The House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee recently passed the INVEST in America Act (H.R. 2). The bill will now go to the House floor for consideration.
The bill authorizes a record $29.3 billion over five years in grants supporting Amtrak, while including numerous provisions to help Amtrak workers in their fight to be treated fairly:
- Board of Directors – Reforms Amtrak’s Board of Directors to give employee unions a seat on the Board.
- Call Center – Prohibits Amtrak from entering into any new contracts to outsource call center work, while offering employees training programs on any telephone or internet platforms.
- Station Staffing – One year after enactment, Amtrak must employ at least one ticket agent at stations with stations buildings that Amtrak owns, and that average at least 40 passengers on/offs per day over all days that the station was serviced. It further clarifies that ticket agents must have authority to sell tickets onsite and assist passengers with luggage. This section does not apply to stations where commuter rail ticket agents have the authority to sell Amtrak tickets.
- Food & Beverage Reform – Ensures that Amtrak workers are providing the service, (B) that all customers have at least access to quality meals onboard, (C) that mandates the creation of a working group to make recommendations on future changes to food and beverage services (previously piloted with TCU local leaders in California!), and (D) that removes artificial financial constraints on Amtrak food & beverage service.
- Rep. Steve Cohen (D, TN) amendment – During the markup, Congressman Cohen got an amendment approved that would mandate the working group consider returning dining service on long-distance trains.
- Closes Amtrak Contracting Out Loophole – The bill clarifies that Amtrak may not contract out work if it causes a furlough, if there are currently employees on furlough who would perform the work.
Assault Prevention and Response Plans – Requires passenger and commuter railroad carriers to implement response plans and employee training in order to address assaults against both passengers and employees. The section also requires railroads to report annual assault data to FRA.
Expands CRISI grant program – The bill reauthorizes the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) grant at $7 billion over 5 years, and expands eligibility to allow commuter railroads to access the program.
- Safe Cross Border Operations – Prohibits waivers to allow mechanical or brake inspections of rail cars to be performed in Mexico in lieu of complying with the certification requirements of section 416 of the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008.
- Yardmasters Hours of Service – Makes yardmaster employees subject to FRA’s hours of service protections, defined as individuals responsible for supervising and coordinating the control of trains and engines operating within a rail yard.
- GAO Study on Changes in Freight Railroad Operating and Scheduling Practices – Initiates a GAO report on the industry-wide impacts of the Precision Scheduled Railroading model. Directs GAO to take a holistic look at the impacts on freight rail shippers, Amtrak, commuter railroads, and railroad employees.
Both TCU and the IAM are supportive of the bill as passed out of Committee, and urge swift passage on the House floor.
Click here to read a statement from the Transportation Trades Dept., AFL-CIO, on the INVEST in America act.