As Congress continues to develop its responses to the COVID-19 crisis, the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD), has called for bold and immediate policy prescriptions that seek to keep our nation’s transportation systems running by supporting the millions of frontline workers employed across all modes of transportation. It is non-negotiable that any aid package must prioritize the livelihoods, health, and safety of these workers, and we will staunchly oppose efforts that fail to do so.
The crippling economic impacts of this crisis will not spare the railroad industry, including freight, commuter, and passenger rail. As you have seen, Amtrak is currently seeking substantial economic assistance as it faces deeply decreased ridership and sharp increases in cancellations. TTD is proud to represent thousands of workers across the spectrum of occupations at Amtrak, and our affiliated unions support Amtrak’s efforts to secure the funding that it needs – provided that funding also protects and provides for its employees.
Further, railroad workers of all stripes in the United States rely on entirely separate retirement, disability, and unemployment systems than the rest of the country. Congress must not overlook these programs in its efforts to help working people.
Railroad Retirement Board
Instead of drawing unemployment or disability benefits through state unemployment insurance programs and Social Security, railroaders receive these benefits through the federal Railroad Retirement Board. We call on Congress to ensure that these programs are given parity with other efforts to address unemployment insurance issues. This includes:
- Providing administrative grant funding, as was provided to state UI programs, to RRB to facilitate processing increased unemployment claims
- Waiving of the seven day waiting period, as was also enacted for state UI programs
- Releasing railroad unemployment from Pay As You Go sequestration, which does not apply to any other UI programs and only serves to artificially and unfairly reduce railroad unemployment benefits
- Including RRB in any proposals to extend or otherwise increase UI benefits.
Assistance to Amtrak must be conditioned on the company using these funds to support its workforce, including:
- Prioritizing furlough and layoff avoidance
- Providing health care and retirement benefits to any workers on voluntary or involuntary furlough
- Ensuring that any furloughed employees are able to return to their job once service has returned to pre-crisis levels
- Preventing Amtrak from permanently discontinuing any routes or customer services
- Disallowing any waivers of Davis-Bacon prevailing wage standards, Buy America procurement requirements and labor protections under 49 USC 5333.
As the situation develops, TTD will be engaged on issues concerning the railroad industry as well as other transportation sectors.