Labor presses for quick confirmation of rail nominee

Labor presses for quick confirmation of rail nominee

The AFL-CIO’s Transportation Trades Department is pushing Congress to quickly approve President Obama’s nominee to lead the Federal Railroad Administration. 

Obama has nominated Sarah Feinberg, who has been serving as the agency’s interim chief, to the full-time position atop the rail safety agency, which has been scrutinized for its handling of a recent spate of railway accidents in the U.S. 

Feinberg has won plaudits for handling of the accidents, which have occurred on Amtrak and a California commuter railway, and the AFL-CIO’s transportation branch said Monday that she should be rewarded with the full-time position.   

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“We strongly support the president’s nomination of Sarah Feinberg to lead the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA),” AFL-CIO President Ed Wytkind said in a statement. 

“At a time when the safety of our passenger and freight rail systems and workplaces is being tested, Feinberg will provide the steady and effective leadership that is needed to complete the agency’s critical work and mission,” Wytkind continued. “Already, Feinberg — as acting administrator — has demonstrated an ability to address complex safety issues responsibly without losing sight of how important this industry is to the economy and middle-class job creation.” 

Feinberg’s tenure as the Obama administration’s temporary point person on rail safety issues has been marked by major accidents on both the nation’s passenger and freight railways. 

Amtrak has suffered a pair of accidents since the beginning of the year involving trains that derailed in North Carolina and Philadelphia

Separately, a train on southern California’s Metrolink commuter rail system crashed after colliding with a truck in February and freight trains that carry crude oil have experienced high-profile derailments

The AFL-CIO’s Wytkind said the accidents show the need for greater regulation of the nation’s railways, but they do not reflect poorly on Feinberg’s leadership. 

“Common-sense legislative and regulatory reforms are needed if our nation is serious about addressing rail safety issues that have been overlooked for far too long,” he said. “If given the chance to serve as our nation’s chief rail safety regulator, we are confident Feinberg will apply years of valuable public policy experience to help make rail transportation safer. We urge her swift confirmation.”