WASHINGTON—During the pandemic, Congress temporarily paused arbitrary federal reductions to rail worker unemployment and sickness insurance program benefits, until 30 days after the end of the Covid-19 pandemic. When Congress passed legislation declaring an end to the Covid-19 national emergency, which President Biden signed on April 10, it set in motion the 30-day countdown to the end of this temporary relief for rail workers. Today, that relief runs out. Now, rail workers will see a 5.7% reduction in their benefits through 2031.
Last month, members from both parties and chambers in Congress introduced the Railroad Employee Equity and Fairness (REEF) Act to permanently end the arbitrary federal reductions of the program’s benefits. This legislation is unanimously endorsed by all of rail labor and is supported by the rail industry as well. Greg Regan and Shari Semelsberger, President and Secretary-Treasurer of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD), issued this statement in response to federal cuts to railroad workers’ sickness and unemployment insurance program benefits:
“For more than a decade, rail workers’ hard-earned unemployment and sickness insurance program benefits have been subject to arbitrary reductions by Congress, even though no taxpayer funds or government subsidies support the program.”
“The same rail workers who worked tirelessly through the pandemic, endured a national contract fight, and face unsafe working conditions every day are once again singled out and unjustly denied the full value of the benefits that they have earned.”
“As Congress considers rail safety legislation, it should also act to pass the REEF Act. Rail workers should not be punished for the mistakes of a dysfunctional Congress that—as a result of the last debt ceiling crisis manufactured for partisan gain—failed to agree on responsible deficit reduction measures and instead enacted arbitrary cuts to essential programs like this one.”