East Palestine train catastrophe shows why corporations aren't 'people'| Opinion

Sandra Bolzenius
Guest Columnist, March 7, 2023

If ordinary people had a say on the factors, would last month's train derailment in East Palestine have happened?

Who among us would exempt companies from fully disclosing the contents of their toxic cargo?

Who would permit a train of 150 cars to operate with a crew of just two — and then deny railroad workers paid sick days? Which of us would even consider reversing a safety mandate to install new brake systems?

My guess is that nary a soul would agree to these or any conditions that put others at risk. That is not what people do.

Empowered by the U.S. Supreme Court’s stance that they are “people,” corporations push policies that reflect values very different than ours. Real people care about family, communities, the environment, and a sustainable future.

As the East Palestine catastrophe demonstrates, mega corporations prioritize profits, regardless of how policies to boost them may endanger all that real people hold dear.

While grassroots groups, unions, and concerned citizens have fought each egregious policy that led to the Ohio train disaster, their shoestring budgets are no match for corporate lobbyists with millions to spend.

Birth of the 'Super Persons'

March 4, 2023; Springfield, OH, U.S.; About 20 cars of a Norfolk Southern cargo train derailed near Springfield around 5 p.m. by State Route 41, close to the Clark County Fairgrounds, on Saturday evening. There have been no reported injuries and no hazardous materials were aboard the train, Mandatory Credit: Bill Lackey/Springfield News-Sun

In 2010, the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling further flung open the floodgates of campaign spending, rendering ordinary citizens nearly mute in legislatures. Had state and federal officials listened to the people instead of big corporations, the residents of East Palestine would not today be in such grave danger.

Ohioans, consider this avoidable tragedy in our state as a wake-up call.

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Going forward, we must demand that our representatives support responsible policies, not reprehensible ones that currently sail through legislatures.

It is a daunting duty, yet necessary after decades of Supreme Court decisions that have transformed corporations into Super Persons.

Sandra Bolzenius

By declaring non-human entities “constitutional persons,” the Court has entitled them to many of our constitutional rights. We, the real people have these rights, too, but not the unlimited wealth that Super Persons have to assert their interests over ours.

To ensure that our public servants serve the public requires that Ohioans look into which candidates have proven track records of working for the people rather than for Big Money donors?

To gain perspective on this matter, follow the funding behind expensive media spots and numerous mailers. Then seek out those candidates with good ideas but not the finances to widely publicize them.

Additionally, consult www.movetoamend.org to see who supports the “We the People” amendment to end corporate personhood. Votes for devotees of real democracy and the passage of the “We the People” amendment will put real people in charge of our policies .

We hear that Americans are too divided to come together on candidates and policies. In fact, we are profoundly united. Americans champion democracy, decry corporatocracy, celebrate just policies, and oppose those that may harm communities and the environment. That is why, if asked directly about policies, we would overwhelmingly favor full disclosures of hazardous materials in-transit, adequate numbers of crew members for every job, and modern braking systems on trains.

The lessons are irrefutable.

If legislatures were representing our values, there would not have been a New Palestine disaster of this explosive magnitude, if at all, or the last massive derailment in Springfield. To protect ourselves, others, and our democracy, we must ensure that We the People, not powerful corporations, are directing public policies.

Sandra Bolzenius is a historian and author of Glory in Their Spirit: How Four Black Women Challenged the Army during World War II. She is a Move to Amend, Ohio coordinating committee member.

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