WASHINGTON — Today, U.S. Representative Jan Schakowsky (IL-09), a Chief Deputy Whip and a senior member of the House Budget Committee, alongside Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-01) and Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and Deb Fischer (R-NE), introduced the bipartisan, bicameral Railroad Employee Equity and Fairness (REEF) Act, which would remove sequestration constraints on the unemployment insurance program for railroad employees and ensure that they get the benefits they are entitled to.
While a temporary version of the REEF Act was included in the COVID-19 relief bill passed in December 2020, that measure will expire on May 10, 2023. Without the REEF Act, sequestration will likely result in a 5.7% reduction in railroad unemployment and sickness benefits through fiscal year 2030.
“I am proud to lead the bipartisan, bicameral Railroad Employee Equality and Fairness (REEF) Act to restore equity to the railroad unemployment insurance program. For too long, railroaders and their families have been singled out and prevented from receiving full and fair unemployment benefits. This common-sense bill permanently removes their benefits from the impacts of budget sequestration. We must quickly pass the REEF Act to ensure that railroaders have access to the same full unemployment benefits as all Americans,” said Congresswoman Schakowsky.
“Our railroad employees deserve their full benefits, and this bipartisan, bicameral legislation will ensure that they do. Our Railroad Employee Equality and Fairness (REEF) Act removes budget sequestration constraints from the railroad unemployment insurance program, guaranteeing access to these benefits. I am proud to join my colleagues on this common-sense bill that stands up for railroad workers,” said Congressman Fitzpatrick.
“Railroad workers play a vital role in keeping rail travel safe and our trains running on time. That’s why it’s unacceptable that these workers don’t receive the same level of unemployment and insurance benefits as other workers. Our bipartisan legislation will address this glaring problem, allowing rail workers to access the benefits they deserve,” said Senator Klobuchar.
“Big railroad companies have cut more than a third of their workers in less than ten years. When these corporations lay off rail workers in Ohio, workers should be able get the same unemployment benefits that are available to workers in other industries. This common-sense legislation would ensure that rail workers will no longer have to worry about the unemployment benefits they have earned being cut because of outdated and unfair rules,” said Senator Brown.
“Current law unfairly penalizes America’s railroaders by imposing a harmful reduction of their unemployment and sickness benefits. They aren’t responsible for excessive federal spending, and no other industry in our country has to face this cut. The REEF Act will right that wrong, ensuring the men and women who keep our trains moving receive the critical benefits they deserve in full,” said Senator Fischer.
“The REEF Act will ensure that rail workers and their families receive all of the unemployment and sickness benefits they have earned. For more than a decade, rail workers have been short-changed and it’s time for Congress to correct this injustice. We applaud Senators Fischer, Klobuchar, and Brown and Reps. Schakowsky, Fitzpatrick, Larsen, Bacon, Garcia, and Stauber for introducing the REEF Act and we urge Congress to act swiftly before sequestration of these benefits resumes in May,” said AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department (TTD) President Greg Regan.
“We deeply thank Senator Fischer, Representative Schakowsky, and all the original cosponsors for helping us advocate for railroader’s sickness and unemployment benefits. We look forward to working alongside them to restore equity across unemployment insurance programs,” said Association of American Railroads President and CEO Ian Jefferies.
“We appreciate the bipartisan leadership that is moving this important bill forward. The rail industry is a great place to work and this measure helps keep it that way – making sure workers get the benefits they’re due, and railroads are able to attract top-level talent to a workforce critical to the U.S. economic engine,” said American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association (ASLRRA) President Chuck Baker.
While regular unemployment compensation for other industries is exempt from sequestration, the Railroad Unemployment Insurance Act (RUIA) is not. This means that the funds railroaders and employers pay into the RUIA for unemployment and sickness benefits are used to offset federal spending instead of going back to the hard-working individuals who pay into it.
Joining Representatives Schakowsky and Fitzpatrick in the House as original cosponsors are Reps. Rick Larsen (WA-02), Don Bacon (NE-02), Jesús “Chuy” García (IL-04), and Pete Stauber (MN-08).