Help stop this bill: Contact Congress

February 16, 2012

U.S. Capitol Building; Capitol Building; Washington D.C.Never underestimate the impact of your communications to Congress.

Combined with the tens of thousands of messages from others, the House Republican leadership has pulled back a planned vote Feb. 17 on a draconian transportation bill that would cost jobs, menace transportation safety and threaten the future of Railroad Retirement.

As phone call, email and fax communications flooded House offices in Washington – many from UTU members asked to voice their concern — House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) delayed at least for another week a vote on H.R. 7, the misnamed American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act.

Boehner’s fellow Republicans were refusing to get in line with the speaker,  taking note of voter displeasure with the bill. Separately, President Obama said he would veto the measure if it reached his desk.

The fight is not over.

“Your contacts with Congress helped make this postponement of a vote necessary,” said UTU National Legislative Director James Stem. “With Congress in recess next week, and House members back in their districts taking the voters’ pulse, it is important you continue to call and email your House representative and renew your plea that they vote “no” on H.R. 7, the misnamed American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act.”

Here are the facts on how damaging that bill, if passed into law, could be for UTU members.

* It would facilitate privatization of public transit system by directing more federal funds to systems that contract out at least 20 percent of the jobs.

* It denies transit systems the flexibility to use federal funds to maintain service and retain workers during times of economic crisis, as we now are enduring.

* It eliminates federal minimum wage and overtime requirements for van drivers that transport rail crews between terminals, meaning these already low-paid and fatigued drivers would become more of a safety hazard when transporting crews.

* It delays mandatory implementation of positive train control on passenger rail lines from late 2015 to late 2020.

* It allows freight railroads to implement alternatives to installing of positive train control, which would provide crews and the public far less protection.

* It eliminates grants for hazmat train-the-trainer program, which would dramatically reduce or end training programs at the National Labor College.

* It eliminates capital grants for states seeking to expand and improve Amtrak service.

* It reduces long-term capital funding for Amtrak, limiting Amtrak’s ability to upgrade tracks and bridges on the Northeast Corridor.

* It prohibits Amtrak from using specialized outside counsel to recover from those at fault in Amtrak collisions, likely causing Amtrak to bear full responsibility for deaths and injuries cause by a non-Amtrak entity – even where it is clear the other operator was solely responsible for the entire accident.

* It requires Amtrak to contract-out its food and beverage service to the lowest bidder, threatening 2,000 Amtrak jobs and contributions to Railroad Retirement by shifting those jobs to non-union low-wage, low-benefits operators.

* It makes permanent a pilot program that allows any passenger rail provider to bid for any of Amtrak’s routes.

* It prohibits California from using any highway, transit, or passenger rail funds for development of high-speed rail.

To contact your House member and urge a “no” vote on H.R. 7, the American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act, click on the following link:

Then select your state, click on the name of your representative, and you have the information needed to send an email or fax, or make a phone call.

Freight rail, Amtrak and transit jobs, safety and Railroad Retirement are at risk if this bill is passed by the House of Representatives.