California senators ask Amtrak to reconsider closing call center

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U.S. Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Kamala Harris (D-CA) sent a letter on Dec. 14 to Amtrak President and CEO Richard H. Anderson urging him to reconsider the closure of a Riverside reservation call center.

In November, Amtrak announced it was closing the call center Jan. 18, which employs 550 people. Amtrak chief market officer Tim Griffin said the closure was caused by a change in customer behavior. Only 10 percent of Amtrak customers book reservations via telephone; the remainder book online.

“While the loss of approximately 500 jobs in Riverside is concerning in and of itself, we are even more disturbed to hear that Amtrak plans to maintain a contracted call center in Florida that will be able to pick up work currently carried out by Riverside employees,” the letter said. “Unionized Amtrak employees in Riverside earn an average of $19 to $21 per hour with healthcare and retirement benefits, while the non-unionized contract workers in Florida reportedly earn significantly less in pay and benefits.”

Operations will be consolidated with Amtrak’s Philadelphia call center. With the exception of 31 management positions, employees will be given the option of relocating.

California comprised more than one-third of Amtrak’s total ridership and spends approximately $130 million annually to support Amtrak’s service.