With House GOP Stalling on Rail Safety, House Dems hold Roundtable

In the wake of the East Palestine derailment, and despite public outcry to pass legislation to improve rail safety nationwide, House Republican leadership has so far refused to even hold a hearing, let alone put forward legislation. Last week, House Democrats took matters into their own hands by holding a Rail Safety Roundtable featuring workers and local community leaders.

Peter Kennedy (SMART Mechanical) spoke at the roundtable on behalf of the shop craft unions, and echoed many of the concerns rail unions have been pushing: “everybody knows the story: rail safety has deteriorated under the Precision Scheduled Railroading (PSR) cost-cutting business model.” Mr. Kennedy further explained the cuts to service by prioritizing only the most-profitable freight, cutting rolling stock inspections and maintenance, and cutting rail workers that perform this vital work.

“With respect to the mechanical employees, 41% have been eliminated since PSR. What’s crazy is that the cuts are still happening: two weeks ago, BNSF announced 362 mechanical department furloughs. It’s absolutely asinine that they are furloughing people,” said Kennedy. “This is the second year in a row that BNSF has complained that they cannot perform minimum federally-required inspections that are centered around safety. They blamed it on winter weather or inadequate workforce [headcounts].”

TCU and the BRC Division endorse Mr. Kennedy’s comments, and join him and the other roundtable participants in calling for the House to push forward on rail safety legislation that would include provisions to bolster Qualified Mechanical Inspector designations and prevent railroads from imposing time limits on safety inspections. “We need to get these provisions cemented into law,” said BRC Division General President Don Grissom. “Carmen are the lynchpin of safety in the rail industry, and they need to be recognized and allowed to perform our jobs as intended.”

“I don’t trust [the railroads] either. I think we need meaningful legislation…The message to our Republican counterparts is clear: let’s move legislation, let’s give folks a chance to vote on it, and protect communities like mine,” said Rep. Chris DeLuzio (D, PA), whose district includes western Pennsylvania where much of the vinyl chloride fall out from the East Palestine disaster settled.