Amtrak Service Workers Council ‘Will Never, Ever Back Down’! Demands Meeting with President Anderson
The Amtrak Service Workers Council (ASWC) held a lively press conference in front of 1 Massachusetts Ave NW in Washington, DC – steps away from Union Station – on Wednesday, July 18. Demands to restore careers and service serenaded the Amtrak board of directors’ meeting taking place inside.
The ASWC consists of three unions that represent Amtrak service workers: The Transport Workers Union of America (TWU), UNITE-HERE and TCU-IAM.
On June 1, Amtrak CEO and President Richard Anderson cut dining car service from two long-distance lines, the Capitol Limited and Lake Shore Limited. Passengers are no longer able to enjoy hot meals, served on real tableware. Instead, they are now given a packaged snack in a cardboard box to be eaten in their rooms.
Adding salt to the wound, seven chefs represented by the Transport Workers Union of America (TWU), received furlough letters with only a nine-day notice. Workers with decades of service to Amtrak, are now forced either to uproot their lives and relocate far from home – or start over again at another job paying a much lower wage.
In coordination with the TWU International, in late May, Local 1460 quickly sprung into action. Local President Amy Griffin distributed flyers to her members, informing them about the dining-car cuts and encouraging them to call President Anderson’s office asking him to “Stop the #ColdCuts.”
“This will have an immediate ripple effect on employees across the country,” explained TWU International Vice President and Railroad Division Director John Feltz. “Maintaining current high-quality service for passengers on Amtrak is essential to our members’ livelihoods. We demand that he reverse these decisions, stop these cuts and meet with us now.”
Anderson stopped by the press conference before it began and invited the ASWC to speak with “this officer and that officer, but he refuses to meet with us,” Feltz said. “Meet with us and come up with a better solution for the workforce and passengers. We will protect the rights of our members, always.
“Our members are on the frontlines. They are the first responders in the tragic accidents and emergencies that Amtrak has experienced. They know that passengers view dining car service as part of the unique, cross-country experience – and are proud to provide that service.
“Hear us loud and clear, Mr. Anderson: We know you’re at that window,” he yelled at the building. “The ASWC is unlike any other coalition you have faced in your career. We will never, ever back down or go away. We will in solidarity fight for our members and their families. We are here to fight – we will always, always be here.”
Griffin talked about how many of her members had their lives uprooted. “These cuts are outrageous and ludicrous. These aren’t jobs, these are careers. They propel families into higher education and onward,” she explained, noting that riders are affected, too.
“Passengers deserve more than a cold, boxed lunch. They deserve respect and a hot meal,” Griffin said.
Donald Boyd, ASWC Chair and Secretary-Treasurer of UNITE-HERE Local 43 noted that what Amtrak is “doing is totally unheard of. This is the not the quality we are used to. We are going to hit the bricks. They are taking service away from customers and we are customer-oriented people. As John said, we will be in your face, in your face, in your face.”
Jack Dinsdale, ASWC Vice Chairman and National Vice President of TCU-IAM, concurred, “This isn’t about food service, this is about careers and employees’ lives. They want to outsource us, but we are going to save these jobs the best we can and fight them every step of the way,” he said. “Richard Anderson wants to turn this into an airline on the rails. We can’t outsource this work.”
Paul Dyson, President of RAILPac (Rail Passenger Association of California and Nevada) took a redeye to make the press conference. He talked about how Anderson “doesn’t like national trains. He thinks they are obsolete. He’s diminishing the quality of service on trains and this is just the tip of the iceberg,” he said.
“There are station closures, shut down by these bureaucrats. It’s just unacceptable. We are getting together to fight cuts and this ridiculous policy destroying national networks,” Dyson concluded.
Also in attendance was TWU International Secretary-Treasurer Jerome Lafragola, representatives from UNITE-HERE, TCU-IAM and the Transportation Trades Department.
The ASWC plans to hold additional press conferences in affected cities – New York, Chicago and Boston – sometime in August.
“This is just the beginning – you haven’t heard the last of us,” Feltz said.
For details on these press conferences, or for more information, visit www.facebook.com/AmtrakServiceWorkersCouncil.