Rail Unions Rally as Amtrak Furloughs Arrive

An Amtrak conductor steps off the Empire Builder at Essex, Montana on August 31, 2020. Photo by Justin Franz. 

Rail Unions Rally as Amtrak Furloughs Arrive

By Railfan & Railroad Staff

WASHINGTON — Union members from three major labor groups rallied in four major cities this week to urge members of Congress to provide emergency funding to Amtrak to prevent more than 2,000 employees from being furloughed in the coming days. 

Amtrak is expected to begin laying off approximately 1,950 union employees and 100 management employees this week in response to a sharp ridership declines and service cuts amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Amtrak spokesperson Marc Magliari said the cuts would come as jobs were abolished and new ones assigned to employees with seniority. Most of the furloughs will be completed in early November. 

During a congressional hearing on Sept. 9, President and CEO Bill Flynn said cuts could be avoided if Congress gives it additional financial assistance. The House of Representatives has passed legislation that would give the railroad $4.9 billion but the Senate has yet to do the same. 

Members of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET); International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers – Transportation Division (SMART-TD); and Transportation Communications International Union (TCU) held rallies on Wednesday in Washington, New York City, Chicago and Los Angeles. Prior to the rallies, union officials said that while they understood Amtrak’s financial predicament, they believed furloughs were the wrong way to go. 

“We recognize that the coronavirus has profoundly affected the national rail network with a major reduction in ridership, which is especially unfortunate when considering that Amtrak had set passenger service records in recent years,” said union presidents Dennis Pierce (BLET), Jeremy Ferguson (SMART-TD) and Arthur Maratea (TCU) in a joint statement. “However, placing the burden of the pandemic’s effects on all of these essential workers who faithfully kept the service running during this ongoing national emergency is absolutely wrong. Job cuts are not the cure.”

This article was posted on: October 2, 2020