Eastern Region President Denounces Effects of Train Derailment on Working People in Ohio

March 26, 2024

Last Saturday, UE Eastern Region President George Waksmunski traveled to East Palestine, Ohio to hear from residents affected by the February, 2023 train derailment and toxic chemical spill. They told their stories to a group of about 80 union leaders, environmental activists, and concerned community members, some of whom had come from as far away as Iowa, Texas and California.

“Look at East Palestine and you see the effects of capitalism and greed and profit and devastation in its wake,” Waksmunski said, after hearing the testimony.

As Steve Mellon reported in the Pittsburgh Union Progress, the effects suffered by residents include chemical burns, lesions, and cysts on internal organs. One woman, with medical bills of half a million dollars, testified, “I’m losing everything. I’m losing my home; I lost my relationship; I’m a foster parent. I lost my kids.”

“We need to have medical monitoring and medical care for now and in the future, for ourselves, our children and their children,” said Christina Siceloff of South Beaver, which was affected by the burn-off of vinyl chloride several days after the derailment. “Our doctors still don’t know what to tell us. Studies have not been done on humans, at least for multiple chemical exposure. A year later, we still don’t know what was or still remains in our environment and in our homes that could be affecting us, because the science just isn’t there yet.”

East Palestine resident Daren Gamble told the group, “We have air monitors all over our house, I mean four or five at every level, and most nights they’re bright red. Whatever was there is still there; it’s not going anywhere.”

Waksmunski linked the suffering of the people in East Palestine to the suffering of the working class around the country:

You can see it in every city, state and small town, the homeless, the drug addicted, the poverty stricken. This is America, and this is unchecked capitalism. The only way we change this, or at least have any check on it, is when workers unite and stop letting ourselves be divided by race, color, creed, sexual orientation or age.

Four UE members with raised fists
Left to right: Al Hart, Tony Hall, Heather Hillenbrand and George Waksmunski.

Waksmunski was joined by Local 690 President Tony Hall, retired UE NEWS Editor and Local 506 member Al Hart, and Field Organizer Heather Hillenbrand. The event was organized by the newly-formed coalition Justice for East Palestine Residents and Workers, which plans to travel to Washington, DC on October 8 to demand that the federal government provide for the health care needs of those affected by the derailment.


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