7061 East Pleasant Valley Road, Independence, Ohio 44131 • (216) 241-2630 / Fax: (216) 241-6516

News and Issues
User Info

Rail Labor urges Senate leaders to support bill ending RRB benefit sequestration

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio, November 12 — The Teamsters Rail Conference and the Transportation Trades Department (TTD) of the AFL-CIO are urging leaders of the United States Senate to support a bill that would end the unfair sequestration of Railroad Retirement Sickness and Unemployment benefits.

Called the Railroad Unemployment Equity and Fairness Act (“REEF Act”), S. 4860 would ensure that unemployed railroad workers receive fair and equal unemployment benefits by removing the harmful sequester that singles out railroad workers. The bipartisan bill was introduced by Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) and Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) in late October 2020.

In a November 9 letter to all United States Senators, TTD President Larry I. Willis and Teamsters Rail Conference President and BLET National President Dennis R. Pierce wrote: “The REEF Act ends the unfair sequestration of Railroad Retirement Sickness and Unemployment benefits for railroad workers who become unemployed or sick on the job. Unlike traditional state unemployment insurance benefits, the Railroad Retirement Board’s unemployment insurance benefits are subjected to sequester as a result of the Budget Control Act of 2011. Without a legislative fix, railroaders and their families will continue to be unjustly shortchanged and face a 5.7% reduction rate to their benefits.”

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 5.7%, 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.

It is especially important to address the issue now due to the high number of railroad workers who are furloughed due to the COVID pandemic.

“It is an important to remember that these sickness and unemployment benefits are funded by railroad employers. No part of these contributions are made up of taxpayer funds or government subsidies and there is no harm to taxpayers by ending the sequester on the benefits. The only reason the RRB UI funds are sequestered currently is the lack of a distinction between Railroad Retirement benefits and other tax-subsidized benefits in federal budgeting rules. This is a 9-year-old mistake that is long overdue for correction and, in the context of the COVID pandemic, the urgency to correct the mistake has been put into a stark perspective. The REEF Act would remedy that for railroad workers, including those who have lost their jobs, have been sickened by COVID-19, or are caring for sick family members.”

Teamsters Rail Conference President Pierce and TTD President Willis concluded their letter by urging all Senators to cosponsor the REEF Act and to support its passage in this Congress. BLET has also activated its internal mobilization network asking all BLET members to contact their U.S. Senator in support of the legislation.

A copy of the joint BLET/TTD REEF Act letter to the Senate is available for download as a PDF from the BLET National Division website.

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Like us on Facebook at

Sign up for BLET News Flash Alerts

© 1997-2020 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen


Decertification Helpline
(216) 694-0240

National Negotiations

Sign up for BLET
News Flash Alerts


Amtrak supports end to RRB benefits sequester
Amtrak reports $801.1 million operating loss
October U.S. Class I rail headcount drops despite rising volumes
Report finds Hudson River rail tunnels could be rehabbed, but critics are wary
Railroads approaching PTC implementation, FRA says
Overturned tank cars removed nearly 24 hours after UP derailment in California
KCS VP sells $287,000 in company stock
Railroad Retirement benefits will see increase in 2021
Railroad retiree earnings limits set to increase in 2021
Q&A: Railroad Retirement spouse and widow(er)s’ annuities and public service pensions
Get the latest labor news from the Teamsters

More Headlines