Amtrak Suspending All Long Distance Trains, Most California

Amtrak Suspending All Long Distance Trains, Most California Service

With rail workers on the verge of going on strike, Amtrak will cease long haul train service starting Thursday and also shutting down most California service beginning Thursday and accelerating Friday.

Several commuter rails are also pausing service because of the way a strike would impact them, especially where they share track. Amtrak’s Northeast services are not affected.

Pay isn’t a primary issue in the freight rail labor dispute. Rail workers are well paid, and receive several weeks a year of vacation time and personal leave. However they generally have to schedule this time in advance, which makes dealing with unscheduled life events difficult.

The sick policy actually sounds a lot like that of American Airlines, which has controversially assigned attendance points for unscheduled call outs even where union contracts provide for sick time.

Under a policy launched in February, BNSF assigned each employee 30 points, with points deducted for each unplanned time off. An employee can earn points back for working extra days or holidays. If employees lose all their points they can be disciplined.

“The policy is designed so that people have flexibility and can use their points when something unexpected comes up in their lives and they must take unplanned time off,” said Zak Andersen, a spokesman from BNSF.

A White House advisory board supported the railroads on handling sick time, and the White House is involved in mediation efforts trying to head off a strike.

While not going anywhere since the Senate is controlled by Democrats, Republican Senators seek legislation that would impose contract terms “brokered by a Biden-appointed panel if parties don’t reach agreement by the Friday deadline.” Remember when Republicans were against government dictating employment terms to private companies?

A freight rail strike is expected to cost the economy $2 billion per day and make numerous goods scarce. Already hazardous and sensitive materials shipments are being halted in case they can’t reach their destination before a strike goes into effect.

The timing of a rail strike is the result of two of the President’s appointees to the National Mediation Board terminating mediation two months early.

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