Amtrak Layoffs Unacceptable and Avoidable

Washington, DC — Larry Willis, president of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD), issues this statement following Amtrak’s announcement of furloughs beginning October 1:

“For more than 40 years, Amtrak — powered by a dedicated and skilled workforce — has provided reliable, efficient passenger rail service to communities across this country. Now, facing a crisis unlike any other in its history, Amtrak has announced plans to lay off nearly 2,000 employees in the midst of a global pandemic — a move that will have devastating consequences for workers, riders, and our economy.

“While catastrophic, these imminent job losses, as well as damaging reductions in long-distance service, are completely avoidable. Congress must immediately provide this carrier with the funding it needs to preserve its operations and keep its employees on payroll. If lawmakers fail to do so, Amtrak won’t stop at 2,000 jobs. The carrier could ultimately lay off nearly 50 percent of its staff, leaving communities in both urban and rural areas without a vital transportation lifeline, and sending 10,000 workers to the unemployment line. “On behalf of Amtrak’s hardworking, dedicated employees and the communities they serve, we call on Congress to save our national passenger railroad, preserve good union jobs at a time when they are needed most, and ensure Amtrak is able to fulfill its mission now and well into the future.”

Chairs DeFazio and Lipinski Statements on Amtrak Announcing Furloughs of Over 2,000 Workers Due to COVID-19 Crisis

Washington, DC – Chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and Chair of the Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Daniel Lipinski (D-IL) issued the following statements in response to the news that Amtrak will furlough over 2,000 workers due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic as part of its Fiscal Year 2021 Workforce Plan:

“This week, another 2,000 workers learned that they will be losing their jobs due to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. This time it is largely Amtrak employees who operate trains, provide onboard services, and support passengers who will bear the brunt of this administration’s failure to lead the country during this pandemic. The jobs at the center of today’s announcement are good paying, union jobs that sustain middle class families and will be difficult to replace, especially in a time of sky-high unemployment,” said Chair DeFazio. “In July, I led the House in passing the Moving Forward Act, which tripled funding for Amtrak to nearly $29 billion. Later that month, the House also approved transportation appropriations legislation that provided $10 billion for Amtrak, including emergency appropriations that contained protections to prevent the furloughing of workers. In fact, our Committee will soon be hearing from workers who are impacted by these furloughs. It’s time for Republicans in the Senate to stop sitting on these important bills and do their job to protect Amtrak employees and so many others currently in need.”

“Amtrak’s announcement that they will furlough over 2,000 employees is disappointing and unacceptable. Amtrak received nearly $1 billion in CARES Act funding with the directive from Congress that they would use the funds to help prevent furloughs. Amtrak has had months to come to Congress and request additional funds if money was needed to help keep workers on the payroll. Amtrak workers provide an essential service to travelers and communities. These workers deserve better from Amtrak leadership. Congress needs to act quickly to prevent furloughs and avoid long distance service cuts. Yesterday’s announcement only heightens the need for action by Congress. As chairman of the Rail Subcommittee I will be holding a hearing next week where I will raise these issues with Amtrak CEO William Flynn.  The subcommittee will also hear from workers and passengers affected by Amtrak’s actions,” Chair Lipinski said.

Additional information: In November 2019, the Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials held a hearing titled “Amtrak Now and Into the Future” where the Committee heard from then-President and CEO of Amtrak Richard Anderson, as well as labor and local stakeholders, on the priorities of Amtrak going forward. To watch the full hearing and read witness testimony, click here

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Coronavirus Relief Act Impacts Railroad Workers

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act, signed into law by President Trump on March 27, boosts unemployment and sickness benefits for railroad workers impacted by the pandemic.

Under the CARES Act, the 1-week waiting period required before railroad workers can receive unemployment or sickness benefits is temporarily eliminated. This applies to an employee’s first 2-week registration period for a period of continuing sickness or unemployment beginning after the effective date of the law and ending on or before December 31, 2020.

In addition, the amount of the unemployment benefit is increased by $1,200 per 2-week period. This is in addition to the current biweekly maximum of $733.98 received by most claimants. This increased amount applies to any 2-week registration periods beginning on or after April 1, 2020, through July 31, 2020.

The CARES Act includes a separate appropriation of $425 million to pay for this added “recovery benefit,” with an additional $50 million provided to cover the cost of eliminating the waiting period. If these funds are exhausted, the new provisions will no longer apply.

The CARES Act also authorizes payment of extended unemployment benefits to rail workers who received unemployment benefits from July 1, 2019, to June 30, 2020.

Under the legislation, railroad workers with less than 10 years of service may be eligible for up to 65 days of extended benefits within 7 consecutive 2-week registration periods. Workers with 10 or more years of railroad service, who were previously eligible for up to 65 days in extended benefits, may now receive benefits for up to 130 days within 13 consecutive 2-week registration periods.

Since RRB offices are currently closed to the public due to the COVID-19 pandemic, railroad employees are encouraged to file for unemployment benefits online by establishing an account through myRRB at RRB.gov. Otherwise, applications and claims for benefits will need to be submitted by regular mail. Applications for sickness benefits must be submitted to the agency by mail, or by fax at 312-751-7185. Subsequent claims may be completed online by those with myRRB accounts.

The RRB will also pay sickness benefits and, in some cases, unemployment benefits, to rail workers who have tested positive for COVID-19 or been subject to a quarantine order. Further guidance on these types of situations is available at RRB.gov/Benefits/Coronavirus.

32BJ STATEMENT ON PASSING OF PRESIDENT HÉCTOR FIGUEROA

It is with overwhelming sadness and a heavy heart that 32BJ mourns the unexpected passing of union president Héctor Figueroa last night in New York. For those of us who have worked with him to further the well-being of our members and working people everywhere, and felt his personal and principled concern for our members, our staff and others this is a devastating loss. In his many years of service to our union, to the labor movement, and to our communities, he consistently joined together a clear vision about the empowerment of working people with compassion and energy. We extend our deepest condolences to his wife Deidre, his children Eric and Elena, and the rest of his family, as well as to all those in our 32BJ family and beyond who forged strong bonds of camaraderie with Héctor over the years. Details about memorial plans will be forthcoming.