In Advance of Amtrak Strike, Bush Appoints Presidential Emergency Board News Wire

WASHINGTON — President Bush today established a Presidential Emergency Board, hoping to keep the employees of nine Amtrak unions from striking.

The unions represent more than 6,000 of Amtrak’s non-operating employees who have been working on contracts that expired in 1999.

On Nov. 1, the National Mediation Board released Amtrak and the unions from mediation, starting a 30 day cooling off period. If Bush did not appoint the Presidential Emergency Board, the unions’ employees could strike starting Dec. 1.

“In the judgment of the National Mediation Board, these disputes threaten substantially to interrupt interstate commerce to a degree that would deprive sections of the country of essential transportation service,” Bush said in his executive order.

“We look forward to presenting a coordinated position to the Presidential Emergency Board in an effort to obtain a recommendation of a fair and equitable settlement for employees who have helped Amtrak achieve unprecedented ridership and revenue levels,” the Passenger Rail Labor Bargaining Coalition said in a statement. “The dispute between Amtrak and its unions has been ongoing for nearly eight years, and we look forward to a resolution that recognizes the contributions of the hardworking employees of Amtrak.”

Under the Railway Labor Act, the Presidential Emergency Board has 30 days to hold a hearing and make a settlement recommendation. Work stoppages are barred until at least 30 days after the board makes its report to the president.

“We are hopeful that we can entirely avoid any disruption of service as a result of this,” The Associated Press quoted Amtrak spokesman Cliff Black as saying.