East Palestine, Ohio, and Ukraine are closer than you think!

Left: derailed train in East Palestine, Ohio. Right: 5,000 miles away, families in Kyiv survey what is left of their homes after Putin’s bombs destroyed them.


East Palestine, Ohio, and Kyiv, Ukraine, may be nearly 5,000 miles apart, but they are closer than you think. And in both cases, the U.S. union leadership is missing in action.

East Palestine
Consider the Norfolk Southern train derailment: It was not an accident, it was criminal negligence for

train videos showed sparks coming from the axle of a N.S. railroad car tens of miles down the line from where it derailed.

profit. That crime still continues. Under the Obama, Trump, and the present Biden administrations, the government has been allowing the railroads to roll over safety requirements like a railroad train running through a red “stop” signal. This article documents some of what has happened. Yes, the Civil War era braking system on the trains is part of the problem, but consider something else: The railroads have electronic devices installed to detect faulty bearings exactly like the one that caused the derailment in East Palestine. But according to CNN, four years ago it was reported that these detectors needed to be upgraded to detect problems before the bearings overheat. Yet nothing was done.

Pollution in stream in East Palestine

The coverup for lack of safety continues. Residents are reporting on Facebook. One wrote: “I saw that a guy had a multicolored rainbow floating on top of his tap water, but EPA had tested it and told him it was safe to drink. Like the professor from Carnegie Mellon said, the EPA may not be using tests that are sensitive enough or appropriate to detect chemicals and they may not be testing for every chemical that’s leaked or been created as a result of the leak and burn. EPA must be more thorough with testing, especially for dioxins, and blood tests should be done to determine if people are at risk and provide treatment.” Another resident replied: “They are doing surface tests…it’s not enough they need to do deeper tests, and test for more then just the basics. Follow Kristen Meghan Kelly she’s been speaking about this she’s a scientist and was in East Palestine this week!” We don’t even know if they are testing at all for dioxin – a byproduct of burning vinyl chloride. Dioxin can have long term effects, including causing birth defects.

Norfolk Southern workers who are cleaning up the mess are not even given protective gear. As a result, they are reporting getting headaches and nausea. If that is happening with them, imagine what is happening with residents, who have to breathe the air and drink the water 24/7 for years to come, if they even can end up staying there. The entire area may be unlivable for years to come.

See this article, American Railroads’ toxic pollution of the air, water, soil and of US politics, for more on the history of the criminal collaboration between the railroads and the federal government.

Residents of the entire area are angry and frightened for good reason. Some also tend to be supporters of the criminal Trump. The coverup by the Biden administration only reinforces this. But the union leadership is largely silent. Shortly after the derailment, two railroad union officials did comment on safety cutbacks. And as cited above, officials of one railway union did complain about health problems concerning workers doing cleanup work. But that is all. Nothing about the health problems of the residents. Nothing about their possibly having to actually abandon their homes.  In fact, part of the reason they are silent is exactly because the entire program and strategy upon which they rest is so exposed as a disastrous failure in this case. It is just one small brick in the edifice of criminal neglect by the entire union bureaucracy. If there ever was an opportunity to start to build a working class political party, this is it.


Millions of Ukrainian families like this one have had to flee their homes due to Putin’s bombs. Several thousand Ukrainian children have been reported to have been kidnapped into Russia.

Travel 5,000 miles away, to Ukraine. People there are being devastated by even greater crimes. Their homes are being made unlivable by Putin’s bombs. Their electric infrastructure is being destroyed by those bombs. Putin’s troops are carrying out mass murder. Hundreds – possibly thousands – of Ukrainian children are being kidnapped and taken to Russia for indoctrination.    Putin has made his goal clear: wipe out Ukraine as an independent nation, either in one fell swoop or bit-by-bit. He will go on from there. If he succeeds, this will increase the spread of all the far right and even fascist forces around the world. It will strengthen the most extreme of the forces that have been pushing for deregulation in the United States, including Trump, Marjorie Taylor Greene, and Ron de Santis.

The Ukrainian people are fighting with everything they have, arms in hand. Biden’s government is helping supply them with the arms they need. That is the only way to resist this fascistic invasion. While Biden, recently visited Kyiv, he stalled on sending them the arms they really need to fight the invaders, just as he has about doing anything about the disaster in East Palestine. He waited for months and months to send Ukraine the artillery (HIMARS) they need and nearly a year to send them the tanks they need.

While the fascistic Russian troops have faced severe losses, it’s not clear whether those losses are fatal. That’s because they have so many men to throw into the meat grinder. It’s also now possible that the repressive Chinese government may start providing weapons to Russia. The South African government seems to also be lining up with Putin, as we saw in a recent joint naval exercise. The corrupt and repressive Modi government in India is also tending to line up with Putin to a certain extent.

Time is not on our side
In the East Palestine disaster, the government is saying it may take over a year to determine exactly what caused the wreck. They are hoping that people will have moved on by then. Time is not on our side there. Nor is it in Ukraine. Putin is hoping that people in the West will get weary of helping the embattled Ukrainian people. In fact, that is tending to happen. In the US, a recent poll showed 48% support for the US continuing to send aid vs. 29% opposed. That is down from 60% support last May. Not only that, but according to reports the US is running low on weapons to supply Ukraine.

Silence of the union leadership
The fascist-connected Putin and his invasion are still in a lot of trouble and his invasion may collapse yet. But just as at home, what is prolonging and increasing the suffering is the silence – and worse – of the union leadership. It’s true that the AFL-CIO has made a few ritual comments in support of our embattled sisters and brothers in Ukraine. On February 24, they issued a ritual statement saying they stood “in solidarity with the people of Ukraine.” But they have done nothing to explain to US workers why it is in our interests as workers to support our sisters and brothers in Ukraine. Nor have they done anything to collect aid for Ukrainian workers. (One union leader, Vermont AFL-CIO leader David van Deusen, has disgracefully in effect supported the Putin position!) Just as the union leadership has done nothing to organize a real workers movement around the issue of East Palestine, the same is true regarding Ukraine.

Both are working class issues
It’s clear regarding environmental and safety regulations and making Norfolk Southern pay the full costs for their criminal neglect. It may not be so clear to some, but the same is true around the Ukraine war. Workers the world over have a decisive interest in keeping our democratic rights. We have a decisive interest in opposing national, racial, ethnic and religious oppression. If we don’t, how can we ever build a wider movement for a better world?

All around the world, this oppression is on the rise while democratic rights are being weakened. Putin may stand out as the poster child for this right now, but he is far from alone. India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, came into power through fanning the flames of hatred of that country’s Muslim minority. He continues down that road, while increasing repression at the same time. Throughout Europe, similar forces are rising. In September of last year, the similar “Brothers of Italy” won the election in Italy. The new Israeli government has turned to even greater repression of and land theft from the Palestinians. And while the far, far right forces in the US may have been set back a bit in last year’s election, that is mainly because of the idiocy of its central leader, Trump.

Working class movements
The military struggle of the Ukrainian people is not alone. There has been a strike wave in Britain, which followed a similar strike wave in the U.S. a year ago. Most important is the amazing and courageous

Ukrainians, Iranians, Buryats, Americans and others marched together in San Francisco to protest Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

rebellion of tens of thousands in Iran, led mainly by young women. San Francisco recently saw a small but important example of what can develop. To mark the one year anniversary of Putin’s invasion, the Ukrainian American community held a rally and march in San Francisco. But it wasn’t only them. A large turnout of Iranian Americans also came. So did Iranians, Chinese, Russians and Buryat people. So, what has started as a protest to defend Ukraine has now turned towards a movement for a general principle – democratic and national rights for all, and also opposition to repression. Those are goals of the world working class. Such a movement can link up with the struggles of people from East Palestine, Ohio, to Syria to India, and beyond. In Ukraine, the left and working class forces can speak up in support of the embattled people of East Palestine, Syria, India, Palestine, India and beyond. In that way, we can all join forces and a new independent international working class movement can start to develop.

Workers march behind flag of their union, Zakhist Pratsi

The independent Ukrainian union, Zakhist Pratsi, has made this appeal: to workers around the world: “The war unleashed by Vladimir Putin united the trade union and labor movement in Ukraine. The invaders were counting on a quick lightning victory and on being accepted by Ukrainians as “liberators.” However, they met rejection and resistance everywhere.” But they are no mere agents to Zelensky and international capital. They also wrote: “We resolutely oppose the anti-social policy of our government, aimed at the adoption of anti-worker and anti-union laws to please Ukrainian and foreign oligarchs…. Our classist trade union ‘Zakhist Pratsi’ defends the demands of the working class against the interests of national oligarchic capital and right-wing politicians.” Workers in the United States and around the world should join with them. That is what would put an end to the grip on power that dictators like Putin exercise as well as provide a working class alternative to the pro-corporate policies of heads of state like Biden.

The issues of East Palestine and Putin’s fascistic invasion of Ukraine are workers’ issues and we should unite around them both.

Left: derailed train in East Palestine, Ohio. Right: 5,000 miles away, families in Kyiv survey what is left of their homes after Putin’s bombs destroyed them.

Leave a Reply