October 22, 2014

Jobs at stake: Contact Congress now

U.S. Capitol Building; Capitol Building; Washington D.C.There are occasions when something so horrible is pending in Congress that we ask your immediate help in taking to the phones and email to alert your lawmaker to the concerns.

In this case, it is especially important if you are represented in the House of Representatives by a Republican, because the Republican leadership is pressing to find enough votes to pass the bill later this week.

The bill is a blueprint for multi-year transportation spending – supported by an anti-labor House leadership – that would have a most negative impact on the job security of bus, rail and transit workers.

It is H.R. 7, the American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act, a wolf in sheep’s clothing if there ever was one. A better name would be the anti-jobs act.

Among the bill’s worst provisions are:

* It would facilitate privatization of public transit system by directing more federal funds to systems that contract out at least 20 percent of the jobs.

* It denies transit systems the flexibility to use federal funds to maintain service and retain workers during times of economic crisis, as we now are enduring.

* It eliminates federal minimum wage and overtime requirements for van drivers that transport rail crews between terminals, meaning these already low-paid and fatigued drivers would become more of a safety hazard when transporting crews.

* It delays mandatory implementation of positive train control on passenger rail lines from late 2015 to late 2020.

* It allows freight railroads to implement alternatives to installing of positive train control, which would provide crews and the public far less protection.

* It eliminates grants for hazmat train-the-trainer program, which would dramatically reduce or end training programs at the National Labor College.

* It eliminates capital grants for states seeking to expand and improve Amtrak service.

* It reduces long-term capital funding for Amtrak, limiting Amtrak’s ability to upgrade tracks and bridges on the Northeast Corridor.

* It prohibits Amtrak from using specialized outside counsel to recover from those at fault in Amtrak collisions, likely causing Amtrak to bear full responsibility for deaths and injuries cause by a non-Amtrak entity – even where it is clear the other operator was solely responsible for the entire accident. 

* It requires Amtrak to contract-out its food and beverage service to the lowest bidder, threatening 2,000 Amtrak jobs and contributions to Railroad Retirement by shifting those jobs to non-union low-wage, low-benefits operators.

* It makes permanent a pilot program that allows any passenger rail provider to bid for any of Amtrak’s routes.

* It prohibits California from using any highway, transit, or passenger rail funds for development of high-speed rail.

To contact your House member and urge a “no” vote on H.R. 7, the American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act, click on the following link:

www.contactingthecongress.org/

Then select your state, click on the names of your senators and representative, and you have the information needed to send an email or fax, or make a phone call.

Freight rail, Amtrak and transit jobs, safety and Railroad Retirement are at risk if this bill is passed by the House of Representatives.