I left today's Anti-CSX Rally with one question lingering in my mind: what kind of PR machine does CSX have, that they would basically shut down the trains in the area during the rally?
Seriously, have you ever been in Downtown Lakeland in the middle of the day and not heard a train roll through? Well, you should've been among the 250-300 protestors at the rally today, because you would have heard a glorious sound- no train whistles.
I guess CSX prefers backroom deals to face time on the evening news and in the morning papers, rolling through the background of a rally, giving obnoxiously noisy sound bites as evidence to why the protestors are there in the first place.
I'm going to jump around a bit, but stay with me; there was a lot that was discussed today:
NOT A DONE DEAL
Downtown Lakeland Partnership Executive Director Julie Townsend reminded all in attendance that this CSX deal is not a "done deal." As I mentioned in a previous post, Sen. Paula Dockery reported on Friday that the bill was dead in the Senate. However, there are two more crucial weeks in the session and she must continue to fight until the bitter end to ensure this bill goes nowhere.
What can you do to help her? Write your state elected officials. Let them know that you oppose this deal.
John Gaige, who is with the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen union, spoke today about jobs that likely will be lost if this deal becomes a reality. Winter Haven officials have thrown out big numbers on job growth in the area that will result from the CSX hub they want built in their city. But what about existing jobs that will be cut andor given to other people as a result of this deal for CSX?The BRS is made up of workers who operate and maintain the critical rail switching systems in Florida. A memo written after a meeting between FDOT and CSX officials mentions that "the FDOT proposal would provide the freedom to undertake the operations and maintenance of the corridor using non-union, contract labor, which would be the most cost-effective and efficient approach."
If that happens, safety surely will suffer, said Gaige, who works on the South Florida Rail corridor. This is highly safety-sensitive work.
"In the name of creating jobs, they're gutting the union jobs of professionals with experience in upholding federal safety standards," he said in a television interview at the rally.
WHO DOES FDOT WORK FOR?
Very powerful lobbyists for CSX are working on state elected officials every day. When Townsend went to Tallahassee recently to speak on the CSX issue, who were Florida Department of Transportation officials sitting with? CSX representatives.
Townsend said it is time to remind FDOT who they work for- taxpayers, not CSX. They are supposed to be considering what's in the best interest of the taxpayers, not CSX.
Here's what happens if this deal goes through:
CSX continues to run freight and collect revenue, while turning over to the state the responsibility of building up the tracks to accommodate increased freight traffic and performing all the maintenance. Oh- and assuming all of the liability, even when CSX is at fault.