Amtrak To Suspend Some Long Haul Routes Anticipating Freight Rail Labor Strike

Heading into the second full week of September, rail carrier Amtrak announced a plan to preemptively suspend service(s) along some of its longer-range routes, mostly originating in Chicago. Apparently, there is a pending freight rail labor strike, and it could affect service from Chicago to west coast destinations like San Francisco and Los Angeles, in California, as well as Seattle, WA, and San Antonio, TX.

Primarily, Amtrak is calling these suspensions “initial adjustments” that could be followed by additional impacts to “all Long Distance and most State-Supported routes.”

Furthermore, Amtrak has expressed concern that a strike would “significantly impact” approximately 21,000 miles of route operations outside the northeast region. This is because Amtrak owns one rack in the northeast, so the impact would be far less severe.

In a statement, the company has intimated: “Amtrak is closely monitoring the ongoing freight rail—rail labor contract negotiations. The negotiations do not involve Amtrak or the Amtrak workforce. While we are hopeful that parties will reach a resolution, Amtrak has now begun phased adjustments to our service in preparation for a possible freight rail service interruption later this week.”

The looming labor dispute could result in the first national railroad strike in three decades. More importantly, the strike could began as soon as the end of this week. At the time of publication, at least 60,000 railroad union members could refuse to work, including both the engineers and conductors who comprise the two-person crews that run each train. While another 45,000 workers belong to other unions—and have managed to work out tentative deals—this strike would undoubtedly bring the US freight rail system to a screeching—and abrupt—halt. After all, 30 percent of freight in the Untied States, is delivered by the national rail system.

Jeremy Ferguson is president of the union which represents the train conductors. He warned Congressional Democrats not to intervene with the strike, arguing that this is the best strategy for improving overall working conditions. Ferguson comments, “This is a chance for the Democrats to stand up for something they say they support: the working class and labor.”