Six unions representing 5,000 Amtrak employees have announced that Amtrak employees will withdraw their services from the railroads on Oct. 3 in what the Transport Workers Union calls a “one-day political protest.” The unions are demanding that Congress authorize the necessary funding to keep the system running.
“Amtrak is on its way to oblivion if the Bush administration and Congress have their way,” said TWU International President Sonny Hall. “The budget President Bush is proposing for Amtrak is totally inadequate and will push Amtrak over the edge to its ultimate demise. This is a threat to our national security, and it is in direct opposition to the will of millions of Americans.”
According to Amtrak President David Gunn, Amtrak requires $1.8 billion to maintain its current operations. However, President Bush proposed only $900 million, as did the House. The Senate will likely earmark only $1.35 billion. “Why would the most prosperous country in the world abandon rail passenger service as a transportation option, especially in light of Sept. 11?” asked Hall. “But that is exactly the road we are traveling on.”
Hall pointed out that a majority of the House members signed a letter pledging to vote for $1.8 billion for Amtrak, but “the Republican leadership used procedural gimmicks to prevent a vote on that figure,” he said.
Earlier this month in an Amtrak “Employee Advisory,” Gunn said, “Our infrastructure and equipment is in such dire need of repair and investment that on any given day something could fail – as it already has – and large parts of the system could be shut down.”
Hall said the workers want to give the riding public a preview of what life will be like without Amtrak. “If they get an injunction against us it will prove our point – that Amtrak is too important to allow it to be destroyed.”
Other unions in supporting the work stoppage include the Brotherhood of Maintenance and Way Employees, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, the National Council of Firemen and Oilers, Service Employees International Union, and the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees.
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