Senate Moves to Protect Rail Worker Benefits

Senate Moves to Protect Rail Worker Benefits

IBEW railroaders are one step closer to paid sick relief, thanks to a bipartisan vote in the U.S. Senate.

Over 12,000 railroad members have experienced a 6 percent cut in their sick benefits since last May when pandemic-era protections expired. The cut impacted workers who applied for the Railroad Retirement Board Unemployment Insurance program after being out for seven days due to illness or injury. According to IBEW Railroad Department Director Al Russo those workers saw their benefits reduced by $50. For members receiving just $870 every two weeks, this was a huge loss.

“A $100 a month when you are not bringing home a lot, is a lot,” said Russo. “I don’t know why they were doing this to us.”

Thankfully, the Railroad Employee Equity and Fairness (REEF) Act passed unanimously out of committee on March 6th. The REEF Act will eliminate these cuts for workers who receive benefits from the Railroad Retirement Board Unemployment Insurance program. This will affect nearly 200,000 workers.

Committee Chairman Sheldon Whitehouse said the legislation will correct a 40-year-old error to the self-financing program.

“This bill will permanently end cuts to railroad workers’ unemployment and sickness insurance benefits, putting more money in the pockets of rail employees,” said Chairman Whitehouse.

The REEF Act is widely supported. Both by railroad workers and the railroad industry, and in Congress. One reason is the law will have no effect on the national deficit because the railroad unemployment fund has its own dedicated trust fund.

All of this makes Russo optimistic about its passage. “It looks pretty good right now because it’s bipartisan.”

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