In a letter to Congressional leaders today, the Teamsters Rail Conference urges Congress to improve Railroad Retirement unemployment and sickness benefits as it votes on a stimulus package to provide economic relief to Americans who are not able to work during the coronavirus pandemic. The letter is part of a larger effort by all of Rail Labor and Rail Carriers to persuade Congress to extend to railroad workers the relief already granted to workers in other industries.
Dennis R. Pierce, President of the Teamsters Rail Conference and National President of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, wrote to House and Senate majority and minority leaders on March 24. He wrote specifically regarding changes being discussed pertaining to payment of benefits to railroad workers pursuant to the Railroad Unemployment Insurance Act (RUIA).
“Unlike many American workers, railroad employees do not receive unemployment benefits through state-administered unemployment insurance programs,” President Pierce wrote. “Instead, unemployed railroad workers receive RUIA benefits — covering both unemployment (unemployment benefits) and sickness/injury/disability (sickness benefits) — through a program that is administered by the United States Railroad Retirement Board (RRB). Thus, Congressional efforts to assist state-run unemployment plans provide no relief to railroad workers who are unable to work during the pandemic.”
For this reason, President Pierce specified the following changes that Congress must adopt as it considers a stimulus bill:
• The same increase and extension of RUIA benefits that are proposed for standard unemployment programs, and the funds to provide these benefits.
• A waiver of the seven-day waiting period for both unemployment benefits and sickness benefits, as well as funding to pay for this waiver.
• Administrative funding for RRB to administer the RUIA program, with a proposed funding level of $10 million as contained in the House bill currently under consideration.
• The rescission of sequestration requirements set forth in the Budget Control Act of 2011 applicable to RUIA benefits, which cause an artificial reduction in unemployment benefits, below statutorily provided amounts.
A copy of the letter is available on the BLET website: