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Greenpeace Supports Railroad Workers Safety

by Brian Manning

March 20, 2015

Communities across the globe are working together to keep coal in the ground everywhere and promote a just transition to a renewable energy future. In the Pacific Northwest, were working with a broad, diverse and growing coalition of environmental, business, faith, and health groups to stop coal exports. People are coming together to shutter coal-fired power plants, holding big polluters accountable, grassroots efforts at the mines for a greener and safer future.

As we continue moving forward together to stop coal and other fossil fuels most responsible for climate change, the workers that would carry the dangerous cargo have a big fight on their hands to prevent the industry from changing to one-person train crew restrictions. Railroad workers like conductors already are facing chronic fatigue that increase the risk of accidents.

Railroad Worker Safety Matters

Railroad workers are the backbone of American commerce. We depend on them for the safe transport of grains, raw materials and other goods by rail.

And worker safety matters to Greenpeace. Too many railroaders in North America are forced to work long and irregular hours often leading to sleep deprivation. Theyre called on all hours of the day, seven days a week and with little notice. These long hours can lead to chronic fatigue that contributes greatly to all sorts of problems on and off the job.

One-person train crew are not the way to treat our brothers and sisters. Railroad workers play a fundamental role in connecting communities to commodities and to each other. Draconian policies not only endanger railroad workers but also threaten communities and ecosystems along the rail lines

Coal Train and Oil Train Derailments

Exploding oil trains and frequent coal train derailments pose a serious and deadly risk. According to sworn testimony by BNSF Vice President of Transportation, Gregory Fox, “BNSF estimates that up to 500 pounds of coal dust may be lost from the top of each car.”

Overtime, coal dust significantly degrades the ballast on the rails making coal transportation particularly dangerous for workers that would be at the front of catastrophic accidents. Considering the accumulated coal dust on the rails and trains carrying highly combustible oil in unsafe tankers, you have a recipe for disaster.

Solidarity Matters

Train derailments occur far too frequently, dumping coal and oil into our rivers, forests and farmlands. Greenpeace stands in solidarity with brothers and sisters on the rail and other workers at risk that are dealing with unsafe working conditions in the fossil fuel industry. Environmentalist joined striking steel workers across the country that fought and won safer worker conditions at oil refineries.

And now, community organizations, civic groups, environmental organizations and labor unions can make a difference by uniting to join rail workers against train crew fatigue. Greenpeace may oppose coal exports with expanded rail lines, but that doesn’t mean railroad companies can’t better employ safer conditions for workers already in the industry.

By Brian Manning

Brian Manning is a field organizer in the Pacific Northwest with Greenpeace USA.

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