As a senator, Joe Biden spent years riding the passenger rails from Wilmington, Del., to Washington, D.C. When he returned to the Bear car shop in Delaware to announce a multibillion-dollar investment in Amtrak on Nov. 6, his old friends at IBEW Local 2270 greeted him.
“He certainly has not forgotten where he came from,” said Frank Gentry, president of Wilmington Local 2270, which represents more than 200 members at Amtrak. “He’s been with us all the way, and we will stay with him all the way. Nobody can say that he doesn’t support unions.”
President Biden announced $16.4 billion in new funding for 25 passenger rail projects on Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor in Delaware. It will mean even more hiring at Amtrak and new Local 2270 members, who service Amtrak’s passenger cars, locomotives, and the Auto Train. Members of Wilmington Local 313 were also in attendance at the event, including Bobby Murrian, business manager.
Through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the funding will rebuild 100-year-old tunnels and bridges and upgrade tracks, power systems, signals, stations, and other infrastructure. The windfall will also advance projects to improve travel times on Amtrak’s most heavily traveled section, between Washington, D.C. and Boston.
The White House said Amtrak would get a total of $66 billion in new investments from the infrastructure law to remake it into a “world-class” passenger rail system. With Amtrak’s nearly $9 billion fleet replacement program, which will replace over 1,000 locomotives and coaches with state-of-the-art and Made-in-America equipment, the White House said these investments will ensure that train service is more convenient and climate-friendly than driving or flying.
The funding will contribute to more than 100,000 good-paying union jobs in construction, the White House said.
“I’ve been talking about this for a long time, I know,” Biden said on Nov. 6. “Finally, finally we’re getting it done.”
Gentry said the funding will create work for the Wilmington Local 2270 members working in the Bear and Wilmington shops doing everything from passenger car overhauls to locomotive and Acela high-speed rail maintenance and repairs.
Gentry is a 26-year, second-generation IBEW member who has spent his career between the 2270 facilities. “We are the biggest and best car shop on the Northeast Corridor for Amtrak,” Gentry said of the Bear shop. He added that Local 2270 had recently gained 35 new members and 12 apprentices, including two of Gentry’s nephews, Nicholas and Thomas Berry. His nephews are participating in Amtrak’s new national apprenticeship program, which started last year in Wilmington.
Through the years, anytime Local 2270 had conflicts with managers, they went to Sen. Biden. When they were laid off in 2002, Biden helped them return to work. When a member of Congress tried to privatize Amtrak, Biden helped derail the plan.
“He would get involved and help resolve our issues, tell management to work it out with us – and they did,” Gentry said. “He would help us out every time.”
On Nov. 6, Biden met with two Local 2270 brothers, Sterling and Tommy Rapposellli, on a rail car (photo above), along with Tommy’s son Tommy Jr.
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