TCU President Bob Scardelletti testified January 27 at a special hearing of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I). The hearing was held at Grand Central Terminal in New York City.
The hearing was called by new T&I Chairman John Mica (R-FL), a longtime fierce critic of Amtrak, who replaced one of Amtrak’s staunchest supporters, Jim Oberstar (D-MN) as a result of the November elections.
Any pretense of fairness was belied by the hearing’s title: “Developing True High-Speed Rail to the Northeast Corridor: Stop Sitting on Our Federal Assets.” Amtrak was not even allowed on the panel.
However, reflecting rail labor’s continuing clout, TCU President Scardelletti was called as the lone defender of Amtrak’s role on the Corridor. He was not deterred by the odds. In clear and decisive remarks, Scardelletti stood up for Amtrak workers and the rock-solid middle class jobs they hold. At every turn Scardelletti defended the Amtrak system from a barrage of comments to privatize the Corridor and stop funding for Amtrak.
Scardelletti began his testimony with a tribute to all rail workers on the Northeast Corridor, “I want to acknowledge the thousands of rail workers in all crafts who work throughout the Northeast Corridor providing safe and reliable service to hundreds of thousands of riders every day. Many are working right here in Grand Central Terminal and just a few blocks down the street at Penn Station.”
His testimony highlighted the need for long term federal funding in order to maintain the future of high speed rail. “A viable intercity passenger rail system that includes high-speed rail can only be achieved through annual appropriations by Congress,” he stated. “You cannot oppose funding for Amtrak and then criticize Amtrak for not providing good service. If our country is committed to providing a world-class high-speed rail system in the Northeast Corridor and elsewhere, then it needs to treat Amtrak as an asset and provide Amtrak a dedicated long-term, guaranteed funding source.”
Focusing on the men and women whose jobs would be threatened by privatizing Amtrak, Scardelletti added “Most importantly Amtrak has a dedicated and experienced workforce of ticket agents, baggage handlers, Carmen, on-board service workers, supervisors, machinists, sheet-metal workers, firemen and oilers, engineers and conductors. These workers are vital to operating current and future high-speed rail service.”
Scardelletti concluded, “Northeast Corridor jobs must remain under the rail laws of the United States. They must remain as good paying jobs with full benefits. The kind of middle class jobs the country needs…the kind of jobs that sustain and fulfill the American dream. Congress must reject the privatization of the Northeast Corridor.”
In a statement issued after the hearing, Senator Lautenberg (D-NJ) echoed Scardelletti’s comments, saying, “With impassable roads and hundreds of planes in our region grounded from the snow storm, this hearing probably would not have happened if it weren’t for Amtrak. Instead of trying to tear apart and bankrupt the nation’s only intercity passenger rail service, we should be working to keep Amtrak moving forward. There can be no conversation about the future of high speed rail service without Amtrak’s leadership. I am fighting to make sure Amtrak has the resources it needs to continue powering our regional economy and keeping cars off New Jersey’s congested roads.”
“Senator Lautenberg’s comment makes it so clear,” said the TCU President. “Your vote counts! Some elected officials are trying to rip Amtrak apart, while others can see the true value of preserving the middle class backbone of America…good paying union jobs.”
Click here to read the Bob Scardelletti’s entire testimony.
Click here to view the witness list for the hearing from the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.