Legislative Outlook

The Transportation Communications Union Legislative Department defends the jobs, rights, and interests of all TCU members on Capitol Hill and before various federal agencies.

Our advocates are constantly working with Members of Congress, their staff, and federal regulators on protecting the jobs and benefits, increasing investment in railroads and infrastructure, and writing and administering various rules and regulations that protect the health, safety and general wellbeing of our members.

Current legislative issues: 

Defending Railroad Retirement

After the recent election, many in conservative Republican circles feel emboldened to push through their legislative wish list. Unfortunately for railroaders, one of the items on their wish list appears to be “reforming” railroad retirement. As a general rule, the word “reform” when stated by these groups tends to mean “cuts.” The TCU Legislative Department will be fighting tooth and nail to prevent any changes to the hard-earned retirement benefits of our members. 

Excise Tax Relief

In what was debatably the most impactful legislative change in the past year or so, Congress provided relief in the form of a two-year delay of the Excise Tax on quality health benefits. Deceptively called the “Cadillac Tax” by its proponents, we like to call the tax what it really is: a Middle Class Health Benefits Tax (see Rep. Joe Courtney, D-CT).

Whatever it’s called, the reality is that it would severely impact the health benefits of many TCU members by placing a 40% tax on benefits over a certain threshold. It was estimated that a quarter of employers nationwide currently offer a plan that would be affected, and that number would climb to half of all employers by 2023.

Excise Tax F.A.Q.
How does this affect health benefits?

Well, when employers are incentivized to lower the costs of health benefits, they will; but the price of care at the doctor stays the same. And that shortfall will be coming out of workers in the form of higher out-of-pocket costs. Essentially, instead of the employer picking up most-or-all of the tab at doctor’s office, more people will be footing the bill themselves.

Why are TCU members affected?

First we have to look at a bit of the history of labor economics: as wages stagnated in the U.S. economy-wide, labor unions sought gains where they could, mostly in the form of greater health benefits. This made sense as the costs associated with healthcare were increasing much faster than the middle class could afford. Fast forward to today, and the excise tax is poised to penalize the gains workers had previously achieved at the bargaining table.

The resulting situation for TCU and its members has been a complete “gumming up” of the collective bargaining process as employers try to prepare for the tax going into effect.

So, how can we fix it?

TCU is actively pushing for a full repeal of the tax. Fortunately, most of the candidates for President – both Democrat and Republican – have publicly opposed the excise tax and have called for its repeal, which is why the latest delay of the tax is so important. An extra two-year cushion to 2020 will provide relief while giving us time to plead our case before a new Administration; one that will be more likely to support a full repeal of the tax!

 

Resources from affiliates:

TTD Move America Blog

The Transportation Trades Department (TTD) of the AFL-CIO is a coalition of 32 member unions representing workers throughout our nation’s transportation industries, including TCU members. TTD’s Move America blog serves as an excellent resource for news, insights and analyses on policies and issues facing the transportation workforce.

Machinists’ Legislative Website

The 2012 merger of TCU with the IAMAW has strengthened our members voices on the Hill. By joining the “Fighting Machinists”, TCU members and their representatives have gained access to valuable resources and expertise to better serve and defend the interests of our workers.