Archive for April, 2013

Protest groups across the country are gearing up for May Day protests on Wednesday. In New York, Occupy Wall Street has posted a schedule for the day, kicking off with young workers marching from Bryant Park in solidarity with the Transport Workers Union. Occupy says it plans to visit the offices of union busters and companies with whom the TWU members have contract disputes.At around noon, protesters will then go on an “immigrant worker justice tour,” in order to highlight the daily struggles facing immigrants and workers in New York City. Activists will visit several workplaces in midtown to “demand an end to exploitation of immigrant workers” with the march ending at Senator Schumer’s office for a speak-out on what real immigration reform looks like.

via Immigrant Rights Groups, Labor, Occupy Plan May Day Protests | The Nation.

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Apr. 22, 2013

The U.S. Class I workforce continued to grow last month. As of mid-March, the large roads employed 163,059 people, up 0.5 percent from February’s level and 0.7 percent from March 2012’s count, according to Surface Transportation Board data.

On a month-over-month basis, three workforce segments posted gains and three registered declines. The gainers were the maintenance-of-way and structures segment, up 1.3 percent to 36,742; transportation (train and engine) sector, up 0.7 percent to 65,581, and professional and administrative staff, up 0.2 percent to 14,165. The decliners were the transportation (other than T&E) force, down 0.7 percent to 6,753; executives, officials and staff assistants sector, down 0.6 percent to 9,779; and maintenance of equipment and stores segment, down less than a tenth of a precent to 30,039.

On a year-over-year basis, only the transportation (T&E) workforce decreased, and by a small margin at that: 0.06 percent. The professional and administrative staff grew 2.6 percent; executives, officials and staff assistants sector climbed 2.4 percent; maintenance of equipment and stores force increased 1 percent; maintenance-of-way and structures staff ratcheted up 0.6 percent; and transportation (other than T&E) ranks inched up 0.3 percent.

http://www.progressiverailroading.com/labor/news/US-Class-I-workforce-grew-wider-in-March–35926

Apr. 25, 2013

NEW YORK–Crude-oil futures prices settled at two-week highs Thursday on concerns over tightening supplies, while U.S. gasoline demand heats up ahead of the peak spring-summer driving season.

Traders said weakness in the dollar, rising equities prices and news that U.S. weekly claims for jobless benefits fell to the lowest level in nearly five years added to buying interest.

“There are a bunch of things going on. There does seem to be some risk-on buying in the last couple of days,” said Andy Lebow, senior vice president for energy futures at Jefferies Bache. Mr. Lebow and others said oil-market investors are sensing that oil demand in the U.S. will be stronger in the near term than elsewhere and are favoring the U.S. benchmark futures contract over internationally traded North Sea Brent crude.

In the Markets

MoneyBeat: For Investors, Brent Crude Is Down But Not Out

Implied demand for gasoline–the most widely used petroleum product in the world’s biggest oil consumer–climbed to its highest level since November last week, U.S. government data showed. Gasoline stockpiles logged their biggest drop in a year, breathing new life into futures contracts that fell to a four-month low in recent days.

“People have been so down on demand. Whether it’s a fluke, or seasonal, it doesn’t really matter. There is a perception that demand is getting better,” said Phil Flynn, analyst at Price Futures.

The EIA has forecast that gasoline demand will be slightly down this spring-summer from a year-earlier and drop to a 12-year low. But the near-term strength is spilling over into crude oil prices, on expectations that refiners will use more to turn out more refined products.

Light, sweet crude oil for June delivery on the New York Mercantile Exchange climbed 2.4%, or $2.21 a barrel, to $93.64 a barrel, the highest price since April 10. The rise followed a 2.5% gain on Wednesday that was the biggest rise for the year.

June Brent crude oil on the InterContinental Exchange rose 1.68 a barrel, or 1.7%, to $103.41 a barrel, a two-week high. The gain was the biggest since Dec. 26.

Brent’s premium to the U.S. benchmark was $9.77 a barrel at the settlement, the smallest since Jan. 3, 2012. The spread topped $23 a barrel as recently as early February, but surging U.S. oil output, now at a 21-year high above 7.3 million barrels a day has cut deeply into U.S. crude imports, shrinking Brent’s value to the U.S. benchmark.

New technologies such as hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling have unlocked vast oil reserve trapped in shale, pushing U.S. output higher by 20% this year and by 1.2 million barrels a day from a year ago. Imports have dropped by as much as domestic output has risen, as crude supplies make their way to the Gulf Coast refining hub, eliminating the need for foreign barrels which compete with Brent.

Brent found support Thursday from a Reuters report quoting industry sources saying that work on a gas pipeline will cut crude oil output from the seven-field Norwegian Ekofisk complex for three weeks this June. Ekofisk produces around 170,000 barrels a day of crude.

Buoyant gasoline future found further strength from a fire at a unit of a Louisiana refinery that makes octane enhancers for gasoline.

The fire, at a reformer unit at Alon USA Energy Inc.’s ALJ -0.63% 83,000-barrels-a-day Krotz Springs, La., was quickly extinguished, the company said. But the impact on operations at the plant isn’t yet clear.

Nymex May reformulated gasoline futures posted their biggest gain since March, rising 6.44 cents, or 2.3%, to settle at $2.8118 a gallon, a two-week high.

Heating oil for May delivery rose for a sixth straight session, settling 6.04 cents, or 2.1% higher, at $2.9017 a gallon. The rise was the biggest since Nov. 19, 2012, and put prices at a two-week high. The heating oil contract trades as a proxy for ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel, which fuels trucks and trains.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323335404578444072390125206.html

Apr. 21, 2013

Air travel is likely to become even more frustrating than usual, starting today. The Federal Aviation Administration has begun furloughs resulting from mandatory budget cuts for some of its 47,000 agency employees.

It’s unclear how many employees are already affected by so-called sequestration, the automatic federal spending cuts that kicked in this year after Congress failed to reach a deal to reduce the national deficit.

The bottom line is that travelers are faced with the real possibility of hours-long delays as air-traffic controllers — there are 15,000 of them — begin to take unpaid leave, the FAA says.

American Airlines has said that some of the nation’s busiest airports will most likely be affected by the FAA cuts: JFK in New York; Newark; Chicago’s O’Hare; LAX in Los Angeles; and New York’s LaGuardia.

This is a relatively slow time of year for air travel, so any fallout would likely intensify in the summer, when weekends rival Thanksgiving for busiest air-travel time, travel experts say. Throw in unpredictable summer thunderstorms, and there’s reason for worry, according to the National Air Traffic Controllers Association.

http://abcnews.go.com/Travel/OTUS/airport-delays-point-sequester-cuts/story?id=19010721#.UXmIokrpxGk

Apr. 22, 2013

The SMART Transportation Division of the United Transportation Union (UTU) has reached a tentative contract with the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) covering conductors and assistant conductors.

The agreement calls for wage increases totaling 11.5 percent over the five-year contract that are similar to increases the commuter railroad agreed to with the Transport Workers Union (TWU) in 2009, UTU officials said in a prepared statement. TWU represents subway and bus operators and mechanics employed by SEPTA.

SMART Transportation Division Local 61 in Philadelphia represents about 390 conductors and assistant conductors.

Ratification ballots, which have been mailed to members, will be tabulated after April 24. The tentative agreement also must be approved by SEPTA’s board.

http://www.progressiverailroading.com/labor/news/UTUrepresented-conductors-reach-tentative-pact-with-SEPTA–35932

Apr. 24, 2013

Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and Transport Workers Union, Local 100 slammed the MTA for slashing shuttle bus service in the Rockaways, even as it markets a new “Dream Ride” service to vacationers en route to the Hamptons. The shuttle bus replaced the A train after Superstorm Sandy and is a lifeline for thousands of residents in neighborhoods like Arverne, Edgemere and Far Rockaway.

At a press conference in Far Rockaway, de Blasio and TWU workers were joined by Assembly Member Phil Goldfeder and Council Member Donovan Richards. They demanded the MTA rescind its plans to reduce shuttle bus service until repairs to the A train have been completed. De Blasio launched an online petition and released a video calling for the service to be preserved at http://www.SaveOurShuttle.com.

“Talk about a Tale of Two Cities! These aren’t just cuts—they are cuts to the transit lifeline for thousands of low-income people still suffering from Sandy,” said Public Advocate Bill de Blasio. “The MTA can’t throw the Rockaways under the bus. If it can expand service for Manhattanites weekending in the Hamptons, then it can afford to do right by hard-hit families in the Rockaways.”

“It is outrageous that our Queens residents currently face the longest commute averages in the city because of the severe lack of reliable transportation,” said Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder. “Our communities are still struggling to rebuild from the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy, and the last thing they need is to be nickeled and dimed for service that is crucial to helping them recover. I strongly urge the MTA to restore this viable service to the Rockaways that would not only improve our transportation infrastructure, but allow our neighborhoods to get back on their feet after Sandy.”

“The idea of cutting down on transportation in an area that is so in need is outrageous,” Council Member Donovan Richards said. “At a time where we should be exploring more options for public transportation in the Rockaways, this is the last thing we need. This shuttle service provides an essential lifeline with the rest of New York City for our residents in one of the areas hit hardest by Sandy. If anything, what we really need is more buses during peak morning and evening hours. I will fight against this service cut until it is resolved in a way that will not hurt people in the Rockaways.”

On Monday, April 22, the MTA will cut weekday shuttle bus service by 20 percent, from a total of 94 runs to 75. Weekend service will be cut 40 percent. The A train shuttle serves a replacement for the 10-car A train, which hasn’t operated to the Rockaways since Superstorm Sandy. Because each shuttle bus can only carry half the passengers of a single subway car, reductions in service will worsen overcrowding, increase wait-times, and prevent riders from boarding buses when they arrive.

Even as it prepared to slash shuttle bus service, the MTA announced a new “Cannonball” train to speed New Yorkers to getaways in the Hamptons, describing the service as a “dream ride” complete with beverage and snack service at your seat. Meanwhile, average household income for riders in the Rockaways losing service is $18,370—among the lowest in the City.

Sign the petition and watch the video at www.SaveOurShuttle.com.

In a letter to the MTA, de Blasio and TWU demanded the continuation of shuttle bus service at the current rate until A train repairs were complete. Read the full letter:

April 18, 2013

Thomas F. Prendergast
President
New York City Transit
Metropolitan Transit Authority
2 Broadway New York, NY 10004

Dear Mr. Prendergast,

I write today to urge you to reverse your decision to make deep cuts to the free A Train shuttle bus service that operates between the Howard Beach/JFK stop (temporary terminus for the A Train), and Mott Avenue/Beach 90th Street.

On Monday, April 22, the MTA will cut weekday shuttle bus service by 20 percent, from a total of 94 runs to 75. Weekend service will be cut 40 percent. This shuttle service is the lifeline to the rest of New York City for the residents of the eastern section of the Rockaways. Those impacted by this decision are low-income Rockaway residents who rely on strong public transportation to travel around the city. According to the 2011 ACS data from the U.S. Census Bureau, New Yorkers who live near the Beach 44th Street station have the lowest median household income ($18,370) among riders along the entire A train route.

At the same time the MTA is cutting shuttle service connecting low-income residents in the Rockaways to the New York City Subway system, the Long Island Rail Road today announced the express Cannonball train will now use Penn Station to transport people from Manhattan to the Hamptons, so folks can get from Midtown to Westhampton Beach without making any stops.

No one is suggesting we shouldn’t have strong transit options for Long Island. However, the idea that we would make it more difficult for low-income Rockaway residents in the eastern Queens to access the New York City Subway System, while making it easier for Manhattanites to get to the Hamptons during summer weekends, truly underscores how New York City is becoming a Tale of Two Cities on critical issues like income equality.

Restoration of train service is only a couple of months away. The people of the Rockaways have certainly suffered enough. Please, do not add to their burden with this unnecessary service reduction.

Sincerely,

Bill de Blasio
Public Advocate for the City of New York

J.P. Patafio
Vice President, TA Surface, TWU Local 100

http://www.qgazette.com/news/2013-04-24/Front_Page/De_Blasio_Transit_Workers_Union_Local_100_Slam_MTA.html

Apr. 24, 2013

A transit worker was struck and killed by a train while on the job early Wednesday, falling from a catwalk area above the tracks and into the path of an E train in Queens, officials said.

Officials inspected the 46th Street and Broadway subway station in Astoria, Queens, after the death of Louis Moore, a signal maintainer, who was killed on the job early Wednesday.

Shortly before 3:30 a.m., the worker, Louis Moore, 58, a signal maintainer from the Hollis neighborhood, was moving through a gate at the end of a platform at 46th Street and Broadway in Astoria. According to the police, it appeared that an equipment bag he was carrying became caught on the gate.

“Somehow when the train passed, it caught onto the bag and brought him onto the tracks,” Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said after a news conference at Police Headquarters.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority said that an investigation into Mr. Moore’s death was under way.

Though the authority’s workers perform among New York’s most dangerous duties — the union said it had averaged one worker death per year over the last 50 years — Mr. Moore’s death was the first on the job for a transit worker since 2010, when a maintenance supervisor fell onto an exposed third rail. It was the first time a worker had been fatally struck by a train since 2007. That April, two workers were killed in the same week, leading the authority to temporarily suspend several maintenance projects for subway tracks, signals and tunnels.

John Samuelsen, the president of Transport Workers Union Local 100, said the death appeared to be an “industrial accident” in which no one had been negligent. Many workers, he said, might find themselves in the same catwalk area several times a night during a given shift “as a matter of routine.”

At the authority’s board meeting on Wednesday at its Midtown headquarters, Fernando Ferrer, the acting chairman, asked members to observe a moment of silence for a man “who died in performance of his duty for all of us.”

Before a news conference at the 46th Street station, Bob Mallon, 58, an acquaintance of Mr. Moore’s and a fellow signal maintainer, recalled his colleague’s easy smile and dedication to the job. “We have a lot of perils, a lot of dangers on the track,” he said.

Mr. Mallon looked down from the platform. “This is his resting place,” he said.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/25/nyregion/transit-worker-fatally-struck-by-train-in-queens.html?_r=0