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PARALLEL UNIVERSE: Thanks to Byrd, Murray for Saving Amtrak Call Center Jobs

Posted by kinchendavid on July 20, 2006

By David M. Kinchen

Hinton, WVI’d like to take a teeny bit credit for it – by publicizing the proposed outsourcing of Amtrak call center jobs – but the real credit belongs to Sens. Robert C. Byrd, D-WV and Patty Murray, D-WA, who secured Senate Appropriations Committee approval Thursday, July 20, 2006 for legislation that will prevent America’s national railroad from outsourcing jobs to foreign countries.

Check out the posting on this site, but the bottom line is that the great employees I’ve personally — well, telephonically – encountered when ordering Amtrak tickets will continue to have their jobs. These jobs may not mean much to people in $1,000 suits and Gucci loafers suitable for K Street in Washington, but they pay the rent or mortgage and help maintain a standard of living in one of the most economically unequal countries in the world. Yes, folks, we’re right up there with China and Mexico in the gap between the rich and the rest of us.

Everyone familiar with the situation knows that if it weren’t for Byrd – and other pro-Amtrak senators like Patty Murray – our heavily used railway system would be gone, dead, kaput, finito. I can vouch for the heavily used portion of that remark since I’ve just returned from a vacation trip to Chicago where Amtrak got me there and back, of course. The Cardinal was packed in both directions. While in Chicago, I also used the north line of Metra, one of the best commuter rail lines in the world. I also took buses and cabs. So give me the Al Gore Saving the Environment Medal!

Seriously, folks, I’m proud to have Robert C. Byrd represent me. Here are excerpts from the press release, which are repeated in the posting on this site:

“Amtrak’s senior management recently informed Byrd and Murray that the railroad’s Board of Directors, all appointed by the Bush Administration, planned to invite private vendors to take over major parts of its national reservation system, including vendors based overseas.

“Senator Murray and I have worked for years to keep Amtrak running in the face of budget cuts that would have halted service across the country. Then we learn that our national railroad intends to allow the jobs of hard-working Americans — jobs that are paid for with taxpayer dollars — to be shipped overseas. We could not stand by and let that happen,” Byrd said.

“I’m pleased that we’re sending a clear message to Amtrak that it should not send American jobs overseas,” Murray said. “As I work to ensure Amtrak’s future, I want to make sure that it benefits not just our passengers but also our working families and communities.”

Byrd is the leading Democratic member of the Senate Appropriations Committee; Murray is the leading Democratic member of the Senate Appropriations transportation subcommittee.

“I recognize that Amtrak needs to cut costs where it can. But I cannot support a policy that allows Amtrak to ship jobs overseas, simply because some foreign vendors pay their employees close to nothing. They do not give them health care benefits. They do not pay them the kind of wages that keep food on the table in places like Riverside, CA, and Philadelphia, PA, where jobs would be lost,” Byrd said. “These jobs belong in America, and this legislation will ensure that they stay here.”

With committee approval, the transportation bill next comes before the full Senate for action.

You know the saying “women and children first?” It should be American men, women and children first when it comes to preserving our jobs. A little less (OK, a lot less) pay for executives and a lot more for the men and women who do the real work in  this country.




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