On Saturday, July 29, Green Locomotive Project volunteers in California brought the fight for green locomotives and green jobs to the entrance of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad (BNSF) rail yard.
With large banners denouncing “Scabtec” and proclaiming that “This business is aiding Wabtec and hurting our community,” the activists distributed leaflets explaining the struggle of striking UE Local 506 and 618 members in Erie. The 1400 members of the two locals have been on strike since June 22 demanding a fair contract and that Wabtec invest in making green locomotives in their plant. Wabtec operates a receiving facility in the Barstow yard.
Diesel locomotive engines release a toxic combination of exhaust, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, and particulate matter that pollute the air, poison the land, and contribute to the climate crisis. They also lead to worse lung and heart health, and to higher rates of cancer for people living near train yards. The Green Locomotive Project, led by UE’s locals in the Wabtec chain, is demanding that the railroads upgrade their fleets to modern, “Tier 4” locomotives which significantly reduce emissions, and transition to zero-emissions technology in rail yards like Barstow.
One of the leafleters, UE Local 1011 member Erik Lopez, said, “I’m here because I care about the communities. This is something that’s really important. I live in the [Inland Empire] and the air quality is horrible.”
“I’m out here in solidarity with the workers in Erie, Pennsylvania,” said volunteer Delmy Diaz. “I believe that what they’re fighting for, for these green engines and for green jobs, is such an important thing to stand for.”
“What we need in fights like this is solidarity, is people coming together for what’s right,” added Tony Hoang. “To protect each other, to protect your families, and, in this case, protect the environment at the same time.”
“I want to get more involved, and yeah I just want to make a difference,” concluded Lopez.