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2021 Golden Spike Awarded to Amtrak Workers

December 21, 2021

America’s Rail Passengers Recognize Frontline Amtrak Employees for Extraordinary Service During Pandemic

For Immediate Release (21-25)

Contact: Sean Jeans-Gail (202) 320-2723; [email protected]

America’s Rail Passengers Recognize Frontline Amtrak Employees for Extraordinary Service During Pandemic

Washington, D.C.—The Rail Passengers Association bestowed its Golden Spike Award to the thousands of frontline Amtrak workers for their courageous and untiring service in keeping everyday Americans connected during this once-in-a-generation pandemic.

While the Golden Spike Award is normally given to a single individual, there is no group of people who have done more to advance the cause of passenger trains in the U.S. over the past year than frontline Amtrak workers. They risked their health and their lives by continuing to show up to work in the midst of a deadly pandemic, ensuring that millions of Americans still had access to this essential service. The award was conferred to the Brotherhood Of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET), the Transportation Communications Union (TCU/IAM), the Transportation Communications Union - American Railway Supervisors Association (TCU-ARASA), the Transportation Division of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, and Transportation Workers (SMART-TD), Transport Workers Union of America (TWU), and Unite-Here.

“We cannot adequately express our gratitude to the thousands of Amtrak’s frontline employees who kept the trains over the past year and half,” said Rail Passengers President and CEO Jim Mathews. “We know of an untold number of passengers who need Amtrak to access medical services, to earn their livelihood, and to see their families. The fact that these Amtrak workers kept the trains running while other transportation options dwindled deserves to be recognized. We are honored to award our association’s Golden Spike Award on behalf of the tens of millions of America’s passengers, and we look forward to saying ‘thank you’ in person, on the train and at the station.”

“We commend and thank all our Amtrak members for the sacrifices they have made and continue to make while jeopardizing their health, as well as their family's health and well-being, while continuing to keep our national railroad network a viable form of transportation for the riding public during this Covid pandemic,” said TWU Rail Division Director John Feltz.

“On behalf of Amtrak’s onboard service staff, I want to thank the Rail Passengers Association for honoring their hard work with this award,” said TCU/IAM National President Arthur Maratea. “The past couple years have indeed been difficult for Amtrak onboard service staff – coping with furloughs and job insecurity, adapting to changing protocols and services, not to mention the unfortunate events such as a tragic derailment and a fatal shooting. Nevertheless, our dedicated members at Amtrak have handled these hurdles with the care, attention and diligence for which they’re known. We thank Rail Passengers for their acknowledgement of our members’ hard work and, as always, look forward to seeing you on the rails.”

"The Rail Passenger Association's recognition of the essential work done by SMART-TD members aboard Amtrak during this difficult period is appreciated,” said SMART-TD President Jeremy Ferguson. “The Golden Spike Award serves as a testament to the compassion and dedication our conductors, assistant conductors and other workers exhibit constantly through times both ordinary and extraordinary."

“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,” said BLET National President Dennis Pierce. “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.”

Dating back to 1967, Rail Passengers’ Golden Spike honors work done to advance the cause of a robust national rail system in the U.S. It has been awarded to elected officials, advocates, and even celebrities who have made important contributions to passenger rail service. Notable past recipients include former Senator Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey, Senator Trent Lott of Mississippi, and Walt Disney.


About Rail Passengers Association

The Rail Passengers Association is the oldest and largest national organization serving as a voice for the more than 40 million rail passengers in the U.S. Our mission is to improve and expand conventional intercity and regional passenger train services, support higher speed rail initiatives, increase connectivity among all forms of transportation and ensure safety for our country's trains and passengers. All of this makes communities safer, more accessible and more productive, improving the lives of everyone who lives, works and plays in towns all across America.

About BLET

The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) is a Division of the Rail Conference of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT). The BLET is the senior national labor organization in the United States and also North America's oldest rail labor union. The BLET marked its 150th anniversary in 2013 and was founded in Detroit, Mich. on May 8, 1863, as the Brotherhood of the Footboard; a year later, its name was changed to The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers. The BLE merged with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and became the BLET on January 1, 2004.


With nearly 600,000 active and retired members, the International ASsociation of Machinists is one of the largest and most diverse labor unions in North America. From Boeing and Lockheed Martin to United Airlines and Harley-Davidson, you will find IAM members across all walks of life. IAM members demand respect and dignity in the workplace. Together, we have been able to bargain for increased job security, higher wages and improved benefits.

About TWU

The Transport Workers Union of America, AFL-CIO represents more than 150,000 members across the airline, railroad, and transit, university, utility and service sectors. We are mechanics, car cleaners, baggage handlers, disease control inspectors, bus operators, ramp agents, flight attendants, and more—and we are on the front lines of moving the American economy forward, keeping the traveling public safe and offering working people a voice on the job since 1934.

TWU has three divisions: Air, Railroad, and Transit, Universities, Utilities and Services.


SMART TD represents nearly 125,000 active and retired railroad, bus, mass transit and airline workers in the United States and Canada.

With offices in Cleveland and Washington, D.C., SMART TD is the largest railroad operating union in North America, with more than 500 locals. The SMART TD represents employees on every Class I railroad, as well as employees on many regional and shortline railroads. It also represents bus and mass transit employees on approximately 45 bus and transit systems and has recently grown to include airline pilots, dispatchers and other airport personnel.


Before the famous Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters first organized, another group of African-American railroad workers helped them get their start. That union lives on today in UNITE HERE, representing dining car workers on Amtrak trains throughout the United States.

UNITE HERE members in the Amtrak Service Works Council include lead service attendants, food specialists, and chefs, as well as service attendants in the snack cars, coaches, and sleepers.