Teamsters Rail Conference fighting to restore full railroad unemployment and sickness benefits
CLEVELAND, October 3 — Beginning October 1, the U.S. Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) will reduce railroad unemployment and sickness insurance benefits by 7.2 percent — instead of 9.2 percent — due to federal budget cuts first implemented in March 2013. Since that time, these benefits had been reduced by 9.2 percent.
However, Rail Labor and the industry say that’s not good enough. Both sides are actively petitioning members of Congress to eliminate the unfair benefit reduction entirely. Rail Labor unions have contacted all members of the House and Senate, while the Association of American Railroads has reached out to the Ranking Members of both the House and Senate Budget Committees.
Dennis R. Pierce is leading the charge on behalf of the Teamsters Rail Conference and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET). As President of both Organizations, Pierce mailed a letter to all members of Congress highlighting the unfair treatment that railroad workers receive under the Budget Control Act of 2011, more commonly known now as sequestration.
“Workers who are not employed in the railroad industry do not have their basic unemployment and sickness benefits reduced, only railroad workers,” he wrote. “It is difficult to understand why this unfair and onerous reduction is being applied to only one type of worker in this country.”
The sequestration cut impacts more than 70,000 Rail Conference members belonging to the BLET and the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes Division (BMWED).
“We believe that railroad workers should not be singled out and penalized by having their unemployment and sickness benefits arbitrarily reduced,” President Pierce wrote. “This is not only unfair but it is harmful to the economy as a whole since almost 100 percent of these benefits is immediately put back into the economy as these individuals struggle to buy food and medicine, pay mortgages, etc. Recipients of these temporary benefits do not save or invest these benefits. Rather, they use them to pay for everyday living expenses.”
According to the U.S. Railroad Retirement Board, the adjusted reduction amount is based on revised projections of benefit claims and payments under the Railroad Unemployment Insurance Act. It will remain in effect through September 30, 2014, the end of the fiscal year. Reductions in future fiscal years, should they occur, will be calculated based on applicable law. The 7.2 percent reduction in railroad unemployment and sickness benefits will reduce the maximum daily benefit rate from $68.00 to $63.10. As a result, the total maximum amount payable in a 2-week period with 10 days of unemployment will drop from $680.00 to $631.04.
“We… request that you rescind this unfair benefit reduction on our most vulnerable workers, and restore their full unemployment and sickness benefits,” President Pierce concluded.
A copy of President Pierce’s letter is on the BLET website (PDF).
Thursday, October 03, 2013
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