WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) joined U.S. Senator Deb Fischer (R-NE) and six of their House and Senate colleagues in introducing the bipartisan Railroad Employee Equity and Fairness (REEF) Act to protect railroad employees and end mandated cuts to the Railroad Retirement Board’s (RRB) Unemployment Insurance Account. Current law requires the RRB to reduce railroad unemployment and sickness insurance benefits by 5.7 percent beginning on May 10, 2023.
While regular unemployment compensation for other industries is exempt from sequestration, the system created by the Railroad Unemployment Insurance Act (RUIA) is not. This means that the funds railroaders and employers pay into for unemployment and sickness benefits are used to offset federal spending instead of going back to the hard-working individuals who pay into it.
“Big railroad companies have cut more than a third of their workers in less than ten years. When these corporations lay off rail workers in Ohio, workers should be able get the same unemployment benefits that are available to workers in other industries. This common-sense legislation would ensure that rail workers will no longer have to worry about the unemployment benefits they have earned being cut because of outdated and unfair rules,” said Senator Brown.
“The REEF Act will ensure that rail workers and their families receive all of the unemployment and sickness benefits they have earned. For more than a decade, rail workers have been short-changed and it’s time for Congress to correct this injustice. We applaud Senators Fischer, Klobuchar, and Brown and Reps. Schakowsky, Fitzpatrick, Larsen, Bacon, Garcia, and Stauber for introducing the REEF Act and we urge Congress to act swiftly before sequestration of these benefits resumes in May,” said AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department (TTD) President Greg Regan.
“We appreciate the bipartisan leadership that is moving this important bill forward. The rail industry is a great place to work and this measure helps keep it that way – making sure workers get the benefits they’re due, and railroads are able to attract top-level talent to a workforce critical to the U.S. economic engine,” said American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association (ASLRRA) President Chuck Baker.
Railroad unemployment and sickness benefits are funded solely by railroads’ and railroad workers’ contributions. The Budget Control Act of 2011 and subsequent implementation mandates require railroad unemployment and sickness benefits to be reduced by a certain percentage each year. All other regular unemployment benefits are exempt from sequestration. Without the REEF Act, sequestration will likely result in a 5.7 percent reduction in railroad unemployment and sickness benefits through fiscal year 2030.
While a temporary version of the REEF Act was included in the COVID-19 relief bill passed in December 2020, that measure will expire on May 10, 2023, 30 days after the expiration of COVID-19 national emergency declaration. Without this legislation, these benefits would be subject to sequestration through FY 2030.
In addition to Brown and Fischer, the REEF Act is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and U.S. Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) introduced companion legislation in the House. In addition to Rep. Schakowsky, the House legislation is cosponsored by U.S. Representatives Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Don Bacon (R-NE), Jesús García (D-IL), and Pete Stauber (R-MN).Click here to view text of the legislation.