Amtrak Kicks Off Food & Beverage Working Group With RPA Staff
May 13, 2022
By Jim Mathews / President & CEO
When Amtrak made ugly cuts to food and beverage service and quality back in 2019, we tried to raise a respectful ruckus with Amtrak executives to take better care of passengers. But we did a lot more than just complain. We put our advocacy where your mouths are...and worked with Congress get improvements written into law, including dining car issues.
Fast-forward to today, where some improvements are already happening. A re-imagined Traditional Dining service on Western long-distance trains that's better than the traditional dining we had before. More local food options. A few healthier choices for folks on special diets.
But there's also a lot of work left to be done. And the good news is that your Association professional staff just took part in the first kickoff meeting this week of the new Amtrak Food & Beverage Working Group. If you don't know what that is, it was set up by Congress in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to take care of a lot of unfinished business -- traditional dining on Eastern long-distance trains, more food options on state-supported routes, the return of communal dining in the dining car and, maybe most important, getting Coach passengers back into dining cars for real meals!
Congress has given this Group a little more than a year to report back on what will be done to make food and beverage better, more affordable, and more accessible for every single Amtrak passenger. The group includes representatives of states with state-supported service, Amtrak labor groups with "on the ground" knowledge of where the problems lie, and executives at Amtrak responsible for fixing those problems. It also includes seats designated for your Association (which is not surprising, since we helped key congressional offices write this provision into law).
We're carrying your voice into these meetings. We're at the table, making sure everyone is focused on making things better for the fare-paying public. And we helped make sure that the law requires your voice to be heard and requires Amtrak to respond to congressional direction. The Group will spend the next year working through a whole range of potential improvements and barriers to making things better, informed in part by the work members have already done supporting RPA’s Madison Butler, our primary representative on the Working Group panel.
We’re only just getting started!
"The COVID Pandemic has been and continues to be the biggest challenge faced by Americans as it has taken a deadly toll on the world and on the world’s economies. During COVID Locomotive Engineers at Amtrak and other Passenger and Freight Railroads have embodied the definition of essential workers. This dedication by our members is not new. We applaud the Rail Passenger’s Association for recognizing the vital contributions of our members and their hard work moving Americans and freight during the COVID pandemic."
Dennis Pierce, Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) National President
December 21, 2021, on the Association awarding its 2021 Golden Spike Award to the Frontline Amtrak Employees.