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Lax train standards endanger lives

By Christopher Overfelt

Remember the railroad strikes that President Biden and Congress deemed illegal a few months ago? One of the reasons railroad workers wanted to strike was unsafe working conditions due to shortages in staffing. Guess what just happened in Ohio? In an almost predictable fashion, a Norfolk Southern train carrying caustic chemicals derailed in Ohio due to mechanical failure. This derailment caused the evacuation of an entire town. Fears of long-term sickness due to the spill have been growing.

The car men’s union of Norfolk Southern is made up of mechanics who maintain the trains. They were ready to strike because the leadership at Norfolk Southern had cut staffing and labor safety standards. Car men are supposed to get 3 minutes to inspect an individual car before it gets attached to a train. The leadership at Norfolk Southern cut that time to 90 seconds per car. If the car men do not meet that time limit, they can be fired. Predictably, the lax safety standards led to the endangerment of people’s lives.

Why is leadership at Norfolk Southern cutting safety standards? Profit. Norfolk Southern is majority-owned by Wall Street hedge funds. Guess who helps fund both the Republican and Democratic parties? Wall Street hedge funds. Guess who deemed the railroad strikes illegal, preserving the record profits of railroad companies? Both the Republican and Democratic parties. Are the dots beginning to connect?

How long will we allow railroad companies to endanger our lives for profit? How long will we allow fossil fuel companies to determine our climate policies? How long will we allow weapons manufacturers to determine our foreign policy? How long will we allow health insurance companies to determine our health care policies? It is vital that we understand that the greatest threat to America is not China or Russia, but the corporations that have stolen our government from us.

—Christopher Overfelt is a member of Veterans for Peace and of the Board of Directors of PeaceWorks KC. (c) 2023, Christopher Overfelt, Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike 4.0 International License.

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