In this extended episode, you will hear a compilation of speakers from the March 23 conference in East Palestine. Speakers include: Lauri Harmon, East Palestine resident; Chris Albright, East Palestine resident; Jami Rae Wallace, East Palestine resident, president of East Palestine Unity Council; Christina Siceloff, East Palestine resident; Rob Two-Hawks, East Palestine resident; Daren Gamble, East Palestine resident; John Palmer, longtime organizer and officer with the Teamsters, but not speaking on behalf of the Teamsters; Andrew Sandberg, International Association of Machinists IAM; George Waksmunski, United Electrical Workers UE; Chris Silvera, Teamsters Local 808 executive secretary; Steve Mellon, journalist for the Pittsburgh Union Progress, on strike at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for 18 months; Vina Colley, Portsmouth-Piketon Residents for Environmental Safety & Security; Steve Zeltzer, WorkWeek; David Pfister, Food & Water Watch; Nicole Fabricant, activist, academic, and author of Fighting to Breathe: Race, Toxicity, and the Rise of Youth Activism in Baltimore; Hilary Flint, Clean Air Action; Penny Logsdon, Lee County, Iowa, Labor Chapter; Jeff Kurtz, Lee County, Iowa, Labor Chapter; Carrie Duncan, Lee County, Iowa, Labor Chapter; Maximillian Alvarez, The Real News Network; Mike Stout, musician.

Permanent links below…

Featured Music…

  • Jules Taylor, “Working People” Theme Song
  • Jules Taylor, “TVLR Theme Song / Florence Reece Remix”

Studio Production: Maximillian Alvarez
Post-Production: Jules Taylor


The following is a rushed transcript and may contain errors. A proofread version will be made available as soon as possible.

Maximillian Alvarez:

All right. Welcome everyone to another episode of Working People, a podcast about the lives, jobs, dreams, and struggles of the working class today. Brought to you in partnership within these Times Magazine and the Real News Network produced by Jules Taylor and made possible by the support of listeners like You Working People is a proud member of the Labor Radio Podcast network. If you’re hungry for more worker and labor focus shows like ours, follow the link in the show notes and go check out the other great shows in our network and please support the work that we are doing here at Working People because we can’t keep going without you guys. Share our episodes with your coworkers, your friends, your family members. Leave positive reviews of the show on Spotify and Apple Podcasts and become a paid monthly subscriber on Patreon for just five bucks a month.

If you want to unlock all the great bonus episodes that we publish there for our patrons, and please support the work that we do at The Real News Network by going to the real Especially if you want to see more reporting from the front lines of struggle around the US and across the world, your support really makes a difference. My name is Maximilian Alvarez and once again, I just want to apologize to our listeners for the recent disruption in our publishing schedule. Like I said on the last episode, I’ve been running around like a headless chicken the past couple weeks filming in East Palestine, covering the Keybridge collapse here in Baltimore, racing to get our mini documentaries from East Palestine ready to publish at the Real News, dealing with heavy family issues, racing to get all my work shit and essential tasks done before heading out to Chicago for the Labor Notes Conference and the Railroad Workers United Convention this week.

And yes to everyone who has been texting and DM-ing me, I am going to be in Chicago this week for both events and it’s going to kick ass. So I’m both really excited but also already very tired and stressed. I still got to pack and all that good stuff, but I cannot wait to be gathered with everyone there and to talk about where we go as a labor movement, and I won’t be alone. I will be there in Chicago and I will be bringing my podcasting equipment with me, and I will also be bringing a posse with me. I’ll have my real news colleague, Mel er. She and I are going to be there. Chris Albright from East Palestine’s going to be there and filmmaker Mike Benik, who’s been my collaboration partner on these East Palestine mini documentaries. So yeah, come say hi to us.

Come talk to me and Mel about stories, labor notes, baby, it’s going to kick ass. I’m excited to see everybody. And speaking of kicking ass, as you guys have heard me talk about already, I am just beyond overwhelmed and heartened and inspired by another gathering that I recently got to attend in East Palestine itself, a gathering that we helped make happen along with so many other amazing organizers and helpers who were part of the newly formed Justice for East Palestine Residents and Workers Coalition. One member of that coalition is Steve Mellon, a journalist who’s been on strike at the Pittsburgh Post Gazette for 18 months, and yet still during that time has done some of the best and most consistent coverage on East Palestine out of anyone in the country. And as Steve recently wrote in the Pittsburgh Union Progress, which by the way is the newspaper run by striking post Gazette workers, which everyone should support.

Lori Harmon stepped from the crowd, gathered in a community hall at the East Palestine Country Club around two 30 on Saturday afternoon and told her story to a hushed crowd of about 80 people. Many had traveled from as far as California and Texas to hear stories like hers and to offer their support. Lori 48, a retired registered nurse lives three blocks from the site of the February 3rd, 2023 toxic train derailment that many residents believe poisoned the town. On the 12th, I started getting rashes. She said her tone. Matter of fact, on May 1st about the time they started digging up a pit and cleaning up, I started getting second, third, and fourth degree chemical burns. I had burns over 80% of my body. She scheduled for heart surgery at Cleveland Clinic. She’s seeing seven doctors. Her medical bills total $500,000. She’s on Medicare and says she’ll have to pay 20% of that to avoid the rashes.

She quit going outside in September. I’m losing everything. I’m losing my home. I lost my relationship. I’m a foster parent. I lost my kids. This is more than one person can take Lori’s story and the stories of other East Palestine residents in attendance moved the crowd, which included organizers and members from a number of unions as well as several environmental activists, academics, and some people who simply wanted to offer help to a community. In crisis hours later, after a number of panel discussions and the performance of a song written about the East Palestine disaster by musician Mike Stout, they voted to take action. The newly formed coalition dubbed Justice for East Palestine Residents and Workers determined they will travel to Washington DC on October 8th to further their demand that the federal government step in and make sure those affected by the derailment are provided fully funded healthcare.

They plan to involve union members, including those who represent workers at railroad companies as well as environmentalists and members of other communities damaged by chemical contamination. And that demand for Biden to issue a disaster declaration for East Palestine and to use federal powers to get these residents immediate government funded healthcare is essential even with last week’s news that Norfolk Southern has agreed to pay out $600 million in a class action settlement. Now we’re going to talk about that settlement in more depth in the coming weeks, but as Josh Funk writes at the Associated Press quote, Norfolk Southern has agreed to pay $600 million in a class action lawsuit settlement for a fiery February, 2023 train derailment in Ohio. But residents worry, the money not only won’t go far enough to cover future health needs that could be tremendous, but also won’t amount to much once divvied up. It’s not nowhere near my needs, let alone what the health effects are going to be for five or 10 years down the road.

Said Eric Kza, who lived just three blocks from the derailment and had 47 family members living within a mile, Norfolk Southern said The agreement if approved by the court, will resolve all class action claims within a 20 mile radius of the derailment. And for residents who choose to participate personal injury claims within a 10 mile radius of the derailment, the settlement which doesn’t include or constitute any admission of liability wrongdoing or fault represents only a small slice of the $3 billion in revenue. Norfolk Southern generated just in the first three months of this year. The railroad said that even after the settlement, it still made a $213 million profit in that quarter. So like I said, we got a lot more to talk about regarding that settlement. But for right now, for today in this extended episode, I want to take y’all back to the conference that we held in East Palestine and you’re going to hear a compilation of speakers from that conference, and these recordings have been provided by the great Steve ER and the Labor Video Project.

Shout out to Steve, who is on the Justice for East Palestine Residents and Workers Organizing Committee, and was also integral to making this whole conference happen. Now, the speakers in this compilation include East Palestine residents themselves, union workers and union representatives, representatives and members from environmental groups and community organizations and more and beyond the speakers themselves. What you can’t hear is the fact that they were speaking to a room full of concern, citizens living near other rail lines or near other sites of industrial pollution, people from other sacrifice zones, delegations of folks from Baltimore, California, West Virginia, Iowa, and more people from all across the political spectrum. I mean, it was really something to witness you guys, and as best we can, we want to try to take you there with us with today’s episode, and even though the compilation in today’s episode only represents a portion of all that was said and discussed at this conference, it still is a longer episode and my introduction’s already gone long enough.

So I want to wrap things up and we’ll get right to the good stuff. But I just wanted to say by way of rounding out, I know that we’ve got a lot of work to do, but I saw firsthand in East Palestine last month the spark of the working class fightback that we need this coalition of capitalism’s, forgotten and abandoned communities just coming together and meeting each other, not as Trump or Biden voters or Democrats or Republicans or anything like that, but as fellow human beings and fellow workers all banding together to fight as one, to stop the corporate destruction of everything before it’s all too late. And I know that we are up against truly monstrously powerful forces, and those forces are currently doing incalculable damage us, our people, and our planet right now. But I also saw firsthand in East Palestine that the working class will not go quietly into this deregulated dystopia and that people are ready to fight back and that out of disaster and devastation when people find each other on that bare human terrain of the common struggle for life, family, health, justice, fairness, and just not being poisoned.

Then so many of the things that seemingly divide us today start to just melt away. So please don’t stop talking about East Palestine. Don’t stop fighting for each other and fighting for what’s right. Join us.

Lauri Harmon:

Hey, thank you for being here. I’m a retired rn, so I was in the Ohio Nurses Association Union. I live about three blocks from the train derailment. We were evacuated. Came back on about the 10th when they said it was all clear. On the 12th, I had a doctor’s appointment already scheduled. I started getting rashes. So fast forward, I don’t want to take up your time, but fast forward because I can talk for hours May 1st. This is about the time where they started digging up the pits, cleaning up. I started getting second, third, and fourth degree chemical burns. I have the burns. Over 80% of my body, they burrow deep down in it’s horrible. So of course, going to doctors trying to get figured out, nobody knows. No one can tell me. I was diagnosed with systemic contact dermatitis due to chemical exposure. I have now lesions in my spine. I have cysts on my kidneys. I have kidney stones in my kidneys. March 4th, I had a heart attack, had a septal infarc and there’s really nothing you could do. I probably should have killed me. I went into the hospital on the fourth with full body. My whole body was swollen,

So I was passing kidney stones. I figured that’s probably what the problem was. On the fifth, they treated me on the fourth, let me go home, took a bunch of labs on the fifth that night, didn’t feel good, knew something was going on. On the 6th of March, I got a phone call from the ER telling me to get back in here. We got problems. So I went back in and they explained to me what was going on. I have a blood infection now. I’m scheduled to have surgery, heart surgery on the fifth. There’s only one doctor that can do this type of surgery in the us so he’s flying into Cleveland Clinic to do this. I guess what I’m saying is I’ve had EPA at my house testing for my soil. They said it was contaminated with formaldehyde, but don’t worry, it’s just low levels. I have scarred on top of scar, on top of scar, on top of scar. The mental part has damaged me. I am not the only one in this town that has problems, and I know this, but there isn’t anybody out there that’s really medical wise what my doctors do, and I have seven of them. What they do is they roll things out.

I have the whole neurological community doing research on me. They can’t figure it out. I probably shouldn’t say this, but my one doctor called me and said, well, between me and you, I can’t really tell you that. I can’t put it in your medical chart. He says, but I can take the stand and say it was 100% due to chemical exposure. So I’m trying to get awareness out there. The last burn that I received was on September 27th, and that’s because I quit going outside. I still get rashes, not to the extent where it burrows down into my bones. Doctor dermatologist helped me put cream on it. That made it worse. So I had to become my own researcher, had to become my own scientist. I had to become everything that I’m not to figure out how to stop this, and what I’ve discovered was bleach. Bleach is the only thing that would stop these chemical burns from getting worse. It neutralized them. So it’s been a very tough road for everybody here in town. It’s been a tough road for everyone here in the us. I got a letter from Norfolk Southern saying, well, we know something happened to you, but

National transport, somebody needed to know all my medical information, so we need you to put your medical information on a disc and send it to us. I went down in Norfolk Southern, I have $500,000 of medical bills. I’m on Medicare. I have to pay 20% of that. They abused me. They mentally, emotionally. One guy told me that I will never see a check from them. I went down with a $12 bill asking $12 bill. They looked at my diagnosis, gave me the papers back and told me not to come back. I’m losing everything. I’m losing my home. I lost my relationship. I’m a foster parent. I lost my kids. This is more than then one person can take the, I just even know what to say. I want to thank you guys for coming here. This was like I wasn’t even going to come. I feel sometimes I’m defeated, but I can’t feel that way if I don’t talk. No one’s going to know. No one’s going to know, but I thank you very much and when we come together, there’s more things that get done. Because me doing this as one person, it is exhausting. Exhausting. Thank you.

Chris Albright:

I’m going to try to be brief. We got a lot of people want to speak and everything, but it was a catastrophe that happened that changed our lives and we’re never going to get back to normal. And we’ve had a lot of different circumstances that have happened to us that are completely out of our control. We didn’t want that train to Rome. We didn’t ask for that training, enrollment, and we cannot do anything about that right now without the help of everybody here and everybody across the country. It’s going to take all of us to get past this, to really let people know what happened and what we can do about it. Since the derailment happened, I was a gas pipeline worker. I developed congestive heart failure, which ended up spiraling into severe heart failure. I’ve been unable to work since April of last year. I’m unable to provide for my family. I have three girls. I’ve lost my health benefits in that time because I wasn’t working. I can’t afford my medications right now because of this, because of something that could have been prevented by the railroad, by Norfolk Southern. It could have been and should have been prevented. It should have never happened.

And one of the biggest takeaways about this is what happened here can happen to anybody out there. They have done nothing to fix the safety issues, the maintenance problems, anything like that. This can happen at anybody’s place, anywhere in this country right now. They won’t do anything about it until they hear from us. Once they hear from us and we start letting ’em know that we’re done. We’re not taking this anymore. We got to stand up. We got to unite. We got to get together, and we got to make this right, and we got to let them know that this is unacceptable. You are changing people’s lives for the worst and we can’t do it anymore, guys. We have to do better on this. So again, I really want to thank everybody here. It’s amazing. We still have the bus missing, like Steve said. So this whole process has been a whole bunch of speed bumps on the way here. The bus is just another one of those, but they’ll get here and we’ll be able to hear from some of those people. But I really, really truly want to thank everybody for being here. You guys, it means everything to us here, and I can’t thank you guys enough. So

Speaker 5:

Thank you.

Jami Rae Wallace:

I first just want to thank everybody for being here. Exactly what Chris said. You guys don’t know what this means to our community. We have felt completely abandoned here in East Palestine by so many people, including our government. Sometimes you start to think nobody cares. I refuse to believe that people would not care if they truly knew what was going on here. When you see little kids with unexplained nosebleeds, when you see little kids covered in rashes, asthma, I don’t believe that anybody could turn a blind eye to that. So we need to bring awareness. So thank you guys. My name is Jamie Wallace. I lived within the one mile zone. I have 47 immediate family members that live within that one mile zone. When Norfolk Southern and our government was going to lift the evacuation on East Palestine, my husband and I kind of had a little argument.

He said, what are we going to do when they lift the evacuation? I said, we’re going to go home if the EPA says it’s okay, it’s okay. I’m an educated woman to advanced degrees. I learned in school what the EPA does. They protect us. Well, I had to go home that Sunday to get prescriptions. If you ever get evacuated, make sure you grab your prescriptions. And as soon as I pulled in the driveway, sulfur run runs along my driveway, the most heavily contaminated creek. I pull in my driveway overtaken by a smell, a smell that I can’t even describe. I started coughing. My lungs were burning. My nose started to tingle. My mouth was tingling. I look over at the creek and I can just see chemicals free flowing down the creek. I didn’t need a scientist to tell me that things were not okay at my house.

My body told me enough, we threw a big enough fit. We got Norfolk Southern to bring down CTEH. Their testing company, the creek has two embankments on each side, so it goes from about four inches to four feet, a good rain. Again, you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to figure out when that water rises, it’s going into that soil. And my basement was about seven paces from that. He saw a small strip of moisture coming down my wall where the basement leaks. He said that that could puddle an off gas. The next day, Norfolk Southern called and offered to move us out. Just tell us what you need and we’ll replace everything. And I said, wait a minute. Let me think about what dollar amount do you put on your life. I couldn’t take pictures of my dad that just passed away two years ago.

What is that worth? And then I started thinking about all the other people in the community, all my family members, every person that I’ve ever grown up with, loved about, cared about. I knew there was no, they were just wrong about my house. The one big mouth redhead that’s stubborn. They weren’t just wrong about my house. So I told the whole community what happened that night. Not one single official ever called me back to see that video. At the very least. If you think I’m lying, watch the video so you can laugh and make fun of whatever I made up. No one has contacted me since then. I founded the Unity Council where we pulled together community members. You’re going to hear from a couple more of them here in a minute because I realized this fight was bigger than me. My union connection. I worked at Cleveland State for 15 years.

I was the executive board member, SEIU 1199, where’s my SEIU? And somebody asked me, did you have organizing experience before this? And I said, no. And they said, well, it’s funny you organize Unity Council, like a union. I was an organizer. I had five delegates when I took over as executive board member at SEIU, at CSU chapter. By the time I left, I had 34 delegates. So what I did is I divided them into executive committees. I got a couple people that worked in the nursing school to sit on a healthcare committee. A couple other people from the law school set on the grievance committee. So we had a unity council meeting once every couple months with all five union heads so that we could discuss those issues that overlapped. So in this East Palestine incident, I realized we are all fighting the same war, different battles.

So we now have an executive committee that’s just for union coordination and we have a lead. Darren at the end, he’ll tell you about that. We have Christina who heads up our media. She’s also a creek ranger, so she goes into the creeks. We have a political committee. We have a committee for human health issues. So we’ve all come together as a community because what we’ve realized, no one else is going to fight this fight for us. And this isn’t just a fight for East Palestine. This is a fight for all of the laborers across the country. We built this country with our blood, sweat and tears. Our ancestors built this country and now our country is in the hands of these corporations that have created a country that I don’t want to live in. I never thought pre derailment that I’d be a US citizen sitting here right now telling you that my mother is so sick that she has an unexplained huge open sore on her forehead that the dermatologist has never seen.

I’m here to tell you, my 18-year-old niece just turned 18 in October, just spent five days in the hospital. She started having unexplained seizures. My brother who’s here today, he has to have an MRI on the nodules on his lungs and a liver biopsy. My twin nieces that are 13 that had exposure, chemical, bronchitis, people are suffering. I just got a text message when I was standing outside from someone who said, Hey, my friend just came down with a really rare form of cancer. He spent a lot of time at our buddy’s house at ground zero. What should I do? I told him to join the study and to make a short video clip for a story that we’re doing for a national news station. People were calling me, asking me, where do I find water? Where do I find food? My child has blood coming out of its ears.

Where do I take them? I’m just like you guys, I’m just an everyday person. I’m a house mother. I’m fighting for my child. When I say I’ll fight to the death of my child, I’ll fight the government, but I can’t do it alone. East Palestine can’t do it alone. And this impacts every single one of you. They come into these communities, these corporate polluters, who do they hire? Who were the guys that went in and tore out asbestos with no PPE? The railroad workers. They got sick and we had to call into osha. My 31-year-old niece’s husband just died of liver cancer at 31. When I read his obituary, he’s worked at a plastic company since he’s been 18. This is not just East Palestine’s issue. It’s an issue all over the country. And like Chris said, the Chris Albright said, this could happen anywhere.

Think about your proximity to a railroad track. One of our Unity council members is from Cleveland. She was watching an interview with one of us, with our kid. She’s sitting there with her 4-year-old daughter listening to a train go by. So please open your eyes to the dangers around you. Realize that we are the only ones. We let this country get so far gone. We are the only ones that are going to be able to take this country back and we need national action. But I thank you guys for being here. We appreciate the support more than any of you guys could imagine in solidarity.

Christina Siceloff:

So I wanted to talk a little bit about what my symptoms have been over last year and because a lot of the people in our area, and it’s not just East Palestine, but all over our area here, I’ve talked to a lot of people and they’re having the same issues as I’m having. So, oh, my name is Christina Selo and where you’re from and we’ll get there. Okay, so I’ve had pressure in my ears. Itchy skin, migraines, headaches, brain fog, dizziness, confusion, tiredness, low grade fever, congestion, runny nose burning in my nose, eyes and throat. Strange smells, strange tastes, polyps in my nose, pain around my eyes, itchy eyes, extra mucus sore and blistered. Throat hoarseness, a feeling in my esophagus and lungs, throat, nose, and abdomen like someone was burning me with acid and lighting me on fire from the inside. Coughing, sore lungs, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea sometimes at the same time.

Body aches, excessive thirst. Loss of appetite at times. Stomach pain, abnormal menstruation, cramping and tingling in my feet. Twitches, tremors, anxiety and panic attacks. These are most of the symptoms I can recall. I’ve had these since the train derailment and the vent and burn that happened last year. Since then, I’ve been diagnosed with an ear infection, an upper respiratory infection, exposure to toxins that were non-occupational and even had one doctor tell me they didn’t know what to do for us yet, including for my 4-year-old son. I’ve had blood tests and urine tests only to be told everything was fine. In January, I was diagnosed with PTSD. One of the most recent doctor visits was to have a screening done for cancer that came back as benign, but they wanted to continue monitoring every three months, but the insurance won’t pay for that. So we go to every six months I’d been put on antibiotics and a steroid and nasal spray.

At the beginning that didn’t do much. Now I’m on two inhalers, allergy medicine and two anxiety medications. Prior to the derailment and vent burn, I had not been to the doctor since I had my son in 2019. And prior to that, I had not been to my doctor since 2016. I barely would take headache medicines even for a migraine, and I was not a immune compromised person and hardly ever got the flu. I go through symptoms and talk about my prior record for going to the doctor because I wanted people to see the differences between then and now. I’m a resident of South Beaver Township. I live six miles from where the train derailed. Not many people talk about their symptoms after the derailment where I live, but our neighbors are farther spread apart too. We did talk to neighbors after their derailment only to find that they too had had similar symptoms and some have a bit different lasting for different periods of time.

Some do not speak out. Some are afraid to speak out and some simply don’t just have the time to. We need to have medical monitoring and medical care for now and in the future for ourselves and our children and at least their children. Our doctors still don’t know what to tell us. Studies have not been done on humans, at least for multiple chemical exposure and even less on that exposure and low ranges 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. Monitoring and screening instruments cannot detect low enough levels of some of the chemicals we have been exposed to, and we still don’t know if there are any new chemicals that we don’t know about that were created to know those effects on human beings.

We had been told last year by the CDC that we were all exposed, but even though even they don’t know what to do about what is or could be in our body but know how to treat the cancers that it could cause later, this to me is not acceptable. Even if they could treat this cancer, that’s more chemicals that we should have never had to be exposed to. And some people don’t respond to treatments. Some people don’t survive the treatments. And why do we have to wait for answers until it could be too late? Many people in our communities do not have health insurance and don’t have money to pay for prescriptions they need now for their symptoms that they experience now they surely don’t have money for cancer. There may be some who do have insurance, but they may still not have the extra money to pay for what insurance doesn’t cover.

Many have lost their jobs since the derailment because of their symptoms and cannot afford medical care even if they do have insurance that would pay for anything you need. Why should your insurance company have to pay for a bill for the negligence done by Norfolk Southern that caused our illnesses? The government should not be let off the hook either. They had the funding to do more research on the chemicals before they even put them on the tracks. They had the power to not lift the evacuation. And some of us were never even told to leave or to stay inside. There should have been more done to protect people. And even to this day, they have done next to nothing to make changes or even monitor the changes that were made. Norfolk Southern has not kept their promise to the whole community to make it right.

You cannot put a price on human life. What you can do to start to make things right is to make sure that this does not happen to another community. By implementing better safety measures, regardless of how much they cost you, you can set up programs to help people with their medical needs now and in the future instead of acting as though there is nothing wrong here, when clearly there is, you can start telling the truth. We did not ask for this disaster to happen. What would they want for their loved ones if this had happened to them? Again, we didn’t ask for this to happen to us.

Rob Two-Hawks:

My name is Rob Hawks. It’s not my family name, but that is my Native American acquired name from going through Allen back to get It, which I did years ago to deal with my own complex BTSD, which I suffered from decades. So we went through many wars, it was never in the military, but that has triggered a little bit of all that. You think you’re done and you think you’ve finished it all and another trauma comes down the highway. And this whole community knowingly or not is there whether they’re having health symptoms or not, they’re there, but time will tell.

About two or three weeks ago, I came home from the East Palestine clinic and I think I’ve been there maybe six or seven visits now. Looked like a good thing and I still think it has some value, although it’s not really been that helpful. We’ve not been able to get the toxicity testing we’ve needed and they’ve had to farm people out to specialists that didn’t know what to do either. But that’s part of the story here later. And all those six or seven visits, I only saw one other person sitting in the lobby and that was disheartening. And at the same time I thought, what the hell is going on here? And so a lot of people didn’t avail themselves of the services because they had kind of caught wind that they weren’t going to get the testing they needed and so on and so forth.

But anyhow, about a month ago I walked out of there smiling because I finally got something that I wanted. I got a do not resuscitate sticker to put on my refrigerator, and that was quite satisfying because I’ve been through enough and I’m not going there. I’ve been there for years and years. I have a number of really weird health issues. I have an incredibly rare form of heart failure. It’s very advanced. So I appreciate our friend here and what he’s dealing with. Mine’s quite well developed. Far along it is mitochondrial or metabolic rather than vascular, which means the problem is in the tissue of the heart itself. That’s going to mean something to everybody here that’s exposed because toxins impact mitochondria. And depending upon your genetic profile and where you sat geographically and your past history and your present health, it can shoot off in a bunch of different ways.

But you’re going to have to learn a little more about metabolic and mitochondrial medicine. I like to say a couple things about that because I’ve been here for maybe 15 years, traveling down, having to be my own armchair physician because nobody could handle my situation 15 years ago. And a lot of people are going to be traveling a very similar road here. So it helps to know, while I couldn’t diagnose or get official about all the unique individual symptoms, a lot of you’re going to travel down similar roads, but I’ve traveled down. Hopefully I can save you a few steps and in the next few years on the upside, while most of our allopathic, conventional physicians and even specialists are not quite prepared to deal with chronic illnesses, period, let alone environmental illnesses as per NASA a month or so ago said that all of the doctors in a row, including the er, including the specialists, are not trained in environmental medicine.

The good news is we have something called the Mitochondrial Medical Center at one of the finest universities in the state of Ohio. What university, excuse me, hospital, Cleveland Clinic. And we also have what is called integrative, the very first functional medical center in the United States. There are others now. It’s also the same wonderful hospital. So this is the future. You can learn a lot yourself. There’s plenty online. It’s the future and it’s coming to meet us as a rule. Whatever trickles down from the halls of academic medical knowledge and laboratories takes a decade or more even if they have the cure today, that is all hastening right now and that’s in our favor. And so we’re going to need to get a grip on that because we’re not going to treat, again, I’m not saying everybody that has been exposed and everybody that’s symptomatic is going to have this symptom or that illness or that chronic disease. No way in knowing that some people will have mild forms, some people will have the already existing health and no preexisting conditions, and they’re going to come through this without something else going on. Some people aren’t. So we’re going to need to look at that.

What else can I say about that? You have any idea? No, that’s good. Is that good? I’d like to make an analogy here though. It’s a real simple one. What we do, this is a good analogy and I’ve used it a few times here. We have a fish in aquarium. A lot of people here I’m sure have fish tanks. At any rate, what our present model does is it treats the fish and it doesn’t adjust the pH or clean the aquarium. And that’s exactly where we’re sitting with toxic disasters and illnesses. So that tells you basically what you got to do. You got to treat fish, and that means detoxification is going to be incredibly important in building immunity. And that is the future of healthcare related to the people in East Palestine and the surrounding area. So

Daren Gamble:

My name’s Darren Gamble and I’m from East Palestine. I live about a half a mile from the derailment. And in the house that I’ve lived six generations of my family’s lived in, I’ve lived in for 60 years. And just recently this last week, we’ve made the realization that we’re going to have to sell our home and move. I mean, when the derailment happened, we did relocate for 10 months while they was digging up the contaminated soil and things were really bad in town. So after it was all cleaned up again, we get the okay to go home. And in a matter of days after returning home, my wife was extremely sick again. And it’s just we have enough air monitors our house to probably clean the Cleveland Clinic. I mean like four or five on every level and most every night they’re all bright red. So there is still there. It’s not going anywhere. But I come down here today because I’m a retired member from bricklayers Local eight in Youngstown, Ohio, 35 years service. And for all the union brothers and sisters are here for solidarity for us.

I mean to the point now that we’ve been screaming this to anybody will listen for every year, and the sad part of it is that nobody will do anything. Nobody will help us. It’s just like we’re forgotten. And to me, it’s unbelievable. It is criminal. There’s no doubt in my mind that what’s going on here is criminal. And to me, I say it’s kind of like covid. Never know the whole story, just what we’re told. And I don’t know how, obviously steps like this are very important to get this ball rolling, to bring awareness not only to us, but the other thousands of communities in the country that are being poisoned. It is just so eye opening. Like I said, I’ve lived here my whole life before this happened. There was no such thing as environmentalist to me. I mean that all happened somewhere else. These things happen somewhere else like mass shootings, what have you. But this time it did happen to us. And the consequences that it’s causing is just mind blowing. And the fact that nobody will help us is even more just unbelievable. So I appreciate especially all the union people are here today trying to stand in solid area with us and appreciate guys all for coming and God willing in the creek toe rise. We’re going to get through this, but I don’t know how. Thanks a lot.

John Palmer:

Thank you everybody. I’m John Palmer. I live in just north of San Antonio in Texas, lifelong teamster. When I brought this up at our executive board, I was told that I could come here as an individual, but I can’t represent the Teamsters Union. So that brings me to sort of the theme of what I’d like to say. When I got here, Chris mentioned

The roadblocks, speed bumps and obstacles that he encountered trying to put the meeting together. And we’ve all done this. When we try to do something, there’s always something that comes up unexpected. I think the thing that I’m most driven about now is that, and optimistic and also disappointed in is that I think we’ve all grown up. I’m 65 years old to believe that institutions were set in place to save us or protect us from the ills that affect us all. I spent most of my life very close to a train track on the east side of San Antonio. So this could be me, this could have been my kids, this could have been anybody. But we have to understand that the corporate dominance in this country now has removed all those protections and that as a country, as a people, this isn’t about union. We’re all working men and women, we’re all middle class. The only way we’re going to save our country frankly, is not by electing somebody, but it is by standing together. And

We’ve got to push back collectively the powers that be have to Harris. And I think I am excited that all these people, I came here not on behalf of the Teamsters, but I came here because I’m a human being and I care about people. And at the end of the day, we have to force those institutions to do the right thing. And I think lifelong bleed union. But I think we need to push our unions and I think that’s where we start. And anyway, I’m just touched and my heart bleeds. It’s easy to speak these words when you’re not affected. I’m losing my mother right now. She’s in hospice, Parkinson’s, but God blessed her with a full life. And I pain for you guys when I hear the stories and I know that I just heard a few of them. So I’ll do everything I can to help you as a group. Thank you.

Andrew Sandberg:

Hello everyone. My name is Andrew Sandberg. I’m the president of the IAM Machinist Union that represents machinists on the railroads across the United States. We represent the mechanics that work on the locomotives. We have been actively telling Congress and everybody that would listen that something like this was going to happen. And we are here to stand in solidarity with the people of East Palestine and the other labor unions to see what we could do to help. Thank you.

Speaker 12:

Can you talk about what’s happened?

Andrew Sandberg:

So you would think it has gotten as bad as it could be, but after having derailments similar to this, sometimes twice a week, the railroads still think that they should cut workers away from the work that they do to prevent things like this from happening. It’s not just, but we work in the shops. We work on the trains and parts of trains. We work on locomotives, but our brothers work on the tracks. And you could see that there have been track failures that have been causing derailments and deaths. Really, this is the worst thing that has happened in the United States in a very long time. What happened here, and again, we’ve tried and tried and tried to caution over this, but my brother had said that the corporate greed is really what has taken over here. They cannot make enough money. So they’re starting to, in the last five years, they’ve probably furloughed about two to 3000 of just machinists that work on the railroads across the class one railroads, Norfolk Southern C-S-X-B-N-S-F, and the up.

And it never seems to be enough. They just keep cutting and cutting away from their maintenance that they used to do. And like I said, this is a result. Things of what happened here are the result of the lack of maintenance that the railroads refuse to do. They refuse to do the required maintenance and therefore this is what we end up with. Not only that, but they would rather assign workers that aren’t trained to do the work of inspecting locomotives and they’d rather have them look at locomotives so that they can miss what we call FRA defects. And we’ve made a mountain of information to give to the FRA and explain to the F-R-A-F-R-A is the Federal Railroad Administration. They’re a part of the Department of Transportation. Nothing has really changed. You can see we put together some signs. The Rail Safety Act is something that we believe can help with this situation of putting trains that are going to explode eventually on the tracks and prevent them from being used and make sure that they are being repaired beforehand. Thank you.

George Waksmunski:

Good afternoon. Let me first say I’m honored to be here and humble to be here. It’s a devastating and heartbreaking to listen to the stories of the local community members. My name is George Waksmunski. I’m the president of the United Electrical Radio Machine Workers of America, the eastern region, I should say National president ain’t going to like that. I cover 14 states from North Carolina, West Virginia, and pretty much everything up through New England. My hometown is Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Born and raised there. A little bit about my union, the ue, it’s a member run union. We’re formed in 1936. Our constitution says that nobody on staff can make any more money than the highest paid worker we represent. We’re pretty proud of that.

I’ve been on staff for about 30 some years. I got some pretty soft hands, but I’m not afraid to work. I just put a roof on and I remembered what a callous is, so I’m suffering. But we represent workers in the rail industry or rail related industry. Our members work at companies primarily called Halcon, and these are van drivers who transport the railroad workers from the train to the hotel or from the train back to their, these folks suffer a lot of illnesses due to the pollution in the air that they have to breathe by being around locomotives. We also represent WebTech workers up in Erie, Pennsylvania where they make the locomotives on behalf of tens of thousands of Youi members across this country. We oppose our tax dollars going for war, greed, profit, and we support tax dollars going to the working class for healthcare, education, environment, retirement, et cetera.

We believe in rank and file militant, aggressive struggle. And when this is brought to my attention a few weeks ago, and I’m very grateful that it was brought to my attention, I took a resolution that’s being proposed to support the residents of East Palestine and the workers around the community to my eastern region. And we unanimously endorsed that resolution and endorsed your struggle here. My father was a railroad worker. He worked out a railroad Conway Yard. He worked for Pennsylvania Railroad, Penn Central Amtrak, and maybe a couple others, I don’t know. But back then as a child, I remember him getting the phone call. He had to go to work. He lived by that phone. He couldn’t leave the phone because if you missed that call, you lost out on a day’s pay. You didn’t know when that call was going to come back. It might be a couple of days.

Anyhow, I remember him getting those calls and being called for being an engineer on the train or a fireman or a brakeman or a conductor or a guy in a caboose. And I don’t know what they call that guy, but I don’t even know if anybody knows what a caboose is anymore because again, they’re down to two people on a train. I recently read the financial report for ns, and they refer to this tragedy, this devastation as an incident, the Eastern Ohio incident, and how they had to pay out so much money for this and it offset their profits for that. And billions of dollars in profit they made. And they refer to it as an incident that this is all you are to them is an incident. And that this is all we are as human beings. It’s just an incident. Basically roadkill on the train to profit and greed.

There’s a song out there and I, I’m a Bruce Springsteen freak, so sorry about that. But it’s called Death to My Hometown. And as I was preparing for today, I listened to that song and it just really hits home for what you guys are dealing with. It’s something else a you can identify with. The people here have lost their jobs. They’ve lost their businesses. They’ve lost their healthcare, their health, their homes, their neighborhoods, their future, the joy of having a community, your life, your identity. You’ve lost friends and families due to death, disease, illness. And it’s as if you’ve been stripped or skinned of everything that you know as the world around you that you grew up with your community. And so where are the lobbyists for the people of East Palestine? And where are the lobbyists for even the businesses, the Chamber of Commerce around here, but it’s a little itty bitty chamber of commerce, so they don’t have a voice either. And where are the lobbyists for us, the people of East Palestine? Well, they say you have congressmen and you have senators and they’re supposed to represent you. Well, we know that’s a joke because who owns them? NS owns them,

The capitalists and Wall Street owns them. We have 1500 derailments a year, 1500 potential disasters a year in Pittsburgh. I can tell you about around 1994, there was a derailment just about a half mile from my house. Fortunately, did not have suffered a disaster, but had it been similar to what you folks have gone through, there would’ve been thousands of people killed, probably and tens of thousands suffering, which are suffering. God forbid it didn’t happen then. But I was there. I remember ’em talking about us evacuating, but we didn’t have to. Our railroads need to be nationalized.

Our communities need protected. Our workers need protected. We need a coalition of labor, environment, social justice, religious and every other organization out there because as the brothers have said, and you said, we can’t do this alone. We all have to come together. We know that the problem is in this country and the country’s bought and sold. The people who are in government are bought and sold for the most part. We have some good representatives. And yes, they’re hard to find, I know, but there’s a few out there who have our interests. But there’s so few. We need a movement, a rank of foul, militant movement of aggressive struggle. It’s going to join a coalition and fight back. We need more workers on the train. We need an upgrade to the car by car braking system. We need less cars on the train. We need green locomotives to cut down on all the pollution and trillions of carbon emissions and carcinogens that come out that are poisoning every community, every day of the week and every year.

I mean, the devastation is brought here is about greed. Capitalism promotes greed. Look at the East Palestine and you see the effects of capitalism and greed and profit and devastation in its wake. 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. And the only way we change this, or at least have any check on it, is when workers unite, we’re all workers. 99% of everybody in this country works for somebody. We’re getting filthy rich off our back. And so the only way we can change this is when we all unite and stop letting ourselves be divided by race, color, creed, sexual orientation, age. I hear so many older folks talking about this younger generation and they ain’t no good. I’m like, don’t you remember when you were the younger generation? We weren’t no good either. We had long hair, we had tattoos, we had piercings, and oh my God, the world was going to end. These kids are lazy. So I believe in our next generation, I see a lot of young people, they’re there. All you got to do is look, you don’t have to. You quit listening to the radio and the TV telling you everything’s bad in the world. We got a lot of good things going on if we come together.

So we have no faith in the Republicans or Democrats, but we need national healthcare. We need a nationalized rail system. We need President Biden to enact the Stafford Act as a first step to restoring and making hold of people of Vegas Palestine. And it’s just so glad to be here and look out and see you all and know that so many different groups are represented and people care. And this is my first time here, and it is been very moving for me. And I want you to know the ue, the United Electrical Radio Machine Workers of America stand in solidarity with you. We will continue to put out your information and promote your cause in any way that we can. So I’ve taken a bit of time, but thank you very much.

Chris Silvera:

I got a text or email about a golf course and I came to play golf and run up in a bunch of communists and lefties and whatnot. I just want the FBI to know I’m here by accident. I didn’t even know that there was a East Palestine until the derailment. How many people here from East Palestine,

Speaker 15:

Biden can’t even say East Palestine, called East Palestine. So thank you.

Chris Silvera:

I’d have called you East Palestine myself, but I heard East Palestine often enough to try to get it correct. But what’s happening here, I might offend some people. I’m glad. My brother’s here from the teamsters, from the machinists, Youi. My name is Christopher. I bring solidarity greetings from Teamsters, local aid away in Long Island City, New York, and we stand in solidarity with the struggles of all working people. But I’ll tell you that if I gave you somebody that was running for Congress who stood for all the issues that you want, Medicaid, Medicare, socialized medicine, nationalize, the railroads and what have you, you wouldn’t vote for ’em,

Speaker 15:


Speaker 16:


Chris Silvera:

You vote against your own interest. Yes, time and time and time again, you vote for lawyers instead of truck drivers. You vote for lawyers instead of plumbers, you vote for lawyers instead of nurses. So what you want in your head, you don’t want in reality, because you want actually to join the ruling class. I just played my lottery, so you know where I want. But if we want to change things, then we have to create that change. It ain’t going to be the Democrats and it ain’t going to be the Republicans. You’re going to have to build a party for working people funded by you, your $5, your $10. Because if you think, and I was just looking at something as I was coming here this weekend, totally unrelated, but all these organic things you buy in the supermarket, they’ve all been bought up by the massive corporations. If you want to make money, buy stock in the railroad. It is the single most profitable business in America. Not oil, not automobile, nothing else. Railroads. You change it when you decide to vote for something else. And don’t worry about some third guy running for president. You have to start at the town council, at the city council, at the school board.

When they see that change coming up the hill, then they will understand that you have changed. And that’s going to make the society change. It ain’t some kind of magical thing we’re going to run. Because if I became the president of the mark tomorrow and the Congress was all Democrats and Republicans that couldn’t get anything done, and we could witness that right now. So we have to build from the bottom to the top. But we can make it change. But we have to invest in it. So we have to stop listening to M-S-N-B-C and Fox and Friends and CNN pick up a book. A what? Kindle. Kindle. Kindle. Some printed product. But don’t just read one kind. Read many kinds and don’t just read it and absorb it after you finish reading it. Look out the window and what they described look like what you’re seeing. Because none of this changes overnight, but it’s doable. And our unions fail because we have the resources to be an accelerant. And we fail. We ostracize my brother Palmer, because we don’t even dissent in the union organization that was created around dissent with capitalists. So we have work to do.

And when I get another text about coming to the golf course, I’ll be here. I’ll leave my clubs home the next time, but I’ll be here. But we have work to do. We can do it. I felt your pain today. I didn’t know any of the people here, but I felt that pain and I knew it had happened. And there’s one thing to read in the newspaper is another thing to see and meet the people who it happened to and hear their stories. And I appreciate your stories. And those stories need to be on tv. They don’t need to be on YouTube. They need to be on CNN and Fox and M-S-N-B-C, so the world can hear your stories and understand what happened here, working on it. Hey, well I tell you, me what you need, and if I can help out, I’m there with you. But we need to understand this because this should not happen anywhere. Listen, accidents are going to happen, but at least when they happen, our government and these corporations should be on the hook instantly instantaneously. It shouldn’t be a debate, it shouldn’t be a question. So going to leave you with this power to the people and to the people belong. The power

Jeff Kurtz:

I had like to start off thanking the hosts of this event, the residents of East Palestine. I love doing this kind of stuff because of the fact that you meet such nice people. I mean, you meet people that are different than but are a different nice than you, and it is just really a lot of fun for me and thank you for letting us come into your community and help you right some of the wrongs that have been done to you. There’s not that much of a difference between East Palestine and a small town in Iowa that we come from. I’ve lived most of my life back in Fort Madison, Iowa. In fact, back in November of 2021, we had a derailment on the Mississippi River about 10 miles south of us in an even smaller town called Montrose, Iowa. I think it’s got 1,015 hundred residents, something like that.

And it was caused, if you can believe it, by a trained barge collision. Anybody that has any questions about that, I’ll explain that later. But we were very lucky because that train was a cold train and didn’t have hazardous materials. So the contents that went into the river were relatively easy to clean up, but that derailment could have been much worse because hazardous materials do run on that line. As with the derailment here, the whole problem was pretty complex, but the major parts of that problem are pretty easy to take care of quickly. So with the help of our sheriff back home and a couple of union brothers, we got the information on the derailment and we took our case to the capitol in Des Moines where we met with the transportation committee’s representatives from the house and Senate side. So working together, we composed a letter and I’ve got that here if anybody wants to see it, and we use that as a basis for a solution to a problem.

And believe it or not, this train barge stuff had been plaguing us for 14 years. So we made everything work because of cooperation from everybody involved and the desire to protect people living along the right of way and the desire to ensure that something like that would never happen again. So I thought about this when we did look back in relation to the problems that we’re facing. Now, the issues with the situation are more numerous here because of the severity of the derailment and the nature of the spill, but the methods needed to come to a solution is pretty much essentially the same. The problem as a whole is pretty complex, but the major parts of it are pretty simple to handle. I mean, we handle those and then we can take our time with the other parts of that problem. Right now for the safety and wellbeing of the community, because of what you’ve been exposed to, healthcare should be the number one priority so that any ill effects to your health from what you’ve been exposed to can be headed off before they become too serious. There are several different mechanisms to do that. On the federal level, we’ve got legislation that can be utilized to get you healthcare that nobody’s doing anything about. On the state level, there are two states right now, Connecticut and Arizona that are trying to wipe out medical debt for their constituents. Now, if those states can afford to do something that is as expensive as wiping out medical debt for the whole state, then the state of Ohio can provide healthcare for the citizens of East Palestine,

Especially after this catastrophe when they can eventually recover the costs from the Norfolk Southern. In the rail industry, we refer to the NS as the Nazi Southern. So that gives you a clue to what people think of them. Okay, now there are those with a different agenda than ours that are going to try to make everything complicated and throw in all kinds of other issues. So it looks like things are much more difficult to do than they really are. And by God they’re fighting hard for you against the other side and the other side’s fighting hard for you against that side, and it just goes back and forth. But if you listen to these people, they’re saying the same thing. They’re just saying it in a different tone. You’ve got to listen to what they say and not how they say it. So that’s where the people of this conference comes in.

There are enough of us on all sides of the political spectrum to hold everyone accountable. We can hold the state and we can hold the federal people accountable and get some things done like healthcare for you guys. If the people that would normally be aligned with us try to blame the other side, then we need to let them know that there are things that they could do if they were sufficiently motivated to do so, that the pain and suffering people are going through right now wouldn’t be nearly as bad as it is. I recently contacted my friend Nikki because one thing I’ve learned throughout my life is I don’t have to be the smartest person in the room, but I better know where and who the smartest people are. And Nikki’s always going to be one of the smartest people.

No, I’m just kidding. No. She directed me towards some materials dealing with how we can cooperate with people and accomplish goals. I’m convinced that if we put aside differences and work toward common goals, the most important at this time would be healthcare for East Palestine, that we can accomplish those goals. As one of my former bosses used to tell me, and you got to imagine this in a Boston accent because he was from Boston Kurtz, if nothing else, get a bite of the apple and quit crying to swallow it. Whole healthcare for the residents is that first bite of the apple. Thank you for inviting us and let’s not hear any more flowery speeches or pretty words. Let’s get our hands dirty and do the work and get that stuff done.

Steve Zeltzer:

Hey, this is Steve Zeltzer. We’re in East Palestine and we’re at a meeting to discuss the defense of the people of East Palestinian, the workers of East Palestine more than a year after a railroad wreck by Norfolk Southern. And we have two labor people, two working people who are going to be talking about why they’re here at the

Steve Mellon:

Conference. I’m Steve Mellon. I’m a striking worker at the Pittsburgh Post Gazette newspaper.

John Palmer:

I’m John Palmer. I’m a longtime teamster and international vice president. Steve,

Steve Zeltzer:

You’ve been covering this struggle here in East Palestine. This is the first national meeting here in East Palestine. What has been going on and why has there been so little coverage really of the issues for the workers and people of East Palestine who are losing their healthcare and still fighting to survive?

Steve Mellon:

Well, I think there was a lot of coverage here right after the derailment, and I’ve seen that happen over and over and over again. There’s this moment of crisis in a community and all the big networks come into town, CNN, Fox News, all those folks, they come into town and they cover that moment and then they move on. Becauses always another crisis there. There’s, there’s a mass shooting someplace or there’s another derailment or there’s a big political story. And so the national attention moves on and life moves on the East. Palestine looks normal because the truth is Norfolk Southern had that train running within a couple of days after that big, I mean, we all saw a national TV, that big mushroom cloud three days after the derailment when they burned off 2 million gallons of vinyl chloride, they sent that massive toxic cloud over the city.

And so you went there a week later, two weeks later, and the trains are running through again and it looks like everything’s normal. Well, of course for the people, it’s not normal because they still have to go to bed every night wondering whether the toxins that hovered over their town during that toxic burnoff were still in their pillows, were still in the water that they drank, the food that they were when their kids went out to play in the yard. Am I poisoning my kid? They still had to live with that, but of course the media and the national attention, we all moved on. They could not move on. They had to continue to struggle through this. We’ve been on strike for now 17 months, and we were kind of free of the necessity of feeding the beast a newspaper beast. Like if I went out on an assignment, I had to come back with a story because the newspaper needed stories.

We have a strike paper now, but we’re the bosses working. People are the bosses. We can publish stories the way we think they need to be published. We can report them the way they need to be reported. That has allowed us as journalists, a handful of us that are working on the strike paper to come up here, spend time with people, develop the relationships with these people in East Palestine who are going through this. So they don’t look at me and say, this is a guy that’s just going to come in and take my story and go and do what he wants with it. They know I’m going to be back next week and the week after next and the week after next, and if I screw the story up, they’re going to tell me about it. If I miss something or get something wrong, they’re going to tell me about it.

Steve Zeltzer:

And having real journalism to get these stories, it’s a battle. It’s a battle as you say. I mean, one of the issues is the destruction of newspaper jobs by these all this global capital closing newspapers around the country laying off journalists, and you wonder why you can’t get information from the ground floor.

John Palmer:

So I want to echo his sentiment. I think that so many people have been forgotten and our attention drifts away from real important issues. If any one of us had a family member that was affected by this would be screaming from the mountaintop, the fact that the institutions like the institution that I belong to kind of ignore this. I brought this up in a meeting to our executive board and was told that as I couldn’t come here as a member of the general executive board. So I’m coming here as a human being who cares about people who put myself in the shoes of a mother that might be losing a child or a father who’s the only working person that bringing income into a house or a mother that’s the only working person. All of a sudden their life is completely turned upside down and everybody’s left. I mean, Biden comes out here and makes an appearance, but every single day they get up. They’re living in this situation, they can’t sell their homes. If they were to sell their homes, where are they going to go? What is your house worth? How does that translate to another place? How do you find another job? These people just need some help. The reason I’m here is to help them scream from the mountaintop. I hope this catches fire. And people understand how critical this is to the wellbeing of our fellow Americans. This is tragic

Steve Zeltzer:

And it is like the wild, wild west because I mean there’s still more trained derailments even after this thing, and they’re still talking about legislation and also this mass casualty incident site under the Stafford Act. They could pass it so they could get healthcare for their ailments and also get their homes purchased. It happened at Love Canal, but it seems like it’s pulling teeth not only just to get the government to do it, but get our unions to say, stand up. Stand up for these people.

Steve Mellon:

And there’s a lot of talk about that real bill. Where’s it at now? It’s hung up in Congress. I mean, it’s probably even though has majority supports, probably not going to get a vote in the house. It probably won’t be able to overcome a filibuster in the Senate. So it’s interesting that this is about healthcare. We’re here demanding healthcare for the people of East Palestine, the people affected by this derailment because healthcare triggered our strike. The Post Gazette company stripped the healthcare away from members of four of our five unions. They went out on strike. We went out on strike two weeks later. It’s all about healthcare. Healthcare could resolve our strike. I was looking last night, I was doing a little bit of research. I found that in this country, 650,000 people each year go bankrupt because of their medical bills. That’s more people than who live in the city of Detroit. We have the richest country in the world. We have almost 800 billionaires in this country, and we have people, we have more people than who live in Detroit that are filing for bankruptcy because they cannot pay their medical bills. That to me, that’s crazy. That’s a crazy way to run a country and it’s unsustainable.

John Palmer:

I couldn’t agree more. Corporate America is destroying America. They own the political system, they own the politicians and people are doing without people used to inherit things like their homes from their parents. And that nowadays people get sick and they lose everything they own before they become a ward of the state. There has to be a better way to administer healthcare than we’re doing right now. People’s wellbeing should be tied to corporate profits

Steve Zeltzer:

And the A-F-L-C-I-O, the teamsters, these national unions, you think they should make a focus here as an example of the fact that if people can’t get healthcare in East Palestine after what happened, this catastrophe caused by Norfolk Southern, what does it mean for the rest of workers who are losing their jobs or on strike or they can’t afford healthcare, their life is destroyed. That’s really nightmare what people are going through. Yeah,

Steve Mellon:

Well, that’s a good point. And one of the things that makes me proud about this effort here is that it is union people coming together with working people, working class people. So we’re not here asking for higher wages for ourselves. We’re not asking for better benefits for ourselves. We’re looking at a working class community that’s struggling because they don’t have healthcare because they were damaged by a billion dollar company that dumped a toxic load in their backyards. That’s why we’re here. And that is something that can affect any community in the United States. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a union member or a non-union member. That’s what it’s all about. And I think for labor going forward, that seems to me to be the path to see where we come together. We can come together on these issues. It doesn’t matter what the one day of the year when you walk into a voting booth and flip a switch, we can disagree on that, right? Where’s that going to get us in five years? We’re still going to have the same discussion about healthcare. It’s like, but we can change that. There’s power in us coming together across union lines and include people who are not union because we have the same interests and we can benefit from the same winning, the same battles.

John Palmer:

So I’m going to reinforce Steve’s statement again, we have a commonality as human beings. I coached my kids basketball, football, baseball. Many of the kids that I coached worked for, competitors of the company I worked for, and they were non-Union. We all still love and care about one another. Some of us were unions, some of us, this is bigger than whether you’re in a union or not. This is about us as Americans and we’ve got to solve this problem. This is getting away from us and the only way we’re going to solve this problem is from the grassroots. All the institutions are pushing back against us because of the money and the influence. It’s got to come from the grassroots.

Steve Zeltzer:

So that should be a lesson of other workers around the country who face similar things, uniting together around issues like healthcare

Steve Mellon:

And uniting around them. I mean, because we are going to disagree on some things. We’re going to disagree on politics. That’s kind of a given. Who gives a crap in the end? We can disagree about politics and we can’t get anything done that way we can get something done if we come together around the issues that are important to us and recognize, John makes a great point. Recognize the humanity in each other and resist the temptation to have arguments and to disagree on. There are organizations in this world that thrive when we fight and we don’t have to do that. We don’t have to give into that. We can come together and agree on these things. It feels a lot better to me to do that and to think, okay, we have a goal that we can all agree on and we can all go in the same direction here.

Steve Zeltzer:

And getting the CWA, our union nationally to call on Biden to do this, getting the teamsters, getting the a FL sale S Scheller, that would be a step forward if they could all come together and say, let’s get healthcare for the people of East Pals grew, group of workers and families who are suffering, who are getting cancer, getting heart problems. I mean just the basic human get healthcare for these people.

John Palmer:

I couldn’t agree more. I mean a longtime organizer, I think about folks that whatever your faith is, Jesus was a great organizer. What would Jesus do? That used to be an old lifelong question. Would Jesus approve of people not having healthcare and literally dying? Isn’t there a community responsibility here? So it’s on us to stand up, fight and be

Vina Colley:

Heard. My name is Vina Colley and I’m president of the Portmouth Piketon, residents for environmental safety and security. Co-founded National Nuclear Workers for Justice. I’m a former worker of the portmouth acid diffusion plant in Piketon, Ohio.

Speaker 21:

That’s okay.

Vina Colley:

I’ve been researching this plant for almost 39 years, and I found that we found out that we had pum at the plant. I was an electrician there and I was cleaning down the electrical equipment and found out that it had PCB Polychlorinated by Finlin Oil on it, and we was told it was just oil and we were cleaning it with trichlorethylene. Well, I found out in 1985 this oil was radioactive oil that we had been cleaning, and we weren’t told that it was radioactive oil and we weren’t suited up for it. So when we got through cleaning the electrical equipment, we dumped all this stuff down the drains. So when I started getting sick and found out what I was working in, my doctor told me I needed to go back and tell them that they needed to suit me up and protect me because we were working in some really nasty chemicals.

And at that time we didn’t know about the bium and Neptune. And in 93 I found out that we had bium at the site. So I did a, went to a meeting that the DOE was having, and I told them that they have pum at the plant, and that was in 93 and they ignored me. Well, in 1999 it came out that Paducah and Oak Ridge and Portsmouth had peton at the site, and I was able to break that story with Mary Bird Davis. Due to that 99 report of atium, we were able to get a compensation bill in for the workers.

Of course, no bill they put in is a good bill, but there’s always time to change. The bill workers are still fighting, trying to get compensated. Some of them are, and we were an SEC site, and that means that we are a spatial exposure CL heart. And what that meant was they couldn’t prove our exposures so we didn’t have to be dosed if we had one of the 22 cancers on the list. And of course some of the toxic chemical illnesses. And so what NIOSH is doing now, they are dosing these workers, the widows and their families just so they can turn ’em down for compensation. I mean, it’s horrible. And so I help a lot of workers and of course I have an attorney out of New York Hug Stevens that helps a lot of workers in the community. And so this has been a horrible fight and most of the documents that I have came from the company.

They admitted they had this problem, but they won’t admit it to the community. So they continue to do what they want. But what’s going on out there is Bill Gates is a big founder for nuclear stuff and they want to put two small modular reactors at Piketon and they want to reprocess all the transera waste that we have in the world, including the foreign waste, and they want to ship it to Piketon. In this Transera is where you get your Neptune, your plutonium, and your amia. We had to shut a school down 2018 or 19 because they found the Neptune and AMIA in the school. And this was, I’m sorry. That’s okay. This is the only school that has been tested. We have many other schools there that haven’t even been tested yet. And 14 miles from the plant is another air monitor, and it was picking up Ann Maia and Neptune. And so Anna White was the secretary of Energy. She came in and she wanted to help the people there, but when she got back to Washington DC, they fired her and put on and hired another department of Energy. It’s just such a horrible story. It’s hard to talk about

Steve Zeltzer:

It. And the government should be protecting the people.

Vina Colley:

Yes, they should be pet

Steve Zeltzer:

Protected. I mean, it seems like the government is basically trying to obstruct the workers and their families and children from getting the healthcare and protection they need.

Vina Colley:

Well, I have a brother-in-Law who worked at the plant. He died of cancer. His wife died of cancer. His son just died three months ago at the age of 50 some with kidney cancer. I haven’t had the cancers. I’ve had the tumors and the skin cancer, but I have brilliant disease, neuropathy, heart, and I have so many, it’s hard to remember ’em all, but I never had anything. When I went to work there, I was a completely healthy worker and they ran extra tests on me to make sure I was that healthy. So my father, he lived to be 92 years old, him and his brother. So I have that healthy gene and no matter how much I’ve suffered, I know I don’t look sick. A lot of people say, well, you don’t look sick. Well, I don’t get up every day trying to look sick, but I suffer.

I suffer a lot when I sit down. It’s hard to get up, but once I start moving, I do. Okay, well, I found out that they were compensating the workers at Oakridge and Paducah, but not ton. So we got Ted Strickland, our representative, and he pushed really hard to get our compensation. And so that’s how we got the compensation bill there. Well, now what’s going on is for the community, there’s a bill called rca, and it’s a downwinders bill that the uranium miners are on, and they just again added Paducah and Oak Ridge and St. Louis. So they’re trying to get that bill and it went through the Senate and now it’s laying in the house Bill. So we’re trying to talk representatives in and educating them what’s going on at Piland because Piland has the highest cancer in the state of Ohio. Joe Manano, an epidemiologist came in and he studied the facility.

He did two studies. His second one that he did, he said the seven surrounding counties around the Piketon area are also highest rate of cancer in the state of Ohio. And we’re probably, I think he said around 85, 80 7% nationally. Well, as soon as I found out last week they were going to leave Piketon out of the compensation bill, I put a petition online and then I got ahold of Senator Brown, hold of Senator Vance, and then we got a hold of win through, and now we are working with Jim Johnson to try to help get Pinton added on this RICA bill. And so we have a petition line and it’s under in my Facebook, under Vina VINA, Colley, C-O-L-L-E-Y, and we encourage everyone to sign on to this petition, what’s went on. I mean, we’ve been sacrificed. They don’t want to shut Piketon down.

They want to keep some of it running. And what happened for 70 years, we were told that we were enriching uranium and doing nothing but uranium. But this whole time, 70 years, we were reprocessing transgenic material from West Valley, New York, from Hanford for some Banner River, and in 1992 we did the megawatts megatons for Russia. So the whole facility, 3,800 acres is contaminated onsite and offsite, our water and our air, and it’s horrible when you have to go through all this and then watch your family members pass away and watch a lot of the workers struggle to get the compensation.

Steve Zeltzer:

And we’re here today in East Palestine. What do you think about what’s going on here? You’ve come from another part of Ohio, but it seems like the toxic dumps, the dangers, health and safety dangers that people face in Ohio and all over this country, they need to be brought together so people understand it. So why are you here today in East Palestine?

Vina Colley:

I’m here to support them and I hope that they can get health insurance for this community because they’re sort of under a different policy than we are because we’re under the Department of Energy and Department of Defense, and this is the community that a railroad train went through and derailed and they contaminated the whole community and they need health insurance. I’ve talked to some of the people that here and they’re suffering. I mean, they’re losing their homes, they lost their jobs, they can’t work, and the government needs to compensate these people, the trains. Someone needs to go to the railroad company and let them know that they need to change their policies because they’re not safe. What they normally do is they have some accident like this, they fire somebody and then they go right on and do the same thing over again. Some of those containers that they shipped into Python were depleted uranium cylinders and these railroad workers set on top of these cylinders.

And I’ve had a couple of friends that worked there that worked around the cylinders and these cylinders give off. These are depleted uranium cylinders and they give off neutron exposures and these railroad workers were setting on them, but my friends passed away with cancer. So it just seems like no one is concerned about the environment, what’s going on and how to protect the worker. The worker should have hazardous pay. The railroad workers should have hazardous pay. The piketon workers should have hazardous pay, but in 1992 is the cutoff period for the workers to be compensated, and these workers are getting into a lot of stuff and not properly suited up and they’re doing airborne demolition at pipe them. So this stuff is going into the air. I’ve been helping Dr. Michael Ketter. We’ve been getting samples and I have a air monitor that I’ve made at my house and is picking up some of their products and I kind of think it’s where they started up the centrifuge on a test run in November, but we don’t know until we get all the studies back, but it’s been a trip. It’s cost a lot of money to try to fight the government, but I can’t stop. When you go look at these kids that are dying of cancer and you talk to their families that are suffering, you just can’t stop. You just got to keep pushing.

Steve Zeltzer:

And this coming together in Ohio at East Palestinians seems like it’s brought a lot of different people together, environmentalists and unionists and health and safety people and railroad workers that it’s the same fight, it’s the same struggle.

Vina Colley:

Yes, it’s the same struggle for all of us and we all need to come together, whether we’re a DOE site or if we’re just a community that you live in and this train wrecked. I mean, it’s not these people’s fault. The government should move them for one thing and then give them health insurance and relocate ’em to a better place to live. They’ve had a couple lawsuits. They’ve never moved those people and they lived butted up to the plant within a mile. I mean, and their water, their wells were contaminated and they didn’t even tell the people we found. I found a paper at the EPA office that said that the Dunham’s wells was contaminated with magnesium 99, and the government never told them. We told them,

Steve Zeltzer:

And the EPA here issued a document saying vinyl chloride was not a danger to people here. They had done tests and everything was fine.

Vina Colley:

I am pretty sure we had that at piketon and it wasn’t one of the hazardous chemicals that was listed.

Steve Zeltzer:

So they’re lying. They’re lying to cover up.

Vina Colley:

They lie. They always lie. They cover up. And a lot of our representatives when they come to Piketon, they hold a meeting and they take ’em on plant side. We were not ever allowed to come and talk to our representatives. And right now I’m working with them and this is the first time that we’ve been able to work with them since I’ve been, well, Glenn, Senator Glenn and Ted Strickland and them help push for our compensation bill back in 99, but since 99, we haven’t been able to get anyone to pay attention. I wrote Biden a letter three or four months ago and said that if anyone needed to be in that RICO bill, it should have been the gased diffusion plants. Well, they tried to put two of them in and trying to leave Pcan out again, but Brown’s office and Vance’s office, Brad Winthrop and Jim Jordan has given me a direct email line to send them these documents to see if they can help us get into Reka.

Steve Zeltzer:

Well, thank you for joining us.

Part of this conference that we’re able to hold here was a result of the fact that we got really support from the workers of Iowa and this labor council in Iowa was key in making this thing happen. And I think that really it shows solidarity, solidarity all over this country. And one of the proposals possibly we’re going to act on is to have another conference in Iowa at their labor temple because they have the same problems in Iowa that they have here in East Palestine. And Penny Lockton is a chapter president of her local. She’s with painter’s union and she’s a tireless fighter for human rights and justice. Welcome, penny.

Carrie Duncan:

Oh my gosh, we are so honored to be here. I kid you not

Speaker 23:

Quiet God, please guest speakers from Iowa say thank you.

Carrie Duncan:

First of all, this is really all about you. Solidarity is about all of us and I’m so excited to be here. I’m sorry for the reason, but we are very proud to stand up with our brothers and sisters and all of our allies. If you truly believe in solidarity, I really, really believe we can achieve anything. And it has been proven over and over again by our forefathers and what they went through and

It wasn’t all bad. What you always think it’s bad. It’s been wonderful too. And we would not have been here without them. We’re very, very excited. And like I said, we didn’t do this ourselves. We were very fortunate that Jeff Kurtz had taken the time that he gave, and this is the way so many opportunities have came forth to the Lee County Labor chapters. It’s been the work that our members have done outside of our chapter that has brought opportunities to us. Now, I will be honest with you, I am going to brag a little bit our labor chapter when someone brings something to the table, never have I heard, oh my gosh, how are we going to do that? No, don’t show up. It is always, and I swear this is the way it is. Okay, what do we need to do? Make it happen. What do we need to do to make it happen? And then as honestly the way our labor chapter runs. And so again, we’re very, very honored to be here and I’m just going to put something personal in here. We would not be here if it wasn’t for the residents and victims that stood up.

I want you to know how proud I am of all of you who stood up and organized and organized more and continued to share what the Norfolk Southern Freight Train,

Speaker 16:


Carrie Duncan:

Sorry, OMA did to you,

Did to your citizens, the community surrounding 20 mile area and all the workers before and after the derailment. To me, it’s no different than the person that steps up and grieves. If you don’t grieve when you need to grieve, your whole world suffers for that, your brothers and sisters. So I just wanted to let you know how proud I am that you did that on January 4th. Seriously, on January 4th, 2024 during the Lee County Labor chapter meeting, when Jeff brother Jeff Kurtz brought the opportunity to collaborate with Steve Seltzer and Chris Albright to organize a national campaign with goals of bringing the story and struggles of the residents and workers of East Palestinian, Ohio to the attention of all union members, all allies across the nation to demand healthcare for our union brothers and sisters, their families and victims. We were all in on February 3rd, 2023 at 8:55 PM a North Fork Southern Freight train pulling more than 150 cars derailed, including 38 tanker cars carrying vinyl chloride, unknown cancer causing chemical.

February 4th, 2023, after the catastrophic derailment responders conducted a control burn, which released hydrogen chloride and phosgene into the air. Phosgene is a colorless. Gas exposure may cause irritation to the eyes, dry burning, throat, vomiting, cough, foamy, sputum, breathing difficulties and chest pain. It is especially dangerous to those little lungs. Sunday, February 5th, 2023, there was a mandatory evacuation warning, residents of a potential for toxic gas release residents were told, leave now. If you don’t, we are not coming back for you. Monday, February 6th, 2023, after the catastrophic derailment responders conducted a control burn which released hydrogen chloride into the air Foxy, oh, excuse me, I’m sorry, Omaha, Nebraska AP reported Norfolk Southern’s costs related to the East Palestine derailment have grown to nearly $1 billion and its insurance companies have started to pay their share of the cost of the crash. In eastern Ohio, the Atlantic based railroad reported third quarter profits of $478 million without the derailment costs.

They said the third quarter profits would have been $601 million. Six months later, Congress is deadlock on new rules of safety. February 3rd, 2024, on the first anniversary of the catastrophic derailment, the newly formed Justice for East Palestine residents and Workers Campaign hosted a Zoom panel including the Iowa Federation of Labor President Charlie Wishman, who spoke about workers safety is community safety. It is incredible that it has been a full year since the Norfolk Southern Freight train derailment and the residents and workers are still struggling and left with many unanswered issues, including lack of accessible and funded mental health and physical coverage. Think about it. How long has it been since you have seen or heard anything during the news regarding the North Forest Southern Freight train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio? Unless you have listened to Max Alvarez Real News,

Speaker 5:

Where is he? Where is he

Carrie Duncan:

Or Steve Zeltzer on Workweek or Pacifica? Stand up. Stand up.

Speaker 5:

Stand up.

Carrie Duncan:

You probably hadn’t heard anything if it wasn’t for them.

Speaker 5:

That’s right.

Carrie Duncan:

Today we are letting our brothers and sisters know their families in East Palestine, their residents, workers, and all victims know that they are not alone nor forgotten. Today, union Brothers, union brothers and sisters, filmmakers, musicians, political cartoonists, toxic free future podcast producers, journalists, environmentalists, nuclear works for Justice, Alliance for retired Americans, all citizens and allies across this nation stand united in solidarity with you and demand access to and medical funded healthcare for all victims of this catastrophic Norfolk Southern Freight train derailment in East Palestinians. Stand up

Speaker 5:

And yell. Absolutely.

Carrie Duncan:

These are our people and we will not quit until all victims are made whole. We are going to stand in solidarity for you, and I cannot wait to share. Actually, I want to thank someone else too. Steve Zeltzer has been absolutely incredible. If it wasn’t for him, we would not be here today. Amen. He truly, you are beyond commendable. Truly. Absolutely. And he brought the solution to the table, which brought this all together so much quicker. And so thank you so much. And then we have Chris Albright. We want to thank him. Hey Chris. Chris has been phenomenal throughout all of this, and I know a lot of you have too, but if it wasn’t for Steve and Chris, we wouldn’t be here today. Honestly, I just can’t tell you enough that you are not alone, and this is what Union does. We see the problem, we educate people and we bring the solution, and that’s what we’re going to do today. Thank you.

Jeff Kurtz:

Thank you brothers and sisters. I had to write everything down because we started out at 11 o’clock and I’m not really good when I’m totally rested. So what are you laughing at? So I have to organize my thoughts here a little bit. I’d like to start off thanking the hosts of this event, the residents of East Palestine. I love doing this kind of stuff because of the fact that you meet such nice people. I mean, you meet people that are different than you, but are a different nice than you, and it is just really a lot of fun for me, and

Thank you for letting us come into your community and help you, right? Some of the wrongs that have been done to you. There’s not that much of a difference between East Palestine and a small town in Iowa that we come from. I’ve lived most of my life back in Fort Madison, Iowa. In fact, back in November of 2021, we had a derailment on the Mississippi River about 10 miles south of us in an even smaller town called Montrose, Iowa. I think it’s got 1,015 hundred residents, something like that. And it was caused, if you can believe it, by a train, barge, collision. Anybody that has any questions about that, I’ll explain that later. But we were very lucky because that train was a coal train and didn’t have hazardous materials. So the contents that went into the river were relatively easy to clean up, but that derailment could have been much worse because hazardous materials do run on that line.

As with the derailment here, the whole problem was pretty complex, but the major parts of that problem are pretty easy to take care of quickly. So with the help of our sheriff back home and a couple of union brothers, we got the information on the derailment and we took our case to the capitol in Des Moines where we met with the transportation committees, representatives from the house and Senate side. So working together, we composed a letter and I’ve got that here if anybody wants to see it. And we used that as a basis for a solution to a problem. And believe it or not, this training barge stuff had been plaguing us for 14 years. So we made everything work because of cooperation from everybody involved and the desire to protect people living along the right of way and the desire to ensure that something like that would never happen again.

So I thought about this when we did look back in relation to the problems that we’re facing. Now, the issues with the situation are more numerous here because of the severity of the derailment and the nature of the spill. But the methods needed to come to a solution is pretty much essentially the same. The problem as a whole is pretty complex, but the major parts of it are pretty simple to handle. I mean, we handle those and then we can take our time with the other parts of that problem. Right now for the safety and wellbeing of the community, because of what you’ve been exposed to, healthcare should be the number one priority so that any ill effects to your health from what you’ve been exposed to can be headed off before they become too serious. There are several different mechanisms to do that. On the federal level, we’ve got legislation that can be utilized to get you healthcare that nobody’s doing anything about. On the state level, there are two states right now, Connecticut and Arizona that are trying to wipe out medical debt for their constituents. Now, if those states can afford to do something that is as expensive as wiping out medical debt for the whole state, then the state of Ohio can provide healthcare for the citizens of East Palestine,

Especially after this catastrophe, when they can eventually recover the costs from the Norfolk Southern. In the rail industry, we refer to the Ns as the Nazi Southern. So that gives you a clue of what people think of them. Okay? Now there are those with a different agenda than ours that are going to try to make everything complicated and throw in all kinds of other issues. So it looks like things are much more difficult to do than they really are. And by God, they’re fighting hard for you against the other side and the other side’s fighting hard for you against that side, and it just goes back and forth. But if you listen to these people, they’re saying the same thing. They’re just saying it in a different tone. You’ve got to listen to what they say and not how they say it. So that’s where the people of this conference comes in.

There are enough of us on all sides of the political spectrum to hold everyone accountable. We can hold the state and we can hold the federal people accountable and get some things done like healthcare for you guys. If the people that would normally be aligned with us try to blame the other side, then we need to let them know that there are things that they could do if they were sufficiently motivated to do so, that the pain and suffering people are going through right now wouldn’t be nearly as bad as it is. I recently contacted my friend Nikki, because one thing I’ve learned throughout my life is I don’t have to be the smartest person in the room, but I better know where and who the smartest people are. And Nikki’s always going to be one of the smartest people.

No, I’m just kidding. No. She directed me towards some materials dealing with how we can cooperate with people and accomplish goals. I’m convinced that if we put aside differences and work toward common goals, the most important at this time would be healthcare for East Palestine, that we can accomplish those goals. As one of my former bosses used to tell me, and you got to imagine this in a Boston accent because he was from Boston, Kurt’s, if nothing else, get a bite of the apple and quit trying to swallow it. Whole healthcare for the residents is that first bite of the apples. Thank you for inviting us and let’s not hear any more flowery speeches or pretty words. Let’s get our hands dirty and do the work and get that stuff done.

Jami Rae Wallace:

Yeah. Oh, that’s a way to put me behind the microphone on that one. Hey, brothers and sisters, I’ve Sister Duncan, I so happy to be here with you all today, unfortunately, and you hosting this wonderful event for us to have, unfortunately for the reason bad. And as we all know, the train tracks are scattered everywhere throughout the United States, right? We’re connected. We’re sick and tired, damn sick and tired of them dividing the people in this country. They have suppressed other groups that have tried to do something when there’s been issues us getting here today, we want to bring you some hope and some faith that something will be done. It’s time for this country to turn around and we’re ready to do that because you know what? When it’s all said and done, at the end of the day, we’re all one, right? We have a common bond right now, a common bond to do something to hold our elected leadership in this country accountable for their actions to their people in the United States of America. Today. When this all started at our Lee County Labor chapter meeting, brother Kurtz mentioned his connections with everybody, and we said,

What do you think I’d do? Well, we ought to go there. Here we’re

Speaker 5:


Jami Rae Wallace:

And through hell and high water, we came here to get to you today. And even a broken bus, a belt on a bus, if it could happen, it will happen. Murphy’s Law and sitting on that bus

Gave me a lot to think about. Nothing great was ever accomplished without obstacles. And all of you sitting in this room today, how many times have you been them? Roadblocks been up every day. That’s right. Well, it’s damn time that their roadblocks are set aside because we’re going to come together today as we have, and we’re going to bring about change in this country, and they’re going to start listening because we’re going to gather in numbers. And when they see the numbers, they’re going to be like, these people are really serious and they’re going to know that you’re tired of being suppressed. Time to move forward. You need healthcare. We have people in this country who need healthcare. What the hell is so hard about that? It should be on the number one priority list, and especially for people that are suffering from these mass casualties. How hard is it to declare this a mass casualty a year later? You haven’t done anything about it. I know Vina, I’ve listened, read some of these things. Years doing this.

Speaker 5:

Everyone was four.

Jami Rae Wallace:

Yeah, you’ve been in the fight, sister in the fight. You haven’t given up. We live in the great United States of America, right? I dunno about you, but I love this country. We all love this country, but the people of the country must come first. So it’s time to take a new direction to put the people first. The spark that leads to a flame of solidarity has begun for the people in this great country of whom have been sequestered into silence, forged into the great pits of forgottenness. Shall from this day forward be no more. Right? Brothers and sisters, so like they talked about, we have a resolution, there’s going to be something to follow. So many times things get off to the side, they don’t get addressed. Thanks to that brother right over there on the end. That’s Steve getting the resolution. Max spreading the real deal news. I’ve had so many workers at work lately. I work at an ammunition facility for 16 years, and they’re like, what’s the real news? I said, here, I handed them the thing and I said, tune into this. So yeah, that’s the real news. And brother Chris coming out to Iowa, which was wonderful too. Thanks for getting this all together today, Mike Music we know motivates us. That song brought tears of joy to our eyes and tears of sadness. Time to end the sadness. That song motivated us. We thank you for your God gifted talent to do that.

Steve Mellon, that you over there. I recognize some of you on Zoom. You’ve all been great on these Zoom calls. This is something that we’ve lived for many years. And you know how many of you have kids at home, right? Yeah. How do you want to leave this country for them kids? Well, guess what? We’re responsible for that. And as of today, we’re going to hold these damn people to do what is right and get healthcare. Thank you. Thank you.

Speaker 5:


Steve Zeltzer:

We are going to have a panel on the media and we can have questions, but one of the things that we have to do is get this story out. That’s why we have this meeting today, to get the voices of the people of East Palestine out to know what the hell’s going on. So we’re going to have a panel, a short panel of the journalists, and then we have some proposed resolutions, which we’re going to come up with because out of this has to come action. Only our collective action can change this situation and we can win. We can force Biden to make this declaration. If we get enough power going in the working class, in the unions, if we go to every union in this country, every national convention, you have to address this. If you can’t help the people of East Palestine, who the hell can you help? Who the hell can you help? That’s what I want to know.

That’s what we have to say to the leadership of our unions. You got to put into action, you got to put your body and our labor movement to act for our brothers and sisters, because acting for them is acting for all of us. No human being should be without healthcare. All workers in this country, all people should have healthcare. That’s what we’re fighting for. It’s a human right, and that’s what we’re going to get. That’s right. They’re running for office. All these politicians are running for office. Okay, well get healthcare for East Palestine. Can you do that? Absolutely, yes. Can you do that? Is that too radical to help the people of East Palestine with healthcare think about this? Is that too radical? But most people in this country, because of the corporate media, are unaware of the fact that they don’t have healthcare. Again, that’s our responsibility. So I dunno, what do people think? Should we have this media panel? Do you want to have that or should we just talk about what we’re going to do?

Maximillian Alvarez:

Yeah, so no needs to hear from the media right now, right? You guys are doing the work. Our job is to make sure other people know about it, right? This is not about me. This is not about any of us. Same thing with Steve Mellon, right? We keep coming back because I don’t think you can be human and listen to what our brothers and sisters and neighbors are going through here and just say, good luck with that. I’m going to go on with my life. There’s no way you can do that and have a heart. And so I want to impress upon people just like a few things, and then I really, yeah, I think that we should spend the last half hour talking about what we can do here in our communities, how we take this message back and turn it into something. How many more people from our communities can we get involved in this movement Now?

You heard the residents, they can’t wait. They’ve been waiting over a year. They’re waiting on us to help. So time is of the essence. We’re all feeling the solidarity. We’re all feeling good, but we need to take that feeling and turn it into urgent action wherever we go. Back to tomorrow. Do it for the people here. Do it for Chris’s kids. Do it for yourself. Because as we’ve said, this could be any one of us, and that’s what I just want to impress upon people. I don’t need to get on a panel and talk. I got into this because I interview working people for a living. That’s the name of my show. Podcast, working People that I started years ago when Megan and I were like broke grad students in Ann Arbor. No one was listening, but it was important, and I just want to stress that you can’t do that work. You can’t do the work that I do. You can’t do the work that organizers do every day. Talking to members and potential members around the country about their lives, their jobs, their dreams, their struggles, and not come to a few basic conclusions. The most immediate and obvious of which if you actually listen, is that we are all living in an active corporate crime scene across this fucking country.

The bastards are getting away with it. They are winning. And I hear it from workers everywhere I started. Everyone feels forgotten. I want to just stress that because I know people here feel forgotten. And I promise you that your fellow workers out there, it’s not that they don’t care about you, it’s that they feel forgotten too, and that makes us feel bitter, cold, abandoned. But we’re all being abandoned by the same people, by our government, by the corporations, by the media. I started my show because I was a warehouse worker working 12, 13 hour days, 12 years ago while we were in the midst of losing everything, including the house I grew up in. I remember sitting on my couch with my dad after a 12 hour shift watching the news talk about an economic recovery that was passing us by and we felt forgotten. I talked to UAW members about their plants closing just down the road. I talked to folks in Lordstown in season one of my show. I remember when Trump came there and said, don’t sell your homes. And then a year later, the plants still closed. They laid off 14,000 people. So my folks lost everything under a Democratic administration. People here losing everything under a Republican Democrat, we get the theme.

But I talk to people who feel that forgotten everywhere. I talk to a father in Uvalde who is a fellow worker and union member. What they’re going through is what you’re going through. They were the story of the day. One month, everyone was promising change. Never again. Never again. He’s out there camping in front of the police department now trying to get change. He feels as forgotten as you do. We need to be a coalition of the forgotten and force power to never forget us again. And so you can’t do the work that I do and not come to that conclusion. You can’t not talk to people who were on the deep water horizon when it blew who were telling you. BP sacrifice safety for profits, and now we’re all paying for that. Who wants to get on a Boeing flight right now when they’re sacrificing safety for profits?

Who wants to live near a rail line right now when they’re sacrificing our communities for profits? This is a sickness that is coming for all of us. If it hasn’t come for you yet, or it may have and you don’t know it, you may be bio accumulating the crap that they’re poisoning with you, with you right now. We’re all half plastic at this point anyway, so don’t wait until the tumor grows, right? We have to leave here and get people to understand that this is not going to go away unless we do something about it, because that’s the other conclusion that I come to doing. The work that I do. I come to the conclusion that I think we’ve all come to here. That is Thomas Payne, one of the great thinkers of this country, famously said, we have it within our power to make the world over again.

We, the working people who built this country, we, the people who make this country great. Alan Shaw doesn’t make shit great. You make this country great, we make this country great. Let’s take it back. And we have the power to do that. You all do. So please do not leave here without something to do. Do not leave here without at least one person in your mind that you’re going to get involved in this fight. Because we need, you, need all of you. And it’s not just going to end at getting the folks of East Palestine healthcare because they need so much more than that. We know, but they need that now. But everyone around this country feels hopeless. Feels like change is never going to come from the people we’re expecting it to come from. Our politicians are business leaders. And what is inspiring about you guys, even amidst the horrifying circumstances that you are in, is that I hear from people around the country tell me they’re just like me and they are taking the future into their own hands and they made me realize that I am the hero I’ve been waiting for.

I am the change I’ve been waiting for. So I’ll leave you with this. This is like that moment in the movie. This is Helms Deep, right? This is when Gond door is calling for aid. Everything feels lost, but you all lit the flame. And if some of us are here now, go light the flame somewhere else. And because if we do this, if we pull this off, if we mobilize enough people and get Biden to enact the Stafford Act and we make that immovable mountain shake just a little bit, imagine what that’s going to do for everyone out there who feels hopeless, right? So go door calls for aid, answer that call, go back to your communities, tell them to answer that call because it doesn’t stop here. Thank you brothers and sisters for being here.

Steve Mellon:

I’m not going to follow Max. My name’s Steve Mellon. For those of you who don’t know, I’m a journalist at the Pittsburgh Union Progress now, which is the union. Progress is a strike paper. We had a booth up here earlier. Some of my colleagues were here. Unfortunately, they had to leave. They had young kids, they had to leave. There’s some pamphlets over here. They’re blue and well white pamphlets over here. If you want to learn a little bit more of the strike about the strike. It’s interesting to me that we’re here talking about healthcare. I walked out after 25 years of working as a journalist at the Post Gazette. I walked out in October of 2022, going on 18 months ago. What triggered that strike was that the owners of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, the newspaper I worked for, yanked the healthcare away from five unions, four unions, I’m sorry, four unions that triggered the strike, right? We are here today asking for what? Healthcare. Healthcare. It’s a basic human right? Basic. We live in the richest country in the world. I heard Chris, I think you mentioned billionaires early. I did some research. We have 758 billionaires in the United States. I have no idea how many billions they control. It’s a lot more than we control.

I looked this up on the internet, so it’s got to be true, right? Every year in the United States, 650,000 people file for bankruptcy because of medical debt. That is more people than live in the city of Detroit. That is incredible and it’s heartbreaking. That’s the common that’s thread here is healthcare. You’re right, Hillary. It is a human right? I don’t want to keep you all very long here, but I just want to remind folks that we’re going to leave here today and we’re going to go back to our homes and we’re going to lay our heads down on pillows that are safe and homes that are safe. And if we have kids, we’re going to trust that our kids are safe. But there are people who told their stories here today, they can’t go home to homes that they know are safe. They’re going to wake up tomorrow with the same questions they had yesterday in the day before.

Am I living in a house that is poisoning my children, is poisoning me? It’s springtime. They come in and they go outside and they see some pollen or dust in the air. You see this all the time in spring. We don’t have to worry about what’s in that pollen or dust, do we? They’re always going to have that concern here. We don’t have the concern or the worry of having friends that we no longer talk to, lifelong friends that we no longer talk to because a derailment like this splits the town. Norfolk comes in and drops a toxic bomb in their backyard and then splits and leaves the town to deal with the stress and the pressure of that. You know what that happens, what that does to friendships, what it does to relationships, to marriages. We can go home and we don’t have that stress. The people here in East Palestine will continue to have that stress,

Speaker 15:

Right? No, it’s wrong. Good old conquer divide.

Steve Mellon:

That’s that’s what they want to do. That’s what they

Speaker 15:

Have done.

Steve Mellon:

That’s what they done. So take that with you. When you go home, take that with you. Remember that the people here that are going to stay here, this should be a motivating factor for us. They continue to have to deal with these things. One thing I want to say to the folks here in East Palestine is your stories have power. Your stories have real power. The reason we are here today is because Steve heard Chris Albright’s story on Max’s real network. That’s how this started. It started with a story. It started with Chris’s story. So I’ll leave you with that. I’m going to leave some cards up here. The strike paper is the Pittsburgh Union progress. It’s just union I can’t promise you, we will be around forever. We are trying to resolve our strike. If our strike is resolved, the strike paper will go away. We will continue to cover. I will continue to cover this no matter where I have.

Jeff Kurtz:

I want to emphasize one last thing that Steve brought up. The way we lose is we’re divided. The way we win is we’re united and they want to keep us divided. They want us, and by divided, I don’t just mean pitted against each other politically. I mean they want us separated. And I want to tell you something. What we got here, we got something I ain’t seen in 50 years. We got people here in one town that are the same families and the same brothers and sisters. They’re the workers, they’re in unions. They’re dealing with an environment that is putrid and they’re dealing with a healthcare system that is bankrupt and it’s all the same people they could put in the walls in East Palestine. They can try to, but we ain’t going to let ’em. And I’m asking people here. I’m telling you one thing.

As I’ve been dealing with these rotten bastard corporations, I could go on for hours about the battles we fought and one thing they want is they want us to go away. That’s their number one goal to make you shut up and go away. Well, let’s I say when you’re dealing, when a government and with a system and corporations that are as radical as these are, and when you screw people like East Palestine and then you screw people like Palestine over there at the same time, they’re pretty rotten people in my book. And when you’re dealing with rotten people, you got to get militant. I mean, you have to stand up and together and get mail. I’m going to tell you right now, we can issue all the resolutions and all the petitions we want, but if they don’t read it and they don’t see it, they don’t give a damn. Absolutely. I think we take this fight to them, we take it to Norfolk Southern, we take it to Biden, we take it to our Congress people. And when we go back to our unions and they ask us, well, what do you want? I’m going to tell ’em we want money for buses to put us on to go to our Congress people down in DC and Columbus or wherever they are and sit in their damn office until they give you people healthcare.

Steve Zeltzer:

I wanted to say before we start this panel as a labor journalist and covering workers in communities, one of the people that I cover are whistleblowers and whistleblowers have been making complaints about environmental dangers, toxins and dangers at the shipyard and many other places. And these whistleblowers are fired left and right and there are thousands of them on the railroads. I’ve interviewed them who’ve been fired. So the reality is, is that workers who want to protect themselves and protect the environment are themselves under attack. And that’s why they’re afraid to speak up. When workers are afraid to speak up about health and safety, you got a disaster coming because it goes on and on and on. Our first speaker is Cauley, and she was an electrician at Pikes down at a nuclear facility and has been fighting to protect the people in that community in Ohio. And they’re still being contaminated and they’re still fighting for justice. Welcome

Vina Colley:

Final. Before the railroad workers leave, they need to know that they’re trying to make piketon a nuclear hub and they’ll be shipping all of this nuclear waste, transgenic waste from all these sites around the world. And not only that, but they’re going to be shipping foreign product to Piketon and we’re going to be reprocessing it. And they’re trying real hard to put two small modular reactors at Piland and they’re calling them a powerhouse. A powerhouse is what they’re calling it. But they’re two small modular reactors and we’re going to be reprocessing transgenic waste. And transgenic waste has been reprocessed at pike them for 70 years, and that has been the biggest secret there. We thought we were producing uranium and uranium hexa fluorides and making bomb grade material, but what they were doing was reprocessing this reactor fuel for 70 years and never told any of us.

We weren’t suited up to do that, but I just wanted, maybe the railroad works may have some comments about the transera waste that’s coming through there. My name is Vina Colley and I’m president of press Portsmouth Piketon residence for Environmental Safety and Security. We have been in existence since 1987. I’ve been doing this since 1983. I found my first grievance as a worker that I thought there was 30 workers at the plant were being exposed to radiation. I was breaking out with a lot of rashes and I didn’t understand it. And Pike Thinness has 3,800 acres. We have three huge process buildings. It’s the largest facility in the world and it’s the most contaminated facility in the world. But the state of Ohio signed a consent agreement and we were never even put on the Superfund list. And so we just had an epidemiologist that came in, Dr.

Joe Manano, and he found that we have the highest rate in cancer in Pike and Scioto County and the surrounding counties. And so everyone has turned their back on this community. And the reason they have is because they want to bring in those small modular reactors. And transera waste means pum, ameria, Neptune, some of the worst radioactive nucle that you can even think of wants to be processed there. We have the railroad and truck drivers brought in 24,000 depleted uranium cylinders that are setting out in the yard. The cylinders give off neutron exposures. And while they were on the train, some of the workers who worked there were my friends. They said they used to sit on those cylinders. And this is even before I knew that they gave off neutron exposures. Well, these workers were sitting on the cylinders and they stood by ’em all day long in the railroad tracks, and my friends died of cancer.

My husband, he passed away with cancer and some blood stuff. My brother-in-law worked at the plant. His leg got contaminated and he passed away with cancer. My sister-in-Law passed with cancer. My nephew, he worked at the plant. He just died of kidney cancer. Piketon is an SEC site, and what that means is we’re a spatial exposure cohort and that means they can’t prove our exposures. So they passed. They compensated some bill in 1999 because we did have piton and they denied it in. I told him in 93, well, the gas and diffusion plants, Piketon, Paducah, and Oakridge were in this, well, Paducah and Oak Ridge was in the compensation bill and I found out about it and I had poni at Piketon. So we were able to get to our representative Ted Strickland at that time, and we got added to the compensation bill by a thread.

Well, two weeks ago I find out they have this compensation bill, which is called Rica, and I have a petition for it for people to sign. This bill is a down winders bill from the uranium minors, and there’s a couple ladies there in St. Louis. It has the waste facility there that’s killing the people that live around there. So they’ve got this bill opened back up again and trying to get their landfill on the Rica. So when I found out, guess what? They added Paducah and Oak Ridge again and left Piketon out of it. So when I heard it that day, I called my Senator Brown and I told him what was going on and they were having a Senate hearing. So as soon as I called his office, him and JD Vance went to the Senate hearing. We didn’t get on the bill, but we got mentioned.

But it passed the Senate and now this bill is in the house and we’re asking people to call anyone that they know that’s a house representative and tell ’em to put the portlet gas to diffusion plant in that bill. I mean, we have the highest rate of cancer in the state of Ohio, and we’re 87% national there. When I started working there, I thought it was the safest place in the world because they stressed hard hats and safety glasses. Well, come to find out, I was an electrician and we were cleaning uranium contaminated cells with trichlorethylene. And when we got through with this job, we say, where do we dump it? They sit down the drains. So we dumped it down the drains. And then when I went to the doctor and I was breaking out of these rashes and he didn’t know what was wrong with me, but he said, when you go back to work, make sure you suit up.

So I had to suit up and I wore paper cover offs, paper shoes, I wore rubber gloves, and then I would walk in different areas and these guys says, what you got all that on for? And I said, well, they told me to keep it no matter where I’m going. And they were getting nervous. I was even going into the lunchroom wearing these protective equipment. Well, that stuff they gave me to wear did not protect anybody. And so after I filed that grievance in 83, they started watching me on the job and making my supervisors take me everywhere that I went. And then my boss, he had to take care of me and he put me in this golf cart and we went over in the 3 33 building. I said, where are we going? He said, we’re going to go over to, there’s a radiation alarm going over.

We got to reset the alarm. So when we got in that building, we got halfway down the building and here comes this gray stuff after us. And he took and put me on the golf cart and he said, let’s get out of here. He said, the job’s over. I said, what was that stuff coming through there? He never did tell me. So then I got really sick and had to go to a ears, throat and doctor, and he did a biopsy on my lungs and he said that I needed to go to an occupational health and safety hospital and be checked. So I went down to Cincinnati and they did a biopsy or they did a LCO on my lungs. And two weeks after I left the plant, I had two point 12 fluorides in my urinalysis. So I was in a uranium hexa fluoride release at the plant and they didn’t even tell me I worked for five years.

And then I went off and I was on disability and they made sure that they took me off of workers’ comp in 87. And of course I had lost my pension, but they vested pension at five years Goodyear did. And I lived there all my life and I didn’t even know that we were making weapons for the world. I didn’t know it was called Goodyear Atomic. And I thought they made Goodyear tar and rubber. So I thought all this stuff that was leaking through the process building had something to do with making tars. But their product was leaking through the system. They were getting 290 some thousand parts per million up here, but I don’t know what they got down here because there’s other chemicals that was mixing in with it. And they never surveyed the areas that we worked in. They just put us in it.

We had a construction crew that worked there, 19 family members that worked for Boone. Coleman Construction all died from working at the plant, either from cancer or some type of illnesses. And many of those workers got compensated. They would drive the trucks in and Goodyear workers would be suited up, their workers would not be suited up. And so 17 members and we went to Boko and we told him, boom, your workers are not being suited up and they’re putting this stuff in their trucks. And where they hauled it to, we don’t know. We’ve heard ballparks, the racetrack, different places. So I talked to a few workers that’s working there now and they’re doing the same thing. They got truck drivers coming in, taking all this dirt over to the dump. They got 12 cells there. Now our theory was we fought the cells. We didn’t want waste cells because we knew once they start that we would wind up being a dump.

Well, that’s what they’re trying to do now and trying to clean up everybody site and not telling these workers that they don’t get hazardous pay. And then when we got the compensation bill in 1999, somehow or another, they put a limit. If you worked there from 1952 to 1999, you’re automatically adding into this bill. Well, after 92, these workers that are doing all this decontamination and they do open air demo on these buildings and these workers are not in the compensation bill, hopefully the union, I was over at Union Hall and we’ve been talking about the petition and they’re supposed to be working on one, but if that don’t happen, all these workers after 92 will not be compensated for their illnesses. It’s such a tragic, we’ve been sacrificed. They just don’t care. They don’t care who you are. It’s all about money. It’s about greed.

But as soon as I found out that we was on that list for the compensation bill, I called, like I said, brown, and they went straight over to the Senate and JD Vance and I put a petition online. This is an election year. You guys need to petition your representatives to get their buds here to help you. You all need help. Insurance. It’s a shame what they’ve done to you in such a short period of time in a big accident, and they’re going to have a lot more accidents because they’re going to be hauling this waste on these trains. But sometimes I just forget, I lose my concentration. But my illnesses, when I went to work there, I was a healthy worker. They made me take all kinds of extra testing to make sure I was healthy. And since I worked there, and of course I’m a lot older now, but I’ve had these illnesses since I was in my thirties.

I had a total hysterectomy. I had thyroid problems. I have chronic beryllium disease, and there’s no cure for chronic beryllium disease. It affects your lungs and there’s just no cure. I have the two nodules and they tell these workers that have these nodules that they’re just from the dirt and they have a workers’ monitoring program where they go in and check you and give you a physical and it’s not a very good physical, not for toxic chemicals. And so the company did an envivo on me and they found out that I have Neptune in my lungs and cesium in my lungs and tech 90 nines in my lungs. And each time they would do this, they would check my neck to see if it was getting any bigger or whatever and they would do my weight. So they were checking my body counts by the weight and this in vivo said that I have all this in it.

The only place I could get that in me was working there at the plant. And I now have a monitor that Dr. Michael Keer who does a lot testing. I’ve been doing samples and we do our own samples now. We don’t pay any attention to the plant. And so we are finding lots of offsite contamination. I have company records that says they have offsite contamination and they continue to lie. We’ve had representatives to come in for public meetings and they hold them on plant side, so we can’t go on plant side. And they use the workers as the community. And so we have no input. And now they have an SSAB board. And what’s really important for everyone is these commissioners and these city council people, they make a lot of decision behind your back. And we now have an SSAB board and they have commissioners and mayors and union people.

Everyone except the environmental people are not on that board. And so they’re making these office people that you vote in there are making decisions behind your back and giving ’em the company what they want. They give them that. They’re the ones that made the decision on those 12 waste cells. And we fought it for three years and then we didn’t want it. We had room full of people all the time and we thought we were winning. And then all of a sudden here, they come in trucking and making these waste cells and it looks just like a big swimming hole with a trash bag in it. And one thing they get worry about is beavers. Beavers can eat through that trash can wine liner. It’s a lot thicker than a trash can liner, but it’s still, beavers can go through it. And this plant is sitting on fractured bedrock and we’re in the yay. Here comes your bus. And

We’re sitting on fractured bedrock. We are in the earthquake zone, we’re in the flood zone, we’re in the tornado zone. We had a tornado that hit a little community about 10, 15, 20 miles from there with the winds up to 260 miles per hour. And you have all of these cylinders, 24,000 of depleted uranium cylinders giving off neutron exposures setting in this land. But I do have a petition over here. We’re trying to get on Rica right now. I have all four senators working, but they haven’t made up their mind about it, but they’re trying to get us added to the Rica. So if anyone would like to sign a petition, we would be so grateful.

David Pfister:

My name is David Pfister. I am the Western Pennsylvania organizer for Food and Water Watch based out of North side Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, but grew up here in Chippewa Township. My parents live right over in Chippewa on the other side of the border. Hillary and I actually went to the same high school a couple years apart and I, but I’ve been thinking about this whole situation a lot just because it not only personally impacts me, but a lot of the people that I have come to be really good friends with doing a lot of work here around the Shell Plant in particular, which came online fully this past year and has been spewing toxic pollution into the atmosphere in Beaver County and in the region that whole time. I’m sorry y’all, it’s a little emotional because I’ve been here before. I was here with Hillary when the representatives from our EPA region came and said that they had nothing but inconclusive tests here

Speaker 16:

And said they weren’t going to come back and test anything

David Pfister:

Else. Yes, exactly. And had about as much to say on dioxins as the EPA currently do. They basically told the residents here in East Palestine with a straight face that everything was safe as far as they could tell. I’ve gotten to know people as they have come and talked time and time again. I’ve had the pleasure to work with Jamie and Christina and I met Chris at the Towson Toxic Tour When we are up here with you guys a couple months ago or a couple weeks ago, my sense of time is warped. I have a toddler. Yes, yes. But I’ve been coming to this town for years. I’ve gotten to know people here throughout my time growing up here and then coming back here as a activist and as a effective community member. And I just want to hold space for everybody’s hurt and their anger and their fear and their desperation. And I want you to be able to hold that and feel that because one of the things that’s most important is we grasp the emotional scope of what has happened here in this place because it continues to happen everywhere in this country

Because of the motives which everybody at this table has espoused previously, but also just because of the disconnectedness that we have inherited all of us here. And one of the most beautiful things about being here at this table with all of you, some of whom I’ve known for a while, some of whom I just met and seeing people here that I never expected to see, quite frankly people from other walks of life, is that every time that we come together in whatever size of a group, we fight back togetherness. The act of supporting one another is absolutely revolutionary in times like these. And I just want to hold space for that and to commend everybody for coming here and seeing this bearing witness to this feeling bearing witness to the pain that everybody’s going through here because it takes real bravery to come up and talk about what you’re going through. Time and time again, Jamie and Christina and Rob and Lori and all the other people that have continued to speak out, Hilary from an organizational capacity food and water watch works on these issues all over the country. Here in Pennsylvania, we work a lot on oil and gas site fight issues, which

Are inexorably tangled with these things because that natural gas is the feedstock for all those plastic pellets is the feedstock for all that vinyl chloride.

Speaker 16:

But they don’t want us.

David Pfister:

Exactly. All these sites are intertwined, as other people have said more eloquently than my fuzzy brain can get around right now. But our organization is committed to continuing to fight fracking here in Pennsylvania and committed toward holding Josh Shapiro accountable for the promises he made as Attorney General to implement common sense protections like mandatory setbacks. But we’re also going to stand here with you in East Palestine. We aren’t going anywhere and our organization is behind you 100%. Whatever we can do to continue to spread the word about what has happened here, we’re here. I’m really thankful for the chance to be here with y’all today, and I appreciate each and every one of you and I look forward to helping in whatever way that I can and we can organizationally. Thank you.

Speaker 25:

I want to give a little context for why I’m here, and I’m not saying it to be like look at the work that we did, but I’m saying it because it’s really exciting to be here with a bunch of unions and environmental activists and residents and people who are from a lot of different walks of life that at least in my work I’m told we’re on the different, we’re in opposition to one another. And I just really appreciate this moment because it’s very clear that we aren’t. And so I just want to speak a little bit to my organization, did a little bit of relief work in East Palestine last year, shortly after the derailment, Jamie was the first person I met. I showed up to a public meeting and she was handing out flyers and I was like, I want to help hand out flyers and quickly met a lot of different residents and we ended up raising a little over $70,000 to get air purifiers into households for folks who weren’t able to leave or chose not to leave in order to do what we can to decontaminate indoor living spaces because that wasn’t happening.

And something that wasn’t lost on me was that when I put up a flag in Pittsburgh that said, folks need water, folks need funds, folks need cleaning supplies that aren’t chemically based. Folks need trash bags. Folks need PPE, we don’t know what we’re dealing with. We need people to have respirators. It was rank and file union members who showed up. It was folks like Robin and David who showed up. It was folks who had family from the region who showed up. And there were a lot of us hippie environmentalists too who showed up, but it was working class people who showed up for one another. Like I said, I didn’t have anything planned to say. So I think I’ll just thank folks and point out folks like Mike Stout, who I get, I look up to a lot because I don’t want to say, I try to be like Mike, because I can’t rock your style, man, but you got a foot in the union world and you have a foot in environmentalist world, and we need more people like that. And I share space with you sometimes, and I try to do a little bit of what you do, and I know we’re getting it from both directions. A lot of times we want to show up in solidarity unions and they go, you’re the ones who are killing our jobs. And we show up to environmentalists and we say, we got to support this union fight. And they go, those are the folks polluting our neighborhoods. And it’s like there’s one enemy in all that, and it’s the boss.

And I know Melanie experiences the same thing in Clariton, where the Coke works there is poisoning her community, and you knock doors there and you have residents saying, well, if the plant goes away, all the jobs are going to go away. But we all know that how many people in Clariton work at that plant anymore less than? And we also know that the Mon Valley, right, black working class communities, those are the folks who comprise other unions in the building services like SEIU 32 bj, right? And so you got union members working in a shop that’s polluting other union members’ homes and for some reason we’re we are supposed to be at each other’s throats when it’s the same politicians and the same corporations who are pitting us against each other and we’re all getting screwed. And so I just want to say thank you to Chris and all the different union brothers and sisters who came out.

I just want to say Robin and David and I are really annoying in spaces with our colleagues and Zach too because we, it’s true. We do our best to bring folks from our industry what it is. We are workers to bring folks from our industries to picket lines to do what we can to pass the hat for strike funds. And I’m just really happy to build connections with folks today as much as I can because a lot of you all were saying and sharing your wisdom, it is one fight for a good life and we can do it together. And this is a really good first step. Also, shout out to, I dunno why I’m thanking everybody. I feel a lot of gratitude. Also shout out to Steve and all the folks from the Union Progress and the News Guild because y’all have been the most consistent coverage in the region for East Palestine.

They covered every fundraising event that we did and every pub and every little backyard event that we had to raise a couple hundred dollars here and there to put an air purifier into a home. And that’s why it’s not why we did it, it’s the right thing to do. But that’s one of the reasons that we came out on the strike lines at two or three in the morning to stop those trucks. That’s why we helped raise strike funds and split funds at the event at Bottle Rocket. So I just really appreciate y’all. I love to see the different, I feel very privileged to be able to look at people and know the connections of how they got here. And that just feels amazing to me. So I know that it sucks why we’re, and it’s not okay why we’re here, but there’s a lot of power and wisdom here, and I just really appreciate you all sharing it with everyone. But with me, so

Speaker 12:

Person, maybe we can give a baby a hand to the brothers and sisters and siblings from

Maximillian Alvarez:

Iowa. I was in the house. They made it these poor

Speaker 5:


Maximillian Alvarez:

Solidarity. These poor folks were broke down on the side of the road at four in the morning and they made it here. And this event would not have happened without them either. And I just wanted to let folks know they also brought sodas. So if you want more soda, I’m bringing it over there. And the great penny logs in has the signup sheets that people were asking for earlier. So if you want to sign up, you want to be part of this, you want to stay up to date, please sign up here. And also if you want to sign on as a supporter of the campaign to Pressure Biden, to invoke the Stafford Ag, you can sign on here.

Nicole Fabricant:

Hey, y’all great to be here. I want to say that Baltimore, both labor and EJ stand with East Palestine and we will be in this struggle alongside you guys. So I have been organizing for 13, 14 years in Baltimore, an overburdened community that has 70 plus industries and the highest respiratory illnesses in the country. CSX is our big enemy in Baltimore. And so that’s what brought me to Hillary. And a lot of the folks in East Palestine, we have been watching coal trains run through our community. We know that CSX and Norfolk Southern own the largest coal export pier on the East coast, and they are making so much money, $8 billion right off of housing their coal in a neighborhood that has 70 plus industries. So we’ve been organizing with young people, with high school students who have been in this for a very long time, and older residents in the community who are fed up with industry kind of railroading right over them.

And so that’s what brought me to East Palestine was thinking about capital being borderless and how do our movements become borderless? How do we build across state boundaries? How do we think about these as interconnected issues, not independent silos. We need to weave this fabric together to build a much broader movement as our brothers from the unions talked about reclaiming nationalizing rail. We need to put Alan Shaw and the CEO of CSX in the Hague. We need prison for white collar crime. We do it for young, poor, brown and black folks are feeding our Carceral system. The same needs to go for corporate rail and every other corporate entity that’s in these communities making a profit off of brown and black in a place like Baltimore communities. So we came a few weeks ago with organizers from Baltimore to say, we stand with you guys and we’ll show up.

We’ll continue to show up, and we want to build, we want to think about how do we take on these billion dollar corporations and what does it look like to cross race, to cross class, to cross regions and to see not just the struggles but these fossil economies as interconnected, right? I think it was so appropriate to talk about vinyl chloride as connected to plastics. We are fighting for zero waste burning plastics in Baltimore. Our incinerator are killing people. So we are connected, but they don’t want us to be. And so I think part of it is not just the education and consciousness raising, but figuring out how we can grow this movement. So I’m honored to be here. The stories have stuck with me since I sat and listened, Denise Palestine, I can’t sleep at night thinking about it and how we continue to build with you guys. So thanks.

Thank you.

Hilary Flint:

Hi everyone. My name is Hilary Flint. I am build on the schedule as an environmentalist, but I would just say that I’m a human being. I was diagnosed with kidney cancer in my late twenties, and it was something that made me look and go, Hey, how does this happen? And that’s really where I got to where I am today. Maybe not how I was affected by the derailment, but what got me interested in the environment. And I went down this whole campaign of why, right? Going to all your different doctors and talking to everyone and saying, why did this happen to me? And we did testing and we found out that I had a gene mutation, which had been in my family for generations, but it had never been triggered this early. So then I had a new question, why was it triggered this early?

And so I went to all the best geneticists I could find, and they told me environmental reasons. So then I go, well, what they is it? And they go, oh, we can’t tell you that we don’t know. And so I became a detective and I started looking at everything around me, everything I consume, everything that passes by. And that’s when I really started getting concerned about the petrochemical industry in my region. So I’m from Enon Valley, Pennsylvania, which is just over the border less than four miles from where the train derailed. And that’s in Beaver County where we have a growing plastics industry. So we have the shell ethane cracker plant that came online just over a year ago. We have another plastics plant, styro pec that is the Ohio River. We have a nuclear power plant, which adds just a whole bunch of fun to that.

And we’re also, beaver County is the Norfolk Southern Hub, the railroad hub, Conway Rail yards. So when Norfolk Southern had a trained rail in the area in Beaver County, people don’t want to talk about it because so many of our families are employed by Norfolk Southern. Even a lot of our firefighters locally also work for Norfolk Southern. And so it’s been a special challenge. Everything about my life has changed since the derailment. I live in a different state. I have a different job. I have different hobbies, which are now actually none. So I always say I’ve grown up in the middle. I’ve always been in the middle. And I don’t mean the middle class. I mean someone who’s bridging between two worlds. So I am a resident, but now I am also an environmentalist apparently. And something about being someone who lives in the middle, you learn how to work with different types of people, and that’s a huge positive, but you also never fit into either side.

And it causes a lot of interpersonal conflict, right? Because never 100% this or 100% that. And it gives me opportunities to be in different spaces that people on the other side aren’t in and don’t get to go in and it’s not fair. And so this has been probably the most emotional year of my life because I have to be the conduit between residents and people that can help residents and sometimes those people don’t. And so I am the don’t shoot the messenger type of person, and it’s really challenging. And I have the privilege of now being able to work in this work and get paid to do that. And that’s something that anyone here who can employ an affected resident on your staff, that is what you need to do. You don’t need to hire academics who talk about these problems as a concept. You need to hire people like Jamie Wallace.

You need to hire the people that live it and the people that can explain it. And you need to give them the resources that make them, they’re already great organizers, but you need to give them the resources so they can continue the job because people get tired. And that’s a real thing. Burnout’s a real thing. And I’m so blessed to have met Melanie Mead, who always checks in on me and she asks me what I’m doing for self care. And usually Nikki’s students a couple of weeks ago had asked me that, what do you do for self-care? And I laughed and everyone in the room was like, that’s kind of nerd. That’s not good. You’re not going to stay in the fight. So I’ve really made an active decision on what keeps me in this fight, what keeps me going. And sometimes it’s not the thing that gets me the most friends, and sometimes it’s not the people that sometimes I just have to put my head down and say, I have to do the work.

I have to do the work. I have to do the work. And the hardest part is that the relationships are the work. My friend Andrew Wooer has told me that when the many times where I’ve cried on the phone to him and said, I’m just so tired. I don’t want to talk about the emotions. I don’t want to talk about my family and what my family’s gone through. I just want to do the work to get us all out of that. I don’t want to sit in this space and cry. I’ve learned that unfortunately, the crying is part of the work, which is tough, but being an environmentalist in this area is particularly challenging too. As you had mentioned, we want things in concept, but when they’re brought to us in reality, we don’t vote for those things because they don’t align with the party that we support and why we support certain things.

That’s a whole other long historical conversation. But being the person who has to then go to these politicians and explain what we’re seeing and why we’re seeing that and kind of playing that uncomfortable middle person, it is a real challenge. And it’s something that environmentalists do often because as everyone on this panel knows, we work with affected residents and we have to sit there and we have to do toxic tours. And I never thought I’m a toxic tour host now. It’s something I do almost every month. I host people, whether it’s Washington County, whether it’s Towson University, people from the Gulf South, the Permian Basin, and it’s a whole type of tourism I never expected to be in. But that’s the important work because now I can look around this room and see different people that I’ve met at different events from different states and different regions, different industries, and that’s the beautiful thing.

But what we didn’t have was power. And we’ve been actively in building that in a manner that I wish it was faster. But I think this is what’s sustainable for us to again, be in the work. So really, the only thing I can say is, again, please hire affected residents. Please listen to them. Please don’t hire people to talk about stories like Jamie or Christina or Laurie or Darren, hire them. That is what I want to get across to the environmental movement in general too. You can train and you can go to school and things like that, but it’s the people that live it who are the working class who really know how to solve our problems. And so when we can come together with different members of working class, we might be working in different facilities, but we’re all working towards the same thing.

So the thing that I want to really say is just continue uplifting resident voices. Keep them in the rooms of planning. Call them when you have media opportunities and keep building power and telling these stories so that next year when we have an event like this, which I hope we don’t have to do like this, maybe it’ll be more social, but that way this room has even more people from more places and more walks of life. And that’s really the work that in East Palestine we’re doing right now is continuing to build power. Because what we’ve learned is talking to our elected officials is done. I sat down with the president of the United States last month. It didn’t get me anywhere. It’s another promise for another day, for another meeting, for another. No. Now the way that we show them is that we come with more people. And every meeting it’s more people and more power, and that’s how we move the needle. It’s not a conversation with an elected official. It’s an elected official seeing you bring the power to them. And so that’s what we’ll continue to do here today. And I want to thank everyone for being here. We really appreciate it.

Vina Colley:

I want to make sure that everyone here sticks together. The groups watch for people to come in and make you all fight. That happens. They pass rumors, and so you don’t stick together. You got to stick together to win this watch out. Don’t let agency for toxic substance and disease and CDC, because all their studies are inconclusive by design. They’re not your friends. They’re a government agency. We’ve dealt with them now twice.

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