• Brightline/Virgin Trains and Railroad Retirement

  • General discussion about working in the railroad industry. Industry employers are welcome to post openings here.
General discussion about working in the railroad industry. Industry employers are welcome to post openings here.

Moderator: thebigc

  by mamachoochoo
 
I know that Brightline/Virgin Trains does not do Railroad Retirement, even though they call themselves a Passenger Railroad. What would it take for this to change? Could their classification change once they are connected to Orlando Airport, or expand across the US? If they are in multiple states, would they have some engineers with Railroad Retirement and some without?
  by mamachoochoo
 
No unions in Florida. I know there have been cases of classification changing. Just wondering what it would take operationally.
  by amtrakhogger
 
mamachoochoo wrote:No unions in Florida. I know there have been cases of classification changing. Just wondering what it would take operationally.
No unions in Florida? CSX represented by BLET,SMART, BMWE etc. FEC represented by SMART, Amtrak represented by BLET, SMART, TCU, etc
  by mamachoochoo
 
I stand corrected. I thought right-to-work meant no unions. Apologies.
So the STB ruling of Brightline as an intrastate interurban service (and not a passenger railroad) could only be changed by a union. Got it.
  by Acela150
 
mamachoochoo wrote:I stand corrected. I thought right-to-work meant no unions. Apologies.
So the STB ruling of Brightline as an intrastate interurban service (and not a passenger railroad) could only be changed by a union. Got it.
Unions can't change a STB ruling.
  by Erie-Lackawanna
 
Whether or not a corporation is legally a “railroad” with respect to the Railroad Retirement System is a legal designation that has absolutely NOTHING to do with whether or not it employs a unionized workforce. Unions don’t decide whether a company is a Railroad under the Railroad Retirement Act.

There are certain criteria that determine whether a company is a “Railroad” under the Act, but after 35 years in the industry I’ll be damned if I understand why contract operators such as Keolis and Herzog, or Brightline, don’t qualify as railroads under the Act. But the fact is they don’t, and so their employees are not in the Railroad Retirement system. Maybe a qualified rail industry attorney could explain it.

There is nothing any of their employees can do to change that. Presumably the nature of the corporation would need to change, and that’s highly unlikely. Given the added expense, the people running the corporations involved would have no reason to want to join the Railroad Retirement system.

Jim
  by eolesen
 
Specific to Brightline, STB ruled that they're not part of the national network, in that they don't interchange passengers with Amtrak, so they have no jurisdiction over them.

Likewise, the operations that Herzog and Keolis run typically aren't ruled as part of the national passenger network.

Not understanding why anyone thinks that participating in RRB is less advantageous than participating in Social Security. As an employer, you have to contribute to one or the other.
  by edbear
 
I worked for Boston & Maine, Amtrak and Mass. Bay Commuter Railroad. When the MBTA was shopping around for a contract renewal in the early 2000s, the labor unions pushed to have the terms stipulate that the contractor continue Railroad Retirement.
  by Erie-Lackawanna
 
eolesen wrote:Specific to Brightline, STB ruled that they're not part of the national network, in that they don't interchange passengers with Amtrak, so they have no jurisdiction over them.
Which is illogical in its entirety. They operate on the national network.

The IRS has a document online that purports to explain the criteria that determines whether a company is part of Railroad Retirement, and it seems very clear: if you transport passengers or freight by rail, either directly or indirectly (such as through a subsidiary company), you’re a Railroad, and you’re in the Railroad Retirement system. Apparently, though, this isn’t how the law is enforced.
eolesen wrote:Not understanding why anyone thinks that participating in RRB is less advantageous than participating in Social Security. As an employer, you have to contribute to one or the other.
Because the tax burden to the employer (and the employee) is significantly greater under Railroad Retirement than it is under Social Security. Employees pay 4.9% in RRT Tier II tax and employers pay 13.1% in RRT Tier II tax, all of which is over and above the 7.62% that non railroad employees and employers pay under the SSA. Employers don’t like additional tax burdens. Employees accept the additional tax burden in this case because (a) they receive a higher annuity than they would under the SSA, and (b) career railroad employees with 30 years of service can retire with a full unreduced annuity at a much lower age than non railroad employees under the SSA. It is a very good deal for career railroad employees.

Jim
  by GOLDEN-ARM
 
brightline won't get rrb benefits for the same reason sunrail doesn't get rrb benefits.

it isn't a railroad.

to qualify for rrb benefits the carrier must be an interstate railroad (neither property is), they must interchange with an interstate carrier (neither road does) or they must accept, deliver or ship freight for interstate commerce. (they don't)

sunrail dispatchers are covered under the rrb system, as they dispatch csxt, amtrak, and florida central trains on their system.

having a union has nothing to do with rrb benefits. job insurance requires union membership, maybe this is where the guys above are getting confused? virgin and sunrail are really just above ground subway trains, and aren't eligible for inclusion in the rrb system. (excepting the dispatchers already mentioned)
  by Erie-Lackawanna
 
So based on this, what is the difference between SunRail and Tri-Rail? Tri-Rail T&E crews have been in the RRB system since 2017. My understanding is that they got into the RRR system thanks to an agreement between the union and the employer.

Jim
GOLDEN-ARM wrote: Sun Mar 08, 2020 12:26 am brightline won't get rrb benefits for the same reason sunrail doesn't get rrb benefits.

it isn't a railroad.

to qualify for rrb benefits the carrier must be an interstate railroad (neither property is), they must interchange with an interstate carrier (neither road does) or they must accept, deliver or ship freight for interstate commerce. (they don't)

sunrail dispatchers are covered under the rrb system, as they dispatch csxt, amtrak, and florida central trains on their system.

having a union has nothing to do with rrb benefits. job insurance requires union membership, maybe this is where the guys above are getting confused? virgin and sunrail are really just above ground subway trains, and aren't eligible for inclusion in the rrb system. (excepting the dispatchers already mentioned)
  by GOLDEN-ARM
 
Erie-Lackawanna wrote: Sun Mar 08, 2020 1:46 pm So based on this, what is the difference between SunRail and Tri-Rail? Tri-Rail T&E crews have been in the RRB system since 2017. My understanding is that they got into the RRR system thanks to an agreement between the union and the employer.

Jim
here's what i got, directly from an ex-operations manager:

tri-rail went through an initial period, of struggling to find engineers, and having multiple de-certs from the ones they had. the sfrta put out a "request for bid" for the operating contract, after veolia's tenure. a stipulation for this new contract was to include rrb payments by the new operator. (payment into rrb is actually voluntary, to a degree, and a non-railroad is under no obligation to participate)

with the airport and amtrak connections, and the need to pull engineers from other carriers tri-rail had many offers in the beginning, from talented engineers, but they mostly rejected the work, when they found rrb wasn't on the table. the contract was awarded to herzog, and rrb payments were part of sfrta's terms and conditions, in the bid packet.

so, while not being mandatory for sfrta to participate, they did foresee the need to get "real" engineers to help run the railroad, in a safer and more efficient manner, and their participation got them the experienced engineers they were looking for. as for brightline and sunrail, it remains to be seen if they'll follow suit, but bombardier was pretty adamant about not paying in, under the contract that's set to expire this year. brightline currently has shown no interest in the program. it seems some guys just want to run really fast, and aren't so concerned about their pensions. :P
  by matawanaberdeen
 
GOLDEN-ARM wrote: Tue Mar 24, 2020 5:23 pm
Erie-Lackawanna wrote: Sun Mar 08, 2020 1:46 pm So based on this, what is the difference between SunRail and Tri-Rail? Tri-Rail T&E crews have been in the RRB system since 2017. My understanding is that they got into the RRR system thanks to an agreement between the union and the employer.

Jim
here's what i got, directly from an ex-operations manager:

tri-rail went through an initial period, of struggling to find engineers, and having multiple de-certs from the ones they had. the sfrta put out a "request for bid" for the operating contract, after veolia's tenure. a stipulation for this new contract was to include rrb payments by the new operator. (payment into rrb is actually voluntary, to a degree, and a non-railroad is under no obligation to participate)

with the airport and amtrak connections, and the need to pull engineers from other carriers tri-rail had many offers in the beginning, from talented engineers, but they mostly rejected the work, when they found rrb wasn't on the table. the contract was awarded to herzog, and rrb payments were part of sfrta's terms and conditions, in the bid packet.

so, while not being mandatory for sfrta to participate, they did foresee the need to get "real" engineers to help run the railroad, in a safer and more efficient manner, and their participation got them the experienced engineers they were looking for. as for brightline and sunrail, it remains to be seen if they'll follow suit, but bombardier was pretty adamant about not paying in, under the contract that's set to expire this year. brightline currently has shown no interest in the program. it seems some guys just want to run really fast, and aren't so concerned about their pensions. :P
That is pretty crazy, wow. Interesting info.