A U.S. union official alerted the Biden administration to health problems caused by the Norfolk Southern derailment in February, saying that some workers have become sick.
In a letter obtained by CNBC, union representative Jonathon Long said Wednesday that rail workers have fallen ill at the East Palestine, Ohio, crash site.
“Many other Employees reported that they continue to experience migraines and nausea, days after the derailment, and they all suspect that they were willingly exposed to these chemicals at the direction of NS [Norfolk Southern],” the letter reads.
“This lack of concern for the Workers’ safety and well-being is, again, a basic tenet of NS’s cost-cutting business model,” the letter added.
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On Feb. 3, a freight train derailed in East Palestine, releasing hazardous materials. Nearby residents were evacuated while workers burned the chemicals in an attempt to dispose of them.
The letter recalls one situation where a worker was ignored by his supervisor after asking to be taken off the site due to concerns for his safety. Other workers, who asked for appropriate personal protective equipment, reportedly received little to no response from Norfolk Southern officials.
The letter concluded by calling upon Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg to “bring about necessary changes” to prevent any similar rail disasters from happening in the future.
The letter was sent the same day that the leaders of 12 railroad unions met with Buttigieg and Federal Railroad Administration administrator Amit Bose.
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“My hope is the stakeholders in this industry can work towards the same goals related to safety when transporting hazardous materials by rail,” Mike Baldwin, president of the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen, told CNBC.
“Today’s meeting is an opportunity for labor to share what our members are seeing and dealing with day to day. The railroaders labor represents are the employees who make it safe and they must have the tools to do so,” the union leader added.
Earlier on Wednesday, a bipartisan group of senators introduced the Railway Safety Act of 2023. The bill would introduce more regulations concerning the transportation of hazardous, flammable chemicals.
“Through this legislation, Congress has a real opportunity to ensure that what happened in East Palestine will never happen again,” Ohio Sen. JD Vance said in a statement. “We owe every American the peace of mind that their community is protected from a catastrophe of this kind.”
Norfolk Southern told Fox News Digital that it immediately coordinated with hazardous material professionals to monitor and improve the quality of the air.
“Norfolk Southern was on-scene immediately after the derailment and coordinated our response with hazardous material professionals who were on site continuously to ensure the work area was safe to enter and the required PPE was utilized, all in addition to air monitoring that was established within an hour,” a spokesperson told Fox News Digital.
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