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A major investigative report published by ProPublica on November 15 exposes how America’s railroad corporations are intimidating workers by putting speed ahead of safety. According to the ProPublica team of investigative reporters, as railroads strive to move their cargo faster, its managers are going to dangerous lengths to avoid disruptions. As one example cited, railroads use performance-pay systems that penalize mangers for taking time to fix hazards, so managers in turn pressure workers to ignore safety defects with equipment to keep the trains rolling. Workers are harassed, intimidated, and even fired for slowing the flow of traffic. As part of their report, ProPublica reviewed 111 court cases in which workers alleged they had been disciplined or fired after reporting safety concerns.

The BLET was the only labor union quoted by ProPublica in the article. BLET National Vice President Randy Fannon explained how many rail workers, especially on non-union short lines, will not report safety problems for fear of losing their jobs. Such was the case earlier this year when a runaway cut of 90 cars — including 47 tanker cars filled with propane — became a rolling bomb. The crewless runaway train traveled for three miles and through two public crossings before it came to a stop on its own. But the workers were too afraid to report it. “Evidently the employees felt that they couldn’t acknowledge it or report it for fear of retribution,” Vice President Fannon said.  To read more, please visit the ProPublica website.