AFL-CIO, Eleven Railroad Unions Sue to Stop Congressional Report on Amtrak

The AFL-CIO and eleven railroad-related unions filed suit Jan. 22 for an injunction to prevent a congressionally appointed panel, called the Amtrak Reform Council, from delivering its report  to Congress. In 2001, with Amtrak asking for another $3.2 billion to cope with increased business, ARC decided Amtrak wasn’t going to make it. ARC was required to propose changes after declaring that Amtrak wouldn’t meet a statutory Dec. 2002 self-sufficiency deadline. ARC voted Jan. 11 eight to one to recommend an end to Amtrak as we know it.  ARC’s plan, a final version of which is due before Congress on Feb. 7, is likely to recommend opening America’s entire intercity rail system to private competition and the divestiture of Amtrak’s tracks and other infrastructure.  The suit filed in U.S. Dist. Court in Washington, D.C. alleged that ARC acted in “excess of its authority” with its recommendations. ARC “has long pursued an ideological agenda to dismember and then sell off Amtrak to private interests,” Mark Filipovic, chairman of the union’s Rail Labor Division.

Amtrak’s 2001 operating loss was a record $1.1 billion, according to a Dep’t of Transp. report released Jan. 25. Amtrak has never made a profit since it was founded in May 1971. It received a $521 million federal subsidy for fiscal 2002 and may be liquidated if it fails to meet the deadline. Amtrak has received more than $20 billion in subsidies since 1971 and had to mortgage part of N.Y.’s Penn Station last year to cover losses.

The plaintiffs in the suit are the 1) Rail Labor Division of the Transp. Trades Dep’t, AFL-CIO; 2) Bhd. of Maintenance of Way Employees; 3) Transport Workers Union of Am.; 4) Bhd. of Locomotive Eng’rs; 5) Transp.-Communications Int’l Union; 6) Int’l Ass’n of Machinists; 7) Bhd. of Railroad Signalmen; 8) Nat’l Conference of Firemen & Oilers, Serv. Employees Int’l Union; 9) Int’l Bhd. of Elec. Workers; 10) Sheet Metal Workers Int’l Ass’n; 11) Int’l Bhd. of Boilermakers; and 12) Hotel Employees & Restaurant Employees Int’l Union.   Richard Edelman, the attorney who filed the lawsuit, said he will seek a restraining order. [Wall St. J. 1/29/02; Bloomberg News, AFL-CIO 1/22/02; Chi. Trib. 1/23/02]