Political influence accelerates corporate profits and income equality while threatening public safety. Nowhere is that clearer than the current state of the railroad industry, where a “Moneyball” approach to operations foreshadows more catastrophic derailments, more dangerous blocked crossings, and more worker injuries and deaths.

Legendary investor Warren Buffett, known as “the Oracle of Omaha,”  is the seventh richest man in the world – along with investments in candy and insurance, his holding company Berkshire Hathaway also owns BNSF Railway, the largest railroad company in the United States. Now, he’s leaning on the railroad for bigger profits. His latest investment letter specifically calls out the imperative to put shareholder profits above workers and communities. Reaction to Buffett’s latest profit mandate was swift and hit BNSF workers hard: deep cuts to skilled craft unions, management, and maintenance. Unions are now calling on the Federal Railroad Administration to ensure the safety of BNSF’s system.

Free use photo by Nebraska Railroaders for Public Safety.

In the 1800s, fatal rail accidents were rampant in the United States.

Today, America’s new robber barons threaten to take us back to the dark days of railroading’s past, packing longer trains with fewer train crews and slashing the very employees that inspect tracks, engines, and freight cars. BNSF and other rail companies have embraced “Precision Scheduled Railroading,” which pressures railroad employees to speed up their safety inspections of locomotives and freight cars, has doubled the territory for track inspectors, and replaces human checks and balances with new sensor systems.

Help ProPublica Tell the Story of Rail Safety in the U.S.

U.S. states have tried to mandate minimum crew numbers and rules on blocked crossings – however, interstate commerce means those efforts are often overturned in court. Federal action is imperative. Congress could act to ensure rail safety – and it looked like they just might after the devastating East Palestine derailment last year. However, reform has stalled out in Congress. Railroads are putting profits over safety and withering the industry in favor of heavy trucks that clog and damage our public highway infrastructure. Enough is enough. That’s why railroaders in Nebraska are supporting an independent for U.S. Senate who will help get things moving again.