News Releases

Keep America's Railroad Jobs in America

Jul 06 2006

Byrd, Murray Oppose Effort to Outsource Amtrak Jobs Overseas

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) America's national railroad should not have its jobs outsourced to foreign countries, U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., and Patty Murray, D-Wash., said on Thursday.

Amtrak's senior management recently informed Byrd and Murray that the railroad's Board of Directors, all appointed by the Bush Administration, will invite private vendors to take over major parts of its national reservation system, including vendors based overseas.

"After having to fight to keep Amtrak alive in the face of budgets that would have put the railroad into bankruptcy, now we are fighting to keep Amtrak's jobs here in the United States," the Senators explained. "Amtrak is America's railroad. It is funded in part with American tax dollars. Its jobs should be American jobs."

Byrd and Murray on Thursday wrote to David M. Laney, Chairman of the Amtrak Board of Directors, to protest the outsourcing plan and to urge the railroad to step away from its efforts to take jobs out of the United States. The letter was also sent to U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta along with the other members of the Amtrak Board. If the railroad does not reverse its plans, the Senators pledged to offer an amendment to the Amtrak funding legislation that would block the overseas outsourcing plan.

Byrd is the leading Democratic member of the Senate Appropriations Committee; Murray is the leading Democratic member of the Senate Appropriations transportation subcommittee. Both will have a major role in moving the federal transportation funding bill, including operating funds for Amtrak, through the Appropriations Committee later this month.

"We believe it is wrong to use taxpayer dollars to ship Amtrak jobs overseas and put American workers on the unemployment line. This policy insults American taxpayers who expect their elected and appointed leaders to strengthen rather than erode the economic security of hard-working American families," the Senators wrote to Mineta and Laney.

"Amtrak service relies on subsidies that are derived from the taxes paid by all Americans. As such, you and all the other Members that President Bush has appointed to the Amtrak Board have an obligation to expend these funds in a manner that reflects the values of American taxpayers. We believe that the vast majority of taxpayers would agree with us that it is wrong-headed and inappropriate to use their tax dollars to ship jobs overseas -- especially jobs necessary to operate our national passenger railroad," Byrd and Murray wrote.



The full text of the Byrd-Murray letter follows:.



July 6, 2006



The Honorable David M. Laney, Esq.
Chairman
Board of Directors
National Railroad Passenger Corporation
60 Massachusetts Ave., NE
Washington, DC 20002



Dear Chairman Laney:



We write to voice our dismay and outrage over the plan of the Amtrak Board of Directors to consider the outsourcing of Amtrak jobs overseas. In your capacity as Chairman of the Amtrak Board, we implore you to immediately reverse this grossly misguided policy.



The National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak) is just that – the national railroad that connects all of our communities. Over the last several years, we have been proud to lead the fight against those that would decimate funding for Amtrak, put the railroad into bankruptcy, and leave over 25 million passengers stranded at the platform. But we recognize, as you should, that Amtrak service relies on subsidies that are derived from the taxes paid by all Americans. As such, you and all the other Members that President Bush has appointed to the Amtrak Board have an obligation to expend these funds in a manner that reflects the values of American taxpayers. We believe that the vast majority of taxpayers would agree with us that it is wrong-headed and inappropriate to use their tax dollars to ship jobs overseas – especially jobs necessary to operate our national passenger railroad.



Just last week, Amtrak's senior management informed our Committee of its plans to solicit bids from outside vendors to take over certain reservation functions – potentially displacing as many as half of Amtrak's reservation agents at its call centers in Philadelphia, PA and Riverside, CA. They further told us that the Amtrak Board has decided to welcome bids from overseas vendors. Amtrak's representatives were quick to point out that the labor organizations representing their reservation agents would be given the opportunity to submit competing bids in order to keep their jobs. But the comparative cost figures displayed on Amtrak's own "Fact Sheet" make clear that the current employees don't stand a chance. According to this document, the costs associated with call centers operating overseas are 70 percent below Amtrak's current costs. The fact that foreign vendors can pay their employees very little while providing few if any benefits does not justify exporting even more American jobs.



Recently, the Bush Administration has pursued a policy of outsourcing the collection of delinquent Federal taxes to non-Federal employees – a policy we do not support. But even President Bush's IRS Commissioner had the good sense to ensure that these outsourced tax collection activities will be performed by contractors within the United States.



We don't agree that the solution to Amtrak's financial challenges lies in the outsourcing of jobs. Just this past week, we received word from the DOT Inspector General that



"Amtrak's most recent financial information shows a significant reduction in operating losses since…early March. Passenger revenues are up, particularly on corridor trains; salaries, wages and benefits are down due to lower headcounts; offset by higher fuel and power costs. In addition, some of Amtrak's operational reforms are being implemented faster and achieving savings greater than originally anticipated."



We welcome efforts to reduce Amtrak's operating losses, but we believe it is wrong to use taxpayer dollars to ship Amtrak jobs overseas and put American workers on the unemployment line. This policy insults American taxpayers who expect their elected and appointed leaders to strengthen rather than erode the economic security of hard-working American families.



In two weeks, our Committee is scheduled to meet to report a Transportation-Treasury Appropriations Bill to the full Senate. If you have not renounced and reversed your policy by that time, we intend to pursue an amendment to that bill to prohibit you from outsourcing Amtrak jobs overseas.



Sincerely,



Robert C. Byrd
Ranking Member

Patty Murray
Ranking Member
Subcommittee on Transportation, Treasury,
the Judiciary, Housing and Urban Development



cc:The Honorable Norman Mineta
Mr. Floyd Hall
Mr. Enrique Sosa
Mr. David Hughes
Chairman Thad Cochran
Chairman Christopher S. Bond