Congress OKs Railroad Retirement reform
BLE and GIA members received an early Christmas present on December 12 when Congress passed the Railroad Retirement and Survivors' Improvement Act of 2001.
The Senate approved the bill on December 9 (by a vote of 90-9), while the House approved its version of the bill on December 12 (by a vote of 369-33).
President George W. Bush had not signed the bill as The Newsletter went to press, but it was expected that he would do so on December 20.
BLE President Don M. Hahs offered congratulations and thanks to all active and retired BLE and GIA members who were so diligent in their efforts to lobby Congress to pass this much-needed legislation. He also congratulated all BLE lobbyists who worked on Capitol Hill to secure passage of the bill, and to the entire Rail Labor Coalition.
The bill will allow workers with 30 years of service to retire at age 60, down from 62, with no reduction in benefits. It will also increase benefits for surviving spouses of railroad retirees by an average of $300 per month.
Members are encouraged to view the list to see how their member of Congress voted, but to refrain from making negative comments to legislators until the bill has been signed into law by President Bush.
Rail Labor lobbyists spent long hours on Capitol Hill convincing legislators of the importance of Railroad Retirement reform. Their efforts were successful in derailing last-minute "killer" amendments that were offered by Senators opposed to the legislation, particularly Don Nickels (R-OK), Phil Gramm (R-TX) and Pete Domenici (R-NM).
President Hahs acknowledged the efforts of the GIA in passage of the bill, as GIA lobbyists worked alongside BLE lobbyists in Washington D.C. as never before.
"The surviving spouses' benefit was a key issue to GIA officers and members," President Hahs said, recognizing retired GIA member and railroad widow Julia Carter, who testified in front of a Congressional hearing regarding the necessity of Railroad Retirement reform.
In addition to the Senate voting results, an implementation schedule for the Railroad Retirement legislation appears in this issue. The implementation schedule is based on the assumption that President Bush will sign the bill this year.
© 2001 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers