary treasurer of SMART Local 1947, died when he became trapped between two tanker cars. 

Another train derailed in Nantes, Quebec, Aug. 24, just 8 miles uphill from Lac-Megantic, where a train operated by the notorious Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway had derailed and exploded six years ago, killing 47 people and destroying the downtown area. The Central Maine & Quebec Railway — which bought up MMA after it declared bankruptcy — had recently been notified by Transport Canada that the rail was in bad condition. 

So far 11 rail workers in North America have been killed on the job in 2019, seven in the U.S. and four in Canada. 

These deaths and derailments, and others like them, were and are preventable. They occur because of the relentless profit drive of the rail bosses. They will not stop until rail workers organize to use union power and broad public support from working people to fight for and win control over safety and working conditions on the job.

Negotiations for a new contract are underway by the Teamsters union at Canadian National Railway. The company is reportedly demanding concessions on rest period, time-off and for running their trains with “one-person crews,” like the one that derailed in Lac-Megantic. This means a single worker has to perform all the functions of train operation — those of the conductor, engineer and brakeman.

Rail bosses all across North America are pushing for longer trains and the one-worker crew. We rail workers need to raise the demand that trains be limited to no more than 50 cars in length with a mandatory four-person crew, two on each end of the train.

No worker has to die on the job. Organizing ourselves and utilizing our unions to defend our lives and the lives of people living along the rail lines, we can win a lot of support from working people, farmers and others.