Amtrak workers service trains

Workers service trains in the Amtrak Car Yard on September 13, 2022 in Chicago, Illinois.

(Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

'Derail Batory': Senate Urged to Reject Ex-Trump Official for Amtrak Board

"His record clearly demonstrates a prioritization of carrier profits over the safety of rail workers and the traveling public," said Railroad Workers United.

An alliance of unionized rail workers on Tuesday demanded that the U.S. Senate reject President Joe Biden's nomination of former Trump administration official Ronald Batory to serve on the board of Amtrak, the nation's passenger rail company.

In a statement, Railroad Workers United (RWU) said Batory's tenure as head of the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) under former President Donald Trump "was marked by policies favoring 'operational efficiencies' (i.e., corporate profits) over the safety and well-being of rail workers and the public."

"Notably, under his leadership, FRA attempted to override state laws mandating two-person train crews, promoting instead the adoption of single-person crews nationally," said RWU. "This push was part of a broader deregulation agenda, ostensibly aimed at reducing operational costs for the monopoly of carriers at the potential expense of safety and labor protections."

"Moreover, during the Covid-19 pandemic, Mr. Batory oversaw the FRA's issuance of emergency waivers that suspended numerous long-standing safety regulations," the group added. "These waivers were granted rapidly with limited opportunity for stakeholder input, raising significant concerns among rail labor organizations about their sweeping breadth and the lack of stringent oversight, which could compromise rail safety and worker security."

The statement urges rail workers across the country to contact their senators and demand they block Batory's nomination.

"His record clearly demonstrates a prioritization of carrier profits over the safety of rail workers and the traveling public," said RWU, calling the Senate to "derail Batory."

Rail workers reacted with outrage last week after Biden announced Batory's nomination, given his ties to the railroad industry and policy moves under an administration whose deregulatory spree helped lay the groundwork for the toxic crash in East Palestine, Ohio last year.

Amtrak's board of directors is required to be both geographically and politically diverse. Greg Regan, president of the Transportation Trades Department of the AFL-CIO, noted in a statement Monday that while Batory "would never be our choice, we recognize that federal law requires the board to have three members from the minority party, in this case the Republican Party."

"Since the law also requires the president to consult with the Senate minority leader when making minority party appointments, the breadcrumb trail for this transparently anti-labor nominee leads directly to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's doorstep," said Regan, contending that the Kentucky Republican "owns this choice," not Biden.

In its statement Tuesday, RWU acknowledged that "some may argue that the Biden administration is procedurally obligated to forward this nomination."

But the group said Batory's nomination nevertheless "starkly contradicts the administration's stated commitments to worker safety and robust regulatory standards."

"The nomination of Mr. Batory, whose regulatory philosophy aligns with reducing workforce protections and operational oversight, does not serve the public interest," said RWU.

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