Legislative Update December 2007

Congress’ target adjournment for 2007 will be around December 14th.  Currently, the battle with Bush over budgets is taking most of the legislators time.

  1. 1889, the Railroad Safety Enhancement Act of 2007 – Companion bill to H.R. 2095, The Federal Railroad Safety Improvement Act of 2007

There has been no movement on this bill as of yet, but once the appropriations bills for the fiscal year that began October 1, 2007, are settled, the Senate should be able to move forward on other business.  We will keep you advised as to any progress or movement this bill makes.

Appropriations

H.R. 1, Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007

In August, the President signed into law H.R. 1, however, the administration now intends to slash funding for counterterrorism programs, including port and transportation security, in their upcoming budget proposals for fiscal year 2009.  Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) was quoted as saying, “To say, no port security, no transit security, when we know that our ports and transit lines are targets for terrorists makes no sense if you want to protect America.”  Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) stated, “This administration runs around the country scaring people and then when it comes to putting their money where their mouth is, they say, ‘sorry, the bank is closed.’”

On November 8, the House and Senate agreed on the Transportation and Housing and Urban Development funding for FY ’08.  The President has threatened to veto this bill because it exceeds OMB requests.  Amtrak funding is contained in this measure.  The White House Office of Management and Budget’s recommendation for Amtrak funding would have meant shut down.

On November 13th, the President vetoed the Labor-Health and Human Services bill, and Congress failed to override the veto.  The failure of this bill has forced the National Mediation Board to halt travel for arbitrators and they have advised their arbitrators not to hear public law board cases until further notice.

Amtrak

A potential strike of Amtrak employees scheduled to begin December 1st, was called off following the appointment by President Bush of a five member Presidential Emergency Board (PEB 242).  The National Mediation Board released the parties from mediation on November 1, triggering a 30-day cooling off period.  The Board will have 30 days to hold hearings and report to President Bush with non-binding recommendations for settlement.  After that, the parties to the dispute have a second 30-day cooling off period to consider its recommendations.  If no agreement can be reached, the unions would be free to strike.

As reported by the BMWED Pennsylvania Federation, “in the past Congress has prevented rail strikes by taking the recommendations of the PEB and imposing them on labor and management as the new contract.  They do this because they believe our role in the economy is vital and we should not be permitted to strike.”  The report goes on to question say that if their work is so vital to the economy, then why are they not appropriately compensated.

Amtrak employees are not being unreasonable in their requests, especially considering they have been without a contract for 8 years.  They want the same consideration in their contract as what has been awarded in the last two national freight contracts.  Just because a railroader is an employee of Amtrak, they should not be penalized for working for Amtrak.

We should support our Amtrak Brothers and Sisters and if it comes to Congress implementing a hostile Board’s recommendation, we need to convince our Congressmen not to impose those recommendations as their new contract.  We need to give our Amtrak brothers and sisters at least a fair hearing which will probably not occur with a PEB appointed by this Administration.

Thanks for everything our members do to support railroaders.