A message from IBT General President James P. Hoffa

Amtrak funding a top priority

Amtrak Funding Priority

We are once again facing a crisis with Amtrak funding. As you know, President Bush has recommended that Congress not fund Amtrak. I want to assure you that we are fighting this effort and we are taking our fight to the hometowns of members of Congress. We represent nearly 2,000 dues-paying BLET engineers who operate Amtrak locomotives and we are committed to preserving these jobs.

We are also participating in a coalition group for Amtrak funding that is being coordinated by the AFL's Transportation Trades Department. Nearly a dozen rail unions have members which work on Amtrak and it is critical that this mainstay of our nation's transportation system survives and flourishes. In some small towns, it is the only form of mass transit to the larger cities. Therefore, Amtrak is an important component of the economy on a community level.

Rail Signal Safety

Since the tragic accident in Graniteville, S.C., the elimination of dark territory has become a central topic. We need to pressure the rail carriers to install up to date signal systems. Compared to flying a plane without the use of radar, it is unconscionable that there are areas of our nations rails that remain dark, particularly those that carry hazardous materials. The carriers' reluctance to install signal systems, however, is systemic of their overall desire to cut costs. Over the years we have seen a steady decrease in jobs for operating employees and the consolidation of rail lines. The installation of signal systems by the carriers must be a priority so that this deadly risk our members bear is eliminated.

Challenges Ahead

Rail corporations are growing larger and buying up short lines on nearly a monthly basis. Technology and global forces still threaten American jobs and our standard of living. Therefore, we must elect leaders who understand core trade union principles, who appreciate the need to guarantee retirement security, and who understand that working men and women are the foundation of our country.

Our rail conference unites two of the largest rail unions under the Teamster banner - this provides a new, strong voice for workers. We have already seen our new power in action with the formation of the Rail Labor Bargaining Coalition. The Coalition's opening conversations with the National Carrier's Conference Committee asserted our strength and unity. The carriers are on notice that we will work together to negotiate improved wages and benefits for our members.

In Solidarity,


James P. Hoffa
IBT General President



© 2005 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen