Ed Wytkind, President of TTD, AFL-CIO, John Previsich, President of SMART Transportation Division and other union leaders have released a joint letter to Anthony Foxx, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), urging the DOT to issue a rule “to protect bus drivers and other transit operators from the physical assaults that are plaguing this industry.”
In a letter to the editor and published by The Hill, AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department (TTD) President Edward Wytkind warns that GOP presidential candidates want to devolutionize laws governing freight and passenger rail in the U.S. The candidates are in support of deregulating the current rail laws and funding and turning it over to each individual state to mete out transportation policy and funding. GOP candidates Ohio Governor John Kasich, Jeb Bush and U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (Fla.) have come out in support of devolution of transportation policy and funding. “…we must not accept candidates for president who fail to grasp the magnitude of this transportation investment crisis, and who advance policies that would make us a loser in the increasingly competitive global economy,” Wytkind said. “We need a vast transportation system that can deliver goods and people safely and with speed and precision, not some piecemeal experiment dreamed up by anti-government crusaders who can’t seem to get out of their own way.” Click here to read the full story from The Hill.
By John Previsich, president of SMART Transportation Division and Edward Wytkind, president of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (www.ttd.org).
Photo courtesy of Jim Allen (Local 1400)
Alabamians sure love their college football, but what we’ve just recently learned is that they also like their passenger trains — and they’re willing to pay for them. A recent state-wide poll by DFM Research shows that passenger trains don’t only thrive in the big cities on the corridor between Washington, D.C. and Boston – they are quite popular in the Heart of Dixie, too.
More than half of those polled in Alabama say they want to see an increase in the service provided by Amtrak, our national passenger railroad. When asked about expanding Amtrak’s once-daily passenger service through Alabama, nearly 85 percent support the idea of adding an additional route from Birmingham or Mobile to New Orleans or Atlanta. This poll shouldn’t surprise anyone given that others in Gulf Coast states are pushing aggressively to restart Amtrak service lost after the Hurricane Katrina disaster.
The people of Alabama aren’t alone in their views. All across the country, in red states and blue, in rural counties and major metropolitan cities, Americans are calling for more passenger rail service — and it’s easy to see why. With 31 million passengers last year alone, Amtrak’s popularity has soared, and over the last decade, Amtrak has broken its ridership record almost annually. Here’s the best part: during a time when pollsters are churning out the views of voters on a daily basis, our national passenger railroad actually polls better than anyone auditioning for president.
All jokes aside, this begs one very important question — if Amtrak is so highly valued by the American people, why do we still have politicians in Washington trying to kill it? Yes, there was actually an amendment on floor of the House late last year to eliminate Amtrak’s funding and quite a few who serve in Alabama’s congressional delegation voted for it. To be clear, such a plan would bankrupt the railroad, strand riders in Alabama and across the country, and put thousands of middle class employees out of work. And think about this: while other nations such as China are racing toward launching 400 mile-per-hour train service, America is still electing politicians who want to abandon passenger rail entirely.
If people in Alabama knew this, we’re sure they would be asking why their politicians are not listening. Most voters in the state think any attempt to eliminate federal funding for Amtrak is a terrible idea. When told that Amtrak receives over $1 billion per year in federal support, 75 percent say they reject attempts to eliminate it and want funding to continue at current levels.
It seems people in Alabama understand what some in Congress do not: that rail transportation is vitally important to our nation’s economy. Long-term economic growth cannot happen without a greatly enhanced transportation infrastructure, and that includes expanding passenger rail services.
Supporting a healthy economy also involves making sure rail transportation is safe, so it’s no surprise that people in this state emphatically favor policies that do just that.
Like a super-majority of Americans polled across a wide swatch of our country, the people of Alabama believe that running 19,000-ton freight trains — many containing hazardous materials — with only one crew member is a bad idea. That’s why nearly 90 percent of residents support legislation mandating a minimum of two crew members on all freight trains. Since Amtrak shares tracks with freight trains in most parts of the country, the crew sizes used in freight operations will also affect the safety of passenger trains.
America can’t compete in a global economy without fully-funded national passenger rail service and modernized infrastructure to boot. That takes long-term investment by the federal government, in partnership with states and the private sector. We also need to make sure that our freight rail system, which provides the track for much of Amtrak’s service, is safe and adequately staffed.
Alabamians agree with people from California to Florida and most stops in between: our country needs modern and reliable rail transportation with the resources to pay for it and the federal rules to ensure its safety.
Washington — Edward Wytkind, president of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD), issued this statement in response to a House-Senate deal on a long overdue surface transportation reauthorization bill:
“The Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act is a bipartisan, long-term funding bill for our nation’s transit systems, highways, bridges and passenger rail networks that we are proud to support. The deal reached by House and Senate negotiators breaks the cycle of flat-line funding and short-term extensions that has strangled our economy and stunted job creation. We applaud Congressional leaders for their work on this important legislation and particularly want to thank Chairman Shuster, Ranking Member DeFazio, Chairman Inhofe and Ranking Member Boxer for their pursuit of a long-term bill.
“TTD and its member unions have never relented in our multi-year campaign to convince lawmakers to forge a bipartisan compromise on a long-term highway-transit bill that prioritizes funding growth and job creation. We applaud lawmakers for crafting a bill that makes great strides in reversing many years of neglect.
“The FAST Act strikes the right balance on many of the important policy issues that were considered in this legislation. The bill includes measures to address bus driver assaults, handles transit public-private partnerships in a more responsible manner, improves Buy America rules and makes improvements to rail safety and the transport of hazardous materials. Conferees wisely chose not to use this bill to attack the bargaining rights of port workers, adopted provisions that preserve the role of sound science in determining the appropriateness of hair specimen drug testing and rejected an attempt to force contracting out of public-sector engineering work.
“We are pleased that the FAST Act contains a multi-year Amtrak reauthorization that will help sustain America’s national passenger railroad, protect thousands of middle-class jobs and allow Amtrak and its employees to meet the soaring demand for rail transportation. Finally, the bill includes the reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank, which will help American manufacturers and their employees compete with foreign companies and support good middle-class jobs in this country.
“We urge both chambers to pass the FAST Act and send it to the President’s Desk for his signature.”
California has more museums dedicated to railroads than any other state in our country – and it’s easy to see why. From the transcontinental railroad to the developing high-speed rail system, rail transportation has played a significant role in shaping this state’s history.
The people of California believe passenger rail is key to the state’s future, too. At a public hearing in Modesto last summer, plans to improve and expand passenger rail service received overwhelming support from area residents, Republicans and Democrats alike. And a new poll prepared by Dean Mitchell of DFM Research found those same sentiments are shared by the people of California’s 10th Congressional District.
Those living in the district enjoy six daily Amtrak train routes in the San Joaquin Valley, running from Bakersfield to Sacramento and the Bay Area. More than 8 of 10 polled say they want to see Amtrak service increased or at least remain the same, and more than 80 percent want commuter rail services increased or maintained at current levels.
Modesto-area residents aren’t alone. As Amtrak continues to grow in popularity – ridership hit an all-time high in 2014 with 31 million passengers – an overwhelming majority of Americans support increasing passenger rail service in all parts of the country, both in traditionally blue and red states from the south to the Midwest and Northeast.
Sadly, not everyone is hearing this call.
Some in Congress continue to fight the old anti-Amtrak wars by proposing the elimination of all federal funding to support the service, which would bankrupt the railroad and strand riders in California and across America. While those efforts have failed, the persistence of anti-passenger rail forces has brought headwinds to efforts to advance a robust passenger rail expansion and modernization plan.
Like the vast majority of Americans, most residents of Stanislaus County and the surrounding areas have shown they don’t agree with such proposals. In fact, when told that Amtrak gets over $1 billion per year in federal support, more than 80 percent say they reject attempts to eliminate it and want to continue the current funding level.
In addition to expanded passenger rail service, Californians also say emphatically that they favor policies making rail transportation safer.
Not unlike the views of most Americans, the idea of running 19,000-ton freight trains – many containing hazardous materials – with only one crew member doesn’t sit well with the people of the 10th Congressional District. With up to 50 freight trains running through the region each day, a stunning 95 percent of residents support a state law requiring a minimum of two crew members on all freight trains running through California – such as the one signed into law in September by Gov. Jerry Brown.
More than 90 percent of those surveyed want national legislation mandating the same thing. This issue impacts passenger rail safety as well, because in most parts of the country Amtrak shares the tracks with freight trains.
Californians understand that having a safe, efficient rail system is vital to a strong economy. We need actions that can bring relief to a clogged transportation system that is choking productivity, stunting job creation and undermining efforts to grow our economy. California voters couldn’t be more clear: they like passenger rail service, they want more of it and they expect their elected officials to make it as safe as possible.
Washington — Edward Wytkind, president of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD), issued the following statement on the progress to build a new Hudson River rail tunnel:
“We are pleased that Governors Chris Christie (N.J.) and Andrew Cuomo (N.Y.) have advanced a joint plan — in a letter to President Obama — to build a desperately needed Hudson River tunnel that serves Amtrak and commuter rail traffic between New Jersey and New York, and links to the entire Northeast Corridor. We applaud the governors for coming together to offer a path forward and thank Senators Charles Schumer (D-NY), Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ) for their leadership on this important issue.
“While we will want to review the details of this proposed funding partnership between New York, New Jersey and the federal government, today’s news gives us hope that this looming mobility and economic crisis may be resolved.
“We have long called for investment in a new Hudson River rail tunnel, especially since Superstorm Sandy devastated the region’s infrastructure including these tunnel crossings. Soon, Amtrak will be forced to initiate rolling shut downs of tunnels for major repairs and upgrades. The chaos and economic damage a shutdown of any of Amtrak’s tunnels would cause are immeasurable as commuters and businesses alike would face many years of severe disruptions.
“We want to thank Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx for his persistence. The Secretary’s aggressive effort to bring the parties together kick-started New Jersey-New York negotiations and led to today’s progress.
“We urge the Obama Administration and Governors Christie and Cuomo to reach an agreement quickly on a full funding plan for a Hudson River rail tunnel. This project will put thousands to work, give Amtrak and commuter railroads the infrastructure they need to meet projected growth in traffic and serve as a much needed shot in the arm for our economy.”
Decades of wrong-headed ideology and public policies backed by the corporate lobby and extremists have dramatically altered America’s economic landscape. Advancements made by generations of workers — including fair wages and decent benefits, safe working conditions and the right to form unions and bargain collectively — have been beaten down in favor of dangerous austerity policies, a tax code that coddles the rich, rigged trade deals that send good jobs overseas and what seems like free rein by employers to break unions.
These backward policies have led to an intolerable wage gap, the lowest union density since the 1930s and 35 years of wage stagnation for working Americans. By removing union representation, arguably, the most reliable way for working people to demand better, from the equation, upward mobility and economic stability — characteristics that define the American Dream — have become increasingly difficult to achieve.
Despite these challenges, there is a smart strategy that can boost our economy and help rebuild the middle class: investing in our failing infrastructure and transportation systems.
WASHINGTON — In a letter to the leadership of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD), together with member unions and coalition partners, is urging lawmakers to follow established protocol for developing federal drug testing procedures and exclude provisions for hair specimen testing from any House surface transportation bill.
Historically, experts at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) have determined how and when new drug testing procedures should be administered. Those guidelines are then used by the Department of Transportation (DOT) to create federal drug testing standards for bus and truck drivers, and other transportation employees.
HHS has not determined whether hair is a valid and reliable specimen for use in federal drug tests and has not issued technical guidelines permitting its use. Despite this, a provision in the Senate’s version of the surface transportation bill would circumvent HHS and allow bus and truck companies to use hair samples to comply with DOT drug testing.
“The Senate has undermined the expertise of scientists and potentially jeopardized the jobs of thousands of bus and truck drivers with this unproven testing method,” said TTD President Edward Wytkind. “We urge the House to reject the Senate’s hair testing provision and ensure that federal drug tests are backed by scientific and forensically sound evidence. Nothing less should be acceptable.”
Studies show that hair testing may have an inherent racial bias. Darker and more porous hair retains some drugs at greater rates than lighter hair. Hair specimen can also cause individuals to test positive for drugs they never ingested, as drugs from the environment can absorb into hair and cause positive results.
“The science behind hair testing is questionable and the drug test results it produces may be discriminatory and could produce false positives,” Wytkind warned.
The following organizations joined TTD on the letter:
American Civil Liberties Union Association of Flight Attendants-CWA Air Line Pilots Association American Medical Review Officers, LLC American Train Dispatchers Association Amalgamated Transit Union Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers International Brotherhood of Teamsters Jewish Alliance for Law and Social Action Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice National Air Traffic Controllers Association National Workrights Institute Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers-Transportation Division Sailors’ Union of the Pacific Transport Workers Union of America United Steelworkers
In a letter to the Department of Health dated July 29, 2015, President Edward Wytkind of the Transportation Trades Department (TTD) of the AFL-CIO supported the gold standard in drug testing but opposed unsubstantiated hair specimen testing. Read the letter below.
On behalf of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD), I write to comment on the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Request for Information Regarding the Use of the Hair Specimen for Drug Testing. By way of background, TTD consists of 32 affiliate unions that represent workers in all modes of transportation including those who would be directly impacted by any changes made to the current Mandatory Guidelines for Federal Workplace Drug Testing Programs. We therefore have a vested interest in this notice. In addition to the comments that follow, we endorse those submitted independently by TTD affiliates, the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers-Transportation Division (SMART TD), and the Transport Workers Union of America (TWU).
We reconfirm transportation labor’s commitment to ensuring the highest level of safety across our transportation system. We recognize that an important component of that standard is maintaining a drug-free workforce, and the workers represented by TTD affiliates are dedicated to upholding that principle. TTD unions also share in this commitment by operating effective programs on drug and alcohol education, prevention, and elimination.
As SAMHSA is aware, the Omnibus Transportation Employee Testing Act of 1991 requires the Department of Transportation (DOT) to adopt HHS’s Mandatory Guidelines for Federal Workplace Drug Testing Programs as the foundation of its policies for testing transportation workers for drugs and alcohol. Thus, any changes to HHS’s scientific and technical guidelines will necessarily change DOT drug and alcohol testing policies as well.
SAMHSA’s notice under consideration is a Request for Information regarding a variety of issues related to the use of hair specimen for drug testing. While it is not a proposal to permit hair specimen testing, the notice indicates that the Drug Testing Advisory Board (DTAB) is considering the scientific supportability of amending the Mandatory Guidelines to allow entities to test hair specimen for drug use.
Given that more than six million transportation workers are subject to DOT drug testing requirements, SAMHSA must ensure that any changes to the longstanding federal testing standards are backed by objective, scientifically and forensically sound evidence that prove a new testing method can be applied in an even and fair manner. However, the current state of hair testing cannot meet this requirement, and we respectfully request that SAMHSA not propose hair as an alternative specimen for federal drug tests.
SAMHSA’s Past Concerns for Hair Testing Remain
In 2004, SAMHSA proposed revisions to its Mandatory Guidelines to establish hair as an alternative specimen in drug tests. In the preamble of that notice, the agency identified external contamination and hair color as concerns particular to hair specimen testing. Four years later, the agency rescinded its proposal, writing that, “with regard to the use of alternative specimens including hair…significant issues have been raised by Federal agencies during the review process which require further examination, and may require additional study and analysis.” Those same concerns SAMHSA expressed in 2004 remain today.
As noted above, the Omnibus Transportation Employee Testing Act of 1991 requires DOT to test transportation workers for the illegal use of drugs. Restricting workers’ exposure to drugs or proximity to those who illegally use drugs is not contemplated under the statute. As such, SAMHSA must ensure that an alternative specimen and the standards by which to test the specimen can reliably and conclusively prove the donor ingested the drug and was not merely exposed to it. In the case of hair specimen, however, this is not possible.
Exposure to drugs in the environment can contaminate hair, potentially causing the specimen to test positive even in the absence of drug ingestion. In 2004, SAMHSA stated that washing procedures may remove some contaminates, but that testing for a metabolite indicative of only ingestion would differentiate contamination from actual use.
To date, experts have not identified a biomarker indicating ingestion of cocaine or marijuana. Without such a substance to test for, workers are forced to put their faith in labs’ washing methods to remove external contaminates. The theory holds that these procedures eliminate contaminates and what remains after completion of the wash is the presence of ingested drugs.
However, it is widely held that wash procedures are not capable of removing all contaminates from the specimen. The residue left behind is particularly troubling in hair testing because the concentration at which labs test for drugs in hair is extremely small – at the nanogram and pictogram levels. Thus, even the slightest remains of passive contamination could cause a worker to test positive for a drug she or he never ingested. As additional states legalize the recreational use of marijuana, this concern will continue to grow.
If an individual may be barred from gaining employment or fired from her/his job solely on the basis of a positive drug test, SAMHSA must have complete confidence in the accuracy and reliability of that test result. The possibility of passive contamination of hair specimen does not allow for such confidence.
Hair Color, Treatments, and Disparate Impact
Natural qualities and treatment of hair can also affect how hair specimen test for drugs. For instance, melanin is a known receptor for certain drugs. Some evidence shows that individuals with darker hair retain some drugs at greater levels than those with lighter hair. Also, cosmetic treatments such as dying or straightening can damage hair and increase the absorption of drugs. Similarly, curly hair may be prone to damage and thus more susceptible to drug bonding.
In light of this evidence, some have raised concerns for whether hair testing inherently has a racial bias. While SAMHSA dismissed this concern in 2004, we highlight an ongoing case alleging a hair testing program caused disparate on the basis of race.
Ten African Americans brought a case before the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit against the Boston Police Department’s (BPD) drug testing program. The plaintiffs claimed “that the department’s program, which used hair samples to test for illegal drug use, caused a disparate impact on the basis of race in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.”
As part of their case, the plaintiffs presented eight years of BPD drug program test results demonstrating a statistical significance in the difference in rates at which African Americans tested positive for cocaine compared to their Caucasian counterparts. In May 2014, the Court found that the “difference in outcomes…were not random” and that, “we can almost be certain that the difference in outcomes associated with race over that [eight year] period cannot be attributed to chance alone.” The Court held that the plaintiffs proved “beyond reasonable dispute a prima facie case of disparate impact under Title VII” of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In doing so, the Court reversed and remanded the US District Court for the District Massachusetts summary judgement to the defendants.
While the case is now back at the District Court, the May 2014 decision must not be taken lightly. The possibility that a drug testing program can discriminate is deeply troubling. Discrimination has no place in federal regulation, and we must insist that new federal testing standards can be applied evenly to all participants.
Lack of Standardization
Today, virtually no standardization exists among hair testing programs. SAMHSA examines this issue in the notice, requesting feedback on whether federal standards should be set for various aspects of hair tests. As SAMHSA considers the lack of standards for hair testing, we refer the agency to the highly standardized procedures contained in the Mandatory Guidelines on urine specimen testing.
For decades, HHS has required employers to test workers for the illicit use of drugs by testing employee urine. The HHS Mandatory Guidelines provide comprehensive and standardized procedures for the complete process of urine testing. These requirements include that urine specimen collectors and Medical Review Officers receive initial and recurrent training on urine testing standards; specify exact procedures for capturing, labeling, and shipping specimens; and specify testing requirements and procedures labs must follow. These standards help ensure professionalism and consistency in the collection of specimens and helps reduce discrepancy and error in the treatment of specimen.
While labs performing hair testing conceal much of their information under proprietary protection, publicly available information shows vast inconsistencies in hair testing today. Labs collect different amounts of hair and from different locations, they boast superiority of their version of external contamination wash procedures and analysis of the wash solution, they use various methods to analyze hair specimen, and they even use different cutoff levels at which a test result is considered positive or negative. There is no standardized training requirement for collectors, and labs and their procedures are not held to the high standard of the National Laboratory Certification Program.
We understand that SAMHSA could set these parameters if it proposed hair specimen testing. We also recognize that labs performing these tests will likely provide the agency with a wealth of information about their procedures. But we urge the agency to critically examine that feedback. Just late last year, the Massachusetts Superior Court upheld a 2013 ruling by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Civil Service Commission that “the present state of hair testing…does not meet the standard of reliability necessary to be routinely used as the sole grounds to terminate a tenured public employee under just cause standards…” (emphasis in original). The Commission’s decision provides detailed concerns for a variety of aspects of hair testing, including problems with external contamination and the processes and cutoff levels used by the lab performing the employees’ hair tests.
We continue to believe that a drug-free, safe workforce can be achieved while simultaneously protecting the rights and dignities of individual workers. The longstanding HHS drug testing standards have proven effective at maintaining a high level of safety while helping to protect workers from flawed testing techniques, human error, and other issues capable of impacting a drug test result. As adopted by the Department of Transportation, today’s urine testing standards also provide workers with appropriate and necessary due process rights.
The decades-old standards are effective and should continue to be held as the gold standard. Hair testing is not mature enough to be a trusted measure of illicit drug use, and it should be rejected.
We appreciate the opportunity to comment on this notice, and we respectfully request our comments receive due consideration.
 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Department of Health and Human Services, Proposed Revisions to Mandatory Guidelines for Federal Workplace Drug Testing Programs. April 13, 2004, 69 FR 71, 19673-19732.
 In addition to hair specimen, SAMHSA’s 2004 notice also proposed to make oral fluid and sweat alternative specimens for drug testing.
 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Department of Health and Human Services, Mandatory Guidelines for Federal Workplace Drug Testing Programs, Revised Guidelines. November 25, 2008, 73 FR 228, page 71858.
 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Department of Health and Human Services, Proposed Revisions to Mandatory Guidelines for Federal Workplace Drug Testing Programs. April 13, 2004, 69 FR 71 19673-19732, page 19675.
 Ronnie Jones, et al. v. City of Boston, et al. No 12-2280 (1st Cir. 2014), page 3.
 Id. at 11.
 Id. at 47.
 Boston Police Department v. Commonwealth of Massachusetts Civil Service Commission, Suffolk Superior Ct. No. 13-1250-A
 In Re Boston Police Department Drug Testing Appeals (“D” Cases), Commonwealth of Massachusetts Civil Service Commission, page 107.
 Id. The 2013 case was brought before the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Civil Service Commission by ten Boston police officers who were terminated by the Boston Police Department after they tested positive for cocaine on hair tests. The officers denied use of cocaine and challenged their terminations on the basis that the science of hair testing is not sound and “the process used to collect and test their samples were seriously flawed, making the test results insufficient to prove ‘just cause’ for their termination.” The Commission reinstated six of the officers with back pay.
Washington, DC — Edward Wytkind, president of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD), issued this statement on the Comprehensive Transportation and Consumer Protection Act of 2015, introduced by Sen. John Thune (R – S.D.):
“At a time when our country’s transportation infrastructure is failing and disenfranchised Americans are desperate for work, bipartisan support is crucial to fund our nation’s highway and transit systems, and boost job creation.
“Instead of following a bipartisan model — as Senators James Inhofe (R-OK) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA) of the EPW Committee demonstrated last month — Commerce Committee Republicans are unwisely using their section of the surface transportation reauthorization bill to advance a partisan agenda that harms workers.
“The Thune bill includes a poorly veiled measure designed to blame workers and their unions for all port delays during a bargaining dispute. It also prematurely allows the use of hair specimens for drug testing of bus and truck drivers. These provisions have no place in any portion of the surface transportation reauthorization bill.
“Sen. Thune’s bill also fails to require rail carriers to provide emergency responders with information about the amount and type of hazardous materials moving through their localities — a commonsense measure that is critical to the efforts of first responders to save lives.
“The highway/transit reauthorization bill is one of the most important initiatives Congress will consider this year. Senate Commerce Committee Republicans must stop playing partisan politics with this already long-delayed transportation investment bill, and reject proposals that undermine the rights of employees and fail to support our transportation system.”
Washington, DC — Edward Wytkind, president of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD), issues this statement on the consideration of the Amtrak Reauthorization bill:
“We applaud Senators Roger Wicker and Cory Booker for working in a bipartisan fashion to craft a sensible Amtrak Reauthorization bill that will be considered by the Commerce Committee today. The bill proposed by Wicker and Booker provides Amtrak with higher funding levels than the bill passed by the House, and includes reforms to the rail financing program that meet pressing needs to replace 100-year-old rail tunnels and other major infrastructure projects.
“While we strongly support these provisions, we remain concerned that the Wicker-Booker bill allows entities other than Amtrak to bid on service without full assurances that these rail operators will be covered by the same rail labor laws Amtrak follows today. If entities other than Amtrak are going to compete for business in the intercity passenger rail sector, then they should be required to comply with the same rail labor statutes and not be permitted to gain a competitive advantage at the expense of rail employees.
“While we are pleased that the bill contains provisions to bolster rail safety, we believe this legislation misses the chance to advance a number of common sense reforms that will make rail transportation safer. We also reject efforts to use this bill to mandate inward-facing cameras without basic privacy and anti-harassment protections for workers who spend up to 70 hours a week in locomotive cabs.
“We look forward to working with Senators Wicker and Booker to address these shortcomings and to craft a final bill that ensures our nation’s passenger rail system receives the funding and support needed to make it an engine for good jobs, mobility and strong economic growth.”
Each year, thousands of transportation workers are hurt or killed on the job. These women and men devote their lives to keeping our transportation system – the backbone of the U.S. economy – running, and they deserve far better.
This Tuesday, April 28, is Workers’ Memorial Day: a time to remember those workers who have died on the job. But it is also a crucial time for us to recommit ourselves to creating and implementing strong protections to ensure workers return home safely.
Read the complete statement by Edward Wytkind, president of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO, at The Huffington Post.