Rail Labor fights to save Amtrak jobs

House Committee votes on legislation that would provide funding for passenger rail

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee approved two bills on April 27, H.R. 1630 and H.R. 1631, that would provide funding for Amtrak and would improve high-speed passenger rail.

H.R. 1630, also known as the Amtrak Reauthorization Act of 2005, would authorize $2 billion in appropriations for the benefit of Amtrak for fiscal years 2006 through 2008. It was introduced by Representative Don Young of Alaska, Representative James Oberstar of Minnesota, Representative Steven La Tourette of Ohio and Representative Corrine Brown of Florida.

H.R. 1631, also known as the Rail Infrastructure Development and Expansion Act for the 21st Century (RIDE 21), establishes authority for states or interstate compacts to issue $12 billion in federal tax-exempt bonds and $12 billion in federal tax-credit bonds for infrastructure improvements for high-speed rail. It was also introduced by Representatives Young, Oberstar, LaTourette and Brown.

"Chairman Don Young and the committee's ranking Democrat, Jim Oberstar, turned away from all the sound and fury coming out of the White House and the Amtrak Board and instead acted in the best interests of a nation clamoring for better - not worse - rail transportation. Both the traveling public and rail workers owe them a debt of gratitude for their leadership on today's votes," said Ed Wytkind, President of the AFL-CIO's Transportation Trades Department.

Last week the Amtrak Board of Directors - comprised exclusively of Bush campaign donors - turned on its own passengers and workers by echoing the White House call to break up Amtrak, privatize key routes, and pass along costs to cash-strapped states. The Board called for direct congressional interference in labor-management negotiations at Amtrak and for repeal of pension, disability, unemployment, survivor, and worker injury protections for thousands of Amtrak employees.

AFL-CIO rail unions have demanded the resignations of the Board's members.

"We need Board members who place a greater loyalty toward the traveling public than to the politicians who put them there," Wytkind said.

Transportation labor helped craft H.R. 1630, and it is being promoted by the Amtrak Action Alliance, a task force formed by rail labor unions to save Amtrak.

"These bills go a long way to saving the jobs of our members on Amtrak," said BLET National President Don M. Hahs. "If Amtrak is forced into bankruptcy, our industry will suffer. The President's proposal and the proposal by the Amtrak Board are unacceptable to us, but these bills will provide the necessary financing to make our nation's passenger rail network run."

BLET members are urged to call their members of Congress and urge them to support this vital legislation. Up-to-the-minute information and copies of relevant documents can be found at the BLET Amtrak GCA's website http://www.bletamt.org.

Also, the BLET website at http://www.ble-t.org will provide regular updates on the unfolding situation as Rail Labor continues its crusade to secure Amtrak funding and to preserve union jobs.


© 2005 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen