BLET, IBT lobby on Capitol Hill in support of Amtrak

Members of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen and other representatives of rail labor held meetings on Capitol Hill in late may to discuss Amtrak and other issues of importance to railroad workers.

The Amtrak Action Alliance, a task force with representatives from all of rail labor, held lobbying days on May 24-26. The Alliance was lobbying in support of two bills, H.R. 1630 and H.R. 1631, that would fund Amtrak and other high speed rail corridors.

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 LaTourette 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.

Members of the BLET/Teamsters and other rail labor unions met with several Senators, Representatives and staff members to ask for their support for Amtrak. This is only one of many lobbying efforts that will be conducted, and there is still much work to be done.

"The future of Amtrak is vital to all railroad workers," said BLET National President Don M. Hahs. "If Amtrak were to go under, we would all suffer. It is important to our organization to work hard to save Amtrak, and this lobbying day was just one of the ways we can accomplish our goal."

The Amtrak Action Alliance has been met by opposition from both the Bush administration and the Amtrak Board of Directors. Both of these entities have issued their own plans for Amtrak's future, which would be bleak if either of them are enacted.

On May 26, Transportation Secretary Mineta again attacked Amtrak. In a letter to Amtrak President David Gunn, Secretary Mineta urged Amtrak to immediately put in place cost-cutting measures, saying the railroad could be as much as $40 million in debt before September 30.

Mineta said he was concerned with Gunn's May 12 testimony before a Senate subcommittee when he said the railroad would end fiscal year 2005 with a $20 million positive cash flow. Mineta said Gunn was assuming Amtrak would be getting $60 million set aside by law to "pay for directed service in the event Amtrak ceases operations."

BLET members are asked to contact their Congressmen and Senators (toll-free at (877) 762-8762) and urge them to support these vital pieces of legislation.


© 2005 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen