Railroads, Labor Applaud Relief for Unemployed Rail Workers

Published: Mar 27 2020 2:27PM

WASHINGTON, DCMarch 27, 2020 – Freight railroads, short line railroads and rail labor applaud Congress for ensuring that rail workers have access to critical unemployment and sickness benefits during this unprecedented public health emergency in the latest COVID-19 aid package. Unlike the average American worker, railroaders do not receive unemployment benefits through state-administered programs but rather through the Railroad Retirement Board’s (RRB) Railroad Unemployment Insurance Program (RUI).

As a united front, the Association of American Railroads (AAR), the American Short Line Railroad Association (ASLRRA), , the Rail Labor Division (RLD) of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD) and the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees Division (BMWED) called on Congress to provide rail workers affected by the coronavirus with the same vital protections they extended to other  impacted Americans in the first COVID-19 stimulus package. Of note, H.R. 748 includes the following railroad specific provisions:

• Waives the 7-day waiting period for filing a sickness or unemployment claim with the RRB and provides $50 million to cover the costs of providing these additional benefits

• Increases unemployment benefits through an additional $1,200 biweekly benefit and provides  $425 million to cover the costs of providing these additional benefits through July 31, 2020

• Allows RRB to access approximately $130 million of remaining American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds to provide extended benefits through December 31, 2020

• Supplies $5 million to RRB for additional administrative costs 

"The members of the BMWED, as well as every working person in Rail Labor, is immensely appreciative of Congress for extending these vital lifelines to railroad employees," BMWED President Freddie N. Simpson said. "Our membership responded when the nation needed us most and kept vital supply chains intact. I am gratified to see that our federal legislators have recognized that fact and have extended these critical unemployment and sick benefits in this trying and unpredictable time."

“This aid package will offer a vital relief to hard working rail employees whose jobs are impacted during these challenging times,” said AAR President and CEO Ian Jefferies. “We thank Congress for ensuring railroaders have access to this lifeline.  The industry is committed to working in partnership with its employees as we navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, and railroaders will continue to deliver what America needs.”

While much progress was made unemployed rail workers are still the only employees that currently receive a reduction in unemployment and sickness benefits due to budget sequestration. Rail labor and management will continue to call on Congress to provide this much needed parity.

Jessica Kahanek, JKahanek@aar.org, 254-405-4921
Amy Krouse, akrouse@aslrra.org
Clark Ballew, cballew@bmwe.org, 248-662-2605