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Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

Railroads, rail labor unions recognize Obama Administration's potential


Yesterday, railroads and rail labor unions extolled Sen. Barack Obama’s (D-Ill.) victory in the presidential election on Tuesday and contemplated his Administration's impact on rail issues.

Speaking on behalf of the rail industry, the Association of American Railroads (AAR) congratulated Obama on his election.

“Throughout the campaign, President-Elect Obama has emphasized the importance of rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure so that it can support the economic growth necessary to create more American jobs,” AAR officials said in a prepared statement. “Expansion of the freight-rail network and development of additional passenger-rail capacity will provide an environmentally sound means to accomplish that goal.”

Obama has been an ardent supporter of Amtrak and U.S. passenger-rail service in America, has long recognized the need to fully invest in the nation’s transportation infrastructure and has supported public-private partnerships as a means to finance rail projects, the AAR said.

“We look forward to working with the new Administration and Congress to ensure that the rail industry is well positioned to help America achieve its true economic potential,” AAR officials said.

The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) also “stands ready” to work with the Obama Administration on revitalizing the economy, creating jobs, reducing the nation’s dependence on foreign oil and combating climate change.

“Coming from Chicago, a city with a large public transportation system, President-Elect Obama has seen firsthand the crucial role that public transportation has in creating jobs and economic development,” said APTA President William Millar. “Public transportation [also] plays a critical role in reaching energy independence by saving 4.2 billion gallons of gasoline a year.”

United Transportation Union (UTU) International President Mike Futhey, too, expressed a desire to work closely with Obama & Company on rail industry issues. He is the first presidential candidate to promise in writing that he stands behind the union’s objectives, said Futhey.

In a letter to the UTU dated July 5, Obama wrote that the nation’s transportation system must be protected by proper labor standards, trains should be adequately staffed and rail workers must be protected from fatigue through adequate rest time.

"My administration will preserve and promote policies that recognize the value of transportation workers. I will preserve the sanctity of Railroad Retirement and Federal Employers' Liability Act,” he wrote. "My administration [also] will push for Amtrak, commuter rail and public transit system funding, ensuring strong employment levels well into the future.

“We have every reason to believe he will fulfill [his] commitment,” said Futhey. “In the weeks ahead, the UTU International leadership will be working with other AFL-CIO-member unions to identify qualified individuals for key appointments in the Obama administration.”

The Teamsters — parent organization to the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, and Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes Division — expects to work closely with the Obama Administration, as well.

“Let's get this country unified and working for regular, middle-class Americans again,” said Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa. “We elected a great man, but we can’t stop here because our real work starts now.”

The Transportation Trades Department (TTD) of the AFL-CIO agrees that the new Administration can rebuild the nation’s middle class by empowering workers to organize new unions and bargain collectively. Obama also can address investments in the nation’s aging transportation systems and infrastructure, and advance long overdue safety and security reforms, according to TTD, which represents 32 member unions in the rail, transit, aviation, trucking and maritime industries.

"President-Elect Obama and Vice President-Elect Biden give our members hope that our government will once again fight for them,” said TTD President Edward Wytkind. “They are the right leaders at a crucial moment in our history to bring about the lasting change that millions of working people fought for in this election.”

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 11/6/2008