Wednesday 4 October 2023

Amtrak pays workers big salaries despite never turning a profit, relying on taxpayers to cover losses: Report

 Amtrak pays its employees large salaries despite never having turned a profit since its creation in 1971 and relying on taxpayers to cover its losses, according to Open the Books.

Documents obtained by Open the Books via a Freedom of Information Act request revealed that the national railroad company paid its 19,000 workers an average salary of $121,000 for fiscal year 2022. 

The nonprofit organization noted that the exact salaries are hidden because Amtrak denied a request to release the information, claiming it would invade employees' privacy. However, the company provided financial statements and revealed the salaries of its top ten executives.

Payroll data revealed that executives earned between $504,000 and $780,000 yearly, the Daily Caller News Foundation reported.

Open the Books CEO Adam Andrzejewski explained, "At Amtrak, we discovered that you just can't follow the money. They denied our request for the rank and file workers at Amtrak, saying that it's an invasion of their personal privacy to disclose just how much they make to all of us and taxpayers." 

"Amtrak is a federally chartered Corporation. They're heavily subsidized by the United States taxpayer," he added.

"Those 19,000 rank and file employees, they pulled cash compensation of $2.3 billion last year," Andrzejewski continued. "This morning, I did the math. The average employee is highly compensated at Amtrak. They make an average of $121,000 a year and that puts Amtrak at the top of the Top Paid list of federal agencies." 

Since Amtrak's creation in 1971, it has never made a profit, according to the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. Its funding does not come from ticket revenue but rather from the government.

"Without significant taxpayer support, Amtrak could not operate," the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure stated. Despite government funding, the railroad company estimates it will lose approximately $1 billion annually. Those losses are "largely covered by the taxpayers," the committee noted.

Andrzejewski told the DCNF, "In the private sector, accountability would come in the form of an 'Out of Business' sign."

"In the pseudo governmental realm, taxpayers should at minimum be allowed to scrutinize the pay and performance of the 19,000 employees that keep Amtrak barely chugging along. Instead, the feds choose to use a technicality in the law to shield Amtrak from proper accountability, a practice that's all too common in the Beltway," he noted.

Open the Books found that Amtrak lost $566 per passenger on its rail route from New Orleans to Los Angeles and $288 per passenger on its route from Los Angeles to Chicago. Amtrak's Washington, D.C., to Boston route was previously earning the company $95 per mile but now costs it $2 per mile, the DCNF reported.

The railroad company has received billions of dollars in grant funding from the federal government over the years, including $1 billion in COVID relief funds in 2020 and another $1.69 billion in 2021 to recover from COVID-related revenue losses.

In 2021, the Biden administration pledged to make "the largest federal investment in passenger rail since the creation of Amtrak."

"The deal invests $66 billion in rail to eliminate the Amtrak maintenance backlog, modernize the Northeast Corridor, and bring world-class rail service to areas outside the northeast and mid-Atlantic," the White House stated.

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