By Jay Youngdahl
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Extra resources for Working on the Railroad, Walking in Beauty: Navajos, Hózhı, and Track Work
Today, through merger, the name of this railroad company is the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad, or the BNSF. In 2010 this company was purchased by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, Inc. 19 Dino Drudi, “Railroad-Related Work Injury Fatalities,” Monthly Labor Review, July/August 2007, 17. 7 Working on the Railroad, Walking in Beauty 8 and psychological uncertainties as well. 20 In spite of their years of productive service to their employers, most Navajos on the railroad operate in a foreign system, one with rules that are often selectively applied to them and even a language that is difficult for them to understand.
Lucky the Navajo Singer (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1992), 165–67. 54 Mitchell, Navajo Blessingway Singer, 155. 23 Working on the Railroad, Walking in Beauty 24 religion. ”55 While he remained strongly opposed to the Native American Church and its peyote-based rituals, he was sympathetic to Christianity. Mitchell was baptized twice, once in his youth and again in the last weeks of his life. He was buried in a Catholic ceremony, but one which was interpreted in accordance with Navajo tradition, highlighting a syncretism that is seen repeatedly in this story of Navajo railroad workers.
Under the workers’ compensation approach, injured employees file claims with state administrative boards. Direct access to courts is generally prohibited. Compensation amounts, however, are limited to a statutory schedule; that is, they are set by state law, usually directly by the state legislature. Compensation awards under state workers’ compensation systems are almost always available, regardless of negligence, but are generally much lower than damages awarded under the FELA. In recent years there has been great pressure from employer groups who hold powerful sway over state legislatures to lower monetary awards, limit medical treatment and access to lawyers for injured workers, and to make some conditions, such as carpal tunnel syndrome, noncompensable.