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U.S. House passes major rail safety bill, H.R. 2

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio, July 2 — By a vote of 233-188, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 2 on July 1. The bill, called the Moving Forward Act, includes a $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan and incorporates all the significant rail safety improvements that were introduced in the $500 billion INVEST In America Act, which BLET members lobbied Congress to support in a national mobilization outreach in late June.

BLET National President Dennis R. Pierce said H.R. 2 represents the most important rail safety legislation in more than a decade. It contains many of the stand-alone bills that have been central to BLET’s legislative efforts since 2008, including:

• Two-person train crews;
• Increased Amtrak funding;
• Fatigue mitigation;
• Unsafe train lengths, including the impact on blocked crossings;
• Safety culture assessments;
• Protecting American Rail Jobs at the U.S.–Mexico border; and
• Crew member assault prevention.

“The Moving Forward Act contains rail safety provisions that will benefit all railroaders, including BLET members and their families,” President Pierce said. “The favorable vote in the Democrat-controlled U.S. House of Representatives is a direct result of the lobbying by BLET officers and members alongside all of Rail Labor. It is clear from the vote that mobilized and united Union members can make a difference. While the vote represents a victory for the safety and job security of American rail workers, the true test of support for rail workers will come as the legislation moves into the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate. BLET’s membership must be prepared to lobby even harder to get this legislation over the finish line.”

On June 3, 2020, a $500 billion transportation bill titled the Investing in a New Vision for the Environment and Surface Transportation in America Act — the INVEST in America Act — was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives. It was introduced by Peter DeFazio (D–OR), Chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Committee, and Dan Lipinski (D–IL), Chairman of the Railroad Subcommittee. The T&I Committee approved the bill on June 18, and it was later rolled into the House’s larger infrastructure bill, H.R. 2.

H.R. 2 would triple funding for Amtrak, mandate a minimum crew size of two (a certified engineer and a certified conductor), challenge the Class I freight rail industry’s Precision Scheduled Railroading (PSR) operating model, reform the Federal Railroad Administration’s (FRA) process for non-emergency waivers of safety regulations, and would protect BLET jobs by ensuring that only citizens or nationals of the United States may operate trains within the United States that originate in Mexico

While passage of H.R. 2 represents a victory for Rail Labor, much work lies ahead as a companion bill will soon be introduced in the U.S. Senate.

“It is clear what can be done legislatively to improve and protect Rail jobs when we elect labor-friendly candidates,” President Pierce said. “We will all have an opportunity in the fall elections to support those candidates who support our issues.”

Thursday, July 2, 2020

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