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Metrolink engineers union sues to block surveillance cameras in locomotives


The union representing Metrolink engineers today filed a federal lawsuit to halt the video-surveillance systems recently installed in all of the commuter rail line’s locomotives.

Metrolink installed cameras as a direct response to the deadly 2008 Metrolink crash in Chatsworth that killed 25 people and apparently involved an engineer who earlier had been text messaging on his cellphone.

Metrolink officials said the purpose of the video recording, which cost $1 million to install in all locomotives, was to ensure that engineers adhered to agency bans on cellphones, text messaging and allowing unauthorized passengers in the cab.

However, Paul T. Sorrow, acting president of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, called the cameras an “invasion of privacy" that violated federal law as well as the terms of the union’s contract with Metrolink.

Sorrow said Metrolink could have taken much less intrusive measures, including installing a cellphone-jamming system that blocks all calls and texting.

“Instead of being driven by political expediency, Metrolink needs to consider a realistic solution to the problem that does not rely upon a huge waste of existing limited tax funds," Sorrow said.

A spokeswoman for Metrolink said the agency had not yet been served with the suit.

“Metrolink is disappointed that the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen has taken this action instead of supporting our efforts to advance the safety of passenger train service," said spokeswoman Angela M. Starr. "This program is a vital piece of Metrolink's safety program and was undertaken with the goal of enhancing the safety of our passengers and [the Metrolink agency] and contractors' employees.”

-- Phil Willon at L.A. City Hall

Photo: Rescuers scale a Metrolink car toppled in the 2008 Chatsworth crash. Credit: Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times


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Comments () | Archives (40)

But cell phone blocking technology doesn't catch anything else, like engineer asleep at the throttle, or not in the cab at all. I say put cameras in all of them!

Invasion of privacy? It seems that this union doesn't care about public safety. One of their brothers caused the lives of several while he was texting. I think this union has lost their minds. This is what unions do for their membership and the taxpayer. When will people get enough!!!!

But United States law forbids jamming of radio waves, including cellphone signals...

This is why unions are never appreciated. How many dead before they start considering the public's safety? Privacy?,there are video cameras on every street corner and store you enter. It's a non-issue in this day and age.

This is why unions are out dated and need to be banned from existence. All they do is make stupid rules that harm people and do not help the workers. It is not 1890. Wake up Union morons.

How ironically appropriate that the leader of this goldbricking union is named "Sorrow." It is appalling that they would have the gall to block a move to prevent future tragic wrecks for the sake of protecting their own bad behavior.

A work place has no expectation of privacy. The employer has the right to monitor employees however it wants pretty much. This is not unreasonable considering the number of cases of texting and sleeping and inattention that have been documented nationwide. What a bunch of crybabys these guys are.

I'm also concerned about metro bus drivers laughing and talking on bluetooths while I'm a passenger. I was on the 212 line last week going home from work and on rain slick streets she was fully animated in her conversation on the phone I felt very unsafe!

Fire them and hire non union. We don't need unions. Exactly what are they doing that they don't want to be seen. If they are doing there job properly and safely they should not be worried about being observed. They are responsible for public safety. Monitor everything they do. Unions do not help the general welfare of the public, they are only a tight knit group of people looking out for themselves.

This is pathetic. Airline crews, police officers--everyone--is subject to video recording at work. Except, apparently, passenger train engineers, one of whose criminal negligence resulted in the death of 25 people and untold financial loss. This is one of the stupidist things I have ever heard. In fact, not only is it profoundly stupid ... but it counterproductively for the union lessens the (1) respect to be afforded train drivers, since it places them below everyone else whose job is important enough to merit recording and (2) increases the liklihood that their jobs will be automated ... for the reasons (apparent lack of regard for safety) already cited by others. Ridiculous.

Cameras have followed the every move of Metro bus operators for years. If you're not doing anything wrong, you have nothing to worry about. This is not a good time for unions to behave unreasonably. Anyone with half a brain realizes that placing cameras in the Metrolink locomotives is a good idea, long over-due.

I think installing camera's is a great idea...it keeps people honest.

Interesting .. A few days ago here in Albuquerque, one of our city busses crashed into an SUV and then into a freeway pillar. The 6 cameras on board immediately absolved the driver of any fault, showed the driver reacting (very professional) and they showed the effect on the passengers (all knocked from their seats but no serious injuries.

In other words, the cameras worked to the benefit of the driver, the passengers (injury reports) and the bus safety team. It didn't, though, work to the benefit of the red light running SUV driver.

Not sure why it should be any different for train drivers.

I suspect, if nothing else, those cameras helped both our municipal bus system and the passengers prove their case in future litigation. Our city is self insured so this is important to those of us who pay taxes.

Blame unions for killing the American manufacturing sector including the decline and eventual demise of American automakers and more importantly our defense industry. SO if we're at war with China, do you think Chinese factories will send us spare parts?

And now unions want to kill Americans, too? Because that's what they are advocating by asking for a ban on metrolink cameras. I don't think so!

Reagan fired striking air traffic controllers.

It's time to decertify metrolink's union for treason.

The public be damned!!!

This is why people hate unions.

How dare you try to film these hard-working & dedicated employees sleeping, smoking, drinking, texting, having sex, showing up late, selling dime bags, all while on duty; it's an outrage!

Install the cameras now and if they do not like it fire them all and get responsible individuals to replace everyone of them.

Unions are thugs, only concerned about the dollar the get for substandard work and attitude. Fire them all and get non union employees who care about the job and the paycheck

This misfit Union needs to be disbanded. Their Union Member either murdered those passengers intentionally or unintentionally by neglect. Those trains need to be automated in such a way that they just get rid of these so called engineers. It seems like an elaborated camera and radar system would do a far better job than the existing personnel.

What's the Union's solution, just hope it doesn't happen again...

Another GREAT reason to get RID of unions...

I don't think the union will get much sympathy on this one ...

Metrolink should break the "terms of the union’s contract with Metrolink." It should already be broken due to the fact of union members DID put the public in danger by breaking the rules. One of the biggest downfalls of America = UNIONS

An amazing misread of public opinion - and for that matter, the public good - by the union. Even if they score points with their members for reflexively "defending" their rights, they are actually hurting those workers' public image by making them look like miscreants who want to hide illicit activities that might distract them from actually driving a train...

Also, feel free to provide polite, constructive feedback about this lawsuit to Paul Sorrow, the acting president of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, at:


For their perspective, read their press release:


In a world where taxicabs have cameras, what organization representing transportation professionals argues that cell phone jammers are a more reasonable solution than a simple video camera? Cell phone jammers, really??

One more nail in the coffin that is public support for unions.

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