January 13, 2003

The United Transportation Union is asking all of its members for immediate congressional outreach to make sure Amtrak is supplied with its 2003 budget request for $1.2 billion and that states not be forced to assume the cost of Amtrak service or hire other carriers to perform so-called “directed service.”

The Senate will vote this week on an Amtrak funding bill.

“Amtrak’s CEO, David Gunn, has stated repeatedly that anything less than $1.2 billion will result in a shutdown of the system nationwide sometime later in the year,” said UTU Illinois Legislative Director Joseph C. Szabo. “Our members cannot let that happen.

“Our members must also make sure that Congress does not attempt to evade its responsibility to fund Amtrak by forcing the states to pick up the cost of funding Amtrak’s trains,” Szabo said. “Congress knows that is an unfunded mandate. Most of the states are running deficits and cannot afford to shoulder the additional burden of funding Amtrak.”

Szabo also warned that some in Congress are talking of letting the states select so-called “designated operators” to perform “directed service” if Amtrak is not adequately funded.

“Directed service” could involve the use on non-union rail carriers,” Szabo said. “Our members must vehemently opposed such a move.”

Szabo said that because Illinois’ senior U.S. senator, Dick Durbin, already is committed to full funding for Amtrak, membership outreach efforts should focus on the junior senator, Peter Fitzgerald.

“Time is short, so calls and faxes to Sen. Fitzgerald’s office are the best way to communicate,” Szabo said. “Sen. Fitzgerald’s Washington phone number is (202) 224-2854, and the fax number is (202) 228-1372. His Chicago phone number is (312) 886-3506. His e-mail is senatorfitzgerald@fitzgerald.senate.gov. Remember to use the number $1.2 billion.

“Call now, and make sure all of your family and friends call as well,” Szabo said. “Amtrak can be kept open, running and growing using only a tiny sliver of the huge federal budget. There are many in Congress willing to play a dangerous game of brinkmanship over this small sum of money. Don’t let them do it. Call now and tell Sen. Fitzgerald’s office you want full funding for Amtrak and no directed service.”