April 2, 2014
via UPS Overnight Mail
Windels, Marx, Lane and Mittendorf, LLP
Anthony Coscia, Chairman Amtrak Board of Directors
120 Albany Street Plaza
New Brunswick, NJ 08901
Dear Chairman Coscia:
Re: Joe Boardman's March 28, 2014 Special Employee Advisory
I have had the dubious privilege of reading memoranda from Amtrak Presidents to the Amtrak rank and file workers since the administration of W. Graham Claytor. While I often believed those memoranda shaded the truth or "spun" the facts to support the President's opinions, I never encountered such blatant lies as those contained the March 28, 2014 Special Employee Advisory, from President Boardman. A copy of the advisory is attached for your ready reference.
Mr. Boardman begins his arguments by conceding the obvious, Amtrak wages are "just." However, he then begins a diatribe regarding increasing costs that do not bear on anything the rank and file employee can do. He complains of excessive overtime costs, yet rank and file employees cannot "create" their own overtime because every minute of overtime pay must be authorized by Amtrak supervision. He also argues that Amtrak cannot support "this level of payroll or overtime going forward." So, what is his solution? Does he realistically believe that the overtime wasn't authorized and justified? Does he truly believe he can expand service and productivity by employing fewer workers and have them work fewer hours? He doesn't say, because he probably doesn't know.
Unfortunately, Mr. Boardman's mendacity rises to new heights when he talks about Amtrak's losses of commuter rail operations. He cites three examples: commuter service in Boston; the Virginia Railway Express (VRE) and San Francisco peninsula Joint Powers Board (JPB) commuter operations in California. I will address each of those cases.
Amtrak was replaced as the operator of rail commuter services for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) in July 2003. We have no idea if Amtrak's cost structures or management structure was too expensive because former Amtrak David Gunn did not bid for the renewal of the commuter service. I do know that the successful applicant, the Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad (MBCR), agreed with the same unions that represented the Amtrak workers in Boston to accept the existing Amtrak work rules, hire all of the existing Amtrak employees involved in commuter service and agreed to wage increases providing a compound increase of 21.6% over a 5 year period. I also would note that Amtrak did not submit even a "Statement of Qualification" which was the pre-requisite for submitting a bid when the MBTA issued its RFP in 2012 seeking a new operator for the service.
Initially, Amtrak was slow to respond to VRE's RFP regarding continuation of the commuter services. Eventually, VRE selected Keolis as the operator due to its lower bid. However, Keolis publicly stated that it would honor the existing Amtrak work rules in its operations. President Boardman was quoted soon afterward in a speech in Hope, Arkansas that, "we lost this contract because we didn't take care of our customer ... We were arrogant." Seems like cost wasn't determinative to him at the time. However, just before the changeover, Amtrak did seek to undermine the Keolis bid by offering $5000 bonuses to VRE locomotive engineers to return to Amtrak service, leading to a public rebuke of Amtrak by the VRE Board. "VRE accuses Amtrak of obstructing change" Fredericksburg.com, published May 22, 2010.
JPB Peninsula Service
Transit America Services, Inc. (TASI) took over Peninsula service from Amtrak in 2012. The RFP in that case specifically bound any new operator to assume the existing Amtrak collective bargaining agreements setting rates of pay, rules and working conditions on the operations. At the time, not all of the involved unions had settled their outstanding Section 6 bargaining with Amtrak regarding wage increases. TASI came in and paid a $1500.00 signing bonus to employees, and negotiated a new agreement that provided the same net value of return during the period January 1, 2010 through January 1, 2105 that Amtrak previously agreed to with the Transportation Communications Union.
As you can see, inaction, obstruction and probably incompetence were the reasons Amtrak "lost" these operations. Employee wages and work rules were not the reasons Amtrak failed to retain these operations. It is shocking that Mr. Boardman's views on this critical growth area for our company is so divorced from reality. We need to seriously question whether or not he is competent to lead this company any longer.
Please tell Mr. Boardman to spend his time making his managers better rather than ranting to the employees about the "costs" of their overtime work and then blaming them for the loss of commuter rail services.
cc: Joe Boardman, President Amtrak
Anthony Foxx, Secretary of Transportation
Joe Szabo, Administer Federal Railroad Administration
Albert DiClemente, Amtrak Board Member
Jeffrey Moreland, Amtrak Board Member
Christopher Beall, Amtrak Board Member
Yvonne Braithwaite Burke, Amtrak Board Member
Thomas Carper, Amtrak Board Member