Union Should Pay for Amtrak Deaths, Injuries, Damage

A unionized Amtrak engineer was driving his train way over the speed limit – at 106 MPH – when the train crashed near Philadelphia on May 12, killing 8 people and injuring more than 150.

Nikitas3.com believes that unless this is proven to be the fault of malfunctioning equipment that the labor union that represents this engineer should pay the damages to people who were injured, or to the families of those killed. Because labor unions have set up a convenient one-way street for themselves that must end. They represent workers and take money from the workers in the form of union dues. But they never take financial responsibility for problems that their workers cause, including destroying millions of dollars worth of Amtrak equipment.

Labor unions should not be allowed to get away with this deal any longer. If they want the union dues then they must also take responsibility for the worker. That sounds fair enough, doesn’t it? Should there not be risk (responsibility for accidents) in order to get the rewards (union dues)? At the same time, labor unions organize workers only after a company becomes successful but the unions never risk their own time, labor or money to make the company successful in the first place. That is another one-way deal for the unions.

In one of the most famous train accidents in modern history on July 6, 2013 a runaway crude oil train in Quebec, Canada rolled down an 8-mile grade and crashed into the town of Lac Megantic, exploding in the center of the summer resort, killing 47 people and destroying much of the downtown. The train had been parked for the night by its unionized engineer, but he failed to secure the train properly by setting handbrakes on enough of the individual cars for the slight grade that the train was stopped on. When the train started to roll away on the 1% downhill into Lac Megantic there was no way to stop it.

When he heard about the Lac Megantic disaster the railroad’s owner Ed Burkhardt immediately surmised that the engineer had not secured the train, which only makes sense because a train cannot physically roll away if enough handbrakes are set. Burkhardt was right, which was the finding of the official inquiry into the accident, but he was utterly savaged in the Canadian and American media for saying it.

It gets worse. The unions and the media and the socialists in Canada and in the US did everything in their power to find a way to place blame on Burkhardt, on the railroad company, and also on the owners of the oil, which came from the Bakken Formation of North Dakota.

Why did they seek to shift the blame from the engineer? Two reasons: So that they could pin the tragedy on someone they don’t like (a private-sector business owner) and sue a company with a lot of money for financial damages (a private-sector oil company).

Friends, most accidents are preventable. They are often the result of negligence like driver error or worker incompetence. And when they are, that worker or driver should be held responsible. And if the worker is unionized and the union takes dues from that worker then the union should be held financially liable.

The Lac Megantic case gets even worse. Transportation Safety Board of Canada chairman Wendy Tadros said at the time of the accident that the agency would be speaking to anyone who had anything to do with the train and the company. Then Tadros amazingly was quoted as saying, “”No accident is ever caused by one thing. It is always a series of things and always involves the organization and the way that they operate. It never comes down to one individual.”

This is flat-out false. This was the chairman of the TSBC. This female should have been fired immediately for making such a statement because it is biased. As an investigator she is supposed to be impartial.

After all it sure can come down to “one individual”. What if the engineer was negligent in not setting the handbrakes properly, as he was found to have been? What if the engineer was drunk or on drugs? What if the engineer had a vendetta against the town or the railroad and intentionally sabotaged the train? What if the engineer was having an argument with his girlfriend over his cell phone and neglected to set the hand brakes?

Remember that a government agent like Tadros in a liberal nation like Canada may seek to bias the case and to take the focus off of the unionized locomotive engineer and to put it on the private railroad company and its officials. This is abhorrent but this is the way political intimidation and manipulation works under socialism.

Now there is another political storm over the Amtrak crash. There is widespread condemnation by Democrats and other liberals of certain American political officials (i.e., Republicans) for not giving Amtrak enough taxpayer money to keep up its operations, ostensibly leading to the Philadelphia accident. But first, there is zero indication that inadequate Amtrak funding had anything to do with the accident. Second, Amtrak has $1.4 billion annually of taxpayer money at its disposal that it fritters away on long, wasteful cross-country routes and exorbitant union salaries, benefits and pensions. Amtrak also repairs its equipment in-house by expensive unionized employees rather than subcontracting repairs out to lower-cost private repair firms.

In short, Amtrak could easily shrink itself into a much more efficient operation, but intentionally never does so. Because the point of socialism is to spend as much taxpayer money as possible for the benefit of people like labor unions, government workers, the poor, the universities, etc. who then support Democrats politically.

In another train wreck, a unionized engineer at the public Los Angeles Metrolink commuter railroad ran a red signal in 2008 at Chatsworth, California and crashed his train head-on into a Union Pacific freight train, killing 24 passengers and himself. He was reported to have been distracted by texting when he missed the red signal. Wikipedia.org reports that engineer Robert Sanchez exchanged 45 text messages while en route during his morning shift that day.

45 text messages?! Where were California regulators or Metrolink or Sanchez’ union to warn about this dangerous engineer? In fact he was known for carrying on text conversations with young rail enthusiasts along his route. What else was known about his troubled life? Sanchez was a homosexual who had a very secretive existence including the suicide of his gay partner.

Why hasn’t there been more focus on Sanchez? Was he suicidal? How many unionized Metrolink managers and officials knew about, but did not act on, Sanchez? Did they know about his psychological problems and do nothing? Or the texting? Let’s investigate. Why wasn’t Sanchez’ union, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, held legally culpable for the injuries and deaths? After all one of its dues-paying members directly caused the crash through gross negligence.

But no, unions are never held responsible. Because unionism is a one-way street. Meanwhile Metrolink was sued by relatives of the deceased and by 135 people who were injured. Claims were expected to reach the $200 million limit. But when you sue a public transit company like Metrolink you are basically suing the taxpayers of California while, again, there is no indication anywhere that the union paid anything. Very convenient for the unions.

It gets worse. Because of the negligence of Sanchez political pressure surged over the top for the passage of federal legislation requiring a super-expensive computerized Positive Train Control (PTC) system on all American railroads. This system is now being mandated and is going to cost as much as $22 billion for the private freight railroads while its cost/benefit value in reducing accidents has been challenged over and over. Meanwhile public transit systems like Metrolink will have the PTC installation bill paid by the taxpayer. The unions, of course, will pay nothing. As usual.

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