Amtrak Workers’ Rallies Call on Congress to Preserve Jobs, Fund Service

Published: September 28, 2020

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Sept. 28, 2020) — Unionized Amtrak workers, led by members of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers – Transportation Division (SMART-TD), Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) and Transportation Communications International Union (TCU), will rally Sept. 30 in four major U.S. cities to urge members of Congress to provide emergency funding on the day prior to planned cuts by the nation’s major passenger rail carrier to its service and workforce.

On Sept. 9, Amtrak President and CEO William Flynn appeared before a U.S. House committee saying that the carrier needs approximately $5 billion in emergency funding to deal with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

If no additional funding is provided by the federal government, the carrier has announced impending cuts, effective Oct. 1, of approximately 2,000 unionized employees and a planned reduction of service that would hit long-distance and state-run routes that serve rural areas especially hard.

Members of the SMART-TD, BLET and TCU as well as members of other labor unions whose jobs are jeopardized by these cuts will demonstrate in the nation’s capital, New York City, Chicago and Los Angeles.

“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 Jeremy Ferguson (SMART-TD), Dennis Pierce (BLET) and Arthur Maratea (TCU). “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.”

The schedule for the four Fight for Service events Sept. 30 is as follows:
Washington D.C.: 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. (Eastern), in front of the U.S. Capitol Building’s east side.
New York City: 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. (Eastern), in front of Penn Station at Eighth Avenue (Farley Post Office).
Chicago, Ill.: 10 a.m. – noon (Central), in front of Union Station on South Canal Street.
Los Angeles, Calif.: 9 a.m. – 11 a.m. (Pacific) in front of Union Station.

SMART-TD, BLET and TCU members in the Washington D.C., New York City, Chicago and Los Angeles areas are encouraged to participate in this showing of solidarity. The events will be socially distanced and participants will be wearing masks.

“Congress has the ability to make a difference by providing the emergency funding that Amtrak needs,” the presidents said. “Unionized workers and their supporters are uniting to call attention to that simple fact.”

According to Amtrak internal documents, 1,950 unionized workers are targeted by the cuts. Of those, 1,225 are members of the SMART-TD, BLET or the TCU.

A PDF with details about the rallies is available.

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The SMART Transportation Division is comprised of approximately 125,000 active and retired members of the former United Transportation Union, who work in a variety of different crafts, including as bus and commuter rail operators, in the transportation industry.

The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen represents nearly 58,000 professional locomotive engineers and trainmen throughout the United States. The BLET is the founding member of the Rail Conference, International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

The Transportation Communications International Union (TCU/IAM) represents approximately 46,000 members who work in every state in the U.S., mostly employed in the railroad industry. In 2012, TCU merged with the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM), who represent 600,000 active and retired members in North America.