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A Railroad Strike Could Fill New York City With Sewage

Most of NYC's sewage is hauled away by train. If railroads go on strike, it could create a stinky situation.

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Trains lie on tracks in the Hudson Rail yards
Photo: Mario Tama (Getty Images)

Remember that looming threat of a railroad strike, the one that spelled such potential doom for America that the Biden administration started butting its head into negotiations? Well, that was only paused for a contract vote — the threat was delayed, never resolved. Now, with the rejection of yet another potential contract, railroad workers are closer than ever to showing their bosses the true power of a united workforce. With sewage.

Strikes have side effects, and New Yorkers would quickly notice a particularly undesirable one. See, New York City generates about 2.4 million pounds of human waste every day, and 87 percent of that waste leaves the city by freight train. If those rails shut down, the Big Apple could start to smell just the slightest bit worse.

Empty railroad tracks stand at the CSX Oak Point Yard, a freight railroad yard on October 11, 2022 in the Bronx borough of New York City.
Photo: Spencer Platt (Getty Images)

Of course, the panic around a shitty New York situation only serves to help the railroad workers’ cause. Clearly, railroad workers are necessary to the fabric of our society — even basic sanitation functions fall apart without their labor. It sure seems like their work merits better pay and an actual structure to allow time off for family commitments, medical procedures, and the like. (And if you haven’t been following the strike negotiations, yes: railroad workers are fighting for, among other things, the ability to take time off for medical care and family commitments. Their demands are that basic.)


So if you’re based in New York, like much of the Jalopnik staff, you may run into some new smells over the next few weeks. The situation out here may get, for lack of a better word, crappier. But it all goes to prove how integral railroad workers are to the basic function of this city, and this country as a whole. Why not give them the pay and benefits befitting that oh-so-necessary role?