With the United States bracing for what is shaping up to be the largest railroad worker strike in three decades, Amtrak has canceled all long-distance passenger trips starting Thursday.
Amtrak issued a notice to passengers on Tuesday, informing them that all long-distance routes outside the Northeast Corridor will be canceled in anticipation of the strike because most of their routes use freight tracks across the country, and the workers who operate and maintain those tracks will likely be striking soon.
“Amtrak will only operate trains this week that we can ensure will have enough time to reach their final destinations by 12:01 a.m. on Friday, Sept. 16,” the announcement said.
The strike is expected to cost the country a total of about $2 billion a day if railroad workers’ unions and railroad companies cannot reach an agreement by Friday. The workers are seeking fairer attendance policies. Currently, railroad workers are subjected to what they say are inconsistent and unpredictable work schedules, long hours, extended on-call periods, and penalties for taking time off for illness or tending to family emergencies.
After the COVID-19 pandemic receded, Americans began spending massive amounts of money on travel, which led to crowded passenger trains that were understaffed because of coronavirus. Paired with the restrictive attendance policies, the staff shortage has pushed railroad workers to the brink.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg told reporters this week the Biden administration is committed to helping the two sides reach a deal before a strike occurs, “We’ve been engaging with the parties, and our message continues to be that the labor unions and railroads need to find the deal space to avoid any kind of disruption,” he said. “The most important thing is to try to prevent that from happening in the first place.”
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