FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 9, 2020
Contact: Denise Romano, firstname.lastname@example.org
Amtrak’s Proposed Cuts ‘Like a Slap in the Face’
TWU Local 1460 President Testifies at House T&I Subcommittee Hearing
WASHINGTON, DC – TWU Local 1460 President Amy Griffin testified before the House Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials about Amtrak’s response to Covid-19 on Wednesday, September 9.
Amtrak’s 20,000 employees include TWU members who work onboard providing food and beverage service to passengers, as well as carmen and cleaners who work to maintain, repair, and service Amtrak cars in the rail yards. All of these members have been deemed essential and continue to work throughout the pandemic.
Griffin shared her personal experience in quarantine – and how Amtrak handled it.
“This past July, while working my regular position as Lead Service Attendant on the Amtrak Acela, en route to Boston from Washington, DC, I was notified by my supervisor, Jamal Philips, that on July 24 I had been in contact and exposed to an employee who had tested positive for Covid-19 and that Amtrak’s medical department would be in contact with me.
“Fearing of possibly infecting passengers and coworkers on my train, I contacted our TWU Railroad Division Director John Feltz to make him aware of what was happening. Mr. Feltz contacted On Board Service General Superintendent Anella Popo, and strongly suggested that I should be removed from my position at the New York Penn Station and be replaced by another employee. Ms. Popo contacted the medical department and they advised her that they would be in contact with my direct supervisor Jamal Philips. Supervisor Philips then contacted me and stated that the medical department said that I could continue to Boston if I were not showing symptoms, and that they would remove me from service the next day.
“On the next day, I was not removed from service. I again contacted Mr. Feltz and in a 3-way conservation with Ms. Popo, Mr. Feltz, and myself, she responded that it must have been a mistake and she would have the situation corrected, which to her credit she did. I was removed from service and told to quarantine for 14 days. After 10 days of quarantine, however, I was contacted by Amtrak’s medical department and told that since I was ‘not showing’ symptoms of Covid-19 I could return to service the next day.
“I was never tested for Covid-19 before I returned to work. And just do you know, there is also a lack of coach cleaners as many of them have been out on sick leave from the coronavirus, and Amtrak does not fill these vacancies. This has made it hard for Amtrak’s coach cleaners to sanitize the cars properly,” she said.
Griffin also called on Congress to provide at least $4.5 billion in support for the railroad, not just to help keep TWU jobs, but preserve this industry and sustain the communities it serves.
“It is work that is done by people committed to making sure Amtrak is safe – not just for our coworkers, but more importantly for the traveling public,” Griffin said. “This is why it is extremely disheartening to learn that Amtrak plans to furlough 20% of its workforce, including 700 on-board services workers represented by TWU, beginning in October. I’ll be honest, this is like a slap in the face. These are my brothers and sisters who have put their lives on the line during this pandemic. We have continued to go to work when our government has asked everyone else to stay home. The increased exposure and risk we have faced because of this is not on our job description. In return for the brave effort my colleagues have made over the past six months, the railroad is threatening the livelihoods of 2,000 essential workers. This is not acceptable.”
Griffin stressed that frontline workers are the railroad. “Amtrak is an essential service in this country – it ensures that communities across the country have access to all of our economy. But the railroad is powered by frontline workers, like me, who service customers, clean cars, fix engines, and drive locomotives.
“It is our hope that we can all work together to ensure the survival of Amtrak, and more importantly, protect these workers who have already sacrificed so much, and continue to do so every day,” she concluded.
Click here to read Griffin’s full testimony.
The Transport Workers Union of America represents over 150,000 members across the airline, railroad, transit, universities, utilities and service sectors