Remember, when Penn Station is shut down- Blame Amtrak, not the union workers!

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*Photo by classictrains at deviantART

At the end of November, President Bush avoided the possible strike by the 9 unions representing Amtrak workers by imposing an Executive Order which established a Presidential Emergency Board (PEB) to investigate the failed negotiations which started all the way back in January of 2000. While the unions are trying to recoup lost wages for the past eight years and try to maintain good secured union jobs for their members, it seems that Amtrak has never even bothered to attempt to negotiate this contract in good faith. Not at all, in fact according to the Transportation Communications Union

Amtrak has:
  1. engaged in bad faith bargaining strategy and is solely responsible for this record-making delay in reaching agreements.In the eight years since Amtrak began stonewalling negotiations, hundreds of contracts have been reached in both the rail and airline industries covered by the Railway Labor Act.
  2. purposely manipulated the bargaining process to avoid settlements by putting forward radical, take it or leave it demands and refusing to budge an inch.
  3. stated that the Unions would receive no back pay no matter how long negotiations took. This has never happened before on Amtrak or on any major railroad. On every major railroad going back a hundred years, unions that settle later always received contracts that date back to the date the first union signed.
  4. Amtrak insisted that any agreement must include a multitude of sweeping work rule concessions from every craft.
  5. has demanded no limits on contracting out, even if the contracting resulted in furloughs, Amtrak has put forward more than twenty concessionary demands to the shopcraft coalition alone . (The shopcraft coalition is comprised of Carmen, Electricians and Machinists.)
  6. For eight years, Amtrak has refused to remove a single work rule demand from its list of must-have concessions. In fact, a few months ago, seven years into bargaining, Amtrak added a new radical, unacceptable demand – that early retirees pay toward health insurance.
It seems that Amtrak has used to it's advantage The Railway Labor Act, which in part states that if a new contract has not been ratified, all work will continue under the existing contract until an agreement is reached. Well the nearly 10,000 workers who are involved in this dispute have gotten good news. The Presidential Emergency Board, who unfortunately cannot avert a strike, has sided squarely on the unions demands. According to the AFL-CIO WebBlog, The PEB’s recommendations include the wage increases proposed by the unions, full retroactive pay and no work rule changes. The PEB said the unions’ wage proposals were:
the most fair and equitable package of compensation after consideration of the relevant factors.
(and) In rejecting Amtrak’s proposal for dramatic work rule changes—including nearly unlimited contracting out rights, schedule changes and combining jobs and crafts—the board pointed to Amtrak workers’ increased productivity.
The evidence introduced by Amtrak in support of its claimed need for these sweeping reforms was weak, at best, and with respect to many of the proposals bordered on nonexistent.
Which led to The AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department (TTD) stating that the PEB’s report is the basis for agreement. Amtrak should come to the bargaining table and reach a negotiated settlement with its unions based on the recommendations of the PEB. Rail labor has repeatedly stated its desire to settle this dispute voluntarily, without a strike.

So get ready Amtrak riders and those of us who depend on Penn Station and other affected stations, remember what you read today when the bullshit NYPost articles of "Greedy Rail Workers Crippling the City" and "Those little people who are suffering because of them" is in your hand. Because it happened recently with the "Greedy Stagehands crippling Broadway" and I'm sure it will happen again. Also add this fact to your collection, Amtrak workers are the lowest paid in the entire railway industry.

Remember if there is a strike, BLAME AMTRAK, not the union workers !

Note about Unions involved: IAM, IBEW, TCU, Railroad Signalmen, Transport Workers, Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees which is an affiliate of the Teamsters, National Conference of Firemen and Oilers, and American Train Dispatchers Association.

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