WASHINGTON – On behalf of all U.S. rail unions and workers, the Transportation Trades Department (TTD) of the AFL-CIO today released the following statement commemorating six months since Norfolk Southern’s toxic train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, on the evening of February 3rd:
“On this somber occasion, rail labor unions once again renew our calls for safety reforms. For years, workers have sounded the alarm about deadly safety conditions in the freight rail industry. The industry’s safety failures contribute to more than 1,000 freight train derailments a year.
“There have been more than 60 high-profile derailments since East Palestine, including multiple in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Montana. Through it all, freight rail companies have maintained their fundamental disregard for public safety. Safety is just a buzzword to the railroads.
“Since the East Palestine disaster, rail companies have lobbied to evade or weaken safety provisions, such as the two-person crew minimum staffing standard in legislation pending before Congress. They have also sought to gut proposed safety requirements for rail inspections, defect detectors, and more. While fending off proposed safety measures, railroads have also repeatedly sought waivers from existing federal safety rules. After a public commitment to opt in to a federal confidential close call reporting program, the railroads have sought changes that could weaken the program.
“To be clear, we have welcomed several rail safety actions from the Department of Transportation and the Federal Railroad Administration during these last six months. Still, more must be done.
“Congress must pass a comprehensive rail safety bill that addresses the issues rooted in the industry’s current operating practices. Absent these federal actions, rail corporations will keep choosing Wall Street over Main Street and rail safety will further deteriorate.
“Above all, rail corporations must grapple with the moral bankruptcy of their current safety operations and come to their senses. If the moral calculation is not persuasive, perhaps the financial calculation will be.
“Just last week, Norfolk Southern reported that the cleanup cost is approaching $1 billion. The enormous cost of cleanup could have been prevented if proper safety measures were implemented and followed in the first place.
“The fact remains that there are some damages from which the community may never recover. The town is still not free of chemicals leftover from the spill. Homes were sold. Livelihoods lost. Families moved. Lives rewritten.
“To the people of East Palestine: we have not forgotten you. We see you. We stand with you. We fight with you. Solidarity forever.”