DEARBORN — With the COVID-19 pandemic greatly impacting multiple companies globally, Amtrak announced not only cuts to service, but also 2,000 jobs starting Oct. 1.
Amtrak and other railroad employees rallied outside of the John D. Dingell Transportation Center in Dearborn to raise awareness of these coming changes.
Event coordinator Nate Hatton, a conductor with Amtrak for the last year and a half, said this feels like a slap in the face.
“This is a slap in the face to all the essential workers who have been serving the public throughout the pandemic — sacrificing their health and time with their families and loved ones,” he said. “In Michigan, Amtrak currently employs 65 people.
“In 2019 we moved a total of 1,540,972 passengers on the Michigan Corridor. In Dearborn alone we boarded and deboarded 73,589 passengers. When this pandemic first began we were told not to wear masks or gloves as it would frighten passengers, while management was told to work from home. As a union in good faith we decided to give up pay to help the company only now to be furloughed.”
SMART Legislative Director and union lobbyist Don Roach this is basically a waiting game.
“Bill HR2 passed the House of Representatives in July,” he said. “It’s been sitting on Mitch McConnell’s desk since. This cut from Amtrak is not just employees being furloughed, it’s reducing service from three trains a day in both directions, east and west, to one train a day to Chicago and the shutdown of the Grand Rapids to Chicago line.”
When this pandemic first began we were told not to wear masks or gloves as it would frighten passengers, while management was told to work from home. As a union in good faith we decided to give up pay to help the company only now to be furloughed — Nate Hatton, Amtrak conductor
Bill HR2 or the “Moving Forward Act”, was introduced in the House on June 11 by Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) to authorize funds for federal-aid highways, highway safety programs and transit programs, and for other purposes.
Amtrak conductor Joel Myers said this would substantially impact his family if he were to be furloughed.
“I have two children,” he said. “One is at St John’s in Detroit getting chemo right now. My seniority is towards the bottom and with the cuts proposed, I’d be cut. It’s beyond frustrating that this is how essential workers are being treated.”
Since March, Hatton said that employees were told they were not going to get raises and that if all employees were to take voluntary time off, then they wouldn’t need to be furloughed.
“If we are all furloughed, we will need to figure out how to keep food on the table for our families,” he said. “We will be losing a great public utility. This will greatly impact Dearborn and the Metro Detroit area as this is a mode of transportation that people rely on.”
Dearborn Councilwoman Leslie Herrick said the transportation center itself was a $30 million investment and this would significantly impact the residents in the community.
”This is an important part of intermodal transportation,” she said. “It’s important for the future of Dearborn.”
I have two children. One is at St Joe’s getting chemo right now. My seniority is towards the bottom and with the cuts proposed, I’d be cut — Joel Myers, Amtrak conductor
As a supporter of union labor, Herrick said she has close ties to the railroad industry.
“I had family members that worked for the railroads,” she said. “I personally have used Amtrak and railroads to travel numerous times.
“It’s a wonderful way to see the country. I support protecting union labor and these employees went to work feeling unsure at the beginning of this pandemic and they and their families made compromises; and now they feel let down by their administration.”
Hatton said that people rely on Amtrak not just for travel.
“Without funding from Congress, Amtrak and MDOT have cut the schedule to one train daily,” he said. “Michigan also stands to lose the Pere Marquette Service from Grand Rapids to Chicago entirely.
“People rely on these essential services to get to work, cancer treatments, people with vision and hearing impairments count on these trains for transportation. Railroad Retirement will also see substantial losses with these cuts. At this time with the coming holiday season Amtrak has no plans of adding any trains to the Michigan Corridor.”
The rallies were scheduled in Dearborn, Chicago, New York, and Washington DC. Employees are expected to learn their fate on Oct. 1.
Jacob NeeroOctober 1, 2020 at 9:39 am
These cuts were announced in May yet, aside from some lobbying to Congress, employees and the public have seen virtually no real public displays from AMTRAK‘s unions. I understand that there may be some limitations due to the COVID-19 pandemic however Controversy creates attention. In this modern era of a quick media blitz you would think that those who value the services that AMTRAK provided would be doing everything in their power to make sure that this is on the news consistently. The Midwest stands to lose $22.3 billion in revenue due to these cuts in service yet it is not even a blurb on any politicians campaign trail. The news barely covers it and local news stations around the country barely mention it if at all even as a minor puff piece. Late night host and pundents ignore it. Even those that would be in favor of it ands the cut/Decrease-meant of labor union jobs give it no attention.
As Joe Biden gets ready to trail around the country on the Joe Biden “Amtrak Express” No one has even heard a peep from him shaming or criticizing these cuts involving employees and nationwide train routes/services. This is especially shocking seeing some of the stops Biden made in-route to the debate involved passing through places such as Pittsburgh, Alliance Ohio and Cleveland itself that are about to loose daily service.
It is True that the airlines have larger cuts in terms of personnel however the change in service of long-distance trains from a daily service to a triweekly one has far deeper impacts on local economies. Business along train routes and in station have already begun closing down and laying off employees. All in all while saving Amtrak a modest $213 million these cuts in service are set to cost flyover country billions. People depend on these trains to do more than just vacation. In the Midwest they are a part of regular life. This proves to be increasingly difficult as the airlines get ready to cut service to 15 different cities around the country many of which are in mid western states, st. Louis being one such example that is not only losing Airlines Barroso AMTRAK daily Service. What this does is now virtually strand people that depend on a daily train service in mid western states. Yet we hear nothing in the Midwest from a variety of politicians running for office about these cuts.
Why hasn’t AMTRAK employees or their unions spent months making as much noise as possible instead of seemingly hoping that a dysfunctional Congress and Senate will come to their salvation at the last possible minute. Now I don’t blame the employees for these cuts. Obviously AMTRAK management, like the airlines, are going to do what’s in their best interest regardless of the opposition. (though this is kind of shocking seeing as AMTRAK does not have shareholders and is directly funded by Congress and various other state/county/government partners) however it is atrocious that seemingly outside of Those who follow any kind of news pertaining to services that they depend on or Rail advocates this has largely been ignored by the general media. Now on October 1, 2020 like the airlines it is seemingly too late. The disruption to daily life in the Midwest begins in the next week and AMTRAK like the Airlines get ready to furlough employees in by the thousands (An estimated 88,911 people by mid November, this issue combined total of the people various Airlines and AMTRAK have publicly stated they would furlough and layoff) into a job market that cannot support them nor afford to lose middle-class wages/taxes to local economies