The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Chicago El Crash:
Cutbacks and Crazy Hours Put Us All at Risk

Mar 31, 2014

At 2:50 A.M. on March 24, a Blue Line train crashed through the barrier at the O’Hare airport station, jumped the tracks, and landed on top of an escalator. Thirty-two people were hurt, and no one was killed or more seriously injured only because, in the middle of the night, no one was in the path of the train.

It appears that the train driver fell asleep as the train entered the tunnel leading to the airport. But the train was not speeding – it was going the approved speed of 25 miles an hour. The emergency brakes did engage before the crash. There was a metal shock absorber at the end of the tracks. But these did not stop the train as they were supposed to do.

The Chicago Transit Authority and the media blame the train operator, pointing out that she fell asleep once before. They blame the union, saying it should be easier to fire drivers who make mistakes. What hypocrisy!

This driver was working crazy, inconsistent shifts. She worked as a fill-in for more senior workers, so sometimes she’d work during the morning, sometimes the afternoon, and sometimes overnight. Like so many workers, she was picking up all the shifts she could to try to make ends meet. No wonder she was exhausted and dozed off. When the Chicago Transit Authority sets up train and bus drivers to have these kinds of schedules, it is setting up a system that puts us all at risk.

How many other workers on the roads today are exhausted from the pressures of work and family? How many truck and bus drivers, or others with dangerous jobs are pushed beyond the limits of safety, because society is organized for the convenience of the bosses, not for the health and safety of the workers? Luckily, this time, no one was killed. But this system is a killer.