Recently, the IE /Black Voice News reported on the scheduled closure of the Amtrak call center in Riverside along with the proposed sale of the building that houses it. The closure will displace approximately 500 workers.
The unexpected November 14 email announcement to employees advised them the call center’s last date of operation will be January 18, 2019.
Amtrak’s Mission Grove facility in Riverside is one of two national call centers operated by the transportation giant. The company has claimed it will now handle calls at its remaining call center in Philadelphia—the Riverside employees are being offered an opportunity to retain their call center jobs if they choose to relocate to Philadelphia.
A CBS report noted Amtrak call center employees in Riverside and their representatives, Transportation Communications Union (TCU), have accused Amtrak of consolidating its call centers, while at the same time, the company has purportedly outsourced some call center work to a non-union shop in Florida.
Now, at least 39 members of California’s congressional delegation have sent a letter to Amtrak officials which strongly rebuked what they defined as Amtrak’s “union-busting” plan to close its Riverside call center and send work to a third-party provider in Florida.
The letter highlighted how Amtrak differs from any other corporation because the federal government owns most of it and it receives billions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies. The legislators’ letter stated in part, “And though we agree with Congress’ mandate that Amtrak should and must endeavor to deliver services more efficiently, that does not give Amtrak license to engage in union-busting and union-avoidance maneuvers to lower costs on the backs of working men and women.”
The letter further criticized the company for its plans to outsource some of its customer-service work to a contractor that pays far less than what employees at the Riverside call center are paid.
When the call center’s closure was announced last month, Amtrak claimed it was in part being driven by a reduction in the center’s call volume, yet reports allege the company has already required the telecommunications company, Teleperformance, to hire 150 employees to handle heavy volume periods at a call center in Port St. Lucie, Florida.
Teleperformance purportedly pays call center employees at maximum, $12.50 per hour without benefits, compared to employees at the Amtrak Riverside call center who start at $15 per hour and can earn as much as $28 per hour with benefits.
The bi-partisan push-back against Amtrak’s decision to close the Riverside facility was most clearly expressed by Riverside’s legislative representative Mark Takano (D) who said, “I can’t say I know at this moment what the solution is, and I wanted to let Richard Anderson [Amtrak CEO and president] know that Congress is watching.”
Takano concluded, “But we’re asking that this decision be reversed. We don’t want it to close.”