Judge approves strike by Amtrak employees

Thousands of Amtrak employees are legally entitled to walk off the job for one day to protest President Bush's lack of support for passenger rail service, a federal judge ruled on December 11.

The unions "have not reached any conclusion on what they will do," said Richard Edelman, an attorney with O'Donnell, Schwartz and Anderson who represents the unions. He said the unions had won a significant victory with the ruling itself. "We are vindicated on the legal issues. We have the right to protest."

However, Amtrak spokesman Cliff Black said Amtrak attorneys had filed a notice of appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, and would ask the court for an emergency stay if the unions set a date for the walkout.

"We have the hammer, and now it's a question of whether or not we want to swing it," said BLE International President Don Hahs.

The unions arguing for the one-day strike are the Transport Workers Union, BLE, Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes, National Council of Firemen and Oilers (SEIU), and Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International Union.

Amtrak chief executive David Gunn had insisted that if the railroad did not receive $1.8 billion in federal subsidies, critical infrastructure on the line would be in jeopardy and "on any given day something could fail," leading to a nationwide shutdown. A congressional conference committee agreed to give Amtrak an annual subsidy of $1.22 billion.

Gunn has since said he can live with the lower figure, partly because costs have been cut faster and revenues are rising faster than expected.

(The Washington Post contributed to this report.)



© 2003 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers