Archive for category Safety and health related.

Local calls for resignation of HR Executive over racist FB comments

After uncovering “explicitly and vilely racist” Facebook comments by Spokane Transit Authority’s HR director, as well as her defense of others’ making similar comments, Local 1015-Spokane, WA, is calling for her resignation. The Local found that STA’s HR Director Nancy Williams had shared video on her Facebook account of a disturbing incident in which several young black men kicked and punched a young white man. She posted “these ‘kids’ are despicable animals.” Then William’s aunt Beverly Nan Murphy replied to the video, calling Barack Obama a “creature,” further commenting “If you don’t teach primates at an early age, (no matter what skin they are in) they continue to be non-civilized.” Williams “liked” the comment, and defended it as others questioned it. Local President Thomas Leighty called for her resignation at a press conference, “You can’t allow someone who says and defends this type of racist garbage to be collecting a public salary and be making decisions about the fates of public workers.” Read more.



How ridesharing widens disparities
of race and class in urban public transit

From NYC to Los Angeles to Austin to San Francisco, public transit ridership is down in nearly every U.S. city. One of the reasons behind that trend is the rise in ridesharing companies like Uber and Lyft as cities skimp on traditional transit service and maintenance. And who loses? People from low income communities and people of color, who rely on public transit the most. Uber’s unsustainable business model is the prime culprit. The company subsidizes fares and flood streets with taxi-like cars in order to grab market share and pricing power. Because people in higher income brackets will use Uber rather public transit, the class and racial divide widens. Read more.



ATU mourns death of Long time
Sergeant-At-Arms and Local 113 member Harvey Ward

ATU is sad to report the death of Harvey C. Ward, retired Secretary-Treasurer of Local 113-Toronto, ON, on May 26, 2018 at the age of 98. Brother Ward was a longtime fixture at ATU Conventions serving as a sergeant-at-arms from 1986 until 2010. For many of those conventions he served as chair of the sergeant-at-arms. Ward joined Local 113 in 1947 when he was hired by the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) as a streetcar operator. He was elected to the Local’s Executive Board as Secretary-Treasurer in 1971, and served in that capacity until his retirement in 1986. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Ward family and our brothers and sisters at Local 113.



Seattle bus drivers win $8.3 million in back
pay for safety checks, paperwork

In a big victory, Seattle bus drivers will receive an additional $8.3 million in back pay to cover three years of routine safety checks and paperwork performed beyond their usual shift time. This agreement, reached between Local 587-Seattle, WA, and King County Metro Transit, is in addition to a $6.4 million fund created last fall for more than 2,400 operators to resolve a federal investigation on the same issues. Local President Michael Shea called the figure an equitable settlement. “ATU appreciates that our employees are being properly compensated for the work that they are doing.” Read more.



Help ATU reach 20,000 ‘likes’

The ATU Facebook community is growing every day thanks to members, riders, and transit advocates spreading the word about our Facebook page. It’s a great source of information. Through our Facebook Live sessions, regular news posts, and more, members stay up to date on what’s impacting our union and industry. We have 20,000 “likes” in our sights! Help us reach that goal and “like” our page, share our stories and invite your friends to like the page, too. Also be sure to follow our Twitter handle @ATUComm to stay up to date on what’s trending in public transit, politics, and other issues. Like us today!

Guatemala Volcano Toll Reaches 99, As Officials Point Fingers Over Evacuation

Municipal firefighters search for victims in the ash-covered village of San Miguel Los Lotes, in Escuintla, about 20 miles southwest of Guatemala City, on Wednesday.

Johan Ordonez/AFP/Getty Images

Guatemala’s opposition is accusing the head of the country’s emergency response agency of failing to heed warnings ahead of the eruption of a volcano that has left nearly 100 dead and almost 200 others missing.

The finger-pointing came as rain showers and the fear of mudslides hindered the search for possible survivors and the recovery of the dead from Sunday’s eruption of Fuego (Spanish for fire). It is one of Central America’s most active volcanoes.

The volcano blanketed nearby villages in ash and sent fast-moving toxic pyroclastic flows down into valleys as people living nearby rushed to escape the onslaught.

“You have a great responsibility over what happened,” Congressman Mario Taracena, speaking in the Guatemalan Congress, said of Sergio Cabañas, the executive secretary of the National Coordinator for Disaster Reduction, also known as CONRED.

“Anyone with a little common sense would have done something,” Taracena said, according to El Periódico. “They did not care and they did not take precautions.”

The director of the National Institute of Seismology, Volcanology, Meteorology and Hydrology, Eddy Sánchez, also came in for criticism.

Sánchez explained that his agency issued several bulletins during the day ahead of the eruption. However, CONRED officials said they did not receive enough information to properly evaluate the risk posed by the mountain.

A CONRED representative, Arturo Alvarado, said communities near Fuego are used to living with risk and do not respond to evacuation orders.

“What arises there is a self-evacuation because they are the ones closest to the place,” Alvarado said, according to El Periódico. “Although we have the seismic data and the bulletin, the self-evacuation is what will save your life.”

Meanwhile, on Wednesday, rescue crews were repeatedly forced to retreat as Fuego sent boiling water and toxic gas down its slopes.

Even so, The Associated Press reports that search teams were able to make some progress — using shovels and heavy equipment to uncover more bodies.

The official death toll on Wednesday stood at 99, with 197 listed as missing and presumed dead.

“Nobody is going to be able to get them out or say how many are buried here,” Efrain Suarez, a 59-year-old truck driver helping with the rescue efforts at the devastated village of San Miguel Los Lotes, told the AP.

“The bodies are already charred,” he said. “And if heavy machinery comes in they will be torn apart.”

Suspect in Toronto van attack charged with 10 counts of murder, 13 counts of attempted murder

BREAKING UPDATE: The man arrested in connection with a deadly van attack in North York on Monday afternoon has been charged with 10 counts of first-degree murder and 13 counts of attempted murder.

He has been remanded into custody and is set to return to court on May 10.

The suspect, identified by police as 25-year-old Richmond Hill resident Alek Minassian, was arrested after a van plowed into pedestrians along a busy stretch of Yonge Street, killing 10 and injuring 15 others.

Sources told CTV News Monday that Minassian was not known to police prior to the incident and a Linkedin profile under his name states he graduated from Seneca College earlier this year.

On Monday afternoon, several witnesses reported seeing a white Ryder rental van driving along the sidewalk in the area of Yonge Street and Finch Avenue, striking pedestrians in its path.

Early images of the scene showed pools of blood on the sidewalk and multiple people wounded on the ground.

A driver who said he was behind the van as the incident was unfolding said he eventually started honking to warn pedestrians.

“At the beginning I thought I want to make him stop because I’m literally about 20, 30 metres behind him but he is not stopping and he is driving faster on the sidewalks and I am on the road,” he told CP24.

He said he then decided to continue to follow the vehicle and honk to warn people on the street about the danger.

Witness videos sent to CP24 show a dramatic takedown of the suspect on the sidewalk on Poyntz Avenue.

The videos show a man exiting a badly damaged white rental van as an officer points a firearm at the suspect.

A source confirmed to CP24’s crime specialist Steve Ryan that prior to the arrest, the man asked police officers to shoot him.

He was eventually brought to the ground and taken into custody.

Police have said that they believe the incident appears to be “deliberate.”

Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders told reporters Monday night that police are exploring “all lanes” in their investigation and are trying to determine exactly what the van driver’s motivation was in the deadly attack.

One victim identified

One of the ten victims of the fatal attack has been identified as Invesco employee Anne Marie D’Amico, a source confirmed to CP24.

Police have not released the ages or genders of the other nine victims.

Flowers and messages of condolence could be seen at a growing memorial that has been set up in Olive Square, near Yonge Street and Finch Avenue, in honour of those impacted by the tragedy.

A GoFundMe page has also been set up for the victims.

The section of Yonge Street where the pedestrians were hit remains closed today as police continue their investigation.

Transit has also been impacted due to closures in the area.

Due to the police investigation, the Toronto District School Board said the TDSB Education Centre, located near Yonge Street and Sheppard Aveneue, will be closed Tuesday.

‘We will not be broken,’ Tory says

Tuesday’s Toronto city council meeting was postponed until Wednesday, but Mayor John Tory asked councillors to meet at city hall today to express their condolences.

Speaking in council chambers Tuesday, Tory called the situation an “unfathomable loss of life has left our city in mourning.”

“Our hearts are with all of those affected,” he said.

The mayor went on to thank hospital staff as well as first responders and citizens at the scene who exhibited “great bravery” during the ordeal.

“We know that we are strong and resilient and will not be thrown off course by one person or one act,” Tory said.

“The people who call this city home are shaken… but we will not be broken.”

Coun. John Filion, whose ward encompasses the area where the attack took place, recognized the “tremendous emotional toll” the incident has taken on those in the area who rushed in to help in any way they could.

“Hopefully this will have all of us be a little kinder to each other on regular days,” he told his fellow councillors at city hall Tuesday.

Speaking at Parliament Hill on Tuesday morning, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the incident “horrific” and “senseless.”

“On behalf of all Canadians, I offer my deepest, heartfelt condolences to the loved ones of all those who were killed and we wish a full recovery to those injured and stand with the families and friends of the victims,” Trudeau said.

The prime minister added that there is nothing to suggest that there is a national security element to the situation.

Police said another update on the case will be provided this afternoon but a time and location has not yet been determined.

Courtesy of CTV and CP 24 and GMA

The Dark Side of The Gig Economy


This past Monday morning, livery driver Doug Schifter tragically killed himself in front of NYC City Hall, posting on Facebook that he did this in hopes of raising awareness of how ride hailing services have devastated taxi workers financially. In his post, Schifter said he had to work more than 100 hours a week just to survive, had lost his health insurance, racked up credit card debt and put the blame on mayors Michael Bloomberg and Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo for permitting so many cars to flood the streets of NYC. His story is representative of how Uber, Lyft and their competitors have inflicted serious economic hardship on taxis drivers in NYC and other cities leading to driver bankruptcies, foreclosures, eviction notices, homelessness and depression. It’s time we all recognize that Uber, Lyft and their competitors are exploiting and ruining hardworking people’s lives.

Worcester, MA, Local mobilizes riders in fight for transit funding

With the Worcester Regional Transit Authority rumored to be considering slashing service and jobs in the face of a $1 million budget deficit, Local 22-Worcester, MA, members aren’t sitting silent. The Local is mobilizing riders to join in the fight and formed the Funding for Public Transportation Committee. “I think that this is really the first time that I can remember that we have formed a committee to focus on gathering people together to try and get funding, and the reaction has been incredible,” said Local Business Agent Ken Kephart. “Our focus is to try to rally the people to say enough is enough, and call their elected officials and demand that they fully fund the RTAs.” Demonstrations and other actions are being considered to protest the governor’s budget.

Winnipeg Local calls for a review of flawed electronic fare card system

The City of Winnipeg has cut corners in adding its electronic fare card, Peggo, which is run on an outdated system, says Local 1505-Winnipeg, MB, in calling for a review and audit of Peggo. “Unfortunately, we warned about this quite some time ago … They purchased a system that was outdated,” said Local President Aleem Chaudhary. “These glitches were and are a daily problem.” The Local says riders adding money on the cards online or by phone can be delayed by 24-48 hours, and many riders board buses with a pre-paid card that doesn’t work.

Black History Month: Harriett Tubman, conductor of Underground Railroad

In recognition of Black History Month, ATU is remembering important people and events in the history of the civil rights movement and public transportation. This week we are remembering Harriett Tubman, who escaped slavery and became a leader in the abolitionist movement during the Civil War. Tubman risked her life to lead hundreds of slaves and their family members from the plantation system to freedom on an elaborate secret network of safe houses that is known as the Underground Railroad. In honor of her accomplishments, the U.S Treasury Department recently announced Tubman will be featured on the $20 bill to replace Andrew Jackson.

Nashville Local & Music City Riders United Demand Transit Equity

In recognition of Rosa Parks’ birthday and her fight for transit equity, Local 1235-Nashville, TN, members joined with Music City Riders United to demand better public transit for all. Their demands – better bus safety, improved training of maintenance workers and other improvements – come as residents will soon cast their vote on a new $9 billion transit plan proposed by Nashville’s Mayor. Local President Patrick Green points out the training deficiencies and the lack of personnel leads to bus delays and break downs, which happen every single day. “It’s not about us, It’s not just about the workforce here at this system. It’s about the entire community,” said Green.

Minneapolis hosted the most public transit-dependent game in Super Bowl history

The Super Bowl was a great game this year with the Philadelphia Eagles beating the New England Patriots. It also went off without a hitch thanks in part to Local 1005-Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN, members playing a key role in safely transporting people to and from the game and events in the week before the game. Experts are saying Minneapolis hosted the most public transit-dependent Super Bowl ever because the stadium is located in downtown Minneapolis. The City’s light rail system took more than 20,000 fans to and from the game and the two of the starting points for light rail served as major security screening checkpoints to help alleviate security-related bottlenecks at the stadium.

Maryland bill would make assaulting a transit operator a felony

Transit worker assault is a growing epidemic across North America. In Maryland, one state legislator is taking action as attacks on DC-area bus operators went up in 2017. Del. Angela M. Angel has proposed a new bill to increase the penalty for attacking a transit operator to a second-degree felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison and a $5,000 fine. “House Bill 28 will give the same protections to transit workers that are already extended to law enforcement and emergency responders,” says Local 689-Washington, DC. “We understand that transit worker assaults are not only a danger to the workers, but also to the riding public, who are also placed in harm’s way when these incidents occur.”

Winnipeg Local blames province for proposed transit cuts

Talk about the pot calling the kettle black. Despite the Manitoba government’s own climate change plan calling investments in public transit crucial to lowering greenhouse gas emissions, the Brandon City Council recently voted to cut funding for public transit and the city of Winnipeg may do the same. The city councils call the cutbacks necessary because of a lack of funding from Manitoba Governor Brian Pallister’s administration. And Local 1505-Winnipeg, MB, agrees. “If you’re a student, worker or parent in Brandon who relies on transit, the Pallister government’s cuts are going to make life more difficult,” says Local President Aleem Chaudhary, who called on residents to contact local politicians to voice their concerns on the issue.

AC Transit drivers push for more protection after shooting

Dealing with angry, drunk and even violent riders has become part of the job for most bus drivers, including AC Transit operators in the Bay Area in California. However, when someone recently shot out the back window of a bus, Local 192-Oakland, CA, decided “enough is enough.” The Local, representing some 1,600 drivers and mechanics, is demanding better safety standards through grievance and, possibly, arbitration, as past requests to the transit agency have fallen on deaf ears. Local 192 is one of the more than 140 Locals that have passed the resolution to fix the bus driver workstation to prevent driver blind spot accidents, assaults on bus drivers, exhaust fumes in buses, ergonomically poor bus driver seats, and more.

Connecticut Locals join with allies to demand state address transit funding shortfall

Public transportation in Connecticut is facing a serious funding crisis as the state’s Special Transportation Fund (STF) needs to find $1 billion over the next five years or the state will have to cut public transit and road programs, and raise bus and rail fares. ATU’s Connecticut Locals took action to demand that the state address this problem that is critical to the economic future of the state. Locals 281-New Haven, 425-Hartford, 443-Stamford, 1209-New London, 1336-Bridgeport, 1622-Danbury and 1763-Rocky Hill joined with business, community, and transit allies to meet with ConnDOT Commissioner James Redeker to express their concerns and offer solutions. “We move Connecticut. The proud members of the ATU, who are the eyes and ears of transit in Connecticut on a daily basis, join with our riders and allies in support of increased funding for public transit,” said Local 1209 President Jaroslaw Pizunski.

Denver Local calls for better protection in wake of gunfire


Recently a gunfight broke out near the state capitol in Denver and Regional Transit District (RTD) bus drivers say this is an ongoing dangerous problem that sometimes happens inside the buses including a violent incident where a passenger was shot on a bus in August. In response, Local 1001-Denver, CO, is demanding better protection for bus drivers. “We need more security, it’s just out of control,” said one RTD driver. “We get cussed out all the time. Some people are always fighting, and some get on the bus drunk. We have no protection.” The Local recently passed the Workstation resolution calling on RTD, bus manufacturers, and elected officials to fix the bus driver workstation to improve the safety and health of drivers, riders, pedestrians.

A Local 113-Toronto, ON, bus driver goes above & beyond

Last month Local 113-Toronto, ON, bus driver Domenic Gouveia was driving his regular route when he noticed an older man sitting in a bus shelter. Gouveia realized something wasn’t quite right as the man had only a light coat on despite the cold day. He asked the man where he needed to go and the man replied, “I don’t know.” Domenic invited the man on his bus to get warm and noticed a bruise on his eye and cut on his finger. He drove the man on his route to see if he recognized anything, but the man didn’t. He was about to call transit control when he texted his wife to see if the news said anyone was missing. She told him yes, an older man with dementia was reported missing, and she sent him a photo of the man. Domenic immediately recognized it was that man and called transit control. He then waited with the man until the police arrived to help. ATU salutes for Dominick for his actions.

Cincinnati Local says agency unloading unused bus parts

Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA) bus garage workers thought it was strange that the transit agency was asking them to throw away perfectly good bus parts. It turns out it was more than 4,000 parts worth over $800,000. Local 627-Cincinnati, OH, is asking why SORTA is doing this as Metro is facing a $150 million deficit over the next decade and fare increases and service cuts are likely. I was just amazed that this is going on,” said Local President Troy Miller, pointing out that those parts may one day be needed for a fleet with buses upwards of 12 years old. “If our guys don’t have parts, they can’t fix the buses, and if the buses aren’t going out on the road, bottom line, it affects the customer and the taxpayer.”

Milwaukee bus driver helps woman in labor

Local 998-Milwaukee, WI, bus driver Tayetta Currin got quite the Christmas surprise when she was working on Christmas Eve. On her route, Currin noticed a woman walking on a snowy sidewalk who looked like she needed help. She pulled over and the woman told her she was going into labor. As the mother of two young boys, Currin sprang into action helping the woman onto her bus with the help of two passengers “It was shocking. I had to think quick,” Currin said. “I know how it is with contractions. I just told her to stay in the seat because she was sliding off and told her the paramedics were coming right away.” Eventually they did and took the woman to the hospital. This is not the first time Currin has jumped into action. A year ago, a middle-aged woman was shot during a robbery and flagged down Currin’s bus for help.

Stay Warm on The Job in Freezing Cold!

 

ATU members rarely get “snow days.” And so, even though dangerous, freezing temperatures are gripping North America, our members are on the job, safely transporting riders in these hazardous weather conditions.

A preview of the US without pensions

Tom Coomer has retired twice. Each time he realized that his Social Security check wouldn’t cut it. So, at 79, Tom is working full-time at Walmart. The way major U.S. companies provide for retiring workers has been shifting for about three decades, with more dropping traditional pensions every year. The first full generation of workers to retire since this turn of events will soon show workers what they can expect as part of a labor force dependent on their own savings for retirement. Years ago, Coomer worked for airplane maker McDonnell Douglas with a company pension, but in 1994 the company closed the plant. While most of his co-workers found new jobs, they could never replace their lost pension benefits, and many are facing financial struggles: one in seven have filed for bankruptcy, faced liens for delinquent bills, or both, according to public records.

With assaults on bus drivers up, Ottawa Local pushes for protective driver shields

With more than 100 assaults on Ottawa bus drivers in 2017, compared to 87 in 2016, Local 279-Ottawa, ON, is renewing its call for bus driver protective shields. “I am at the point where I just feel it’s unacceptable,” says Local President Clint Crabtree. “People need to be going home to their families without being assaulted at work.” The Ottawa Local is one of the more than 130 Locals that have passed the resolution to call on transit agencies and elected officials to fix the bus driver workstation. The Local has joined other Canadian Locals in lobbying parliament to push for safer bus driver workstations.

Let’s propose this as the new US national anthem

In 1979, the Chrysler Corporation was in financial trouble. High gasoline prices, lagging auto sales, and international competition had led the automaker to the brink of bankruptcy. In response, Congress passed The Chrysler Corporation Loan Guarantee Act of 1979to allow the federal government to guarantee $1.5 billion in loans to Chrysler. It also provided an additional $2 billion in “commitments or concessions,” which could be used by Chrysler for the financing of its operations. Sound familiar? In a 1983 WNYC broadcast, Tom Paxton sang a live version of “I’m Changing My Name to Chrysler,’ a whimsical and biting commentary on the financial troubles of the auto industry and how the government bailed them out. Maybe that should be the new U.S. national anthem with the GOP tax plan rewarding corporate America while working people lose.

Nashville media Is getting played by transit-bashing hired guns

From Albuquerque to Atlanta to Charlotte, the right-wing Cato Institute has a knack for opposing nearly every local debate over transit expansion, arguing against investments in rail and bus service. Now they have their sights set on Nashville, TN, which will vote on a $5.2 billion transit expansion plan in May. And the Nashville media have bought their shtick – hook, line and sinker. However, transit advocates say Mayor Megan Barry’s plan with five light rail lines totaling 26 miles – 25 miles of bus rapid transit, a 1.8-mile transit tunnel to bypass downtown congestion, and system wide bus improvements is solid and plan to fight hard to get it passed.

Win an ATU jacket like Raymond Vandervort, 1145-Binghamton, NY

Want a chance to win a cool ATU jacket like Raymond? It’s easy and will help you stay warm this winter. All you have to do is go to http://www.atu.org/, go to the bottom bar of the homepage and sign up to receive ATU email action alerts on the latest news and developments on ATU, public transportation, politics and other important issues. To enter the drawing, simply provide your e-mail, local number and zip/postal code. If you have already submitted your email you’re still signed up for the contest, simply click “Skip and Continue to Website.”

Twin Cities Local rallies as negotiations continue to avert Super Bowl strike


Members of Local 1005-Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN flooded at Metropolitan Council transportation committee meeting to voice concerns over an ongoing contract dispute. Assaults on bus operators, arduous schedules and employee benefits were among many concerns. While the Local voted to authorize a strike leading up to the Super Bowl in the city in February, contract talks resumed with the agency issuing a final contract offer. “We care about getting a decent and fair contract, and we’re willing to fight to have a fair contract. It just seems a shame that we are not treated like the backbone to this company,” said a Metro Transit operator who attended the rally.

Local 1493 members ratify contract

Despite Roanoke, VA’s Valley Metro facing serious revenue issues due to the city’s budget woes, members of Local 1493-Raleigh, NC, ratified a strong new contract. The 79 bus drivers, nine mechanics and two bus cleaners, who work for Valley Metro-Greater Roanoke Transit Company, will receive a 2.5 percent wage increase retroactive to July, a 2.5 percent wage increase in 2018, and a 2.75 percent wage raise in 2019 under recently approved contract amendments.

ATU Labor leaders confront sexual harassment

As the Harvey Weinstein and other high profile sexual harassment scandals broke in early October, the AFL-CIO opened its national convention in a very different way reading a passage from the code-of-conduct and telling attendees that there are two people designated to field any complaints about sexual harassment. The AFL-CIO pledged to have “a zero-tolerance policy” recognizing the labor movement was founded on the premise to fight for dignity in the workplace and protect workers against exploitation. But even unions haven’t been immune to sexual harassment scandals. At the convention one union leader said, “The AFL-CIO should lead, not follow, when it comes to workplace safety, which means not just reacting but creating an anti-harassment culture.”

ATU condemns NYC Port Authority bombing, says public transit security critical


“The bombing at the NYC Port Authority is the latest example of a vicious, senseless attack on innocent people that is becoming much too common in our country,” said International President Larry Hanley. “This terrorist attack serves as a reminder of how vulnerable mass transit systems are and the critical importance of security on our transit systems.” Hanley pointed out that transit stations like the NYC Port Authority are big open spaces that are difficult to secure making them prime targets for terrorist attacks. “I urge our transit agencies, operators and passengers to continue to be vigilant and watchful for anything of a suspicious nature on our systems, as we work together to defeat terrorism in the United States, Canada and the world.”

DC Streetcar, Circulator, and Metro riders got a holiday surprise when the Grinch greeted them on their morning commute. The Grinch was calling on the D.C. Department of Transportation (DDOT) to deliver a holiday gift for commuters and workers by municipalizing the DC Streetcar and Circulator and not swap out one Grinch-like private contractor for another. First Transit, the company that currently operates the DC Circulator, will see their contract expire next year. The Grinch action came days after Local 1764-Washington, DC, members and transit advocates testified before the DC Council Committee on Transportation and the Environment and encouraged incoming DDOT Director Marootian to consider bringing transit service in-house.

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