Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak workers’

Amtrak Executives Say Attrition, Not Furloughs Led to Shortages of Mechanical Workers

December 4, 2022

Amtrak CEO Stephen Gardner and Board Chairman Anthony Coscia pushed back last week on the assertion that furloughs during the COVID-19 pandemic are responsibility for shortages of mechanical workers at the passenger carrier.

During a public meeting last Thursday in St. Louis of the Amtrak board of directors, both took issue with an assertion by Rail Passengers Association head Jim Mathews that “choices surrounding furloughs and equipment have left Amtrak struggling to accommodate demand surges – both on specific routes and over travel periods, such as Thanksgiving.”

Coscia acknowledged that Amtrak lacks adequate equipment and personnel to “bring back service the way we’d like to.”

Gardner said attrition and not furloughs are the reason for the thin workforce in Amtrak’s mechanical department.

“That’s not true, that’s not what happened,” Gardner said in response to Mathews. “What did happen was that during this period of time [the pandemic] when we could not hire we could not overcome the attrition. So last year we hired 3,600 people or so, but we also lost 1,600 people during that same period to retirements, to a change in job, [and] to relocations” and other reasons.

Gardner said about 90 percent of workers who were furloughed by Amtrak during the pandemic have since returned to their jobs.

Coscia said Amtrak is trying to rebuild a workforce “that had kind of atrophied to a certain degree.”

The question arose during a discussion about how Amtrak has a backlog of equipment idling in shops instead of being placed back into revenue service due to a lack of mechanical staff to bring those cars into operating condition.

Gardner said hiring electricians and machinists is tough to do in some locations, but Amtrak is working with its unions to find new ways to hire and train new workers. One such program is a new apprenticeship program for entry-level jobs.

“We’re working every angle to be able to restore people that make the trains available to serve our customers . . . [and] restore service and then grow,” Gardner said.

Amtrak is seeking to hire an additional 4,000 new employees in 2023, most of whom would work in the mechanical crafts where the need is most acutely felt.

Nonetheless, Amtrak management still expects to fall short of reaching full staffing by the end of the federal fiscal year on Sept. 30, 2025.

The passenger carrier expects capacity on its trains to be less than it was four years ago and forecasts it will carry 28 million passengers in fiscal year 2024, which would be 90 percent of 2019 levels.

Amtrak expects to restore capacity to pre-pandemic levels in FY2024, which begins Oct. 1, 2024. It also expects ridership during FY2025 to exceed that of 2019.

Amtrak, Delaware Starting Job Training Program

October 15, 2022

Amtrak and the U.S. Department of Labor are collaborating on a pre-employment program.

The Delaware Department of Transportation received an $11 million grant to fund a job training program that will prepare participants for railroad industry jobs by teaching them railroad skills.

Earlier this year Amtrak received an $8 million federal CRISI grant to develop a three-year Mechanical Craft Workforce Development Apprenticeship Training Program.

That program is oriented to existing and future Amtrak workers. A pilot mechanical training program will begin this year and additional classes will launch through the third quarter of 2025.

Amtrak is providing 20 percent of the program funding.

The passenger carrier said it has more than 2,500 new employees in 2022, and recruitment of new workers continues.

Amtrak Seeking to Hire 4,000 New Workers

August 18, 2022

Amtrak plans to hold 54 in-person and virtual job fairs to fill more than 4,000 jobs in federal fiscal year 2023.

The positions are concentrated in Los Angeles, Seattle, New Orleans, New York, Washington, Chicago, Oakland, Philadelphia, Miami and Wilmington, Delaware.

The open positions include project management, finance, technology, onboard services, electrical and customer service.

One of the virtual events is being dubbed Walk-in Wednesday Career Fair and will be held on the second Wednesday of each month between 1 and 3 p.m. Eastern Time.

Other virtual job fairs will be held throughout August and September. An Amtrak news release posted on its website did not specify the dates or locations for in-person hiring events.

The news release can be read at

The Amtrak job website can be reached at

In its news release, Amtrak said starting pay for all onboard service crafts is $21 an hour. Journeyman electricians start at $34.07 per hour.

Amtrak said it also has programs for paid internships and co-ops for undergrad and graduate students, as well as apprenticeship programs for entry level, skilled labor learning opportunities.

The passenger carrier said it is seeking to convert half of all eligible interns to full-time roles, including early career rotational programs in finance, human resources, IT, marketing, safety and engineering.

Thus far this year Amtrak said it has hired 2,800 new workers.

Amtrak Workers Charged With Theft of Funds

March 13, 2022

Federal prosecutors have charged an Amtrak worker with making false statements and theft of government funds relating to coronavirus relief.

Stacey V. Santemore, 46, of Houston, but previously of New Orleans, has been charged with making false statements to the U.S. Small Business Administration to fraudulently receive $89,000 in pandemic-relief loans, including money from the Paycheck Protection Program of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act.

A U.S. Attorney’s office statement also said Santemore allegedly received more than $1,000 in CARES Act unemployment aid from the Louisiana Workforce Commission between April 2020 and March 2021 despite being employed by Amtrak.

Santemore could receive up to five years in prison, up to $250,000 in fines, and three years of supervised release for the false-statements charge, and up to 10 years in prison, $250,000 in fines, and three years of supervised release for the theft charge.

Ex-Amtrak Worker Pleads Guilty to Charges

March 4, 2022

A former Amtrak employee will be sentenced on June 15 after pleading guilty to two counts of wire fraud.

Kenya Butler-Small was a former Amtrak on-board service attendant who was charged last December with selling space on a non-existent New Orleans-New York train trip and submitting more than $4,600 in false sick benefit claims.

She faces maximum penalties of 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a fine of up to $250,000, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Louisiana said in a news release.

Officials said Butler-Small reportedly collected up to $26,000 from more than 40 victims for what she said would be a charter trip including New York activities such as shows and museum visits, then said Amtrak cancelled the trip because one of the passengers assaulted an employee and made a bomb threat.

However, she had never booked the trip and no such bomb threat incident occurred.

Reports Details Amtrak HR Staffing Woes

December 14, 2021

An Amtrak Office of the Inspector General report has concluded that the passenger carrier’s human resources office lacks the personnel needed to meet the company’s hiring plans.

Amtrak wants to hire up to 3,500 new workers in the current federal fiscal year but its human resources department has widespread vacancies that are hindering the hiring process.

The OIG report said 28 of the department’s 64 positions are vacant and those employees who remain on the job are at risk of job burnout from increased workloads.

The vacancies include three of five department leadership positions.

Although Amtrak is considering moves to address worker pay, the OIG report said the carrier has not addressed other competitive issues.

These include such things as a “time-consuming and error-prone” process to handle requests for new positions. Amtrak HR officials told OIG investigators this results in errors in 60 percent to 70 percent of position requests by the time they reach the recruiting group.

The report said Amtrak expects that issue to be resolved after it installs new computer equipment and software.

Amtrak Begins Recalling Furloughed Workers

March 16, 2021

Amtrak was to begin the process of recalling furlough employees on this week.

An internal memo said 1,250 furloughed workers would be recalled between March 16 and 29 while noting that it would take 90 days to get all of them back to work.

During that 90-day period the furloughed workers will be tested and requalified as needed in their respective positions.

The recalls were mandated in the recent $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill that was approved by Congress and signed by President Joseph Biden.

The legislation appropriated $1.7 billion in supplemental funding for Amtrak to, among other things, restore daily service to 16 long distance trains that operated daily until last year.

The restoration of daily service is to take place on a rolling schedule on May 24, May 31 and June 7.

The Amtrak memo indicated that the first employees to be recalled would be those in train and engine service followed by onboard service personnel.

The affected workers will be contacted by a phone call that will be followed up with a certified letter.

In the memo Amtrak indicated that although workers are expected to respond to the recalls within the time frame outlined in their craft’s collective bargaining agreement, the carrier is seeking to provide some flexibility so workers can take care of personal matters before reporting back to work at Amtrak.

Bill Would Mandate Daily Service for Amtrak Long-Distance Trains

February 26, 2021

A Montana senator has introduced legislation to require Amtrak to reinstate daily service to most of its 15-long distance routes.

The bill sponsored by Jon Tester (D-Montana) also would require the passenger carrier to reinstate furloughed workers.

Last October, Amtrak reduced the frequency of most long-distance trains from daily to tri-weekly.

Less than daily operations of two New York-Miami routes began last July while two other routes, the Sunset Limited (New Orleans-Los Angeles) and Cardinal (Chicago-New York) have operated tri-weekly for several years.

Only the Auto Train between Lorton, Virginia, and Florida has continued to run daily.

Amtrak cited steep ridership and revenue declines triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic for reducing the frequency of its long-distance trains.

In introducing his bill, Tester said in a statement that Amtrak’s service reductions “were an unacceptable attack on rural America.”

Tester’s bill would authorize and appropriate federal grants to Amtrak to pay for reviving daily service and recalling furloughed workers.

In a statement, Amtrak said it wants to resume daily service on route that had it before the pandemic and to recall furloughed workers.

The statement noted that a pandemic relief bill approved by a congressional committee contains funding to do that.

That bill is pending before the full House of Representatives.

Tester said he hopes that daily service on Amtrak long-distance routes can be achieved before the start of the summer travel season.

Amtrak Gives Workers Incentives to Get COVID-19 Vaccine

February 3, 2021

Amtrak is offering financial incentives to its workers to get a COVID-19 vaccine injection in an effort to get its workforce immunized.

The incentives include pay, benefit extensions and excused absences.

The pay benefit is an allowance equal to two hours of straight-time wages for those who receive the vaccine shot during scheduled work hours.

Protected pay will be offered to those who miss work because of vaccination side effects.

If those side effects last more than 48 hours, Amtrak will continue to protect pay as long as medical documentation is provided.

Amtrak Workers Rally for More Federal Aid

October 1, 2020

Amtrak workers represented by three labor unions held rallies on Wednesday in an effort to drum up support for additional emergency COVID-19 aid for the intercity rail passenger carrier.

Rallies were held in Washington, New York, Chicago and Los Angeles seeking the aid in order to stave off furloughs and reductions in operations of long-distance trains.

Amtrak is planning to layoff nearly 2,000 employees and operate most long-distance trains three days a week rather than daily.

News reports indicate that members of Congress are discussing additional pandemic aid, but it’s uncertain if additional funding for Amtrak will be part of any package that can win approval of both chambers.

The Senate has balked at a House package approved in May and is seen as unlikely to adopt all of the provisions of another package the House expects to vote on this week.

That latter bill would include emergency funding for Amtrak, public transit and the airline industry.

Some rallies were held at primary Amtrak stations although one was held at the station in Dearborn, Michigan, a Detroit suburb, while another was held at the Capitol in Washington.

The unions involved included the Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, and Transportation; Transportation Communication Union ; and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen.

Senator Steve Daines (R-Montana), has proposed an amendment to a Senate pandemic aid bill that would prohibit Amtrak from implementing “service cuts or furlough or terminate the employment of any employee during the period beginning on Oct. 1, 2020.”

Trains magazine reported that the House bill pandemic relief bill under consideration proposes $2.5 billion for Amtrak.

That funding would be divided into $1 billion to maintain long-distance daily frequencies, $1.4 billion for the Northeast Corridor, and the rest to bolster state payments for corridor service.

The magazine said Amtrak has in the meantime begun moving some equipment to storage locations, which could be a sign that management lacks confidence that additional aid for Amtrak from Congress is likely to be approved.