Wages, Health Care Secured in Both
In April, Amtrak contracts covering the members of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) and the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes (BMWED) were ratified.
By better than a 9-to-1 margin, members of the BLET ratified their new collective bargaining agreement with Amtrak. The final tally was 90.5 percent in favor and 9.5 percent against, with nearly 65 percent of eligible members casting a ballot.
The agreement applies to more than 1,400 locomotive engineers who operate Amtrak’s passenger and commuter trains over its 21,000-mile, 46-state route system.
“This contract protects the work rules that our Amtrak members work under while also capping their health care contributions and providing real wage increases,” said Dennis Pierce, President of the BLET.
Union Station Teamsters
The day after the ballots were counted, several engineers talked about the contract and their union at Washington, D.C.’s Union Station, one of Amtrak’s busiest locations.
“I think the contract is fair,” said Jerone Hodges, a 17-year member who originally worked for Norfolk Southern. “The job security and health care are very good.”
Another engineer, Stephen Johnson, said, “I’m glad we have the services, support and rights that come with being part of the union.”
Hodges and Johnson are members of BLET Division 482 in Washington, D.C.
“Given the stalemated status of our previous collective bargaining efforts with Amtrak prior to the settlement of the 2017 National Freight Agreement, and the exorbitant health care costs proposed by the carrier at that time, it stands plainly evident that this agreement represents a significant improvement in both general wage increases and employee health care contributions over the life of the agreement, and without forfeiture of any existing work rules,” said Mark Kenny, BLET General Chairmen for Amtrak.
BMWED Secures Amtrak Contract
Also in April, BMWED members at Amtrak ratified their new contract by an overwhelming 95 percent. BMWED members build and maintain rail and related structures throughout the nationwide system.
The BMWED expects the new pay rates and retro-pay to go into effect by the end of June.
“Overall, we protected the members against the vicious and sustained assault Amtrak management pursued through most of the bargaining round,” said Freddie Simpson, BMWED National Division President and Teamsters International Vice President.
“Our bargaining committee worked hard to reach this new agreement which resolved the wage, benefits and work rules dispute that began on Jan. 2, 2015. The new agreement, which expires on Dec. 31, 2021, ensures that our members will see wage increases and that their health care is protected,” Simpson said.
In a political environment that is increasingly difficult for collective bargaining, this agreement protects work rules, is not overbearing on the members in the form of health insurance cost-sharing, and provides for modest but consistent wage raises. It also avoided additional mediation and/or a potential Presidential Emergency Board, as well as a repeat of binding arbitration, which settled the last bargaining round with Amtrak in 2014.
“I think we did pretty good with the contract,” said Bill Zeller, a BMWED member for the past 10 years, who works on the building and bridges team at Union Station in Washington, D.C.
A new member, Ray Crowder, has been with the union and Amtrak for the past nine months, but he already had high praise for the experience. “I love working here,” Crowder said.
“The agreement protects wages against predicted inflation and preserves the health plan but it was particularly challenging to arrive at this given how the process is politically driven by some of the most anti-labor forces to ever hold political office,” said Jed Dodd, Chairman of the BMWED Amtrak bargaining committee and General Chairman of the Pennsylvania Federation.