Amtrak Workers Disrupt Birthday Bash

By ART LECLAIR

BOSTON-It isn’t every day you see the Lt. Governor of Massachusetts and the Mayor escorted from a state-sponsored public ceremony by a cordon of tactical police officers.

That, however, is precisely what happened on Jan. 19 when a crowd of 150-200 angry Amtrak workers, threatened with the loss of their jobs, disrupted the 100th anniversary celebration of Boston’s South Station.

The demonstration was triggered by fears that some 700 Amtrak employees, who have serviced the area’s commuter railroad equipment for over 10 years for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (M.B.T.A.), would be laid off.

M.B.T.A. wants to eliminate Amtrak and break up the traditional “all or nothing at all” contract to allow hand-picked private corporations to underbid Amtrak and take on the fragmented portions of the overall commuter rail operation.

Last fall the M.B.T.A. solicited bids for the mechanical maintenance of their commuter rail rolling stock and facilities, which represents approximately a third of the $150 million a year contract.

Four companies submitted bids, and M.B.T.A. officials are scheduled to make a decision in March. But recently, officials confirmed the decision was down to two bidders-the French company Alsthom and Bombardier of Montreal.

Some crude attempts are being made to direct the workers’ discontent and anger at the specter of “foreign companies” and “foreign workers” trying to steal their jobs rather than at the real enemy responsible for the threatened job losses-the bosses, the politicians, and the government they represent.

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