The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

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

One Year After East Palestine Derailment:
Railroads More Unsafe Than Ever

Feb 12, 2024

In February of 2023, a Norfolk Southern train derailed in East Palestine, Ohio. Eleven of the rail cars contained toxic chemicals. Five rail cars containing vinyl chloride were deliberately burned, sending toxic fumes throughout the town and polluting a nearby creek.

The residents of East Palestine, a small working class town, are still suffering the effects. Many people still have health problems and are worried about the long-term effects. Some people still have not been able to return to their homes. Small stores have lost business.

After the accident, politicians from both the Republican and the Democratic parties rushed in and promised to do something. Donald Trump showed up to hand out bottled water and get his picture taken. Joe Biden sent in some aides and his transportation secretary. Congress pledged to pass a bill that would enforce stronger safety standards. The railroad companies promised to make the railroads safer.

The result of all these promises? A big fat nothing!!! Actually, it’s less than nothing! The Railroad Safety Act was never passed by Congress. In the past year, there have been more railroad derailments than in the year before. The five biggest freight railroads have had 256 accidents in the past year, an 11% increase. Train derailments are up 13%.

An overheated wheel bearing caused the derailment in East Palestine. In the last 10 months, there have been 17 incidents involving overheated wheel bearings, more than double the previous year.

This problem could easily be addressed by installing more detectors that would alert when a wheel bearing was approaching an overheated condition and taking that rail car out of service. But installing more detectors would increase costs for the railroad companies and cut their profits. So, the companies have opposed any law that would force them to do so. And all those politicians from both parties, who made all those promises about safety? Well, they certainly were not going to mess with a corporation’s profits! After all, who do the politicians work for???