Pratt & Whitney Shop Cleaners Ratify First Contract in West Palm Beach

Twenty-eight workers who clean the Pratt & Whitney facility in West Palm Beach, FL, now have the protections and benefits of a strong IAM contract. The workers, who are employees of Eurest Services, ratified Read more

Railroads Face Big Fines for Failure to Meet Federal Safety Deadline

  Via Truthout.org By Curtis Tate, McClatchy DC | Report The Federal Railroad Administration plans to impose big penalties on railroads that fail to meet a year-end deadline to install a new collision avoidance system, including more than 70 Read more

machinists on the job

Every day at the MBTA Everett bus facility the Machinists there work on all the major engine and transmission work for all the buses. They repair, rebuild, diagnose and fix a multitude of issues Read more

Pratt & Whitney Shop Cleaners Ratify First Contract in West Palm Beach

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Twenty-eight workers who clean the Pratt & Whitney facility in West Palm Beach, FL, now have the protections and benefits of a strong IAM contract. The workers, who are employees of Eurest Services, ratified their first collective bargaining agreement and will join IAM Local 971 in the Southern Territory.

“Most of the soon-to-be members will get a $2.50 increase in their wages,” said District 166 Business Representative Robert Miller. “Others above the $11.50 will get a 3 percent general wage increase.”

In 2016 all employees will get an additional 3 percent wage increase, followed by another 3 percent in 2017. The majority of the new members were making only $9 per hour before the contract was ratified.

“Everyone now has seniority rights, a grievance procedure and fair overtime distribution,” added Miller. “It’s a new day for everyone at Eurest.”

“I want to thank everyone for the great job they did,” said IAM Southern Territory General Vice President Mark Blondin. “There are two steps to organizing new members. The first step is coming together to win the election. The important part is negotiating a first contract, and our experienced and skilled staff worked with the elected negotiators from the shop to bring home that contract. Congratulations to Directing Business Representative Johnny Walker, Business Representative Robert Miller and District 166.”

Railroads Face Big Fines for Failure to Meet Federal Safety Deadline

Posted on by IAMLocal264 in Featured Posts | Comments Off on Railroads Face Big Fines for Failure to Meet Federal Safety Deadline

 

Via Truthout.org

By Curtis Tate, McClatchy DC | Report

The Federal Railroad Administration plans to impose big penalties on railroads that fail to meet a year-end deadline to install a new collision avoidance system, including more than 70 percent of the nation’s commuter railroads.

Congress mandated Positive Train Control in 2008, but most of the nation’s commuter and freight railroads won’t have the system ready by Dec. 31. The technology is required for about 60,000 miles of track, including those that carry passengers or chemicals that are poisonous or toxic by inhalation.

A push in Congress to extend the deadline by three to five years has stalled, and lawmakers aren’t scheduled to return to the Capitol until next month.

In the August 7 report to lawmakers, the FRA said it planned to enforce the mandate they set in 2008. As of Jan. 1, 2016, railroads that have failed to install Positive Train Control on the required track segments face fines up to $25,000 a day for each violation.

“The potential civil penalties that FRA could assess are substantial,” the agency wrote.

Only 29 percent of the nation’s commuter railroads will meet the Dec. 31 deadline, according to the American Public Transportation Association, and the rest may need one to five more years.

“Despite the commuter rail industry’s best efforts,” said Michael Melaniphy, the association’s president and CEO, “implementing PTC nationwide by the end of this year is not possible.”

FRA has requested funding from Congress every year since 2011 to help commuter railroads install Positive Train Control, including $825 million in President Barack Obama’s fiscal year 2016 budget. Lawmakers have only provided $42 million to date.

“Congress has not provided a guaranteed, reliable revenue stream for implementation on commuter railroads,” the agency wrote.

The agency has used other tools to help commuter railroads, including $650 million in grant funds, $400 million of which came from the 2009 economic stimulus.

In May, FRA issued a $967 million loan to the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the nation’s largest commuter rail agency, to install Positive Train Control on the Metro-North and Long Island Rail Road.

Melaniphy said that commuter railroads have spent $950 million to date on the system, but need nearly $3.5 billion to get the job done.

The National Transportation Safety Board has recommended the system since 1969, but Congress didn’t require it until the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008.

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Twenty-five people were killed in August of that year when a Metrolink commuter train smashed head-on into a freight train near Chatsworth, Calif.

Positive Train Control could have automatically stopped the train before it ran past a red signal. Metrolink is one of the few commuter railroads that will meet the Dec. 31 deadline.

Four people died in December 2013 when a Metro-North commuter train jumped the tracks north of New York City. The train was traveling 82 mph at a curve restricted to 30 mph.In other more recent fatal crashes, trains approached curves at two or three times the appropriate speed, and the system could automatically have slowed them down.

In May, an Amtrak Northeast Corridor train barreled into a 50 mph curve north of Philadelphia at 106 mph and derailed. Eight people were killed.

Amtrak will meet the Dec. 31 deadline for installing Positive Train Control along the Northeast Corridor, which it owns. On other routes, it will depend on freight railroads, some of which will be ready, while some won’t.

According to FRA, only freight hauler BNSF and two commuter railroads, Metrolink and the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, have submitted safety plans required under the 2008 federal law.

machinists on the job

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Every day at the MBTA Everett bus facility the Machinists there work on all the major engine and transmission work for all the buses. They repair, rebuild, diagnose and fix a multitude of issues there in order to help keep the fleet maintained and moving.  Here are a few pictures from last week.

 

Engine and transmission after being pulled from a bus for a rebuild at Everett bus.

Engine and transmission after being pulled from a bus for a rebuild at Everett bus.

Back of the bus where the engine was removed.

Back of the bus where the engine was removed.

 

Pete O'melia working on some repairs at Everett bus.

Pete O’melia working on some repairs at Everett bus.

 

Charlie Long  working in the transmission dept at Everett Bus.

Charlie Long working in the transmission dept at Everett Bus.

 

Dave Gibbons measuring pistons.

Dave Gibbons measuring piston diameters for the repaired engines.

 

Chad Barrett putting the finishing touches on a rebuilt engine.

Chad Barrett putting the finishing touches on a rebuilt engine.

 

Kevin Broburge prepping the bus for a power plant installation.

Kevin Broburge prepping the bus for a power plant installation.

Unions debate who to endorse for 2016, and when.

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Democratic presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders waves to the crowd of supporters after speaking at a campaign kickoff rally in Burlington, Vermont May 26, 2015.    REUTERS/Brian Snyder - RTX1ENWM

Democratic presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders waves to the crowd of supporters after speaking at a campaign kickoff rally in Burlington, Vermont May 26, 2015. REUTERS/Brian Snyder –

Via DailyKos.com

The first national endorsement of the 2016 presidential campaign went to Hillary Clinton, from the AmericanFederation of Teachers, but that hasn’t yet opened the floodgates. Last week, the AFL-CIO’s executive council met with Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Martin O’Malley, Jim Webb, and, weirdly, Mike Huckabee, but the federation isn’t expected to endorse early. Its affiliate unions, though, are free to endorse when they wish—the question is what they’ll do. Josh Eidelson takes a look at labor’s debate:

[Amalgamated Transit Union President Larry] Hanley attended a July 13th meeting with Sanders at the headquarters of the American Postal Workers Union; organizers say 47 leaders from 22 unions were present. The ATU head told Bloomberg he’d gladly back Clinton again if she’d start sounding more like Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. “When we go out and say, ‘look, we need a $15 minimum wage nationally,’ but then support a candidate who says, ‘I’m against that,’” he says, “we have a problem.” […]While Clinton holds a commanding lead, there are sharp disagreements over what strategy will produce the most pro-labor president. Endorse Clinton early to get to work battling the GOP? Hold off to extract more concrete commitments? Take a chance on Sanders as a vehicle to build a mass movement? Gregory Junemann, president of the International Federation of Professional & Technical Engineers, warns against a premature endorsement. “It’s like tipping the cab driver before you get in the car—the person then has your commitment without making any promises themselves,” he says. In contrast, IAM head Buffenbarger says there’s little advantage in holding out for election season promises, because candidates don’t stick to them anyway. “When they find their way to the front door of the White House, they seem to forget about it as soon as they cross the threshold,” he says. […]

Sanders received 65 percent support in a poll of delegates at the Utility Workers Union of America’s July convention. At IFPTE’s conference last week, says President Junemann, delegates delivered effusive speeches in favor of endorsing Sanders; the proposal was deferred to the union’s executive council, in part because some members are still holding out hope for Joe Biden. Clinton backers note she’s got grassroots support too: Weingarten cites over 3-to-1 support she received in a poll of AFT members who vote Democratic and wanted to endorse someone, and a rapturous reception at the AFT conference when the endorsement was announced.

President Obama’s strong push for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade deal strongly opposed by unions, is a key context for hesitation to support Clinton, who has resisted taking a firm position on the issue. But it remains an open question whether Sanders can lock down endorsements from national unions.

IAM Executive Council Welcomes Dora Cervantes & James Conigliaro

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Dora Cervantes will be  the first woman General Secretary-Treasurer in IAM history

Dora Cervantes will be the first woman General Secretary-Treasurer in IAM history

Our own District 15 member James Conigliaro  will become General Vice President.

Our own District 15 member James Conigliaro will become General Vice President.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dora Cervantes, the first woman General Secretary-Treasurer (GST) in IAM history, begins her initial term of office this week alongside newly-appointed General Vice President James Conigliaro, in a leadership transition that continues the IAM tradition of sound fiscal stewardship.

Named to the IAM’s top financial positions by IAM President Buffenbarger in May during the MNPL Planning Committee meeting in Houston, TX, Cervantes will fill the office vacated by retired GST Robert Roach, Jr., while former District 15 Directing Business Rep Conigliaro will fill the GVP position previously held by Cervantes.

In addition to experience and ability, Cervantes and Conigliaro represent the IAM’s ongoing commitment to diversity in leadership positions at every level of the union. The IAM Executive Council now includes individuals from every major demographic in North America, including Hispanic, Native American and African American.

“Dora Cervantes and Jim Conigliaro are two of the most capable and dedicated individuals this union has ever produced,” said IAM President Tom Buffenbarger. “Their record of service spans decades and includes a wide range of responsibilities and accomplishments. It will be an honor to serve alongside them on the Executive Council and I look forward to their contributions on behalf of this great union and its members.”

12th Annual District 15 Charles M. Foley Memorial Golf Tournament

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International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, District 15, is proud to announce the 12th Annual District 15 Charles M. Foley Memorial Golf Tournament to benefit Guide Dogs of America. Please join us on Monday, August 31, 2015 at the Juniper Hill Golf Course in Northborough, Massachusetts.

Shotgun start at 9 a.m. Registration fee is $160 for each golfer. A Texas-style Barbecue lunch of ribs, chicken, and steak will follow the tournament. Please submit your reservation and payment by Friday, August 7. For more information or questions please call (508) 351-6549.

Click here to view registration and sponsorship form (PDF)

Here is what Senator Marc Pacheco said against the budget

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Sen. Pacheco of Taunton

“There are so many good things in this budget. The earned income tax credit will help 400,000 families. The reason why so many of us have been concerned about that issue, the issue of income inequality, when we focus in on this issue the EITC even in the final version of this budget still falls significantly short of where we need to be ultimately. There is so much more that we need to do. Sen. Wolf has described that is driving this gaping gap. And every year it gets worse. We learned during a seminar that what has happened relative to labor standards in America is at the core of what is taking place relative to the gap that is ever widening. The amount of activity in the private sector in terms of labor unions that have diminished in the last 20, 30 years and how that has had a significant impact in terms of having a counterbalance force to speak out against injustices in the private sector. The minimum wage is one of the issues we fought for but it still falls short of where we should have been at that time. We learned that too that day at that seminar. The provision you may be surprised I want to talk about dealing with the privatization of services in the Commonwealth, in this case dealing with the MBTA. In terms of the Taxpayer Protection Act that is law and will be law after this budget passes all across the executive branch except for the MBTA and some of the other agencies that were exempt when we passed the statute back in 1993. When we passed that in December of 1993 – only a few people were here to vote on that, one or two who voted against it. It did not happen easily. It took a full year to put in place. Why did we put it in place? We put it on the books to protect the taxpayer of the Commonwealth because when we take our public assets and hand those public assets over to a private entity to provide a public service we should insist that that process be transparent, open to the public, everybody should be able to see what’s going on. Not after the fact, before the deal is done . Upfront, honest and open. That’s the first part of the statute. A public open process transparent to all. We wanted to make sure there was accountability, a third party to give an independent judgement. Should the IG or AG do it? We decided to have the individual elected by the citizens, whether a Democrat or Republican, it would be the independent auditor of the Commonwealth representing the people of the Commonwealth. Not a party, not an insider deal but someone who had to go out and explain their decision to the people. We said make sure there is a cost-benefit analysis to deal with the quality of service issues. If you could make it through the process and if you save the taxpayer at least ten percent – that got negotiated out down to one penny – save the taxpayer a penny, do the other provisions, you got the contract. That’s the law. The administration now in the southeast region is contracting out emergency mental health services. What are they doing? They are using the Taxpayer Protection Act. Has anybody her the administration yell and complain about some problem in the southeast area? Haven’t hear a peep from them down the hall. Haven’t heard it’s too complicated. Haven’t heard it can’t be done. They believe they can do it and they very well may be able to and contract them out privately. Eighty percent of proposals submitted have been approved. Fast forward to this winter snowstorm. Our present governor did everything he could to stop that law from going on the books. Look at who the first executive director was of the Pioneer Institute – our present governor. Connected to the institute and the individual in charge of privatization during the 90s, the early part through 93. Privatization that took place during that time led a Globe Spotlight team to expose privatization schemes gone wrong, handouts of contracts, improper documentation, fraud, that led Governor Weld to have a press conference and announce he was putting in place an executive order putting in a cooling off period so they would not leave the executive branch to take the jobs with private contractors being created across the straight. This all happened. Google it. Look it up. It’s real. It happened. I am worried that it will happen again. The number of T employees in my district I can count on one hand, very few. We have been trying to get rail service for over 30 years. The latest I hear is maybe having a private company set up a line in Middleborough or New Bedford starting out as a tourism thing. No thank you. They want to bait and switch. Running for office they are for South Coast rail. Watch that one. That’s coming down the road. I am very concerned about this provision. I shouldn’t be as concerned as I am because I don’t have a lot of the direct impact that would take place in my regional economy as will take place in the metropolitan Boston area if things go wrong. The MBTA under the legislation before us could be 100 percent privatized within months not years. Bus drivers, overwhelming majority women African American minorities that have finally got themselves up into a middle class state, we will see potentially a future for them which is all about a race to the bottom. Any profits a company would make they make on the backs of those workers. Decreased wages, decreased health care, that’s how they make those profits. A hearing Sen. Warren had in the last couple of weeks she had transportation experts in to look at a GAO report and they did a survey and on average the private providers of service will cost more money, not less. Why? Because they have to make a profit. Put some money in their pocket. Pay their bills and go get another contract. That is what’s going on across America. There are 19 states taking previously privatized work and bringing it back in house. I will send you the report. I am going to conclude very soon I promise you. I want to make a couple of other points. I was at the Joint Transportation hearing and they did a phenomenal job. I was there to hear and watch as the governor stated he was not interested in impacting in any way the workers, the fine workers at the T. That’s what he said publicly. Get the record. I believe there’s video of it. That’s what he has continued to say. I spoke with the House Speaker this morning and asked him why are we doing this. Why would we be heading in this direction that has the potential of impacting so many people that could actually depress wages to the extent that all of these workers will soon be on Mass Health so we will be subsidizing them in another way while a private company will be doing just fine. By the way ever hear of a company called Keolis? It’s a privatized company. Some of the worst records in terms of time in our history at the T. Yet somehow this magical thing that is going to happen by suspending the privatization accountability. Says who? Says the Pioneer Institute. Surprise, surprise, surprise. Says the Mass. Fiscal Alliance. Surprise, surprise surprise. We know the connections between those groups and the administration. I wish the mainstream media will tell the public what that is about and why the special interests are putting so much money into a campaign so you can have privatization of services without any oversight or accountability and no proof that the taxpayers will save any money. They love that scenario coming up. They can’t wait . There is one provisions about the privatization statute. Many have not experienced it. We are debating acceptance of the conference report. We can accept the report and then we are voting on the budget. We could reject the conference report and that provision goes back to conference and it can go back there for 15 minutes, two hours. There are 31 days in July. We have a budget til the end of this month. We could go another week and make sure that what the 32 senators that talked to me on this issue when we may have had a vote on this issue and gave me their commitment on that vote if we had a vote that they would not be voting for this issue. I suspect that was one of the reasons it was not in the budget coming out of the Senate. We voted on a budget that did not have the privatization piece in it at all. To get the bill on the books, we went through a year of debates. But to take a piece of it off all it takes is one person on the other chamber to slip it into the budget without a hearing, without debate without a roll call to put it on the table so we have no choice but to give in. Those are not the types of negotiation that we used to have around here. When folks have that type of scenario going on, many times those provisions were kept in conference. I know the very competent chair of Ways and Means did everything she could and our president did everything he could to try to prevent what we’re dealing with right now from being a reality. There are so many other issues that they did not want to be impacted. We all have issues – choice, guns, the death penalty. For me this is at the heart of economic justice in terms of how people could possibly be impacted and how we could prevent it here and now but giving this another chance. Maybe it’s another day. Maybe we will be back next week. I predict we’re not going to see a transportation bill. Everything’s in the budget. I read the speaker saying similar comments in the State House News this week – might not need to have a bill if there are enough tools in place in the budget. The governor can simply veto provisions and then we would need two thirds vote to override. I am asking all of you to do what many of you in your heart want to do. You are in a difficult situation. You have this bill that is a great budget for the most part. For me this taints the budget. The minority party is holding back the joy and the glee. But let’s give it a shot and if for no other reason than to put on the public record that some of us believe there is a national movement ot underpin labor and to continue decreasing the effectiveness and the importance of labor standards in American society. If there was an opportunity to get it done we would have a management rights bill before us across the board. Some on the far right would not be happy until every public employee only has a 401k. That is where we are headed. Final point on the T. A lot of press on the historic storm and a lot of blame to go around and almost everyone has pointed to the management. The women and men driving the buses have had nothing to do with the management. They are being told what to do every day. They are the workers. Just like in a company in the private sector that goes bankrupt. It’s not the workers it’s the leaders who decide to outsource jobs, take the profit and go home and tell the rest of the workers see if you can figure it out for yourself. I just don’t think we should be part of that. The workers got themselves to those jobs and got as much done in the best way they could. It was the management who failed us. Let us not have a red herring be placed into this budget in terms of a resolution of the T. The Pioneer Institute today, actually it was yesterday – it really got me – I started getting calls a half hour after I made it back to my home after Sen. Kennedy’s funeral. That really ticked me off. That they would pick that day to release their report because they knew on that day we all would be a little busy, a little tied up. The last thing we would be able to do would be to turn around documents to the press to get the other side of the story out. I think that was pretty sad. The document they put out and I said this to the press. The Herald said I thought it was really really wrong. I said it was really BS. And I an not talking about a baccalaureate degree. Because that’s what it is. They have put out there made-up numbers. They are responding to the special interest money that is the dark money that so many of us in this chamber have been trying to get rid of. Unaccountable money. You can’t track it. You don’t know who is providing it. The Koch brothers are there. On the labor side someone can say that’s just as bad and and they’re corrupt. Except for one thing they report it. It’s public, transparent. On the other side it’s hidden. Nobody knows who’s involved and that’s wrong. I ask you to join with my in supporting transparency by sending this conference report back to conference and if it comes back again we’ll do the budget. If it’s not successful I will be supporting the budget because I will then have done everything possible that I could have done by voting no on this conference report.”

Labor CAN! The MASS AFL-CIO Constituent Activist Network

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Labor CAN! The Massachusetts AFL-CIO Constituent Activist Network

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What is Labor CAN?

Labor CAN is a grassroots network — in each of the 40 state senate districts where union members live — organized and ready to join the fight for a working family legislative agenda.

Labor CAN is about expanding and mobilizing the power we have to hold our elected officials accountable. It’s about not only winning elections but passing a pro-worker, pro-union legislative agenda.

What will Labor CAN do?

Labor CAN activists will form teams in their home district to establish a relationship with State Senators and Reps. Teams will meet with their elected officials, both at home and at the state house, to educate and to advocate.

Everyone in the Labor CAN network will be contacted to send emails, make phone calls, and attend meetings and lobby days, to make sure the voice of working families is heard in the halls of government.

Labor CAN may also be mobilized during election season and to join solidarity actions on behalf of local unions and community groups.

And Labor CAN activists will be labor’s eyes and ears in the district. To sign up CLICK HERE.

How is Labor CAN different from what your local union or CLC might already do?

Labor CAN unites us across all sectors — public and private, building trades, human service and food service workers, manufacturing and health care — all of us standing up together and for each other.

Through Labor CAN the resources of the Mass. AFL-CIO are available to CLCs and unions to help activate your members. The Mass. AFL-CIO will create a database of Labor CAN activists by senate district, and we’ll provide education and training, as well as helping to coordinate network mobilization. Together Labor CAN make a difference!

If you are interested in joining Labor CAN please use the Sign Up for LaborCAN! by CLICKING HERE. For more information please email the MA AFL-CIO at kbrousseau@massaflcio.org or call at 781-324-8230.

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Major changes coming to GIC benefits

Posted on by IAMLocal264 in Featured Posts | Comments Off on Major changes coming to GIC benefits

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The major Employee/Non Medicare Health Plan changes effective July 1, 2015 include:

  • Harvard Pilgrim Independence Plan and Tufts Health Plan Navigator will become POS plans.  Members must designate their PCP with the plan and get referrals to specialists for the highest benefit level.
  • Prescription drug copays will increase to $10/$30/$65 retail up to 30-day supply and $25/$75/$165 mail order up to 90-day supply.
  • The calendar year deductible will change to $300 (individual) /$600 (two person) /$900 (family)
  • All health plans will tier specialists and the copays will increase to $30/$60/$90
  • Inpatient hospital copays for the wide network plans will increase to $275/$500/$1,500
  • Outpatient surgery copays for most plans will increase to $250

There are a few benefit enhancements:

  • The calendar year deductible will transition from a calendar year to a fiscal year.  For 2015, it will be a calendar year, for January – June, 2016 a half calendar year, and July, 1, 2016-June 30, 2017 will begin the fiscal year calendar year deductible. This will eliminate the deductible barrier for switching plans at next year’s Annual Enrollment.
  • Other ancillary benefits will also transition to the fiscal year (for example, physical and occupational therapy)
  • The Flexible Spending Account program for state employees will also move to a fiscal year and follow this same transition schedule.
  • For the Dental/Vision plan, new coverage for composite fillings on posterior teeth – covered at 80%

For Medicare Members

  • Prescription drug copays will increase to $10/$30/$65 retail up to 30-day supply and $25/$75/$165 mail order up to 90-day supply.

Additional details will be in the GIC Benefit Decision Guides.  These will be shipped to agencies, municipalities and retiree/survivor homes beginning April 3. The MBTA health fair is Wednesday April 15th make sure you attend so you can have all your questions answered.

Beneath Your Feet: The Maintenance Crews That Keep The MBTA Running

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Train wheels to be repaired and or replaced on the floor of the MBTA subway main repair facility in Everett. (Courtesy Karen Hosking)

Via WBUR.org

Gov. Charlie Baker announced Friday that he’s giving a special panel 30 days to come up with recommendations to fix the MBTA’s finances and operations.

And for good reason. In the past couple of weeks, we’ve heard a lot about the failings of the MBTA — about systemic problems and a lack of financing, about bad management and political pitfalls. We’ve heard about maintenance backlogs, old rolling stock and poor service. In short, we’ve heard about a system that already can’t meet demand, even as we demand that it be expanded.

We’ve talked a lot about everything that’s wrong with the MBTA. And, granted, there’s a lot to legitimately complain about. But, it also might be time to take a second to talk about at least one thing that works about the T.

Last year, we visited the MBTA’s maintenance shop. It’s the system’s only repair facility — a 110 square foot warehouse in Everett. Every single part that breaks down on the T — whether it’s a valve, a wheel, a break, or an entire undercarriage — is sent there.

“When you’re standing on the platform, you’re only seeing the shiny part,” says Edward Belanger, a maintenance supervisor of the MBTA’s subway main repair facility. “We handle the stuff underneath. The majority of our work is under the deck.”

Belanger has been at this facility for about a decade, and he’s responsible for overseeing the machine shop, sheet metal shop and electronics room.

“You have a lot of different trades under the same roof,” he says. “It’s very reminiscent of America when companies did everything themselves.”

But very skilled work happens here, too.

“People don’t like it when the wheels come off,” says Belanger.

264 Machinist Glenn Morgan bores a train wheel at the Everett Main Repair facility. Courtesy (Joseph Votano)

 

When we visited, worker Tony Moccia was inspecting a red line axle for signs of cracks or bends.

“The T is always recycled, but not for green reasons,” says Belanger. “The axle unit you’re looking at, with the resilient coupling, is worth about $11,000. Some of these axles will actually run the entire life of the car without being replaced.”

And the wheels that are placed on those axles are held on by nothing other than an extremely tight, pressed fit — that means no welding, no lugs screwed in like on your car. Just an ultra precise press fit.

“The hole has to be 0.025″ smaller than the axle,” says Belanger. “Just about the width of a human hair. So, if John misses it, either way, we can’t use the wheel.”

John O’Donnell bores the hole to get that red line wheel on the axle. When John is done boring the hole, you’re not supposed to be able to slide anything thicker than a human hair between the wheel and the axle. You would think they would use some kind of laser-guided, computer aided machine.

But, no. With great care and skill, O’Donnell achieves that ultra tight press fit using an almost 80-year-old mechanical boring machine that’s been there since the T moved into the Everett building.

“We don’t throw a lot of wheels away, because John’s good,” says Belanger.

So good that the wheels stay on, until the maintenance crew needs to take them off. It’s no easy task and requires another special — and old — machine.

“Steve and Mike are going to press off a number three wheel,” says Belanger. “They’re removing the wheel from the axle so we can put a new one on.”

And what does it sound like? About 170,000 pounds of pressure. In other words, loud.

“That’s the force it takes to hold one on,” says Belanger. “When you think about the diameter of a human hair, you don’t realize how powerful it can be.”

And with that precision, the crew makes sure that the wheels stay on the red line as it rumbles over the tracks. They also make sure that the train stays steady, even as thousands of riders board, changing the weight distribution on each carriage throughout the commute.

All of that is done, basically, with some valves and an air bag.

“Get on a subway car. You step on that car, and that car is even with the platform,” says Mark Craven, the foreman in charge of the air pressure section of the facility. He’s been with the T for 24 years. “As more people get on the car or get off the car, that wants to move up and down, but we have leveling valves that adjust that automatically, so that when you’re stepping on that car, if it’s an empty car, you’re not tripping over the door. And if it’s a full car, you’re not stepping into a hole in there.”

A subway train uses compressed air to close and open doors or trigger brakes to stop the train. The air tubes need to be descaled after many years of use. This is the purpose of these bluish-gray, cylindrical shaped tools. (Courtesy Joseph R. Votano)

 

Think about it. When you get on the train in the morning, you — and many other people — cram onto the train. With that extra weight, the car doesn’t sag down, even for a moment. It stays level with the platform and it stays level at the next stop, when more people board. And at stations like Park Street, when many people get off the red line — the car stays level, yet again. All because of a valve.

It’s just another example of the thousands of tiny parts that make up the entire system. And almost all of this maintenance work is done in-house. Belanger points out what’s called a gear unit — basically, the guts of the train: the transmission, the axles, bearings and wheels.

“It actually kind of symbolizes the building itself,” he says. “The pallet was made in our wood shop, the gear unit was rebuilt in the wheel shop, components of it came out of the machine shop and the bearings — the bearing housings — were actually worked on over in our welding or blacksmith’s area.”

Part of the reason they do everything in-house, even crafting things like replacement door hinges and simple things like washers — all from scratch — is because many of the trains are so old, they can’t buy the parts anywhere.

“We’re not a production shop, but we are. And we’re not a prototype shop, but we are. Many of these pieces — like these pieces for the track break — they were designed and manufactured here because nobody makes them.”

Here’s one of the big lessons to take away from this visit — Belanger and his employees are working on anything from blue line trains that are just a couple of years old to the Mattapan high speed line, which has rolling stock that was built back in 1945. Many of the companies that first manufactured those trains don’t even exist any more. Therefore, the T’s machinists are custom crafting individual replacement parts, using unique and really old tools. In other words, their skill really matters.

So, what’s it like to work here?

“It’s awesome. The ability to create has always been something I’ve been fascinated with, and this building has it all. It literally encompasses almost every single trade you would need to fabricate anything,” says Belanger. “We take it serious. There’s this imagery of the T that has a tendency to think that we’re not, like, on the ball, we’re not producing, we’re taking the public’s money. This building is working. It’s bustling the entire time…Those two individuals are responsible for every single wheel that goes on and off every single train in the entire system. Two guys. And it’s like, it doesn’t get more personal than that.”

It’s likely Belanger and his crew are taking the current crisis at the T very personally, and that they’re busier than ever doing what they can, literally and physically, to hold together an aging, underfunded train fleet.

That’s the irony of maintenance work, though. On most days, when the T runs, the work that comes out of this machine shop is invisible. Right now, it’s very visible. And whether or not the MBTA is suffering systemic, financial and managerial failures, the work at the T’s repair facility in Everett goes on.

We were able to learn about the facility and see it first hand thanks to two freelance photographers, Joseph Votano and Karen Hosking, who published a coffee table book in 2014 called “Boston Below” featuring pictures of commuters and some incredible photos of the Everett facility.