Another train derails, with freight conductor Nick Wurst
On train workers' rights and the accident in Ohio that released toxic chemicals into the soil, air, and water
Hello from an ongoing ecological disaster!
Our guest this week is Nick Wurst, a freight-rail conductor and a member of the SMART-TD union, who joined Tammy and Jay after an overnight shift. Nick is also a socialist and a member-organizer with Railroad Workers United, a cross-union solidarity organization. He was featured in Tammy’s recent New Yorker piece about the state of union power in the U.S.
On Friday, February 3, a train carrying volatile chemicals derailed in East Palestine, Ohio, releasing dangerous fumes and forcing the town to evacuate. State and federal authorities encouraged residents to return to their homes after a “successful” controlled release of the substances, but many are skeptical that the air is safe to breathe, given reports of animals dying en masse, highly acidic rain, and the post-industrial area’s baseline pollution levels.
Nick explains how corporate avarice—encapsulated in the ideology of “precision scheduled railroading”—and government complicity led to this dangerous derailment. He tells Jay and Tammy how railroad companies successfully lobbied against common-sense safety regulations, and what feels different about this disaster, despite rising rates of train derailment. Nick connects the accident in Ohio to last year’s threatened rail strike, a fight which was widely mischaracterized and eventually squashed by Biden and a Democratic Congress. How drastically has precision scheduled railroading changed conditions on the railroads? What can be done to rein in this greedy industry and the existential dangers it poses to us all?
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