In just two weeks, thanks to federal infrastructure funds from legislation last year—and coordination by state, federal, and local officials plus round-the-clock work from unionists—the collapsed I-95 bridge in Philadelphia was replaced and reopened, thus solving a major transportation bottleneck in the Northeast U.S.
But if the House’s ruling Republicans have their way, in the transportation money bill they’re considering before Congress skedaddles out of town for its August recess, not only would the Philly repair not have been finished so fast, it might not have even begun.
On behalf of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD), I am pleased to provide comments on Amtrak’s petition for a waiver of compliance from the “hands-on” component of periodic refresher trainings required by 49 CFR 232.203(b)(8), 49 CFR 215.11(b), 49 CFR 229.5, and 49 CFR. 238.109. TTD consists of 37 affiliate unions, which include the totality of rail labor, and therefore has a vested interest in this petition. Virtual training is not a sufficient substitute for hands-on training, and as such, we request that the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) deny Amtrak’s petition for a waiver of compliance from such requirements.
As discussed below, we oppose Amtrak’s waiver request and urge the FRA to reject the request because it jeopardizes the safety of rail labor employees and the public. When protocols are revisited, it is imperative to recognize and retain, not weaken or waive the very requirements that are core to the safety of our system.
On behalf of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD), and the totality of rail labor as represented by our affiliated unions, I write to request that Congress provide Amtrak with $3.65 billion in the final Fiscal Year (FY) 2024 appropriations bill. That level is consistent with Congress’ authorized level in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL). Providing Amtrak with this level of funding will ensure that our national passenger rail system has the staffing and operating capacity necessary to maintain current service and move forward with the BIL’s generational investments.
Amtrak’s overall financial performance in FY2022 improved significantly, continuing its trend of recovery since the COVID-19 pandemic. Total ridership in the seven-month period ending on April 30th was 84% of 2019 levels and ticket revenues were 95% of 2019 levels. Ridership on certain routes in states like Virginia is at an all-time high. Responding to increased demand, Amtrak hired roughly 3,700 new employees in FY2022 and is working to hire more than 4,000 employees in FY2023 so it can start or expand rail service in many states. Now is the time for Congress to help Amtrak continue to build on this progress, not undermine it.
As representatives of the freight and passenger railroad industry and the highly-trained, hardworking railroad workforce, we urge you to support the swift passage of H.R.2785/S.1274, the Railroad Employee Equity and Fairness Act (REEF Act). This common-sense, bipartisan bill would eliminate sequester cuts to railroad unemployment and sickness benefits that have unfairly short-changed railroad workers and their families for over a decade.
Railroad workers play a critical role in keeping the passenger and freight rail network safe and our economy moving. They deserve to access the full value of the benefits they have earned. Currently, Railroad Unemployment Insurance Act (RUIA) benefits are the only federal unemployment insurance and sickness benefits program subject to sequestration. Every other American’s unemployment, disability, or sickness benefits are not subject to the same cuts.
On behalf of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD), I am pleased to respond to the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) implementing statutory changes in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (P.L. 117-58) regarding safety protections for frontline transportation workers. TTD consists of 37 affiliated unions – including those representing the majority of public transportation workers in the United States – who together, fought to ensure the provisions under consideration in this rulemaking were passed into law, and who have a significant interest in ensuring they are correctly implemented.
In addition to our own comments below, we endorse the comments filed by our affiliated unions, the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) and the Transport Workers Union of America (TWU), as well as those filed by Majority Leader Schumer, and the comments jointly filed by Senators Brown, Van Hollen, Reed, Warren, and Menendez.
On behalf of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD), I am pleased to respond to the Federal Railroad Administration’s (FRA) notice of Port-Authority Trans Hudson’s (PATH) petition to extend its waiver of compliance with respect to the timely fixing of door defects under 49 CFR §238.305 and the required Class II brake inspection under 49 CFR §238.317. TTD consists of 37 affiliated unions representing the totality of rail labor, including PATH rail workers. We ask that the FRA deny PATH’s petition on the grounds that eight days is an unacceptable wait time for repairing mechanical door defects and risks the safety of the affected trains, passengers, and crews. Additionally, we endorse the comments of our affiliate, the Transportation Division of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, and Transportation Workers (SMART-TD).
PATH seeks to extend a waiver related to passenger equipment standards under Part 238 of Title 49, Code of Federal Regulations. Specifically, PATH requests to extend its existing waiver relief from 49 CFR §238.305(c)(10) and (d), and 49 CFR §238.317(a)(1). PATH requests continued relief from the requirement that a car must be removed from service on the day after its calendar day interior mechanical inspection. In its petition, PATH seeks permission for a car to remain in service up to eight calendar days following notification of a mechanical door defect. It also seeks relief from the requirement to perform a Class II brake test where terminal dwell time is less than five minutes because of logistical challenges.
The railroad Labor Organizations identified above (“Labor Organizations”) are the collective bargaining representatives for the vast majority of railroad industry workers engaged in train operations, train dispatching, signal, maintenance of way and mechanical maintenance, inspection, testing, and repair on passenger and freight railroads throughout the United States.
The Labor Organizations and their individual and collective memberships have a direct safety interest whenever FRA determines to waive safety regulations. The public also shares this interest, especially when a waiver of regulations regarding the performance of tests that confirm the proper functioning of locomotive and train air brake systems is involved. The classes or crafts of employees represented by the Labor Organizations include those who will be directly affected by the waiver of the safety regulations discussed in these comments. Particularly, we wish to dispel the notion that waiving current air test requirements promotes safety at a time when railroads simultaneously work to avoid any requirement to upgrade their current braking systems.
On behalf of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD), I am pleased to respond to the Federal Railroad Administration’s (FRA) request for comment on an Information Collection Request (ICR) related to amending the current railroad accident/incident reporting regulations (Form FRA F 6180.54) to add (1) the length of the involved trains, in feet, and (2) the number of crew members who were aboard a controlling locomotive involved in an accident at the time of such accident. TTD consists of 37 affiliated unions representing the totality of rail labor, including both passenger and freight rail workers. We therefore have a vested interest in this ICR.
These changes would bring the FRA into compliance with a congressional mandate in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to add (1) the number of cars and length of the involved trains; and (2) the number of crew members who were aboard a controlling locomotive involved in an accident at the time of such accident to Form FRA F 6180.54 (“the Form”) for a five-year period.
Reported by Alexandra Skores for The Dallas Morning News.
Pilots and flight attendant unions are sounding alarms at an attempt in Congress to raise the mandatory retirement age for airline pilots by two years to 67.
The Securing Growth and Robust Leadership in American Aviation Act, which reauthorizes funding for the Federal Aviation Administration and aviation safety and infrastructure programs for the next five years, includes an amendment that would raise the mandatory retirement age for pilots from 65 to 67. House bill 3935 was approved by the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on June 14 after a House subcommittee tacked on the amendment to alter the age commercial airline pilots have to step down.
Removing Surface Transportation Board (STB) Chair Martin J. Oberman or failing to reappoint him “would undermine the significant progress the Board has made during his tenure,” Transportation Trades Department (TTD), AFL-CIO President Greg Regan wrote in a June 13 letter to President Joe Biden, which followed a May 17 request that Biden revoke Oberman’s chairmanship and elevate Robert Primus to the position by RootsAction, The Freedom BLOC and the Revolving Door Project (RDP), which describes itself as an organization that “scrutinizes executive branch appointees to ensure they use their office to serve the broad public interest, rather than to entrench corporate power or seek personal advancement.”
“We view Chairman Oberman’s vote to approve the merger between Canadian Pacific Railway and Kansas City Southern Railway as fundamentally anathema to the Administration’s revival of antitrust enforcement,” RDP reported May 17, when it published the letter to President Biden. “Pro-competition measures have been the backbone of Biden-era economic policy, with revitalized enforcement from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Federal Trade Commission, Department of Justice, National Labor Relations Board, and more. Allowing greater consolidation in the rail industry, which was already highly noncompetitive with only seven significant companies, is a severe blow to the government-wide effort to unrig markets ushered in by President Biden’s Executive order on Competition.