Amtrak execs collect bonuses for a $1.7 billion deficit

June 19, 2024

In 2022, our union reported that 10 Amtrak executives earned a combined $2.3 million in bonuses.

Amtrak was not happy about that report, but apparently, they were not embarrassed enough to change their practices. This year the railroad paid more than double that amount.

Fourteen executives shared $5 million in 2023, as reported by the New York Times, despite operating deep in the red.

In contrast, Amtrak’s frontline employees received no bonuses at all.

Corporate executives often receive incentive-based bonuses disproportionate to the salaries of their front-line employees, such as the people we represent, who do the heavy lifting. This is not unique to Amtrak.

What is newsworthy is that Amtrak has not turned a profit in its 53 years of operations, is propped up by U.S. taxpayers and still sees its way clear to provide a handful of executives bonuses of over $500,000 each.

All of this occurs, of course, while our conductors, assistant conductors and engineers are left out in the cold.

Amtrak called to account for executive bonuses

SMART-TD and the New York Times are not the only ones taking notice of this behavior. Earlier this month, U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Deb Fischer (R-Nebraska) questioned Amtrak’s CEO and president about how they can justify giving out these large performance bonuses in a year when their company was $1.7 billion in the red.

The well-polished answer they received amounted to “We didn’t do as bad as in years past.”

This is true. Amtrak ridership is experiencing a significant increase, which we are pleased about and long-awaited new routes and opportunities to expand service are in the works. The company was “only” in the red by $1.7 billion, compared with its 2021 deficit of $2 billion, which reflects severe losses due to COVID.

Amtrak should invest in their workers

SMART-TD thinks that our men and women who operate the trains, keep the trains on schedule, the cabins clean, and the trains running safely deserve bonuses if the company is inclined to give them.

As Brother Rick Pauli, general chairperson for Amtrak GCA-769, said: “We are currently negotiating with Amtrak on an agreement for our members in the Northeast Corridor. It’s good to know the company has all that bonus money available. Myself and Fran Ariola (General Chairperson of GCA-663) will make sure to keep that in mind when discussing our members’ future wages.”

Amtrak’s 14 executives haven’t been confronted with an epidemic of on-the-job violence, as the crews who work these trains have.

In contrast, Roger Harris, Amtrak’s president, received about a half-million dollars as a bonus with a base salary of $479,000, according to The New York Times. Conservatively speaking, he received a 100% bonus.

The popular job search website lists the average Amtrak conductor salary at $74,000 and the median engineer salary at $117,000. If our engineers and conductors were working toward a bonus that potentially doubled their salaries, it’s a good bet that attendance problems would be a thing of the past and morale would be at an all-time high!