The New York Post reported that Amtrak paid out over $2.3 million in annual bonuses to 10 executives in 2021, despite the carrier seeing its lowest revenues in a decade.
In the article published by the Post on Oct. 5, the bonuses were reported by Amtrak to be “earned incentives,” but it’s hard to understand the structure of an incentive program that paid an average 58.12% bonus to 10 executives in a year when the company was hemorrhaging money post-pandemic.
It’s also unclear what criteria these bonuses were based upon; The New York Post referenced a Freedom of Information Act request as the source of the salary data.
In regard to this report, SMART Transportation Division President Jeremy Ferguson commented: “Amtrak has received an influx of COVID-19-related government funds the past two years, and this is how they chose to use our tax dollars. Meanwhile, our members were the ones moving trains and the nation’s passengers daily in the face of a deadly pandemic. We will remember the value Amtrak puts on such ‘earned incentives’ when we negotiate the next contract for our Amtrak conductors and other members who worked on the front lines.”
According to the N.Y. Post report, Amtrak Deputy General Counsel William Herrmann’s base salary of $352,898 was compounded by an astonishing bonus of 85.29% for a total of $653,879. This bonus of over $300,000 was only enough to rank Mr. Herrmann fourth in overall compensation at Amtrak, but he did net the highest percentage of his salary in the bonuses, the Post reported.
In the same year these executives were apparently crushing their performance metrics to earn these bonuses, while in all probability working from isolation, the popular employment website Indeed.com put the average salary of an Amtrak conductor at $71,916 over the past 36 months.
Had the average conductor received the same 58.12% bonus these executives made on average, they would have received $41,797. At least one Amtrak general chairperson who was contacted and other Amtrak employees reported 0% in bonuses were received. In addition to not receiving bonuses, the Amtrak rank and file had a much different 2021 than their bosses. These men and women faced large-scale furloughs, and those who stayed working often were forced to chase work to terminals hours away from their homes. This led to distinct declines in their home time and their quality of life. Many of these conductors used Amtrak trains to deadhead themselves to work at their new terminals, which racked up an incalculable amount of uncompensated hours and indirectly allowed Amtrak to skirt federal Hours of Service regulations.
This blatant disregard for safety comes as no surprise when we look at the Section 6 notices that Amtrak has put forward in advance of the next contract negotiation. In these notices, the only item listed under the heading of “Safety” on the company’s vast wish list is that they expand random testing for drugs and alcohol. Apparently, that is the only safety concern facing Amtrak’s workforce in their view.
The executive bonuses might seem par for the course and typical for our day, but even by the standard we have come to expect in corporate bonuses, the Amtrak executives’ windfalls are exorbitant.
The New York Post pointed out in their article that in 2016, 2017 and 2018, Amtrak executives received much smaller bonuses and received no bonuses in 2015 and 2020. With the company ending the year in the red for the 51st consecutive time, it is difficult to imagine what spurred this windfall for the brass of this heavily taxpayer-subsidized company.
To put a bow on it, when asked about bonuses for conductors in 2021, one manager told his crews that, “Our bonus to you is that you kept your job.” It’s hard to encapsulate Amtrak’s view any better than that.