Nine Unions May Strike Amtrak Jan. 30, Affect Freight Network

Ten thousand workers who belong to nine unions may go on strike at 12:01 a.m. Jan. 30 against Amtrak if a new contract has not been reached by then, Workers Independent News, a Teamsters-affiliated news gathering organization (www.laborradio.org/index.php) reported Jan. 17. The incentive for Amtrak to resume contract bargaining on Wednesday was provided last month by a Presidential Emergency Board that rejected the company’s attempt to impose new work rules and combine jobs. The board instead sided with the unions, saying Amtrak should adopt a wage and health care package agreed to in April 2007 by the unions and freight railroads.

Don Griffin is Director of Strategic Coordination and Research for the Teamsters' Brotherhood of Maintenance and Way. The strike "would affect freight railroad. It would be a nationwide strike," Griffin told the news service. "It would have impact on the freight railroads and it would have a substantial effect on commuter operations from Boston to Washington, D.C. Look, the last thing we want to do is go on strike, have a strike. The members lose money, they lose benefits, the public is inconvenienced. What we wanted was a voluntary agreement. And we were just unable to get to the point where we had serious discussions with Amtrak."

The board recommended a 35.2 percent pay increase retroactive from Jan. 1, 2000, to Dec. 31, 2009, to make up for eight years the workers have gone without a pay increase. The board recommended paying out the retroactive wages in two installments. Among the unions involved in the talks are the International Brotherhood of Machinists, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Transportation Communications Union, Transport Workers Union, and Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees.

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