News Posts

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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REGISTER TO VOTE, MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD!

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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.

State of Retirement Security

As Gov. Bevin and the Kentucky legislature enter a special legislative session this fall to tackle so-called “pension reform,” here is an informative graphic from the Kentucky Public Pension Coalition with facts about pensions in Kentucky. Follow KPPC on social media for updates on this important issue.

Why You Should Care About Unions

The average person in the United States has essentially zero power in society. That’s why millions have organized into unions over the years. But the slow decline of unionism in the United States should concern you even if you’re not in one.

Unions improve wages, benefits and working conditions for their members. But it’s not just to members’ advantage. Collective bargaining affects pay standards across entire industries, meaning even nonunion workers benefit. Unions also secure legislation that protects all workers, from workplace safety guidelines to a guaranteed weekend. And they reduce gender and racial wage gaps across industries, which contributes to broader equality in society.

15 Ways President Trump Has Hurt the American Worker

donald trump

Donald Trump loves the working class as a mascot, but despises it as a class. The president will gladly take the side of the archetypal working man in his (largely imaginary) conflicts with environmentalists, welfare cheats, immigrants, and liberal elites — but never that of actual working people in their material conflicts with their bosses. 

Trump has great affection for coal miners when they’re posing silently behind him, putting a populist face on his plans for inflating their employers’ profits, but feels nothing for them when they die in workplace accidents. He adores factory workers when they’re thanking him for saving their jobs, but hates them when they inform reporters that he actually did not. And he adores union leaders when they ignore this dissonance (for the sake of short-term pragmatism), but hates them when they don’t.

And on Sunday, Richard Trumka didn’t. In an interview with Fox News’ Chris Wallace, the AFL-CIO president said of Trump’s record, “Unfortunately, to date, the things that he has done to hurt workers outpace what he’s done to help workers.” The populist president — who had once promised to transform the GOP into a “workers’ party” — proceeded to spend his Labor Day berating the nation’s largest federation of unions for its ingratitude.

And yet, Trumka’s remarks were actually far too charitable. To say that Trump’s affronts to workers have “outpaced” his aid to them is akin to saying that photons “outpace” snails as they each move across the universe.

Here’s a quick post–Labor Day reminder of 15 things the Trump administration has done to make the U.S. a worse place for ordinary workers.

New fears that trains could be targets for terrorists

WASHINGTON — The Transportation Security Administration has yet to strengthen security procedures at railroads a decade after legislation required such actions in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, according to two reports.

Both the House Homeland Security Committee’s Democratic members in findings released Monday and the Department of Homeland Security inspector general in 2016 found vulnerabilities on trains, even as security has been strengthened at the nation’s airports.

Combined with recent reports that an al Qaida publication told followers how to attack passenger railroads in the U.S. and Western Europe, U.S. Sen. Cory Booker on Tuesday sought information about what TSA was doing to strengthen security on Amtrak and other rail systems.

“As we have seen predominantly in Europe, rail and transit systems are vulnerable and frequent targets of terrorism,” Booker, D-N.J., told TSA Administrator David Pekoske in a letter obtained by NJ Advance Media.

Democrats on the Homeland Security Committee, including Reps. Donald Payne Jr., D-10th Dist., and Bonnie Watson Coleman, D-12th Dist., agreed.

“With security for the aviation sector hardened in response to the 9/11 attacks, terrorists view public surface transportation — such as freight and passenger trains, metros, subways, buses, and ferries — as soft targets for mass-casualty attacks,” their report said. 

TSA spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein said the agency has taken steps in response to the al Qaida missive.

“The Transportation Security Administration works alongside and encourages rail system operators to promote proactive efforts to secure mass transit, passenger rail and freight rail systems on a daily basis,” Farbstein said.

“TSA is aware of the recent al Qaida threat to rail systems, and on Aug. 11 issued a message to our transportation partners reminding them about steps that they can take to protect their systems from being targeted by violent extremists,” she said.

Payne and Watson Coleman signed Booker’s letter along with U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., the ranking Democrat on the subcommittee that oversees mass transit; and Rep. Albio Sires, D-8th Dist., a member of the House Transportation Committee.

Booker, the top Democrat on the Senate railroads subcommittee, asked Pekoske to visit a New Jersey rail facility to discuss what steps TSA has taken and what more the agency can do. 

He also asked Pekoske what the agency has done to follow the recommendations of the 2016 inspector general’s report, which called for regulations to determine the threats to rail carriers, a training program for railroad employees; and security background checks for rail workers.

All three requirements were part of a 2007 law that tracked the recommendations of the 9/11 commission chaired by former New Jersey Gov. Tom Kean.

Booker raised those issues at Pekoske’s confirmation hearing in June, citing the pipe bombs that were placed at the Elizabeth train station the previous September. One of the bombs went off as it was being examined by a robot.

Ahmad Khan Rahami of Elizabeth was accused of planting bombs in New York and New Jersey. He is scheduled to go on trial next month.

“The incidents really underscore how vulnerable many of our surface transportation systems are to these threats,” Booker said at the Senate Commerce Committee hearing.

Pekoske at the time promised to follow the mandates set out in the 2007 law and said he would work to protect railroads against a terrorist attack.

“I would put a lot of effort in looking in TSA at intelligence around the rail threat,” Pekoske said.