Labor unions say cleanup efforts following last month’s train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, have caused many workers to fall ill. Some have complained of constant headaches and nausea, according to a union representative for employees hired by Norfolk Southern Railway Company.
Many 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 [Norfolk Southern],” Jonathan Long, a union representative for the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees Division of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, wrote in a letter to Ohio Governor Mike DeWine.
Union representatives say Norfolk Southern was employing a “cost-cutting business model,” allegedly failing to provide workers with the appropriate personal protective equipment, including respirators, rubber overboots, and rubber gloves. In addition, Long said that when some of the 40 union workers asked questions regarding the safety of the equipment they were using “and the safety of their working conditions, they would receive little or no response from Norfolk Southern officials.”
Norfolk Southern representatives refuted the accusations in a recent statement.
“In East Palestine, 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,” Norfolk Southern representatives said in a statement, according to The Hill.
Union leaders had a meeting with Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg as well as Federal Railroad Administrator Amit Bose yesterday to discuss ongoing concerns about the derailment and subsequent cleanup of the hazardous chemicals that were released into the surrounding area as a result. Local residents were evacuated for several days following the accident, but some maintain that they have continued to suffer from symptoms such as rashes and burning sensations when breathing since their return.