I Asked 100 Fellow Blue Collar Workers to Name Their Top Concerns. They All Said the Same Thing | Opinion

One of the effects of the class divide in America is that you rarely hear from people like me. I'm a union railroad worker in Houston, and me and my fellow blue-collar Americans have by and large been erased from the public square. Politicians and pundits like to talk about the working class, but they don't often listen to us, or give us the chance to speak for ourselves.

If you want to know what blue-collar workers think, you have to ask them yourself. So I did. I asked over 100 of my fellow workers, people in various blue-collar employments, both with the railroad and outside of it, what their top three concerns were. Sure, it's a small sample size, but it's bigger than anything you'll hear about in the media.

What I learned is that the top concerns of my fellow workers are inflation and crime.

You know what no one mentioned? January 6. Or LGBT rights. Or abortion.

Those are the issues that dominate our airwaves, though. A recent Rasmussen poll found that while voters are concerned with inflation, the price of gas, and violent crime, the media obsesses over climate change, abortion, the War in Ukraine, and LGBT issues.

What a gap. Talk about a class divide.

But it didn't surprise me. It reflected what I'd been hearing from my coworkers.

Inflation is a big concern for us because our jobs depend on traveling much more so than people who work desk jobs they can get to using public transportation, or those who work from home offices. We drive more, which means that when gas prices double, that hits us much harder than many who could more easily afford the cost.

My last job took me over 700 miles from home. That's a 14-hour drive. I packed my car with a week's worth of clothes and plenty of audiobooks and podcasts, and I headed out. I had to refuel three times before I got there.

In the railroad, seniority is everything, so you go where you're told to go. We travel in work groups known as gangs, and sometimes we get sent far from home. Once you arrive, you go straight to work for the first 12-hour day, then you check into a hotel and pay for a weeklong stay and stock that mini fridge. My company pays a per diem for food, but if you cook for yourself, you get to take home the difference. Some folks bring a spouse with them so as not to be separated for a whole week. They will often drive a diesel truck with a camper, and they're paying even more for fuel.

Texas railway
RICHMOND, TX - JUNE 03: Workers from the Southern Pacific railroad inspect the train tressel that spans across the Brazos River on Hwy. 90A for any damage from high water on June 3, 2016 in Richmond, Texas. The Brazos River reached a record level on Thursday climbing above 54 feet. Bob Levey/Getty Images

So you can see how much inflation and the price of gas impacts us. Even folks who drive 30 or 50 miles to work are going to really feel it, almost every day. There's no working from home for us. And the higher the cost of gas and day to day items, the less take home pay there is at the end of the day.

The second highest concern of my fellow workers is crime. Most of the workers I spoke to are looking for the suburban dream. They just want to live a peaceful, quiet life with their families. But even moving to the suburbs now doesn't protect you from crime, which seems to be spreading from the inner cities.

People are worried about it, worried about their kids growing up with this as a constant. Then you've got progressive DAs giving lighter sentences or even completely dropping charges, even on violent crimes. It's a recipe for disaster. And like inflation, we're bearing the brunt of the crime wave while the work from home set seems almost immune to it. It's not coming for their kids in the neighborhoods they live in, where we would never be able to afford a home.

As for the third concern, this is where some variety entered into it. Some people said gun rights (there are a lot of hunters in our crew). Some said government spending. Some said transparency in government. Many told me that bills are proposed and passed but they rarely reflect what they sent their representatives to Washington to do. They don't even seem to reflect what the bill proposed to do. Others were upset about the money spent on the military or foreign aid.

We're worried about inflation, crime, and government spending. Meanwhile, the political and punditry class are worried about January 6 and identity politics. To me, it seems like they are using these issues to create drama to distract us from their failed policies.

It's just one more example of the class divide.

Charles Stallworth is a union railroad worker.

The views in this article are the writer's own.