BLE, Rail Labor Þghting to save Amtrak

BLE legislative and political leaders were joined on Capitol Hill by Teamster General President James Hoffa in a lobbying effort to save Amtrak. Front row, from left: Dale McPherson, BLE Vice-President; John Mullen, BNSF General Chairman; James Hoffa, IBT General President; Don Hahs, BLE International President; Ken Kertesz, Pennsylvania State Legislative Board Chairman; and Brian Gallaher, Secretary of the New York State Legislative Board. Back row, from left: John Tolman, assistant to the International President; Darrell Blake, West Virginia State Legislative Board Chairman; J.T. Norris, Virginia State Legislative Board Chairman; Raymond Holmes, BLE Vice-President & U.S. National Legislative Rep.; and Tommy Roberts, Conrail General Chairman.
(Not all BLE participants are pictured; Photo courtesy Steven K. Ostrowski, Secretary-Treasurer, BLE Division 127.)


BLE International President Don M. Hahs is working steadily to secure funding for Amtrak that will keep the national passenger railroad on track now and in the future.

In mid-June, Amtrak President David Gunn announced that the railroad would discontinue service nationwide if it did not receive $100 million in emercency funding. Following the announcement, President Hahs and other rail and transportation union leaders scrambled to help save the national passenger railroad from bankruptcy.

During the last week of June in Washington, D.C., President Hahs and key BLE legislative leaders met with dozens of congressional leaders to lobby for Amtrak funding. Key political figures, such as Secretary of Transportation Norman Y. Mineta and Amtrak CEO David Gunn, held private meetings with the BLE President.

First Vice-President & Alternate President Ed Rodzwicz and Vice-President & U.S. National Legislative Representative Raymond Holmes also participated in these high-level meetings.

In addition, more than 25 members, including several BLE State Legislative Board Chairmen and Amtrak General Chairman Mark Kenny, were called in to Capitol Hill. They assisted in the lobbying campaign, which was held in conjunction with other AFL-CIO affiliated unions under the direction of the Transportation Trades Department.

President George W. Bush addressed a special BLE-Teamster coalition of legislative and political leaders during a meeting at the White House. BLE President Hahs attended the meeting with James P. Hoffa, General President of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. In addition to Hoffa and Hahs, other Teamster and BLE International Officers, BLE State Legislative Board Chairmen, the BLE national negotiating team, and more than 150 Teamster legislative leaders attended the Bush address. Labor Secretary Elaine Chao also spoke to the BLE-Teamster group, as did Senior Adviser to President Bush Karl Rove.

Following this meeting, the Bush Administration and Amtrak reached an agreement to keep the railroad running through September. However, many congressional supporters of Amtrak are skeptical of this plan, believing it merely delays the railroad's inevitable shutdown.

On July 10, President Hahs testified in favor of Amtrak funding at a hearing before the Senate's Commerce Committee. He urged Congress to support short-term funding for Amtrak while endorsing its long-term survival. Congress should fund passenger rail to the same extent that it funds America's highways and airports, he said. Properly funded, Amtrak would make the promise of high-speed rail a reality.

"Make rail passenger service a viable alternative," he urged.

As this issue of the Newsletter went to press, President Hahs and all BLE leaders were still working diligently to save Amtrak.

The AFL-CIO's Transportation Trades Department is asking BLE members to contact Congress and the President to ask that they fund at least $205 million for Amtrak to continue national service through the end of the fiscal year on September 30, and then vote at least $1.2 billion for Amtrak in the next fiscal year 2003.

Calls to Congress can be made to the Capitol Switchboard at: (202) 224-3121. Calls to President Bush can be made at: (202) 456-1414.


© 2002 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers