|ONLINE VERSION||NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2000|
|Railroad Retirement Update|
|Railroad Retirement Update
As reported in last month's JOURNAL, the BMWE's struggle for an earlier retirement for railroad workers was virtually lost on September 7 when the House of Representatives passed HR 4844, the retirement legislation supported by the railroads and the rail unions except for the BMWE and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers.
Also as reported last month, on September 12 BMWE withdrew its opposition to the legislation after receiving a written guarantee from the carriers' representative that BMWE members would receive health insurance if the bill becomes law.
On October 26 the TCU and UTU reported that "today the Republican Party killed the railroad retirement bill."
Despite "the support of almost 40 Republican senators, a handful of conservative Republicans, primarily Senators Phil Gramm (TX), Don Nickles (OK) and Pete Domenici (NM) have killed Railroad Retirement for this session," said the UTU on its website.
"Using obscure Senate rules, these senators prevented our bill from ever coming to a vote," said TCU President Robert Scardelletti in a letter to his members, "and blocked every attempt to attach our bill to other bills that were going to the president. This happened despite overwhelming support in Congress — HR 4844 passed by 391 to 25 in the House and 83 Senators signed a letter of support. But when push came to shove, Republican Senate supporters melted in the face of the opposition of their party's leadership."
The Senate did, however, try to cheer the railroads after holding up the $430 million a year they would get if the legislation passes, by separately passing a law repealing the 4.3 cent per gallon fuel tax. The fuel tax repeal had been added but later removed from HR 4844. The fuel tax repeal will provide an approximate $200 million per year tax cut to the railroads.
BMWE President Fleming stated "that nothing can demonstrate more the importance of the elections than what appears to be the results of these developments. Rail corporations are rewarded by the Republican Congress with a windfall tax cut and railroad workers receive nothing."
As this JOURNAL goes to press, the lame-duck Congress is back in session following an adjournment for the elections and the situation is still fluid.