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Rail unions join forces to end RUIA sequestration

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio, June 12 — All U.S. railroad labor unions have united in a campaign to overturn the unfair sequestration of Railroad Unemployment Insurance Act (RUIA) benefits, which unjustly reduces the unemployment and sickness benefits of railroad workers. The unions are represented by the Teamsters Rail Conference and the AFL-CIO’s Transportation Trades Department (TTD).

On June 11, the unions contacted Ohio Senators Rob Portman and Sherrod Brown and requested that they jointly co-sponsor language consistent with the HEROES Act (H.R. 6800) that would eliminate sequestration. Specifically, the unions are asking the Senators to rescind the sequestration of RUIA benefits by amending the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act of 1985 to include RUIA among the other various programs that are not subject to sequestration. Senator Portman is chairman of the Senate subcommittee where a decision on sequestration will be made.

According to Teamsters Rail Conference President Dennis R. Pierce and TTD President Larry Willis: “Unlike the average U.S. worker, railroad employees do not receive unemployment benefits through state-administered unemployment insurance programs. Instead, unemployed railroaders receive these benefits through the RUIA program, which is administered by the United States Railroad Retirement Board (RRB). As a result of the Budget Control Act of 2011, RUIA are subject to sequestration. No state unemployment insurance benefits in the country are subject to this unfair treatment.”

As background, unemployment and sickness benefits payable under the RUIA have been sequestered or reduced since 2013, as part of a package of automatic spending cuts required by the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA), which was passed in August 2011. Currently, RUIA unemployment benefits are being sequestered at the rate of 5.9%, as are RUIA sickness benefits. In the past, these rates have been adjusted annually when the federal sequestration is recalculated. Railroaders have seen their benefits sequestered as high as 9.2% in the past.

As part of the push to end sequestration, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) will launch a mobilization effort in the state of Ohio to urge Senators Portman and Brown to co-sponsor legislation to ease the burden upon sick and unemployed railroaders by overturning sequestration.

“In these uncertain times, our members who are either laid-off or sick deserve the same fair treatment as all other workers across the country, who receive 100% of the unemployment benefits to which they are entitled by law. For these reasons, it is critical that the sequestration of RUIA be rescinded,” President Pierce and President Willis concluded.

A copy of their joint letter to the Senators is available here (PDF).

Friday, June 12, 2020

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