The American Association of Railroads (AAR – composed of the Class I Carriers) used their influence with Senator Enzi (R-WY) to have a Senate hold put on H.R. 5483, the Railroad Retirement Disability Earnings Act of 2006. This kept the bill from moving through the Senate. After a barrage of phone calls and email, the Senator released his hold and advised that the bill would be considered in the lame duck Congress following the November elections. H.R. 5483 passed the House on the 27th of September. Apparently, the AAR had a problem with the cost of the bill, which would result in approximately $400,000 annually — less than 10 days’ salary for former Union Pacific CEO Dick Davidson. The purpose of the legislation is to bring those on disability under railroad retirement up to the same earning cap as those collecting Social Security disability – from $400 maximum to $700 maximum earnings per month, and allowing for adjustments for inflation.
Please contact both of your state Senators to urge them to make sure H.R. 5483 is cleared for a Senate vote before the 109th Congress adjourns later this month.
The future looks brighter for rail labor legislative issues since the shift of control of the House and Senate to Democratic control. One of our biggest obstacles was the fact that the leadership would not let our issues come up for vote, much less allow important legislation to be voted out of Committee. Proof of the importance of who is in charge came during the 2001 fight for Railroad Retirement, when Senator Jeffords switched from Republican to Independent, thereby changing control of the Senate leadership. That one action was the only reason Railroad Retirement was allowed to come up for a vote.
It has been reported that a renewed effort to secure our nation’s transportation sector, not just aviation, will be back on the table. If you recall, in September, the Senate added funding for rail security to the Transportation bill, but when the bill went to conference committee to resolve the differences between the House and Senate bills, the funding was removed. Maybe now, Congress will take rail security seriously, before we experience the incidents that occurred in London and Madrid.
We will be keeping close tabs on the new 110th Congress, and hope that the Carrier’s blatant influence over the leadership of Congress will come to a screeching halt, forcing them to exercise good faith in their negotiations with Rail Labor.