In the six months since the East Palestine disaster brought railroads into national focus, we’ve been covering the aftermath — the health implications for residents, the empty rhetoric from politicians, and the seemingly never-ending saga of the Railway Safety Act of 2023. As craven bipartisanship and corporate pandering have predictably stalled efforts to ensure a safer industry through legislation, two new major victories — on paid sick leave for rail workers and a better monitoring policy for dangerous train equipment— illustrates how collective action, not partisan dealmaking, can make our nation’s railroads safer.

This winter, a Norfolk Southern train derailed in East Palestine, Ohio, containing as much as 1.1 million pounds of vinyl chloride, a highly carcinogenic and flammable chemical used in plastics manufacturing. After the derailment, officials executed a “controlled release” (controlled burn) of the chemicals to prevent an even bigger explosion.