|ONLINE VERSION||AUGUST 1999|
|Rail Labor Victory!|
|Rail Labor Victory! -- ARC Funding Slashed
Hailing an overwhelming bipartisan vote on June 23 by the House of Representatives to slash funding by 40 percent for the Amtrak Reform Council, rail unions representing Amtrak's 20,000 workers called on the Senate to "finish the job and pull the plug on ARC's funding," stated the press release issued by the Rail Labor Division of the AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department that same day. The House adopted, 289 to 141, an amendment offered by Rep. Robert Andrews (D-NJ) to cut ARC funding by $300,000 to last year's level of $450,000.
"The ARC continues to pursue an anti-Amtrak agenda that promises to derail the efforts of Amtrak and its employees to build a first-class passenger railroad," said Robert Scardelletti, chairman of the Rail Labor Division. "We commend Rep. Andrews and a bipartisan majority for seeing through the destructive motives of the ARC and getting us closer to the ultimate goal of zeroing out funding for this body."
Sonny Hall, president of TTD, parent organization of RLD, told lawmakers in a letter prior to the vote: "... providing taxpayer dollars to support this panel's work exposes Amtrak to unnecessary political attacks by individuals who seem wedded to Amtrak's demise. It is time to stop playing games with Amtrak's future."
The BMWE has been in the forefront of the push for termination of ARC effective September 30, 1999, because its motives and practices continue to be blatantly anti-worker and inconsistent with the survival of Amtrak. As reported in the May BMWE JOURNAL, also of concern to BMWE is the possible conflicts of interest resulting from some ARC members' business dealings with transportation interests.
For example, former FRA Administrator Gil Carmichael was recently appointed Chairman of ARC. Carmichael is Vice Chairman of Motive Power Industries, whose Boise Locomotive company subsidiary maintains and overhauls Amtrak equipment and even competes with Amtrak to operate commuter services.
BMWE members joined hundreds of others who contacted their Congressmen with the message "to end the politically motivated Amtrak Reform Council" while also urging them to authorize funding for Amtrak at $571 million, the amount requested by President Clinton. Thanks in no small part to their efforts, the House cut the funding for ARC and also avoided the usual annual fight over Amtrak funding and passed a transportation bill 429-3 which included the White House request.
"The House easily approved $45 billion for highways, airports and other transportation programs [including the $571 million for Amtrak] next year, even as the Democrats said the vote just delayed a showdown over looming budget cuts in other programs," reported Reuters.