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Amtrak Unions Threaten to Walk Out

September 17, 2003

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Unions representing about a third of Amtrak’s workers want to shut down the railroad on Oct. 3 to draw attention to what they say is chronic underfunding by the government.

Amtrak officials said they expect to have an injunction in hand to prevent the work stoppage, which they say is illegal.

The unions, which represent 8,000 of the railroad’s 21,000 employees, issued a statement saying the protest is aimed at saving Amtrak.

``Rather than allow the White House and Republican leadership to quietly kill Amtrak, Amtrak’s labor leaders hope the one-day work stoppage will demonstrate to the American public the need for safe, reliable passenger rail service,″ the statement said.

Amtrak President David Gunn said the railroad has a legal and public service obligation to provide intercity passenger rail service every day.

``We anticipate that all of our employees will abide by existing contracts and the law,″ Gunn said in a statement. ``In fact, it is because so many Americans are able to depend on Amtrak that the railroad needs to be adequately funded as we requested.″

Amtrak, which has never made a profit, asked for $1.8 billion in federal subsidies in 2004. President Bush proposed half that amount as a way to force the railroad to restructure itself.

The House earlier this month settled on giving the railway $900 million next year. The Senate is proposing $1.346 billion.

Amtrak loses about $1 billion a year, due in part to money-losing long-distance lines that it continues to operate because members of Congress don’t want service in their areas reduced.

Amtrak, formed in 1971 from defunct passenger railroads, serves 500 communities in 46 states.

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On the Net:

Amtrak: http://www.amtrak.com

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