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An Open Letter to my Fellow Railroad Workers

By Jen Wallis - Railroad Workers United, September 4, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s. The author wants to make it clear that her views are not necessarily those of her union, Railroad Workers United, or the members of either.

Dear fellow rails:

On Tuesday, September 2, 2014, five residents of Seattle and Everett working with Rising Tide Seattle, stopped work at a Burlington Northern Santa-Fe Rail Yard in Everett by erecting a tripod-structure on the outbound railroad tracks, directly in front of a mile-long oil train.

Just to be clear, I had nothing to do with the action. Direct actions are the result of affinity groups, who plan these things completely amongst themselves within their own organizations. All I did was share the message of how dangerous one-person crews would be. I'm thrilled that they listened, but I'm actually opposed to most formal coalitions. All of the ones I've been involved with have ended by either imploding because of the hostile factions they inevitably splintered into, or became appropriated by the bureaucrats. I'm more inclined to simply keep lines of communication open between our respective movements, but personally it goes much deeper than that.

Every age has their growing pains. Growing as a society means that those who advocate social or economic change are invariably encumbered with a lot of “isms” or “ists” for their beliefs. More than 100 years ago, and for centuries before that, it was not universally accepted that slavery was wrong. If you believed that it was, you were labelled a “abolitionist”, along with the other colorful labels that went with it. If you helped slaves gain their freedom, you went to jail. Now it is universally accepted that enslaving people is wrong.

100 years ago, it was not universally accepted that women should have the right to vote. If you believed that women had the right to vote, you were called a “suffragist”, along with all of the labels and misconceptions that went along with it. Believing in it often landed you in jail. It was a controversial opinion to be held in that era, but in America, it is now universally accepted.

Just 50 years ago, if you believed that Jim Crow laws were wrong, you were called a “civil rights activist”, along with all of the horrible names that went along with that. If you believed that segregation was wrong, you often went to jail. Now at least it is not directly advocated, though we still have a ways to go.

All of these changes, which are now universally accepted as truths, came about as the result of numerous acts of non-violent civil disobedience and direct actions. The actual legislation came about much later as the result of public pressure.

Climate change is not a myth. It is scientifically proven, and many of the effects of the causes we have made in the last 30 years are irreversible. We have the opportunity to stop the destruction, but we are well past the time to act on it. It’s upon us right now. It is our obligation to our children and their children’s children to stand up and say, “Enough! This is no longer sustainable for our planet!”.

An Arresting Experience: Doing direct action at BNSF Delta Yard

By Patrick Mazza - Cascadia Planet, September 8, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Following is the story of why I and four others engaged in an act of civil resistance at BNSF Delta Yard in Everett, Washington September 2.  The act was intended to draw attention to a Petition for Redress of Grievances Inflicted by Fossil Fuels.  Please sign our petition here

I am a veteran climate activist.  I have written about the climate crisis for over 25 years and for most of the last 15 worked full-time to advance climate solutions.  I have spent a lot of time trying to stop global warming sitting in front of a computer.  On September 2, 2014 it was time to sit in front of a train. 

Five of us attached ourselves to a tripod made of three 18-foot steel poles erected across a train track at Delta Junction, the north end of BNSF’s Everett Delta staging yard.  I locked myself at the foot of one of the poles.  School teachers Liz Spoerri and Jackie Minshew and coffee shop owner Mike Lapointe fastened themselves to the others. Abby Brockway, a house painter and artist, ascended to perch at the top.

Our banner, “Cut Oil Trains, Not Conductors,” expressed solidarity with railroad workers fighting against dangerous, single-person train crews.  During the day the action drew numerous supporting honks from truckers driving across the bridge above.

Around 150 yards to the south an orange BNSF engine was linked at the head of a black mile-long snake of tanker cars filled with North Dakota Bakken shale oil.  This is the same extraordinarily unstable crude that on July 6, 2013 leveled several city blocks and incinerated 47 people at Lac-Megantic on the Quebec-Maine border.  That exploded in fireballs after derailments October 19, 2013 in Edmonton, Alberta and November 8, 2013 in Aliceville, Alabama. A derailment and fire December 30, 2013 in Casselton, North Dakota erupted in a toxic plume that forced evacuations in a five-mile radius.  Another Bakken train derailed and was engulfed in flames January 7, 2014 in Plaster Rock, New Brunswick.

Every week oil trains each carrying up to three million gallons of volatile Bakken crude trundle through Seattle 8 to 13 times and Washington up to 19 times, according to BNSF’s own figures. Sightline's Eric de Place reports that oil unit train traffic through Washington has risen from essentially zero in August 2012 to an average of 2.6 trains a day. They run past stadiums and heavily populated neighborhoods, and through tunnels underneath Seattle and Everett.  Just this July 24 a nearly 100-tanker train derailed beneath the Magnolia Bridge in Seattle.  Fortunately no toxic fireball . . . this time.