Amtrak Reform Council issues report over Labor's objections

As part of the Rail Labor Division of the AFL-CIO's Transportation Trades Department, the BLE was one of 11 rail unions to file a lawsuit on January 22 to block the Amtrak Reform Council (ARC) from filing a report with Congress, which calls for the breakup of Amtrak.

Unfortunately, the lawsuit did not convince a federal judge to block the release of the report, which ARC delivered to Congress on February 7 (see related article, page 1).

The ARC "acted in an arbitrary and capricious manner and contrary to law," said the Rail Labor Division (RLD), which represents the vast majority of workers in the passenger and freight rail industry.

"Instead of providing an objective assessment of Amtrak's operations and finances as Congress intended, the ARC has long pursued an ideological agenda to dismember and then sell-off Amtrak to private interests," said RLD Chair Mark Filipovic. "We've long known that the ARC is a rogue group wasting taxpayers' dollars to achieve a result Americans do not want. But in the last few months the ARC has taken its self-appointed missionary zeal to new, and illegal, extremes."

Specifically, the suit filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, contends that the ARC:

"Congress has for good reason repeatedly voted to curb the funding and the work of the ARC," said Sonny Hall, president of the AFL-CIO's Transportation Trades Department, the RLD's parent organization. "But by flaunting the law, ARC keeps muddying up what should be a healthy national debate about passenger rail in this country. The courts can now complete the job that Congress started - to reign in the ARC and stop it from ignoring its congressional mandate."

Currently on Capitol Hill, the Bush administration and Congress are preparing to make decisions on the future of passenger trains in America. Amtrak must be reauthorized this year, and numerous ideas are being discussed on a future structure for train operation, ranging from giving Amtrak more money to breaking up the company into smaller, private companies serving only major passenger corridors.

In addition to Rail Labor, Amtrak does have other supporters. Transportation Secretary Norm Mineta told the U.S. Conference of Mayors on January 24 that he would like Congress to give Amtrak $521 million in the 2003 budget, and speed up reauthorization of its charter to continue providing passenger rail service.

The plaintiffs in the suit were the unions of Rail Labor Division, Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO; Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes; Transport Workers Union of America: Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers; Transportation-Communications International Union; International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers; Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen; National Conference of Firemen and Oilers, SEIU; International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers; the Sheet Metal Workers International Association; the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers; the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International Union; and the American Train Dispatchers Department, BLE.

The RLD is a division of the AFL-CIO's Transportation Trades Department, whose 34 member unions represent several million workers in the aviation, rail, transit, trucking, highway, longshore, maritime and related industries.


2002 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers