IAM District 19 Joins Coalition of Unions, Community Activists in East Palestine to Advocate for Rail Safety

One year has passed since the tragic derailment of Norfolk Southern’s train in East Palestine, leading to severe toxic contamination that has profoundly impacted the community and its workforce. Residents and workers now grapple with deteriorating health conditions compounded by diminishing healthcare coverage. The cost of life-saving medical treatment has become an overwhelming burden for many, often reaching into the thousands of dollars.

IAM District 19 recently joined labor leaders, union members, environmental justice groups, community organizers, and supporters from across the nation joined together with local residents in the newly established Justice for East Palestine Residents and Workers Coalition. Their central aim is to urge President Biden to utilize the Stafford Act and declare East Palestine a major disaster area. Such a declaration would release essential federal resources required by residents and ensure emergency healthcare for everyone.

The conference featured panels consisting of residents, labor, and environmentalists. IAM District 19 President and Directing General Chairman Andrew Sandberg was featured on the labor panel.

READ: ‘If I don’t talk no one’s going to know’: Stories of pain from East Palestine move coalition members to action Pittsburgh Union Progress

“Corporate greed has taken over here. Railroad companies prioritize profit above all else,” said Sandberg. “Over the past five years, they’ve laid off approximately 2,000 to 3,000 machinists from major companies like Norfolk Southern, CSX, BNSF, and Union Pacific. Yet, it’s never sufficient. They continuously slash maintenance budgets, leading to incidents like the one we’ve witnessed here. Neglecting maintenance has dire consequences, and unfortunately, this is the outcome.”

The coalition is also supporting stronger railway safety protections through the Railway Safety Act, which would prohibit railroad carriers from imposing impractical deadlines on railcar and locomotive inspectors. This ensures inspections are conducted thoroughly and diligently, promoting overall rail safety for communities.

“We stand with the residents and workers of East Palestine, advocating for justice and urgent action,” said IAM District 19 Assistant President Directing General Chairman Juan Estrada. “By urging President Biden to invoke the Stafford Act and declare East Palestine a major disaster area, we seek to unlock vital federal resources and guarantee emergency healthcare for all. Together, we strive for a future where every individual’s well-being is safeguarded and prioritized.”

Share and Follow: