My name is Donald Vaughan Brazier and currently I am the Director of Labor
Relations of the St Lawrence and Hudson Railway. The railway has about 5000
employees and operates on an east-west axis from Montreal, QC to Chicago
IL. On a north-south basis the operation goes from Montreal to Washington
DC. About 75% of the business in generated in Canada, the rest in the US.
The US operation is run out of Cliton Park NY, 15 miles north of Albany.
I was born in Paisley, Scotland on September 01, 1942, of a Scottish
mother and English father. My grade schooling was done in England. In 1956,
the family moved to Canada. I finished my schooling there. I have a BSc
from Dalhousie University in Halifax NS and I did graduate work at Carleton
U. in Ottawa, ON.
I guess I drifted through high school and college without any clear
picture of what I wanted to do. I always had some interest in labor since I
was a kid because my father was active in the labor movement. (This was
back in the days when union officials were invariably called "commies").
In college I was active in what back in those days may have been called
left of center groups - organizations which in the tight assed late fifties
were pretty suspect. (As you can see I predate the commotion on college
campuses caused by the Vietnam War).
After I graduated from college I wasn't sure what I wanted to do so I ended
up doing research work for a couple of government type organizations,
research primarily in labor issues. I had been at this for about six years
or so when one of my colleagues heard about an opening for a labor
relations officer at a railroad company. This was in 1970. I have worked
there ever since.
Throughout the 1970's, as you know , there was much emphasis on civil
rights and AA. My company was no different. We set a specific function
within Industrial Relations to deal with discrimination and related
matters. Over the years the function expanded and in 1983 I was made
Assistant Vice-President, Industrial Relations, whose responsibilities
included this function.
At first, to me, this was just an add-on to my duties, since my principal
duties related to labor relations. But since I was responsible I undertook
to learn about the issue. The more I learned, the more I became concerned
with first, justice in the workplace and, on a broader basis, justice in
the community as a whole. Under my leadership, this function greatly
expanded. We introduced training programs and seminars. We encouraged
individual employees to come to us on a confidential basis to deal with
I discovered that there was a great deal of fear in the Company by women
employees and the few minorities we had in our employ - railroads are not
large employers of blacks and East Indians. However, these employees were
scared to complain about unjust treatment and discrimination, since they
felt that if they complained they would be fired.
We, of course, changed that. We got buy in from senior management to give
these issues high focus. We expanded the resources available to help
employees in need. To this day we are continually being requested to help
groups of employees and managers to combat the problem. We have come a long
way since 1983, when I took over, but we have a long way to go.
Over the years I have seen a lot of injustice in the workplace and I have
also seen a lot of racist and bigoted managers who should have been fired.
If I am proud of anything in particular it has been to develop an
environment where employees know that they don't have to put up with this
type of treatment and who also know that if they come to our department any
complaint will be fully investigated and, where necessary, corrective
action will be taken. I am also proud of the steps we have taken to reduce
sexual harassment. Every woman knows that she does not have to put with
this. Fifteen years ago I found women living in the most unbelievably
hostile work situation because they had nobody to turn to. Blacks are
another group that were extremely poorly treated and who had to daily live
with racial slurs. They now know they can get help, too.
My other great area of interest is employee safety. There are industries
that have higher accident rates than rail transportation but railway safety
is of significant social concern because so many railroad accidents also
cause death and injury to the public.. I am sure everyone can recall such
an accident - and likely it was not that long ago!
In my 25 years with my present employer I have some grotesque accidents,
including employees being crushed to death by rolling box cars. One
trainman slipped when climbing on a moving train and her leg was cut off
just below the hip by a moving car. One other accident involved an
employee who fell feet first from the top of a freight car. The impact on
the ground forced his legs into his torso, crushing several organs.
I have used these examples not to be gory but to show the importance of
safety. Unfortunately, greater world wide competition - along with
deregulation - have resulted in less attention being paid to safety. As a
result accident rates have started to creep up. I am glad to be able to
say that most companies in the industry have noticed this and are taking
action to reduce accidents.
There is a parallel between a commitment to safety in the workplace and the
work of WAVE. Employers who do not take the steps to provide a safe and
healthy workplace are condemning their employees to potential violence,
either through death or permanent disability.
I am not going to suggest that the working conditions are perfect. However,
I am proud of the bit I have done to make life a lot more bearable for a
lot of people.
The biggest influences in my life. First of all, my parents for instilling
in me a basic sense of right and wrong, of fairness and recognition of the
dignity of the individual. I also had a boss, Alton Craig who taught me
how to balance work with family. As he said, nobody ever put on a
gravestone "He spent his life at the office".. Jack McGuire, my first boss
at my current company taught me the essentials of labor relations and how
to treat employees fairly.
If I have one regret it is that now, as a result of a corporate
reorganization, I am completely out of human rights and discrimination
issues. That has been passed on to another department. There is still a lot
to do and I still believe I had an important role to play. Now, however,
my job is strictly labor relations. I wish the new managers well. I also
wish I was involved.
However, even if I don't have the job responsibility anymore I have
learned enough about the problem to know that whereas in some ways we
making progress, in other aspects, especially as our society is becoming
more culturally diversified we are now seeing other problems that were not
part of the public conscious fifteen years ago. One of the most significant
of these issues is spousal abuse. It was not long ago it was considered
that a husband had a "right" to beat his wife, in fact, she was practically
considered his property.
Just as we think we are civilized, something comes along to show that we
I happen to believe that the problem of social violence and similar
problems are often linked to workplace
behavior. If you are bigot in the workplace, you are likely to be the same
at home. I have found that hate is
rarely only directed at one group. Men who hate Jews, Blacks etc, etc,
usually have a similar attitude to many
other groups, including women. The workplace is violent, too as most
people are are aware. We have had
assaults take place over racial matters and sexual harassment; this latter
is perhaps that most pervasive workplace problem that now exists and often
takes the form of assault. If an employee is of the temperament to assault
a female employee - and as we know, sexual harassment is rarely about sex,
it is about power - he will have no compunctions about assaulting his
When I first was given the human rights portfolio I was appalled at the
treatment given to women and racial
and other minorities. I like to think that over that years I have made the
workplace a generally a better place to
work in. As a result of a reorganization in the Company a few months ago
my responsibilities were changed
to pure labor relations But I do have this passion for fairness and equity
and I was so inspired by what Karyl
was doing I felt the need to help in some way. That is when she told me
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